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Setting the ball rolling to set up a commission for key judicial appointments, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written to political parties to seek their views on making improvements to the system of appointing judges to the high court and Supreme Court.
Prasad’s letter comes in the backdrop of Katju’s allegations that the UPA had intervened to appoint a tainted high court judge and confirm him. The law minister had told Lok Sabha that the Prime Minister’s office and the law ministry had intervened during the UPA’s tenure but stressed it was time to fix the appointment system.
The law minister’s letter spoke about the need for a bill to replace the present collegium system and sought the views of political parties to set up a commission.
The BJP has been emphasising on judicial reforms for more than a decade and had even drawn up a draft legislation to end the system of judges appointing judges.
Government sources said the BJP intended to correct “certain infirmities” in the UPA version of the bill that restricted the national judicial commission’s role to appointing judges. BJP leaders over the years have emphasised on various occasions that the proposed panel should also be used to hold the judiciary accountable as well.
If necessary, the government is open to convening a meeting of all parties to build consensus, a law ministry source said, pointing that NDA leaders had consistently spoken out against the practice of the judiciary being accountable to the judiciary.
A Constitutional amendment bill to set up the proposed commission has lapsed following the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha and an accompanying bill is pending in Rajya Sabha.