How to become a judge in India? Judicial services exam and direct recruitment

‘Judge: (to Prosecutor) You may proceed with your closing argument.

Prosecutor: Thank you, your Honor.  At the beginning of the trial, I told you that you would hear a story of…

The prosecutor then looks at the lord of the court.

This scene is nothing new to us. We’ve witnessed plenty of such scenes in popular movies. And we know who the supreme authority in a court is. ‘The judge’ 

When we talk about taking up LLB, the popular notion is that you’re preparing to become an advocate. But is that it? What about those judges in the court? How to become a judge in India? Do advocates get promoted to the position of judges or is there any other way by which judges are appointed? In this article, I’m going to answer all these questions.

But before we start talking about ‘how to become a judge?’, let’s look at ‘who is a judge?’

So, Who is the judge?

As the name suggests, the judge is the person who makes the decisions in a court. In the Indian judicial system, he or she is a servant of the law responsible for presiding over the proceedings that happen in a court. This position holds the topmost authority in a court and is in charge of making the final verdict.

As a judge in India, one is expected to listen to the hearing of the case, give an unbiased verdict, solely on the basis of the evidence presented. Unlike the advocates who represent the prosecution or defence, a judge is a representative of the judicial system. He or she is expected to be neutral while presiding over the case. A judge either does this alone or as a member of a panel of judges. 

How to become a judge in India?

A judge has the last say in a court. He or she decides what is right and what is wrong. When it’s such a powerful position, you don’t expect it to be easy, right?. So, how to become a judge in India?

In India, the first step towards becoming a law professional is to have a law degree. I meant you need to become a lawyer first. Please note, I said ‘lawyer’ not an ‘advocate’. Anyone who has done a law degree is a lawyer. While you need to go a little further to become an advocate. 

An ‘LLB degree’

As the first step, you need to enrol yourself for an LLB program. It is usually a 3-year program where students will be trained to practice law. The course covers subjects such as labour law, family law, criminal law, constitutional law, professional ethics, civil law, company law, etc. For the candidates who wish to combine Law degree with another professional program, some universities offer integrated programs. You might have seen programs such as BA LLB, BBA LLB, Bcom LLB, etc. among the course list of few reputed universities, right?

The course which is spread over 6 semesters is considered to be the first step towards becoming a law professional. Many reputed institutions in the country offer LLB programs. Some of them are National Law School of India University, Bangalore, National Law University, New Delhi, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, etc. 

Admissions to most of them are through national level entrance tests. Entrance test for admissions in the National law university of Delhi is called the All India Law Entrance Test (AILET). For all other national law universities, the admissions are through the Common law entrance test (CLAT). Both tests are conducted by the concerned universities every year.

Successful completion of the LLB course will make you a lawyer. Now, let’s talk about how to become a judge from there. There are three ways by which an LLB graduate can become a judge in India.

Judicial services examination/ Professional civil service-Judicial exam (PCS-J)

Not everyone takes up law to become an advocate or a corporate lawyer. Some prefer to skip the queue and go for the best seat in the court. Yes, I’m talking about aiming for the judge’s chair right after your graduation. For that, you need to crack the judicial services examination. 

For your kind information, the Indian judiciary faces a shortage of human resources in its lower-level courts. This is one of the main reasons why millions of cases lie pending in lower level courts across the country. Judicial services examinations is an entry-level exam for law graduates to become part of the subordinate judiciary. These exams are conducted by the state government under the supervision of respective high courts to recruit candidates for the vacancies available. 

Stages of Professional civil service-Judicial exam (PCS-J)

As I mentioned earlier, the minimum qualification to apply for this exam is to have an LLB degree. The judicial services exam has three stages. Namely, the preliminary stage, mains stage and interview stage. The preliminary stage is just a qualifying stage where the candidate is expected to clear the cut off marks. This marks will not be counted for the final selection. 

All candidates who manage to beat the cut off for the prelims will be invited to attempt the mains. The mains stage of the higher judicial services exam has four papers. All the papers are subjective. Unlike the prelims stage, the marks scored in the main stage will be counted for the final selection. But trust me, this is not going to be easy. 

The final stage of judicial services exam is the interview stage. Here, the candidate will be assessed on the domains of aptitude, interest, and personality.

If the candidate qualifies through the exams, he or she will be given magistrate roles. Later, they climb up the ladder to become civil judges, judicial judges and senior judges on the basis of seniority. And that’s the answer to ‘how to become a judge in India?’.

But the promotions for those who get into judicial service through judicial services exam are not regular. So, the chances of making it to higher courts are very slim if not null.

Higher judicial services examination

Now, how to get into a higher-level judiciary? The answer is simple, clear the judiciary services exam for higher judiciary services. The exams follow a similar pattern with all three stages I mentioned earlier. But you can’t directly go for it right after your graduation. That was expected.

So, how to become a judge in a higher-level court in India? For this, you need to become an advocate first. After graduation, get relevant experience working under a practising lawyer. Then, become a member of the respective bar council. Doing this will make you eligible to practise independently in courts.

Now, the next stage is about gaining relevant experience as an advocate. For most states, it is seven years. Once you’ve met this eligibility criterion, attempt the provisional civil service-judicial exam (Judicial services exam) for higher-level courts.

Once that stage is cleared, you will be appointed as an additional district court judge (ADJ). In this position, you will be dealing with cases in district courts. From here, you will always have the chance to get promoted to the high court before your journey in the judicial system ends. So, how does that sound? Yeah, that’s the second route towards becoming a judge in India.

The ‘non-judicial services exam’ way

Till now, we were talking about exams and how clearing those exams will help you to become a judge in India. But what if you are unable to clear those exams. Man, we are talking about India. There is always a way around. 

So, let’s say you are a reputed advocate with an experience of more than 10 years practicing in higher-level courts. Then, you will have the chance to get directly inducted to the position of a judge in the higher-level courts. Today, most of the judges in high courts are the ones with more than 10 years of experience in litigation. They are appointed directly by the president of India after the recommendation of the collegium of Judges. I know 10 years is a long time. But did you really expect them to appoint a newbie with no real experience as a high court judge?

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A judge occupies a very powerful position in the Indian judicial system. Getting to that position is not easy. In this article, we discussed a few ways through which one becomes a judge in India.  We hope the illustrated analysis has powered up your insights and widened your perspectives. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions.

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2 comments found

    comments user

    Harleen Kaur

    I’m really grateful that I found this article on how to become judge with overall view, everything and not those nazi articles telling me it’s really tough and tiring to become a judge. Thank you .


    comments user

    Aarti kasture

    i have completed my bcom , i am now at company secretary 2nd year , and even during this lockdown i have applied for MHCET LAW examination entrance so after completed my law can i apply for judicial services examination ….plzz reply


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