Collegium system of selecting higher judiciary may change

The present system of selection of the higher judiciary by a collegium of judges may change as the Centre is considering a new proposal. The government also hinted at persisting with the provisions of a bill which seeks to bar judges from commenting against Constitutional authorities in open courts.

Addressing journalists, Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said there was a “large political consensus” on an alternative mechanism but declined to name the members of the selection committee. It is likely that such a body, to be called the National Judicial Commission, may comprise the prime minister, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. At present, the executive has no say in selection of judges. The changes can be brought in only through a Constitutional amendment.

In the present system practiced in the Supreme Court and the high courts, the chief justices head the body of senior-most judges of the court who select judges. This process has come under fire for lack of transparency.  The collegium system started in 1993, replacing the practice of the government nominating judges for the Supreme Court and the 21 high courts.

 “There seems to be a large political consensus on the need for having an alternative mechanism...principle of it is, may be an alternative system for appointment which ensures greater transparency and better inputs to ensure that the best are selected to judiciary. It is still under consideration,” Kumar said.

‘SC suggested the change’

On the issue of restrictions on observations made by judges in the courts, the minister insisted that it was a change proposed by the apex court itself. The proposed provision bars judges from making “unwarranted” comments against conduct of Constitutional or statutory authorities, bodies or institutions or any chairperson or member or officer thereof, or on the matters which are pending or likely to arise for judicial determination.”
The Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session this year, was criticised by eminent jurists. The Bill also allows citizens to complain against corrupt judges.

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