Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, On Day 1 In Rajya Sabha, Reminds Judiciary Of “Laxman Rekha”

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Veep, On Day 1 In Rajya Sabha, Reminds Judiciary Of 'Laxman Rekha'

New Delhi:

The government versus Supreme Court tussle over the appointment of judges came under the spotlight again today, with Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar highlighting the issue in his maiden address in the Rajya Sabha. The historic NJAC Bill passed unanimously by the Parliament, was “undone by the Supreme Court”, said the Rajya Sabha chairman, calling it a “severe compromise of parliamentary sovereignty and disregard of the mandate of the people”.

The bill, passed in 2015 gave the government a role in judicial appointments, which for two decades was the provenance of the Supreme Court through the Collegium system.  

The law was challenged in court, with petitions contending that it would compromise the independence of judiciary. Thereafter, a Constitutional bench struck down the law, pointing to the Emergency of 1975-77, imposed by the then Congress government.

Mr Dhankhar, who flagged the issue earlier as well, today said “any incursion by one institution, in the domain of the other, has the potential to upset the governance apple cart”.

It is disconcerting that on “such a momentous issue, so vital to democratic fabric, there has been no focus in Parliament, now for over seven years… This House, in concert with the Lok Sabha, being custodian of the ordainment of the people, is duty bound to address the issue, and I am sure it will do so,” he said.

Mr Dhankhar also tweeted the video clip of his address, with a series of strong remarks.

On Friday, speaking at a function in presence of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Mr Dhankhar criticised what he said was a lack of reaction from parliament when the Supreme Court struck down NJAC law.

The Vice-President’s comments come days after the Supreme Court signalled its displeasure about the government delay in signing off its choice of judges.

“Once the Collegium reiterates a name, it is end of the chapter… It (the government) is crossing the Rubicon by keeping the names pending like this,” said a bench of Justices SK Kaul and AS Oka, while hearing a petition that alleged “wilful disobedience” of the court-mandated time frame on appointments.

“Please resolve this and don’t make us take a judicial decision in this regard,” said the bench. “It cannot be that you can withhold names, it frustrates the whole system… And sometimes when you appoint, you pick up some names from the list and not clear others. What you do is you effectively disrupt the seniority,” the court added.

Over the last years, the government has repeatedly thumbs downed several names chosen for elevation by the Supreme Court. The last instance was last month, when the government refused to give a go-ahead to 10 names chosen for elevation by the Supreme Court.

Union law minister Kiren Rijiju has made his stance on the matter clear, pointing out that prior to 1991, it was the government which picked judges. The current system was the outcome of a judicial order, which is “alien” to the constitution, he had said.

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