As the UPA government prepares to change the two-decade-old collegium system under which judges appoint judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, bar leaders on Saturday demanded that their representatives should be included in the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).
Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, 12 chairmen of various state bar councils and 10 presidents of high court bar associations met Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal and pressed for direct involvement of elected bar in the judges' appointment process under the proposed JAC.
"The bar leaders expressed their unanimous view that they are not at all in favour of the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission in its present form," BCI spokesperson S Prabhakaran told HT.
"The bar councils and bar associations expressed their view that the chairman or the representative of BCI and chairman or representative of the bar association and state bar council concerned should form part of the commission. Without the involvement of bar councils and bar associations, lawyers and people of the country cannot accept the replacement of the existing collegiums system," Prabhakaran said.
The JAC bill was to come up for discussion before union cabinet on Thursday last but it could not be taken up as Sibal was indisposed.
The draft bill proposes a six-member JAC to be headed by the Chief Justice of India. The law minister, leader of the opposition in one of the houses of Parliament, two senior Supreme Court judges and an eminent jurist to be nominated by the president, will be its members.
Successive CJIs, including the incumbent, justice P Sathasivam have bluntly rejected the proposal to scrap the collegium system, maintaining it is working well.
Leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley has supported the move for the creation of such a commission, but his views on its composition do not match with the government.
Under Article 124(2) and Article 217(1) of the constitution, a judge of the SC and that of an HC respectively has to be appointed by the president after 'consultation' with the CJI.
However, via a judgement in 1993, the SC effectively took over the executive's power to appoint judges to the higher judiciary and started what has come to be known as the 'collegium system'.
A nine-judge Constitution Bench in 1998 further ruled that primacy has to be given to the collegium's view over that of the president.
Various political parties and jurists have criticised the collegiums system but maintained that any new system should be free from executive control so as to ensure independence of judiciary.