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RamJet abstains as RS passes JAC bill with 2 member veto; Fali could challenge in court

The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill 2014 was passed by the Rajya Sabha today, including a Lok Sabha amendment from yesterday by senior Congress politician and former law minister Veerappa Moily to restrict the government’s effective veto over new appointments.

The upper house cleared the bill by 179 votes in favour with senior counsel and BJP politician Ram Jethmalani being the only member abstaining, reported the PTI. The bill will now have to be ratified by 50 per cent of states, which could take up to eight months.

The draft that was tabled before the Lok Sabha had included a provision to allow any one of the six members of the NJAC, which includes the law minister, to veto a judge’s appointment after the president’s request to reconsider their recommendation, reported the Economic Times.

This would have effectively given the government all the cards necessary to kill off any judicial appointment single-handedly.

Moily’s amendment, as reflected in the latest draft (via PRS Legislative Research), merely requires the NJAC to reiterate its recommendation under the usual process after the president asks for reconsideration.

This would mean that at least two members’ dissenting votes would be needed to scupper an appointment.

The NJAC will consist of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), two next senior-most Supreme Court judges, the law minister, and two “eminent persons”, who will be nominated by the prime minister, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition. One member must be a minority or a woman.

Senior advocate Fali Nariman Told Headlines Today that he and other lawyers could challenge the bill in court for allowing two members to veto appointments and for not having enough judges on the JAC.

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