Union Ravi Shankar Prasad, who took charge of the Law Ministry on Monday, said he and his ministry will not be merely a “post office” but a stakeholder in the judicial system, including in the appointment of judges.
Speaking to media after taking charge, he asserted: “I will not be a post office as the Law Minister. Both, the minister and the ministry, as a stakeholder, play a major role. And, while doing this, we give due regard and respect to the Supreme Court Collegium system.”
“We will work in fast-tracking judicial appointments…. we will pursue it in a constructive manner in consultation with the Supreme Court and high courts.”
The Law Minister’s observations on the judicial appointments is very significant, especifically in the light of opposing views on the elevation of judges between the government and the Supreme Court Collegium, comprising its senior-most judges. Last month, the government had opposed the elevation of Justice Aniruddha Bose, who was the Chief Justice of High Court of Jharkhand, and Justice A.S. Bopanna, who was heading the Gauhati High Court to the apex court, but the collegium did not pay heed and reiterated the appointments. The judges were administered oath at May-end.
Nearly a year ago, Prasad had made a similar comment – that the government was not a “post office” and had right to bring forth its difference of opinion with the Supreme Court collegium. His remarks had come during a controversy on the government’s refusal to approve the elevation of Uttrakhand Chief Justice K.M. Joseph to the top court, reportedly for his decision quashing the President’s rule in state.
Justice Joseph was eventually elevated, as the final decision of the Collegium is technically binding on the government.
Similar opposing views surfaced during the elevation of senior advocate Gopal Subramanian to the top court in June 2014, and in many instances, the government and the collegium had differing views.
Prasad also cited his other priorities, which included fast-tracking judicial appointments and establishing the All India Judicial Service.
He said that the ministry will conduct consultations with all stakeholders across India on the judicial service. “We like to build a system where the selection is based on merit and the best talent is absorbed,” he added.
Queried on prioritizing the passage of the Triple Talaq Bill, which has yet to be passed by parliament, Prasad said: “Why not? Triple Talaq has been mentioned in our manifesto.”