The Bombay High Court on Thursday dismissed a public interest litigation filed against Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar for their remarks on judiciary and the collegium system for appointment of judges.
The plea filed by Bombay Lawyers Association had claimed Rijiju and Dhankhar showed lack of faith in the Constitution with their remarks and conduct. It had sought for orders to restrain Dhankhar from discharging duty as the vice president, and Rijiju from discharging duty as cabinet minister for the central government.
The PIL claimed the "frontal attack not just on the judiciary but the Constitution" by the two executive officials has lowered the prestige of the Supreme Court in public. A division bench of Acting Chief Justice S V Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne briefly heard the petitioner's lawyer, Ahmed Abdi, and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh for the respondents.
"We are not inclined to grant any relief. The petition is dismissed. Reasons would be recorded later," the court said. While Abdi argued that Dhankhar and Rijiju had lowered the reputation of the judiciary with their remarks, ASG Singh said the plea was frivolous and a publicity stunt. Singh said the respondents (Dhankhar and Rijiju) respect the Constitution of India which is the supreme and there was no question of them attacking the Constitution.
"The petition is frivolous, a waste of the court's time and nothing but a publicity stunt. Exemplary cost should be imposed," Singh said. Abdi argued that Dhankhar and Rijiju are constitutionaries and hence should abstain from making such remarks.
"We are not against debate and criticism but it should be held in Parliament and not in such public domain. This is lowering the judiciary's reputation and image and affecting the faith people have in judiciary," Abdi said. This was a very dangerous trend that would ultimately lead to anarchy, he claimed.
"Respondent 1 (Dhankhar) and Respondent 2 (Rijiju) as constitutional functionaries are supposed to have faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India," the PIL had said. “The Vice President and the Law Minister are attacking the collegium system as well as the doctrine of basic structure openly in a public platform. This kind of unbecoming behaviour by respondents who are holding constitutional posts is lowering the majesty of the Supreme Court in the eyes of the public at large," claimed the petition, filed through advocate Eknath Dhokale.
Rijiju recently said the collegium system of appointing judges was "opaque and not transparent". Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar had questioned the landmark 1973 Kesavananda Bharati case verdict that gave the basic structure doctrine. Dhankhar had said the verdict set a bad precedent and if any authority questions Parliament's power to amend the Constitution, it would be difficult to say "we are a democratic nation".