April 23, 2015 1:25:35 am
Putting to rest contentions regarding conflict of interests, a Constitution Bench headed by Justice J S Khehar will commence from Monday its hearing on validity of the Constitutional amendment and setting up of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) after scrapping collegium.
The five-judge bench decided to go ahead with the proceedings without any further recusal by any of the judges after hearing all the objections and eventually holding that there was no good reason for Justice Khehar to recuse.
The decision was called for as an issue was raised whether conflict of interests and doctrine of bias should prevent Justice Khehar from heading the bench since he was a member of the collegium and was also slated to become the Chief Justice of India. Justice Khehar had declared Tuesday that after his name was decided to head the bench, he wrote to the CJI that he will not be a part of either the NJAC or the collegium till this case is decided.
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On April 15, Justice Anil R Dave, who headed the previous five-judge bench, had recused from hearing the case following an objection that he was an ex-officio member of the NJAC owing to his seniority in the top court.
“Justice J S Khehar will not recuse himself from hearing,” pronounced Justice J Chelameswar on behalf of the Bench as it brushed aside all objections.
The bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, issued formal notices to the Centre, all state governments and Union Territories, asking them to be ready with the matter which they said “purely involves the questions of law”.
The bench asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to take instructions from the government regarding the judges’ appointment in the interim, particularly about confirmation of additional judges in high courts whose tenure will end in the immediate future.
The AG’s views were sought as he told the bench that the collegium did not exist as on date and that “it is gone.” Rohatgi added that the government would constitute the NJAC “very very soon.”
A consensus was arrived at that the petition filed by the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), in which senior advocate Fali S Nariman is appearing, will be the lead case among the batch of petitions on this point.
The Attorney General will be the lead counsel to defend the law which has got support from the Supreme Court Bar Association and states like Madhya Pradesh and Haryana for which senior counsel K K Venugopal and Harish Salve appeared.
The AG said that the government sat overnight to clear 95 per cent of the recommendations made by the collegium just a couple of days before the NJAC Act was notified on April 13.
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