Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Supreme Court refuses stay on NJAC Act, refers petitions to larger bench

The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred the matter concerning the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act to a larger bench.

The three-judge bench of justices AR Dave, J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur, which was expected to pronounce its judgement on maintainability of petitions challenging the validity of a constitutional amendment to Article 124A and the NJAC Act, did not grant any interim stay on the operation of the Act and referred the petitions to a five-judge bench.

The NJAC seeks to replace the two-decade old collegium system of appointing judges.

The apex court had on March 24 reserved its judgement on the petitions after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, wrapped up his rejoinder arguments saying that the pleas be dismissed as they were "premature" and "academic" in nature.

Those opposing the new law on appointment of judges for higher judiciary had submitted that the issue should be referred to a Constitution Bench of five judges.

Referring to various case laws, the AG had argued that the power of Parliament to make law is "plenary" and hence, the methodology adopted by the legislature in clearing the law on the floor of the House cannot be "tested" by the court.

Rohtagi had made the submission after noted jurists like FS Nariman and Anil Divan and some others had contended that as per constitutional scheme, the NJAC Act should not have been passed ahead of enabling constitutional amendment.

However, Rohatgi had submitted that "only end product can be examined by the courts and it is irrelevant that this Act was passed earlier and that Act was passed later."

The apex court had said it could proceed on the merits of the matter only after deciding whether the petitions challenging the validity of the Constitutional Amendment Act and the NJAC Act were maintainable or not.

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