Setting at rest issues, the Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the decks for commencing the hearing on the validity of the new law on appointment of judges with a Constitution Bench rejecting demands for recusal of judges.
“Justice J S Khehar will not recuse himself from hearing,” Justice J Chelameswar said on behalf of the five-judge bench which overruled the objection on Justice Khehar heading the bench. Justice Chelameswar said the reasons for the non-recusal of Justice Khehar will be delivered later.
The bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, besides Justices Khehar and Chelameswar, said it will commence the hearing on April 27 to examine the validity of the new law–National Judicial Appointments Commission Act–which has been notified. It replaces the two-decade-old collegium system of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. The court issued notices to the Centre, all state governments and union territories asking them to be ready with the matter which “purely involves the questions of law”.
The bench also asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to take instruction from competent authority about the judges, particularly about additional judges in high courts whose tenure is coming to an end in the immediate future when the matter will be pending before the court. It said it will hear the matter tomorrow and after knowing the stand of the Centre. It will pass an interim order as this is a matter of concern and their fate cannot be kept in limbo.
Justice Khehar made it clear that the bench headed by him would like to complete the hearing and dispose of the matter in a particular time frame. 14 working days, starting from Monday onwards, would be sufficient to conclude the arguments and if required a day or two will be used during the summer vacation, he said.
A consensus was evolved that the petition filed by the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), in which senior advocate Fali S Nariman is appearing, will be the lead case among the batch of petitions challenging the validity of Constitution (99th amendment) Act 2014 and the NJAC Act, 2014, which pushes out the two-decade old collegium system of appointment of judges by the judges.