The collegium system for appointment of judges, has been upheld by the Supreme Court, on 16 October. At the same time, the court has also struck down the constitutional amendment that introduced National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
The judgement comes on a string of pleas, challenging the NJAC’s validity, thereby bringing to an end the collegium system of appointing judges, in the upper echelons of judiciary.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission, also known as NJAC, was meant to be a constitutional body proposed to replace the present Collegium system of appointing judges.
Elaborating on the issue, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said, the government’s law has been struck down. “The collegium system will continue. The government’s law of bringing in the NJAC would only obstruct the judiciary’s independence. For the time being, the old collegium system will be restored from today.” .
The Supreme Court Advocates’ on Record Association (SCAORA), and others, filed new petitions challenging the new law. Stating that the new law on selection and appointment of judges was not just unconstitutional, but also curtailed the judiciary’s independence.
However, the central government, defending the introduction of the new law, stated the two-decade-old collegium system was not free from defects, and it got the support of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
The measure was also supported by 20 state governments, ratifying the NJAC Act, and the constitutional amendment. One of the new law’s controversial provisions was the inclusion of two eminent persons to the NJAC, including the Chief Justice of India, two senior Supreme Court judges, and the Union law minister.
Under the law, two eminent persons were to be nominated by a committee comprising the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of single largest opposition party when there is no LoP.
Furthermore, it is conceived that, of the two eminent persons, one would be from the SCs or STs or OBCs, minority communities or a woman.