'BR Ambedkar Must Be Turning In His Grave Seeing How Judicial Independence Is being Trampled With': MP John Brittas In Rajya Sabha

Mehal Jain

21 Dec 2021 2:32 PM GMT

  • BR Ambedkar Must Be Turning In His Grave Seeing How Judicial Independence Is being Trampled With: MP John Brittas In Rajya Sabha

    "The key framer of the Constitution and the first law minister- Dr. B. R. Ambedkar- would be turning in his grave, seeing how judicial appointments are being made and how the independence of the judiciary is tampered with," Kerala MP John Brittas has said in the Parliament."It is true that Ambedkar was not in favour of prohibiting Supreme Court and High Court judges from taking up office...

    "The key framer of the Constitution and the first law minister- Dr. B. R. Ambedkar- would be turning in his grave, seeing how judicial appointments are being made and how the independence of the judiciary is tampered with," Kerala MP John Brittas has said in the Parliament.

    "It is true that Ambedkar was not in favour of prohibiting Supreme Court and High Court judges from taking up office of profit after retirement. When this came up in the constituent assembly debates, he said he will not prevent a judge from taking up a post after retirement. But he would absolutely have taken a position if he was alive today, when he realised how a system of 'post retirement appeasement' has emerged...Member Shibban Lal Saxena had said that if the temptation of being appointed to higher position after retirement is not removed, it will also be liable to be abused by the executive or by any party in power. These words of wisdom must ring loud in our ears!", continued Mr. Brittas.
    Addressing the House on The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, he pressed the point of the independence of the judiciary, he said,
    "The Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has made it very clear that the purpose of this bill is to make the legislative intent clear about the additional quantum of pension. I fully appreciate it. But there is a serious lacuna because though we decide on such matters, we have no role in the appointment of judges. Does this exist anywhere in the world? Absolutely no. Judges appointing judges is unheard of!- Strangely, the law minister doesn't have a firm view. I went through his reply which he delivered in the Lok Sabha..."
    "There has been a demand for a National Judicial Appointments Commission which should represent judiciary, executive legislature, the bar and the public, to ensure transparency and accountability. Let people know who are going to be our judges, and their competence, their ability, integrity. Should there be a system shrouded in mystery, secrecy and darkness? Is there any system of appointment of judges in the world which is completely shrouded in darkness? Only in India. And the law minister is a mute spectator of the system. He does not have an emphatic reply, emphatic view about the system which is distorting the judiciary's independence", he plowed on.
    "Are we creating a system of patronage, or give and take? Are we creating an oligarchy? I am afraid we are creating an oligarchy? We have judges' families! I vouch for the fact that there are brilliant judges with high levels of integrity from the judges' family. I do subscribe to that. But that should be an exception and not the thumb-rule in democracy...Let me read out the profile of a judge which I happened to see on a High Court website. Mr Justice so and so, born on so-and-so date, belongs to a family associated with judges, his maternal great grandfather was the chief Justice of India, maternal grandfather was a former acting chief Justice, one of the uncles was a former judge of the Supreme Court- it is going on and on. It is like a long list. We talk about Dynasty, BJP members have been very harsh when they talk about dynasty in the Congress party- at least they have passed the test of the confidence of the people. This is a clear-cut case of Dynasty. Why are we keeping mum about this", advanced Mr. Brittas.
    "It is six years since the Supreme Court struck down this proposal (of NJAC) but this government has found it convenient and expedient so that there is a barter! I charge there is a barter. The government has successfully stopped the appointments of those who are inconvenient to them. Kiren Rijiju ji, you know what I am speaking. The government has been sitting on the proposals of collegium whenever they find certain names who are persona non-Grata for them. Some judges are transferred for unknown reasons. It is a punishment. But some chief justice (J & K CJ Pankaj Mithal) openly speaks against secularism which is against the Constitution. There is No age criteria for becoming a judge- but some are rejected for want of age and some are appointed overnight. Can we be oblivious about Justice Akil Kureshi who was not deliberately elevated to the Supreme Court? Wasn't his name proposed, did the government sit on the file, what was his crime? He was responsible for sending one of the powerful persons of this dispensation to jail? What else?", pressed the MP. In 2010, Justice Kureshi had sent current Union Home Minister Amit Shah to police custody for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
