Government not committing cardinal sin by seeking reconsideration of collegium recommendations: Ravi Shankar Prasad
The Law Minister also made a veiled attack on the Congress, claiming that parties which had lost in elections were using courts to hit out at the ruling party through 'sponsored litigation'.
NEW DELHI: Asserting that “giving views was not a cardinal sin”, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday backed his Ministry’s decision to reconsider some of the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendations on the appointment of judges.
The minister also refuted the Opposition’s allegations that the government was stalling appointments to the higher judiciary. A record number of appointments in the Supreme Court and 24 high courts were made under the Narendra Modi government, he said.
But, neither the law minister nor the law ministry was a “post office” which would only process the Collegium’s recommendations on the appointment of judges, he said, apparently referring to the controversy over the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court. The government respects the apex court’s verdict to quash the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, he said.
But by seeking reconsideration, “giving our views is no cardinal sin”, he said. “We have a Constitutional role...We shall continue to respectfully and gently convey our views. Obviously, the Collegium has to take a call.” Prasad said, after launching ‘Nyaya Vikas’, an online monitoring system to ensure smooth and speedy justice.
The minister spoke at length about appointments of judges since 2014 when the NDA government came to power. He said the years 2014 and 2015 were “lost” in the “NJAC battle” when appointments were stalled due to a lack of procedure. “In 2016, we appointed 126 HC judges, which was the highest in last 30 years.
Since 1989, an average of 79 to 82 judges were appointed (per annum).” In 2017, 117 HC judges were appointed and till now 30 judges were made additional judges in High Courts. “And...I am pretty sure, that the highest number of 126 appointments will be surpassed when 2018 ends,” he said.
The Law Minister also made a veiled attack on the Congress, claiming that parties which had lost in elections were using courts to hit out at the ruling party through “sponsored litigation”.
Prasad also spoke at length on the differences between the Chief Justice of India and four seniormost SC judges which came out in the open. The judiciary has enough “foresight and statesmanship” to settle differences within it, he said, urging the political class to remain “immune”.
“Judges will come and go but the institution of the judiciary will remain the same... We must respect their institutional integrity...the government’s commitment for a robust judiciary is complete and total,” he added.