Maintaining that an independent judiciary was a pre-condition for a successful democracy, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said on Thursday it was facing both external and internal challenges that needed to be dealt with.
Delivering the 37th Bhimsen Sachar Memorial Lecture on Independent Judiciary: Bastian of Democracy, CJI Thakur said, “You can’t talk of democracy, if you don’t have an independent judiciary.”
Justice Thakur said the process of appointment of judges cannot be “hijacked” and the judiciary cannot depend on executive in choosing judges. “You cannot say the executive will choose its judges. Judiciary must have complete freedom in assigning as to who would be the judges who will decide a case,” he added.
Justice Thakur, who has been critical of the government for delaying appointment of judges in various high courts, defended the Supreme Court’s verdict declaring the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) unconstitutional.
There were two views on the NJAC, but the Supreme Court was the last word on interpretation of law and it thought the presence of law minister and two government nominees in the appointment panel would be a threat to independence of judiciary, said the CJI who is due to retire on January 3, 2017.
Dwelling on internal threats to judicial independence, Justice Thakur quoted noted jurist Fali Nariman to say “citadel crumbles from within.”
Barely five days ago, had the CJI lashed out at the Centre over the large number of vacancies in high courts and lack of infrastructure for the judiciary, drawing an instant rebuttal from law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the prickly issue. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi had commented, “Everyone, including judiciary, must recognise there is lakshman rekha and be ready for introspection”.