National Judicial Appointment Commission challenged in Supreme Court

A former solicitor general has approached the Supreme Court challenging the somewhat controversial National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) through a PIL (public interest litigation).

The PIL comes in the awake of the setting up NJAC by the current NDA government as a replacement of the 20-year old Supreme Court evolved “judges appointing judges” procedure, commonly referred to as the collegiums system.

Former ASG Bishwajit Bhattacharyya, the petitioner, has alleged that the NJAC can be deemed a direct attack by the government on the independence of judiciary. He appealed the apex court to intervene and quash the body.

Led by the Chief Justice of India, the six-member NJAC comprises two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, two eminent citizens and the Union Law Minister. One of the two eminent citizens, as per existing policies, will belong to scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, minority, other backward castes (OBS) or women.

“Primacy and vital role of the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) under article 124, 127, 128, 217 and 222 of the Constitution have been knocked out and has been substituted by NJAC where even two non-judge members could veto the choice of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court,” the petitioner said.

“This amounts to a frontal attack on the office of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court and, therefore, this subverts independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of power and the basic feature of India’s Constitution,” he added.

“The NJAC Act and amendment of the Constitution are unconstitutional and violate the basic structure of India’s Constitution, as various clauses stipulated therein make a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary as also on the doctrine of separation of powers.”

The Supreme Court had earlier declined to intervene on the issue of Constitutional legitimacy of the amendment of the NJAC Bill when it was first sanctioned by the Indian Parliament arguing that it was premature to raise an objection.