The Supreme Court Monday declined to entertain a batch of petitions challenging the legality of the twin bills passed by the Parliament that seek to change the collegium system for appointment of judges in higher judiciary.
A special bench headed by Justice AR Dave said the petitions were too premature as the bills were yet to receive Presidential assent. “We are of the view that the petitions are premature. It is open for the petitioners to approach the court at a lager stage on the same ground,” the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar and AK Sikri, said.
At the outset of the one-and-a-half hour hearing there was commotion in the court when a Mumbai-based lawyer strongly opposed the petitions.
Advocate Mathews Nedumpara insisted the court hear his petition, which was not listed for hearing, as his demands were in public interest.
Nedumpara wants the SC judgement. introducing the collegium system to appoint judges, to be set aside. The bench, however, refused to give him a hearing.
The PILs before SC challenged the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill (NJAC) and the 121st Constitution amendment Bill. Leading the argument for the petitioners, senior advocate Fali Nariman called upon the court to interfere at this stage even though the bill hadn’t received Presidential assent because it was passed under an Article, which never existed at that time. “Without Article 124 being amended how could you pass the bill. There as no Article 124 (a) when this bill was passed,” he argued. Article 124 (a) and the NJAC bill was passed simultaneously.
“In the absence of the amended Article 124 (a0 how could you permit this (passage of the bill). There would be a hiatus and no appointments would be made. The impression given is that the collegium system has to immediately stop,” Nariman told the court, adding if the court failed to intervene in such an important matter then it would become impossible to approach SC in constitutional matters in future.
Another senior advocate and former additional solicitor general Biswajit Bhattacharya urged the court to entertain the bill despite it not becoming a law. He cited a 1978 SC judgment that held court could intervene at the stage of passage of the bill if it eroded the independence of judiciary.
The verdict was delivered by a seven-judge bench after the President made a reference to the top court on the legality of the bill that sought to set-up special court headed by a High Court judge to adjudicate matters against those arrested during emergency.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi brushed aside the apprehension and assured the court that the NJAC bill would not be sent for Presidential assent until the amendment bill was given effect to. He said the petitions were premature as the States were yet to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment. “These petitions attempt to stall Parliamentary proceedings. What they (petitioners) are asking for is not to send the bill to amend Article 124, under which the system to appoint judges is laid down, to the States for ratification,” the AG said.