SC asks Centre to prove Assemblies debated NJAC Bill

As various States came out in support of the National Judicial Appointments Commission, the Supreme Court asked the Centre on Tuesday to provide proof that the new law on judicial appointments was debated on the floors of the Assemblies before ratification.

A five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Justice J.S. Khehar, voiced scepticism as the Centre and Gujarat said the NJAC was the “will of the people” and a product of unanimous public and legislative support.

So far, government submissions said, 20 Assemblies have ratified the 99th Constitution Amendment incorporating the NJAC in place of the collegium in Article 124 of the Constitution on judicial appointments.

“Was there any debate in the Gujarat Assembly or you just passed it without discussion,” the court countered Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta’s submissions that the “whole nation” wanted the NJAC.

Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar agreed to hand over to the court entire documents relating to the ratification.

Various States ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party came out in support of the Centre in defending the NJAC before the Supreme Court during the day-long hearing on public interest litigation petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the law.

“The NJAC, comprising the Chief Justice of India, two senior-most judges, the Law Minister and two eminent persons, is an ideal mix. Now a person [one of the eminent persons] from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and minority communities and women are at least in the selection process. It is better to use trial and error than error and trial,” K. Parasaran, representing Rajasthan, submitted.

T.R. Andhyarujina, counsel for Maharashtra, said the independence of the judiciary depended on the personal character of a judge and not in the manner in which he was appointed.

Ravindra Shrivastava, Chhattisgarh counsel, said the NJAC provided a level plank for a frank exchange of views between the government and the judiciary on judges’ selection.

Representing Jharkhand, Ajeet Sinha said the NJAC protected the primacy of judiciary.