On 14 August 2014, Parliament cleared a Constitution amendment Bill that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system which has been under severe criticism.
The Constitution (99th Amendment) Bill and the National Judicial Appointment Commission Bill 2014, will replace the existing collegium system when it comes into effect. The Bill will come into force after ratification by 50 per cent of the State legislatures, followed by signatures of the President.
The collegium system involves a panel of judges headed by the CJI which selects the judges. It has been in place for over a decade and in recent years it has drawn flak for being a closed system in which the judiciary selects its own judges.
Key features of Judicial Appointment Bill are:
1. Establishment of a six-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), who will provide recommendations to the President on the appointment and transfer of judges; 2. The six members include the Chief Justice of India, Law and Justice Minister, two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and two eminent persons; 3. The choice of these ‘eminent persons’ will be left to the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition Party or the leader of the largest party in Opposition; 4. One of the two eminent persons will belong to the Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe, women or minority community, preferably by rotation and will have tenure of three years; 5. The Bill also 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.
The entire process under the JAC is to ensure transparency in judicial appointments and transfers.