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Recently the central government has framed “standard operating procedure” regarding the appearance of the Government officials before courts in litigation involving the Government.
The SOP suggests that the presence of Government officials should be required in courts, only in exceptional cases and not as a regular practice.
However, Justice DY Chandrachud has expressed apprehensions, interpreting this move as an attempt by the central government to exert control over judicial reviews.
Under Article 50 of the constitution, there exists a clear demarcation between the executive and judiciary, and the government's intervention in determining who should be summoned or not is raising concerns. The government's recent focus on court conduct, more than seven decades after the constitution's inception, has drawn attention. The judiciary, a foundational pillar alongside the executive and legislature, serves as a check against unchecked executive actions. Throughout history, the judiciary has intervened to curb executive abuses of power.
The SOP suggests cautious treatment of Government officials, who, despite being public servants, are subject to the court's impartial judgments – judgments that inherently uphold the public's interests. This juxtaposition begs the question: Should there be a distinction in the court's treatment between public servants (Government officials) and ordinary citizens? The central government appears to seek a constitutional interpretation that aligns with their authoritative inclinations, potentially influencing court decisions to align with their ideology.
This incident occurs against the backdrop of the central government's ongoing critiques directed at the judiciary. These criticisms span issues ranging from judge appointments to case backlogs. Notably, former law minister Kiren Rijiju has even proposed the inclusion of executive figures within the judiciary. By intervening purportedly to foster a more harmonious relationship between the judiciary and the government, the central government's increasing involvement in daily court matters generates concerns. Therefore, it seems prudent to reject the suggested SOP entirely in order to safeguard the independence of the judiciary.