Rijiju removed as law minister against backdrop of standoff with judiciary
Arjun Ram Meghwal, who is from poll-bound Rajasthan, has been assigned the law and justice portfolio as an independent charge
The reshuffle in the Union council of ministers and removal of Kiren Rijiju as the law and justice minister on Thursday came against the backdrop of the standoff between the government and the judiciary including over the collegium system for appointing judges.
A ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, who did not wish to be named, said Rijiju’s transfer could be explained by the standoff over a host of reasons including the collegium system and the confrontation between the minister and the judiciary.
Arjun Ram Meghwal, who is from poll-bound Rajasthan, has been assigned the law and justice portfolio with an independent charge as minister of state. He will also continue to hold his existing portfolios of parliamentary affairs and culture.
Meghwal is a former bureaucrat and a prominent Scheduled Caste face of the BJP in Congress-ruled Rajasthan, where polls are due to be held later this year. A three-time Member of Parliament from Bikaner, he is known for championing the cause of the environment. He is often seen cycling to Parliament.
Rijiju has termed the collegium system of appointing judges “opaque”, “alien to the Constitution” and the “only system in the world where judges appoint people known to them”.
He maintained there is no confrontation between the judiciary and the executive even as he emphasised that judges cannot be appointed through judicial orders and that it has to be done by the government.
Rijiju has asserted the role of the executive in the appointment of judges, stressing that judicial appointment is not a function of the judiciary and that its primary role is to decide cases.
He maintained the government’s position is clear that it will follow the collegium system until a new system is in place.
Rijiju in March lamented that a few retired judges and some activists who were part of an “anti-India gang” are trying to turn the judiciary against the government.
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a plea demanding action against Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and Rijiju for their contentious remarks on the judiciary and the collegium system.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Bombay Lawyers Association (BLA) against a Bombay high court order. In its plea before the high court, the lawyers’ body alleged that Rijiju and Dhankhar disqualified themselves to hold the constitutional posts by showing a lack of faith in the Constitution through their conduct and utterances made in public against the Supreme Court and the collegium.
The Association referred to a raft of statements made by Rijiju and Dhankhar over the last year, marking an ongoing confrontation between the executive and the judiciary over the judges’ selection mechanism and the division of powers between the two.
Dhankhar has also questioned the collegium system. The top court responded with reminders to the government that the collegium system is the law of the land that must be followed by the government “to a T”.
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