New Delhi: Surprised with the Supreme Court striking down the NJAC, the Modi government on Friday mulled over future options.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the “parliamentary sovereignty has received a setback” by the verdict while Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said he was “really surprised” but “we have to go through the text, talk to law officers, senior colleagues and the prime minister and then decide”.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was earlier the law minister, came up with the strong statement and backed it with background piled up over 20 years that led to judicial appointment act. He said the government will come up with a more structured response after going through the voluminous judgment running into more than 1,000 pages.
Saying that though the BJP respects the “independence of judiciary”, since there are many present leaders who have fought against the Emergency imposed by the Congress and ruled out “confrontation”, he said “the country should be required to be conveyed that one of the finest and outstanding judges came from the previous system” that existed prior to 1993 when the collegium system was introduced to replace executive dominance in appointments to high courts and the Supreme Court.
He also wondered whether judges appointing judges was the only instrument of judicial independence. At the same time, the minister clarified that the party was not for “one-upmanship” between Parliament and judiciary.
Prasad, who is himself a lawyer, argued that many suggestions for change of judicial appointments came from Justice Venkatacheliah commission for constitution review in 2002, administration reform commission, law commissions, and three parliamentary standing committees.
To counter the perception that the NJAC would compromise judicial freedom and independence, Prasad quoted highly respected justices, including V R Krishna Iyer who, as per him, had said that collegium system was “constitutionally irrelevant”.
Besides, the political class, he elaborated, was unanimous in its resolve for having an improved system of appointments since he said that as former law minister he had sought consent of 26 national and regional political parties and they had agreed for having outside representation in selection process to make it more transparent.