The opposition on Thursday slammed the UPA government for its internal disconnect, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described law minister Salman Khurshid's remarks against the judiciary sending top business executives to jail as "stray thoughts".
Singh, en route to India from South Africa on Wednesday night, had also said that ministers "sometimes take advantage" of democracy by making such statements.
In response to a question on Khurshid's remarks earlier this month that keeping top business executives in jail could hurt investments, Singh replied: "Well, it would not be proper for me to comment on the stray thoughts of what my minister has said."
The Prime Minister's statement provided ammunition to the BJP and the Left parties.
"There is a disconnect within the government. The right hand does not know what the left is doing. It is strange that ministers are making statements. But on being pulled up, they say the remarks were casual and not serious," said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said Khurshid's statement and the Prime Minister's clarification raised questions about the collective functioning of the government. "It raises questions about whose statement should be taken as authoritative and whether the principle of collective functioning is being followed."
The Prime Minister, in response to a question on comments by some ministers about judicial intervention in policy-making, replied: "We are a functioning democracy... Ministers sometimes take advantage of that to express opinion. But as a government, we have high respect and high regard for the judiciary."