Modi govt may regret bid to have subservient judiciary after stepping down

Whenever a new government takes office, the BJP leaders now in power may well find themselves in the dock for their wrongdoings

CJI Y.V. Chandrachud (L); Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju
CJI Y.V. Chandrachud (L); Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju

Arun Srivastava

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ministerial colleagues feel so compelled to protect his image and personal interest that they can even go to the extent of retreating from their avowed ideological line and embrace their sworn enemies. 

Law minister Kiren Rijiju, who till a couple of days back left no occasion to decry and debase the Supreme Court, on Sunday eulogised its illustrious status by asserting that it was ‘above any organisation’.  

For the last six months, Rijiju has been acting at the behest of the Modi government and the RSS to demolish and shred the prestige and image of the Supreme Court. He now seems to have made this remark for the simple reason that last year, the court had upheld the clearance given to Modi by a special investigation team in the Gujarat riot conspiracy case.

Three days back, the BBC released a documentary in the UK which referred to Modi’s role as Gujarat chief minister during the pogrom of 2002 in which around 2000 Muslims were killed by the rioters.

Just after the documentary was released, the Modi government denounced it, but the assertion of the former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in an interview with a web portal that the British government conducted an investigation of its own because many citizens of Gujarati Muslim origin were worried about their loved ones in India and “were making representations” to that effect to the then Tony Blair government, put Modi in a vulnerable situation.

His government ended up ordering the blocking of the clips of the documentary on social media in India.

A sizeable population of Indians shared the information contained in the documentary. This evidently enraged Rijiju who tweeted, “Some people in India have still not moved away from the colonial influence. They consider BBC to be above India’s highest court and pull down the country’s prestige and image to any extent to please their ideological masters”.

Quite surprisingly, just a day ahead of this development, Rijiju had quoted a retired judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice RS Sodhi saying that the apex court cannot frame laws as it does not have the right to do so.

Before using the statement of Justice Sodhi, the government had also mentioned a past observation of retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ruma Pal. She had some reservation about the functioning of Supreme Court.

Even on Sunday, the day Rijiju eulogised the Supreme Court, he had said “the majority of the  people had ‘sane views’ similar to the one expressed by a retired High Court judge, who said the Supreme Court had ‘hijacked’ the Constitution by deciding to appoint judges by itself”.

 It is indeed ironical that Rijiju is reluctant to accept the views of the collegium, having at least three judges, but he is eager to use the statement of the retired judge.

Through his tirade against the judiciary, he has succeeded in giving the impression to the common people of the country that he is a well-versed person. Naturally, one expects that he would agree to the fact that Sodhi is one amongst thousands of retired judges. If Rijiju can accept the suggestion of a lone ‘sane’ former judge, then why is not willing to agree to the suggestions of other judges? Are they, according to him, not ‘sane’?

Only a fortnight back, Rijiju described the collegium system to appoint judges as something ‘alien’ to the Indian Constitution.

Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar has questioned the top court for striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC).

Both of them talked about the “will of the people” and said it was "undone" by the Supreme Court and "the world does not know of any such instance".

The way the Modi government has been refusing to approve the names of individuals forwarded to it for being appointed as judges either at the Supreme Court or High Courts makes it clear that it intends to enter into confrontation with the higher judiciary just ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Consistent harping on the issue by Rijiju underlines its intent to make it a big issue just ahead of the election.

Last week, the Supreme Court collegium had for the second time reiterated the names of two advocates for appointment as judges of the Calcutta High Court "expeditiously", saying it was not open for the government to repeatedly send back the same proposal. It deserves appreciation for refusing to bow down.

The three-member collegium, which makes recommendations for High Court appointments, has reiterated its decision to elevate lawyers Saurabh Kirpal to the Delhi High Court, R. John Sathyan to the Madras High Court and Somasekhar Sundaresan to the Bombay High Court.

The government’s argument has been most ridiculous. While it has objected to one of the candidate’s sexual orientation, it questioned another’s political loyalty.

In fact, the collegium has pointed out, neither the sexual orientation of Kirpal nor the airing of political views by the other advocate will impinge on their suitability or integrity.

The other candidate had made some comments on Modi. The Modi government has taken it seriously and does not intend to appoint a person as judge who is supposedly opposed to him.

Rijiju simply wants a subservient judiciary which is willing to prostrate before Modi. But he must remember that the Modi government one day has to bow out of office. The new government may then well use such a subservient judiciary against the BJP leaders who are in power now.

In case the new government acts with a sense of vendetta, the country will not have an independent judiciary to deliver the right and correct judgements.

(IPA Service)

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    Published: 23 Jan 2023, 9:50 PM