NEW DELHI/Nagpur: In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Friday declared the National Judicial Appointments Commission, set up by the NDA government, unconstitutional. The collegium system, where judges appoint judges,will continue, the court said.
The top court struck down the the 99th Constitutional amendment brought by the NDA government that would scrap the collegium system. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar by 4:1 majority termed both the 99th constitution amendment and NJAC Act unconstitutional as it interfered with the independence of judiciary.
The bench revived the collegium system of appointment of judges, popularly referred to as judges-selecting-judges.
The much hyped NJAC was touted by Narendra Modi government to bring transparency in appointment of judges to the high courts and Supreme Court.
One of the contentious provisions of the new law was the inclusion of two eminent persons to the Commission which included the Chief Justice of India, two “senior most” judges of the apex court and the Union law minister.
The apex court has scheduled November 3 for further hearings on the issue of improving the collegium system of appointment of judges.
The petitions challenging the new legislation were filed by the group, the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association, and others, who contended that the new law would hurt the independence of the judiciary.
The Centre had defended the introduction of the new law saying that the two-decade-old collegium system was not free from defects. It added that the Supreme Court Bar Association supported the new Commission. The creation of the Commission was also supported by 20 state governments which ratified the NJAC Act and the constitutional amendment.
The collegium system was created by two judgments of the SC in 1990s in which the body of senior SC judges headed by the Chief Justice of India selected persons and recommended their names for appointment as judges.