‘Does NJAC Bill curb independence of judiciary?’

It interferes with the independence of judiciary, petitioners say

August 25, 2014 03:42 am | Updated November 16, 2021 07:06 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Constitution amendment and National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bills giving politicians an equal role in the appointment of judges to the highest judiciary.

The petitions argue that the Bills interfere with the independence of the judiciary, which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and hence cannot be materially altered or amended by taking away the “pre-dominant” role of the highest judiciary to select its own judges without political interference.

A Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave, J. Chelameswar and A.K. Sikri will take up five separate petitions filed by Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association, former Additional Solicitor-General Bishwajit Bhattacharya and advocates Manohar Lal Sharma, N. Rajaraman, R. Krishnamurthy and R.K. Kapoor.

The petition by the advocate panel has been settled by eminent lawyer Fali Nariman, who had taken part in the government’s consultations with legal experts on the NJAC, which replaces the two-decade old judicial collegium system of appointments.

The petition invokes the judicial review powers of the Supreme Court to declare the Bills void. The Bench, if it agrees to examine the petitions, would primarily hear and decide on the question of judicial independence in the context of insulation from legislative and executive control. The advocate panel substantially argues that independence of the judiciary “includes the necessity to eliminate political influence even at the stage of appointment of a judge, the executive element in the appointment process being minimal.”

It argues that the veto provision in the NJAC Bill gives room to embarrass the highest judiciary because a candidate chosen by the CJI and two senior-most Supreme Court judges on the Commission can be rejected by the other half of the Commission.

Even these “eminent persons” are not chosen unanimously but amongst the Prime Minister, CJI and leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, it says.

The petitions say that the Bills would give “unbridled power” to the Parliament to regulate judicial appointments.

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