Updated: October 28, 2015 1:35:05 pm
Admitting that the political class has been “always making” attempts to control the judiciary, former Union law minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj has dubbed the Supreme Court judgment in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case as landmark as it “protects” the independence of judiciary.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the former Karnataka governor also questioned the Congress, which has tried to distance itself from the NJAC after the judgment, for helping the NDA government pass the Bill in Parliament.
Asked if it was his opinion that through measures like the NJAC politicians try to control judiciary, Bhardwaj said, “Is there any doubt about it? They have always been making attempts. I can show you examples of chief ministers and ministers trying to influence appointment of judges because they land in trouble very frequently. You get a study done, how many people are there in politics with cases against them. Today, nobody is free from cases, every big man is facing cases. They want to have a convenient judiciary. But is it in national interest if you appoint convenient judges? … Indira Gandhi told me once if judges had not been independent, Morarji (Desai) wouldn’t have allowed her to come out of jail. This was after the same judiciary had set aside her election from Allahabad.”
“All my life, I have seen chief ministers tending to interfere in the functioning of the judiciary and my own colleagues (at the Centre). I had a very difficult time because I had to face Parliament and I also had to keep the people of India convinced that judiciary in our country was independent,” he said. “If you appoint a judge simply because a chief minister says appoint him, what will be the fate of the judiciary? All counsel also agree with the need to keep judiciary independent. Fortunately, judiciary has, time and again, demonstrated that in difficult times it is independent. According to me, this (post-NJAC Bill passage) was a very difficult time and these hon’ble judges, who have delivered the judgment, have done a great service to the nation.”
But why did the Congress support the legislation? “I have said it was a misconceived legislation even if the Congress supported it. All those who are trying to interfere in judicial work or the appointment process, this will go against the interest of the country. Because judiciary is responsible to administer the rule of law. I was governor at that time (when the previous UPA government first tried to bring in the NJAC) and I was disappointed when they brought the Bill. It is well known that I opposed it even then. I was overruled. But it was not passed and I must give credit to Dr Manmohan Singh for it. He understood it. I don’t understand how it occurred to the present government to get it passed and so vigorously they are defending it even today.” Asked if the UPA tried to bring in the NJAC because it was at the receiving end of strong judicial pronouncements in various scams, he said, “I can’t say about scams. But definitely the advice tendered to the earlier government was bad.”
On why the Congress, having first supported the government in getting the NJAC Bill passed, is trying to distance itself, he said, “Half-hearted. Congress is in the opposition today and they will need judiciary at every step. Is it not in their interest… to keep the judiciary as a weapon. If independent judiciary is there, it will be a weapon. What will happen if there is a committed judiciary?… Yes, Congress has to answer (to the country) why it supported it.”
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