President gives nod to National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill

The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 has received President’s assent on 31st December, 2014.The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 gives the executive an equal role in the appointment of judges to the highest judiciary, as a constitutional body.

A Constitution Amendment Bill needs to be ratified by at least 50 per cent of the Assemblies, and the recent amendment to make the National Judicial Appointments Commission a constitutional body for appointment of Judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts was recently ratified by the legislatures of 15 States.

The 121st Constitution Amendment Bill stipulates amendments to Articles 124 (2) and 217 (1), which deals with the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and the High Courts, respectively. Under it, every Judge in the Supreme Court and the High Courts would now be appointed by the President in consultation with the National Judicial Appointments Commission. The National Judicial Appointments Commission would end the Supreme Court collegiums’ two-decades-old grip on appointments of Judges.

A six-member panel led by the chief justice of India will decide all appointments of judges to the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts. This panel will also include the law minister, two eminent personalities and two senior-most judges of the court. The eminent persons will be named by a panel, comprising the Prime Minister, the chief justice of India and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha.

The National Judicial Appointments Commission has the Chief Justice of India as chairperson and two senior most Judges of the Supreme Court as members, apart from the Union Law Minister and two eminent personalities, one of whom would be nominated from among the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, minorities, the Other Backward Classes or women.

Under the collegium system, the government has no say in appointments. It could send back selections but had to clear them if the collegium insisted. Under the new system, the government can veto any appointment as it will have three nominees on the panel. Any two dissenting notes can veto a candidate. Normally, the senior-most judge would be recommended as chief justice but other criteria such as merit will also be taken into account.

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