Union law minister Kiren Rijiju’s argument today that judges are not answerable to people the way elected representatives are, was brushed aside by Justice Deepak Gupta, retired judge of the Supreme Court. Such statements undermine the independence and strength of the judiciary,” he told NDTV in an exclusive interview. The current system, he added, exists because it was the one envisaged by the fathers of the constitution.”That is the way we have chosen in our constitution for our judiciary to be. Unlike the American judiciary where at the district level, a lot of people are elected,” he said. Amid the government versus judiciary debate, Mr Rijiju has again underscored that while judges are not elected and are not under public scrutiny, their judgments are being watched and assessed by the people, who, he added, now have a voice thanks to social media. Justice Gupta pointed out that the Supreme Court Collegium, which appoints judges — a process in which the government wants a bigger role — is never an election issue. Moreover, in most countries judges are not elected for the highest courts, he said. “This is not an argument really. It is no argument that we get elected so we represent the voice of the people. See, this bogey which is being raised about the will of the people — I think let it be made clear that even the ruling government does not have the strength in numbers to say they present the will of the people,” Justice Deepak Gupta said. The government, he pointed out, only got 35 per cent of the votes cast and if the total electorate be counted, the number drops to 25 per cent. Justice Gupta questioned if the law minister’s statement was the result of the Collegium’s unprecedented move to make public the government’s reasons for rejecting various names of judges. “Maybe they were rocked by what the Collegium has done,” he said. On Thursday, the Supreme Court had uploaded its letters to the Centre on its website, refuting all of government’s objections.
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