The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought to know from the Centre the exact number of state assemblies that conducted debates before ratifying the Constitutional amendment to set up the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
A Constitution bench, led by Justice J S Khehar, asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to collect the information regarding the number of states where Legislative Assemblies had debates to discuss the NJAC, when the Constitutional amendment was moved for ratification.
The Centre has told the court that as many as 20 states have approved the Constitutional amendment to replace the Collegium system with the NJAC.
The bench sought the information after Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the state of Gujarat, asserted that not only both houses of Parliament but the state assemblies too had voted for the NJAC in vast majority, adding that the whole nation wanted the new law.
The argument prompted the bench — also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel — to seek information about the deliberations done by the state assemblies.
Meanwhile, taking a divergent position from the government, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) told the Court that if NJAC was struck down, then it would result in automatic resurrection of the Collegium system, followed earlier. “I disagree with the government that the invalidation of the NJAC would not result in the restoration of the Collegium system,” senior advocate Dushyant Dave said, while appearing for the SCBA.
Dave has been backing the Centre in defending the NJAC. But his latest argument is in stark contrast to a persistent stand taken by the government that Collegium is “dead and buried forever” and that there would not be automatic revival of the Collegium even if the NJAC is quashed.
Some of the BJP-ruled states, too, put forth their arguments in defence of the NJAC.
Senior advocate T R Andhyarujina, appearing for Maharashtra, said that the independence of judiciary does not require appointment of judges by the judges and that the Collegium suffered from lack of transparency, accountability and appreciation of diversity in appointment of judges.
While representing Rajasthan, senior advocate K Parasaran submitted that merit should also be given due consideration apart from seniority in appointment of Chief Justices.
“The NJAC, comprising Chief Justice of India, two senior most judges, Law Minister and two eminent persons is an ideal mix. It is better to use trial and error than error and trial,” he said.
Counsel for Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand also lent their support to the creation of the NJAC. The arguments will continue on Wednesday.