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SC tells gov to finish pro-NJAC arguments in June holidays, declines larger bench

The Supreme Court today refused to refer, for now, to a larger bench a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission in the context of the judicial primacy in judges’ appointments as a preliminary issue.

The court made it clear that it was not ruling out the possibility of referring the matter to a larger bench after hearing the challenge to the NJAC on merits as well.

The constitution bench by an interim order also directed the government to extend by three months or till the date of superannuation, whichever is earlier, the services of the additional judges whose two-year tenure will come to an end during the pendency of the hearing of these petitions.

“The prayer made by the Attorney General for disposing of the issue with reference to the need for revisiting the two judgments rendered in 1993 and 1998 to be decided first as preliminary issue before hearing the main matter is declined,” said the constitution bench comprising justices JS Khehar, J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and AK Goel in its interim order.

The court said that of the remaining three days (Wednesday to Friday) before vacations, the government and others who are supporting the NJAC will get two and half days for their arguments, leaving half a day for the petitioners opposing the NJAC to make their rejoinder submissions.

The Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association along with Bar Association of India, NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation and others have challenged the constitutional amendment act and the legislation paving way for the NJAC

As the hearing begun in the post lunch session, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the court that it would not be possible for him to complete the argument on the merits of the NJAC in such a short time of two and half days. His position was supported by senior counsel KK Venugopal appearing for Madhya Pradesh.

After consulting lawyers from both the sides, the court decided to hold the hearing from June 8 and that it will continue till the conclusions of arguments by both the sides. This would mean that most of the hearing would take place during the summer vacation of the apex court.

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