NJAC will endanger independence of judiciary: Gonsalves

A senior lawyer has claimed that the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law would give the government "absolute" power to appoint judges who would be "pliant" and do its bidding, thus endangering the independence of judiciary.

PTI| Last Updated: Aug 25, 2015, 17:10 PM IST

New Delhi: A senior lawyer has claimed that the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law would give the government "absolute" power to appoint judges who would be "pliant" and do its bidding, thus endangering the independence of judiciary.

"It (government) wants the absolute right to appoint judges. If the (NJAC) Act is upheld and the original government's power is restored to some extent, the government will be able to pack the judiciary with pliant judges who will do their bidding," senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said here.

Delivering the 17th Borker Memorial Lecture yesterday, he said "at the core, the government wants to knock off from consideration those who would be independent, firm willed and incapable of being influenced by the State".

In his presidential address at the event, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice Rajinder Sachar pointed towards threats to secularism and said he felt that this basic feature of the Constitution can never be done away with.

"My vision is that secularism can never be taken away from India as it is the basic feature of the Constitution of India," he said. He, however, said the corporate sector and growing inequality "have eaten the country up."

On the issue of secularism, Gonsalves said the recent statement of a Union Minister seeking deletion of the word 'secular' from the Preamble of the Constitution indicated a tendency towards possible efforts to "convert India from a secular republic to a Hindu Rashtra."

Speaking on My Vision of India: 2047 AD', Gonsalves criticised the government for slashing budgets on education, public health care and food.

Highlighting the plight of farmers and the state of agricultural sector, Gonsalves said "a tragedy of unimaginable proportions is playing itself out in the countryside", with government policies facilitating corporate takeover of agri- production and "effectively pushing millions of farmers off the land."

On other issues, he said "India needed to spend six per cent of its GDP on education and three per cent each on public health care and food to meet the constitutional requirements of the Right to Life, but actual allocations are one-third of what is required. Hence, it was not accidental, but by design, that India became the hunger capital of the world while GDP rates soared."

"The powerful central government with its overwhelming national mandate cannot even guarantee our children clean air to breathe," Gonsalves said in his lecture.

"I see the education system disintegrating, with the old system of education being replaced by one driven by commercialisation. ... Education today is not only a business, it is a racket of the highest order.

Gonsalves the judiciary, as well as the government, were responsible for "opening the doors for commercialisation of education and dealt a fatal blow to this most essential fundamental right."