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Miffed, CJI asks govt to shut down courts
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 23
Facing attack from political quarters on its decisions in various controversial issues, including the judgment in the private and minority professional institution case, the Supreme Court today lambasted the government for adopting such an “attitude” and said if it did not want to give due respect to the courts it could wind them up.

Visibly upset over the criticism of the court from some members of the government and leaders of various political parties, the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Mr Justice R.C. Lahoti, told Attorney-General (AG) Milon Banerjee that such criticism was unwarranted on the face of the court since in its all three judgments in the private and minority institutions cases since 2002, it had repeatedly asked to bring a law to regulate the admissions and the reservation policy.

Virtually telling the government that the court was being criticised without understanding the “import” of its judgment, the CJI asked the AG “should you not tell your client (government) to give the court the respect it deserves? When we said please come up with a legislation, you are talking about confrontation,” the Chief Justice, sitting in a three-judge Bench with Mr Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, observed.

“If this is the attitude (of the government), tell us, we will wind up the courts and then you do whatever you want,” the CJI told Mr Banerjee and Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) Gopal Subramaniam.

The provocation for such strong words falling from the court was that during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking extension of the reservation benefit to Dalit Christians, Mr Banerjee made certain remarks when the court had agreed to the request of the parties to adjourn the matter as the Centre had not filed its reply.

As the court adjourned the matter for six weeks, the AG remarked, “We are grateful to the court for not precipitating the matter.”

The court took serious view of the use of “precipitate,” asking him what was the provocation for the government to go on saying “day in and day out that we (government) are not taking a confrontationist attitude (with the court).”

As Mr Banerjee tried to explain that the government had not said so, the Chief Justice said if the court was told that it was on confrontation with the executive and the legislature, then “we will do our duty, you do your duty.”

The apex court’s intervention in the Jharkhand matter had attracted criticism from some quarters and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had even tried to put pressure on the UPA government to make “Presidential reference” to the apex court as how far it could go in issuing direction to the legislature. He had later called a conference of presiding officers of state legislative Assemblies, which was boycotted by Speakers of the Assemblies of those states where the NDA had the majority.

On the private and minority institution case verdict, the criticism of the apex court had mainly come from leaders of the Left parties and some members of the UPA government.

The CJI pointed out that there should have been no occasion for anyone to draw a conclusion on the recent seven-judge Bench judgment in the case that it had done away with the reservation and state quota in such institutions as the court had only interpreted the earlier verdicts of 11-judge and five-judge Constitution Benches in the TMA Pai Foundation (2002) and Islamic Academy (2003) cases.

After a strong lashing of the government, the court allowed six-week time to it to file its reply to the PIL seeking extension of the reservation benefits to the Dalit Christians.


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