Govt seeks views of parties on appointment of judges

Govt seeks views of parties on appointment of judges

The NDA government has initiated a move to enlist the views of political parties on a bill to replace the present collegium system of appointment of judges to higher judiciary.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written a letter to leaders of major political parties on the need for a legislation to enable  appointment of senior judges.

The move comes in the wake of revelations that the previous UPA regime had nudged the Supreme Court collegium to recommend an extension for a Madras High Court judge, who was under corruption cloud.

Prasad  letter also comes against the backdrop of a controversy generated by the Centre's decision to return the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium for appointment of senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium as an apex court judge.

The minister had on July 21 said the government is seeking the views of various political parties and eminent jurists for setting up a Judicial Appointments Commission, which would scrap the present system of judges appointing judges.

The Centre plans to introduce the bill in the ongoing session after tweaking an earlier bill brought by the UPA government.  

Sources said the NDA government has found "certain infirmities" in the UPA version. They added that the Centre is also mulling an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.

A Constitutional Amendment Bill to set up the proposed commission has lapsed following the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha and an accompanying bill is pending in Rajya Sabha.

"The government is seeking the views of various political parties and eminent jurists on the proposal for setting up of a Judicial Appointments Commission," Prasad had said.

An earlier effort by the NDA-I government in 2003 to replace the collegium system met with no success. The then NDA government had introduced a Constitution amendment bill but Lok Sabha was dissolved when the bill was before a Standing Committee. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was the Law Minister then.

The parliamentary nod to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill eluded the UPA dispensation despite its having agreed to demands by jurists and BJP to grant constitutional status to a proposed commission for appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary to ensure that its composition cannot be altered through an ordinary legislation.

According to the UPA bill, while a new Article 124A of the Constitution would define the composition of the JAC, Article 124B will define its functions.

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