Mamata wants Governors to follow state govt's advice in HC judge appointments

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wants the Centre to clearly mention in National Judicial Appointments Bill that the Governor will have to follow the advice of the state government in the appointment of High Court judges.

New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wants the Centre to clearly mention in National Judicial Appointments Bill that the Governor will have to follow the advice of the state government in the appointment of High Court judges.

Banerjee's communication to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad came in response to a letter written by him to all Chief Ministers requesting them to ratify a constitutional amendment bill to make way for the proposed commission for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.

Once the Commission is put in place, it will scrap the present collegium system under which judges appoint judges.

The West Bengal Chief Minister referred to Section 6 (7) of the bill dealing with appointment of the Chief Justice and other judges of the High Courts. The section states that "the Commission shall elicit in writing the views of the Governor and the Chief Minister of the state concerned before making such recommendation...."

Seeking to bring clarity, the Law Ministry will soon write back to Banerjee pointing out that under the Constitution, the Governor takes decisions on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, sources said.

They said to ensure that the state governments have a say in appointment of the Chief Justice and judges of High Courts, the bill makes it clear that the views of the Chief Minister will be sought in writing.

"The role of the Governor has to be seen in the constitutional sense. The Law Minister had clarified on the issue while replying to the debate on the bill in Parliament," a senior official said.

While the Rajasthan Assembly has already ratified the bill, other states are likely to take up the exercise in October and November when their Assembly sessions commence, they said.

A bill amending the Constitution needs ratification by at least 50 per cent of the state assemblies before it is sent to the President for assent. It becomes an Act only after completing the procedure.

The procedure usually takes six to eight months.

In August, Parliament had passed a Constitution amendment bill that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system which has been under severe criticism.

The bill will make way for the setting up of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 High Courts.

With the passage of the bill, the collegium system of judges choosing judges is set to be changed in the coming months.

The Constitution amendment bill will grant constitutional status to the NJAC and its composition.

Under the amendment bill, Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the Law Minister will be the other members of the proposed body.

The prominent persons, one of whom will either be an SC/ST, OBC, a woman or belong to the minority communities, will be selected by a panel comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha or the leader of the largest opposition party in the lower House.  

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