Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday said that judges do not have to face elections or public scrutiny after their appointment but they are being watched by the people as nothing is hidden in the age of social media.
Judges are appointed once, they don't face elections. Judges can't even be scrutinised by public. Public can't change judges but it is looking at them, their judgments and their way of functioning Nothing is hidden in the age of social media: Law Minister @KirenRijijupic.twitter.com/ywwt9uyZxr
Rijiju was speaking at an event organised by Delhi Bar Association at Tis Hazari Courts to commemorate the 74th Republic Day.
“Judges are appointed once and they don't have to face elections. Judges can't even be scrutinised by the public. Public can't change judges but it is looking at them, their judgements, their way of functioning and dispensing justice. Public is watching all and making assessments. Nothing is hidden in the age of social media,” Rijiju said.
Speaking in the context of public debates, Rijiju recalled that when he was the leader of opposition, there were not many avenues and opportunities to engage in public discussions and that only popular and a very few parliamentarians participated in television debates.
Rijiju added that unlike earlier, the public now have a platform to question the government and that with the rise of social media, every individual and citizen of the country today questions the government.
“Questions must also be asked. If you won’t question the elected government, then who else will you question?” Rijiju said.
The Law Minister said that a Chief Justice of India had requested him to take some concrete steps in respect of the social media posts against judges. However, he said when it happens on large scale, what action can be taken.
“We are also facing public scrutiny and public criticism on a daily basis including the judges. That's why you will get to see that judges are careful these days,” he said.
Rijiju also said that in order for democracy to progress in India, “robust independent judiciary” is a must.
“If the judiciary's dignity and honour is weakened, then democracy can't succeed,” he said.
The law minister also said that while he and CJI Chandrachud meet and have a “live contact” between each other on a regular basis, there can be difference of opinions between the two as the discussions happen on every small or big issue.
Rijiju further denied the news that he wrote a letter on January 6 to the CJI asking him to have a government representative in the collegium. Stating that there is no “head or tail or basis” to the report, Rijiju said:
“I wrote a letter to the CJI on January 6. It is my duty. There was no need to tell anyone, it is work. It is not a public announcement. It is a regular procedure. For 2-3 days, nobody knew. Out of nowhere someone learnt about it and it became a headline that the government wants a representative in collegium. Koi head aur tail nai, koi sachayi nai.”
“Somebody ran the news and people started discussions. I didn’t even know about it. I was on a tour and someone told me that people are having discussions about your letter, there are news debates happening. Kisi ne news chala diya, aur log gyaan baazi b kar rhe hai. Muj toh pta b nai hai. Mai tour me tha. Muj kisine bola ki apke letter ko leke yaha charcha horha hain, news me debate horha hai.”
Rijiju said: “This is a sensitive matter. Collegium has five people - Chief Justice and four judges. How can I bring someone from somewhere and put them there? There has to be a way? On this lie, former judges and senior lawyers gave statements”
He further clarified that in the letter, he had referred to a direction given by a 2015 ruling of a 5 judge bench of the Supreme Court in NJAC case and said that the same should be taken forward.
“Now if I wouldn’t have written the letter, then people would say the Law Minister is not following the order of the Supreme Court. When I’ve written the letter then they are saying why I have written it. What should I do? I just want to say, there should not be any discussion without any basis. Debate or discussion should happen only on some basis,” he said.
He added: “I think people get pleasure by making others fight. We don't want to fight ... what answer do I give on something which has no basis?”