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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Ex-judge calls out Rijiju ‘threat’

'Anti-national tag an attempt to gag dissent'

Our Bureau New Delhi Published 23.03.23, 03:03 AM
Union law minister Kiren Rijiju

Union law minister Kiren Rijiju File picture

Former Delhi High Court judge Rekha Sharma has expressed shock at Union law minister Kiren Rijiju calling some retired judges “anti-India”, pointing to an “unnecessary aggression in his words” that were “tantamount... to a threat” and “an attempt to gag dissent”.

Referring to the law minister’s comments at the India Today Conclave on March 18, Justice Sharma said in an interview to journalist Karan Thapar for the Wire news portal: “It is most unfortunate that such an expression of words has come from a person no less than the law minister of the country. I feel there is an unnecessary aggression in his words, and they (are) tantamount, in my view, to a threat. And it is also in a way an attempt to gag dissent. I do not know who the judges (are) and in what context he is referring to them as anti-national. But if he is using such strong words against retired judges, he must come out with specifics.”

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Speaking to interviewer Karan Thapar, Justice Sharma cited Rijiju pointing to a “seminar on accountability of judges”.

She noted that former Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit and several other retired judges of the higher courts were present at a seminar on “Principles and Framework for Judicial Appointments” on February 18 in New Delhi.

The seminar had been organised by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan’s Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms.

“Who is anti-national? I mean, is he equating them with Amritpal Singh?” Justice Sharma asked, referring to the fugitive separatist in Punjab.

At the conclave, Rijiju had said: “Recently, there was a seminar…. The topic of the seminar was accountability in judges’ appointments. But the discussion the whole day was on how the government is taking over the Indian judiciary…. It is a few of the retired judges, maybe three or four, few of those activists part of that anti-India gang, these people are trying to make the Indian judiciary play the role of an Opposition party. Some people even go to the court and say that please rein in the government.”

Opposition parties have condemned Rijiju’s remarks. “It is for him to tell the people of India: who are those judges who, according to him, have gone to the court and asked that the government should be reigned in…. It is the law minister who has been indiscreet,” Justice Sharma said, referring to Rijiju saying last year that there was a “Lakshman rekha” while expressing his disapproval of the Supreme Court staying all proceedings under the sedition law.

She added: “Why should retired judges be reigned in? Have they no right to speak? Is it anti-national if you say that as of now, the collegium system is the best system that we have had? Is it anti-national if you say that the enforcement agencies are working selectively…

“Is it anti-national if we say that people of only one community are being targeted? The others, even if they speak hate language, no action is taken against them. We are living in a democratic country, we have every right to speak. Of course, we know our Lakshman rekhas.”

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