New Delhi, Aug. 7: The Centre has cleared the decks to replace the collegium system of appointing judges with a six-member National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) giving the Union law minister and two “eminent persons” a say in the process.
The cabinet, which has reportedly given “in-principle approval” to a bill for the purpose, has also decided to provide quotas for the SCs, OBCs and the minorities in the appointment of the “eminent persons”.
“The NJAC would comprise the Chief Justice of India (CJI), the two senior-most judges of the apex court, the law minister and the two eminent persons,” a source said. In the present system, the collegium consists only of judges.
A committee headed by the Prime Minister, CJI and the leader of the Opposition — or the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha — will pick the “eminent persons”, mainly from the field of law.
Now, candidates proposed by the collegium for appointment as high court and Supreme Court judges ultimately prevail. But in the proposed NJAC, even if one of the members dissents, the appointment can’t be made, the sources said.
For elevation to the apex court, a five-judge panel headed by the CJI decides. But in case of high courts, the CJI and the two senior-most judges pick the names and forward them to the Centre. If the government disagrees, the collegium can reiterate its proposal.