Congress’ 2019 Poll Manifesto: Pledges To Protect ‘Independence’ Of Judiciary
The Indian National Congress, in its manifesto released today, suggested setting up a National Judicial Commission and bringing the age of retirement of judges and members of tribunals on a par, among others, to “protect the independence of the judiciary”.
Here are the other changes the party plans to bring in India’s judiciary:
- Make the Supreme Court a Constitutional Court: The court will hear and decide cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution and other cases of legal significance or national importance.
- Establish a Court of Appeal between high courts and the Supreme Court: It will hear appeals from judgments and orders of high courts. The Court of Appeal will sit in multiple benches of three judges each in six locations.
The idea, however, is not new. It had found favour from Attorney General KK Venugopal as well as was mentioned in earlier Supreme Court rulings.
- Fix the retirement age of judges of Supreme Court, high courts and judicial members in commissions and tribunals at 65 years: The party said it will prevent post-retirement assignments for serving judges and allow more opportunities for qualified persons to serve as judges or judicial members.
- Establish a National Judicial Commission: It will be responsible for selection of judges for appointment to high courts and the Supreme Court. The NJC will comprise judges, jurists and parliamentarians, and will be serviced by a secretariat. Names of suitable candidates will be placed in the public domain and the reasons for selection will be published to ensure that the entire process is transparent. Once the new system is in place, every vacancy will be endeavoured to fill within two months.
To be sure, an earlier commission called the National Judicial Appointments Commission, which had members from judiciary, government and civil society, was struck down in 2015 after a five-judge bench found it to be unconstitutional.
- Establish, by law, an independent Judicial Complaints Commission: It will investigate complaints of misconduct against judges and recommend suitable action to Parliament.
The party promised to scrap laws such as criminal defamation and IPC Section 124, which defines the offence of sedition. The party also promised to amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture.