Respect Collegium System But Cannot Act As Post Office: Law Minister

New Delhi: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday asserted that he respects the Supreme Court collegium system but the ministry would not act as a post office and will exercise its role as a stakeholder.
Mr Prasad was delivering the concluding speech during the Prof. NR Madhava Menon Memorial Lecture Series organized by Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad on “Legal & Digital Challenges for India Post Covid”.

Talking about the issue of the entry of all devotees to the Sabarimala Temple, the law minister said Prof. Menon took a very tough stand on Sabarimala.

“He (Menon) said courts should be reluctant to interfere with the faith of people. If the faith is obnoxious, arbitrary, patently unconstitutional, it should go… But if you start being judgemental on faith and that too at the instance of people who have no connection whatsoever with faith, then you are treading upon roads slippery,” Mr Prasad said.

He said Prof Menon was very firm that the collegium system is no more relevant and needs to be replaced as it has outlived its utility.

“We all know that the NDA government came up with the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) for appointment of judges. It was unanimously passed by both houses of parliament and more than 50 per cent of Vidhan Sabhas. Yet the Supreme Court quashed it.”

“We respect the SC judgement but one thing I would like to flag and debate about it. The SC has held that in the judicial commission, the law minister is also a member, therefore the appointees from that process may not be fair and objective when litigation comes against the government. But if this is the reasoning then I have serious reservations as a student of law which I have said in the past,” Mr Prasad said.

He said in India has a democratic form of governance where the prime minister is the head of the government and the council of ministers is accountable to him. If a mere association of law minister leads to doubts about the objectivity of appointment then it is a very big problem, he added.

“PM plays a very significant role in the appointment of the president, vice-president, judges, army chief etc. People of India trust the PM to ensure sanctity, dignity and security of the country. PM has a nuclear button in his hand. The prime minister can be trusted for so many things in the country but he, assisted by the law minister, cannot be trusted to appoint fair and objective judges, that is, a too sweeping comment, about which I have my serious reservations.

“We have accepted and respected the judgement but one thing I would like to reiterate, we respect the collegium system but we are not a post office. Law minister and law ministry is not a post office, we a stakeholder and we shall continue to exercise our role,” Mr Prasad said.

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