Thu. Apr 25th, 2019

NJAC Act and 99th constitutional amendment faces challenge at Supreme Court; petitions by AoR Association and Senior Advocates

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The Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 and National Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2014 which seek to replace the collegium system to appoint the judges to Supreme Court of India and High Courts has been challenged by the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association before the Supreme Court of India vide Writ Petition (Civil) No. 13 of 2015 – Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India. Earlier challenge to the bills of these legislations were dismissed by the Court terming them as ‘premature’ though leaving it open for the petitioners to approach the court at a ‘later stage’. The fresh challenge has come in the wake of notification of the aforesaid acts.

Bar and Bench reported that as per the Petition:

“The Constitution (99th Amendment) Act of 2014 as passed by the two houses of Parliament, by providing for a National Judicial Appointments Commission consisting of the Chief Justice of India; and two other senior Judges of the Supreme Court next to the Chief Justice of India; the Union Minister in charge of Law and Justice; and two eminent persons to be nominated by a committee (consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition or leader of single largest party in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India), takes away the primacy of the collective opinion of the Chief Justice of India and the two senior most Judges of the Supreme Court of India next to the Chief Justice of India i.e. even if all three senior most judges of the Supreme Court of India collectively recommend an appointee, the appointment is enabled to be a suspended by majority of three non-Judge members.”

The petition also submits that Article 124C inserted in the Constitution gives the Parliament unbridled power to regulate judicial appointments through ordinary law without any safeguards and the same cannot be challenged by using the Basic Structure doctrine.

124C. Parliament may, by law, regulate the procedure for the appointment of Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the Supreme Court and Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts and empower the Commission to lay down by regulations the procedure for the discharge of its functions, the manner of selection of persons for appointment and such other matters as may be considered necessary by it.

After the reopening of the Court, Prof. Bhim Singh, Sr. Advocate mentioned the matter before the Court of Chief Justice of India H. L. Dattu, seeking anurgent hearing of a plea. However the Court refused the plea observing “There is no urgency. This will come in the usual  course,”.