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Big SCOI day: Neo collegium judgment to be out today as Kerala liquor verdict hangs in balance

The Supreme Court’s five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice JS Khehar is set to pronounce its consequential judgment in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case in the morning today (16 December) at Court No 3 at 10:30 AM

The bench, after having held the NJAC Act and the 99th Constitution Amendment Act unconstitutional in October, assembled again on 3 November to hear proposals for reforming the revived collegium to recommend new judges to the high courts and the Supreme Court to fill vacancies.

Currently, there are more than 400 vacancies in the high courts, and four vacancies in the Supreme Court, which is likely to increase to six, with two more judges retiring within the next three months.

The NJAC bench heard many proposals and invited the public to submit their suggestions to the Union Law Ministry, which forwarded them to the bench.

It appointed a two-member committee, comprising senior Advocates, Arvind Datar and Pinky Anand to scrutinise the proposals and sort them into five categories, namely, Secretariat, Transparency, Complaint Redressal, Eligibility and Miscellaneous, so as to compile them. There is a lot of expectation about this consequential judgment, as people have again chosen to repose faith in the Collegium system with all its drawbacks.

Even the Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur had decided to not to convene collegium meetings until the bench delivered this judgment, even though in its last interim order, the bench had given the go-ahead to the collegium to meet and recommend names of future Judges in the interim period before it delivers its judgment.

Thakur, however, decided to await the delivery of the judgment to avoid appointment of judges, who might suffer the taint that they were recruited under the old system, which had been maligned much for lack of transparency.

Besides the NJAC-II judgment, today (Wednesday 16 December) is the last working day for Justice Vikramajit Sen, who is retiring on 30 December.

Sen, who will sit with CJI Thakur, as is the convention for retiring judges, has not yet pronounced the judgment in the Kerala bar hotel case, involving challenges to Kerala Government’s discriminatory liquor policy that restricted bar licences to five star hotels, which he heard with Justice Shiva Kirti Singh.

Observers expect that there may be a second supplementary causelist which may be released in the morning today, or he may pronounce the judgment on 30 December during the court vacation.

Otherwise, the case will have to be reheard again.

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