RS passes Bill on appointment of judges, LS to take it up today

Rajya SabhaSibal, Jaitley agree collegium system not transparent or accountable, but BJP walks out. (PTI/TV Grab)

The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Constitution (120th Amendment) Bill, 2013, to replace the collegium system of appointments to the higher judiciary with a new system in which judges will be picked by the President on the recommendation of a six-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).

Related: Govt clears bill to scrap collegium system for appointment of judges

Except for the main opposition BJP, which walked out in protest against the decision of the government not to refer the bill to the parliamentary standing committee, the entire house barring a solitary MP voted in favour.

Related: The collegium controversy

To be passed, a constitution amendment bill requires the support of two-thirds of MPs present and voting, with at least half the strength of the house participating in the vote. The government will now introduce the bill in the Lok Sabha Friday and try to get it passed the same day.

Govt must have a say in appointment of judges: Sibal

As first reported in The Indian Express, the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013, which contains the framework and modalities for the establishment of the JAC, was referred to the standing committee for scrutiny in a time-bound manner.

On Thursday, members cut across party lines to support the proposed law, with a majority of speakers using the opportunity to criticise the functioning of the judiciary and questioning what they said were frequent attempts by the higher judiciary to transgress into the domain of the legislature and the executive.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley both spoke of the need to junk the collegium system created by judges to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and high courts, saying it lacked transparency and accountability.

However, Sibal refused to accept Jaitley's contention that the "piecemeal" approach of the government was not practical as passage of the constitutional amendment would create a constitutional hiatus as the collegium system would be repealed without a new mechanism in place.

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