NEW DELHI: Under fire from Chief Justice (CJI) R M Lodha, for “unilaterally” rejecting the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation for Gopal Subramanium’s appointment to the apex court, the Centre on Wednesday averted any further friction by emphasising that it held the judiciary and the CJI in high esteem.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said while he had “no comments” to make on the controversy, the government had “the highest regard for the judiciary”, CJI and the Supreme Court.
“I have no comment to make. But I want to reiterate that Narendra Modi Government has the highest respect for the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary, including that of the Supreme Court, is an Article of Faith for the government. We have the highest respect for the CJI,” Prasad reiterated. Despite Prasad’s public posturing, the Centre remained defensive on the issue throughout the day till the Union Cabinet met. Significantly, the BJP-led NDA Government also cited a previous instance where former UPA Law Minister Veerappa Moily had similarly struck down C K Prasad’s name for appointment as SC Judge on the basis of an anonymous letter.
Sources also said that had the collegium sent back Subramanium’s name, the government would have abided by it, “If the person withdraws, the government cannot be faulted for that,” they said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who also joined the chorus, pointed out that Subramanium had himself dropped out of the the race, leaving no scope for reconsideration. It blamed the media for “blowing up the issue”.“The CJI had given his comments as he came back from abroad on June 28. I cannot comment on the merits and de-merits of what the CJI said,” he said.
Lodha had taken strong exception to the Centre’s handling of the collegium’s recommendation for Subramanium’s appointment, saying it was not proper for the Executive to unilaterally segregate his name from the three others, who had been confirmed as judges of the apex court.The CJI had also pulled up Subramanium for acting in haste as it left the collegium with little option.