National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)
18, Nov 2022
Prelims level : Judiciary Mains level : GS-II Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Why in News?
- Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has recently agreed to list in due course a writ petition to reconsider the collegium system of judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
- On 16 October 2015, in a 4-1 majority verdict, the Supreme Court held that both the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014, and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014, were unconstitutional as it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
- The majority said the two laws affect the independence of the judiciary, and judicial appointments, among other things, should be protected from executive control.
About NJAC and the Act:
- NJAC is a body responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India. NJAC Bill sought to replace the collegium system of appointing the judges of Supreme Court and High Courts with judicial appointments commission wherein the executive will have a say in appointing the judges.
- A new article, Article 124A, (which provides for the composition of the NJAC) was to be inserted into the Constitution.
- The Bill provided for the procedure to be followed by the NJAC for recommending persons for appointment as Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the Supreme Court (SC), and Chief Justice and other Judges of High Courts (HC).
- According to the bill the commission will consist of the following members:
- Chief Justice of India (Chairperson, ex officio)
- Two other senior judges of the Supreme Court next to the Chief Justice of India – ex officio
- The Union Minister of Law and Justice, ex-officio
- Two eminent persons (to be nominated by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister of India and the Leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then, the Leader of single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha), provided that of the two eminent persons, one person would be from the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or OBC or minority communities or a woman.
- The eminent persons shall be nominated for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for re-nomination.
How proponents of NJAC defend it?
- According to them the enactment of the 99th Amendment was intended at redressing the imbalance created by the verdict of court in second judges case.
- For them, NJAC would have been a more broad-minded forum, providing a genuine chance to participate and influence the selection of our higher judiciary — not merely to the Supreme Court and the executive, but also to laypersons (eminent persons) outside the constitutional framework.
Why the court struck down NJAC act?
- The court has held that the appointment of judges, coupled with primacy of judiciary and the CJI, was part of the basic structure of the Constitution and that the parliament, through NJAC act, violated this basic structure.