Inappropriate, union ministers

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI

The tendency of union ministers to interfere in the process of investigation and adjudication of cases is a matter of concern as it threatens to cast a shadow on the impartiality of the justice delivery system, which is already suffering from a credibility crisis. Even before the ink could dry on the FIR filed by the CBI against former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and VN Dhoot of Videocon for cheating and conspiracy in what could emerge as a multi-crore bank scam, union minister Arun Jaitley, sitting thousands of miles away and reportedly under medical treatment, took a swipe at the agency, accusing it of indulging in “investigative adventurism” and embarking on a “journey to nowhere”. While the government was quick to jump to the minister’s defence saying he was only offering “elderly advice” and not meddling with the agency, questions have been raised about his special interest in this particular case and silence over other complaints of CBI exceeding its brief or being used to settle political scores. By issuing a veiled threat to the CBI not to cross the Lakshman Rekha, Jaitley has exposed himself to criticism that he either has something to hide himself or is attempting to shield someone.

In another instance of interference, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took exception to the Supreme Court cancelling the January 29 hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case due to the non-availability of a judge, going on to mischievously suggest that the proceedings be expedited on the lines of how the court dealt with matters related to adultery and entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. Prasad even wondered aloud why the court could not evolve a mechanism to resolve the Ayodhya dispute when it could hold midnight sittings over the ‘Urban Naxal’ issue and the impasse over the government formation in Karnataka. Disingenuously, Prasad claimed that he was making these statements not as a minister but as a citizen.

Indeed, the quality of his remarks on the judiciary were of street-level opinions, but Prasad is still the country’s Law minister, and a minister cannot have two views, one personal and another official in matters concerning the affairs of his ministry. Taking a stand that is contrary to the official position and then passing it off as “elderly advice” or “personal view” fools nobody. It is  a crude attempt to interfere in the course of justice. As the Supreme Court observed in an unrelated matter on Wednesday, “If institutions are maligned by creating pressure of any kind, the very independence of the system would be endangered.”

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Inappropriate, union ministers

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