SC Failed Ideals of Justice, Won’t Be Able to Withstand Another Challenge to Its Independence: Lawyer Apar Gupta
"Will people support the SC?" he asked, following the clean chit given to CJI Ranjan Gogoi on the sexual harassment allegations.
The clean chit given to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has earned condemnation across the board. Senior lawyers like Indira Jaising and Karuna Nundy have criticised not just the process, but also the committee’s decision not to make the report on the sexual harassment charges, public.
Lawyer and executive director of Internet Freedom Foundation — a digital liberties organisation — Apar Gupta, too, slammed the decision and pointed out the effect that it would have on challenges to the “independence” of the court.
Gupta wrote on Twitter that the Supreme Court as an institution and its composite judges had failed the ideal of justice, adding, ominously, that the apex court may not be able to withstand another challenge to its “independence”, such as that by the NJAC.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission is a constitutional body proposed to replace the Collegium system of appointing judges where the CJI and a forum of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court recommend appointments and transfers of judges.
Gupta wrote, “At the core of an unconscionable denial of justice is massive institutional damage. Will people support the SC? NJAC was one of the first acts (if not the first) of the outgoing NDA government. All members of Parliament voted in its favour (one abstention). What will happen now?”
At the core of an unconscionable denial of justice is massive institutional damage. Will people support the SC? NJAC was one of the first acts (if not the first) of the outgoing NDA government. All members of parliament voted in its favor (one abstention). What will happen now?
— Apar (@apar1984) May 6, 2019
The NJAC’s establishment and history have been controversial. The BJP government had sought to replace the existing collegium system with a six-member NJAC comprising the CJI, two senior-most Supreme Court judges, the law minister and two eminent persons, who would be chosen by a selection committee including the CJI, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition. The Lok Sabha passed the bill on August 13, 2014, and the Rajya Sabha on August 14 2014. Alongside, the Parliament also passed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014, to regulate the NJAC’s functions and it came into force from April 13, 2015.
Many claimed that the NJAC was a means to subdue the judiciary. Arguing for the Supreme Court Advocates On Record Association, challenging the constitutional validity of the NJAC, Ram Jethmalani had pointed out that the act was passed in both houses of the Parliament without any substantial discussion on its merits — “because of the universal bias entertained by the legislature, against the judiciary.”