Union Minister Arun Jaitley.
Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday slammed the Congress for creating a fuss over the government’s decision to hold back the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium for the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Justice K M Joseph, and reminded the party of the times when the judges were superseded in the past and efforts were made to influence judgements.
“The hue and cry made by my friends in the Congress Party recently when the Government referred a case back for reconsideration, fades into the oblivion. It is part of the much diluted role of an elected Government that relevant inputs be brought to the notice of the collegium. This is consonance with democratic accountability. All must know this important chapter of history,” Jaitley posted on Facebook.
Taking to the social media platform to provide the opposition “an opportunity to look at the mirror”, the senior BJP leader listed out a number of instances where judges of the Supreme Court were superceded and its recommendations were turned down.
Jaitley began his post by citing a case from the Nehru era. He said when Justice H J Kania started recommending names for appointment to the High Courts, it had caused a significant flutter. “Justice H.J. Kania took over as the first Indian Chief Justice of the Federal Court – the pre-constitution predecessor of the Supreme Court. When Justice Kania started recommending names for appointment to the High Courts, it caused a significant flutter. Pt. Nehru questioned his suitability to be the first Chief Justice of India. It was only Patel’s pragmatism that had enabled him to “manage” Justice Kania,” he said.
Moving over to the Indira Gandhi era, the BJP leader said, “Chief Justice Hidayatullah recommended the names of Justice S.P. Kotwal, the Chief Justice of Bombay; Justice M.S. Menon, Chief Justice of Kerala to the Supreme Court. The executive did not respond to either of the two names and ignored the recommendations. The Chief Justice meekly submitted and never questioned the inaction.”
Raking up the popular Kesavananda Bharati case, a serious conflict between the judiciary and the Indira Gandhi-led government, the minister recalled how the latter tried to subvert the independence of the judiciary and gained the power to even tweak the basic tenets of the Constitution with the help of the Parliament.
“It goes to Andhyarjuna’s credit that having appeared with H.M. Seervai on the Government side, he has authored a brilliant and accurate day by day history of how the Kesavananda case proceeded. There was acrimony on the bench,” the BJP leader said.
Andhyarjuna’s book, The Kesavananda Bharati Case – the Untold Story of Struggle for Supremacy by Supreme Court and Parliament, was published in 2011.
“The citizen was represented by Nani Palkhiwala and the government by H M Seervai with supporting arguments from Attorney General Niren De,” Jaitley said, while sharing a few excerpts from the book.
“When a judge asked counsel a question, someone with an alternate opinion on the bench would answer it. It was a thirteen judge bench and the obvious object of both sides in a dividing bench was to reach the figure of 7 for the law to be laid down. There are several interesting episodes which need to be stated,” he added.
The minister also described how the then government tried hard to delay the hearing so that the then Chief Justice S M Sikri retires and government retained the right to amend the constitution even with regard to fundamental rights.
While coming back to the present scenario, Jaitley said the executive has the power to provide inputs to the collegium and can even refer a recommendation back with relevant inputs for reconsideration but is eventually bound by recommendations. This is contrary to the text of the Constitution,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)