Jaitley seeks new commission to appoint judges


New Delhi : Demanding an national judicial commission for appointing judges, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley Thursday said there should be an objective criteria for persons being considered for elevation as judges.

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Resuming his speech on the motion for removal of Justice Soumitra Sen as judge of Calcutta High Court in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said the process of judicial appointments saw a change in 1993 and the advice of the chief justice of India became binding on the government.

He said in 1998 the authority of the chief justice was diluted.

“The quality of judicial appointments, the best available talent not willing to become judges, has not improved. Both the earlier systems have not succeeded. Thus, the system of judges alone appointing judges must now change,” he said.

“India needs a national judicial commission to appoint judges. It must be a combination of members of the judiciary, the executive and citizens representatives in public interest who must collectively appoint judges,” said Jaitley, who is also the leader of opposition in the house.

“There must be objective criteria introduced with regard to the qualification of persons under consideration, their academic credentials, their experience at the bar, their quality of judgments the number of juniors trained…academic papers,” he added.

Referring to accountability of judges, Jaitley said at present there was an in-house mechanism.

“It is an extra constitutional mechanism which has not succeeded. The process of impeachment is a near impossibility. The national judicial commission, thus, in matters of judicial discipline, should be the judicial Lokpal,” he said.

He also opposed “increased trend” of the executive distributing post-retirement jobs to judges.

He said, in recent times, cases of judges delivering judgments in politically sensitive cases on the eve of their retirement and getting jobs the very next day from the government were on the rise.

“I believe that no judge should be entitled to a job after retirement. If the age of retirement is sought to be increased in the case of high courts, as per the existing bill pending, the same must be accompanied by a constitutional amendment, which prohibits (government) jobs after retirement,” Jaitley said.

Jaitley said separation of powers was one of the most valuable principles of Indian democracy.

“Unfortunately, the recent aberrations in the separation of powers have all been on account of judicial activism. Activism and restraint are two sides of the same coin. Each institution must respect the ‘Lakshman Rekha’,” he said.

Jaitley, whose remarks about separation of powers were also applauded by Prime Minister Mammohan Singh, said that judicial statesmanship prevented a confrontation between the institutions.

“Recent comments and pronouncements with regard to whether India should have liberalised economy or regulated economy do not fall within the judicial space. How terror is to be fought is in the executive domain. What should be the land acquisition policy is a concern which belongs to the parliament and the executive. Whether a Pakistani prisoner in India should be released or exchanged for Indian prisoners in Pakistan, is to be determined by the government and not the Supreme Court,” he said.

Several other upper house members who took part in the debate said the government should improve the mechanism of judicial appointments and supported the suggestion of creating a national judicial commission.