15 States ratify National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill

It is expected to usher in transparency in judicial appointments in the highest courts

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:43 pm IST

Published - December 28, 2014 01:14 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) may soon become active with Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda on Saturday saying that 15 States had ratified the Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014, giving Constitutional status to the Commission.

“I have received information that 15 States have ratified the Bill. Now the Rajya Sabha has to receive authenticated letters from the States, after which the Bill will be sent to the President for assent,” Mr. Gowda told The Hindu on Saturday over the phone.

The NJAC Bill, passed by Parliament in August, had to be ratified by at least half the State legislatures before it got the Constitutional status.

The NJAC, once it came into existence, is expected to usher in transparency in judicial appointments in the highest courts and end the highest judiciary’s two-decade-old grip over appointments of judges through the collegium system. It further would restore an equal role for the executive in higher judicial appointments.

Mr. Gowda said he could not be able to give a time frame within which the commission would start work, but said there were judicial vacancies in the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

Law Ministry statistics show there are 349 vacancies of judges in 24 High Courts and three in the Supreme Court as on November 10, 2014. The number of pending cases as on December 31, 2013, in the 24 High Courts is 4,462,705. In the Supreme Court, 45,108 cases have been disposed of, while 65,970 are pending as on June 30, 2014.

Once the commission is in place, the government has to within 30 days, intimate the vacancies of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts. Vacancies to come up within the next six months should also be intimated to the commission in advance.

The NJAC has the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as chairperson and two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court as members, apart from the Union Law Minister and two eminent personalities, of which one of them would be nominated from among the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, minorities, Other Backward Classes or women.

But the NJAC Bill is not without its critics. Challenges to the 121st Constitutional Amendment Bill and the NJAC Bill had reached the Supreme Court in August, shortly after Parliament passed the Bills. Four public interest litigation petitions had sought the Supreme Court to declare the Bill unconstitutional as they violated the basic structure of the Constitution by infringing on judicial independence.

But a Bench led by Justice A.R. Dave had at that point of time, refused to entertain the petitions, observing that it was too “premature” for the court to intervene as the 121st Constitution Amendment Bill was yet to be ratified by the States. However, the Bench observed that the parties could move the Supreme Court on the same ground at an appropriate stage.

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