“Union Minister Kiren Rijiju Relieved of Law and Justice Portfolio Amidst Criticism of Collegium System”

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Union Minister Kiren Rijiju has been stripped of his law and justice portfolio and reassigned to the Ministry of Earth Sciences, according to a communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday. The move follows Rijiju’s vocal criticism of the collegium system of appointing judges, which he described as “opaque” and “alien to the Constitution.”

Arjun Ram Meghwal, a Member of Parliament from Rajasthan, has been given the independent charge as Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and Justice, in addition to his current portfolios. Meghwal, a former bureaucrat and a prominent Scheduled Caste face of the BJP, is known for his advocacy of environmental issues and is often seen cycling to Parliament.

SP Singh Baghel, the Minister of State for Law and Justice, has been shifted to the Health Ministry. Baghel, a lawmaker from Agra, was previously associated with the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party before joining the BJP.

The reshuffling of portfolios comes against the backdrop of Rijiju’s confrontational stance towards the judiciary. He repeatedly criticized the collegium system, asserting that it was the “only system in the world where judges appoint people known to them” and called for more transparency. Rijiju maintained that judicial appointments should be the responsibility of the government rather than the judiciary, while emphasizing the judiciary’s primary role in deciding cases.

Although Rijiju’s statements garnered significant attention, it remains unclear whether they directly influenced the decision to change his portfolio. Notably, the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of India, Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, declined to engage in the debate surrounding Rijiju’s remarks.

An anonymous ruling BJP leader suggested that Rijiju’s transfer could be attributed to the standoff between the executive and the judiciary on various issues, including the collegium system. The Supreme Court recently refused to entertain a plea seeking action against Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and Rijiju for their contentious remarks on the judiciary and the collegium system.

The Bombay Lawyers Association filed the appeal, accusing Rijiju and Dhankhar of demonstrating a lack of faith in the Constitution through their public conduct and statements against the Supreme Court and the collegium. The association cited a series of statements made by Rijiju and Dhankhar over the past year, highlighting the ongoing confrontation between the executive and the judiciary over the selection mechanism of judges and the division of powers between the two branches.

In conclusion, Kiren Rijiju’s removal from the law and justice portfolio comes amidst his criticism of the collegium system, which has sparked debates about the judiciary’s role in appointing judges. The reshuffling of portfolios reflects the government’s response to the ongoing tensions between the executive and the judiciary, although the precise reasons behind the decision remain unclear.

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