December 26, 2021


CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

SPEAKING on the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, John Brittas, CPI(M) MP from Kerala in Rajya Sabha, said that there is a serious lacuna in the bill and that there has been a demand for a National Judicial Appointment Commission, which should represent the judiciary, executive, legislature, bar and the public with provisions of transparency and accountability. 

Stressing that the independence of the judiciary affects the whole country, he said, "Let people know who are going to be our judges and their competence, ability and integrity. Should there be a system shrouded in mystery, secrecy and darkness?" Brittas questioned the government's intent behind introducing the bill even though it has been six years since the Supreme Court struck down the proposal. "This government has found it convenient and expedient so that there is a barter. I charge there is a barter. The government has successfully spiked the appointments of those who are inconvenient to them," he said. He said that the government has been sitting on the proposals of collegium whenever they find certain names who are persona non grata for them. 

"Why should the law minister shy away from expressing the desire of the legislature and the executive? If he wants an appointment of the National Judicial Appointment Commission, let him emphatically make that statement here on the floor of the house," he said. 

Brittas reminded that there are cases when the government had not consented to the names by collegium for years despite the fact that the Supreme Court had emphatically stated that once returned, the executive must give consent. 75 names are pending with the department of justice, 35 proposals recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium are pending with the department. Three proposals are with the PMO, 13 proposals are submitted to the ministry of law and justice and so on and so forth. A long list of proposals from High Court Collegiums and Supreme Court Collegium are pending at different levels." he said and stressed that there should be a transparent system and that it is evident that the only thing missing in the proposed bill is transparency. He underlined that exactly three years ago, the Supreme Court dismissed the Rafael case. Interestingly, even while claiming that there are no materials to suggest irregularities, the Bench sat on a trial instead of ordering an investigation. Overnight, orders were passed to divest the powers of CBI Director Alok Verma," he said.  

Brittas emphasized that the present scheme of appointment ensures that only a particular class is rewarded by the government and would affect the diversity of the institution. He pointed out that out of 47 chief justices of India till date, at least 14 have been brahmins. "From 1950-70, the maximum strength of the Supreme Court was 14 judges and 11 of them were brahmins. This august house will be shocked to note that till 1980, there was no judge from the OBC in the Supreme Court," he said and urged the prime minister to ensure the independence of the judiciary in the country.

In Lok Saha CPI(M) MP AM Ariff from Kerala spoke on the supplementary demands for grants - second batch for 2021-22. He said that the government has shown no intention to yield to a genuine request made on the floor of the house by members even if it needed to spend just a few crores of rupees. Ariff took the opportunity to urge the minister of finance to allocate Rs 50 crore to the department of education to convert 14 project sector Kendriya Vidyalayas to civil sector across the country.

He then questioned the government's lack of efforts to increase the income of farmers. "At least, the government needs to acknowledge that farmers have lost their lives during the one-year-old protest and to give an ex gratia payment of Rs 10 lakh to each grieved family. They could have made a provision for allocating sufficient funds for the same in the supplementary grants," he said.

Ariff said that the government has remained uncommitted to give statutory backing for the minimum support price (MSP), which has been a long-pending demand of farmers across the country. He urged the government to heed to this genuine demand of farmers and bring legislation for the same without further delay. 

Raising the issue of the direction given by RBI banning use of the term 'bank' by cooperative societies in the country, he said that the cooperative banks play a major role in meeting the credit demands of rural areas of the country. "Depriving them from offering banking services will severely destroy the backbone of the rural economy. Hence, I request you to give directions to RBI to allow the cooperative societies to provide banking services without any hindrance," he said. 

Ariff questioned the purpose behind the government seeking additional grants for the ministry of food and public distribution. "The cost of essential commodities including vegetables has been skyrocketing in the country for the past few months. But this government has not taken any steps to control the prices, and people are overburdened. I would like to know what measures they are going to take to control inflation," he asked. 

Ariff also questioned the government's silence on the reported move by France to inquire into the alleged corruption relating to the Rafale deal with India and said that it generates suspicion that it wants to hide the truth from the people of this country. "The inquiry had started after the clearance of the Supreme Court of India on the litigation regarding the Rafale deal. Hence, I request the union government also to order an inquiry by a joint parliamentary committee on the Rafale Deal," he said. 

Talking about the failure of the government in controlling fuel prices, he said, "We all know how the government has squeezed the people of the country by increasing the central excise duty on petroleum products when crude oil prices have gone down in the international market since March 2020. I would not like to explain it further. The government itself has informed this house that there has been a 495 per cent increase in the income from the tax on petroleum products after the BJP government came to power in 2014. This is nothing but looting money from the pockets of common people and throwing them to hardships. Without even an executive order or announcement, this government has stopped giving 12 LPG cylinders at subsidised rates all of a sudden and no one knows when such a decision was taken and who was responsible for that."

He also raised the issue of the cancellation of concessional fares for senior citizens for rail journeys which existed before the Covid-19. "Why are they so cruel to the senior citizens? If we see the health sector, we have not yet recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost a year back we started Covid-19 vaccination in our country but yet, only 37.3per cent population is fully vaccinated. The percentage of the people who got at least one dose is just about 59 per cent. Even these people would not have got it if the Supreme Court had not intervened," he said.

Ariff said that while in the last financial year, Rs 2.02 lakh crores were written off, after coming to power in 2014 the BJP government has written off a total of Rs 10.7 lakh crore. "At the same time, what did it give to the common people of the country? It gave just 5 Kg rice and 1 Kg pulses in the last few months. I cannot support the supplementary demands for grants because the government has not fulfilled the needs and demands of the poor people of the country," he said.