The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill to scrap the collegium system of appointing Supreme Court and High Court judges and cleared the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2014 to regulate the procedure.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, was passed by voice vote along with one official amendment. The members also passed the 99th Constitution Amendment Bill, which gives Constitutional status to the proposed Commission, with 367 voting in favour and no one against it. Members of the AIADMK abstained from voting.
Since the Bill was put to manual voting, the process took a while as slips had to be distributed and then counted at every stage but members went through the motions patiently and in a spirit of across-the-floor camaraderie.
Earlier, speaking in the House, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the proposed law will not encroach on the independence of the judiciary, it will provide for wider consultations for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.
Mr. Prasad said the need for a change from the existing collegium system was not felt by the government alone, it is an exercise which has been in existence for the past 20 years. Referring to the need for changing the collegium system, he said: “Today we cannot claim that only the best judges have come through the system.”
The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday after the Government withdrew the United Progress Alliance-drafted legislation from the Rajya Sabha earlier in the day. The discussion on the bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday saw most parties favour the setting up a Commission for judicial appointments, and thereby restore the balance of powers between the pillars of India’s democratic arrangement.
>>The second paragraph of “LS passes National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill” (August 14, 2014, Front page) said: “The members also passed the 99th Constitution Amendment Bill, which gives Constitutional status to the proposed Commission …” Some readers said it should have been the 121st. The correspondent clarifies: “It is the 99th Amendment. The Minister moved an amendment changing the number. This is not unusual and happens when a bill is cleared ahead of the others that are already lined up. So the Bill was introduced as 121st but since it got cleared earlier than others, its number was changed.”