West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday came under attack from political parties and eminent lawyers for alleging there were instances when court judgements have been delivered for money.
While the BJP said the questions raised against the judiciary by the chief minister was not right, the CPI(M) described her statement as a "tactic" to put pressure on the Constitutional authority.
"It is unbecoming of a chief minister to make this sort of unsubstantiated allegation against the Constitutional authority. She shouldn't have done so," BJP leader Balbir Punj said.
If she has done so, then she must produce necessary evidence to support her charges, he said.
CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim hit out at Banerjee for her controversial statement saying the chief minister took up the issue inside the assembly when "she is at the receiving end."
"So she puts everyone on the firing line, if they don't fall in line with her. Naturally everybody has to succumb to her pressure, this is the tactic," Salim asserted.
Eminent lawyers including Soli Sorabji, Harish Salve and PP Rao also reacted to Banerjee's controversial statement.
"...What about the cases, she has won in court? Who paid the judges? Mamata? This shows the absurdity of the allegations. I mean, one expects a mature reaction...I am very very disturbed," Sorabji said.
"...if this is going to be the tone and tenor of Indian democracy, then I think our Constitution is in serious peril," Salve said.
Terming as "highly irresponsible" Banerjee's statement, PP Rao said, "this is not expected from a person holding a responsible position."
Speaking at a seminar in the House on the platinum jubilee of West Bengal assembly on Tuesday, Benerjee had said, "What I see. Why should many judgements today be delivered for money? Why? I am sorry to say. I am saying this in the assembly."
The Congress leadership also appeared to be divided on the issue. West Bengal Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya took a dig at Banerjee saying "sometimes we do not know what position we are holding."
"We think that because we are a political person we can say whatever we want to say," Bhattacharya said.
However, law minister and senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said he believed that "the intention would be that the independence of the judiciary is to be protected".
"...in what context that statement was made, I don't know. But I do believe intention would be the independence of the judiciary is to be protected, and sometimes you have to straighten the internal system so that accountability contributes to independence rather than accountability becoming a problem for independence. I am sure that that is the context," Khurshid said.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP and eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani was also critical of Banerjee's comments but said judges are not likely to take it seriously as people tend to say things unwittingly in the heat of the moment.
"It is not a wise thing to say. But I am sure she did not intend to commit any contempt of court and bring down the entire judiciary. I am sure that she knows that there are judges who deserve to be praised. I don't think our judges are also so sensitive that they will go for her. They should not. They should know that in the heat of democratic expression sometimes somebody unwittingly exceeds limits," he said.
Retired justice Santosh Hegde, who was once a member of Team Anna, said the West Bengal chief minister should have been more prudent.
"It is not right to make unsubstantiated allegations by one constitutional authority over another. It is unbecoming of a chief minister to hurl such allegations," he said.
"I wish she had been more prudent. For a person holding a Constitutional office should not have commented on another constitutional office. What I heard in news channel is quite a serious complaint. I certainly would not appreciate such comments from a person holding such high office," he said.