With just a day left for the budget session of Parliament to wind up, the government finally scored a goal when it passed the Judges Appointments and Constitution Amendement Bills in the Lok Sabha, hurriedly obtained the President’s signature in a matter of hours and by late evening brought the Constitution amendment part of the Bill to the Rajya Sabha for consideration.
The Bill, which will remove the collegium system of appointment of judges and instead give primacy to the executive in the selection of judges, will be passed in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, before the house adjourns.
It is probably the only significant bill the government has been able to pass in the budget session. Sources in the government say that the government was desperate to pass some Bills after Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu was said to have been pulled up by the prime minister for not managing the numbers. The prime minister was of the view that it was Naidu’s job to run Parliament and he should do it efficiently.
The Bill became a reality once the Congress hopped on board and decided to extend its support, with the government moving a Congress-inspired official amendment so that the Bill could be passed in the Lok Sabha, and there would be no further glitches in the Rajya Sabha where it cannot go through without the support of the opposition party.
Sources say that in return for getting support for the Judges Bill, the government agreed to send the Insurance FDI Bill to a select committee and this is likely to be moved on Thursday. The 15-member select committee, likely to be headed by Bharatiya Janata Party member Chandan Mitra will be set up and will examine the bill.
For the Congress, the best case scenario is if the judiciary performs independently, in coming days, as it is expected to. The party had itself sought to bring the Judges Appointment Bill but had later decided to junk it. Along with that most of the Bills brought by the government in the budget session have been those which had been conceived and prepared by the Congress when it was in power, but the BJP had refused to support them and now the same party has chosen to see merit in them.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi in her address to the congress parliamentary party said as much on Wednesday morning. She said, “The lesson of these 10 weeks is that the BJP has nothing new to offer the country. They attacked us without principles, and they are now governing us without policies. Well, they are welcome to steal our ideas. They are welcome to borrow our programmes. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Sonia said the new government now supports the proposed goods and services tax, sugar subsidies, railway and diesel price hikes, FDI in insurance, the Aadhar sceme and other key UPA budget measures.
“All of which they had bitterly and if I may add hypocritically denounced, obstructed and prevented progress when they were in the opposition,” she said.