The Chief Justice of India H L Dattu has refused to attend a meeting with the prime minister and opposition leader of the selection committee of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) stating that the meeting can follow a validation of the law, adding a new front to the judiciary-executive confrontation over the frontiers of power.
The Supreme Court bench hearing the petition challenging the NJAC Act has informed Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the CJI has opted out of the selection panel that has no Constitutional validity as yet.
As the bench got ready to hear the pleas on merits, the bench told the A-G that the CJI has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he will not take part in selection of two eminent persons to the NJAC panel till the validity of the law is settled.
The development, which the attorney-general termed as a 'constitutional stalemate', came on a day the five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice J S Khehar began hearings in the case challenging the NJAC.
The SC had recently rejected the contention that the apex court, nor any court for that matter, is eligible to hear the pleas on the ground of bias and conflict of interest.
"In response to the invitation from your office to attend meeting to select two eminent persons, I have to say that it is neither appropriate nor desirable for me to attend the meeting or be part of National Judicial Appointments Commission till the Supreme Court decides its validity," the CJI has said in his letter to Modi, sources said.
A three-member panel comprising the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition, has been authorised to select and appoint two eminent persons in the six-member NJAC, which would appoint judges to higher judiciary.
Rohatgi said the SC bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel, may ask the CJI to take part in the meetings for selecting the two members of the NJAC panel.
The bench, meanwhile, sought the views of eminent lawyers, including Ram Jethmalani, F S Nariman, K Parasaran, Harish Salve and the Attorney General on how to proceed with the matter.
The setting up of the NJAC is now crucial for the appointment of additional judges of high courts whose tenures are coming to an end.