April.27,2015: The CJI's refusal brings to an abrupt halt the government's plans to constitute the NJAC before May 11 as promised by it to the Constitution Bench.
A letter from Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu to Prime Minister Narendra Modi categorically refusing to participate in the National Judicial Appointments Commission has stalled any immediate chances of constituting the new judicial appointments body.
"In response to the call from your office to attend the meeting to select two eminent persons, I have to say that it is neither appropriate nor desirable to attend the meeting or be part of the NHAC till the Supreme Court decides its validity," CJI Dattu wrote in his letter to the PM on April 25.
On Monday, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi informed a Constitution Bench led by Justice J.S. Khehar of refusal of the Chief Justice, who is also the chairperson of NJAC.
Without the crucial presence of the Chief Justice, the high-power committee also comprising the Prime Minister and the Leader of the single largest party in the Lok Sabha will be handicapped in selecting the two 'eminent persons' as members of the six-member NJAC.
Only after the nomimation of the two eminent persons can the NJAC be constituted.
The CJI's refusal brings to an abrupt halt the government's plans to constitute the NJAC before May 11 as promised by it to the Constitution Bench.
The NJAC was supposed to act as an interim mechanism for considering the confirmation of existing additional high court judges whose tenures would end during the pendency of the Constitution Bench's hearing on NJAC law's constitutionality.
The CJI's letter topples this assurance given to the bench.
Faced with the CJI's letter, the Constitution Bench went into a 15-minute recess to deliberate the future course on immediate judicial vacancies if additional judges' tenure ends.
However, when they sat again, Justice Khehar told the government that they would continue to hear the petitions challenging NJAC on merits and would pass orders as and when required.
This means that if there is any case of an additional judge's tenure ending soon, the government is free to approach the benh directly to seek extension.
The Centre has already assured the bench that it would not appoint new judges till apex court gives a final decision on the validity of NJAC.
The five-judge Constitution Bench, also comprising Justices J. Chelameswar, Madan B. Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel, starting today, will hear arguments on a day-to-day basis for 14 days before the court closes for summer vacations.
The NJAC Act, notified on April 13, is meant to replace the Supreme Court Collegium system of judges appointing judges. It gives the political class and civil society an equal role in judicial appointments to the highest courts.
Mr. Rohatgi said the Collegium has ceased to exist with the notification of the NJAC Act.
The Attorney General said barring four-five cases, 95 percent of the recommendations of “erstwhile” Collegium have been accepted.Hindu