New Delhi, Apr 27: In a new twist, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu has refused to participate in a three-member panel for selecting two eminent persons in the six-member National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) on whose validity a constitution bench began hearings today.
The five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice J S Khehar, which is hearing the issue of constitutional validity of the new law on appointment of judges to higher judiciary, was told by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that Dattu has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he would not participate in the meeting of the panel till the matter is decided by the apex court.
The three-member panel comprises Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition, who are authorised to select and appoint two eminent persons in the six-member NJAC for appointment of judges to higher judiciary.
When it was brought to the notice of the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, it heard the views of various senior advocates on how to proceed with the matter taking into account that in the immediate future there would be the eventuality of appointment of existing additional judges of the high courts whose tenures are coming to an end.
After taking note of their views, the judges retired to their chambers and assembled after 15 minutes. Justice Khehar said that the bench has decided to continue with the hearing on the merits of the case and if needed it will pass an interim order.
"A consensus has emerged that we will continue with the merits of the case and when it is necessary we will pass an interim order," the bench said. The AG submitted that it is mandatory for the CJI to be the part of the panel in selection and appointment of eminent persons in the six-member commission.
He said a direction should be passed for the CJI to participate in the meeting. However, his view was not shared by senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who is appearing for Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), said that if the CJI is not participating, the bench can direct others to meet and participate.