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Court Cuts: When Jaising asked a potentially embarrassing NJAC question and 3 SC judges disappeared

Three Judges of the Supreme Court, justices Madan B Lokur, Gopal Gowda and Kurian Joseph, attended a book launch function at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi yesterday (11 April).

While Justice Lokur formally released the book, Appointing our judges: Forging independence with accountability edited by Supreme Court advocate Santosh Paul, and sat through the speeches delivered by other panellists, he disappointed the audience by not speaking on the contentious subject himself, as he was part of the recent Constitution bench that struck down the NJAC Act.

Among the panellists, Santosh Paul and Fali Nariman defended the NJAC judgment, while TR Andhyarujina and Dushyant Dave were critical of it.

But, as the function was drawing to a close, before the publishers could propose a vote of thanks, senior counsel Indira Jaising stood up and asked the panellists to respond to a few questions on the subject.

When Santosh Paul agreed, Jaising responded, prefacing her question by asking whether judges are expected to say /Bharat Mata Ki Jai/.

She then asked the panellists to respond whether the NJAC judgment should be seen as tyranny of the unelected or as the court’s undoing the will of the people.

Perhaps sensing that the ensuing question-answer session could prove embarrassing (or perhaps having run out of time before their next appointment), Justice Lokur exited first, swiftly followed by Justice Kurian Joseph, who were both part of the NJAC bench.

Justice Gowda, however, left only once Santosh Paul began answering the question. With both Nariman and Dave having left already, only Paul and Andhyarujina remained on the dais to answer Jaising’s question.

Andhyarujina, having already made his comments criticising the phenomenon of judges appointing themselves, while the judges were still there, chose not to respond to Jaising.

But Paul’s nuanced answer to the question appeared to satisfy Jaising (he said that if the government’s criticisms of the NJAC judgment were accepted, then Kesavananda Bharati too should no longer be good law).

While the judges were still there, Nariman sensitively avoided discussing the current imbroglio over the Memorandum of Procedure between the Collegium and the Government.

Dave, however, candidly told the judges that they should not have allowed the government to have a say in drafting the MoP

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