Amid an escalating row over judicial appointments, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju today objected to the government’s disclosure of recommended candidates for Supreme Court judges.
Last week. The Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, posted on the Supreme Court’s website the government’s objections to the promotion of three candidates to the post of judge and its own counter-shuffle.
Amid a spat with the government, it was an unprecedented move by the Supreme Court to release the inputs of the intelligence agencies – Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) – over the government’s objections.
Mr Rijiju said today that he would “respond at an appropriate time” but made his views clear.
“The disclosure of confidential and sensitive reports of RAW or IB in the public domain is a matter of serious concern, to which I will respond at the appropriate time. Today is not the appropriate time,” the law minister told reporters.
“If the officer concerned is working for the nation under cover or in a highly secret position.
Tomorrow if his report is released in the public domain he will think twice and it will have implications. So I will not. No comment,” Mr Rijiju said.
Asked if he would take it up with the Chief Justice, the minister said: “The Chief Justice and I meet often. We are always in touch. He is the head of the judiciary, I am the bridge between the government and the judiciary. We have to work together – we work separately.” Can’t. That’s a moot point…let’s leave that for another day.”
On January 19, the Supreme Court publicly uploaded its letters rejecting. The government’s objections to the elevation of three candidates, including an openly gay advocate, as judges.
This revelation led to unrest in the security agencies as there has always been a practice of maintaining the secrecy of the intelligence agencies. Who scrutinize potential candidates for appointment to the higher judiciary – the High Court and the Supreme Court.
This is the latest in a bitter clash between the government and the Supreme Court over the appointment of judges.
The government has been pushing for a greater role in the appointment of judges. Which since 1993 has been the domain of the Supreme Court’s collegium, or panel of senior judges.
The government argues that the legislature is supreme because it represents the will of the people.
The back-and-forth between the government and the Supreme Court has also raised questions about the constitution. And what parts of it can be changed by Parliament on how judges are appointed.
The Supreme Court said the collegium system is the “law of the land” which “must be followed like teeth”.
Mr Rijiju has often spoken of the “lack of transparency” in the appointment of judges. Yesterday, he said judges need not contest elections in the face of public scrutiny.
“People are watching you and judging you. Your judgement, your work process, how you judge… people can see and judge… they form opinions,” the law minister said at an event.