April 22, 2015 12:00:36 am
Questions over conflict of interest and doctrine of bias yet again stalled hearing by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on validity of the constitutional amendment and setting up of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) after scrapping the collegium system.
After some of the petitioners raised issues on the composition of the five-judge bench that should hear the matter, the bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said on Tuesday that the court would first decide the “vital” point as to who among the judges should examine the controversy on merits. “It is a very vital issue and we cannot keep it pending. We intend to pass an order as to who will hear this matter,” said the bench, fixing the case for arguments on this point for Wednesday.
On April 15, Justice Anil R Dave, who headed the previous five-judge bench, recused himself after an objection was raised that he was now an ex-officio member of NJAC owing to his seniority in the top court.
Justice Khehar, being the third seniormost judge in the apex court after the Chief Justice, is currently a member of the collegium, which appoints judges to the higher judiciary. After objections were raised, Justice Khehar said he would be happy not being part of the bench. He said he was hearing it as the CJI had constituted the bench with him on it after Justice Dave recused. Justice Khehar said the moment his name was decided upon, he wrote to the CJI that he will not be a part of either NJAC or the collegium till this matter is decided.
AG Mukul Rohatgi opposed any further change in the bench’s composition. Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who appeared on behalf of petitioner Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association, suggested that the matter may be decided by the CJI along with two senior-most judges and two other judges of CJI’s choice. But the bench said it would decide the issue itself and asked all the lawyers to be ready for detailed arguments on Wednesday.
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