Criticising PM today is risky, says Srikrishna; minister Rijiju hits back

Former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna expressed concern over the current situation, underlining that “in a democracy, the right to criticize the government is a fundamental right and no one can muzzle it,”, “Today, things are very bad” and “I must confess, if I were to stand in a public square and say I don’t like the Prime Minister’s face, someone might raid me, arrest me. Can put me in jail without assigning any reason”.

Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju reacted sharply to his remarks made in an interview with The Hindu newspaper.

“Those people who speak all the time to abuse the popularly elected Prime Minister without any restrictions are crying about the freedom of expression! They will never talk about the Emergency imposed by the Congress party nor dare to criticize some regional party chief ministers,” Rijiju said in a Twitter post.

“I don’t know whether any former Supreme Court judge has actually said this or not. If it is true, then this statement itself is bringing humiliation to the institution they have served.”

Reached for comment, Justice Srikrishna, who headed an expert committee to study and identify key data protection issues and recommend ways to address them, told The Indian Express: “I want those civil servants were talking about those who were exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. As long as the criticism is done in a civilized and civilized manner, it should not come in the way of their service rules. But my concern is also about the rule of law and how the government responds to critics.”

In an interview with The Hindu, she was asked whether an IAS officer from Telangana had done wrong in tweeting from her personal account in support of Gujarat riots gangrape victim Bilkis Bano.

Justice Srikrishna replied that when one enters the government service, certain disciplinary rules give the answer. He referred to two judgments of the High Court and said, “I think the trend is that the judges are of the view that IAS officers have a right to express themselves in a lawful and civilized manner”.

Justice Srikrishna retired as a Supreme Court judge in 2006. Since his retirement, he has headed several committees for both the Congress-led UPA government and the BJP government.

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