A day after the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission act that gave the government a say in judges’ appointments, the Congress said it would not support any “adventurism” on the issue, indicating that the NDA regime would find it tough to get Parliament’s approval for a revised version of the bill.
The change in the party’s stand — after it had backed the government’s constitution amendment bill to set up the NJAC in Parliament last year — is part of its strategy to corner the ruling side on various issues.
It was a departure from its guarded response immediately after the verdict on Friday, when it said “discretion to appoint judges must be based on objective and not subjective criteria”.
On Saturday, party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi asserted, “We are not going to support adventurism of the government per se and the adventurism we have seen till now has been of subverting hallowed institutions and, certainly, the judiciary is the most hallowed of them.”
“You may not have seen a direct assault till now but given past record, in less than 18 months in trying to dilute and subvert institutions, I think it is a very fair warning where the judiciary is concerned.”
He added, “You have to forget the past and look ahead. The way forward is to realise there is a great trust deficit as far as the government is concerned.”
The main opposition party, however, pointed out the collegium system of judges appointing judges, which has now been restored, was far from perfect as it was “shrouded in secrecy and over confidentiality”.
“We certainly don’t accept the collegium as excellent or unexceptional. It has much to answer and much to improve and that understanding and acknowledgement is there in the judiciary in this judgment itself, which is why on November 3 you are having a hearing to try and address that part of the issue,” Singhvi said.
Admitting to weaknesses in the collegium system, the Supreme Court had in its ruling, sought suggestions for improvements.
Other parties, however, did not seem to share the Congress’ new stand. In line with the BJP’s response that it was a “setback for parliamentary sovereignty”, the Samajwadi Party said the verdict had put a question mark on the legislative powers of Parliament and assemblies.
“Not just our party, all parties were unanimous on the new law. We will raise the issue in the next session of Parliament,” senior leader Naresh Agarwal said.
Senior lawyer and former solicitor general Harish Salve called the SC verdict “unacceptable” and the court’s arguments “fallacious”.
“The Constitution isn’t about just one branch working independently but, rather, all three arms (legislature, executive, and judiciary) working together in harmony,” he said in an interview to Karan Thapar.
The DMK and AIADMK did not have any immediate response, preferring to study the order and discuss it with the leadership.