NEW DELHI: In the wake of recent controversies involving judicial appointments, the government is planning to bring a legislative overhaul.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written to leaders of all major political parties seeking their concurrence on the Bill that would replace the current SC collegium system with the National Judicial Commission for appointment and transfer of higher judiciary.
An all-party meeting on the issue is also expected by the end of this month.
This comes in the wake of the kerfuffle between the Union Government and the Chief Justice of India over the former’s rejection of Gopal Subramanium’s elevation as Supreme Court judge; and Markandey Kajtu’s revelations on how political pressure played in the case of ‘corrupt’ additional Madras High Court judge Justice Ashok Kumar becoming permanent.
On July 21 itself, Prasad had told the Lower House of Parliament that the government was seeking the views of various political parties and eminent jurists for setting up a Judicial Appointments Commission, which would scrap the present system of judges appointing judges.
The Centre, in fact, plans to introduce the Bill in the ongoing session after tweaking an earlier Bill brought by the UPA Government. Sources said the NDA Government has found “certain infirmities” in the UPA version. They added that the Centre is also mulling an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.
The legislation that paves the way for a National Judicial Commission has a long history. It was first initiated by Arun Jaitley, former Law Minister under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government. It was again revived during the UPA-II tenure.
But the Constitutional Amendment Bill to set up the Commission lapsed following the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha, an accompanying Bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha, allowing its revival yet again with minor changes.
“The government is seeking the views of various political parties and eminent jurists on the proposal for setting up of a Judicial Appointments Commission,” Prasad had told the House.
The Bill had lapsed when the former NDA Government introduced it and was referred to the Standing Committee and the Lok Sabha was dissolved thereafter.
The Parliamentary nod to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill eluded the UPA dispensation, despite it having agreed to demands by jurists and the BJP to grant constitutional status to a proposed commission for appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary to ensure that its composition cannot be altered through an ordinary legislation.
According to the United Progressive Alliance Bill, while a new Article 124A of the Constitution would define the composition of the JAC, Article 124B will define its functions.