New Delhi: After criticising the Supreme Court ruling on the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) and saying "Indian democracy cannot be a tyranny of the unelected", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has now stated that the decision would not lead to any confrontation between the government and the judiciary, or the Parliament and the judiciary.
Speaking at a debate organised by an English News channel, Jaitley said on Friday that the government would obey the apex court order on NJAC.
"The Supreme Court has rightly or wrongly decided. The judgment will be complied with. The NJAC is dead and gone but debate for a better system for appointment of judges will continue. It can happen in public and in Parliament as India needs an independent and credible judiciary," the Times of India quoted Jaitley as saying.
Noting that the Supreme Court was well within its rights to strike down a constitutional amendment, the minister said, "No one is doubting that. My 'tyranny of unelected' comment was meant against the deep distrust of politicians shown by the judges. My criticism was against the premise of the judgment that politicians could not be trusted and the judiciary as an institution needs to be protected from elected representatives."
Jaitley, however, continued to oppose the collegium system of judges appointing judges, saying it was full of flaws and while the nation needed an independent judiciary, its credibility was more important.
"To be independent is important. To be credible is more important. We all know there was a CBI Director who was independent but not credible," he said, as per PTI.
Jaitley, himself a noted lawyer, questioned the "exclusivity" enjoyed by the judges who appoint judges without any interference by the executive, saying the collegium system was akin to the Gymkhana Club here where members appoint the future members.
He also said that the executive always participated in the process, but its "comments were never taken seriously".
"It (collegium) is a de-facto system where executive has to follow what the judiciary says. It is a clerical role that the executive has," the minister said adding that there should be a system of checks and balances.
The minister contended by its judgement the apex court has re-written the Constitution as it does "extreme damage" to sovereignty of the Parliament.
Former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, who also participated in the debate, conceded that the collegium system of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts was "opaque and secretive" and said the appointments and the procedure adopted can be put in the public domain or provided under RTI to bring in transparency.
"True, the (collegium) system is opaque and secretive. There are faults... The three faults are lack of transparency, lack of an expert body like a standing committee, to help the collegium and the executive's indifferent role in the participatory process," Justice Lodha.
He said that while he respects the executive, he was of the view the judiciary "has to be insulated" from political interference or pressure, and added that interference by executive has to be "nominal".
Justice Lodha said though the NJAC Act has been set aside, the judiciary was still open for the executive and the legislature to devise an alternate method of appointing judges.
Jurists Soli Sorabjee and Rajeev Dhawan also took part in the debate and felt there was need to correct the flaws in the system of judges appointing judges.