SC dismisses plea against new CJI’s appointment

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New Delhi, Dec 30 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition seeking the quashing of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar’s appointment as the next Chief Justice of India.

Khehar will take over as the Chief Justice of India on January 4 when the incumbent Chief Justice T. S. Thakur demits office.

The vacation bench of Justice R. K. Agrawal and Justice D. Y. Chandrachud dismissed as “without merit” the petition by the National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms (NLCJTR) and others.

President Pranab Mukherjee on December 19 appointed Khehar as the 44th Chief Justice of India.

Justice T.S. Thakur retires on January 3.

Rejecting the contentions by the NLCJTR and others, the court noted the part of the petition which said: “Khehar, undoubtedly, is one of the most upright judges of the Supreme Court; the petitioners are all proud of his Lordship… Nobody could point a finger at him when it comes to his honesty, integrity and uprightness. His Lordship is a real diamond in that sense.”

The court in its order dismissing the petition said that besides the CJI, four seniormost judges of the top court are members of the collegium that recommends names for the appointment of judges to the top court and the high courts.

The court rejected the contention by the petitioners that Khehar was the biggest beneficiary of the October 16, 2015, constitution bench judgment which held unconstitutional the constitution’s 99th amendment that paved the way for the NJAC and the NJAC Act itself.

The petitioners had contended that Khehar by heading the five-judge constitution bench and authoring the judgment by which NJAC was aborted, had usurped the appointment process thereby ensuring his appointment as the Chief Justice of India and “ruling out, may be, distant possibility of the NJAC which would consist of two eminent persons appointing Justice Chelameswar or any other tall judge as the next Chief Justice of India”.

While acknowledging that Khehar was “eminent in all respect”, the petitioners had told the court that “the CJI is a judicial statesman and the judge for whom I may have highest respect may not be fit to be the CJI”, petitioner’s counsel Mathews J. Nedumpara told the bench.

Assailing the judicial system that was prospering under the collegium system, petition lawyer A. K. De said the lawyers were treated in the courts by their face value as he mentioned an eminent lawyer who got bail for Bollywood star Salman Khan in a hit and run case without having the judgment of the trial court convicting him.

The working of the top court registry came in for a sharp attack as lawyers said that instead of being a facilitator it was creating obstructions in the filing of the petitions.

Instead of being fearless — which a lawyer has to be to address the court — De said they were fearful of the registry.

–IANS

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