Need to streamline appointments to higher judiciary: Sibal

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal Thursday underlined the need to streamline the appointment of judges in the higher judiciary and restore the balance of independence of the high courts.

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    Moving the Constitution (120th) Amendment Bill, 2013, that provides the executive a say in the appointment of judges to higher judiciary, Sibal said in the Rajya Sabha that a “balance needs to be restored in the appointment of judges and the executive must have a say in appointment of judges”.

    He said the constitutional amendment bill was being moved in the house as the “present system does not work”.

    Sibal said the “delicate balance of independence” of the high court judiciary has been disturbed with the Supreme Court Collegium – a group of senior judges of the apex court – deciding on the appointment of judges.

    “The high courts are meant to be independent of the Supreme Court, and not subordinate to it. Now high court judges look to Supreme Court judges for their appointment, which has disturbed the delicate balance of independence of the high court in the country.”

    Sibal said the government did not want to revert to the pre-1993 position when the executive alone had a say in judges’ appointment, but wanted a “collaborative exercise”.

    He said the judiciary says the government must be transparent and accountable “which is right and the judiciary has rightly faulted us on many occasions”. But, he said, the manner of appointment of judges was not known to the people.

    “How are judges chosen, there is no access or transparency to that decision as the Right to Information does not apply…What the judiciary says must apply to the executive, it must also apply to the judiciary,” he said.

    Sibal said the time has come to regulate the appointment of judges, and the criteria for appointment would be set out in great detail.

    He also said there was concern at the manner in which the relatives of judges were practicing in the high courts. “It is very sad the way in which the ‘chachas’ and ‘bhatijas’ of some judges are practicing in the court.”

    Sibal introduced the main bill – Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013 – aimed at creating a Judicial Appointments Commission for appointing judges to the Supreme Court and 24 high courts along with the Constitutional (120th) Amendment Bill last week in the upper house.

    The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party wants the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013, to be referred to a standing committee of parliament.

    Sibal said the Constitutional Amendment Bill be allowed to be passed in parliament and allow the main bill to be referred to a parliamentary panel for vetting as the opposition has demanded.

    The bill seeks to set up a panel headed by the chief justice of India to appoint and transfer senior judges.