Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said that by giving itself absolute power to appoint judges, the Supreme Court has created an imbalance in the scheme of checks and balances envisaged under the Constitution.
Participating in a ‘Legislature versus Judiciary’ debate on Times Now TV channel with former Chief Justice of India (CHI) RM Lodha, Jaitley said the Supreme Court has given a meaning to Articles 124 and 217 (on appointment of SC and HC judges) of the Constitution which was completely contrary to what it originally meant.
Jaitley said judicial appointments were to be made by the President in consultation with the CJI. But now it was the judiciary which was making appointments and the SC said the presence of the executive in National Judicial Appointments Commission would vitiate the appointments. He asked weren’t CAG, CEC and CVC independent despite being appointed by the government?
“We need a judiciary which is not just independent but also credible,” said the former law minister.
He said the NJAC was brought because there was complete political unanimity on it and one of the most distinguished CJI’s MN Venkatachaliah had recommended it.
He said while emphasizing on the independence of judiciary as a basic feature of constitution, the SC ignored other important features of the constitution such as parliamentary sovereignty and separation of power.
While defending the collegium system of appointing judges revived by the Supreme Court, Justice Lodha admitted it was opaque and faulty and needed improvements.
“One of the problems is that the executive feels it’s just a post office and does not participate in the consultative process,” the former CJI said, adding it should be made transparent and assisted by an expert body.
“Will you implement RTI in judiciary?” asked Jaitley.
Senior advocate Rajiv Dhavan, who supported Justice Lodha in defending the collegiums system, said the NJAC had a ‘faulty design’.
Dhavan said people went to judiciary and not Parliament and when their rights were violated as the judiciary was the custodian of citizens’ fundamental right.
Jaitley shot back: “I am the only person on the dias who went to jail during Emergency. When we went to the Supreme Court, they failed to protect our rights.” To say that Judiciary alone could protect people was not correct, he added.
Former attorney general Soli Sorabjee highlighted the minority verdict written by Justice J Chelemeswar who criticised the 22-year-old collegiums system.