The Supreme Court on Tuesday put the government on the back foot by questioning poor financial allocation to the judiciary, saying it was affecting the functioning of courts.
“With 0.07 percent of the total plan outlay allocated for the judiciary, how do you expect the judiciary to function?” a five-judge Constitution bench asked additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta while hearing petitions against the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
The court’s question came after Mehta — representing the Gujarat government — argued that the court should not junk the NJAC without letting it function.
Poor allocation to the judiciary has been a contentious issue and successive CJIs have raised it with the government. “Governments think the judiciary is a non-productive organ of the state. They hardly spend on the judiciary… less than 0.5 per cent of the budget is spent on the judiciary,” the then Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha told HT last year.
Earlier this year, CJI HL Dattu demanded that there must be an effective mechanism to factor the inputs of the judiciary while deciding budgetary questions.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) supported the Centre’s stand that the NJAC can’t be declared unconstitutional in the name of violation of independence of judiciary.
If the method of selection and appointment of judges did not go against the Constitution, then its actual implementation must be experienced instead of deciding its validity on apprehensions, senior advocate Dushyant Dave told the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice JS Khehar on behalf of SCBA.
He, however, disagreed with the Centre’s submission that the collegium system would not get automatically revived, if the NJAC was declared unconstitutional.
Maintaining that independence of judiciary was the part of the basic structure of the Constitution, Dave asserted that parliamentary democracy too was a part it and stood on a higher pedestal.