Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court came to the rescue of the Parliament’s authority to formulate laws and rapped Advocate M.L. Sharma for insulting the Parliamentarians.
The Bench was open to hear all kinds of legal arguments that both the sides could use to prove their point. However, it said that it would not let any party to attack the Parliament and the lawmakers for framing this law.
His petition had described Members of Parliament as “in-house criminals” and alleged that the lawmakers unabashedly violated parliamentary procedure and rules in their anxiety to pass the new law.
Finding the Petition “unacceptable”, the Bench told Sharma, “You cannot malign our politicians and call them corrupt. You cannot say that corrupt politicians have framed this law. This is a very serious allegation and we cannot allow you to do so. How can say all this when we are hearing such a serious matter?”
It hence issued, what seemed like a warning to all petitioners, that accusations of this nature would never be allowed to become a part of the proceedings on the NJAC. Sharma then sought to amend his petition, to remove the contentious words. The request was however turned down by the Bench, which then issued a show cause notice to Sharma for making ‘scandalous’ and ‘irresponsible’ allegations in his PIL challenging the new law on appointment of judges for higher judiciary. The bench directed Sharma to respond within a week why he should not be “debarred” from filing any public interest litigation (PIL).
The Bench observed that the Court was delving into deciding the Constitutional validity of the law in question and the hence, the arguments must be confined to the “serious issues of law”. It warned that Court proceedings were not meant to be a “political platform” for anybody.
The bench observed, “We will not let anyone malign any other institution or people, least of them being the Parliament and parliamentarians. We have to show respect to them. They are our representatives. They are the representatives of the people and they have to be respected.”
“This court will never be a party to a petition, prayer of which is of the nature that calls our parliamentarians as criminals. We can never let it pass off just like that. It is an insult to the Parliament and it is an insult to our country. We cannot allow anyone to malign our representatives,” the Court added.
These observations came forth when the Court took up Advocate M.L. Sharma’s petition, which had prayed for quashing of the parliamentary procedure adopted to pass the Constitutional amendment and the NJAC Act.
Sharma is one of the petitioners who have challenged the Constitutional validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
The Bench also demanded a reply from the Government, regarding the accountability and selection criteria of the two eminent persons, who will be members of the six-member NJAC. They Court expressed its doubts as to whether the two eminent persons will be as equipped as Judges to make appointments.
Senior Advocate, Rajeev Dhavan also made his submissions, stating that the “the new mechanism is the biggest surrender to the executive on the question of appointment of judges and thus it violates the basic structure of the Constitution.” He expressed his concern over the preponderance of executive in the news substituted system.
Advocate Dhavan objected to the presence of the two eminent persons in the committee. He said “the question of protecting the purity and standards in judicial selection process cannot be left to the discretion of two eminent persons.” Justice Khehar intervened and observed “even the CJI and two judges may not know each candidate to be selected from the length and breadth of this country.”
Representing Centre for Public Interest Litigation, Advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that the “country needs a broad-based independent constitutional body that would make appointments of judges in a transparent manner by calling for applications and nominations of candidates and evaluating them on set criteria. This body can be on the lines of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) of the United Kingdom, which is also a full-time body, which has adequate time, expertise and resources to select the best candidates. The present NJAC would lead to arbitrary appointments, which would violate Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The Government will start its defence on Tuesday. The Government has been asked by the Court to list how many persons with “doubtful integrity” have ever been appointed as judges in High Courts and the top court by the collegium.
You may access a snapshot of the proceedings here.
Read more news about the NJAC here.