Calls for strengthening existing collegium system for appointment of judges

The Bar Council of India has urged the Centre to withdraw the Judic-ial Appointments Commission Bill providing for constitution of a National Judicial Commission for appointment of judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court as it interfered with the judiciary’s independence and would affect the basic structure of the Constitution.

BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra and co-chairman S. Prabakaran also opposed the 120th Constitutional Amendment Bill to amend Articles 124 and 217 on appointment of judges. The Judicial Appointm-ents Commission Bill provides for constitution of the JAC comprising the Chief Justice of India, an ex officio chairperson; two Supreme Court judges next to the CJI in seniority as ex officio members; the Union Law Minister and two eminent persons, to be nomina-ted by the collegium consisting of the PM, the CJI and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, as members. The Secretary, Department of Law will be the convener.

The BCI said the constitution of the NJC would itself show that the appointments would be made by the government and the executive and this would affect the independence of the judiciary and the basic structure of the Constitution. The Bill would only weaken the judiciary.

It said the existing collegium system had been functioning well. However, it needed to be more transparent and the mechanism of the appointment should be strengthened.

The Bar Council pointed out that when the Supreme Court had evolved the collegium system through its judgment in 1993 and reaffirmed it in 1998, the government had not even bothered to seek a clarification or review of the system and had introduced the two Bills despite strong objections voiced by the Bar. The BCI suggested setting up of a Central Advisory Committee comprising the PM or his/her nominee or the Union Law Minister; the Leader of the Opposition in either of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha or his nominee; the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General; a representative of the Bar Counc-il of India and a representative of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

The committee might be formed by the apex court itself to aid and advise the collegium for appointment of Supreme Court judges.

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