Well-known social activist organisation Centre for Public Interest and Litigation (CPIL) on Friday argued against the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), saying the law to appoint judges to the high courts and Supreme Court in its current form did not ensure judicial integrity and violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
Making the submissions on behalf of CPIL, advocate Prashant Bhushan said judicial integrity and independence was necessary for maintaining democracy and rule of law in the country. “Judicial integrity is not only to be ensured by insulating the judges after their appointment, but also by ensuring that best persons are appointed as judges,” Bhushan told the court.
Besides challenging NJAC’s constitutional validity, CPIL sought a direction to the Centre to set-up a broad based full-time body for the selection of judges that would work in a transparent manner and evaluate candidates objectively. Addressing a five-judge constitution bench, Bhushan said the greatest care the higher judiciary was required to ensure was that most suitable persons with highest competence and integrity were appointed as judges.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who was called upon by the bench to assist the court, strongly argued for striking down the new law. He contended there are three custodians of the constitution — political executive led by the PM, rule of law including the fundamental rights and civil society such as the media and social activists.
Dhavan said simply overthrowing one system and going to another system was not the answer. “Legislature does not interpret the Constitution,” he argued.
“If judicial power is tinkered with the fundamental rights, and then the federal structure is also tinkered with,” the senior counsel told the bench.