Judicial Appointments Bill Passed in Rajya Sabha
New Delhi: Parliament today approved a new proposal that dramatically changes how judges are appointed.
The proposal which was cleared by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday was approved by the Rajya Sabha today.
So far, judges have been appointed by a collegium of senior Supreme Court judges. The new proposal transfers that responsibility to a committee of six members: the Chief Justice of India, the next two most senior judges of the Supreme Court, the Law Minister, and two eminent persons.
The pair of prominent Indians will be selected by a committee that is headed by the Prime Minister and includes the leader of the largest opposition party (currently, the Congress).
The government, via the Law Minister and the PM’s role, has a direct role therefore in the selection of judges.
The Congress had said it would not support the bill that creates the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NLAC) till one feature was dropped by the government. That feature said that if the President of India rejects a candidate sent for consideration by the committee, the six members of the committee have to unanimously decide to once again recommend the same judge.
The Congress said that as a member of the committee, the Law Minister could veto the candidate. This would force the committee to drop the judge because of the emphasis on unanimity. The government, therefore, could ensure a judge it did not approve of was ruled out.
To ensure the Congress’ support for the proposal, the government dropped the “unanimous” provision.
The government has a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, but in the Rajya Sabha, it has just 60 of the House’s 250 members, so it needs the Congress’ support.
Parliament has also cleared a bill that gives the new committee constitutional status.
“The effort now is that we restore back the spirit of the original constitution – are we going to create executive primacy? the answer is no. Are we going to keep judicial primacy? the answer is yes,” said Arun Jaitley.
The go-ahead from at least half of India’s states is needed because the proposed law also affects the way judges are selected for High Courts.