Brushing aside the objections of higher judiciary, the cabinet on Thursday is likely to consider an ambitious proposal to replace the existing judges appointment system with a seven-member panel, in which majority will be non-judges.
The government has decided to go ahead with its proposal to scrap the two-decade old system of country’s top five judges (Supreme Court collegium) recommending names for appointment of judges for the Supreme Court and high courts, after getting the BJP’s support for the move.
The law ministry’s proposal for the cabinet aims to replace the collegium system with a bill to amend the Constitution for setting-up a seven-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) to be headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
It will have two Supreme Court judges, law minister, two eminent personalities selected by a panel of the Prime Minister, CJI and the leader of the opposition in either House of Parliament, as its members and secretary of the justice department as the member secretary.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley had given the idea of keeping two eminent personalities in the JAC, to which law minister Kapil Sibal agreed, taking forward the proposal which was stuck due to lack of political unanimity so far.
Incumbent CJI, Justice P Sathasivam and his predecessors, Justices Altamas Kabir, SH Kapadia and KG Balakrishnan have rejected the criticism of the collegium system and maintained it was incorrect to state that governments have no role in appointing judges.
The government’s internal note, however, states that India is the only country where judges appoint themselves.
“The word collegium is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution…..Time has come to revisit it and having a broadbased system is the best way forward,” states the note.