New Delhi: The Supreme Court's willingness to take suggestions on improving the collegium system to appoint judges to the higher judiciary shows that there was "something wrong" in that process, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Friday.
While refusing to go into the merits of the judgement, he said, "the Supreme Court has said that from November 3 it will hear the issue of improving the collegium system. It shows that there was something wrong in the collegium system," he told reporters on the apex court's verdict striking down the new law to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and the 24 High Courts.
He also said the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act was part of judicial reforms in the country which had the backing of the entire Parliament and prominent jurists.
"It did not happen all of a sudden. The Constitution Review Commission, the Administrative Reforms Commission and Parliamentary standing committees in three of their reports had recommended such a law," he told reporters here.
Prasad was the Law Minister when the Union Cabinet had last year cleared the bill and when it was passed by both Houses of Parliament.
The struck down law -- a Constitutional Amendment Act and an enabling law -- had sought to scrap the collegium system where judges appoint judges by giving the Executive a say in judicial appointments.
He said several retired judges and eminent jurists had agreed that there was a need to discuss changes in the collegium system.
"There was a unanimous support for it (the two bills) in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. There was one walkout in the Rajya Sabha (during voting).
"20 state assemblies had ratified it...The principal author of the 1993 Supreme Court judgement (which led to the collegium system) (late) Justice JS Verma had also suggested a serious rethink on the collegium system and so had Justice VR Krishna Iyer," the Telecom Minister said.
Seeking to defend the system in place before collegium came into being, he said between 1950 and 1993 when the Executive used to pick judges, several people were appointed to the judiciary who gave the institution a good name.
Responding to a question on independence of the judiciary, he said during the Emergency, BJP leaders had fought to protect the freedom of people, the press and the independence of the judiciary.
"It is very dear to our heart," he said.
He also said the government will give its structured response to the judgement after going through the order of the five-judge bench.