Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday said that the Centre respects the independence of the judiciary and feels it is absolutely necessary for a thriving democracy, PTI reported.

“Judiciary works for the country and the Legislature and Executive also work for the nation,” Rijiju said. “Without cooperation and coordination among them, we cannot make the country a great nation.”

He also added that some persons are making comments or statements which are damaging to the institution.

The minister’s remarks came amid a tussle between the government and the judiciary on the process of making judicial appointments in the country.

Last week, in a letter to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Rijiju had suggested the inclusion of a government nominee in the process of making appointments to the higher judiciary.

On Thursday, Rijiju said that the collegium system will continue till an alternative system is in place.

“We must carry forward with the present system and that system needs certain updation and restructuring as per the wishes of the constitution bench,” Rijiju said, according to The Hindu. “I have already taken certain positive steps by having [a] consultation with CJI [DY Chandrachud].”

Rijiju’s letter

In his letter, Rijiju also said that an updated Memorandum of Procedure on the appointment of judges was still “pending finalisation” and gave suggestions on how the process could be streamlined.

The law minister noted that a constitution bench of the Supreme Court, while striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act in 2014, had called for restructuring the Memorandum of Procedure.

The National Judicial Appointments Commission had been introduced by the Narendra Modi government soon after coming to power in 2014. The commission was to replace the collegium system of making appointments to the higher judicary.

The government had proposed to make judicial appointments through a body comprising the chief justice, two senior Supreme Court judges, the law minister and two other eminent persons nominated by the chief justice, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition.

Under the collegium system, senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, decide on the appointments and transfers of judges to the top court and the High Courts.

The Memorandum of Procedure is a document framed by the government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, which lays down the procedure for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and various High Courts. It was first issued in November 1947 and has been updated since.

Centre vs Supreme Court

In recent months, Rijiju has repeatedly criticised the existing collegium system of appointments. On November 26, he had told the news channel Times Now that the collegium system was not in consonance with the Constitution.

The minister added that the collegium cannot expect the government to simply accept all the recommendations it makes.

On January 11, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar also said that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act was a “scenario perhaps unparalleled in the democratic history of the world”.

He said that no institution can wield power or authority to neutralise the mandate of people

On December 8, the Supreme Court had told the Centre that the collegium system of appointing judges to the higher judiciary is the law of the land and must be adhered to. The court said that the government should not force it to “take a judicial decision in this regard”.