Jaitley criticises UPA over volte-face on collegium system

Jaitley criticises UPA over volte-face on collegium system

Despite supporting a bill to amend the Constitution to set up a judicial appointments commission replacing the collegium system, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday nudged the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for its volte-face on the issue.

Though the BJP was in favour of the bill, party members walked out before the passage of the legislation in the Upper House, protesting against the UPA ignoring their plea to send the sensitive issue to a standing committee for discussion.  

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said when the NDA government constituted a panel headed by M N Venkatachaliah to review the Constitution, it was strongly opposed by the Congress, who then called it an attempt to distort the Constitution.

“Now the Congress-led government has brought a bill to scrap the collegium system,” Jaitley said.

“When other establishments of the democracy do not infringe upon the functioning of the judiciary, then why would it ask the government to do this or do that and direct even on the economic policy of the government? Courts cannot review a policy and say that my policy is better than your policy...it cannot say how to be tough on the Maoists,” he said.

Attacking the judiciary, he said no government, irrespective of its complexions, had ever said since courts had three crore cases pending, somebody else would do it for the courts.

Stating that the present system of appointing judges lacks transparency, Jaitley said the three-member collegium often left out the best of the lot for a promotion and went ahead with their choices.

“A collegium is as good as its members,” he said. “Judges appoint themselves and judges are accountable to judges.”

Interestingly, Law Minister Kapil Sibal, who introduced the bill, also thanked Jaitley . “I compliment the Leader of the Opposition who then as the minister introduced the bill to set up the judicial commission in 2003,” Sibal said.

The minister recalled that justices M N Venkatachaliah and J S Verma, who favoured the collegium system, had later said they regretted their decision.

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