In a major political victory for the Narendra Modi government, the Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the landmark National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014, which was passed unanimously by the Lok Sabha yesterday.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote following a detailed discussion on the government’s proposal to scrap the existing collegium system for appointment of judges in higher courts.
A Constitution Amendment Bill to facilitate establishment of a Commission to appoint judges to higher judiciary was also passed by a majority.
It was introduced to Rajya Sabha yesterday night for its consideration.
The 99th Constitution Amendment Bill seeks to lay down the architecture for setting up of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) through another bill, aimed at overturning the two-decade-old collegium system of appointing judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts.
After the bill becomes law, the government will have a say in the appointment of Supreme Court and high court judges after 21 years. Once the commission is formed, 266 vacancies for judges in 24 high courts are likely to be filled expeditiously. The Supreme Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 31, also has one vacancy. The appointment of new judges is also expected to speed up the backlog of legal cases in courts across the country.
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the the Constitutional amendment bill and the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 to scrap the collegium system of appointing Supreme Court and high court judges.
The bill was passed with a voice vote after the government agreed to a Congress demand to drop a controversial provision that required unanimity in recommendation if President seeks reconsideration.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad moved an official amendment to drop the provision that required unanimity in the Commission’s recommendation if President had referred the earlier recommendation back to the collegium for reconsideration.
Along with NJAC bill, the 99th Constitution Amendment Bill, which seeks to confer Constitutional status to the proposed Commission, was passed by 367 in favour and none against.
The Narendra Modi government had on Monday introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha to establish a six-member body for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and 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.