Indian Supreme Court rejects role of Parliament in superior judiciary appointments

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NEW DELHI: The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) is unconstitutional, ruled the Supreme Court in a much-awaited and landmark judgment. The verdict effectively rejects a major law passed by Parliament last year, which was subsequently ratified by 20 state Assemblies and restores the collegium system of appointing judges. The Supreme Court pronounced its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the NJAC that sought to replace the 22-year-old collegium system for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. The verdict on the 99th amendment to the Constitution and the NJAC Act, 2014 was pronounced by a bench comprising Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice J Chelameswar, Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel. The issue before the court as agitated by the petitioners was that the NJAC is an infringement of the independence of judiciary as it dilutes the primacy of the Chief Justice of India in judicial appointments, as any two members of the commission could block any appointment by vetoing it. This was contrary to 1993 and 1998 nine-judges verdict which had said that the CJI will have the primacy in the judicial appointment. The petitioners opposing the NJAC voiced strong reservation on the presence of Union law minister as one of the six members of the commission. The petitioners and others had contended that the constitutional amendment paving way for the NJAC Act, 2014, got affected only on December 31, 2014 after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to it following more than two-third of the state assemblies ratifying it.