RS passes judicial appointment, Constitution amendment bills
NEW DELHI: Twenty-one years after the collegium system
of selecting judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts was ushered in, Indian
Parliament here on Thursday unanimously passed a bill to set up a National
Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) that will replace it.
The 99th Constitution Amendment Bill to grant
constitutional status to the NJAC was also passed by the Rajya Sabha, a day
after both the Bills were passed by the Lok Sabha. Announcing that the NDA
government was ready to face a legal battle if the legislation were to be
challenged in a court of law, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Parliament
must not be wary of using law-making powers granted to it by the Constitution.
“If it is challenged, then we will see it. Why
Parliament must be wary of using its powers? Parliament must have full trust in
the ability of Parliament to pass the law,” he said.
The constitution amendment bill, which required a
division, saw 179 members voting in favour of it and one member — Ram
Jethmalani — abstaining. The NJAC bill was passed by a voice vote. Prasad and
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asserted that the primacy of judiciary in
selection of judges will remain since the Chief Justice of India will be
heading the NJAC and two of the senior most judges will be among its six
“This House respects the independence of the judiciary
and this House also respects the supremacy of Parliament,” Prasad said. The
discussion on the Bill saw several members raising the issue of lack of
representation for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs and minorities in
the higher judiciary.
BSP leader Mayawati demanded reservation for SC/ST and
OBCs in judiciary. Prasad said NJAC would come up with a data bank to scout
talented lawyers from the weaker sections, who could be elevated as judges.
The constitution amendment bill will have to be
ratified by half of the state assemblies first and then get the President’s
assent before it becomes a law to pave the way for the setting up of NJAC.
With CPM’s P Rajeev arguing that the proposed
commission should also deal with accountability issues and not just appointment
and transfers, Prasad said loading everything into one commission would make it
cumbersome and made it clear that the government will soon take a view on the
judicial standards and accountability bill, which is pending in Parliament.