Government to soon bring a Constitution amendment Bill

Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily on Friday said the Centre was contemplating revisiting the 1993 Supreme Court judgment providing for the collegium system of judicial appointments.

In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu, Mr. Moily said the Centre would soon bring a Constitution amendment Bill to revisit the 1993 judgment, giving primacy to the judiciary over the executive in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.

Without elaborating on the nitty-gritty of the proposal, he said the Bill was likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.

The Centre's decision to review the collegium system of appointments by amending the Constitution comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court in April referring the matter for consideration by a larger Bench whether the 1993 judgment needed review or not.

Asked about the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, he said the Bill had been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee which was expected to submit its report soon and the Bill was likely to be adopted in the monsoon session.

He said the Bill was intended to lay down judicial standards, to enable declaration of assets and liabilities by the judges and to establish a mechanism to enable investigation and follow-up action into complaints against judges.

Asked about the move to set up a National Judicial Commission for appointment and transfer of judges, he said, it was still under consideration.

On the Bill relating to increasing the retirement age of High Court judges, he said the Bill providing for increasing the age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 years was examined by the Standing Committee and likely to be slated for discussion in Parliament in the monsoon session.

It was aimed at retaining the High Court judges for three more years which would avoid occurrence of new vacancies on account of superannuation and result in their continuance to clear backlog of cases.

Asked about the progress of the ‘Vision Statement' launched in October 2009 to release undertrial prisoners, he said with the cooperation of the States and the High Courts, the Centre was able to accomplish the objective and as on May 31, a total of 5,62,397 undertrials were released (on bail) and 77,940 discharged from the cases.

He said he had written to the Chief Ministers of all the States commending the efforts of the State governments and the High Courts for achieving the objective.

In the letter, Mr. Moily said “having been encouraged with the kind of performance, I would urge upon you to step up the programme which has received the highest acclaim from the citizens and is particularly focused on marginalised society. There is no doubt that with your continued interest in the programme, results will be accelerated.”

Mr. Moily wanted the States to provide video-conferencing facilities in district courts and jails to ensure that the delay in disposal of applications of undertials was reduced to a large extent.

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