The Supreme Court judgment declaring the former chief vigilance commissioner PJ Thomas’ appointment illegal may influence top government appointments in future and the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.
The three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia, made it clear in its 71-page judgment that the government is accountable to courts for the legality of its decisions.
“The government is not accountable to the courts in respect of policy decisions. However, they are accountable for the legality of such decisions,” the SC said in its order.
The government, for the record, has maintained so far that the verdict is not its indictment, but a corrective step by the SC. But there is nervousness within the government that such a verdict could open a Pandora’s box.Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan who argued the petition challenging the CVC’s appointment, however, does not agree. "In my view, this will certainly encourage citizens to speak out against wrong appointments in important places. But it should not be seen as an impediment in the functioning of the government."
Former police official Prakash Singh, now actively working for administrative reforms, said, “The Supreme Court decision will make the system more transparent and will help in checking arbitrariness of those in power. From now on, even in exercising their discretion, they will be careful.”
The difficulty before the government is that though it has been on a back-foot, it cannot speak out against the judgment. “We made our point of view clear before the court, but we finally accept the verdict,” said law minister M Veerappa Moily.
He refused to accept that the judgment might have a bearing on the accepted principle of separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive.
Singh partially agreed with the minister. “Normally the Supreme Court does not interfere with appointments made by governments...,” he said.
Bhushan was of the view that judicial review of appointments does not mean any encroachment by the judiciary. “It is the duty of the judiciary to see whether the executive is performing its functions correctly.”