Judiciary must leave lawmaking to Parliament: Ravi Shankar Prasad
The judiciary must leave lawmaking to Parliament, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Friday, calling upon judges to respect the constitutional principle of separation of powers.
Prasad’s comments come in the backdrop of the government’s criticism of judicial activism, a point of friction between the executive and the judiciary.
“We are proud of the judiciary and are committed to its independence. If the executive makes a mistake, the judiciary must step in. But my problem is with governance. Governance and policymaking must be left to those who are entrusted with the task,” he said at the 15th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
The law minister also expressed concern over the time taken by the courts to decide cases and the problem of pendency of cases.
“Cases have been languishing for 10 or more years and it is a problem. The government has taken an initiative to address this, and focus is now on disposal of cases. Courts are now working on Saturdays and Sundays too,” he said.
Prasad also talked about other initiatives of the government which include enforcement of institutional arbitration and changes in the law to make contracts between parties stronger.
A few days ago, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had also criticized judicial activism, which he said often stemmed from the belief that when other institutions are not doing their job “somebody has to fill the gap”.
“This is a flawed argument. What if the same argument was used the other way round against the judiciary? Cases are pending, judges are not doing their job. So must somebody step in and now exercise that power? The answer is no,” Jaitley had said.
The judiciary and executive have been at loggerheads since October 2015 when the Supreme Court struck down a law that allowed the government a say in judicial appointments. Passed by Parliament, the law ended a decades-old collegium procedure under which judges appoint judges, unique to India.
Prasad also made a case for the 12-digit biometric Aadhaar number, saying the privacy argument should not be used to “prohibit innovation” and “shield the corrupt and terrorists”.
The minister’s remarks come at a time when critics label Aadhaar an intrusive tool that is open to misuse by the government.
Allaying fears surrounding Aadhaar and data privacy, the minister said the government will come up with a data-protection law that will be a beacon for the world.
The government is pushing for mandatory use of Aadhaar for various schemes and services, including bank accounts and phone numbers, saying it is necessary to plug leaks in its welfare programmes and curb corruption. But activists say the law and the government’s decision infringe on individual privacy.
“Privacy can’t become the shield of the corrupt and terrorists,” Prasad said in defence of the Aadhaar law. “Aadhaar is the digital identity to supplement the physical identity.”
The Supreme Court ruled recently that individual privacy is a fundamental right, a verdict that many say will test the validity of the biometric identification project already facing legal challenges.
A nine-judge Constitution bench of the top court will hear a clutch of petitions challenging the legality of the Aadhaar law and government notifications linking the identification number with bank accounts and phone numbers.
Prasad also spoke about Digital India, the Narendra Modi government’s signature programme that aims to build synergy between good governance and the use of IT.
“We don’t want to miss the digital revolution. Digital India is more for the poor and underprivileged, and designed to bring in digital inclusion. Let us bring in technology which is affordable, which is inclusive,” he said, adding that these are the basic themes of Digital India.
Prasad said the government’s target is to push India’s digital economy to $1 trillion “in five to eight years”.