Friday, October 16, 2015

SC declares NJAC unconstitutional, upholds Collegium

SC declares NJAC unconstitutional, upholds Collegium

KRISHNADAS RAJAGOPAL

NEW DELHI, October 16, 2015

A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi


Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate and petitioner, briefing the media at the Supreme Court following the judgment. Photo: V. Sudershan

The SC rejected the plea of Centre that the petition challenging NJAC Act be referred to a larger Bench.

In a collective order, the Supreme Court has struck down on the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law meant to replace the two-decade old collegium system of judges appointing judges in higher judiciary. A Bench of five judges of the SC held the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act and the NJAC Act 2014 "unconstitutional and void".

The Supreme Court also held that the Collegium system as it existed before the NJAC 'operative'. The five-judge Bench listed the petitions on November 3 to invite suggestions to improve the working of the existing Collegium system. "Help us decide for a better system of judicial appointments," Justice J.S. Khehar told the Centre and the petitioners. The Bench said that the judgment was the "collective view of the court".

The Bench struck down on the government's arguments that the question of validity of the NJAC and the 99th Constitutional Amendment should be referred to a larger Bench in light of the two 'Judges Cases' of 1993 and 1998.

Though a "collective order", Justice J. Chelameswar said he has "upheld" the constitutionality of the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act but recused himself from passing any judgment on the NJAC statute as the majority of four had already held it unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said,"Surprised by the verdict of the Supreme Court. NJAC was completely supported by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha; it had 100 per cent support of the people."

Speaking at a press conference later in the afternoon, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said, "It is a flawed judgment ignoring the unanimous will of the Parliament, half the State Legislatures and the will of the people for transparency in judicial appointments. It is inappropriate to revive the Collegium system. This judgment is not a case for review. The Parliament may take a call, I cannot speak for them."

"The SC is giving a message that the power is with them," senior advocate Harish Salve said on the apex court scheduling a hearing on November 3 to "improve" the Collegium system.

The NJAC Act was meant to replace the two-decade old collegium system of judges appointing judges in higher judiciary. The SC rejected the plea of Centre that the petition challenging NJAC Act be referred to a larger Bench.

The NJAC was a body created to end the two-decade-old Supreme Court Collegium system of judges appointing judges to the highest courts in the land.

A five-judge bench - J.S. Khehar, J. Chelameswar, Madan B. Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel - had reserved its judgement on July 15 on the issue of validity of the 99th Constitutional amendment and the NJAC Act.

The parliament had unanimously voted in favour of the NJAC law and the Constitutional Amendment. The latter was then ratified by 20 State Assemblies and had received the Presidential assent.

One of the contentious provisions of the new law was the inclusion of two eminent persons to the NJAC which included Chief Justice of India, two senior most judges of the apex court and the Union Law Minister.

NJAC verdict: Who said what?

Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda: Surprised by the verdict of the Supreme Court on NJAC. NJAC was completely supported by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha; it had 100 per cent support of the people

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi: It is a flawed judgment ignoring the unanimous will of the Parliament, half the State Legislatures and the will of the people for transparency in judicial appointments

Ram Jethmalani: Historic day for democracy. Law officers should resign

Kapil Sibal: Ill-conceived legislation by the NDA govt. Arun Jaitley has to concentrate more on his ministry than other ones

Senior advocate Harish Salve: The SC is giving a message that the power is with them

KTS Tulsi: I am disappointed. As someone in the parliament said this is the tyranny of the unelected over the elected

Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium: Good sign that the SC has called for further discussions on Collegium system. It shows that it has accepted there are defects in the system. That there is opacity. Second, it has stopped the interference of the executive. It has stood by the basic principle. It is the most remarkable judgment after Keshavananda Bharti


Also read FULL Judgment at: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in

Also read the Wikipedia Article about Supreme Court of India at: https://en.wikipedia.org

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