Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has finally spoken. A week after the controversy over the government's objection to the Gopal Subramanium being elevated as an SC judge - as proposed by the SC collegium - the CJI has taken strong objection to the executive's move. He has reiterated his commitment to the independence of judiciary and clearly said the executive's unilateral move was not proper.
The only quibble with Lodha's statement can be that it has come a bit late in the day, but he has done great service in standing up to a government, which, riding fresh on an overwhelming mandate, appears to think that it need not respect institutional autonomy. Subramanium's move to withdraw his candidature may appear a bit hasty, but the manner in which his name was segregated shows the Modi regime had an axe to grind with him. This, Subramanium has argued, relates to his role as amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin encounter case.
Read: Is the Sohrabuddin case hurting Subramanium?
The objection to Subramanium's name is ostensibly because of a CBI input, but we do know that his name was cleared by security agencies only a few weeks ago. The tendency of government agencies to toe the line of the political regime and tailor reports accordingly is not new- Congress, in fact, was a master at this. Remember the manner in which former law minister Ashwini Kumar sought to influence the CBI in the Coalgate case.
Read: Gopal Subramanium lashes out at government after declining appointment as SC judge
A file photo of Former solicitor general of India and senior advocate Gopal Subramanium. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
The BJP must remember that it has been a political beneficiary of the UPA's moves to cripple institutions. This dented the previous government's credibility, eroded the checks and balances within the system, and may have made certain ministers more powerful in their respective turfs temporarily but caused more lasting damage to the larger ecosystem of governance. It is natural for those in power to seek to expand their power, and get rid of 'inconveniences'. But they have to operate within the rules of the game.
The signs in the first month of the Modi government are not encouraging in this regard. Its willingness to bring in an ordinance - after criticising UPA for ordinance raj - to appoint its own man as the PM's principal secretary: the tendency to bypass elected representatives and rely on bureaucrats even though it is the minister who is accountable to Parliament; the desire to appoint their own loyalists as governors; and now the Subramanium issue are all instances of a certain unhealthy trend.
Read: Doubted only Gopal Subramanium's suitability, says govt
Make no mistake, this is all exactly what the Congress has done all these years. But weren't we told that BJP is different, that there will be change, and acche din are about to come? Emulating the worst of Congress' political culture may not be the way to do it.
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