Centre not yet decided on date of implementation of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2014

Centre not yet decided on date of implementation of the National Judicial Appointments Commission  Act 2014

The Centre has not decided  the date from which the Constitution 99th Amendment Act 2014 regarding the  National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act 2014 would come into force.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) G. Rajagopalan told the Madras High Court Bench, at Madurai, that though the NJAC had received the President’s assent and had been published in the official gazette, the Centre was yet to decide the date from which it would be implemented.

“As on date, they are not in operation,” the ASG said and urged the Bench to adjourn the hearing on a public interest litigation petition filed by a lawyer challenging the validity of the Constitution this Amendment Act since a similar case had also been filed in the Supreme Court.

Justice Tamilvanan said that the PIL petitioner, Y. Krishnan, had already argued the case at length last week and hence he rejected the plea of the ASG.

“You argue the case for dismissal and let the petitioner present his case. We will give a quietus to the issue,” the judge said.

The case has been posted for final hearing on January 28 2015.

The Petitioner had claimed that the NJAC would cause unwarranted political interference and he pleaded that the supremacy of the judiciary could be safeguarded only if the existing collegium (a team comprising senior judges) system continued.

On the issue of the NJAC, Professor Upendra Baxi had to say the following in an interview with LiveLaw:

Live Law: What are your thoughts on the National Judicial Appointments Commission? Do you think it will be an improvement over the old Collegium system?

Neither method can be said to have failed or succeeded, because the citizen has no way of knowing who the candidates are, how they are selected and why. No empirical study of judicial appointments is possible because the records are not available, and like the electoral nomination of candidates, the right to information does not exist so far as judicial elevations or transfers of high court justices are concerned. Stories in which judges, lawyers, law ministers and journalists tell us about the “system” are abundant, but such anecdotal evidence is hearsay and not ordinarily admissible in a court of law.

If the system of executive nomination has worked so well, why the change? The court may advise the president that the basic structure is not violated or that certain changes to the JAC could save it from the indictment of offending it. This will result in a healthy dialogue on system change and collaboration, rather than an avoidable conflict between Parliament and the Supreme Court. The basic structure here is the independence of the judiciary and judicial review. Even under KesavanandaBharati vs State of Kerala (which enshrined the basic structure doctrine), Parliament has plenary powers to amend the Constitution. However, enacting the JAC without consulting the court may invite judicial wrath, and even lead to a constitutional crisis.

For more on the interview please click here.