New Delhi: Amid the judiciary-government tussle, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Friday asserted the process of appointment of judges cannot be “hijacked” and judiciary needs to be independent as it plays a role in the eventuality of a “tyrannical regime”.
He also made it clear that judiciary cannot depend on executive in choosing judges.
He said judiciary must be independent regarding internal matters of judicial administration, including assignment of cases to the judges within the court, as unless there is an independent judiciary, the rights which are conferred by the Constitution would be “meaningless”.
The remarks, made by the CJI while delivering the 37th Bhimsen Sachar memorial lecture in New Delhi on ‘Independent Judiciary – Bastion of Democracy’, assume importance in the wake of mounting tension between the judiciary and executive over the appointment of judges for higher judiciary as both the organs of the State have been blaming each other for the increasing vacancies of judges and to remain within a ‘Lakshman Rekha’.
Justice Thakur, who will be demitting office of CJI on January 3 next year, said the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act 2014, which was struck down last year by the Supreme Court, was an attempt which would have affected the independence of judiciary.
He added the “powerful and assertive Parliament” tries to assert for a greater say in the matter of judicial appointments.
Asserting that independence of judiciary was paramount for a democracy, he said judiciary cannot depend on the executive for discharging its duties and since the government was the “biggest litigant”, one cannot say that executive can choose the judges to hear a case.
Referring to the NJAC verdict by a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar who will succeed him as the CJI, Justice Thakur said, “The recent decision by the constitution bench striking down constitutional amendment by which NJAC was supposed to be set up also goes into all these aspects.”
“It discusses how the court cannot have a situation where independence of judiciary gets affected by reason of appointment process being hijacked. If you have the Law minister and two nominees of the government in the panel that is going to appoint judges, the court saw this as an attempt to affect the independence of judiciary,” he said.
“The powerful and assertive Parliament tries to assert for a greater say in the matter of judicial appointments. An attempt to take away from judiciary the power to appoint judges was seen by the judiciary as an attempt to affect the independence of judiciary.
“Constitutional amendment seeking to set up NJAC was one such attempt. It was seen as an attempt that would affect the independence of judiciary,” he said.