Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday told the Rajya Sabha that screening and evaluation committees proposed by the government for appointments to the higher judiciary were only meant to act as facilitators.

The decision to recommend judges would still be with the Supreme Court and High Court collegia, he said.

On January 6, Rijiju had written to Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud suggesting the inclusion of a Central government nominee in the screening and evaluation committees that would assist the Collegium for appointing judges to the Supreme Court. He also suggested including one nominee each from the Centre and state government in the committees for High Courts.

“The Committees were to go through the material connected with evaluation the suitability of the prospective candidates and would be only a facilitator, as the decision to recommend will still be with the Collegia of the Supreme Court and High Courts,” the minister said on Thursday in response to a question by Congress MP Mukul Wasnik.

He said that the committees proposed by the government will be entrusted to prepare a panel of eligible candidates from which the collegia will recommend names.

In response to a question by Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP John Brittas, Rijiju asserted that the government can seek reconsideration of names recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium.

The minister said that as on January 31, there were 18 proposals that the government had asked the Collegium to reconsider. “SCC [Supreme Court Collegium] decided to reiterate 06 cases, in 07 cases, SCC has desired updated inputs from the High Court Collegiums, and 05 cases have been decided to be remitted by the SCC to the High Courts,” he said.

Rijiju’s statements came amid a tussle between the Centre and the judiciary on the process of making judicial appointments in the country.

In the letter to Chief Justice Chandrachud, he noted that a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, while striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act in 2014, had called for restructuring the Memorandum of Procedure.

The National Judicial Appointments Commission had been introduced by the Narendra Modi government soon after coming to power in 2014 to replace the collegium system. The government had proposed to make judicial appointments through a body comprising of the chief justice, two senior Supreme Court judges, the law minister and two other eminent persons nominated by the chief justice, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition.

Under the collegium system, senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, decide on the appointments and transfers of judges to the top court and the High Courts.

The Memorandum of Procedure is a document framed by the government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, which lays down the procedure for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and various High Courts. It was first issued in November 1947 and has been updated since.