Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that there was a call from within the judiciary and parliamentarians to change the collegium system for appointment of judges. He said a draft memorandum of procedure for bringing transparency and accountability to the system was submitted by the Government to the Supreme Court and it was pending.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill passed by both the Houses of Parliament was declared ultra vires by the Supreme Court in 2015.
“There is a call from several quarters to bring transparency to the appointment of judges. Till 1993, the appointments were taking place as per the Constitution, the President of India appointed the judges in consultation with the SC. Soon this changed and from 1998, the collegium system kicked in. So consultation was changed to concurrence… the nation should introspect on this important issue,” Mr. Rijiju said.
He said the Government should carry out its duty diligently in consultation with the SC.
“If the Government considers a particular person is not fit to be a SC or HC judge, how can we be forced to appoint that person…my words should not be construed as challenge to the judiciary. If we are not crossing the line, then others should also not come in our way,” he said.
He said the Government has written to the Chief Justices of all High Courts to include names of members from the reserved categories while recommending names for appointment as judges.
John Brittas of the CPI(M) said it has been six years since the SC had struck down the NJAC but “this Government has found it convenient and expedient so that there is a barter.
“The Government has successfully spiked the appointments of those who are inconvenient to them. And the Government has been sitting on the proposals of the collegium whenever they find certain names who are persona non grata for them. Some judges are transferred for unknown reasons as a punishment. But some Chief Justice openly speaks against secularism and thus the Constitution. no age criteria for becoming judges, some are rejected for want of age, some are appointed overnight,” he said .
Mr. Rijiju was participating in a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on a Bill that clarifies the process to count the age of retired judges to determine when they will get enhanced pension. The Bill was passed by a voice vote in the Upper House.
The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021 was passed earlier by the Lok Sabha.
While additional quantum of pension to retired judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court is being sanctioned on completing the age of 80, 85, 90, 95 and 100 years as the case may be, there was a confusion about the process of calculating the age.