India’s higher judiciary has reservations about the government’s decision to replace the existing collegium system of appointing judges with a Judicial Appointments Commission.
In his first public comments on the issue since the Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution amendment bill for the creation of the commission, Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam defended the existing system on Saturday at a seminar.
“The government has a say in the present system and its views are taken into consideration for appointment of judges,” he said.
HT has learnt the judiciary is also not happy with the government’s decision to pass the commission’s composition through a separate bill requiring a simple majority in Parliament. It may be open to the new body if its composition is written into the Constitution.
The judiciary apprehends that a law passed by simple majority could be easily changed in future. “When the Constitution amendment bill states that judges of the Supreme Court and high courts will be appointed on the basis of the commission’s recommendations, it would only be appropriate to mention its composition in the same bill,” said a highly placed source.
The higher judiciary is of the view that an amendment to the Constitution requires the widest possible consensus as it is possible only with a two-thirds majority of those present and voting in both Houses of Parliament. Moreover, the majority figure has to be greater than half of the total membership of the House.
“In this case, though, the government has opted for creation of the JAC through a separate bill, which requires only a simple majority. This definitely creates a reasonable doubt of possible tampering in future,” the source said.
Government sources dismissed the apprehension, saying every law passed by Parliament is open to review by the judiciary and changing the contours of any bill in the coalition era is not easy.
The proposed commission, according to the bill, will be headed by the CJI. Two senior-most Supreme Court judges, the law minister and two eminent personalities to be selected by a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, CJI and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha will be the members of this body.