National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill - Collegium System

National Judicial Appointment Commission Bill

The recent debate over the veracity of the collegium system of appointing Supreme Court judges received a strong call for amendments to the existing provisions. Even eminent .jurists. Former chief justices, including Markandey Katju, made their views clear on the failure of the current system and CJI, RM Lodha strongly backing it up. 

The Government, however, passed two bills - National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill and a Constitution Amendment Bill with provisions Article 124A, 124B, 124C, in Lok Sabha to give it a Constitutional status. NJAC, as a body to appoint Supreme Court and High Court Judges will make the appointment more transparent. According to the Standing Committee report to Rajya Sabha in Dec 2013, "since its inherent deficiencies in the collegium, as many as about 275 posts of judges in various High Courts are lying unoccupied, which has direct bearing upon justice delivery system and thereby affecting the 13 institutional credibility of judiciary." 

Key highlights of the National Judicial Appointment Commission Bill

1. It provides for the establishment of a six-member National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) to make recommendations to the President on appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary. 

2. Encouraging collaborations between the judiciary and executive, the members constituting NJAC will comprise of the Chief Justice of India, 2 other senior most judges of the Supreme Court, the Union Minister for Law & Justice, and two prominent persons to be nominated by the PM, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition of the Lok Sabha.

3. Basic function of the NJAC would include making recommendations for appointments of the Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court judges, Chief Justice and other High Court judges, and even the transfer of High Court judges. 

4. It would empower the Parliament to pass a law providing for the composition, functions and procedures of the NJAC. 

5. The entire process under the NJAC is aimed at ensuring transparency. It has been recommended that the whole record of the process, beginning from the nominations received up to the final recommendation made to the President, essential be publicly disclosed. 

6. Decision by the NJAC will be taken by a consensus. In case, the consensus eludes, a simple majority may be opted, with all dissenting notes accompanied by reasons being recorded in writing. 

7. The NJAC will work in a stipulated time frame. It offers time periods within which vacancies will be filled up. Even the government has limitation of upto 2 months to intimate the Commission of the vacancy. 

8. In the event President returns the name for reconsideration, Government will have Veto power. 

9. For High Court Judges, Governors and Chief Ministers' view will be taken.

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