The NDA government’s plan to push through a constitutional amendment bill to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts in the ongoing session of Parliament may hit a roadblock as the main opposition Congress on Friday appeared to be against passing the Bill “in a hurry” and favoured “wider consultations”.
The party could demand sending the Bill to the Standing Committee but sources said a final view has not been taken yet. With the government showing urgency, sources said the Parliamentary Affairs Committee of the Congress had a preliminary discussion on the issue and most leaders advocated a standing committee scrutiny.
Congress’s support is crucial for the passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Sources said party chief Sonia Gandhi has sought the views of former law ministers M Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid, Ashwani Kumar and Kapil Sibal. The emerging view in the Congress seems to be against rushing through the Bill. “I am of the view that no decision should be taken by the government in a hurry as it involves the issue of independence of the judiciary,” Moily told The Indian Express.
He accepted there was a view that the present system of appointment of judges was not working properly but advised caution.
“It is important to be careful and cautious. We think much wider consultation is called for and there must be a clear sense of consensus. Some of us certainly believe that to the extent possible we should not leave chance of another Judges case. There should consensus between the judiciary and the legislature. It would be better,” another former law minister said.
The Opposition and the government are also locked in a tussle over the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill. It has become clear that the insurance Bill would not be passed in the current session and sources indicated that the government could agree to the Opposition demand of referring it to a select committee.
It is to be seen how far the Congress would go in demanding wider consultations as unlike in the case of the insurance Bill, many of the opposition parties seem to be in favour of pushing the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) Bill through. Congress leaders who advise caution point out that it was the UPA government which brought in Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. But the atmosphere now is not right, a senior leader said referring to the Gopal Subramanium issue.
“That was not an atmosphere when names of judges were sent back. The situation is different now. There is no harm in pausing. If you are driving along a road and if you suddenly find the road broken up, there is no harm in slowing down a bit,” a senior Congress leader said. Sources in the government said the Bill has the support of parties like BSP, CPI, JD(U), RJD and BJD.