The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the landmark National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, which was passed unanimously by the Lok Sabha yesterday, in a move that is being seen as a major victory for the Modi sarkar.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote and will lead to the scrapping of the current collegium system of appointment of judges to Higher Judiciary in India. The Constitution Amendment Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha with 179 votes in favour and one abstention of noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
The bill will make way for the setting up of a National Judicial Appointments Commission which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 High Courts. The bill will come into force after ratification by 50 percent of the state legislatures. The process could take up to eight months. After ratification, the government will send it to the President for his assent.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had today strongly defended the government's decision to push through the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, saying the bill was only seeking to restore the Indian Constitutional tenets which specifies that Supreme Court judges would be appointed by the Executive.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley referred to article 124 of the constitution that deals with the appointment of Supreme Court judges. Section 2 of the article states: Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose and shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty five years: Provided that in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the chief Justice, the chief Justice of India shall always be consulted.
"In simple English, this means that the President and government will appoint judges to the Supreme Court," the Finance Minister said.
Now that the bill will become 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 99th Constitution Amendment Bill seeks to lay down the architecture for setting up of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) through another bill, aimed at overturning the two-decade-old collegium system of appointing judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts.
The government had on Monday, introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha to establish a six-member body for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts. Under the statute amendment bill, Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the Law Minister will be the other members of the proposed body.
While two members of the NJAC can veto any appointment, the government can return the recommendation for "reconsideration". Under the now-dropped provisions once the NJAC "unanimously" reiterated the recommendation, the government had no option but to accept it.
Updated Date: Aug 14, 2014 15:43:29 IST