The Centre was within its rights to “seek a reconsideration” of a name recommended by the Supreme Court collegium for appointment as judge and to give its inputs, Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday.
Prasad said it was not right to say that the government was committing a “cardinal sin” by giving its views.
His remarks come in the background of the controversy over the government asking the collegium to reconsider its recommendation to elevate Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to the apex court.
“Even in the collegium system architecture, created by the three judgments of 1993, 1998 and 1999 and 2015 of the NJAC, the right of the government has been acknowledged to seek a reconsideration and also to give inputs. Therefore, when I see these kinds of things — as if giving our views we are committing a cardinal sin — with great respect, (it) is not the right position in law,” Prasad said while addressing an event at the launch of a website and mobile app of the Law Ministry to monitor progress in development of judicial infrastructure in real-time.
Prasad said the government will “continue to respectfully and gently convey our views” — and that “obviously the collegium has to take a call”.
He said the Centre was led by people committed to the cause of independence of the judiciary. “This government is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, all of whom fought the Emergency for three freedoms: individual freedom, press freedom and independence of judiciary. Therefore, this government is led by leaders who suffered for the cause of independence of judiciary at the most trying time. That commitment shall remain absolutely unshakeable.”
He reiterated that the Law Ministry, and the minister, is “not a post office simpliciter” in the matter of judicial appointments and sought to rubbish charges that the government was going slow in appointing judges to various High Courts. Prasad pointed out that the government had appointed 126 High Court judges in 2016, which, he said, is the highest in the last 30 years, and that the Centre hopes to surpass this number this year.
On digitalisation of courts, he said about 71 per cent of total courts in the country had become e-courts, and 33 per cent of this was done in the last four years. “All district courts must become e-courts by 2018-19,” he said.
Prasad also pitched for a national-level entrance test for “talent infusion” into the subordinate judiciary, PTI reported. He, however, made it clear that he was not rooting for a national-level judicial service on the lines of all-India services such as the IAS and the IPS for appointing judicial officers.