SC Refuses Larger Bench for NJAC Pleas

Published: 13th May 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2015 04:08 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to accept the Centre’s plea that petitions challenging the new law on appointment of judges in higher judiciary be referred to a larger Bench of nine or eleven judges.

The five-judge constitutional Bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, said that it will hear the arguments on merit and clarified that the matter can be referred to a larger Bench, if required.

The court’s order came after the Bench took over 30-minutes break in midst of the hearing and then came and read out the verdict stating that they will be hearing the case on merits first. The court had put off the PILs to be heard from June 8 in midst of the summer vacation so that the hearing can be expedited. The Bench directed that as an interim measure, additional High Court judges, whose present stint is due to end in near future, will continue in office for three months. It also said that Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and others can advance arguments on merits.

Earlier during the day, senior advocate Fali Nariman, appearing for Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association, sought a stay on the operation of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) on the ground that in any case, the new system was not functioning as the Chief Justice of India has not been participating in it.

The court had Monday made it clear that it would first decide on the issue of referring the challenge to NJAC to a larger Bench and then go into the merits of case. Senior advocates Nariman and Ram Jethmalani, who are arguing against the NJAC Act, had said issue of referring the matter to a larger Bench was an exercise in futility as it was “delaying tactics” by the Centre.

Khehar’s ‘Poser’

During the hearing, Justice Khehar, while pronouncing the order that bench will hear the case on merits, said in a lighter vein, “We do not know how much this piece of paper will be worth if we auction it right now!” The Judge was pointing towards a torn piece of paper on which the order was scribbled by him on behalf of other judges as well. On this, senior advocate Fali S Nariman said, “Let the Attorney General put the first bidding on it.”


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