Keen to scrap the collegium system, government on Monday introduced two legislations including a Constitution amendment bill in the Lok Sabha to establish a six-member body for appointment of judges to higher judiciary.
The government's move comes in the midst of a raging controversy over the current collegium system of appointments, which was strongly defended by the Chief Justice of India today and criticism from various sections about judges appointing judges.
The urgency with which the government introduced the bills could be seen from the fact that rules were suspended and a supplementary agenda was circulated late in the evening in the Lok Sabha hours after a related bill of the UPA government was withdrawn from the Rajya Sabha.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the two bills one of which was titled National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014. For passage in Parliament, the constitutional amendment bill requires two-thirds majority while an ordinary bill requires a simple majority.
While The Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014 seeks to put the proposed Commission and its entire composition in the Constitution, the other legislation lays down the procedure to be followed by the proposed body for appointment of Supreme Court judges and transfer and appointment of Chief Justices and other judges of the High Courts.
Under the statute amendment bill, Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the Law Minister will be the other members of the proposed body.
While two members of the NJAC can veto any appointment, the government can return the recommendation for "reconsideration". Once the NJAC "unanimously" reiterates the recommendation, the government has no option but to accept it.
To allay fears of the judiciary, the composition of the Commission has been given a constitutional status to ensure that any future government does not tweak the composition through an ordinary legislation.
The CJI, two senior judges of the Supreme Court next only to the CJI, Law Minister will be ex-officio members of the Commission along with two eminent persons, who will have three-year tenure. They cannot be renominated.
The two eminent personalities will be selected by a collegium of Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha or the leader of the single-largest opposition party in the Lower House.
The provision of having the leader of the single-largest opposition party has been made as there is confusion over Congress getting Leader of the Opposition post in Lok Sabha.
One of the eminent persons will be nominated from among the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, minorities or women.