The Centre denied on Monday allegations levelled by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal that the phones of judges were being tapped and that the Narendra Modi government was interfering in their appointments.
Kejriwal claimed he “overheard judges telling each other that they should not talk on mobile phones because they could be tapped”.
“I don’t know whether it is true or not but there is a widespread fear. If it is true that phones are tapped then judges can be influenced...,” he said during the golden jubilee celebrations of Delhi high court.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India TS Thakur were also present at the event.
“There are many other ways to gather evidence for wrongdoing, otherwise it will be the biggest assault on the independence of the judiciary,” Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal’s allegation was rebutted at the same event by Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who said that the Modi government’s commitment to the independence of the judiciary is ‘fundamental, impeachable and uncompromising’.
Prasad, who spoke after Kejriwal, said,“I have been the communication minister for two years and I completely deny that phones of judges are tapped at all.”
Kejriwal also referred to the actions of judiciary as well as the executives which may take away the rights of the people.
“If any action of the executive snatches the power of the people, if any judicial interpretation of the Constitution takes away power of the people then it is not good for democracy,” Kejriwal said.
The Delhi CM’s comments have come at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is involved in a face-off with the judiciary over the recruitment of judges. On Friday, the Supreme Court pulled up the Centre for “scuttling” the working of the judiciary by sitting over appointments of high court judges.
“Today, we have a situation where courtrooms are locked because there are no judges. For example, Karnataka where one floor is shut. Why don’t you lock the courts and lock out justice?” Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said.
The Centre and the top court are at loggerheads since the SC struck down the national judicial appointments commission (NJAC) act . The law was brought in to end more than 20-year-old practice, unique to India, of judges appointing judges under the collegium system, with the government having no say in the process.
The SC had asked the government to frame the memorandum of procedure, a set of guidelines on appointment of judges to the apex court and high courts in the country, to be finalised in consultation with the CJI and the collegium but the two sides have failed to agree on it.
(with inputs from PTI)