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NJAC will not appoint judges till SC decides on validity

April,23,2015: NJAC will only deal with appointment of existing additional judges of High Courts, whose tenures are ending during pendency of the controversy.
NJAC Issue
NJAC Issue

The National Judicial Appointments Commission, whose constitutional validity has been challenged, will not make fresh appointments of judges to higher judiciary till the issue is settled, the government on Thursday told the Supreme Court.

The NJAC will only deal with appointment of existing additional judges of High Courts, whose tenures are ending during pendency of the controversy, the Court said.

A five-judge Constitutional bench headed by Justice J.S. Khehar also assured by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi the NJAC will not make appointments of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts and will move the court in such an eventuality.

The Centre’s assurance came when the court said if it decides to stay or set aside the NJAC Act then what will happen to those persons who, in the meantime, are appointed to the bench either in the apex court or in high courts.

“If the Act stays then it (appointment) is fine,” the bench, also comprising justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, said.

“I will first come and tell the court if any fresh appointment is made,” the Attorney General said.

The bench had on Wednesday asked Rohatgi to take instruction from competent authority about the additional judges in high courts whose tenure is coming to an end in the immediate future when the matter will be pending before the court.

During brief proceedings on Thursday, the Attorney General said barring four-five cases, all recommendations of erstwhile collegium have been accepted.

On the issue of re-appointment or extension of additional HC judges, he said that tenures of two or three judges of Assam High Court, seven to eight in the Bombay High Court are ending in June and hence, the issue be “kept open” till May 11 as the NJAC is likely to be constituted by May 4.

The process to appoint two eminent persons in the six-member NJAC “will commence shortly” and the panel is “likely to commence working on May 4”, he said.

Senior advocate and noted jurist Fali S Nariman, appearing for Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), which has challenged the Act, said that everybody knew that the Act will come into force.

“I am little worried that no attempt or special provision has been made (in the Act) with regard to interregnum…

Something has to be done for the interregnum,” he said, adding that some respect should have been paid to the collegium.

The Attorney General then said that there is nothing to be done and he is “cognizant” of the issue and will take “full care” that no additional judge suffers due to the present situation.

The bench then said, “At the moment we are not taking any sides. But as an interim arrangement, will it be possible to say that the additional judges (whose tenures are ending) will get an extension for three months. It’s an arrangement”.

“If I do what I am supposed to do, then please hold this till May 10,” the AG replied.

The NJAC Act has to implemented as it has neither been stayed nor set aside, the bench said.

Rohatgi refuted the submission of Nariman that two eminent citizens, who would become part of the NJAC, will be embarrassed if the Act is set aside and said that they would be knowing that a litigation is pending.

Earlier, the court had cleared decks for hearing of batch of pleas against the NJAC by rejecting the submission seeking recusal of presiding judge Justice Khehar on the ground of conflict of interest and bias.

The bench had then said that it will commence the hearing on April 27 to examine the validity of recently-notified the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, which replaces the two-decade-old collegium system of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.Hindu

 

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