A Bill which seeks to scrap the collegium system of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary and give executive a say in the matter has been referred to a Parliamentary committee for further consultations.
The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 29, has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law. The panel has now sought the opinion and views of the general public and stakeholders on the provisions of the bill which aims at establishing a new mechanism to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and 24 High Courts.
Law minister Kapil Sibal had introduced an enabling bill -- the Constitution (120th) Amendment Bill -- and the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013, which defines the establishment of the proposed body to recommend appointment and transfer of judges. The government and the Opposition were united in seeking to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges to higher courts, saying it was essential to restore the delicate balance of power which has been disturbed.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed in the Upper House amidst a walkout by BJP which wanted both the bills to be referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. The government wanted the Constitutional Amendment Bill to be passed and was willing to send the main bill -- the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill-- to the standing committee. The Constitutional Amendment Bill is now pending with the Lok Sabha, while Rajya Sabha Chairman M Hamid Ansari had agreed to refer the main bill to the Parliamentary panel.
Under the present collegium system, the Chief Justice of India and four senior most judges of Supreme Court recommend to the government the names of judges for appointment to the High Courts and to the apex court. The government can return the file to the collegium only once for its reconsideration, but cannot refuse the recommendation. India perhaps is the only country where judges appoint judges.
The bill seeks to set up a Judicial Appointments Commission to recommend the appointment and transfer of Supreme Court and High Court judges. It states that it will make the participants in the selection accountable and introduce "transparency" in the selection process. The bill seeks to set up a panel headed by the CJI to recommend the appointment and transfer of senior judges.
The other members of the proposed Commission would be two senior-most judges of Supreme Court, the Law Minister and two eminent persons, along with the Secretary (Justice) in the Law Ministry as its convener. The two eminent persons will be selected by a panel headed by the Prime Minister with the CJI and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha as its members. The Judiciary is opposed to the proposal and has defended the collegium system for appointment of judges in higher judiciary.
Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam said yesterday that the government and its agencies have a say in the present collegium system and their views are also taken into consideration for appointment of judges. Justice Sathasivam said that no name is finalised until it gets clearance from the Law Minister, the Prime Minister and the President and in the whole mechanism, inputs from Intelligence Bureau, respective high courts and eminent people, are taken into consideration.