New Delhi: In a sharp reaction to the Supreme Court collegium’s decision to make government objections to certain names recommended for judgeship public, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said Monday that to reveal sensitive and serious information provided by Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) was a matter of “grave concern”.
Last week the SC collegium, led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, uploaded three detailed resolutions on the top court’s official website, in which it reiterated its earlier opinion to elevate three advocates as high court judges. In a first, the resolution recorded the government’s objections to these three names and contained the collegium’s response to them, as well as the reasons for clearing the names, despite the executive’s opposition.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a law ministry event, Rijiju said putting out secret information gathered on candidates proposed by the collegium for elevation could have serious consequences and affect the verification process that is carried out by the Government of India to check the background of the nominees. This verification process is part of the appointment procedure outlined in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), a rulebook on judicial appointments for high courts and the Supreme Court.
The minister added: “If the concerned officer, who is working for the nation in a disguised or a secretive mode in a secretive location will think twice (to give information) tomorrow, if his or her report is going to be in the public domain. It will have implications.”
On being asked whether he had “sensitised” the CJI about the concerns, Rijiju simply said: “We have to work together and cannot work in isolation.”
The minister also sought to clarify his remarks on the appointment system of judges which drew criticism from some and said he was not commenting on any judicial order, but on the administration part of the judicial system.
‘Judicial appointments have nothing to do with judicial order’
The law minister referred to tweets criticising him for his statements on the collegium and the MoP and accusing him of “lowering the dignity of the SC”.
“Nobody in India says that he or she will defy court order. The order of a bench is totally different, whereas administration of justice is totally different,” the minister added, specifying that judicial appointments have nothing to do with a judicial order or pronouncement, but are administrative matters of the institution.
Rijiju refused to comment further on the “contentious issue”. He, however, said that with over four crore cases pending in courts, both judiciary and the Union government would have to make a combined effort to tackle it. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” the minister added, saying : “One organ of the state cannot alone do everything.”
He also emphasised on the need to find technological solutions to challenges staring at the judiciary, particularly on the issue of backlog of cases and called to strengthen the alternative dispute mechanism. The law minister also hinted that the mediation bill (to facilitate mediation, especially institutional mediation, to resolve disputes) is likely to be passed in the upcoming budget session of Parliament, starting 31 January.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)