Ravishankar Prasad tells House, separation of power under Constitution binding on judiciary too
The Law Minister said in his view, Parliament is supreme, while the judiciary has the right to interpret laws.
New Delhi: Separation of powers is as binding on the judiciary as it is on other pillars of democracy, the government told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday as members claimed the Supreme Court was getting into the domain of law-making through some of its verdicts. The government also said if the country can trust the Prime Minister with the nuclear button, why cannot he be trusted for appointing excellent people as judges through his Law Minister.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House. The remarks of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was in response to members raising issues concerning the apex court verdict overturning a new law on appointment of judges where it was said that a litigant may feel that a judge will not be impartial as he has been appointed by a committee which includes the Law Minister.
Asking supplementaries on pending cases and vacancies in courts, Sanjay Jaiswal (BJP) remarked that the Supreme Court was getting into law-making through its verdicts on issues ranging from cricket management to medical entrance tests. His remarks drew thumping of desks from members across the House.
Prasad refused to offer any comment on the apex court orders on cricket management or NEET entrance examination. But at the same time, he pointed out that in the Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala judgement, the top court had clearly laid out separation of powers between the three organs of democracy.
He said while the legislature will formulate law, the executive will execute it and the judiciary will interpret the law. "If it is binding on all, sorry to say, it is equally binding on the judiciary," he said.
To a question on live telecast of court proceedings, Prasad said online transmission will create a "psychological pressure" but there were also "logistical problems" involved. He said while live telecast of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha proceedings was easy as there were only two Houses, it was difficult to do so in several thousand court rooms. But the suggestion of the member was worth considering, he added.
Responding to a question on pendency (of cases) committees in high courts, the Minister said the government does not interfere in their functioning. But he would inform the judiciary of the concerns expressed by members of the Lower House on rising number of cases across Indian courts.
The Law Minister said in his view, Parliament is supreme, while the judiciary has the right to interpret laws. Referring to the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, he said Parliament had passed the law (to scrap the collegium system of judges appointing judges). But the apex court overturned it and the government accepted the verdict though with certain reservations.
He said the court observed that a litigant may feel that a judge appointed by a panel where the Law Minister is a member may not be independent. Prasad said the Law Minister would have been the representative of the Prime Minister in the committee.
Going by the judgement, while the PM can be trusted with the nuclear button, plays a key role in appointment of the President, the Vice President, the Chief Election Commissioner and the CVC, (he) cannot be trusted with appointing excellent people as judges, the Minister said.
Referring to the SC order on ushering in more transparency in judicial appointments and the subsequent efforts to rewrite the document — the memorandum of procedure
— which guides these appointment, he said for one year, the government could not not do much as it was pending with the collegium.
Now, since the MoP has been returned (by the Supreme Court), the governmment will take a call on the issue, Prasad said.
While over 62,000 cases are prnding in the apex court, 4.12 lakh are pending in the 24 high courts as on 30 September, 2016. Similarly, 2.85 crore cases are pending in lower courts, he said.
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