Modi govt gets Lok Sabha nod for judicial appointments bill
13 August 2014
The NDA government on Wednesday managed to get the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, and the Constitutional amendment bill passed in the Lok Sabha despite opposition from the judiciary, especially the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The bill proposes to scrap the existing collegium system and instead establish a six-member body for selection and appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) will be headed by Chief Justice of India. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the law minister will be the other members of the proposed body.
The two eminent personalities will be selected by a collegium of Chief Justice of India, the prime minister and leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha or the leader of the single-largest opposition party in the Lower House.
The bill that proposes to scrap the collegium system of appointing Supreme Court and high court judges will now be introduced in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP, however, lacks majority.
The opposition Congress had on Tuesday said it was not against the National Judicial Appointment Commission and the constitutional amendment bill, but wanted some changes in the drafts of the bills. Nevertheless, it is likely to create hurdles in the upper house over the text of the draft.
"We are going to seek some amendments. We are not against the basic bill. We are not against the object sought to be achieved and we are not against the spirit. All those three things are ours but remember there are two or three significant substantive changes in the clauses. What effect they have on issues like independent judiciary?" Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
During a debate on the bill in the Lok Sabha, law minister Ravishankar Prasad said the government wanted the judiciary to be independent, but, he said, the "sanctity" and "supremacy" of Parliament is equally important as it reflects aspirations of the people.
He said the Modi government has "no intentions" to usurp the power and authority of the judiciary and was only acting to have a "fair procedure" to appoint judges to higher judiciary.
Prasad's response came a day after Chief Justice of India RM Lodha strongly defended the collegium system of appointment of judges and said there was a concerted campaign to defame the judiciary (See: CJI Lodha slams 'campaign' to malign judge selection system).
"Everyone is out to condemn the collegium system terming it as a failure," the CJI said adding, "don't shake the confidence of people in judiciary."
Besides the Constitutional Amendment Bill, the law minister introduced an enabling bill,
While the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, lays down the procedure to be followed by the proposed body for appointment of Supreme Court judges and transfer and appointment of chief justices and other judges of the high courts, the Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014, seeks to put the proposed commission and its entire composition in the Constitution.
To commission has been given a constitutional status to ensure that any future government does not tweak the composition through an ordinary legislation. While the constitutional amendment bill requires two-third majority, an ordinary bill requires a simple majority.