‘Whether this will be good for the institution or not’: Law Minister on lawyers protest against SC collegium decision

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday criticised the protest by lawyers against the Supreme Court collegium proposal on transfer of high court judges.

Rijiju, without naming any bar association, said he heard that some lawyers are on strike on some issues, adding: “We have to think and we have to decide whether this will be good for the institution or not. If you don’t respect the institution, it will amount to disrespecting yourselfa..”.

Recently, the lawyers of two high courts – Gujarat and Telangana- had protested against the proposals made by the Supreme Court collegium for the transfer of judges.

In his address at a function organised by the Bar Council of India to felicitate the Chief Justice of India Dr Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Rijiju said when there are things which are becoming too loud in terms of putting forward the demands, then it has a risk of taking a different turn.

He further added that he heard that lawyers want to meet the CJI over a transfer case, “now the issue may be, if you look in isolation, it may be one of the issues. But if this becomes a recurring instance for every decision taken by the collegium, which is being supported by the government, then where will it lead to? Then, the whole dimension will change”.

Rijiju said in order to ensure that Indian judiciary remains very robust, then not only courts, not only the judges, but the Bar Council of India (BCI) and all the bar councils have to be strengthened. He added that if individuals start asserting their opinion much more than the institution, there is danger and what if, some of the views of individual lawyers, takes prominence and it takes precedence over the opinion of the BCI.

He said to ensure the judiciary is respected, independence of judiciary is maintained, it is not only the conduct of the judges but the conduct of the lawyers is also equally necessary.

Rijiju said: “Sometimes it is good for the country that the Law Minister does not know the law much. If I am part of the so-called lawyers’ community, then my outlook and my perception will be typical of a lawyer.” He said his observations are simply picked up from the opinion of the masses and he put it across in very simple terms.

According to sources, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud has recommended transfer of three high court judges for administrative reasons.

According to a source, the Supreme Court collegium recommended shifting the Madras High Court’s Acting Chief Justice T. Raja to the Rajasthan High Court, while Justice Nikhil S. Kariel and Justice A. Abhishek Reddy have been proposed to be transferred to the Patna High Court.

Justice Raja assumed charge as Acting Chief Justice from September 22,2022. Justice Kariel is currently a judge at the Gujarat High Court, while Justice Reddy is a judge at Telangana High Court. Reports on the collegium resolution led to protest by lawyers at the Gujarat and Telangana High Courts.

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