The government is set to seek Parliament’s approval to scrap a two-decade-old procedure for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts and give politicians a role in the process.
The law ministry is ready with its draft bill to amend the Constitution for setting up a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which will replace the existing system in which the country’s top five judges (Supreme Court collegium) recommend names for the appointment of judges to the government.
HT has learnt that the proposed NJAC is likely to be a six-member body and would be headed by the Chief Justice of India. The law minister and the leader of the opposition in one of the Houses of Parliament will also be on board, as will two senior SC judges and an eminent jurist to be nominated by the President.
“The draft bill for broad-basing the system for appointment of judges is now ready for cabinet’s consideration. It is based on consultations with eminent jurists and senior political leaders,” law minister Ashwani Kumar told HT.
The government has been trying for three years to get the judiciary to agree to a change.
But the two immediate past chief justices, justice KG Balakrishnan and justice SH Kapadia, flatly refused. Now it has taken the Parliament route and appears to have got the Opposition on its side by making the NJAC more inclusive.
“Let me make it clear that the Chief Justice of India and senior judges will continue to have a pre-eminent role in the process of appointments under the proposed system,” the minister said.
Asked whether the government would like to bring the constitution amendment bill during the ongoing budget session itself, Kumar replied: “It is our endeavour and efforts are on to build the widest possible political consensus on the need to revisit the collegium system.”
The law ministry is armed with opinions from former CJIs MN Venkatachaliah and JS Verma, both of whom have strongly recommended putting in place a broadbased and independent method for the appointment of judges.