New Delhi, Apr 15: A Constitution bench on Wednesday could not begin the hearing to examine the validity of the law replacing the collegium system of appointment of judges as the judge heading it recused from the case following objection from petitioners who claimed conflict of interest.
Justice A R Dave, who was heading the five-judge Constitution bench, withdrew from the case after the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) and other petitioners said that since he had become a member of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) under the new law, it would not be proper for him to hear the matter.
However, the submission of senior advocate Fali Nariman, who appeared for SCAORA, was opposed by Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), which had supported the Centre in its endeavour to replace the two- decade-old collegium system of appointment of judges by the judges. Rohatgi contended that the suggestion of SCAORA is wholly regrettable and condemnable.
He was supported by SCBA President who said that SCAORA's objection was preposterous. Their submission had come after Nariman had said that the provisions of the Constitution (99th amendment) Act 2014 and of the NJAC Act 2014 have been brought into force from April 13, 2015.
"As a consequence, the presiding judge on this bench, Justice A R Dave has now become (not out of choice but by force of statute) a member ex-officio of the NJAC whose constitutional validity has been challenged.
"It is respectfully submitted that it would be appropriate if it would be declared at the outset, by an order of this court, the presiding judge of this bench will take no part whatever in the proceedings of the NJAC," Nariman submitted.