New Delhi, Oct. 1: Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley has proposed amending the Constitution to set up a National Judicial Commission that will be empowered to appoint judges and adjudicate grievances against them.
“The power of appointment and adjudicating grievances against judges must vest with this commission,” the BJP leader, himself a senior lawyer and a former law minister, said at a conference of the party’s legal cell yesterday.
He suggested the commission must have a “primacy” of judges, along with representatives of the executive and eminent citizens, who would be selected by an independent collegium which will “safeguard public interest”.
Jaitley claimed the “best at the Bar” were “unwilling” to become judges as he tried to explain why such a commission was needed. “From amongst the best available, the present system is unable to select the very best. It is too slow, time-consuming, leaving many vacancies unfilled.”
Next, he sought to make a distinction between “routine grievances” and impeachment. “The power of impeachment, though provided for in the Constitution, is rarely exercised. It is a power under which a political institution exercises a judicial function to rid the system of a delinquent judge. Since this power is rarely exercised, the power to hear routine grievances must be with the judicial commission.”
Jaitley stressed the BJP was “fully committed to an independent, impartial and a strong” judiciary and decried the “tendency” of the past few decades of retiring judges wishing to get post-retirement sinecures from the executive. “I have always believed the desire to continue in an ‘assignment’ for many has increased. This has a tendency to impact the pre-retirement conduct of a retiring judge. I say this on the basis of my experience both in the government and outside. This adversely impacts judicial independence.”
To “strengthen” the judiciary’s independence, Jaitley suggested an increase in the retirement age of high court judges and pension on a par with the last salary drawn but with a caveat: an embargo on post-retirement jobs. “A judge must decide cases without fear or favour.”
Law minister Salman Khurshid said such remarks should be avoided. “If I was him (Jaitley), I would not have said this,” he said.
At the same convention yesterday, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari had suggested a two-year cool-off for judges after retirement before they were put on tribunals and commissions.