Rijiju non-committal on bringing law to overturn collegium system

  • | Wednesday | 8th December, 2021

New Delhi, Dec 8 (PTI) Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Wednesday remained non-committal on bringing a fresh bill to set up a body to appoint Supreme Court and high court judges but said a cross-section of people, including sitting and retired judges, favoured a national judicial appointments commission.The Supreme Court had struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, which was passed by an overwhelming majority by Parliament. Since then there have been demands to overturn the apex court judgment.Responding to a debate on a bill which seeks to bring clarity on the age of retired judges to determine enhanced pensions, he said there has been massive support for the NJAC."When an Act passed by Parliament is stuck down by the Supreme Court, it is a larger issue for all of us to consider and discuss. That I might take up later. Today since we are dealing with a very specific case I wouldn"t like to dwell much on the questions of the NJAC right now," Rijiju said.Later, the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021 was passed by a voice vote.He said several judges, retired judges and the Supreme Court Bar Association have written to him saying that the collegium system was not good as it lacked transparency and accountability.Rijiju said the NJAC has been garnering support from across the country, including jurists. "It is a sensitive issue. I am not saying as a commitment, but it is my duty to inform the House that several such voices are coming, including that from the judiciary. You can understand what the situation is," he said.During a debate on Tuesday, several members had demanded that the government revisit the collegium system to allow the political executive to have a larger say in appointing members to the higher judiciary."My words should not be construed as a challenge to the independence of the judiciary. But I also believe that when there is independence of judiciary then there is independence of the executive and the legislature because it is being defined by the Constitution of India," Rijiju said.Responding to issues raised by members, the law minister said that while the process of appointments of judges was ongoing, some vacancies will always remain.He said the government never interfered in the functioning of the judiciary and it was wrong to allege that the government was stalling the appointments of some judges recommended by the collegium."Unnecessarily, without reason we have not held (back) any file," he said."Appointment process is going on smoothly. There is no effort from the government to scuttle or slow down process. The government cannot be a mute spectator or cannot sign on any names. We have to do due diligence," Rijiju said.Referring to the bill, Rijiju told the House that the measure does not in any way affect the salary and pension of judges but only inserts a clarification. The bill seeks to rectify an anomaly to end any confusion, he said.He said if the anomaly is not rectified then it may happen that citing judgments of two high courts, several civil servants may ask for similar benefits.The minister also expressed confidence that the bill will not be struck down by the courts.He said the bill only makes it clear that enhanced pension benefits would be available to retired judges when they cross 80 years of age and not when they cross the 79th year of their life.Rijiju said had the government issued an Office Memorandum like it had done for civil servants the situation would not have arisen.According to the bill, in 2009, two laws were amended to provide that every retired judge or after his or her death, the family, as the case may be, will be entitled to an additional quantum of pension or family pension.Accordingly, the additional quantum of pension to retired judges of high courts and the Supreme Court is being sanctioned on completing age of 80 years, 85 years, 90 years, 95 years and 100 years, as the case may be.However, in a writ petition filed by a retired high court judge, the Gauhati High Court had held that the benefit of the additional quantum of pension as per the High Court Judges Act would be available to a retired judge from the first day of his 80th year. Subsequently, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh also directed respondent Union of India to construe the word "from" as it appears on the slab as the first day of entering the minimum age of the slab -- 80,85,90,95 and 100 years -- along with other consequential benefits to the petitioners, the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill reads. The legislative intent behind the insertion of section 17B and section 16B respectively in the two laws was to provide the benefit of additional quantum of pension to a retired judge from the first day of the month in which he completes the age specified in the first column of the scale and not from the first day of his entering the age specified therein as so interpreted by the high courts, it said.PTI ASG PK SKU NAB ANB ANB

If You Like This Story, Support NYOOOZ



Your support to NYOOOZ will help us to continue create and publish news for and from smaller cities, which also need equal voice as much as citizens living in bigger cities have through mainstream media organizations.

Stay updated with all the Delhi Latest News headlines here. For more exclusive & live news updates from all around India, stay connected with NYOOOZ.

Related Articles