'Not answerable to anybody; would rather be a nationalist judge than Aadhaar judge,' says Justice DY Chandrachud

New Delhi: "We are neither defending the government nor are we going to follow the NGO line," a visibly irked Supreme Court judge, who is part of a Constitution bench hearing cases challenging the validity of Aadhaar, said on Thursday.

Justice DY Chandrachud, who is part of the five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, lost his cool after not getting a satisfactory reply to his query from senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioners opposed to the government's flagship Aadhaar scheme and its enabling law.

Divan referred to an affidavit of the central government filed in the case which cited a World Bank report stating that India has an estimated saving of $11 billion per annum by using Aadhaar in its various schemes.

File image of Supreme Court. Reuters

File image of Supreme Court. Reuters

The lawyer submitted that the Centre used the report, saying the World Bank is an independent body and will not indulge in "puffery". He also contended that the World Bank report was not authentic as recently its chief Paul Romer resigned saying there was no integrity in its data.

Justice Chandrachud asked Divan as to what amounted to "puffery" as per the petitioners and where it was dealt and referred to in their pleadings.

"There is no point raising the voice," the judge said. "The moment we ask questions, we are attacked as we are committed to...If that is so then I plead guilty to the charge. We are not defending the government nor are we going to follow the NGO line," Justice Chandrachud said.

He said the moment questions are asked, the allegations are levelled that "you are ideologically committed" and will be termed as an "Aadhaar judge".

"We are committed to the conscience of the Constitution," Justice Chandrachud said, adding that he would like to be a "nationalist judge".

"Since beginning, I am hearing this that if I am not with you, then I am an Aadhaar judge. I don't care.. I am not answerable to anybody. I am committed to the Constitution," the judge said.

Taking note of the way arguments were being advanced, the judge said, "This was not the way, you argue the case."

"Constitutional matters cannot be argued on hyperbole," he said.

The senior lawyer immediately tendered an apology and even at the end of the day's hearing, he repeated his submission tendering the apology.

Justice Chandrachud accepted it. The judge said that he practiced law for 20 years before becoming a judge and used to get upset when judges did not ask questions to him during a hearing.

Justice AK Sikri, who is also part of the bench, said that a volley of questions would be asked from the Centre as well when their turn to argue the case would come

Updated Date: Feb 01, 2018 21:35 PM

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