The Supreme Court on Thursday put the government in the dock over its claim that a judge was elevated to the top court though he had failed to deliver even a hundred judgments in his entire career.
Adjudicating a clutch of petitions against validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), a Constitution bench led by Justice J S Khehar said they checked the records and found the government’s claim to be incorrect.
The bench said it had sought the requisite information from the Registrar General, who adduced records pertaining to judgments delivered by the former judge, who is currently a member of the National Human Rights Commission.
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“We have checked the records. The judgments delivered by the particular judge are well beyond three figures, which you claimed he did not reach during his tenure,” said the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel.
The bench showed the file prepared by the Registrar General, and stated that the records refute the government’s argument.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, however, stuck to his guns.
“What I meant was that he (the judge) has not authored those judgments. He may have been part of different benches which delivered these judgments but he did not write them,” said Rohatgi. He took the file from the bench and promised to return after re-verification.
Rohatgi also handed over to the bench files to demonstrate how consultation between executives and Chief Justices over the appointments of judges took place in the 1950s.
Citing some “bad appointments” by the Collegium, the government had last week claimed that the judge was elevated to the apex court despite not being able to write even 100 judgments in his career. Rohatgi had said “some names were not worthy of acceptance” because of their dubious track record but the government was under compulsion to accept these names under the Collegium system.
The bench had said the government rewarded some of the same judges it had termed as “bad appointments” with post-retirement avenues in commissions and tribunals and this particular judge was also given a seat in the NHRC.
Meanwhile, arguing against the NJAC, senior advocate F S Nariman criticised the NDA government for “copying” the bill prepared by the UPA with severe legal deficiencies.
Assisted by advocate Subhash Sharma, Nariman said: “Every government wants to control the judiciary. This government is no different.
Political and judicial power will always conflict with each other… I submit the entire scheme for the new law, comprising the constitutional amendment and the NJAC Act, is bad and will not stand the test of constitutionality”.
He maintained judges’ appointments cannot be a purely executive function to be performed by the President on an indispensable aid and advise of the Council of Ministers. Citing Article 124 of the Constitution, Nariman said it was the only provision where President has to consult with somebody, that is Chief Justice of India, before making an appointment and hence this cannot be a stand-alone executive function. The arguments will continue Friday.