No performance evaluation system for higher judiciary; Annual Confidential Reports evaluate performance of lower court judges
Important changes possibly coming in judge evaluation. Will the Indian judiciary allow this to happen?
The Ministry of Law and Justice is planning to put in place a more scientific method to evaluate the performance of the lower judiciary across the country and has asked research institutions to work out a uniform system.
At present, India does not have a performance evaluation system for the higher judiciary. For the lower judiciary, there is a system of Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs). These reports are prepared by High Courts but the information is not made public.
An official linked with the project said, “Feedback from lawyers and litigants appearing before a particular judge will play a key role in finalising the ACR. Apart from this, attendance, timesheets and orders and their outcome will also be looked at.”
Evaluation through ACRs is a three-step process: the judicial officer first makes a self-assessment, which is then evaluated by a reporting authority, who is a senior judge in the lower court. An accepting authority, who is a judge of the High Court, then makes the final assessment.
Every year, several cases are filed in the Supreme Court panning the system as non-transparent, open to manipulation and mismanagement. If the matter is brought to court, it takes years to adjudicate. The aggrieved officers do not even find good lawyers to fight their cases. There is a demand that there should be a separate mechanism, such as a tribunal of judges, to deal with such grievances in a time-bound manner.
On an average, there are two or three sessions courts under one High Court judge. This means a senior judge is supervising the work of around 50 judges in a year.
In 2012, the apex court had asked the High Courts to make the process more transparent, fair and efficient. It had said, “Experience has shown that it (ACR) is deficient in several ways, being not comprehensive enough to truly reflect the level of work, conduct and performance of each individual on the one hand and unable to check subjectivity on the other.”
The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, asked by the law ministry to study the evaluation system, has recommended appraisal of the lower judiciary by an independent entity. The subordinate judiciary has a strength of over 16,000 judges.
Quality of judgments
An independent entity
Judges of the court can evaluate and give feedback on colleagues
Self-assessment by judges