The Lok Sabha Wednesday passed two bills which will pave the way for scrapping the collegium system of appointing Supreme Court and high court judges.
The Constitution (99th Amendment) Bill and the National Judicial Appointment Commission Bill 2014 were passed by the lower house after Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad assured members that the government does not have any intention of interfering in the functioning of the judiciary.
The law minister also moved an amendment to change the number of the constitution amendment bill from 121st to 99th, which was passed by the house.
While the judicial appointments commission bill was passed by a voice vote, the constitution amendment bill was passed after a division, with 376 members voted in its favour.
It is necessary for a constitution amendment bill to pass by a two-thirds majority.
The bills will now have to be passed by the Rajya Sabha before they are sent to the president for his assent, after which they become acts.
The two bills seek to scrap the collegium system of appointing judges and set up a commission for this.
The bills propose that the Chief Justice of India will head six-member National Judicial Appointments Commission, other members of which would be the law minister, two senior Supreme Court judges and two eminent people.
A collegium comprising the prime minister, the chief justice of India and the leader of the single largest party in the Lok Sabha will select the two eminent people.
One eminent person will be nominated from among the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, minorities or women.
The bill states that the commission will seek the views of the governor and chief minister of the state concerned in writing before appointing or transferring a judge of that high court.
One of the provisions of the bill that if two members of the commission do not agree on a candidate, he or she will not be appointed was opposed by quite a few members who claimed that this will lead to a veto system.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, allayed their fears saying: “Two is a voice to be considered in case of dissent.”
“The process of consultation has been made more meaningful. A large section of people do not have representation in the judiciary as of now,” he said, adding that there should be a database of lawyers from reserved categories.
“The need for a new law is not the thinking of only our government. It is a collective exercise which has been in the offing for the last 20 years,” he said.
Earlier Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had asked the government to make a provision to make representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes mandatory in the judicial commission.