A day after he was removed as the Union law minister, Kiren Rijiju said on Friday that the decision was part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision and a “routine process”, reported India Today.
“This shifting is not a punishment, this is the plan of the government,” Rijiju added, according to NDTV.
On Thursday, Rijiju was moved to the ministry of earth sciences while his old job went to Arjun Ram Meghwal.
Hours after his transfer, Opposition leaders took to social media to criticise Rijiju’s stint at the law ministry. Congress leader Manickam Tagore described him as a “failed law minister”. Veteran lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal remarked that it was “not easy to understand the science behind the laws”.
On Friday, Rijiju took charge of the earth sciences ministry. When asked about his run-ins with the judiciary, he refused to comment.
“Please don’t ask question related to my previous ministry, as those questions are not relevant now,” he told reporters. “I will continue to work responsibly as the PM keeps giving me new responsibilities.”
Rijiju had taken over as law minister on July 7, 2021, after Ravi Shankar Prasad was removed from the post.
The reason for the latest shuffle is not clear. However, the move comes against the backdrop of Rijiju’s prolonged tussle with the judiciary.
Over the last few months, Rijiju and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar have repeatedly criticised the collegium system of appointing judges, 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.
In December, Rijiju had said that the Centre introduced the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act in 2014 with an objective to make appointments to the Supreme Court and High Courts “more broad-based, transparent, accountable and bringing objectivity in the system”.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission Act had proposed to make judicial appointments through a body comprising of 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. However, the Act was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
In March, Rijiju had claimed that some retired judges are part of an “anti-India gang” and are trying to make the judiciary play the role of an Opposition party.