Notified hardly 48 hours as the Supreme Court takes up hearing the batch of petitions challenging the Act!
Confrontation or conciliation ahead?
The Modi regime is surely doing things about the independence of judiciary in unusual ways.
Much more explicit language might not be appropriate for this journal!
There is a batch of petitions challenging this NJAC which seeks to replace the existing collegiums system that appoints judges by judges themselves. One advantage of the existing system is that gives complete freedom to the judiciary. Why the government now wants to replace this system?
One reason seems to be that the judiciary doesn’t seem to give any freedoms to the executive to speed up development projects like speedy clearance of environmental and first clearance of big infrastructure projects etc.
Of course, the notorious judicial delays are common place. Once you approach the court there are no way you can get an end to it?
This judicial delay has become a scandal and invites public ire. Yet, the real reason behind the government move is to have its own men and women as judges!
We have had the bad memories of Indira Gandhi’s legacy.
Also, a series of judgements have come to give certain solidity to the Constitution which has basic structure which can’t be touched by parliament.
Mr.Modi, in his brief stint as PM has also seen how his moves and actions have been stalled by the higher courts. His attack on the “5-star activists, a reference to Teesta Setalvad and also Priya Pillai of the Green Peace, whose cases had been upheld by the High Courts and as such Mr.Modi feels his writ does run freely.
Now, many legal luminaries are of the view that the NJAC might not stand the test of the Supreme Court scrutiny as it directly attacks of independence of the judiciary.
Mr.Modi also didn’t make his case fool-proof for he is using his language not in a restrained way and he attends the conference of the Chief Justices of the High Courts and Supreme Court and asks them face to face as to why five-star activists are taking the government for a ride. The tone of his extempore speech says so much.
So, there is unease in the government and legal circles. Unfortunately in India, in New Delhi in particular there is a big crowd of very clever lawyers who are always crowding the corridors of the successful political party that captures power and you can see always a bunch of high-fee lawyers lapping up high-profile Cabinet ministers’ posts.
Under Sonia Gandhi, this phenomenon reached ridiculous limits. A whole lot got these political offices and once the party lost where did these high-earning lawyers ended up? Straight right into the Supreme Court lawyers wearing their black gowns! It created another scandal. That is the Congress party ended up with no one to work for the party! The party offices were found to be suddenly deserted.
Yes, there is a scandal about corruption and influence in the higher judiciary. There are about 100 tribunals as the PM himself noted and there is a big drain of public money on these tribunals, once set up they perpetuate themselves.
So, there is a need to reform the judiciary. But not the PM’s way. The Supreme Court for its part, soon after the CJs conference, after the Pm made his controversial remarks, didnt not stay the NJAC), as people expected nor the government notified the Act. Testing the waters? There are many ways in which the government could curb the owners of the judiciary, one is of course funding the judiciary, and another is for the courts to delay judgements.
There is a gray area here and much is being done, as in the past, by moving cautiously step by step!
Let us see how the issues resolve it. Will there be a prolonged fight or will there be wisdom and mutual understanding to keep the judicial independence untainted?
Only time can tell.