Centre left with few options after SC verdict on NJAC

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Oct 18, 2015 08:51 IST
File photo of the Supreme Court, in New Delhi. (Mohd Zakir/ HT Photo)

The government’s high pitch tirade against its political rivals may have fallout in terms of its inability to restore the constitutional amendment to have a commission for appointments in higher judiciary.

This will mean the collegium system — a committee of equally empowered members — restored by Supreme Court on Friday will continue to appoint judges for a long time now.

The government has primarily two options at hand.

The first one is to seek a review of the constitutional bench judgment scrapping National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) and second to bring in a revised bill to circumvent the apex court’s decision. The first option is a usual review mechanism for judicial orders but may not result in immediate restoration of the legislative pride.

Those in the government believe that the Supreme Court may take years to review its own judgment as the SC dismissed review petition in Third Judges case after almost 15 years. That was apparently the reason for the government not deciding so far to seek a review of the five-member bench decision. The initial reaction in the law ministry was that it will be prudent on the part of political executive to seek Parliament’s power to restore its supremacy over the judiciary.

“It is not the government but the Parliament that has lost to judiciary,” was a comment of a senior government functionary.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill and the enabling NJAC bill were passed in both Houses with almost complete unanimity. The lone dissenting voice in August 2014 — when the law was debated in Rajya Sabha — was Ram Jethmalani.

More than a year later, a lot has changed in the Indian political scene. The Congress-led opposition had forced a complete washout of the monsoon session after helping the government in ensuring Parliament’s nod to reform laws — Insurance Bill and the NJAC.

Getting the revised NJAC bill through in Parliament will not be possible without Congress’ support as the NDA is in minority in Rajya Sabha.

The government’s initial strategy to turn SC order into people versus judiciary debate did not click and the government could have given a call for united political stand perceiving the SC judgment as a “direct” attack on legislature.

Calling an all party meeting on the issue could have indicated that the government was willing to take all parties on board before deciding on its next course of action.

As this did not happen, the Congress on Saturday came out firing all guns against the government and has now refused to support the revised bill for NJAC.

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