NEW DELHI: Sharp differences were visible between BJP and Congress over the striking down of NJAC Act by Supreme Court, hinting at an uphill task for the government in case it wants to bring a new version of the legislation after the opposition party stressed on the "primacy of judiciary".
As Congress appeared to be siding with the judiciary, the ruling BJP accused it of playing "petty politics" and taking a U-turn in the wake of the Dadri lynching incident. The NDA government suffered a huge setback yesterday as Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, which gives a major role to the executive in the appointment of judges to higher judiciary.
Commenting on the matter, senior Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said, "With the Executive having more voice, the dominant voice in the selection of judges and the primacy of the judiciary and Chief Justice of India is undermined.
"That should never be allowed to happen as the Constitution is supreme, not the Executive," said. The former Union Minister said, in an apparent reference to the Dadri lynching, that what has been happening in India has "raised concerns nationally and globally about the future of our parliamentary democracy and Constitution, particularly of free and full enjoyment of constitutional guarantees and fundamental rights".
"It is important that the primacy of judiciary is there," he said, adding that even the legislature takes oath under the Constitution. He also said that there is a "clear separation of powers".
BJP spokesman Sambit Patra, however, was quick to attack Congress as he reminded that the party had supported the NJAC Bill along with all other parties in Parliament.
"As far as Congress is concerned, they are habitual hypocrites. It is astonishing that they are bringing the matter of the Sahitya Kala Academy award winners into the NJAC issue. It is absolutely appalling and shows the mental bankruptcy of Congress," he said.
The NJAC issue needed academic deliberations, Patra said. BJP spokesman Patra said, "We should remind Congress that when NJAC was brought on the floor of Parliament, there was 100 per cent support for it among political parties. Congress, too, had supported it and 20 state Assemblies had also supported it and this is absolutely important as far as the decision of the polity of the country."
Approaching the NJAC issue from a political viewpoint is "absolutely wrong" as it was a decision for the appointment of the judiciary, he said. "This should be seen only through an academic prism not through petty politics," he said.
Meanwhile, at a Congress briefing, its spokesman Abhishek Singhvi indicated that the party would not support any government move to bring a new version of National Judicial Appointments Commission for appointments to higher judiciary.
"We are not going to support adventurism of the government per se," Singhvi said when asked whether the party, which had backed the NJAC Bill, will support any move by the government to bring a new law to give the executive a say in the appointment of the judges of higher judiciary.
"You have to forget the past and look ahead. The way forward is to realise that there is a great trust deficit as far as the government is concerned," he claimed. The ambitious NJAC Act, 2014, to replace the 22-year-old collegium system of judges appointing judges was struck down by a five-judge Constitution Bench of the apex court, setting the stage for a potential confrontation between the judiciary and the government.