AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION BY A JUDGEMENT AND ENCROACHING UPON THE POWER OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL HEAD A JUDICIAL OVERREACH?
Why are we discussing this issue? Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has ordered that Election Commissioners will be appointed by the President of India on the advice of a Committee consisting of the President, Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and Chief Justice of India. However, in this case, the Office of the President was not a Party. Directions were sought against the Election commission. Hence prima facie the Judgment is not binding upon her. POWER TO AMEND The power to amend the constitution is with Parliament. It is an unfettered power under Article 368 of the Constitution. However, a series of Judgements and stare decisis has put a limitation on the exercise of this power. It was felt by the Court that elected representatives may have their own agendas. The landmark judgments say that as far as fundamental rights are concerned amendment should not touch the basic structure of the constitution. ROLE OF JUDICIARY UNDER THE CONSTITUTION: The Supreme Court has the power to declare any law that it finds unconstitutional void. CAN SUPREME COURT AMEND THE CONSTITUTION BY ORDER AND JUDGMENT? On two occasions this question has arisen: The power of the President to appoint higher court Judges under Articles 124 and 217 is shielded by a Judgement and a system of collegium is formed; Amending Article 324 whereby the power of the President is veiled by a recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of Anup Baranwal ( Supra); POWER OF THE PRESIDENT UNDER THE CONSTITUTION: Under Article 52 President is bestowed upon executive powers. Every power is executed in the name of the President under Article 77. WHAT ARE THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS: What is Election Commission? Under the provisions of the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business)] Act, 1991 “Chief Election Commissioner” means the Chief Election Commissioner appointed under Article 324 of the Constitution. PART XV Provides for the appointment of the Election Commission and procedure. Under Article 324 entire superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice-President held under this Constitution vests in a Commission (referred to in this Constitution as the Election Commission). APPOINTMENT The Election Commission under Article 324 consists of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners if any, is appointed by the President from time to time and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President. When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed by the President the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission. Before each general election to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of each State, and before the first general election and thereafter before each biennial election to the Legislative Council of each State having such Council, the […]Read more
Indians are a very tolerant community. Citizens are basically law-abiding. But as per data available there are more than 5 crore cases are pending in various courts across India. This includes criminal, civil, DRT, matrimonial, adoption, insolvency, and others. There is always vacancy for Judges and there is also friction between different stakeholders regarding the method of appointment. The pending cases are monetary disputes, land disputes, agricultural land, easement, flat purchasers right, and so on. This also includes international arbitration awards and their execution. When a suit is filed immediate party moves for ad-interim reliefs by way of a Notice of Motion or Interim Application as the case may be. When the order is passed same Notice of Motion comes up for a final hearing after 5 to 10 years. By that time if Plaintiff did not get the order he loses the edge and his right. Then suit may be on board for framing of Issues may be another 5-10 years. The next stage is the affidavit of evidence, admission denial of documents, and cross-examination of witnesses. When a decree is passed it takes time of 2 to 3 years for sealing. When the decree is ready for execution if not executed then we have to take out 21×22 notice in which takes another 2 years to reach and there may be objections. So, for Plaintiff entire exercise is futile. Citizens need a remedy that is speedy and result oriented. The matter doesn’t end here after the ad-interim there is an Appeal from the Order then the Supreme Court and so on and so forth. The litigation is unending and is also costly. To overcome this situation government introduced concept of mediation. It is not much successful. As far as Arbitration is concerned the new concept of institutional arbitration is introduced. It may have been successful but not much accepted by common people like new entrepreneurs, startups, and the common citizens. That is due to cost and fees of an arbitrator. Many petitions are filed in Supreme Court challenging fees of the arbitrator. (See ONGC vs Afcons Gunanusa JV) Does the question arise what is the remedy? The remedy lies in our constitution. Article 217 says the Appointment and conditions of the office of a Judge of a High Court.—(1) Every Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal and [shall hold office, in the case of an additional or acting Judge, as provided in article 224, and in any other case, until he attains the age of [sixty-two years]:] 126. Appointment of acting Chief Justice.—When the office of Chief Justice of India is vacant or when the Chief Justice is, by reason of absence or otherwise, unable to perform the duties of his office, the duties of the office shall be performed by such one of the other Judges of the Court as the President may appoint for the purpose. 127. Appointment of ad hoc Judges.—(1) If at any time there should not be a quorum of the Judges of the Supreme Court available to hold or […]Read more
Is NJAC a violation of Article 368 or violates the theory of pith and substance? To understand we must go back to the root of the matter. Brief History This issue is neither constitutional nor legal. The issue is to decide the procedure for appointment of Judges in High Courts namely the High Court and Supreme Court. As such the debate on the procedure to appoint judges to higher courts was debated forcefully by several leading giant members of the Constituent Assembly. But no consensus was drawn. The details we shall see here are below. But before that somewhere in the year 1991 by order and Judgement of the Supreme Court, a system was designed by the name Collegium. In Collegium 6-8 Judges would consider candidates for the office of the higher court judges which includes the Chief Justice of State and Supreme Court Collegium members. Who selects the candidates and forwards the names to the Law Ministry for scanning intelligence background. There is no other role of the Government in the selection process. The President in the course gives his assent and notifies. Is this a correct system that was dreamt by the makers of our Constitution? Or is hit by pith and substance? Link to read Judgement : https://indiankanoon.org/doc/753224/ Current scenario and the allegations: Over a period of time, this system was allegedly affected by nepotism and it is alleged that it has created a monopoly. There were news reports as well as reports of a senior lawyer at the bar that 50% of the Judges are relatives of the ex-Judges. In the meantime, the Government enacted a law called National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014 ( NJAC ) which was abrogated and declared ultra-vires by the Supreme Court. This resulted in the continuity of the Collegium System. In its logical and practical argument that the Judiciary, it’s argued that the participation of politicians in the selection process may vitiate the independence of the judiciary. This danger was also visualized by the late Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. For the said reason though amendments were moved to adopt the American method of appointment of judges to the higher courts same were withdrawn by respective Constituent Assembly members. However, the late Dr. Ambedkar could not have thought of the situation persisting today about the collegium system which has allegedly resulted in the monopoly of a few families. Here is the link: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/govt-gives-collegium-proof-of-nepotism-in-picks-for-hc-judges/articleshow/65220425.cms https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/50-hc-judges-related-to-senior-judicial-members-report/story-S8RP2Ir9cEuIN4NewFnvML.html With this background let us see the history of this issue and why it did not reach finality during the finalization of the Constitution of India. The Government of India Act, 1919 provided in Section 101 for the Constitution of High Courts; and the appointment of the Chief Justice and the permanent Judges were in the absolute discretion of the Crown, subject only to the prescribed conditions of eligibility. The tenure of their office, according to Section 102, was dependent entirely on the Crown’s pleasure. Under the Government of India, Act, 1935, appointments of Judges of the Federal Court and the High Courts were at the absolute discretion of the Crown or, in other words, […]Read more