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Lok Sabha passes New JAC today with effective veto for 2 with prez & power to appoint only ‘fit’ CJIs [Updated]

Update 15:12: The bill has been passed.

@CourtWitness1 commented on Twitter: 

The INS JAC has left the dry docks. Without right armaments it's woefully exposed to destruction by judicial torpedoes.

If the RS doesn't amend the veto power given to Law minister in the NJAC, it's pretty much dead in the water if challenged in court

Meanwhile, Apar Gupta, @aparatbar, tweeted:

The next few months. 1. JAC Bill passed and turns into an ACT. 2. ML Sharma or SCBA files a writ against it. 3. Interim Stay is granted.

4. 12/16 months SC holds it unconstitutional. 5. media circus 6. referred to a standing committee. 7. Years pass, no bill is introduced.

Correction: The bill was amended before it was passed by Congress politician Veerappa Moily so that two members of the NJAC are required to veto an appointment after the president asks for reconsideration.

Lok Sabha continues the JAC Bill debate today

The government has pushed the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill 2014 for passage in the Lok Sabha [PTI], with law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying that the “Government has no intention, whatsoever, of having any confrontation with the judiciary... As an article of faith, we respect the judiciary”.

The government hopes to pass the bill this session planning to put it to the vote today [Economic Times], amid wide cross-party support [Business Standard].

2013 vs 2014 JAC bill

Full bill text of the BJP-amended draft is available here, via PRS Legislative Research, with a comparison of the 2013 and 2014 bills here. The JAC continues unchanged with six members (CJI, two other senior-most SC judges, law minister, two eminent persons nominated by PM, CJI and leader of opposition).

The main changes:

  • one of the two eminent persons must be a member of an SC / ST / OBC, minority, or a woman;
  • power to the president to demand reconsideration of recommendations (but no veto), which can then be passed by the NJAC unanimously to override the president.
  • the Chief Justice of India (CJI) will be recommended by the NJAC if he is “considered fit to hold the office”; and
  • high court chief justices to be recommended by NJAC but two members dissenting can scupper an appointment, while for high court judges the NJAC will seek the views of the chief minister and governor of the state.

This effectively gives the law minister – or any other NJAC member - a veto after the president demands reconsideration of an appointee – something that the Congress party has criticised as compromising judicial independence.

The Law Commission’s Justice AP Shah recommended that the tenure of CJIs should be fixed to at least two years from 2022, a cooling off period for judges before taking government retirement jobs, and a minimum of four judges on the JAC.

Only two weeks ago, A meeting of the law ministry with top advocates and former CJIs behind closed doors, reportedly agreed that the collegium system should be scrapped.

Angry CJI slams Manjunath collegium news rumours & writ

The war of words continued over Supreme Court whistleblower-extraordinaire and current PCI chairman Markandey Katju’s string of blog posts alleging incidents of corruption in the judiciary that the collegium chose not to (or was powerless to) to respond to.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha was reportedly “angry” on Monday, according to The Hindu, responding to a writ petition filed by advocate Ram Sanker about the lack of transparency in the collegium system. The writ was apparently based on last month’s news reports about the collegium’s re-recommendation of Justice KL Manjunath to become chief justice in Punjab and Haryana, despite the government’s resistance. Lodha said:

“Media reports about the collegium reiterating its recommendation on Justice Manjunath after the Centre returned it for reconsideration is totally baseless. You don’t know the distinction between transfer and elevation. We have not recommended Justice Manjunath’s elevation as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. [Once transferred, he was supposed to be posted as the Acting Chief Justice in view of his seniority].

“Your entire petition is based on erroneous and non-existent facts. I am the CJI and the collegium, which I head, has not made any such recommendation for elevation. This is a misleading campaign against the judiciary to bring it into disrepute. For God’s sake, don’t bring writ petitions based on non-existent facts. Do you expect us to do judicial functions or to react to media reports?”

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