Law minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday asserted that judicial freedom was paramount and the government would not tinker with it.
Asked by reporters to comment on the remarks by chief justice S.H. Kapadia a day earlier, cautioning the government against tinkering with the independence of the judiciary, Khurshid said he believed the judiciary was an important pillar of the Constitution.
He claimed that the accountability that the government was seeking from the judiciary – through a proposed new law – was not meant to undermine judicial independence. ''The accountability is to enhance independence,'' said Khurshid. ''Independence remains paramount and we are very clear about it.''
Kapadia, in his Independence day remarks at the Supreme Court, had said the government could make laws that would make judges accountable. ''We are not afraid of that,'' he declared. ''But it should not tinker with the very constitutional principle of judicial independence.'' Kapadia said he had told the government not to lose sight of the concept of judicial independence.
According to him, the separation of powers between the judiciary, executive and legislature, as prescribed in the constitution, should be respected and upheld by all. While urging the executive and the legislature not to encroach on judicial independence, he also urged judges of the Supreme court and the high courts to avoid judicial over-reach and to respect the rights of other institutions.
The Lok Sabha has already passed the Judicial Standards and Accountability bill, which is now pending in the Rajya Sabha. One of the contentious clauses in the bill states that 'no judge shall make unwarranted comments against the conduct of any constitutional or statutory institution or officials at the time of hearing matters in open courts.''