~Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr
The Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad was at his political best while answering sensitive questions, which also gave a glimpse of decision-making in the Modi government. While interacting with journalists at Jaisalmer House to mark the third anniversary of the Modi government and highlighting the achievements of his ministry on Thursday (June 15), Prasad said the request of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to be relieved had been received.
He, of course, did not reveal as to who would succeed Rohatgi and neither confirmed nor denied whether Harish Salve was the probable replacement. He did, however, say that the appointment of attorney general is not made by the law minister alone, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would be involved as well.
Prasad also disclosed—in reply to another question as to why Salve and not Rohatgi argued India’s case at the International Court of Justice at The Hague—that it was a “collective decision” and Jaitley and Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had a say in the matter as well.
The law minister said that he had reservations about the Supreme Court judgment in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case. Assuring that there was no move to revive the NJAC legislation, he pointed out that, however, it would need bipartisan support if revived. He reiterated that an overwhelming majority in the Rajya Sabha was in favour of the NJAC as were 50 per cent of the states.
Prasad referred to the rapid strides made in digitising court work at all levels in the country, and how it had made a huge difference. He reiterated Prime Minister Modi’s governance mantra of “perform, reform and transform” as the yardstick for the changes that have been initiated in his ministry.
One of the interesting statistical changes in the judiciary made by his ministry was the appointment of 126 high court judges in 2016 alone, which was the highest since 1989. The average number of the appointment of high court judges has been 70. In the last three years, 17 Supreme Court and 249 high court judges have been appointed.
The Legal Affairs Department of the ministry has rendered 1,03,970 suggestions to different ministries and departments during 2014-17 compared to the figure of 47,997 in 2011-13. Under the eTaal portal where all electronic transactions are recorded, the number has increased from 2 crore in January 2014 to 66 crore in March 2017. Similarly, the National Judicial Data Grid now makes accessible details of seven crore pending and disposed cases and four crore orders and judgments.