Lack of political unanimity and the aggressive stand taken by successive Chief Justices of India appear to have stalled the government's ambitious plan to replace the existing system for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.
With the general elections less than a year away and uncertainty surrounding the functioning of Parliament, there is little possibility of the government pushing the law ministry's proposed constitution amendment bill to scrap the two-decade-old system of country's senior-most judges (Supreme Court Collegium) recommending names to the government for judges appointment.
Though the bill for the creation of a broad-based National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) is ready for the cabinet's consideration, the government is wary of touching the contentious issue at this critical juncture.
A top government functionary said the opposition is not "fully on board" on this issue, and their support to change the existing collegium system is "conditional."
Various political parties have divergent stands on the composition of the proposed judicial commission and some of them want all bills related to judicial reforms be brought together in Parliament, said the functionary.
Opposition parties are learnt to be unhappy with the composition of the proposed body, which they say appears to have only government nominees in the name of a broad-based commission.
It is likely to be a six-member body to be headed by the CJI, with two senior Supreme Court judges, law minister, secretary of the justice department and an eminent jurist to be nominated by the President as its members.
The government's problem has been compounded by the strong defence of the collegium system by the outgoing CJI Justice Altamas Kabir and expression of similar sentiments by the CJI designate Justice P Sathasivam, who takes over the top post on Friday.
Official documents accessed by HT reveal Justice Kabir's two immediate predecessors — SH Kapadia and KG Balakrishnan — had shot down the government proposal to make change in the existing procedure for judges' appointment.