New Delhi(PTI): Government seems to be in no hurry to bring into force a law which would end the over two-decade-long collegium system of appointment of judges and would await the outcome of proceedings in the Supreme Court on Wednesday before taking a final call.
While referring the petitions challenging the validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act which will scrap the collegium system to a larger bench, the Supreme Court had last week refused to stay the operationalisation of the law.
Government soon moved into action to take a decision on when, or not to notify, the new law.
But as the Supreme Court decided that a five-judge bench would start hearing the bunch of petitions from April 15, the government has now decided to take a call on the sensitive issue on Wednesday.
“The proceedings on April 15 will guide the government’s decision on when to notify the Act…what if the SC stays the operationalisation of the law,” said a senior government functionary.
He said as of today, the thinking within the government is to wait for the decision of the larger bench. “April 15 is not far away. The aim of the government is to implement the Act passed by Parliament in a flawless manner. There is no need to confront the Judiciary on this issue at this stage,” he said.
The new law was signed into an Act by President Pranab Mukherjee on December 31, 2014.
Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had said recently that the government would like to have a “united show” in running the new body to recommend appointment and transfer of Supreme Court and High Court judges with the judiciary as it will be headed by the Chief Justice of India.
He said from nominating two eminent persons to the NJAC to ratifying the rules, the CJI has an important role.
In a hypothetical situation, the new body will take at least a month-and-a-half to come into being as besides nominating the two eminent persons, the draft rules have to be ratified by the six members of the NJAC in their initial sittings.
A government bungalow at Mathura Road here has already been earmarked for NJAC and there are plans to appoint initial staff from the existing strength of the three departments — Legal Affairs, Legislative and Justice — of the Law Ministry.
According to the new Article 124 A inserted in the Constitution, two eminent persons will be nominated to the Commission as members by the committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha or where there is no such LoP, then the leader of single largest Opposition party.
One of the eminent persons will be nominated from among the persons belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities or women.
The eminent persons will be nominated for a period of three years and will not be eligible for renomination.
The NJAC will be headed by the Chief Justice of India.
Two senior-most apex court judges, the two eminent persons and the Law Minister will be the members of the high-level panel.
Secretary, Justice in the Law Ministry will be the convenor of the NJAC.
President Mukherjee’s signing the two bills into a law paved the way for the scrapping of the 20-year-old collegium system, by which judges appoint judges to the higher judiciary.
Once the Act is notified, the task of selecting and transferring Supreme Court and high court judges will finally shift from the collegium to a committee headed by the Chief Justice of India.
The NJAC Act provides for the procedure to be followed by the NJAC for recommending persons for appointment of judges of the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice and other judges of the 24 high courts.
The Constitutional Amendment Act grants constitutional status to the composition of the proposed commission. It was done following demands by jurists and judges who felt that without a constitutional status, the composition could be altered by a future government by an ordinary legislation.