NEW DELHI: In an oblique reference to the Supreme Court’s 2015 judgment striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014, which sought to overturn the collegium system of appointments in the higher judiciary, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar said it was “never too late to reflect”.
Underlining the “primacy of the will of the people”, Dhankhar, while addressing a gathering at the 8th Dr LM Singhvi Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, said “that power was undone” and “the world does not know of any such instance”.
His remarks come days after Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju questioned the collegium system of judicial appointments, calling it “opaque” and “alien”. The minister’s remarks attracted the displeasure of the Supreme Court.
Speaking after Chief Jusitce DY Chandrachud delivered the lecture on the topic of universal adult franchise, the Vice-President pointed out that NJAC legislation was a constitutional amendment.
“As a matter of record, the entire Lok Sabha voted unanimously. We, the people – their ordainment was converted into a constitutional provision. The power of the people came to be reflected on a legitimate platform through applicable mechanisms. That power was undone. The world does not know of any such instance.”
The Constitution (Ninety-Ninth Amendment) Act, which established the National Judicial Appointments Commission and the NJAC Act, were passed by Parliament in 2014 to set up a commission for appointing judges, replacing the collegium system. The law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015.
Dhankhar said, “If a constitutional provision that carries the ordainment of people at large in such a vibrant democracy is undone, what will happen? I am appealing to everyone that these are the issues that should not be viewed on partisan lines.”
He went on to ask the audience, which included former CJI RM Lodha, judges, lawyers, Union Minister Piyush Goyal, Congress leader P Chidambaram, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, to think of any such similar instance in the world. Dhankhar, also a senior advocate, said “Interpretation of the Constitution when a substantial question of law is involved can be done by the court. Nowhere does it say that a provision can be run down.”