Union Cabinet cleared a Proposal to scrap the Collegium System of Appointing Judges

The Union Cabinet of India cleared a proposal to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts

The Union Cabinet of India on 22 August 2013 cleared a proposal to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts. A Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) will be set up which will replace the collegium system of appointing judges to Supreme Court and High Courts. According to the proposal, the government will set up a panel headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to appoint and transfer senior judges. The other members of the proposed Commission will comprise the Law Minister, two judges of the Supreme Court, two eminent persons as members and Secretary (Justice) in the Law Ministry as Member Secretary.

Moreover, the Leader of the Opposition of either House of Parliament will be part of a committee which will be set up to nominate two eminent persons to the JAC. The committee will also include the CJI and the Prime Minister as other members. A constitutional amendment bill will be tabled in Parliament to approve the proposal. The move to set up JAC will require amendments to Articles 124, 217, 222 and 231 of the Constitution and insertion of Article 124 A.

The views and opinions of the governors, chief ministers and respective chief justices of the 24 high courts will be sought in writing for appointment of judges as per the procedure determined by the JAC. Bar associations, jurists and other bodies can also be asked to provide suggestions.

The collegiums system had been set up in 1993 following Supreme Court judgement. However, it has no constitutional backing. The NDA government had introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill to replace the collegiums system in 2003 but the Lok Sabha was dissolved when the bill was before a Standing Committee.

At present, the judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by a collegium which comprises the CJI and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.The appointment of judges of the 24 high courts is initiated by the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court after consulting two senior-most judges of that court. The Chief Minister and Governor of the state concerned are also consulted in the process.

The recommendations are referred to the Chief Justice of India, who in turn consults two senior judges in the Supreme Court who have experience in that High Court. The recommendations of the collegium are then sent to the government for approval. The government can return the file only once, but cannot reject the recommendation.

Article 124(2) of the Constitution of India: In appointing the Judges of the Supreme Court, the President shall consult the Chief Justice of India and such other Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High courts as he may deem necessary.

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