[pull_quote_center]In a judgment clearly indicating that the judiciary would brook no interference into its functioning, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, meant to replace the two-decade-old collegium system of appointing judges in higher judiciary.[/pull_quote_center]
In a judgment clearly indicating that the judiciary would brook no interference into its functioning, the Supreme Court on Friday declared as unconstitutional the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, meant to replace the two-decade-old collegium system of appointing judges in higher judiciary. Indicating that none could take liberty with its autonomy, the Apex Court rejected the plea of Centre that the petition challenging NJAC Act be referred to a larger bench.
The government, which went into a huddle soon after the apex court order, came out with a measured response on the issue. Addressing mediapersons late in the afternoon, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, quashing NJAC and restoring the collegium system for appointing judges was a setback for parliamentary sovereignty, adding that bring the NJAC Act was part of judicial reforms which was exercised after deep consideration.
“In our view this exercise was done after deep consideration of more than 20 years which was part of judicial reforms. We will go through the judgment and come out with a structured response,” Prasad
Expressing surprise over revival of collegium system, Prasad said, “How can a body which was dead be revived? The fact that SC will hear the issue of improving the collegium system from November 3 shows that the older mechanism was not working well.”
The Minister, however, ruled out any confrontation with the Supreme Court on the matter stating, “As now it’s a judgment and we have to accept it.”
In reply to a question on what will be the course of action from government side, Prasad said, “Since the order is very lengthy, we have to first study the ruling.”
Earlier, a five-judge bench headed by Justice J S Khehar had reserved its judgment on July 15 after a marathon 31- day hearing on the issue of validity of the 99th Constitutional amendment and the NJAC Act.
The petitions challenging the new legislation were filed by Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) and others contending that the new law on the selection and appointment of judges was unconstitutional and aimed at hurting the independence of judiciary.
However, the Centre had defended the introduction of the new law saying that the two-decade-old collegium system where judges appointed judges was not free from defects and got the support of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
The measure was also supported by 20 state governments which ratified the NJAC Act and the constitutional amendment. 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.
Law Minister Sadanand Gowda too expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court judgment.
Talking to reporters, Gowda said NJAC was completely supported by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and it had 100 per cent support of the people. Gowda said both the houses of Parliament have passed the bill without any opposition.
He said that the will of people have been brought to the notice of the Apex court. The minister said, the government is looking into the judgment and will respond after consulting with the Prime Minister and other senior law officers.
The Congress party said it respects the Supreme Court judgment and that independence of judiciary is the key factor in democracy and can never be compromised.
Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters that in the existing collegium system there is dearth of accountability, transparency and fixation of responsibility.
He also said elaborate reforms are required in the judiciary and currently there were no mechanisms for addressing the nepotism and complaints of corruption in the higher judiciary.
The Apex court struck down the 99th constitutional amendment brought by the NDA government that would scrap the collegium system
The bench was critical on inclusion of Law Minister as an ‘ex-officio member’ of NJAC
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice JS Khehar by 4:1 majority termed NJAC Act unconstitutional as it interfered with the independence of judiciary
The bench revived the collegium system of appointment of judges, popularly referred to as “judges selecting judges”
One of the contentious provisions of the new law was the inclusion of two eminent persons to the commission