National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)

Supreme Court Advocated-on-Record Association and Anr. VS. Union of India

W.P. (Civil) No. 13 of 2015

The core issue that aroused for the courts to consider was the validity of the process of selection and appointment of Judges to the Higher Judiciary (i.e. Chief Justices and Judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court), and transfer of Chief Justice and Judges of one High Court, to another. The provisions relating to this was added to the Constitution of India by Ninety-ninth Amendment Act, 2014 by introducing article 124A to accommodate the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014.

Following is the composition of the NJAC:

  1. The Chief Justice of India, Chairperson, ex officio;
  2. Two other senior Judges of Supreme Court, next to the Chief Justice of India, Members, ex officio;
  3. The Union Members in charge of Law and Justice, Members, ex officio;
  4. Two eminent persons, to be nominated, Members.

The majority of the problem aroused was that the Judges thought that the judiciary was not represented adequately in this new system. They felt that the constitution framers’ original intention to keep the judiciary as an independent pillar of our democracy was violated by the intrusion of the legislative and executive in addition to two other ”eminent members” of the public by including them into selection and transfer process of the Judicial Member.

The favourable comments regarding the implementation of this new system were that the old system had developed various flaws in it. The judges felt that the older system is incapable of tackling the burden of the cases and making proper appointments to handle the caseload. The precedent to this point of view could be the fiasco created in the Dinakaran case and Shanti Bhushan case.

One of the controversies was that one of the judges Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar was a member of the said collegium and the Ld. Sr. Advocate for the plaintiff said that it was morally incorrect for him to sit on adjudging this particular case. But the advocates for the respondent/defendants said that they have no objections regarding being adjudged by the Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and other judges also reached to the conclusion that it was of no consequence if Justice Khehar was part of the bench. Therefore, Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar remained part of the bench.

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The other controversies included that the judiciary doesn’t want to relinquish its control and the interference of the executive within the judiciary. Recent upheaval caused by the press conference held by the four senior-most judges also indicates towards the need for change within the judiciary and making the process of appointing and transfer of judges as transparent as possible without compromising the integrity of the Judiciary as well as transparency in the matters of allotment of cases to the various benches.

However, the majority of the Judges held this new amendment to be violative of the Constitution of India and its basic structure of keeping the Judiciary as an independent pillar of the democracy. Hence, the new NJAC was scraped and the old system of appointment of Judges i.e. The Collegium system was upheld.

Hence the Status Quo was restored.

Reference: Supreme Court Advocated-on-Record Association and Anr. VS. Union of India [W.P. (Civil) No. 13 of 2015]

By Jus Dicere Team