While speaking at the India Today Conclave, 2023, the CJI said the judiciary has to be protected from outside influences if it has to be independent. Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said that not every system is perfect but this is the best system available for the appointment of judges while defending the Collegium system of judges appointing judges, a major bone of contention between the government and judiciary.
"Not every system is perfect but this is the best system we have developed. But the object was to protect the independence of the judiciary, which is a cardinal value. We have to insulate the judiciary from outside influences if the judiciary has to be independent," Chandrachud said.
The CJI responded to Law Minister Kiren Rijiju voicing displeasure over the Supreme Court Collegium revealing the government's reasons for not approving the names recommended by it for appointment as judges of constitutional courts.
"What is wrong about having a difference in perception? But, I have to deal with such differences with a sense of robust constitutional statesmanship. I do not want to join issues with the law minister, we are bound to have differences of perceptions," the CJI said.
Rijiju has been quite vocal against the Collegium system and once even called it "alien to our Constitution".
The Bar Council of India (BCI) has decided to permit foreign lawyers and law firms to practice in areas such as foreign law, international legal issues and arbitration matters, which it said will be mutually beneficial for lawyers from India and abroad.
With that objective, the apex bar body has notified the Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022.
The objects of the rules notified said the law practice in India will be opened for “foreign lawyers in the field of practice of foreign law; diverse international legal issues in non-litigious matters and in international arbitration cases would go a long way in helping legal profession/domain grow in India to the benefit of lawyers in India too."
The BCI said this opening up will be restricted, well controlled and regulated to ensure it is mutually beneficial for lawyers from India and abroad.
On an experimental basis, the Supreme Court began using artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing technology for live recording of its hearings. The live transcription has been launched in the courtroom of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud.
While announcing the initiative, the Chief Justice said, "We'll see how it works, especially in the constitution bench matters, because then we'll have a permanent record of arguments..." He further added that it helps judges and lawyers, "but it will also help our law colleges. They can analyse how matters are argued...It is a huge resource," said the Chief Justice.
The Chief Justice stressed that it will be done on an experimental basis for a day or two to iron out creases in transcription before becoming a norm. At the beginning of the hearing Tuesday, a five-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI said, "Do you see the screen? We're just trying to explore the possibilities of live transcripts..."
A constitution bench of the Supreme Court is currently considering the issues relating to the Shiv Sena rift. The constitution bench proceedings will be transcribed and given to advocates for vetting prior to uploading on the apex court website.
Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud on Monday administered the oath of office to two new judges of the Supreme Court, taking the number of judges in the apex court to its full sanctioned strength of 34.
Justices Rajesh Bindal and Aravind Kumar were administered oath during a brief swearing-in ceremony held in the Supreme Court premises. With the appointment of two judges, the total number of judges in the apex court has risen to 34.
Before being elevated as judges of the apex court, Justice Bindal was the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court while Justice Kumar was the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court.
In an ongoing tussle, Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju, replying to a question on reservations in the judiciary in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, said that there is no reservation policy in the Indian judiciary presently but reminded the collegium to include those who are not represented adequately in the system.
During Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, the matter related to whether the government will consider the possibility of introducing a reservation policy in the appointment of judges was raised by DMK leader Tiruchi Siva. "As per the existing policies and provisions, there is no reservation in the Indian judiciary," Rijiju said.
"However, I have reminded all the judges and especially the collegium members, to keep it in mind while recommending the names to include the members from backward communities, women, and other categories which are not represented adequately in the Indian judiciary," the minister said.
TMC member Jawhar Sircar questioned the minister on the points of differences with the judiciary and the 127 proposals for High Court judges lying vacant presently. "When will these proposals be taken up," Sircar asked.
Law Minister Rijiju replied, "There are 210 vacancies in the various High Courts. In terms of the vacancies, I can say that once the names are recommended by the three-member collegium of the High Court, then it proceeds as per the laid down procedures. These 210 names, which he is asking, we have not received any proposal so there is no question of any sharp differences with the judiciary."
Lawyer Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri was being sworn in as an additional judge of the Madras High Court today, the Supreme Court dismissed petitions against her elevation as a judge. The petitioners had cited Ms Gowri's alleged hate speech against Muslims and Christians, arguing it made her unfit to take the oath.
The oath ceremony started while the Supreme Court hearing was still underway. "We are not entertaining the writ petitions. Reasons will follow," a special bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai said
The Apex Indian Court today issued notice to the Centre and sought a report within three weeks over an appeal against the ban on a controversial BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and allegations linked to the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Supreme Court asked for the original record of the order to take down the documentary from the public domain.
The Supreme court acted on a petition by veteran journalist N Ram, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, asking that the Centre be stopped from censoring the documentary.
The petitions challenge the use of emergency powers to block the documentary and remove links from social media. The Centre never formally publicised the blocking order, said a separate petition by lawyer ML Sharma calling the ban on the two-part documentary "malafide, arbitrary, and unconstitutional".
On January 21, the Centre, using emergency provisions under the Information Technology Rules, 2021, issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial documentary "India: The Modi Question".
In another round of elevation to SC, the Supreme Court Collegium today recommended to the Centre the names of Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Aravind Kumar for elevation as apex court judges.
