Collegium system Vs JAC Bill: Modi Government must restore the credibility of Judiciary

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With the motive to bring transparency in the whole process of judicial appointments, the Modi Government is mulling to bring the Judicial Appointments Bill in Parliament next week. Government has taken this decision after consulting with several judicial experts including Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who rooted for the scrapping of the existing collegium system.
Talking about the issue, the Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "there was a consensus for improvement and the need for making it (appointment of judges) more transparent".
For replacing the collegium system, the NDA Government had brought the Constitution (98th Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha in 2003 but failed to get in through. But this time, it seems new dispensation will definitely get the Bill pass in the Parliament.

Let's discuss the whole issue in detail.

What is in JAC Bill?
• The six-membered committee will be established which will recommend the President on the matter of appointment and transfer of judges.
• According to DNA, the committee will comprise of the CJI, two other senior most judges of the SC, the Law Minister, two eminent persons (nominated by PM), and the Leader of Opposition of the Lok Sabha.
• The decision of the committee will be by consensus and in case of no unanimity then the simple majority will be the deciding factor.
• The six-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) will have to work within the given time frame limit.
• According to report, the Bill has the provision where judges will have to declare the details of their assets and liabilities.
• The Bill also provides the mechanism to register complain against judges.

What is the Collegium system?
• This is the Judges appointing Judges system.
• The five-membered committee includes CJI and the four senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court.
• No constitutional validity.

What Constitution says on the matter?
• There are two Articles-124 and 217 which deals with the appointments of Judges in Supreme Courts and High courts.
• The Article 124 which deals with appointment of SC Judges, says that President has the right to appoint the judges after consultation with CJI and other SC Judges.
• Similarly, Article 124 which deals with appointment of HC Judges says that President has the right to appoint the judges after consultation with CJI and governor of the State.

How the Collegium system came into being?
• The continuous tussle between the Judiciary and the Executive over the matter of Judges Appointment gave the genesis to this Collegium system.
• This system came into being after the series of three SC judgments , known as "Three Judges Cases".
• In ‘First Judges Case', dated back to 1980, the former CJI P.N. Bhagwati gave the decision in favour of the Executive.
• But the ‘Second Judges case' (1993) completely overruled the previous decision and gave the power back to Judiciary.
• Then came the ‘Third Judges case' in which former CJI S.P. Bharucha put out the complete structure of collegium system of judicial appointments.
• As quoted by the Hindu, "the collegium must take into account the opinion of the Chief Justice of India which "would be entitled to the greatest weight," the views of other Judges of the High Court who may have been consulted and the views of colleagues on the Supreme Court bench "who are conversant with the affairs of the concerned High Court."

At a time when credibility of Judiciary is at stake after recent allegations of misconduct against judges, the move to bring Judicial Appointments Bill is really laudable one. This is high time, the whole process of Judges appointments must be overhauled and a system should be established where the judiciary only be made accountable to the public. There shouldn't be unnecessary Executive interference on the matter. The Modi government should ensure that credibility of judiciary must be restored at any cost.

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