What is National Judicial Appointment Commission?

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National Judicial Appointment Commission

The appointment of the Judiciary, which is one of the four pillars of the Indian Constitution, is of utmost importance. The National Judicial Appointments Commission(NJAC) was a constitutional body tasked with appointing judges to the higher judiciary in India. Moreover, it was established through the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act in 2014. And sought to introduce a more collaborative and transparent system of selecting judges. However, it was struck down by the Supreme Court of India in 2015 for being unconstitutional. Read on to learn about the details related to the National Judicial Appointments Commission. 

National Judicial Appointments Commission 2014
Purpose of NJACAppoint Judges with transparency as opposed to the Collegium system. 
Passed by the Lok Sabha13th August 2014
Passed by the Rajya Sabha14th August 2014
Assented by The President of India
Assented on 31st December 2014
Came into force13th April 2015
Repealed16th October 2015
Citation 99th Constitutional Amendment Act 
Struck down byThe Supreme Court of India

What was the Purpose of NJAC?

The Purpose of the National Judicial Appointments Commission in India was to reform the process of appointing and transferring judges to higher courts. Furthermore, it wanted to replace the existing Collegium System. A system in which judges themselves were granted exclusive authority over judicial appointments. 

The National Judicial Appointment Commission Bill 2014

On the 11th of August 2014, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister of Law and Justice, introduced the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill of 2014, in the Lok Sabha

  • This bill was introduced alongside the 99th Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2014, which aimed to create the NJAC. 
  • The proposed NJAC, outlined in the new Article 124A, which is included the Composition. 
  • Moreover, it was designed to address the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts. A process governed by Articles 124(2) and 217 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Under the existing system, the President of India holds the responsibility of nominating judges. In addition, they are required to consult with judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. 
  • However, the Indian Constitution does not specify a defined procedure for these appointments. 

Additionally, the NJAC Bill aimed to give a structured approach to this process, detailing the steps the Commission should take when recommending candidates for the positions of Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court judges, as well as Chief Justices and judges of the High Courts.

Did you know? Under the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2014, the Chief Justice of India does Not have Veto power. However, during the process of recommendation of judges, if 2 judges of the NJAC oppose the name of the judge, that name would not be recommended further. 

What is the Function of the NJAC?

In addition, the Function of the NJAC is as follows: 

  • It recommends candidates for the positions of Chief Justice of India, Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of High Courts, and other Judges of High Courts.
  • Moreover, NJAC suggests transfers of Chief Justices and other High Court Judges from one High Court to another.
  • It guarantees that the recommended candidates possess the requisite abilities, merit, and other criteria outlined in the regulations associated with the act.

Also Read: Article 144 of Indian Constitution: Provisions, History

Who are the Members of the National Judicial Appointment Commission?

In addition, the Composition of the National Judicial Appointment Commission is mentioned in Article 124A of the Indian Consitution. The 6 members are as follows:

  • The 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

These two eminent persons would have been nominated by:

  • A Committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister of India, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha (or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha). 
  • Furthermore, it was specified that one of the two eminent persons would be from the ST, SC, or Other Backward Classes(OBC) minority communities or a woman.
  • The eminent persons would serve for a term of 3 years and would not be eligible for re-nomination.

Also Read: Attorney General of India (Article 76): Important Notes for Exams

What is the Difference between NJAC and Collegium System?

Additionally, the difference between the NJAC and the Collegium System is as follows: 

Difference between the National Judicial Appointment Commission(NJAC) and the Collegium System
AspectNational Judicial Appointment Commission(NJAC)Collegium System
ObjectiveTo reform the process of judicial appointments for transparency and wider consultations.Traditional system with judges having more say in appointments.
Composition-Chief Justice of India (Chairperson) -Two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court -Union Minister of Law and Justice (ex-officio) -Two eminent persons nominated by a committee including the CJI, PM, and Leader of the Opposition or largest Opposition Party leader-Consists of a body of senior judges within the judiciary.
Executive InvolvementIncludes a representative from the executive branch (Union Minister of Law and Justice).Solely judicial in nature, with no executive involvement.
TransparencyAims to bring transparency with recorded reasons for selections, interviews, and broader consultations.The selection process is historically opaque and lacks transparency.
Checks and BalancesIt is seen as introducing checks and balances in the appointment process.Limited checks and balances, with appointments made within the Judiciary.
Appointment ProcessIntended to create a collaborative system involving both judiciary and executive.Historically, decisions were made within the judiciary without external influence.
Reasons for SelectionsRecorded reasons for appointments and rejections.Reasons are often undisclosed or not publicly available.
Constitutional ValidityStruck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 as unconstitutional.Established by judicial interpretations and evolved over time.

