Clerkships in the Indian Supreme Court: Some Reflections and Suggestions
Critical Twenties, April 17, 2012.
7 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019
Date Written: April 17, 2012
In recent years, the Supreme Court of India has gradually scaled up the practice of recruiting recent law graduates to serve as research assistants under the sitting Justices. The notification inviting applications for these ‘Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistant’ positions is usually sent to law colleges in December each year and students in their final year of legal studies (both LL.B. and LL.M. programmes) are eligible to apply for the same. As per the present practice, the Registry of the Supreme Court invites the shortlisted applicants for an interaction with a committee consisting of two sitting Justices (usually in April or May) and the chosen applicants are then assigned to work under a sitting Justice. While law clerks usually serve for nearly a year (the cycle running from July to May) there have been instances where some have worked for longer or shorter periods with the consent of their supervising Justice. To take my own example, I served as a law clerk under the then CJI K.G. Balakrishnan for nearly two years, i.e. between July 2008 and May 2010. In this note, I would like to offer a few reflections on my clerkship experience with the hope that they might be of some use to those considering this as a transitory option before making definitive career choices. Towards the end of this note, I have outlined some suggestions that may be considered for streamlining the recruitment of law clerks.
From the perspective of law students, one of the main incentives for applying for clerkships is to boost their chances of pursuing higher studies at prestigious foreign universities. Some others apply with the hope that the clerkship experience will enable them to gain a better understanding of the judicial process before making a foray into litigation. While it is an oversimplification to view this option in purely instrumental terms, the above-stated motivations cannot be dismissed since pursuing a clerkship entails some opportunity costs especially when compared to other lucrative options in the legal services market. Needless to say it is up to the individuals involved to extract the most value from their short period of service. It is undoubtedly a great opportunity to observe the nuances of appellate litigation, decision-making and the institutional structure of our apex court.
Keywords: Supreme Court of India, Law Clerks
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