(This post was written by Darshan Patankar and Manish Soni from Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar)
Just Society v/s Union of India was decided on 27th April 2017. It is a two-judge bench decision wherein the Honourable Supreme Court of India has upheld the Constitutional validity of Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, is an act which provides for the establishment of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for the state to inquire into the allegations of charges of corruption made against certain public functionaries and related matters. This act is probably the only act which has been widely discussed in the parliament and thus has generated much public awareness.
The judgment thus deals with the following Act/Sections:
(1) Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 – Sections 3, 4, 10, 14, 16, 37 and 63
(2) Constitution of India- Articles 14, 50
Just Society had challenged Sections 3 (2) (a), 4 (1) (d), 4 (1) (e), 4(2), Second Proviso to Section 4(3), Section 10, the proviso to Section 14(3), Section 16, Section 37(2) and Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’) to be ultra vires to Articles 14 and 50 of the Constitution of India.
(1)The Primary Ground on which the Petitioner challenged the Constitutionality of several provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 was that the Chief Justice of India or his nominee Judge of the Supreme Court, under Section 4 (1) (d) of the Act is merely a member of the Selection Committee in the matter of appointment of Chairperson and Members of the Lokpal and that the Chief Justice or his nominee judge does not hold any primacy in the said appointment procedure.
(2) Further, the Petitioners also contended that it would be the Chief Justice of India or his nominee who would be best suited to decide on the suitability of any Former Judge of the Supreme Court whose name would have been considered for appointment.
(3) Lastly, the Petitioners contended that there were no norms or criteria which was laid down for the appointment of an “eminent jurist” under Section 4 (1) (e) of the Act and therefore it was contended that the aforesaid provision was legally and constitutionally fragile.
The Petition was dismissed after hearing the Petitioners and the Respondents did not make submissions in the instant case.
Ratio of the Court (As authored by Justice Ranjan Gogoi)
It is the absolute prerogative of the Legislature to confer primacy or not to confer primacy on an authority in the appointment procedure of any Committee and merely because of the reason that such absence of primacy is in contrast to other statues, it does not render the impugned provisions unconstitutional.
(1) The Bench did not find any unconstitutionality of the several impugned provisions of the Act and held them to be Constitutionally Valid.
(2) The Court held that if the Legislature in its wisdom had thought it proper not to accord primacy to the opinion of the Chief Justice or his nominee judge and if the legislature had accorded equal status to the opinion rendered by the Chief Justice or his nominee judge and if it desired to treat such opinion at par with the opinions of the other Members of the Selection Committee, then such Legislative Wisdom could not be challenged on the ground of Constitutional Infirmity.
(3) The Court opined that conferring primacy on any Authority was totally a Legislative Function and even if the Legislative Opinion engrafted in the Act was in contrast to what was provided in other Statutes, such legislative opinion, by itself, could not be regarded as Constitutionally Impermissible.
(4) Insofar as the Appointment of an “Eminent Jurist” was concerned, the Court held that since the decision was left to a high power body consisting of High Constitutional Functionaries, no ex- facie illegality could be discerned in Section 4 (1) (e) of the Act.
(5) Finding no merit in the Contentions of the Petitioners, the Writ Petition filed by the Petitioner was dismissed.