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SC refuses govt. demand for referral of NJAC challenge to larger bench

The five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined the Centre's demand to refer the challenge to the National Judicial Appointments Commission law to a larger bench.

Remarking that its refusal is in "everybody's interest", Justice J.S. Khehar, the lead judge on the bench, read out the short order from a torn diary page in which the bench had scribbled its conclusion.

The order was passed after the bench retired for a short recess of 20 minutes to deliberate among themselves.

The Centre wanted a bench of nine or 11 judges to first hear on the validity to the apex court's 1993 and 1998 judgments in the cases popularly called the Second Judges and Third Judges cases, which ushered in the Collegium system of judicial appointments, before considering the merits of NJAC.

The five-judge bench had agreed to the government's demand and heard arguments, to and fro, on the reference for almost the past three days.

While AG said the Centre is "entitled" to seek the reference, senior advocate Fali Nariman, for main petitioner supreme court advocates-on-record association, had countered that it would be "futile exercise".

Deciding the issue, justice Khehar pronounced the order for the bench.

"The prayer made by the AG for disposing off the issue with reference to need of revisiting two judgments rendered in 1993 and 1998 to be decided as a preliminary issue before hearing merits of NJAC is declined," the Constitution Bench held.

Meanwhile, the bench directed that all existing additional judges of various high courts whose tenures are going to lapse soon would continue for three months or till their superannuation, whichever is earlier, during pendency of this matter.

With this, the court has given the centre exactly two and half days to argue on merits and prove that the NJAC is not unconstitutional.

Hearing will go on till 5 pm till May 15, the last working day before court closes for summer vacations.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 6:39:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-refuses-govt-demand-for-referral-of-njac-challenge-to-larger-bench/article7197260.ece

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