The judgement in the NJAC case cannot be used as "a ruse to interdict" the assumption of office by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, the Supreme Court has said while dismissing a plea challenging his appointment.
A bench of Justices R K Agrawal and D Y Chandrachud gave a reasoned judgement while dismissing the plea filed by a lawyers' body on December 30.
The National Lawyers' Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms had challenged Justice Khehar's appointment contending that since he had presided over the five-judge Constitution Bench which revived the collegium after striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) in October 2015, he was a beneficiary of his own verdict. In the detailed judgement uploaded recently, the apex court said the petition seeking to challenge the appointment of Justice Khehar as the next Chief Justice of India (CJI) has no constitutional foundation or basis.
"If the petitioners have any reservations about the judgment in the NJAC case, this is clearly not the forum to espouse that grievance. Nor can this be utilised as a ruse to interdict the assumption of office by the CJI .... "The judgment in the NJAC case binds this Bench. We do not find it appropriate or proper to entertain a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution questioning its legitimacy by seeking a declaration that it is void," the bench said.
Justice Khehar took oath as CJI on January 4.
Justice Agrawal, who headed the bench, said all citizens have full confidence and faith in the judiciary which has made a mark in doing justice to all, as for it, there is nobody above the law and all are equal.
With regard to the eligibility of Justice Khehar which was challenged by the lawyer's body on the ground that the judgment in the NJAC case was delivered by him and therefore he had usurped to himself the power of appointment of the Judges, Justice Agrawal said the judgement was delivered individually by all five judges and decided by four judges. The constitution bench headed by Justice Khehar had held that the Constitutional (99th Amendment) Act, 2014 and the NJAC Act, 2014 were unconstitutional.
"So far as the allegation that he (Justice Khehar) has has usurped the power of appointment of Judges to himself is concerned, it is sufficient to mention here that the Collegium not only consists of the Chief Justice of India but four other senior judges as well and it cannot be said that the Chief Justice of India can usurp the power of appointing the Judges for himself," it said.