Judicial Clerkships also referred to as Law Clerk-Cum-Research Assistant is a short-term job that aims at assisting the judges with judicial tasks ranging from researching case laws to preparing summaries of files. The time for such a job is usually spread across 1 year, however the same can be extended at the discretion of the Judge. Judicial Clerkships reflect on a person’s researching skills and therefore are highly admired by college applications abroad as well. With the increasing shift of educational institutions towards practical learning and the aim to read in theory into practice, the Government encourages students to apply for such positions. The spectrum of work is nuanced and helps to gain both factual and legal knowledge. The article further aims to elaborate on the application process, eligibility criteria, and the way forward.
The current practice accounts for the Supreme Court to invite applications for the Engagement of Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistant on a short-term contractual basis. The selection is done based on a written exam followed by an interview. The Written test comprises 150 MCQ with a negative marking of 0.25 for each incorrect answer. On the basis of merit, candidates scoring three times higher than the actual requirement are called for the Interview. The said post is contractual in nature and does not confer any person any rights or regular appointment in the Supreme Court of India. The candidate has to apply via the official Supreme court website and have to pay a nonrefundable fee of Rs. 200. The applications are usually rolled out every year in the month of January by way of advertisement. The last date of application for the current set of batches is 28th February 2021 and you can access the same via https://main.sci.gov.in/recruitment. The written exam is conducted on the following broader headings- General Studies, English, Civil and Criminal Law, Computer Knowledge and General Knowledge. After the completion of the term, the candidate is issued a certificate by the Registrar along with a stipend.
- The candidate must be a law graduate having a degree in Law including the Integrated degree course in law by an institution that is recognized by the Bar Council of India.
- Candidates studying in the 5th year of the Five years Integrated Course can also apply. However, they have to show proof of acquiring such a law degree at the time of interview before joining as an Assistant.
- The candidate needs to have knowledge of the search engines
- The age should be ranging between 18-27 years as of the last date of receipt of applications.
Nature of work
The nature of work ideally is research work. The assistant is required to research and assist the judges in the work. The assistants are asked to attend court proceedings and make note of the matters, prepare summaries of files. Ideally, they have to assist the judge in the preparation of draft judgments, academic speeches, and papers and discuss the matters in length with a judge. This gives a first-hand experience about how the judicial process works and what goes behind when a judgment is passed. The discussions carried on with the Judge helps in better formulation and articulation of arguments. In addition to the court, the Law Clerk can be asked to attend the residential house of the Judge to further assist in the matters and research for the cases since the job of the candidate is full time. The Law Clerk is required to maintain the secrecy of the matters of the Court and is governed by the Indian Penal Code and the Indian Official Secrets Act, 1923 as applicable to any public servant. The candidate is barred from taking any other assignment or practice as an Advocate during the term.
The Way Forward
The prestige that surrounds working in the High Court and Supreme Court with a judge goes a long way. The candidate gets holistic knowledge about various fields of law and gets the opportunity to discuss the matters in length with a Judge. The Candidate gets a first-hand experience of dealing with the cases and understanding in length the Craft of the Court. Being on the other side of the podium helps to analyse the law better and understand the position of parties from an unbiased opinion. It is beneficial for candidates especially applying for litigation or Judicial services. As pointed out easier it also reflects well on CV and applications abroad. It is beneficial for young lawyers in understanding the functioning of courts and is thus a good learning experience.
Judicial clerkship is at a nascent stage and will hold a lot of value in the upcoming years. The silver lining attached to the position also comes with certain drawbacks as it might be the case that judges might not be able to discuss the cases in length due to paucity of time or lack of trust. The said position has helped in increasing the efficiency of the courts as the burden of work of a judge is shared. It is unlikely that the involvement of clerks would affect the quality and integrity of the Courts as they help in assisting the judges and ensure timely disposal of cases. Clerkships thus offer the candidate to analyse, interpret and understand the law and court dynamics better.
Chauhan, Sidharth, Clerkships in the Indian Supreme Court: Some Reflections and Suggestions (April 17, 2012). Critical Twenties, April 17, 2012. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3295959 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3295959
Jobapply.in. Welcome to Online Application for Engagement of Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistant on a short-term contractual basis. Available at: https://jobapply.in/supremecourt2021feb/Default.aspx
Recruitment, Supreme Court of India. Available at www.sci.gov.in.