    "As per the Constitution, the High Courts and High Court judges are not subordinate. Both SC and HCs are constitutional courts. But the Supreme Court collegium's power has made High Courts subordinate institutions. High Court judges are seen coming out with statements which make them eligible to be a Supreme Court judge!", he urged.
    "The Law minister has been very intelligent, he commented about the demand of a judicial appointments commission. He said that a view is coming from various quarters including retired judges. But he says that he considers this a sensitive issue and refuses to give any comment. This is so typical of this government! They are Indirectly telling the collegium, the Supreme Court that if they don't toe the line, he will crack the whip! Why should the law minister shy away from expressing the desire of the legislature and the executive? If he wants the national judicial appointments commission, let him make that statement on the floor of the house. Let him not shy away. If they do not make a statement, it would indicate that the government finds the present system Suitable for pick and choose! There are cases where the government did not consider the names recommended by the collegium for years, despite the Supreme Court stating that once returned, the executive must give consent! And this when High courts are functioning with only 59% of actual strength! People will have suspicions, people will have doubts! You should have a transparent system. The only thing which is missing in this pipeline is transparency.", Mr. Brittas told the House.
    "What did our former law minister Arun Jaitley say? He said that even though there is a retirement age, judges are not willing to retire! That in some cases, pre-retirement judicial conduct is influenced by the desire to get post-retirement assignment. He said there are two kinds of judges- those who know the law and those who know the law minister...Law Minister, you seem to be so happy now, does it mean many judges know you? That should be the question!...I am sure like Dr Ambedkar, Arun Jaitley would also be turning in his grave seeing the way in which our judicial appointments happen! Even Nitin Gadkari said there must be a cooling period of two years for post-retirement appointment of judges. Why is the government oblivious of statements of their own colleagues?", he continued.
    He stated that he has "no hesitation in voicing the anguish of the public, the legal fraternity and others, in referring to few judgments, or the absence of them"- "Hardly 3 years ago, the Supreme Court dismissed the Rafale case. Even saying that there is no evidence to suggest irregularities, the bench sat in a trial instead of directing an investigation. Overnight orders were passed divesting the power of CBI director Alok Verma...Article 1 of the Constitution says India is a union of states and that is the permanent character of the Indian Constitution, its basic structure. On a finding when a state was converted into a union territory (abrogation of Article 370), was it not giving a death blow to the basic character of the Constitution? Why was it done? There was an omission from the highest court of the day...I don't want to talk about the Ayodhya verdict... On electoral bonds, even the election commission filed an affidavit expressing serious reservations on the anonymous electoral bonds scheme, it was said that it would be a retrograde step where transparency is concerned. I have seen the interview of a judge who dealt with it (former CJ Ranjan Gogoi). He said I don't even remember the case. You know who the judge is- He does not want to be part of the house".
    "India is a diverse country. But By the present system, Only a particular class is rewarded by the government. A new class is being created. Of course there are exceptions. There are brilliant judges who come from Judges' families... In the last expansion of the cabinet, it was said that a sizeable number of OBCs, SC and ST has been incorporated, and that this will be the most socially diverse council of ministers in the history of independent India. That was the statement made by most of the BJP leaders. That the PM was ushering in 'inclusive India' for the first time. Does it mean that when it comes to the judiciary we should not want such a diverse representation? Should we be oblivious about that? You only want representation in the cabinet? Out of 47 chief Justices of India as of date, at least 14 have been brahmins, from 1950 to 1970, the maximum strength of Supreme Court was 14 judges and 11 were Brahmins. 1971 to 1989...(disrupted by ruckus in the House over statement being against the Brahmin community)...", stated Mr. Brittas
    "I am not against any caste...Till 1980, there was no judge from the OBC or SC-ST in the highest court of this country...The judiciary functions in a democratic ecosystem. In a democracy, independence of the judiciary is very important. I am very glad that the other day the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of free media and independent judiciary while addressing a summit of democracy organised by the US President. His words appear stellar. But why are the press galleries empty and have a deserted look? When malls, Cinemas, eateries, bars and schools are open?", he concluded.

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