In the shadow of collegium row, SC to deliver key verdicts on demo, CAA in 2023

Supreme Court of India [Representational Image]
Supreme Court of India [Representational Image] File: ANI

New Delhi: In the penultimate phase of 2022, many friction points emerged between the Centre and the judiciary over the delay in the appointment of judges to the higher courts.

Amid the ongoing feud, the Supreme Court collegium recommended the names of five high court judges for the elevation to the apex court, which is pending clearance from the Centre.

Come 2023, the Supreme Court will deliver its judgment on a clutch of petitions challenging the Centre's 2016 decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes and it will also several examine contentious issues, notably: the Delhi government-Centre row over control of services, the legal tussle between Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray factions of the Shiv Sena, petitions challenging the validity of certain provisions of Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, and more than 200 petitions against Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) etc.

In 2022, the apex court saw three Chief Justices of India (CJI). The tenure of CJI N.V. Ramana - who became the 48th CJI in April 2021 and retired in August 2022 - saw cordial relations between the Centre and judiciary as several appointments were made to the higher judiciary.

The major part of the short tenure of CJI U.U. Lalit also did not see any flareup on the issue of either collegium system or delay in appointment of judges. However, at the end of CJI Lalit's tenure and before the beginning of incumbent CJI D.Y. Chandrachud's tenure, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju criticised the Supreme Court collegium system.

Rijiju, at a media event, said that judges only recommend the appointment or elevation of those they know and not always the fittest person for the job. Later, the Law Minister also criticized listing of bail pleas and frivolous PILs, and the long court vacations.

After the minister, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar, in his maiden address in the Rajya Sabha, minced no words in criticising the collegium system. He said the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill was passed unanimously by the Parliament, but it was "undone by the Supreme Court".

In December, the Supreme Court collegium recommended the name of five high court judges for elevation to the apex court: Justice Pankaj Mithal, Chief Justice, Rajasthan High Court (parent high court (PHC): Allahabad); Justice Sanjay Karol, Chief Justice, Patna High Court (PHC: Himachal Pradesh); Justice P.V. Sanjay Kumar, Chief Justice, Manipur High Court (PHC: Telangana); Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah, Judge, Patna High Court; and Justice Manoj Misra, Judge, Allahabad High Court. As the Centre stepped up criticism of the collegium system, the pending clearance on the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary assumes significance.

The Centre's no-holds-barred attack prompted a sharp response from the judiciary, and the apex court slammed the Centre over the delay in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court said that the scheme of the Constitution requires it to be the final arbiter of law and Parliament has the right to enact a law but the power to scrutinise it lies with the court, while hearing a contempt plea against Centre for breaching the timeline for judicial appointments.

On the heels of this ongoing feud, in 2023, the apex court is scheduled to pronounce its judgment on January 2, on a clutch of petitions challenging Centre's 2016 decision to demonetise currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 denominations, and later it will also pronounce judgment on a batch of petitions seeking a collegium-like system for the appointment of the ECs and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).

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