This Article is From May 18, 2023

Kiren Rijiju Replaced As Law Minister, Shifted To Earth Sciences

Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State, will replace Kiren Rijiju as Minister with Independent Charge of the Law Ministry.

Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State, will replace Kiren Rijiju

New Delhi:

Kiren Rijiju was removed as Union Law Minister today and replaced by Arjun Ram Meghwal in a stunning move just a year before the national election.

Mr Rijiju, known to be one of the government's most high-profile ministers and a troubleshooter, has been moved to the relatively low-key Ministry of Earth Sciences, less than a year after he was promoted to the Law Ministry with cabinet status.

Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State in charge of Parliamentary Affairs, will now also have Independent Charge of the Law Ministry. This is the first time in recent history that the Law Minister is not of cabinet rank. Hours after these changes were announced, another statement said SP Singh Baghel, who was Minister of State in the Law Ministry, would be the new junior Health Minister.

Mr Rijiju posted a note for his former ministry, thanking Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, and all judges for their "huge support". 

India has a new Law Minister at a critical time when the government and the Supreme Court have often not been on the same page on judges' appointments.

Mr Rijiju took over as Law Minister on July 7, 2021, following the exit of Ravi Shankar Prasad. His brief term was controversial because of frequent run-ins between the government and the judiciary, and his open criticism of the Supreme Court over the collegium system of judges appointing judges.

In February, a Supreme Court two-judge bench had expressed displeasure over the delay in clearing judges appointments and transfers, calling it a very serious issue and warning of "administrative and judicial actions which might not be palatable".

Mr Rijiju had brushed off the warning, saying the country would be governed according to the Constitution and the wishes of the people. "Sometimes discussions are held in the country on some matters and in a democracy everyone has the right to express their opinion. But people sitting in responsible positions have to think before saying anything, whether it will benefit the country or not," he had said at an event, stressing that "nobody can give a warning to anyone".

The government vs judiciary confrontation escalated when Mr Rijiju said last year that the collegium system is "alien" to the Constitution and had no public support. "Anything which is alien to the Constitution merely because of the decision taken by the courts or some judges, how do you expect that the decision will be backed by the country," he had said.

He had also referred to the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act passed by parliament in 2014, which gave a greater role to the government in judicial appointments, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court.

In March, Mr Rijiju again triggered a backlash with his comment on "retired activist judges trying to make the judiciary play the role of an opposition party".

A petition against Mr Rijiju's remarks on the judiciary was, however, dismissed by the Supreme Court on Monday.

A short statement from the President's House this morning announced Mr Rijiju's transfer, citing the Prime Minister's advice. Mr Rijiju changed his Twitter bio shortly after.