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Law Minister rakes up SC verdict quashing NJAC

Expressing ‘serious reservation’ on the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that had quashed the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) in favour of the present Collegium system, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday wondered why the government and the Prime Minister cannot be trusted “to appoint [a] fair and objective judge if he can be trusted with the country’s nuclear button”.

Delivering the Professor N.R Madhava Menon Memorial Lecture on “Legal and Digital Challenges for India Post COVID-19”, Mr. Prasad said the government’s digitisation programme has come in handy with over 16,000 courts in the country digitized.

Mr. Prasad lauded the Supreme Court for launching e-filing version app 2.0 and informed that as many as 1,200 lawyers have registered in just three months during the COVID-19 pandemic as against 1,800-1,900 for the past few years.

Urging advocates to use more of digital technology, Mr Prasad, “The most assuring part of information which I would like to share with my friends that 2 lakh trials have taken place in trials through virtual examination of witnesses, recording of evidence. I would say its a modest beginning but a good beginning”.

Starting the discussions, Mr Prasad said he would like the legal fraternity to debate the top court’s verdict on NJAC despite being unanimously passed by both Houses of Parliament.

“The Supreme Court has held that in the judicial commission, the Law Minister is also a member, and therefore, the appointees from that office may not be fair and objective when litigation comes against them….If this is the reason, which it is, then I have serious reservation as a student of law,”Mr Prasad said.

“Now, if the mere association of the Law Minister leads to doubts of the objectivity of appointment, then it is a very loaded question...All of us report to the Prime Minister as he is the head of the government,” he said.

“The Prime Minister (PM) appoints the President of India, he is the principal player in the appointment of the Vice-President of India. He is a player in the appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court now. The PM appoints the Army Chief, the Air Chief, the Defence Staff, the Finance Minister, the Defence Minister. The people of India trust the Prime Minister to ensure the sanctity, integrity and security of India. You all know the PM has the nuclear button in his hand. The Prime Minister can be trusted for working so many things of the country but the Prime Minister assisted by the Law Minister cannot be trusted to appoint a fair objective judge. That is too sweeping a comment about which I have serious reservation,” the Law Minister added.

However, the Law Minister also said his Ministry should not be seen as “a mere post office for the judiciary but a stakeholder”.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 3:04:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/law-minister-rakes-up-sc-verdict-quashing-njac/article31705226.ece

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