Bench calls petition "premature" but allows it to be filed 'on the same ground' later
Deevakar Anand | August 25, 2014
The supreme court (SC) on Monday refused to accept a bunch of four PILs filed last week questioning the constitutional validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission bill (NJAC), 2014 and the 121st amendment bill that would give it a constitutional standing.
The bill that seeks to scrap the three-decade-old collegium system of selection of judges of the apex court and the high courts (HC) has been passed by the lok sabha and the rajya sabha earlier this month and awaits the president’s nod.
A constitutional bench headed by justice AR Dave and comprising justices J Chelameswar and AK Sikri, which heard the PILs for over an hour said it could not accept the petitions “at this stage” as it was “premature” for them to interfere.
While this putts off an immediate confrontation on the issue, the court has left the door open for a hearing at a “later stage”.
"We are of the view that the petitions are premature. It is open for the petitioners to approach the court at a later stage on the same ground," the bench observed.
The PILs were filed by former additional solicitor general Bishwajit Bhattacharya, advocates RK Kapoor and Manohar Lal Sharma and supreme court advocates on record association (SCAORA) for declaring the NJAC as unconstitutional.
During the hearing, eminent SC lawyer Fali S Nariman argued before the court that the NJAC in its present form was not constitutionally valid as it erodes the independence of judiciary, and the parliament has passed the bill even before the 212st amendment has happened.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi counter-argued that the court cannot interfere as the bill and the constitutional amendment are in the legislative process right now.
One of the petitioners, ex-solicitor general Bishwajit Bhattacharya, however, said the court can interfere even at this stage and cited a 1978 reference.
Under the collegium system, in place since 1993, the SC judges have so far been selected by a panel comprising the CJI and four senior judges of the same court. In case of the high court judges, appointments are made after a collegium of the particular HC proposes the name, which then is cleared by a three member SC collegium headed by CJI. One of the other two judges in the panel should be associated with that particular HC in the past.
What the new system proposes is a six-member body consisting of the chief justice of India (CJI), two senior-most judges of the SC, union law minister, and two other eminent persons picked by a panel comprising the prime minister, leader of the opposition and the CJI. If any two of the members of the panel veto a selection, it will not go through.
The issue is likely to lead to a major standoff between the judiciary and the executive in the coming day.
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