From pendency of cases, lack of infrastructure to appointments and transfers of judges, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday debated critical issues related to the judiciary.
Initiating the debate on the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the judiciary had failed to stem the tide of “militant majoritarianism”.
“The judiciary’s inaction almost always favours those in power. By its continued inaction, the court has not only allowed the government’s sins against citizens to go unpunished, but led some critics to ask whether the Supreme Court should also be considered an accomplice to the violation of rights granted by the Constitution.”
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju is expected to make a statement on the Bill on Wednesday. The Bill seeks to bring clarity on the date of eligibility of a retired judge to receive additional quantum of pension.
On the face-off between the government and judiciary, Tharoor said the Supreme Court’s (SC) independence had come under scrutiny in recent years, and the first problem was the government’s considerable influence on judicial appointments and transfers.
“Going back to the first term of this government. The face-off over judicial appointments commission in 2015, tussles between the judiciary and the executive.an eminent senior advocate withdrawing from consideration for elevation to SC given implacable hostility in Executive because in his previous position as Solicitor General in UPA-II and his role as amicus to SC in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case,” the Congress MP said. “A number of judges were transferred inexplicably, even when their retirements were only months away. At least two of these judges include those who had earlier ruled unfavourably for the government in the Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin cases.”
“Now sticks can be balanced with carrots,” he said. “We saw the appointment of former CJI as a Rajya Sabha MP.”
Objecting to this, MoS, Parliamentary Affairs, Arjun Ram Meghwal said, “This is not related. Before he spoke about Babri Masjid also. This is not right.”
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said, “Sir, referring to a particular case. What is this? Are we going to refer to particular cases and talk about their judgments? The case is still pending.”
BJP member P P Chaudhary said there is a need to revisit the process of appointment of judges and called for greater accountability of the judiciary.
Supporting the Bill, DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran said the government is ironing out differences in two judgments on when a retried judge will be eligible for pension. He, however, said the government cannot unnecessarily interfere with the judiciary.
Maran also demanded that a regional bench of the SC be set up in South India.
Trinamool Congress’s Kalyan Banerjee criticised the government for not clearing appointments to HCs expeditiously. Questioning the decision to not appoint candidates whose names have been reiterated by the SC collegium, Banerjee said the government is violating the Memorandum of Procedure for appointing judges.
“If a lawyer belongs to BJP, (or is) directly or indirectly associated with BJP, then in these cases (they) are appointed in rocket-speed,” he said.
Banerjee also criticised the transfer of former Madras HC Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee as Chief Justice of Meghalaya HC. “This is not acceptable. I know you (government) have not done this. This is done by the collegium,” Banerjee said. “I am requesting from Parliament to the collegium reconsider the decision. Justice Banerjee is not losing anything, but you (judiciary) are.”
YSR Congress MP Geeta Vishwanath also called for revisiting the collegium system of appointing judges.
JD(U) MP Mahabali Singh said judges who take up post-retirement jobs must not be eligible for pension, while BSP’s Shyam Singh Yadav criticised the government for intervening in appointments and transfers of judges. “Judiciary is the only institution the people trust. This image has to be protected,” he said.
TMC MP Apurupa Poddar called for bringing a law for establishing All India Judicial Services to ensure diversity in the judiciary.
Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary spoke about the state of virtual infrastructure in the judiciary and security of judges, referring to a case related to the death of a judicial officer in Dhanbad. “Self-reliance is the foundation of an independent judiciary,” he said on the issue of raising salaries of subordinate judges.
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