New Delhi :  The NDA government has taken the first step to end the collegium system for appointing judges to the higher judiciary. Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday a set of two bills — one for amending the constitution and the other for setting up the judicial appointments commission. In another enabling measure, a similar bill moved by the previous UPA government that had been pending in the Rajya Sabha was withdrawn by voice vote after all the other parties, except the Congress, supported this move by the government.

The bill has been introduced amid stiff opposition by the chief justice of justice India R M Lodha who has defended the collegium system of appointing judges. There has been a bitter exchange of charges and rebuttals among members of the senior judiciary after Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju went public with details about the working of the collegium in respect of appointments of several judges. Justice Lodha has even observed that such debate shakes the people’s confidence in judiciary.

The new system of appointment of judges through an appointments commission was first mooted by the UPA government and had been supported by the BJP, then in the opposition. However, this unanimity on both the sides is not a guarantee that the bill would be passed within the remaining three days of the budget session.

Commenting on the new bill, Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said: “It is a sensitive issue. Only today they have brought the new bill. It is the right of the political parties to have a look and study the new one. We want to study the architecture of the new bill which they want to bring after withdrawing the bill moved by us.”

He did not agree with the chief justice’s argument that such a debate regarding the appointment of judges would shake the people’s confidence in the judiciary. ‘‘This is not the first time that such a debate is taking place: In a democracy a debate about any issue is a healthy thing,” said the former union minister.

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