Crime & Justice

Indian gov’t plan to have role in judicial appointments faces backlash

New Delhi, Jan 16 (EFE).- The Indian government’s proposal to have a role in appointments in the Supreme Court and High Courts, a process so far under the control of the judges, led to criticism Monday against what is seen as an attempt to control the judiciary.

The controversy erupted after Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, in a letter to Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, suggested including a representative of the government in the panel that selects judges for the country’s top court.

“The contents in the letter to hon’ble CJI are exactly in conformity with the observations and directions of the Supreme Court Constitution Bench,” Rijiju tweeted.

Under the current system, judges present in the highest bodies of the Indian judiciary elect new judges by a collegium system, traditionally on the basis of seniority.

The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after coming to power for the first time in 2014, tried to change the system through a constitutional reform that established a joint committee comprising of government representatives and the oldest judges of the Supreme Court.

However, India’s top judicial body declared the reform unconstitutional in 2015, claiming it compromised the independence of the judiciary.

According to Rijiju, the new proposal “is precise follow-up action of the direction of Supreme Court Constitution Bench.”

The government’s move was severely criticized on social media.

“This is extremely dangerous. There shud be absolutely no govt interference in judicial appointments,” tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man Party), which is opposed to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The Collegium needs reform. But what this Govt wants is complete subservience- Its remedy is a poison pill for the judiciary,” said Jairam Ramesh of the grand old Congress Party, which forms the main opposition at the center.

He also accused the government of orchestrating a “confrontation with the judiciary to intimidate and thereafter capture it totally.”

In November, the law minister claimed that the current system of appointing judges was “alien” to the Constitution, while Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar revived the debate on the issue last week with similar statements. EFE


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