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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Govt's move to scrap collegium system of appointing judges has few takers

PTI  New Delhi, July 14, 2013
First Published: 11:56 IST(14/7/2013) | Last Updated: 11:58 IST(14/7/2013)

Government's move to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges is facing opposition from the judiciary, creating prospects of further delay in setting up of a judicial appointment commission in which executive seeks to have a say.

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A top government functionary said that the judiciary is opposing the move to overturn the two-decade-old system, saying there is no need to change the mechanism.

Outgoing Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir recently defended the collegium system, saying appointments to the higher judiciary are made after "intense deliberations".

His successor Justice P Sathasivam too has asserted that there is no need to change the collegium system.

"The CJI-designate has opposed any change to the mechanism," the functionary said while explaining why it would be difficult to scrap it in the near future.

Complicating things for the government, the Opposition is also "not playing ball", he said.

Various political parties have demanded that government should bring all bills relating to judicial reforms together.

A senior Opposition leader has also suggested a ban on post-retirement government assignments for senior judges.

With next general election now months away and Parliament failing to function due to repeated disruptions, government will find it tough to get the Constitutional amendment bill passed required to scrap the collegium system.

The functionary said government would succeed "some day if not any time soon" to bring in a new mechanism which is more "corroborative".

Law Minister Kapil Sibal had recently said that the collegium system of appointing judges has not worked to the expectations and the government must have a say in such appointments.

Sibal had said he would "very soon" move a proposal in the Cabinet to replace the collegium system with the Judicial Appointment Commission which will give a say to the Executive in the appointments of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts.

"We do not think that the collegium system has worked to our expectations. I don't think it even worked to the expectations of the judiciary," he said while justifying the need for scrapping the system.

The practice of judges appointing judges started after 1993, replacing the system of government picking judges for higher judiciary comprising the Supreme Court and high courts.

According to the government proposal, a six-member Judicial Appointments Commission headed by the Chief Justice of India with the Law Minister as a representative of the government would be set up to select judges for the higher courts.

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 was on the agenda of the Union Cabinet on April 18, but could not be taken up.

The collegium is a five-member body headed by the Chief Justice of India and includes four other senior-most judges.


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