Key points in proposed Judicial Appointment Commission Bill
The controversy over the efficacy of the collegium system for appointing Supreme Court judges has gained momentum with many leaders and even eminent jurists including well-known names such as Markandey Katju have been candid on the failure of the current collegium system. There are demands for overhaul of the existing provisions.
To address this issue the government has proposed Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill as an alternative to the existing system.
Highlights of JAC Bill:
- Establishment of a six-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) to make recommendations to the President on appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary.
- It will encourage collaborations between the judiciary and executive.
- The Chief Justice of India, two other senior most judges of the Supreme Court, the Union Minister for Law and Justice, and two eminent persons to be nominated by the Prime Minister, and the Leader of Opposition of the Lok Sabha will be its members. Law Commission of India Chairman and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah have suggested raising the strength of the body to seven.
- JAC basic function: Making recommendations for appointments of the CJI, SC judges, Chief Justice and other High Court judges, and even the transfer of HC judges.
- It would be empower the Parliament to pass a law providing for the composition, functions and procedures of the JAC.
- Transparency will be the underlining feature of the entire process under the JAC. As per suggestions, the entire record of the process, starting from the nominations received up to the final recommendation made to the President, must be publicly disclosed.
- As per Katju’s recommendation, JAC should hold a meeting and it should be televised so that all people in India can see it and there is total transparency. They should call the prospective candidate and ask him questions about his earlier functioning as a High Court judge and also his personal life, as is done in the United States.
- Consensus will be criteria for arriving at decisions. In the case the consensus not clear, a simple majority may help decide, with all dissenting notes accompanied by reasons being recorded in writing.
- The JAC will work in a stipulated time frame. It provides time periods within which vacancies will be filled up. Even the government has time limit of upto 2 months to intimate the Commission of the vacancy.
- There are other suggestions to provide constitutional validation to the JAC, thus making it a permanent body and not an ad hoc measure. It is also suggested that its decision be made binding on the President and in case the President rejects any name, the same should be open to judicial review.
In December 2013, the Standing Committee report to Rajya Sabha noted that because of intrinsic deficiencies in the collegium, as many as approximately 275 posts of judges in various High Courts were lying vacant, which has direct impact upon justice delivery system and thereby affecting the 13 institutional credibility of judiciary.