Government today asserted that a bill to set up a commission on appointment of judges is aimed at having a "fair procedure" for appointing judges to higher courts and it has no intention to have any confrontation with the judiciary on the issue.
Moving the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, in Lok Sabha for passage, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government favours independence of judiciary but the "sanctity" and "supremacy" of Parliament is equally important as it reflects aspirations of the people.
He said he had held widest possible consultations on the issue, including with eminent jurists and political parties, before bringing the Constitution amendment bill and it was a "historic" occasion to amend the significant law.
The Commission is proposed to be set up to have a "fair procedure" to appoint judges to higher judiciary while properly maintaining the "judicial dignity", he said.
"Government has no intention, whatsoever, of having any confrontation with the judiciary...As an article of faith, we respect the judiciary," said Prasad, who repeatedly invoked the architect of the Constitution B R Ambedkar while justifying the government's move to overturn the system where judges appoint judges. He even saluted Jawaharlal Nehru.
Describing Lok Sabha as "the biggest panchayat of India" which reflects "aspirations of India", he sought support of all parties, asking them to rise above political considerations and show their resolve.
Dismissing suggestions that the government was "rushing through" the bill, the Law Minister said four attempts have been made since last 20 years for amending the Constitution as the present collegium system of appointing judges to higher judiciary has not been found adequate.
"No, we are not at all rushing. It is only the culmination of exercise of 20 years," he said. Besides, seven recommendations have been made by various Commissions, including the Law Commission and the Administrative Reforms Commission, for changing the collegium system.
Even late Justice J S Verma, who had written the 1993 judgement by which collegium system of appointing judges was set up, had later himself said his intent has been "misunderstood" and "misconstrued" and a "rethink is required". The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill was taken after suspending rules of procedures after keeping in abeyance the consideration of Apprentices Amendment Bill, 2014 amid protest from opposition Congress.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said government was "bulldozing" everything and bringing any bill any time without proper notice. He suggested that Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was giving too much liberty leverage to the ruling benches. "This shows that the government does not have any vision or agenda," he said. Responding to this, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the government has "agenda" besides the mandate of the people.