The Supreme Court on Tuesday sent the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) to a constitution bench and declined to restrain the government from going ahead with the notification of the law.
The NJAC would replace the present collegium system of appointing high court, SC and HC judges wherein the Chief Justice of India along with four senior-most judges of the top court recommend appointments and transfers.
Though Parliament passed the NJAC Act last year and presidential assent was given on December 31, 2014, the government has chosen not to notify it.
Asked if the government would notify the law, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said, “There is no embargo on us. We can go ahead and notify it anytime. I can’t tell you the time, but we will go ahead.”
A three-judge bench of justice AR Dave, justice J Chelameshwar and justice Madan B Lokur said it was referring the matter to a constitution bench for determining the issue as it involves substantial questions of constitution and power of Parliament etc.
The Centre has been defending the NJAC, saying the “collegium system operating since 1993 was illegal.” The new system should be given an opportunity to work, it had argued.
A batch of petitions had been filed by Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Associations, NGOs and certain individuals challenging the validity of NJAC on the ground that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution as it compromised on judicial independence.