In response to a written question by two Rajya Sabha members “whether as per the Union Minister for Law and Justice, a few former judges of the Supreme Court are part of an anti-India gang,” Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told the Upper House that the complaints his Ministry received regarding serving and retired judges concerned only with appointment and service conditions of serving members of the higher judiciary.
Mr. Rijiju was responding to a question by Samajwadi Party member Javed Ali Khan and Janata Dal-United’s Ram Nath Thakur on “whether a few former judges of the Supreme Court are part of an anti-India gang”.
They also asked the Minister to reveal the source of the information and whether in view of national security, the government had informed the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the Union Home Ministry.
Their question follows a claim made by Mr. Rijiju in an television interview that some retired judges were part of the ‘anti-India gang’ that was targeting the Narendra Modi government.
In the English version of the reply, the Minister evaded a direct answer but in the Hindi version, he said ji nahin [No] to sub-questions from A to D.
“From time to time, complaints are received in the Department of Justice [in the Law Ministry] against sitting as well as retired judges of Supreme Court and High courts. Department of Justice is concerned only with the appointment and service conditions of the sitting judges of the Supreme Court and high courts,” the Minister said in the English version of his reply.
He added that complaints related to the retired judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts were not handled by the Department of Justice.
The Minister noted that accountability in higher judiciary was maintained through an “in-house mechanism” and recalled that the Supreme Court in its full court meeting on May 7, 1997 had adopted two resolutions: one dealing with restatement of values of judicial life and the other with in-house procedure for taking suitable remedial action against judges who do not follow universally accepted values of judicial life.
As per the established “in-house mechanism” for the higher judiciary, the CJI is competent to receive complaints against the conduct of judges of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justices of the High Courts. Likewise, the Chief Justices of the High Courts are competent to receive complaints against the conduct of High Court judges.
“The complaints/representations received by Department of Justice are forwarded to the Chief Justice of India or to the chief justice of the High Courts,concerned as the case may be, for appropriate action,” he added.
In response to another question from Congress member Amee Yajniok who cited a study to ask if 70 of the 100 retired Supreme Court judges had taken up post-retirement assignments and if that would affect the independence of the judiciary, the Minister said such information was not centrally maintained by the Department of Justice as post retirement positions in tribunals and other Constitutional positions were done by different Ministries and departments in accordance with laid down rules.
Aadhar-voter ID linking
In response to another question, Mr. Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha that the process of linking Aadhaar details with the voter identity card had not started yet while stating that the names of those who did not link their Aadhaar details with the voters’ list would not be struck off the electoral rolls.
“Linking of Aadhaar is process driven and no targets or timelines have been given for linking Aadhaar with Electoral Photo Identity Card. Linking of Aadhaar with the Electoral Photo Identity Card has not yet started so far,” Mr. Rijiju said.
Section 23 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, as amended by the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, provides for the electoral registration officers to require the existing or prospective elector to provide the Aadhaar number for establishing identity on a voluntary basis.
The Election Commission had launched the programme to collect the Aadhaar number of existing and prospective electors on a voluntary basis from August 1, 2O22 in all the States and Union Territories.
The Minister also said that the time period to submit Aadhaar number had been extended up to March 31, 2024.