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Rijiju remarks on Collegium disturbing, Opposition must not back NJAC: Kapil Sibal

Former Law Minister and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal said that Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s repeated attacks on the Collegium system and the way the Supreme Court and its judges work were “disturbing,” “entirely inappropriate,” and “unacceptable.” He said that the government is putting more pressure on the higher judiciary because it wants to “capture” the “last citadel of freedom.”

Sibal, an independent MP, also said that the Opposition parties shouldn’t help the government if it brings back the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill in a new form.

He said that the situation has changed “radically” since 2014 when Parliament passed the NJAC Act and the 99th Constitutional Amendment, which were meant to give the executive a large role in appointing judges to the highest courts. He said that the Opposition should “take a position that is against any attempt through NJAC to influence the court and make the government the final arbiter of appointments to the Supreme Court and to the high courts.”

“I think that things have changed a lot. I think that recent events, like how judges have been chosen for the Supreme Court, show that the government is too controlling. It also says that if they don’t like a judge because they think he or she made a decision that went against the government, they make sure that the judge doesn’t get promoted to the Supreme Court. They keep the recommendations of the Collegium with them for a long time. This is something that sitting judges of the Supreme Court have also said about recently. “The government doesn’t clear the names of people recommended for promotion or appointment, even after the Collegium sends back the file and repeats the recommendations,” Sibal told The Deccan Era in an interview.

He also talked about how Rijiju had attacked the judiciary many times. “It’s clear why this is going on. Because the last stronghold of freedom is being chased after. Everything else has been taken. Only this one is left.”

“…The government has said many times that the court sometimes breaks the Lakshman Rekha and deals with things that aren’t in its area of authority. The Law Minister should think about that. What he is doing is exactly what he blames the court for and what the government has blamed the court for in the past. He also breaks the Lakshman Rekha by talking about things that aren’t the government’s job,” he said.

Rijiju recently criticiced the judiciary for taking long vacations while the number of pending cases reached a record high. He also said that a constitutional body like the Supreme Court should not be hearing “bail applications and frivolous PILs.”

“The Law Minister’s comments are upsetting because they talk about how the court should work, which I think is completely wrong,” said Sibal. He also said that Rijiju’s comments about court vacations were inappropriate and that the minister probably didn’t know how courts work, especially the Supreme Court, where judges work long hours and have a tough routine.

On Rijiju’s idea that the Supreme Court shouldn’t hear “bail applications,” Sibal said, “The Law Minister’s statement only shows that he doesn’t care about people’s freedoms. By hearing bail requests, a court that has to protect people’s rights is doing what the Constitution says it has to do. Does the minister think that the Supreme Court shouldn’t hear any appeals? Does the minister mean that?”

Sibal said that the Collegium system was not “great” and that it needed to be more open, but that “it is up to the court” to deal with these problems and fix the “endemic problems.”


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