Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has written to the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, that the Supreme Court collegium that decides on judges’ appointments should include government representatives.
This will “infuse transparency and public accountability”, the Law Minister has written in the letter that vastly escalates a back-and-forth between the government and judiciary since last year.
The letter is “just a follow-up action of letters written earlier to the Chief Justice”, Rijiju told news agency ANI today, asserting that the Supreme Court constitution bench had talked about a possible restructuring while striking down the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC).
In a war of words over judges’ appointments, several ministers – current and former – and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar have criticised what they call “opaqueness” of the judiciary. They argue that the government should have a role in selection of judges, which has been the domain of the Supreme Court Collegium since 1993.
The Supreme Court has firmly defended the collegium system.
In various statements, Rijiju has called the collegium system “alien” to the constitution and has strongly objected to any system in which the government has no right to appoint judges.
He has also criticised the Supreme Court for scrapping the National Judicial Appointments Commission set up by the BJP-led government through a law enacted in 2014. The commission would have comprised members of the government and the judiciary.
Vice President Dhankhar has echoed these views on multiple platforms. Last week, he criticised “one-upmanship and public posturing” from judicial platforms and said the scrapping of the judicial commission “was a scenario perhaps unparalleled in the democratic history of the world.”
He also questioned a landmark 1973 Supreme Court verdict that said parliament can amend the Constitution but not its basic structure.
The Supreme Court has said the collegium system is the “law of the land” which should be “followed to the teeth”. It would not cease to be the law “just because some sections of society expressed a view against the collegium system”.
The Supreme Court collegium currently comprises Chief Justice Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, KM Joseph, MR Shah, Ajay Rastogi and Sanjiv Khanna.
Rijiju’s letter also pitches for state government representatives in the High Court collegium.