New Delhi (PTI) : Government today said it is working on a proposal to change the present mechanism of appointment of judges by a collegium of judges to make it more “representative”.
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said at a seminar on judicial reforms here that the government is working on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
“Let me quote an eloquent passage from David Pannick’s book on judges ‘the lawyer of yesterday is elevated to be the judge of today and spirals up the seniority…if lawyers are polluted and judges contaminated, the institution will collapse’…in this context, I may state that the government is also working on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill,” he said.
He also said the amended version of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which seeks to lay judicial standards for judges, will come up for discussion in Parliament.
The event was attended by President Pranab Mukherjee and senior judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
He later told reporters that the proposed Commission would make the process of appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts “more broadbased, more representative”.
Kumar, however, skirted questions on whether the move was aimed at ‘overturning’ the present collegium system and giving the executive more say in judicial appointments.
He said though it was a “work in progress”, the proposed body could have a nominee of the President and the Prime Minister on board.
In reply to a question, Kumar said the move might entail a constitutional amendment which needs the backing of two-thirds members of a particular House of Parliament.
“We will secure a political consensus,” he said noting that opposition parties wold be taken on board before brining the bill in Parliament.
Under the present collegium system, the executive has no say in appointments of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as the recommendations of the collegium are final and binding on the government.
India may be among a few countries where judges appoint themselves. This practice started after 1993, replacing the system of government picking judges for higher judiciary comprising the Supreme Court and 21 High Courts.
The move to set aside the 1993 Supreme Court judgement, which led to the collegium system, will require a Constitutional amendment.
The last effort to replace the collegium system in 2003 did not succeed. The then NDA government had introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill but the Lok Sabha was dissolved when the bill was before a Standing Committee.
A vision statement of the Law Ministry issued in October, 2009 had said the collegium system was hindering the efforts to end shortage of judges and suggested involvement of executive and legislature to hunt for the best talent.