New Delhi: The Lok Sabha passed the High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill on Monday, 2015 but not before coming down heavily on the apex court for striking down a law on judicial appointments.

Cutting across party lines, parliamentarians slammed the court’s decision to strike down the law which would have created a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) to select judges for the Supreme Court and high courts.

The Supreme Court, falling back on the informal collegium system of selection, in October struck down the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014, and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014.

The NJAC would have given the government a say in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary; the apex court said it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.

“Striking down the NJAC is a slap on the face of the people whom we represent," said Tathagata Satpathy of the Biju Janata Dal.

M I Shanavas of the Congress party, calling for a fresh law, said that there was consensus among lawmakers in parliament as well as in the state assemblies on the need to pass the NJAC bill.

“We are accountable to the people of this country, they can punish us but the judiciary cannot say that it is not accountable to anyone," he said.

The government had earlier expressed disappointment with the court’s decision but did not seek a review. The court reverted to the collegium system of appointing judges with the appointment of Justice T.S. Thakur as the chief justice of India on 2 December.

Under the collegium system, a group of five seniormost Supreme Court judges appoints other judges to the higher judiciary—the high courts and the Supreme Court. Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution stipulate that judges will be appointed by the President of India after “consultation" with the Chief Justice of India and other judges.

Days after the court struck down NJAC, finance minister Arun Jailtey in a long note posted on social networking site Facebook said that while bringing back the collegium system of selection of judges, the court had forgotten to consider the larger constitutional structure—that of “parliamentary democracy" which represents the “will of the sovereign".

“Democracy has three basic pillars-- parliament, executive and judiciary -- and in this country only the first two are accountable ," said P.P. Choudhary of the BJP.

Union minister for law and justice D.V. Sadananda Gowda declined to comment on the NJAC in the house as the Supreme Court is still looking into suggestions to improve the collegium system.

The discussion however, made it amply clear that legislators are united on the need for a regulatory framework for judicial appointments.

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