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Crucial test for Judges Appointment Bill

Crucial test for Judges Appointment Bill
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Crucial Test For Judges Appointment Bill. A landmark to replace the collegium system of choosing judges faces a crucial test in Parliament on Thursday, before it becomes law.

New Delhi: A landmark to replace the collegium system of choosing judges faces a crucial test in Parliament on Thursday, before it becomes law.

The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill was passed unanimously passed in the Lok Sabha and now will be taken up in Rajya Sabha.

The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 was passed by voice vote without any opposition after Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accepted a Congress demand and moved an official amendment.

The amendment dropped the provision requiring unanimity in the Commission's recommendation if President had referred the earlier recommendation back to the collegium for reconsideration.

Congress member and former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, during the debate, had raised the issue and demanded the dropping of the proposal. The Opposition felt that under the original provision of unanimity even one member can veto the Commission's recommendation.

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.

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". Under the now-dropped provisions once the NJAC "unanimously" reiterates the recommendation, the government has no option but to accept it.

Under the new law where a Commission will decide appointment of judges to Supreme Court and High Courts, seniority along with "ability" and "merit" will be considered for elevation, Prasad said.

Justifying the strength of the Commission to be six in the face of questions over the figure, he said the number has been decided on the basis of sum and substance of the recommendations of various commissions, which have looked into the utility of the collegium system and earlier bills.

After any Constitutional amendment bill gets Parliamentary nod, it is sent to all the states and 50 per cent of the state legislatures have to ratify it. The process could take up to eight months. After ratification, the government sends it to the President for his approval.

The practice of judges appointing judges started after 1993, replacing the system of government picking judges for higher judiciary comprising the Supreme Court and high courts.

An earlier effort by the NDA-I government in 2003 to replace the collegium system met with no success. The then NDA government had introduced a Constitution amendment bill but Lok Sabha was dissolved when it was before a Standing Committee. The UPA II had also brought a similar bill but without success.

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