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Singh PMO nudged collegium: Govt
Centre pushes for judicial commission

New Delhi, July 22: The Centre today said there was an “imperative need” to improve the system of appointment of judges and pressed for a national judicial commission in view of the row over alleged corruption and capitulation in the judiciary.

The government also confirmed the allegation by Justice Markandey Katju that the UPA government and the then PMO under Manmohan Singh had pushed the case of a judge despite the collegium’s reservations in making him permanent.

“…There is an imperative need to improve the system of appointment of honourable judges. Therefore, our government, with the greatest respect… is quite keen to ensure that the National Judicial Commission system is appointed,” law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Lok Sabha today.

A collegium of Supreme Court judges at present deals with appointment of judges. The executive does not have a role in the appointment. The NDA government wants to set up a National Judicial Commission so that the appointment is not an exclusive domain of the apex court.

The government referred to the revelations made by Justice Katju about a judge of Madras High Court being confirmed and promoted despite adverse Intelligence Bureau reports.

“The judge in question… was appointed in the year 2003. Subsequently, the collegium had certain reservations. They sought certain enquiries. I do not wish to go into the details of this… Subsequently, a decision was taken that his case need not be confirmed,” Prasad told the Lok Sabha after the AIADMK sought a statement.

The minister pointed fingers towards then Prime Minister Singh.

“In June 2006, there was a clarification sought from the then PMO as to why his case is not being processed. Thereafter, again the matter was considered by the collegium, and the collegium, in its collective wisdom, took a call that he need not be recommended at all,” Prasad said.

“Thereafter… to be precise, again a note went from the then department of justice with the approval of the then law minister (H.R. Bhardwaj) indicating about certain sensitivity. Thereafter, a call was taken by the collegium that his case can be considered for some extension and he was made permanent,” Prasad added.

The Congress objected to the statement, saying the conduct of judges cannot be discussed in the House. However, the Speaker pointed out that she could not stop the minister from making a statement if he wanted to do so.

Prasad said: “I am not for a moment making any observation about the conduct of a judge in his judicial capacity. I have only recounted those facts.”

The AIADMK wanted the government to name a DMK minister who allegedly pressured the UPA. The AIADMK members forced two adjournments of the House but the name was not revealed.