NEW DELHI: The government Tuesday reiterated that it favoured an independent judiciary as well as "sanctity of parliament", even as the Congress said it would seek amendments in two bills which aim to replace the collegium system of appointing judges when these are tabled in parliament.
Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the independence of the judiciary was important but sanctity of parliament was no less vital.
"We all want an independent judiciary, but the sanctity of parliament is equally important, which we all appreciate," Prasad said while moving for the consideration of the Lok Sabha the two bills.
"The government doesn't have any intention of intervening in the rights, jurisdiction or authority of the courts of India. Their powers are well known, their independence is well known and their institutional integrity is also well known," he said.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the media: "We are going to seek some amendments. We are not against the basic bill. We are not against the object sought to be achieved and we are not against the spirit. All those three things are ours but remember there are two or three significant substantive changes in the clauses."
The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2014 and the Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill seek to regulate the procedure to be followed for recommending people for appointment as chief justice of India and other judges of the Supreme Court as well as the high courts and their transfer.
The two bills were introduced in the lower house Monday by the minister, who had earlier in the day withdrawn the UPA government's Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2013 in the Rajya Sabha.
Prasad said in the Lok Sabha Tuesday that separation of powers was important and a part of the constitution.
He said: "The government doesn't have any intention whatsoever to have any confrontation with the judiciary. We respect the judiciary as an article of faith."
However, the Congress questioned why the bills are being suddenly brought at the end of the parliament session.
"They have now chosen to bring it suddenly in the last dying days of the parliamentary session which I do not think is the appropriate manner of dealing with such an important issue of a constitutional amendment," Singhvi said.
The law minister appealed to all members of the Lok Sabha to rise above all considerations and ensure that the judiciary's dignity is maintained.
Prasad told the Lok Sabha members that they were passing a historic legislation.
The Lok Sabha has shown that when the time comes, the country's polity speaks in one voice, he said.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill seeks to put the proposed judicial commission and its entire composition in the constitution.
According to the proposal, 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.
While two members of the NJAC can veto any appointment, the government can return the recommendation for "reconsideration". Once the NJAC "unanimously" reiterates the recommendation, the government has no option but to accept it.
To allay fears of the judiciary, the composition of the Commission has been given a constitutional status to ensure that any future government does not tweak the composition through an ordinary legislation.
The CJI, two senior judges of the Supreme Court next only to the CJI, Law Minister will be ex-officio members of the Commission along with two eminent persons, who will have three-year tenure. They cannot be renominated.
The two eminent personalities will be selected by a collegium of Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha or the leader of the single-largest opposition party in the Lower House.
The provision of having the leader of the single-largest opposition party has been made as there is confusion over Congress getting Leader of the Opposition post in Lok Sabha.
One of the eminent persons will be nominated from among the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, minorities or women.
The Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill needs to be passed by two-thirds majority.Participating in the discussion on the bill, Congress' M. Veerappa Moily said the constitution amendment bill was a unique one.
"It is a unique bill," he said, adding the proposal was not ushered in earlier by the United Progressive Alliance government only to avoid conflict with the judiciary. "We have to preserve the integrity of the judiciary," he added.
Bharatiya Janata Party's S.S. Ahluwalia said: "We want to preserve the judiciary, but it is the prerogative of the parliament to pass laws."
AIADMK's M. Thambidurai said his party was for upholding the independence of the judiciary