New Delhi, July 8: A "corrupt government" wants "corrupt judges", senior counsel Ram Jethmalani told the Supreme Court today, arguing against the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
Jethmalani, who was law minister in the earlier NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also brought up secularism to caution that the power of appointing and transferring judges should be vested in the judiciary alone.
"Secularism is under serious threat. There's not a single book either at the school or college level teaching secularism to young people these days. I have been writing to the HRD minister, Ms Irani, asking them to prescribe one book, Religion Gone Astray, but to no avail," he said.
He added: "We are not being able to teach secularism to young people. My Lords should assert themselves and not leave anything to politicians."
Appearing for a junior advocate who has challenged the validity of the NJAC, Jethmalani told the court that the collegium system was any day superior. "It is a corrupt government which wants corrupt judges," he said.
The bench of Justices J.S. Khehar, J. Chelameshwar, Madan B. Lokur, Kurien Joseph and A.K. Goel asked Jethmalani: "In place of two eminent persons, would you prefer two judges?"
Jethmalani said: "I would prefer two retired judges."
The bench then asked: "Suppose the NJAC has the Chief Justice of India and four judges, besides the law minister and two eminent persons, is that acceptable?"
The senior lawyer responded: "The voice of the judiciary should be paramount. But there should be no law minister in it. He represents the government, the cabinet and the legislature. The government is the biggest litigant and the citizen's fundamental right of fair trial is lost if the government, which is the biggest litigant, is involved in the process of picking judges."
Senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for the Supreme Court Advocates On Records Association which is also opposed to the NJAC, intervened to tell the bench that instead of the law minister, the association has no objection if the attorney-general finds a place on the NJAC "because he is a constitutional authority in whom even the government has confidence".
"But then he has to appear before judges," Justice Kurien remarked.
"There is no problem in it," Nariman countered.
"After demitting office, he will have to appear before the judges again," the bench said.
Nariman said it would still not create any problem.
Jethmalani also objected to the statement and objects preceding the NJAC Act that say the purpose of the commission was to make the CJI and other members accountable.
"How are you making the CJI accountable? Accountable to whom?" he asked
The arguments will resume tomorrow.