All the six members of the Collegium, led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, were unanimous in recommending the name of Justice Bindal, said the resolution uploaded on the apex court website.
However, Justice K M Joseph had reservations about recommending the name of Justice Kumar, the resolution said.
"The resolution of the Collegium in regard to the appointment of Mr Justice Rajesh Bindal, Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, is unanimous. However, regarding the appointment of Mr Justice Aravind Kumar, Chief Justice of the High Court of Gujarat, Justice K M Joseph has expressed his reservations on the ground that his name can be considered later," the resolution said.
With the ongoing conflict over judicial appointments, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju today strongly objected to the Supreme Court making public the government's objections to candidates recommended for judges.
Last week, the Supreme Court collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, published on the Supreme Court website the government's objections to the elevation of three candidates for judge and its own counter.
Amid a tussle with the government, it was an unprecedented move by the Supreme Court to make public the inputs of intelligence agencies - the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) - on the government's objections.
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said today that he would "react at an appropriate time" but made his views clear in front of the camera while addressing the media. .
"Putting out secret and sensitive reports of RAW or IB in public domain is a matter of grave concern, to which I will react at an appropriate time. Today is not the appropriate time," the Law Minister told reporters.
"If the concerned officer who is working for the nation in disguise or secret mode in a very secretive location, he will think twice if tomorrow his report is put out in the public domain, and it will have implications. That is why I will not make any comment," Law Minister stated.
When asked whether he would take it up with the Chief Justice, the minister said: "The Chief Justice and I meet so often. We are always in touch. He is the head of the judiciary, I am the bridge between the government and the judiciary. We have to work together - we can't work in isolation. It is a contentious issue...let's leave it for another day."
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said that as the judges are not elected, they do not face public scrutiny but people watch them and make assessments about them from the way they deliver justice,
The minister's remarks at a Republic Day function organised at the Tis Hazari courts complex here came amid a tug-of-war between the judiciary and the executive.
Rijiju said due to social media, ordinary citizens ask questions from the government and they should do so. The government is attacked and questioned "and we face it", he said. "If people elect us again, we will return to power. If they don't, we'll sit in the opposition and question the government.".
He said on the other hand if a person becomes a judge, he does not have to face elections. "There is no public scrutiny of judges," he said. "...As people don't elect you, they cannot replace you. But people are watching them -- their judgements, the way you deliver verdict -- people are watching and make assessments and form an opinion," he said. Nothing is hidden in the era of social media, he said.
Rijiju said the Chief Justice of India had requested him to do something about the attacks on judges on social media. He wanted to know how to control the insulting language against judges. He said the judges cannot argue in a public forum as there are limitations.
"I have thought about what should be done. There is a provision of contempt. But when people comment on a mass scale, then what can be done? While we are facing public scrutiny and criticism on a daily basis, judges too are facing the same now," he said.
He claimed judges too these days are a little careful, because if they deliver a verdict that will result in a "massive reaction" in society, then they too would be affected as they are also humans.
The Supreme Court seems to have decided to take on the Government over the issue of the appointment of judges. Putting up its communication with the Centre in the public domain, the collegium judges, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, have made it clear that they are not going to take the almost daily badgering from the Centre lying down. Making the communication public was a big decision for them; the top judges reportedly deliberated for four days before taking this unprecedented step. Till the time of writing these lines, there has been no response from the Government to the SC’s communication. This is not a desirable situation; the judiciary and the executive should act in harmony, not in conflict. Owing to differences in perspectives and lines of thinking, there can be occasion friction; this happens elsewhere as well. In the United States, for instance, the differences become pronounced over important matters like gun control and abortion. The tensions, however, cannot be allowed to linger on for longer periods; but, unfortunately, that is what is happening. In 2015, the apex court struck down the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), the alternative judges’ appointment mechanism. Since then, the Government has been smarting under that ruling. In the last few months, its unease over the collegium system has been articulated by many a personage — from Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar to Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Lok Sabha Speak Om Birla. Worse, the articulation has sometimes bordered on abrasiveness.
While the executive has been ham-handed, the judiciary has not been very prompt in resolving the issue. Months ago, CJI Chandrachud had said that the collegium system would be reconsidered; not much seems to have happened since then, even as Government functionaries have been becoming impatient and sometimes intemperate. Posting letters signed by top judges on the SC website also has the potential to further flare up the matter. The apex court judges have reasons to disagree with the Centre’s refusal to elevate the three candidates to the Delhi, Bombay, and Madras High Courts. Saurabh Kirpal was denied judgeship because of his sexual orientation and the foreign nationality of his partner; this smacks of a socially reactionary attitude. Similarly, the rejection of Somasekhar Sundaresan and R John Sathyan, because one of them was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the other of the Citizenship Amendment Act, doesn’t seem proper. The Supreme Court has correctly trashed the Government’s objections, but one wonders if this needed to be done publicly. Besides, as we said earlier, a bit of urgency on the part of the top court over the collegium would go a long way in smoothing its relationship with the Government. Two organs of the State bickering with each other all the time is not a good advertisement for either India or democracy.