M A I N   N E W S

LS clears Bill to scrap SC collegium
Gives nod to judicial appointments commission, 99th Constitution Amendment Bills
Girja Shankar Kaura and Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
The two-decade-old collegium system of appointment of judges in the country was set to change with the Lok Sabha today passing a landmark Bill to create a National Judicial Appointment Commission. The Lower House also cleared the 99th Constitution Amendment Bill that seeks to lay down the architecture for setting up of the proposed commission.

Hours after its passage in the Lok Sabha, the government moved the Constitution Amendment Bill for consideration in the Rajya Sabha, requesting its early passage as the Budget session of Parliament is scheduled to adjourn tomorrow.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad moved the Bill after an hour-long debate on whether the House has powers to enact such a law.

Earlier, the Lok Sabha passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill with 367 votes. The voting was done manually, with both Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi absent.

The House also passed a related Bill to regulate the procedures which the commission would follow for recommending persons for appointment as the Chief Justice of India and other judges of the SC and the chief justices and other judges of the HCs and procedures of their transfers.

The passage followed government’s announcement to drop from the original Bill a contentious provision which the Congress had red-flagged. This provision allowed the President to literally veto an appointment recommended by the commission. Under the Bill, all appointments to higher judiciary will be made by the President on the recommendations of the NJC as against the collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India as is the current practice which started in 1993.

The controversial provision said if the President made a request to the commission to reconsider its proposal, the commission would do so and if it reiterated its opinion, it would do so unanimously. The Congress had termed this clause as “vesting too much power in the Executive through the President”.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while dropping the contentious provision said: “We are not insisting on unanimity. I am moving an official amendment to drop the provision. The new clause will say that if the President seeks reconsideration, the commission will proceed with the request in the same manner as it does in case of appointments of other HC and SC judges, namely the appointment won’t be carried if two commission members disagree.”

The government managed to persuade the AIADMK to withdraw its amendment seeking the creation of a state judicial commission by explaining that such a move would be challenged in courts because constitutionally the President alone can appoint the judges. On another AIADMK demand to have an All-India Judicial Service, the government said “it would try to build consensus on the matter”.

The RSP, too, withdrew its amendments related to the right of reporting judicial vacancies to be vested in the judiciary; this after the government said Secretary, Justice needed to be given that role since he handles the matter even today.

On Congress’ apprehension over selection of two eminent people in the commission by a panel comprising the PM, CJI and Leader of the Opposition in the LS, the Law Minister said: "Trust the distinguished panel to select the best."

Prasad said with the CJI heading the appointments’ commission that comprises two senior SC judges, the primacy of the Judiciary will be retained.

He said seniority won’t be the sole criteria while making appointments. The merit will also count, said Prasad.

Govt moves Constitution Amendment Bill in RS

* The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill-2014 was passed by voice vote after the government dropped a controversial provision that allowed the President to literally veto an appointment recommended by the commission.

* The 99th Constitution Amendment Bill, which seeks to confer Constitutional status to the proposed commission, was passed with 367 votes

* Hours after its passage in the Lok Sabha, the government moved the Constitution Amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha





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