The relationship between the Supreme Court and the government was one of "mutual respect", Chief Justice-designate SA Bobde today told NDTV in the backdrop of frequent allegations about the Centre trying to infringe on the independence of judiciary. The Constitution, Justice Bobde said, "requires the two wings to function together".
Over the last years, there have been several instances of face-off between the Centre and the top court - mostly over the elevation of judges. The last such occasion was in May, when a recommendation for the appointment of Justice Akil Kureshi of the Gujarat High Court as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court was returned by the government, sources said.
Asked about the relation between judiciary and the government, Justice Bobde said, "It is a relationship thriving on mutual respect".
The government, he told NDTV, has a lot of power. "In the sense the courts don't have powers like giving grants to themselves. The courts require the government to do that... The Constitution requires the two wings to function together," he added.
In March last year, Justice Jasti Chelameswar wrote to then Justice of India Dipak Misra, seeking a full-court discussion on alleged government interference in the appointment of judges to high courts. Calling it "bonhomie between the judiciary and the government", he said it was a "death knell for democracy".
"We both are mutual watchdogs, so to say, not mutual admirers, and much less constitutional cohorts," his letter read.
Disagreements over judicial appointments have surfaced regularly ever since the Supreme Court ruled out the Judicial Appointments Commission proposed by the government.
The collegium system of judges appointing judges was strongly criticised by the government, which has often called for transparency and accountability in judicial transfers and appointments. Many eminent jurists have also said that how judges are appointed needs reform because the process lacks transparency.
Today, Justice Bobde said there "sufficient transparency" in the appointments process and said those demanding more transparency are "interested in why someone was not selected and normally involves negative things about a candidate".
"I don't understand why these things should come out just because he is being elevated. It is not secrecy, it is privacy," he added.
Last year, there was much back and forth between the Centre and the Supreme Court Collegium over the elevation of Justice KM Joseph. The Collegium had named Justice Joseph for a slot in January, but the government questioned the choice, citing inadequate representation in the top court from other states, especially Kerala.
The matter was resolved after the top court collegium reiterated its choice, but several judges were upset with the government over the alteration of seniority of Justice Joseph in his appointment notification.