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‘You Breach Your Own Oath of Office’, Retd Civil Servants React to Rijiju's ‘Barbs’ at Judiciary

Over 90 signatories to an open letter to the Law Minister have sought an explanation from Rijiju on the legal basis of his “open threat in a public forum” to some retired judges.

Image Courtesy: PTI

New Delhi: Over 90 former civil servants have written an open letter to Union Law Minister Kien Rijiju, raising strong objections to his recent comments on the Supreme Court collegium regarding judicial appointments and uncalled for remarks on some retired judges, terming them as ‘anti-India gang’.

“We are puzzled by your repeated criticisms of the Supreme Court collegium while simultaneously stating that there was no confrontation between the government and the Supreme Court…. In the appointment of judges to the High Courts and Supreme Court it appears that it is the government that is stonewalling appointments,” says the letter signed by over 90 former bureaucrats, including former diplomats and Ambassadors.

Referring to “venomous barbs” by the Law Minister at a recent media conclave and by the country’s Vice-President, the letter says, “Rather than engage constructively with the Supreme Court and collegium, high offices of the executive such as yours, and that of the Vice President, have responded with venomous barbs. The government’s continued refusal to accept some candidates can only give rise to the suspicion that the underlying intention is to create a pliant judiciary.”

Commenting on the continuous “abrasive attacks” on the judiciary, the letter said “it is no surprise that retired judges, senior lawyers, and experts have been expressing serious concern in the public domain on the urgent need to safeguard judicial independence.”

“These are individuals with distinguished careers of public service and unimpeachable integrity. Yet you have not hesitated to call them anti-India and have stated that a few retired judges are working in tandem with activists, groupings you described as “anti-India gangs” and attempting to influence the judiciary to “play the role of an Opposition party”, says the letter.

Reminding Rijiju of the constitutional safeguards for free speech, the letter said the Minister’s remarks that “nobody will escape” and that “those who have worked against the country will have to pay a price”, calls for an explanation from him on the “legal basis of your open threat in a public forum.”

“We recognise that there is need for continued deliberations on ways to improve the current system of judicial appointments, to deepen transparency and the rigour of the process as also diversity amongst appointees. However, preserving the independence of the judiciary is non-negotiable, and any sign of executive overreach cannot be accepted in a democracy,” says the letter.

The letter concludes by reminding the Law Minister of his owen of oath of office and the “simple but cardinal truth: all organs of the State are bound by the Constitution of India and a government, simply because it is in a majority, cannot ride roughshod over Constitutional provisions regarding the separation of powers amongst the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.”

“By doing so, you breach your own oath of office,” the letter adds.

Read the full letter and list of signatories here

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