SC refuses to entertain PILs challenging NJAC bill

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 25 2014, 19:00pm hrs
Questioning the haste, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a batch of petitions against the NDA governments proposed law on judicial appointments.

A three-judge bench led by Justice Anil R Dave termed the petitions as "pre-mature" and declined to admit them for hearing.

The bench however kept all issues raised by the petitioners open, to be argued at what it called "at an appropriate stage."

The court order came as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that the issues relating to the Constitutional amendment Bill and the National Judicial Appointment Commission ( NJAC ) Bill was still withing the sphere of the Parliament and hence could not be subjected to judicial review.

He added that the Constitution provided for completion of various stages before a Bill becomes a law and hence any interference with the parliamentary process was uncalled for.

Appearing for the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record (AoR), senior advocate Fali S Nariman however said that the moot issue whether the amendment Bill and the NJAC Bill could be challenged at this stage or not should be sent to a five-judge Constitution Bench for consideration.

Nariman, along with another petitioner, advocate M L Sharma also raised questions as to how without an assent by the President to the amendment Bill, the NJAC Bill was passed by both the Houses of the Parliament. They said that without amending the Constitution, passage of the NJAC Bill was totally illegal and unconstitutional.

The court however declined to delve I to all these issues and dismissed the batch of five petitions.

The AoR petition, settled by eminent Nariman, had requested the Supreme Court to quash the 121st constitutional amendment amd the valisity of thr NJAC bill, by which the collegium system for appointment of judges was proposed to be scrapped and a new mechanism under National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) was proposed to be put in place.

Drafted by advocate Subhash Sharma, the petition claims that the amendment bill, as passed by both the Houses of Parliament, severely affects and damages the basic structure of the Constitution viz the independence of the judiciary and accord unbridled power to Parliament.

Questioning the composition of six-member NJAC, the plea cited the provision in the NJAC Bill, which provides that the Commission shall not recommend a person for appointment if any two members of the Commission do not agree for such recommendation.

The petition contended it takes away the primacy of the collective opinion of the CJI and the two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court since even if all three collectively recommend an appointee, the appointment is liable to be vetoed by the other three members. The other three members will be the Law Minister and two eminent persons who, the petition said, are not selected unanimously but by a panel comprising the PM, CJI and leader of the largest Opposition party in Lok Sabha.

Asking the court to restrain the Centre from seeking ratification by Legislatures of the states, the petition said there is an unwarranted nullification of the Constitution Bench judgment delivered in the SC AoR Association (Second Judges) case, whereby the nine-judge bench declared that the primacy of appointment had to be with the CJI.

The AoR Association stated that such nullification is not possible even by a Constitutional amendment.