NDA’s presidential candidate and former Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind believes that if the president of the country can be criticised, there is no reason why members of the judiciary cannot be pulled up. He had claimed in a debate in Parliament that “if the appointing authority” of judges, that is the president, could be censured, so could the judiciary.
“If any citizen of this country can criticise the President of India for his wrong-doing, I don’t think it could be valid if the judiciary is exempted,” Kovind said as a Rajya Sabha member in the debate on March 3, 2006, on the contempt of courts (Amendment) Bill, 2006, moved by then Law Minister Hansraj Bhardwaj.
He, however, added, the judiciary had been exempted “to maintain its independence”. Kovind, who was a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh and a former lawyer, spoke at length on the Bill that sought to reform contempt laws.
“Every citizen has got a fundamental right to speak the truth. If he wants to say anything on the matter of inefficiency or corruption, he is most welcome,” he said.
He also mentioned that the then Chief Justice of India had referred to corruption in the judiciary. “It is not only the citizen. We know that once even the Chief Justice of India had said—he did admit - that some percentage of the judiciary was corrupt. Of course, he can’t be hauled up for contempt of court because he happens to be from the same community (of the judiciary),” Kovind said.
Emphasising that ordinary citizens must have the right to react, he said the person’s response “could be for wrong-doing or his reaction could be for rectifying them, whatsoever it may be”.
The NDA’s nominee, who is likely to be elected president next month, had also congratulated the law minister of the then Congress-led UPA government for the amendment on contempt of court.
Kovind cited a few examples in his speech to argue that courts had wide “discretionary powers” and that there was “an element of non-accountability” in the judiciary. “This is rather adversely affecting our judicial system and the deliverance of administration by the system,” he said.