Interview: D. Raja

‘Parliament cannot be silent’

Print edition : February 16, 2018

D. Raja. Photo: M. Srinath

Interview with D. Raja, national secretary, CPI.

IN the aftermath of the press conference held by the four judges of the Supreme Court, Communist Party of India national secretary D. Raja courted controversy as sections of the media projected his courtesy call to one of the judges as a case of political impropriety. In an interview to Frontline, Raja said Parliament and political parties had a responsibility towards strengthening the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Excerpts:

Your comments on the issues raised by the four judges of the Supreme Court on January 12 and whether the expectation that the legislature should do something about it is a realistic one.

These four judges are not laymen. They are topmost judges of the apex court of the country. They addressed the whole nation. They said that democracy was at stake. When such people come out and say this, it shows that they were very much stressed and disturbed. As a concerned citizen, politician and parliamentarian, I also expressed my view. This is the strength of our democracy. The issues they raised needed to be debated and discussed, and not whether politicians had a right to comment or not. We have had cases where a letter written on a postcard to Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer became the matter of public interest litigation.

The judiciary is the final hope of the common people. So anybody commenting or meeting the judges should be seen in such a perspective. I am not going to go into the specifics of the issues raised. If there is an internal mechanism, they should do it. But there are problems with the collegium system; it is said that it is non-transparent or opaque. Parliament in its own wisdom tried to enact the National Judicial Appointments Commission. The NJAC, as you know, was struck down by the judiciary itself. Even the Memorandum of Procedure referred to in the letter released at the press conference ... no one knows what is happening as it is not in either the public or Parliament domain. But the judiciary is the hope of the common people and that faith has to be restored.

In retrospect, when Justice Karnan’s issue came up, it should have been a wake-up call to revamp the judiciary. I am not getting into specifics, but he also raised some issues. He also went to jail. A top judge going to jail was a good enough occasion for a wake-up call. At that point of time, people said that the judiciary should have adequate social representation. Many former judges also pointed out the need to address these issues. There are larger issues for the whole country. There are specific issues that the judiciary itself has to sort out. I don’t want to speak on the allocation of work, etc.

There was an opinion that nobody should voice any opinion, especially the political class, on the issues raised by the four judges as it was tantamount to interfering with the independence of the judiciary. Even the government and the BJP held this view.

When they say democracy is at stake, Parliament cannot be silent. In our democracy Parliament is supreme. It makes the law and represents the will of the people. So why cannot Parliament have a view on this or parliamentarians not take note of this? When the four judges addressed the media, they were not just talking to the media, but to the whole nation. Parliament cannot keep quiet. It is an extraordinary situation. What we can do as a nation, as Parliament, is the question. That needs to be addressed. I am not getting into specific issues or cases but speaking at a broad level. We are a constitutional democracy where the Constitution gives defined powers to the executive, Parliament and the judiciary. How we maintain the proper relationship and coordination between the three wings is our collective responsibility. And Parliament represents the will of the nation.

There are laid-down procedures for Parliament to take up the issues raised by the judiciary, especially in the context of the press conference, an impeachment motion being one of them.

There are rules and procedures. It is for the political parties to decide how they will react or respond. Let us see what happens in the coming days. Political parties cannot avoid discussing this. Even the Prime Minister said that government and political parties should keep away and it should be left to the judiciary. If the judiciary can resolve it, that is the best. But the issues have come into the public domain. Parliament will have to take a view and make some effort in this direction. Earlier there were individual cases. But you see it is not about individual cases, but about the system. It is about the entire judiciary. For instance, we have huge vacancies in the judiciary at different levels, and pending cases. People do not get justice on time so there are larger and broader issues. I repeat that Justice C.S. Karnan’s case should have served as a wake-up call.

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