A day after introducing two Bills to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and high courts, the government on Tuesday said it had no intention of encroaching on the freedom of the judiciary.
Replying to the discussion on the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the move to set up the National Judicial Appointments Commission was aimed at instituting a fair procedure and was not meant for a confrontation with the judiciary.
He said he had held widest possible consultations on the issue, including with eminent jurists and political parties, before bringing the Constitution Amendment Bill and said it was a “historic” occasion.
He rejected the notion that the government was rushing the Bills saying that the process had been on for the past two decades. “Four attempts were made in the last 20 years to amend the Constitution as the present collegium system of appointing judges to higher judiciary has not been found adequate,” he said.
The Congress objected to a provision in the Bill wherein if two members of the six-member Commission disagreed with a candidature, the appointment would not go through. “This gives ‘veto’ power to two members and is undemocratic,” Congress’s M Veerappa Moily said. As the Bill envisages the inclusion of two eminent persons as members of the Commission, Moily sought clarification on the definition of “eminent”.
To that, Prasad said that a collegium consisting of the PM, the CJI and either the Leader of Opposition or the leader of the single-largest Opposition party would decide on the eminent persons, as laid down in the Bill. Prasad’s reply will continue on Wednesday.