National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), India

The Union government of India through the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014 established the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). Passed by Lok Sabha on 13th August and by Rajya Sabha on 14th August 2014, it replaced the collegium system of appointment of judges. A collegium system is where three senior most Supreme Court judges decide on who would be a High Court or Supreme Court judge. The NJAC is responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India. The 99th Amendment also passed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act to regulate the functions of the NJAC.

Before the NJAC, the judges were appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice and other judges. The President also made transfers of the judges after consulting the Chief Justice of India. However, with the establishment of the NJAC, the President will now appoint judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts in consultation of the NJAC.With the adding of Article 124 to the Constitution of India, it made the NJAC valid.

Composition of the National Judicial Appointments Commission

The NJAC should compose of the following –

  • The Chief Justice of India will be the ex-officio chairman
  • Two next senior most Supreme Court judges
  • The Union Minister of Law and Justice, and
  • Two eminent people to be nominated by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and leader of the opposition. The eminent person shall be nominated be for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for re-nomination.

Functions of NJAC

 The functions of the NJAC include the following –

  • to recommend candidates for appointment as the Chief Justice of India, Judges of Supreme Court, Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts.
  • to recommend transfer of Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts from one High Court to any other High Court.
  • to ensure that the persons recommended are of ability and merit.

Procedure of selection of Judge to the Supreme Court

  • The Commission shall recommend the senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court to be appointed as the Chief Justice of India.
  • The Commission under Article 124 clause 3 of the Constitution of India shall on the basis of ability, merit and any other criteria as may be specified by regulations, recommend the appointment of the Supreme Court judge from amongst person who are eligible for appointment.
  • The Commission may by regulations, specify such other procedure and conditions for selection and appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court as it may consider necessary.

Supreme Court declares NJAC Act unconstitutional and void

The Supreme Court on 01st Dec 2018 declared the NJAC Act 2014 which challenged the removal of the collegium system of appointment of judges as unconstitutional and void. The SC in a verdict struck down the 2015 review petition challenging the NJAC by lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Ram Jethmalani while KK Venugopal, KTS Tulsi and Jayprakash Narayaran opposed it. The verdict was given out by a five-judge bench judge headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi who dismissed the review petition for being 470 days late and also that there was no merit either.


Reference:

National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014, Legislative Department, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India

National Judicial Appointments Commission: All you need to know, Hindustan Times

How judges appoint judges, the debate around it, Utkarsh Ananad, The Indian Express [P] Ltd


External links:

PIB, Government of India – National Judicial Appointments Commission Act

Livemint – All you need to know about NJAC


Questions:

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), India

  1. What does the 99th Amendment of the Constitution of India cover?
  2. Why was the National Judicial Appointments Commission set up?
  3. Discuss the functions of the National Judicial Appointments Commission?
  4. What was the collegium system?
  5. When was the National Judicial Appointments Commission passed?
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