THERE IS a growing voice in favor of reintroducing the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill, Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju told Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
The NJAC Act of 2014 was enacted by the Narendra Modi government to regulate the procedure to be followed by the NJAC in recommending names for appointment as Chief Justice of India and other Supreme Court Justices and Judges. Chief Justices and High Court Justices and for their transfers. However, in October 2015, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional an amendment to the Constitution creating the NJAC.
Responding to the debate on the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, which was passed by the House with a voice vote, Rijiju said: “It there has been tremendous support for the NJAC, so I want to tell the House publicly that many retired justices and the Supreme Court Bar Association have told me in writing that the current system of appointing judges by the College is not correct; non-transparent; and not responsible. This does not even justify the slightest intention with which this provision was made in the Constitution.
“A voice came from all over the country to reintroduce the NJAC bill,” he said, adding that he had gone through the media, different NGOs and a large number of jurists.
“As I have said before, this is a very sensitive issue, so I am not saying this as a commitment. But it is my duty to inform this Assembly that such voices are coming, including voices from the justice,” the minister said.
Rijiju made the comments when responding to a question from RSP member NK Premachandran, who asked the minister to consider bringing back the NJAC bill. “If there was an error in the drafting or anything, the minister can correct it and bring it back to the House,” Premachandran said.
Earlier, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey also called on the government to bring back the NJAC Bill.
However, the Minister of Justice said that the process of appointing senior judges is going smoothly. “At this time, I can definitely say that the nomination process is going smoothly. From the government side, there is no effort to scuttle or create some kind of slowdown in the nomination process,” he said. “Some of the allegations are also not correct to say that the government is arresting some of the names recommended by the Collegium. We all need to understand that the government can’t just remain a silent spectator or we can’t just sign off on one of the names. We have to do our due diligence….
The Minister also appreciated the performance of justice during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Supreme Court of India has become a world leader during Covid-19. The total number of cases heard by the District Courts since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown is 11,077,289 cases… One must also appreciate the good work done by the judges. You shouldn’t be so critical of the justice system all the time,” Rijiju said.
“The High Courts heard 5,524,021 cases. The Supreme Court held 1,50,692 hearings from the Covid-19 lockdown period until October 29, 2021,” he said.
Later, the House approved the amendments made by Rajya Sabha in the Dam Safety Bill, 2019.