Why was NJAC Removed?

In early 2015, the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) filed a plea challenging the provisions of two newly enacted laws. 

  • SCAORA argued that both Acts were “unconstitutional” and “invalid.” 
  • They contended that the 99th Amendment, which established the NJAC, undermined the “primacy of the collective opinion of the Chief Justice of India and the two senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court.” Moreover, the collective recommendation could be overruled or “suspended by a majority of 3 non-Judge members.”
  • The SCAORA stated that the Amendment was against the Basic Structure of the Constitution, particularly the independence of the Judiciary in appointing judges of the higher judiciary. 
  • They further argued that the NJAC Act itself was “void” and “ultra vires” of the Indian Constitution.
    • This was because it was passed in both Houses of Parliament when Articles 124(2) and 217(1) were originally in force, and the 99th Amendment had not yet received Presidential assent.

Also Read: Important Articles in Indian Constitution Explained

What is the National Judicial Commission Bill 2022?

The National Judicial Commission Bill of 2022 was introduced as a Private Member Bill in the Rajya Sabha by CPI(M)’s Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya. However, AAP MP Raghav Chadha opposed the bill. The Bill had the following Objectives:

  • Regulating Judicial Selection Process: The Bill aims to regulate the procedure followed by the National Judicial Commission. In addition, recommending candidates for important judicial positions such as the Chief Justice of India, other Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices, and other judges of High Courts.
  • Managing Transfers and Setting Judicial Standards: Another objective is to manage the transfer of judges and establish clear judicial standards. Hence making sure there is accountability among the Judiciary.
  • Establishing Credibility and Accountability: The Bill seeks to establish a credible and efficient mechanism for investigating individual complaints. Moreover, mostly regarding the misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge in the Supreme Court or a High Court.
  • Regulating Investigation Procedures: In cases where complaints are lodged against judges, the Bill aims to regulate the procedure for such investigations, to guarantee fairness and transparency.
  • Removal of Judges Proceedings: Additionally, the Bill proposes the presentation of an address by Parliament to the President regarding proceedings for the removal of a judge. Thus, adding a layer of accountability to the Judiciary.

Also Read: Article 80 (1949) of the Indian Constitution: Composition of the Rajya Sabha

The Impact of the Bill 

The Collegium system has faced criticism due to its non-transparent workings, leaving the public unaware of its actual functioning. The National Judicial Commission Bill of 2022, if passed into law, could mark a shift where the government regulates the appointment procedures, transfers, and removal of judges. Consequently, this move suggests a potential shift towards Executive control in the appointment process. Thus, diminishing the Courts’ authority in appointing judges to high courts and the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, the effects of the National Judicial Commission Bill, 2022, may include:

  • Abolishment of the Collegium System: This system, where judges determine appointments to higher courts, would be done away with.
  • Central Government Enacts Commission Rules: The rules governing the Commission would be set by the Central government.
    • Hence altering the current system where judges have a significant say.

The implementation of this bill would bring both positive and negative impacts. On one hand, it might introduce more transparency and efficiency. However, there is a concern that it could grant the Executive undue influence over judicial appointments. Thus, infringing upon the principles of Judicial Supremacy and Independence, which are the fundamental tenets of the Indian Constitution.

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In which case was NJAC declared Unconstitutional?

The NJAC Act was declared unconstitutional in the case of Supreme Court Advocates-on-record Association & Anr. vs Union of India. This landmark judgment, often called the “Fourth Judges Case”, was delivered by the Supreme Court of India on October 16, 2015.

What is the Disadvantage of NJAC?

The disadvantage of NJAC is that it raised concerns about Executive interference in Judicial independence and potential compromise on judicial appointments.

Is NJAC working now?

No, NJAC is not working as of now as the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2015.

Lastly, we hope you liked our blog and gained an understanding of the National Judicial Appointment Commission. Moreover, you may even read more blogs and empower yourself with knowledge regarding Civics and Polity!

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