SC poser to Centre on inclusiveness of Judicial Appointment Bill

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to explain how the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act would ensure due representation to women, SC, STs, OBCs, and minorities in appointment of judges to the high courts and the apex court.

A five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Justice J S Khehar questioned the government over the procedure to be adopted for making the new law as “broad-based and transparent”.

“Why don’t you say there would be certain number of women, SC/STs, OBCs and minorities in the selection? It is not there in the law,” the bench also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel pointed out to Attorney General (A-G) Mukul Rohatgi.

The observation came after the top law officer, defending the NJAC Act, contended that the previous collegium system did not give due representation to women in selection of judges.

“Today, there is 50 per cent of women in our population. Why are they not appointed? There is obvious male dominance. Why no due representation to them,” he asked.
“Why is there only one or two women judges in the Supreme Court or high courts?

Because there is lack of sensitisation. That’s why Parliament has passed a law, making a broad-based body, including the chief justice of India (CJI), two senior-most judges, law minister and two eminent persons to devise an empirical formula for making such appointments,” Rohatgi said.

He also cited the CBSE results for class X and XII examinations in which women excelled almost every year. On his submission, the court asked him in lighter vein, “Have you got 50 per cent law officers as women?”

To this, Rohatgi responded that in his office, the women outnumbered the men.
With regard to selection and role of two eminent persons, Rohatgi maintained they would be selected by a panel comprising the prime minister, CJI and the leader of the largest Opposition party and hence, a Constitutional trust has to be reposed on them for making due selections.

The court, however, noted the NJAC Act did not prescribe the procedure for removal of eminent persons. But Rohatgi said the panel appointing them would also have the powers to remove them in case of any exigency.

During the day-long hearing, the bench also asked A-G if subjecting judges appointment to the Right to Information Act would not lead to defamation by those applications were rejected on the ground of being doubtful integrity.

The arguments by the A-G on a batch of PILs challenging the Constitutional validity of the NJAC Act remained inconclusive and would continue on Friday.

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