SC judge sought clarity on constitutional status of Chief Justice of India
While the Schedule 3 of the constitution addresses him as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, the Article 124 identifies him/her as the Chief Justice of India.
Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court (SC) on 15 July 2015 sought a clarification from the Union Government on the constitutional status of the Chief Justice of India.
The question was raised during the hearing of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014.
The six-member NJAC, chaired by the Chief Justice, gives equal status to the executive and judiciary in the appointments and transfers of judges in the higher judiciary including the Chief Justice of India.
As per the clarification sought by Justice Kurian, the basis of ambiguity on the constitutional role of the Chief Justice lies in the fact that the Schedule 3 and Article 124 of the constitution address him/her with two different designations.
While in the Schedule 3, which deals with forms of oath and affirmations, the Chief Justice takes oath as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, as per the Article 124 the President’s Warrant of Appointment identifies him/her as the Chief Justice of India.
While the former designation restricts the Chief Justice to a particular office within the purview of the SC and treats him/her as a mere first among equals as no separate oath was prescribed to the office, the latter designation (Chief Justice of India) puts him/her on a higher pedestal in which he represents the judiciary of the Republic of India as a whole.
As per Justice Kurian, the clarity on the role of the Chief Justice is of paramount importance in deciding the validity of the NJAC Act, 2014 as it relegates him/her to one among the six members of the commission since no veto powers provided to the NJAC chairperson.
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