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Government, BJP move closer on replacing collegium system of judges' appointment

Published: 29th July 2013 08:18 PM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2013 10:28 AM   |  A+A-

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By PTI

The government and the BJP appeared to have moved closer to a consensus on a proposal to scrap the two-decade-old collegium system of judges appointing judges and replace it with a body giving Executive a say in appointment of members to the higher judiciary.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley met Law Minister Kapil Sibal here to discuss the broad draft of the proposed National Judicial Commission which the government hopes will replace the collegium system.

"I have always been in support of the National Judicial Commission, and I have made some suggestions to Kapil Sibal.

It is for the government to consider those... I can actually foresee a larger consensus evolving, subject to a broader agreement on the composition and nature of its (NJC's) functioning," Jaitley told reporters after the meeting.

Sibal sounded positive on the outcome of the meeting and said "In principle, subject to of course my government's agreement, I agree with what he has suggested and I am going to incorporate those suggestions and circulate it to the Cabinet in a week or so."

As NDA's Law Minister, Jaitley had in fact moved a Constitutional Amendment Bill in 2003 to scrap the collegium system. But the Lok Sabha was dissolved when the bill was pending with the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

According to a Cabinet note moved by Sibal's predecessor Ashwani Kumar, government proposes to set up a six-member JAC headed by the Chief Justice of India with the Law Minister as a representative of the government.

The JAC will also have two judges of the Supreme Court, two eminent jurists nominated by the President as members.

The government is open to include the Leader of Opposition in the Commission.

The proposal, which replaces the present system of collegium appointing judges, will require a Constitutional amendment. The collegium is a five-member body headed by the Chief Justice of India and includes four senior-most judges.

Successive chief justices including the present incumbent P Sathasivam have defended the collegium system, saying it has worked fine.

Referring to government's efforts to evolve a consensus, Sibal said, "By and large there is a broad consensus among leaders of other political parties that time has come to set up such a Commission...as Arun has rightly said, over the years a consensus has emerged that the right to appoint judges to the higher judiciary must be a joint responsibility of the Executive and the Judiciary."

On Saturday last, Jaitley had also proposed a relook at the existing method of appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and 24 High Courts. Delivering a lecture in Cuttack, Jaitley, himself a senior lawyer, said there should be a national debate on the recruitment of judges.

He said the existing system of collegium needs to be given a fresh look in order to make it more effective and check possible favouritism in appointment of judges.

In order to attract best talents, it would be proper to bring about reforms in the judiciary so that more people are inclined to become judges, said the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

Sources, meanwhile, said the government may not rush with other judiciary-related bills pending in Parliament. A bill on laying down judicial standards and the one on increasing retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 years are pending in Parliament for the past couple of years.

"Let us move one by one," said a senior Law Ministry official.



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