Updated: December 9, 2021 12:16:34 pm
THERE IS a growing voice in favour of reintroduction of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill, Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju told Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
The NJAC Act, 2014 was enacted by the Narendra Modi government to regulate the procedure to be followed the NJAC for recommending names for appointment as Chief Justice of India and other judges of Supreme Court and Chief Justices and judges of High Courts and for their transfers. However, in October 2015, Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional an amendment to the Constitution establishing the NJAC.
Replying to the debate on the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, which was passed by the House with a voice vote, Rijiju said, “There has been a huge support regarding NJAC, so I want to tell the House on record that many retired judges and Supreme Court Bar Association have given me in writing that the present Collegium system of appointment of judges is not correct; not transparent; and not accountable. It does not even justify the slightest intent with which this provision was made in the Constitution.”
“A voice has been coming from across the country to reintroduce the NJAC Bill,” he said, adding that it had been coming through media, different NGOs, and a large number of jurists.
“As I have said before that this is a very sensitive issue, so, I am not saying it as a commitment. But it is my duty to inform this House that such voices are coming, including voices from the judiciary,” the minister said.
Rijiju made these observations while responding to a question by RSP member N K Premachandran, who asked the minister to consider bringing the NJAC Bill back. “If there was any mistake in the drafting or anything, the minister may correct it and bring it back to the House,” Premachandran said.
Earlier, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey also demanded that the government should bring back the NJAC Bill.
However, the Law Minister said the appointment process of judges in the higher judiciary is going on smoothly. “Right now, I can definitely say that the appointment process is going on smoothly. From the government side, there is no effort to scuttle or to create any kind of slow down in the process of appointments,” he said. “Some of the allegations are also not correct to say that the government is stopping some of the names recommended by the Collegium. We all have to understand that government cannot just remain a mute spectator or we cannot just sign on any of the names. We have to do due diligence….”
The minister also appreciated the performance of the judiciary during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Supreme Court of India has emerged as a global leader during Covid-19. The total number of cases heard by the district courts since Covid-19 lockdown started is 11,077,289 cases… You also have to appreciate some good work done by the judges. You should not be so critical about the judiciary all the time,” Rijiju said.
“The High Courts heard 5,524,021 cases. The Supreme Court had 1,50,692 hearings since the Covid-19 lockdown period till 29th October 2021,” he said.
Later, the House approved amendments made by Rajya Sabha in the Dam Safety Bill, 2019.
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