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A vital constitutional safeguard has been put into the proposed judicial appointments commission
How should Supreme Court and high court judges be chosen? Given the manifest failings of the system by which the higher judiciary chooses its own through a closed and unaccountable collegium, the government has attempted to replace it with a judicial appointments commission. The commission is to be headed by the chief justice of India, and will include the Union law minister, two Supreme Court judges, the law secretary and two eminent persons, who will in turn be chosen by the CJI, prime minister and leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. And now, the single biggest infirmity in the proposed system has been fixed.
The cabinet has indicated that the proposed judicial appointments commission will have constitutional status, ensuring that its membership pattern is stable. Until now, even those who acknowledged the need to change the collegium system were wary of the JAC bill, because the composition of the commission had not been systematically entrenched, and it would have been technically possible for a parliamentary majority to alter the structure at any point. Though the JAC itself was to be created by constitutional amendment, crucial details about how it was to be put together were open to later manipulation, and the respective weight of judicial and non-judicial members, for example, could have been changed. That dangerous possibility has been foreclosed, after the cabinet accepted the advice of legal experts and the parliamentary standing committee on the bill.