Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 2
Congress said on Tuesday it intended to amend the Constitution to make the Supreme Court a Constitutional Court that will hear and decide cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution and other cases of legal significance or national importance.
In its election manifesto, released by party president Rahul Gandhi, Congress called for establishment of Courts of Appeal to hear appeals from judgments and orders of high courts. The Court of Appeal will sit in multiple Benches of three judges each in six locations, it said.
Three-and-a-half-year after the Supreme Court declared the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) unconstitutional and revived the Collegium system under which judges appoint judges, Congress called for a National Judicial Commission (NJC) to appoint judges to the higher judiciary.
“The NJC will be comprised of judges, jurists and parliamentarians and will be serviced by a secretariat. Names of suitable candidates will be placed in the public domain and the reasons for selection will be published to ensure that the entire process is transparent,” the Congress manifesto stated. All vacancies in the Supreme Court and high courts will be filled by NJC within two months, it promised.
An independent Judicial Complaints Commission would be set up to investigate complaints of misconduct against judges and recommend suitable action to Parliament, the manifesto stated.
The party also promised to enhance representation at all levels of the judiciary of women, SC, ST, OBC, minorities and other under-represented sections of society.
It called for fixing uniform retirement age of judges of the Supreme Court, high courts and judicial members of tribunals at 65 years. This will prevent post-retirement assignments for serving judges and allow more opportunities for qualified persons to serve as judges or judicial members, the party said.
Besides, it also promised to amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 to strike a balance between powers of security forces and human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture and bring in a law to prohibit custodial torture.
Congress said if voted to power, it would repeal law on sedition and de-criminalise defamation. Interestingly, the Supreme Court had dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s petition seeking to declare unconstitutional Section 499 and Section 500 of IPC—which criminalise defamation.
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