Can revisit NJAC if there is consensus, hints minister

Lok Sabha passes bill to hike salaries of judges

Can revisit NJAC if there is consensus, hints minister

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday indicated that the government was open to bringing the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill once again for passage by Parliament if there was a consensus on the issue among all political parties.

"If the polity of the country decides one day to speak in one voice, we can find a way out," Prasad said while replying to a debate on The High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill. The Constitutional Amendment Act for setting up the NJAC was quashed by the Supreme Court in 2015.

The bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha by a voice vote, seeks to increase the salary of the Chief Justice of India from Rs 1 lakh per month to Rs 2.8 lakh, that of the judges of the apex court and the chief justices of high courts from Rs 90,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh and that of other high court judges from Rs 80,000 to Rs 2.25 lakh.

Prasad also took strong objection to the Supreme Court questioning the inclusion of Union law minister as a member of NJAC. "It was a loaded question," the minister observed, adding that the previous system - of appointing judges before the collegium system came into force in 1993 - had given certain exceptional judges to the country.

He said "our heads hang in shame" when the Supreme Court orders the arrest of a sitting judge of a high court and directs a retired Supreme Court judge to apologise or face contempt of court proceedings.

'No transgression'

Earlier, members made a strong pitch for asserting the supremacy of Parliament in lawmaking and objected to the Supreme Court encroaching on its turf.

"You cannot legislate the law. It is the function of Parliament. Our functions cannot be taken away," Trinamool member Kalyan Banerjee said, participating in the debate.

"They can interpret the law, not legislate," Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai, who was in the chair, concurred with Banerjee.

The law minister also termed as "dangerous argument" the observations of the Supreme Court that it has to step in "when one organ of the state fails in its duty to legislate".

"Laws will be made only by those who are elected by the people. Let governance be left to those who are elected by the people," Prasad said.

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