Parliament cleared a Constitution amendment bill on Thursday that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system which has been under severe criticism.
A day after passage in the Lok Sabha, the Constitution Amendment Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha with 179 votes in favour and one abstention of noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
The bill will make way for the setting up of National Judicial Appointments Commission which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 High Courts.
The bill will come into force after ratification by 50 per cent of the state legislatures.
The process could take up to eight months. After ratification, the government will send it to the President for his assent.
Under the statute amendment bill, Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. 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 prominent persons, one of whom will belong to either of SC/ST, OBC, minorities or a woman, will be selected by a panel of Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the largest opposition party in the lower House.
Moving the Bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the measure is not being brought in haste as there have been several committees in the past that have recommended for bringing a change in the collegium system of appointing judges.
“Why is Parliament wary of using its powers? Parliament must have full trust in the ability of Parliament to pass the law,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the interest of judiciary there should be an element of primacy in the institution of judiciary.
“Today judges appoint judges and they will probably take the views of the Executive. There is only a marginal role of the consultation with the executive. There is hardly any role that the Governor and Chief Minister has and if the Executive has a contrarian view and there is strong reason for that contrarian view and it conveys to the judiciary. . .It is considered as a view not taken,” he said.
Suspended BJP member Ram Jethmalani, himself an eminent lawyer, said the Law Minister should not be a member of the National Judicial Appointments Commission as he may have to practice sometime and hence the government should be represented by either the Prime Minister or the Home Minister.
He also dismissed the government’s proposed Commission as a “pale shadow” of what it was envisioned and wanted that this body should have the power to dismiss judges and accuse the government of “betrayal” on this issue.
Prasad later contested this charge saying it is a “disrespect” to him.