NEW DELHI (TIP): Amid demands by jurists and the Opposition led by the BJP, the government today gave a go-ahead to grant constitutional status to a proposed commission for appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary. The clearance, which would ensure that its composition is not altered through an ordinary legislation, came at the meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here. Among other decisions, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also gave its clearance to the guidelines for financial assistance to the sugar industry for payment of cane price arrears.
According to the proposal, while new Article 124-A of the Constitution will define the composition of Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), Article 124-B will define its functions. The JAC Bill defines the establishment of the proposed body to recommend appointment and transfer of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts. At present, the composition of the proposed panel is defined in the JAC Bill, 2013, which was introduced with a separate constitutional amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session. There were demands that the composition and functions of the proposed Commission should be mentioned in the Constitution as a safeguard against future changes.
A Parliamentary standing committee that examined the JAC Bill, 2013, had also made a similar recommendation. While the constitutional amendment Bill — an enabling Bill — was passed by the Upper House, the main bill — the JAC Bill, 2013 — was referred to the standing committee. The Cabinet also approved the proposal to provide interest subvention for financial assistance to the sugar industry for effecting cane price payments as per guidelines of the “Scheme for Extending Financial Assistance to Sugar Undertakings, 2013”. The scheme’s expenditure would be met by the Sugar Development Fund (SDF).
Under the proposal, the central government will provide an interest subvention up to 12 per cent, at a simple rate of interest, for the additional working capital loans to the sugar undertakings, equivalent to last three sugar seasons excise duty, cess and surcharge on sugar, according to an official statement released after the Cabinet meeting here. “The sugar undertakings with loans classified as Non-Performing Assets (NPA) by the banks will also be eligible for loans, provided the state governments concerned guarantee their new loans,” the statement said. The interest subvention or subsidy would be for total loan duration of five years, including two-year moratorium period. “No interest subvention to be provided for the period of default in the principal repayments,” the statement added.