Bhushan slams Jaitley over ‘tyranny of the unelected’ remark

New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday criticized Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for describing as “tyranny of the unelected” the apex court verdict striking down the National Judicial Appointment Commission as “unconstitutional and void”.

The apex court’s constitution bench had on October 16 struck down the NJAC, put in place following the constitution’s 99th Amendment and the NJAC Act, 2014, for appointments to the higher judiciary, holding that it posed a threat to the independence of judiciary which is a basic structure of the constitution.

Taking on Jaitley for his October 18 Facebook post, titled “The NJAC Judgment – An Alternative View”, Bhushan defended the apex court verdict saying that the finance minister being a lawyer of “experience, knows well that the judiciary was created by the constitution as an independent unelected body to protect citizens rights against the tyranny of the elected”.

Referring to the constitutional provisions, Bhushan said that the major function of the apex court, apart from deciding disputes, was to review the actions of the executive and the legislature and to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens.

By striking down the NJAC as “unconstitutional and void”, the Supreme Court “did what it was created for and what it has done in the past”, he said.

Bhushan reminded Jaitley that like others, he too had taken recourse of judicial review when he had moved the court following his detention during emergency in 1975.

Describing the role of the apex court to that of of a “knight against tyranny of the elected”, Bhushan in his statement said that “Jaitley (had) applauded, when the Supreme Court struck down the 39th Constitutional Amendment by which the Indira Gandhi government sought to immunize election of the prime minister from the purview of judicial review”.

Taking exception to the minister describing the October 16 verdict as a “judicial over-reach”, Bhushan said: “Jaitley has allowed his present political position in the government to overpower his understanding of the constitution and the role of the judiciary under it.”

“The judgment”, Bhushan said, “has created quite a stir and is naturally discomforting to the Modi government which was trying to dilute and destroy public accountability institutions such as CIC, CVC and now wanted to control the judiciary as well”.

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