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“It is not right in God’s sight to obey men rather than God.”

Lok Sabha clears judicial appointments bill scrapping collegium system

NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed by voice vote the Bill to set up a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), to replace the collegium system of selecting judges to the Supreme Court and high courts, after the NDA government yielded to a Congress demand and decided to drop a provision that mandated that if the President sends back a recommendation for reconsideration, the NJAC will have to reiterate it “unanimously”.

The government, however, stood firm on the provision that mandates that if at least two members of the NJAC object to a recommendation, it will not be carried through.

“One is a dissenter and two is a voice of reason to be considered out of six. I am not saying all this. There is a judgment of 1998 of the Supreme Court whereby the special reference was made,” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the House. “A single member becomes a dissenter, two members become a weight in six. This is how you have to see it,” he later reiterated.

The proposed NJAC will be headed by the Chief Justice of India and will have two senior Supreme Court judges, two eminent personalities and the Law Minister as its members. The government had originally proposed that if the President sends back a recommendation for reconsideration, he would have to clear if the NJAC reiterates it “unanimously”.

“In Clause VII of the Bill, I had kept a provision that if the President of India, constitutionally speaking, decides to refer the recommendation for reconsideration… in that event the decision must be unanimous. Here there is an objection that it may be open to abuse, that the government would like to again try to influence. I would like to clarify to this House that the government has got no such intention,” said Prasad, adding that he had taken the Opposition’s point into consideration and would move an official amendment in the Bill.

Prasad later moved the official amendment, which stated that the President would have to accept a recommendation sent back by the NJAC for reconsideration, and the reiteration would not need to be “unanimous”.

Former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily raised the issue during the debate, arguing that under the provision, a single member of the NJAC could veto a recommendation.