Judicial Appointments Commission Bill and Constitutional Amendment Bill passed in Lok Sabha

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill and Constitutional Amendment Bill passed in Lok Sabha

The Bill, which will overhaul the entire system of judicial appointment which has been in place for almost a decade now, has reportedly been approved by the Lok Sabha. The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 was passed by voice vote along with one official amendment. Along with it, the 121st Constitution Amendment Bill, which will give Constitutional status to the proposed Commission, was passed by 367 in favor and nil against.

The government dropped the word "unanimous" from the second proviso to Clause 7 of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 which says all members of the panel have to agree to a judge's appointment if there are objections and the President sends back the same name for reconsideration.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has asserted that the Bill won’t in any way affect the independence of the Judiciary.

"We are for maintaining the sanctity of the judiciary. We have said this House respects independence of judiciary. That should be assuring," he said, adding that the new law would provide for wider consultations for appointment of Judges to the High Courts and the apex Court.

Referring to the problem areas in the Bill, former Law Minister Kapil Sibal reportedly said, “The main issue relates to independence of the judiciary. This Bill allows two members of the proposed NJAC to scuttle the appointment of an individual. How can you give veto power to any two members of the NJAC? Such a provision can be misused. Then there is the matter of unanimous reiteration if the President refers the names back for recommendation. Just one member can, through his veto, veto any appointment. The Executive may, through this veto power, reject names till it gets an appointment of its choice.”

Former SC Judge K.T. Thomas also voiced his opinion regarding the Bill and defended the Collegium system. He writes, “What is the guarantee that only persons of impeccable and proven integrity, coupled with the moral strength to assert their dissent (if any) on record, would fill up the JAC? Having been a member of the collegium of the Supreme Court, I know how outsiders seek (and get) access so as to canvass for the decision-making process. I doubt that the situation would change if the proposed composition of the JAC were to be implemented. I am also not prepared to say that the selection of “eminent persons” would not become diluted in due course, particularly because of the vagueness in standardizing who these “eminent persons” can be. I am skeptical of the outcome of the JAC in the long run, given that the scope for manipulation and favoritism cannot be fully eliminated even within it.”

The Collegium system has off late seen a lot of criticism, especially in light of Justice Katju’s revelations. Read the revelations and their implications here.

Read the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 and The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-First Amendment) Bill, 2014, here.

Read more news about the Bill here.