Ashwani Kumar, Manish Tewari adopt a nuanced stand on the issue
Amidst a growing clamour from BJP allies to remove Justice A.K. Goel as Chairman of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for his earlier Supreme Court judgment on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has strongly backed the retired judge, and called such demands “unconstitutional.”
In an election year, the Congress has taken a more cautious line regarding the appointment of Justice Goel, who has been blamed for diluting the SC/ST Act, saying it does not comment on judicial appointments.
However, the party said “the articulation by Union Ministers points to a larger crisis regarding the Modi government’s handling of growing atrocities against Dalits.”
The BJP’s ally in Bihar, Lok Jan Shakti Party’s Chirag Paswan, last week, had written to the Prime Minister expressing disapproval of Justice Goel’s appointment.
His father and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, backed the letter as did Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale.
Responding to the demands, Mr. Kumar said on Twitter: “It is unconstitutional for Union Ministers to demand action against a former judge of the Supreme Court for exercising his constitutional duty. There are other mechanisms to undo an erroneous judgment. Political populism must yield to constitutional morality.”
“While the nation remains committed to Dalit empowerment and respects the sensitivities of all communities, it is not permissible to condemn the judge personally for his judgment while expressing ones reservations about it,” he added.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Kumar went a step further and called the demand for Justive Goel’s removal an “assault” on the Judiciary.
“Such a demand is an assault on judicial independence and a breach of oath of office by the Ministers to uphold the Constitution … While it is open for those who disagree with the judgment to criticise it and to explore available mechanisms to undo the same, it is not permissible within the constitutional scheme to browbeat judges for their judicial pronouncements,” he said.
The Congress, however, is caught between Constitutional propriety and an angry Dalit community. “We don’t comment on judicial appointments. However, the manner in which Ministers have come out points to a larger crisis among the BJP allies… ,” party leader Manish Tewari said on Sunday.