Judicial appointments bill faces key Rajya Sabha test

  • Agencies, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 14, 2014 13:14 IST

The Narendra Modi government, which is in minority in Rajya Sabha, will have to find a way out when the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, is taken up by the Upper House a day after it was passed unanimously in Lok Sabha.

The landmark bill was passed by the Lower House on Wednesday after the government climbed down on a key provision that indirectly gave power to the law minister to veto any selection of judges.

The government which is is in a minority in the 250-member Rajya Sabha, with 60 members, needs the support of the Congress party, which has 69 members, to pass the legislation.

The Congress has questioned the government's hurry to pass the bill without proper debate.

The bill seeks to replace the two-decade-old collegium system with an independent six-member commission for senior judicial appointments.

Read: Collegium system has 'defeated its purpose', alternative needed: ex-SC judge Ganguly

After the bill becomes law, the government will have a say in the appointment of Supreme Court and high court judges after 21 years.

Once the commission is formed, 266 vacancies for judges in 24 high courts are likely to be filled expeditiously. The Supreme Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 31, also has one vacancy.

The appointment of new judges is also expected to speed up the backlog of legal cases in courts across the country.

The commission can be set up only after half the state assemblies ratify the bill passed by Parliament.

The original bill said that if the President does not approve and returns any name to the commission for reconsideration, the panel can recommend the name again only if there is unanimity among its members.

In other words, if any one member disagrees, the particular name cannot be recommended again to the President.

Opposition members felt that this provision would have given the law minister veto powers as he is expected to follow the President’s line.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday moved an official amendment that said a recommendation can be returned to the President if at least five members agreed on the name.

It was passed by voice vote in Lok Sabha and the related 99th Constitution amendment bill was passed by 367-0 votes in its favour.

Read: LS clears judges bill, govt will get a say

The second bill was quickly taken up in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday itself.

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