No ‘Mahabharata’ between judiciary & government: Rijiju amid differences over Collegium system

Judges are not elected, so can't be replaced but people form opinion about them from judgements


NEW DELHI, Jan 23: Noting that apparent differences between the government and judiciary on an issue are portrayed as "Mahabharta" by some people, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday said this is "not true at all" and that debate and discussion are part of the democratic culture.
The minister's remarks came at a time when the government and the judiciary have differences over the process of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. Addressing an event organised by Delhi Bar Association at Tis Hazari courts here, Rijiju said he belongs to a political party where it is emphasised that there can be "matbhed" (differences) but not "manbhed" (acrim-ony).
He said there are regular interactions on several issues between the government and the judiciary and there is "live contact" with discussion taking place from small to big issues.
"Sometimes, you will see are there some differences, is there is coordination between the government and the judiciary. If there is no discussion or debate in democracy, what democracy is it is. If the Supreme Court has some views, the government has some views, there are differences in the views, some people present it as if there is Mahabharata between the government and the judiciary. It is not true at all," he said.
"There are differences..I have come from a political party. In My party BJP it is said from very beginning that there can be 'matbhed' but there should not be 'manbhed'. We meet and there can be sometimes difference of opinion. It does not mean that we are attacking each other," he added.
The Minister also pitched for a "robust and independent judiciary", saying if the independence of the judiciary is diluted, democracy will not be successful.
"For a strong democracy in India, a robust and independent judiciary is a must. If the independence of the judiciary is diluted or its authority, dignity and honour are weakened, then democracy will not be successful," Rijiju said on Monday.
He said the Indian constitution has seen several amendments in response to the emerging situation.
"Sometimes some challenges appear. We are a developing nation. It is wrong to think that there could not be changes in the running system. Changes are also made in an established system in view of challenges and situations. This is the reason Indian Constitution has been amended over a hundred times," the minister said.
He said people are watching the judges and people make assessments of judgment and the way they deliver justice.
"After becoming judges, they don't have to face elections or scrutiny by the public...Public is watching the judges, their judgments and the way they deliver justice, and make their assessments...In this era of social media, nothing can be hidden," he said.
Rijiju had earlier this month written to the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud for the inclusion of government nominees in the collegium system for appointments to the higher judiciary.
The Minister later said in a tweet that the move was a follow-up action of the direction of Supreme Court Constitution Bench while striking down the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act.
He said the SC Constitution Bench had directed to restructure the Memorandum of Procedure of the collegium system.
"The contents in the letter to hon'ble CJI are exactly in conformity with the observations and directions of the Supreme Court Constitution Bench. Convenient politics is not advisable, especially in the name of Judiciary. Constitution of India is supreme and nobody is above it,"the minister had said in a tweet on January 16 responding to a tweet by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"How can a govt's nominee be part of the collegium? Some people make comment without knowing the facts! The Constitution Bench of hon'ble SC itself had asked to restructure the MoP. Search-cum-Evaluation committee is envisaged for preparation of panel of eligible candidates," Rijiju had said in a tweet on January 17.
As judges are not elected, they do not face public scrutiny but people watch them and make assessment about them from the way they deliver justice, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said on January 23, 2023..
The Minister’s remarks at a Republic Day function organised at the Tis Hazari courts complex in New Delhi came amid a tug of war between the judiciary and the executive.
Mr. Rijiju said due to social media, ordinary citizens ask questions from the government and they should do so. The government is attacked and questioned “and we face it”, he said.
“If people elect us again, we will return to power. If they don’t, we’ll sit in opposition and question the government,” he said .
He said on the other hand if a person becomes a judge, he does not have to face elections. “There is no public scrutiny of judges,” he said.
“…as people don’t elect you, they cannot replace you. But people are watching you — your judgements, the way you deliver verdict — people are watching and make assessment and form opinion,” he said.
Nothing is hidden in the era of social media, he said.
Mr. Rijiju said the Chief Justice of India had requested him to do something about the attacks on judges on the social media. He wanted to know how to control the insulting language against judges.
He said the judges cannot argue on a public forum as there are limitations.
“I have thought about what should be done. There is a provision of contempt. But when people comment on a mass scale, then what can be done. While we are facing public scrutiny and criticism on a daily basis, judges too are facing the same now,” he said.
He claimed judges too these days are a little careful, because if they deliver a verdict which will result in a “massive reaction” in society, then they too would be affected as they are also humans.

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