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With most of its Bills concerning judicial reforms stuck in Parliament for want of support from political parties,the UPA government has reached out to opposition parties in a bid to draw consensus on some of the pending legislations.
However,while the overtures received positive response,the Opposition made clear that unless the government also worked towards making the functioning of higher judiciary more transparent and ended the secretive system of appointments to higher judiciary,it could not count on the Oppositions support for passage of the Bills.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath is learnt to have held parleys with leaders of the parties during the recent Budget Session of Parliament to seek their support for the Bills.
Among the Law Ministry Bills that are pending are the Judicial (Standards and Accountability) Bill,which was passed by Lok Sabha on March 29,2012; the Commercial Division of High Courts Bill,2009,which was passed by Lok Sabha on December 18,2009; and the Constitution (114th) Amendment Bill,2010,which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 25,2010 and proposes to increase the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 years to 65 years,on a par with Supreme Court judges.
Most Bills concerning the higher judiciary are required to be passed with two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament,something that the government cant manage without the support of the Opposition,especially the BJP.
Sources told The Indian Express that,among others,Kamal Nath met Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to find a way out. Interestingly,Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar,the sources said,was not kept in the loop about deliberations.
Jaitley,an eminent lawyer himself,is one of the strongest votaries to make the higher judiciary more transparent in so far as appointments are concerned. He also wants a system to be put in place to ensure that judges of the Supreme Court and high courts dont angle for post-retirement government jobs while still in service.
The Opposition has suggested to the government to deal with the matter of post-retirement jobs along with the increase in retirement age.
The sources said during the discussions the still-in-the-works legislation aimed at ending the collegium system of appointments to higher judiciary also came up for discussion. While the Law Ministrys original draft proposed to replace the collegium system with a six-member National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC),with the CJI heading it,the Opposition wants it to be more broad-based.
Apart from the CJI,members of the NJAC as envisioned by the Law Ministry are Union Law Minister,Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha,two sitting judges of the Supreme Court to be nominated by the CJI and an eminent jurist to be nominated by the President.