Fali Nariman slams judges bill, will challenge in SC

Claims the govt has hit at the root of judicial independence

New Delhi : Noted jurist Fali S Nariman on Thursday slammed the two legislations that seek to overturn the present collegium system of appointment of judges, saying they hit at the root of judicial independence and may be struck down by the Supreme Court.

Nariman, a former nominated member of Parliament, said many lawyers including him will challenge the legislations in the Supreme Court. “…The independence of the judiciary is now the cornerstone of the Constitution. And anything that is done which damages it is anathema and the people who decide are the judges of the Supreme Court,” he told a news channel.

“Many lawyers including myself will move in that direction,” he said, suggesting that he may challenge the bills which were passed by Rajya Sabha today after Lok Sabha adopted them on Wednesday. Nariman, who was among the legal luminaries consulted by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the issue, faulted the bills on several counts.

He said he was not happy at all with its composition of the proposed National Judicial Appointments Commission which will have only three judges out of six members. Also, he said, the fact that it gives veto power to any of the two members to scuttle any recommendation made by a majority is not acceptable.

Nariman also expressed his anguish over the bills’ provision which said two eminent persons in commission will be selected by a group of the Prime Minister, the leader of second largest party and the Chief Justice of India. “Eminent persons are chosen in political sphere… I am sorry that this (bills) should have been pushed through in this fashion,” he said.

Prasad, he said, might mot have been aware of the final contents of the bill because he did not bring up these provisions in his meeting with him and other senior lawyers and former judges.”I am sure the Law Minister did not intend all this. He never said all this. We never knew it was going to be the position. What was the tearing hurry? Why should it be introduced here and now,” Nariman said. He said that their “distinct impression” after the meeting, which took place in the last week of July, was that this bill was not going to come up in the current session.

Suggesting that the current bills were pushed down the throat of Prasad, he said he did not believe that the Law Minister misled them and he knew him too well. “I personally think there has been some super important event that has occurred which has left all of as flummoxed… some new development in the party itself of which none of us are aware,” he said.

He criticised the NDA for ‘ignoring’ the recommendations of the Venkatachaliah Commission which, he said, had asserted that there must never be an ‘outvoting’ of the judges in the Commission and eminent persons should be chosen by the President the Chief Justice of India.

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