No pressure from executive, courts are constantly holding government to account, says CJI
‘I do not want to join issues with the law minister, we are bound to have differences of perceptions,’ DY Chandrachud said.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said on Saturday that there is absolutely no pressure on the Supreme Court from the executive on how to decide cases.
At an India Today conclave, the chief justice said that the courts are “speaking truth to power” and “constantly holding the government to account”.
He also referred to a Supreme Court verdict taking away the government’s discretion to appoint election commissioners. “Would the decision have come if there was any pressure?” he asked.
On March 2, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that a committee comprising the prime minister, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice will advise the president on the appointment of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners. Before this, election commissioners were appointed solely by the Union government.
Chandrachud said that this judgement was one of the many where the court has questioned the State.
“They [other verdicts] don’t make headlines as they are not big-ticket judgements,” he said. “The largest litigant in India today is the State and most of our judgements deal with the involvement of the State and its instrumentalities. We are holding against the State in a large number of issues: crime, employment, insurance.”
Chandrachud also responded to Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s objections to the Supreme Court collegium revealing the government’s reasons for not approving the names recommended by it for appointment of judges.
“What is wrong about having a difference in perception?” he asked. “But, I have to deal with such differences with a sense of robust constitutional statesmanship. I do not want to join issues with the law minister, we are bound to have differences of perceptions.”
In January, the collegium – consisting of the three most senior Supreme Court judges – had for the first time put on record detailed reasons for its recommendations of names for the High Court and apex court.
One of the resolution had said that the Centre was against the appointment of senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal as a judge in the Delhi High Court because of his partner being a Swiss national, that they have an “intimate relationship” and that the lawyer is “open about his sexual orientation”.
Two Supreme Court collegium resolutions also showed that the Union government had not cleared the elevation of two advocates because of their political views.
Defending the move, Chandrachud on Saturday told India Today, “The reason we had put on the website [the objection] is in pursuance of the desire of the present collegium to meet the criticism that we lack transparency and in genuine belief that opening up our processes will foster greater confidence in the citizens.”
In recent months, Rijiju has repeatedly criticised the collegium system of making appointments to the higher judiciary, contending that it is opaque.
In the collegium system, the senior judges of the Supreme Court recommend names for the Supreme Court and High Courts and the government is expected to follow them.
The chief justice, addressing the conclave, said that “no system is perfect, but this is the best we have developed”. He added, “It [collegium] was devised for the simple reason that independence of judiciary is a cardinal value and the judiciary needs to be insulated from outside influences for it to be truly independent.”