The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition by a lawyers’ group challenging the appointment of Justice J.S. Khehar as the next Chief Justice of India.
A Vacation Bench of Justices R.K. Agrawal and D.Y. Chandrachud refused to entertain the plea by the National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms that since Justice Khehar had headed the Constitution Bench which scrapped the government’s NJAC law in October 2015, he should refuse the appointment.
Through that judgment, Justice Khehar’s five-judge Bench had revived the Collegium system and declared the NJAC unconstitutional for ending the judiciary’s primacy over judicial appointments. The NJAC law had given the government an equal say in the appointment process.
The lawyers’ group, represented by advocate Mathews J. Nedumpara, argued that the appointment of Justice Khehar under seniority convention gave an impression that he had benefited from invalidating the NJAC law.
But the Bench asserted that there was “no question” of Justice Khehar being considered ineligible for the post. Justice Khehar is expected to be sworn in on January 4.
The court chose to highlight portions in the petition where Justice Khehar’s quality as a judge were praised. “Since the petitioners have praised the quality of Justice Khehar, there is no question of his being considered ineligible for being appointed as the Chief Justice of India,” it remarked.
The Bench said the decisions were made in the Collegium not just by the Chief Justice but was a joint call made in consonance with the four other senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. “We do not find any merit in the petition and the same is dismissed,” the Bench concluded.
Advocate Nedumpara argued that the issue of appointment of judges was important and could not be reduced to the “exclusive domain of some persons.” “This court has to listen to the critics. Democracy is all about criticism,” he said.