New Delhi, The Supreme Court on Thursday said its judges were not pro-government and pointed to ways it had been hauling up the government on various matters.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud took a dim view of a former Supreme Court Bar Association President’s remarks in a television interview that some Supreme Court Judges were “pro-government”.
Justice Chandrachud said: “Somebody should come and see in the court how the government is hauled up every day. Judges’ comments (in the course of hearings) are reported as judgments. Then, they are commented upon during discussions as if they are judgments.”
The court said this as it referred to a Constitution Bench the question about the extent of restraint a person holding a public office, including a Minister, can be put under while commenting on sub judice matters or those under investigation by state agencies.
The core issue under court scrutiny is whether the fundamental right conferred under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is to be controlled singularly by restrictions placed by Article 19(2), or whether Article 21 too would have an impact on it.
The bench referred the matter to the Constitution Bench after amicus curiae Fali S. Nariman and Harish Salve submitted seven questions for the consideration by the Constitution Bench.
The apex court said the Constitution Bench could add any other question it deems appropriate or even modify the seven questions submitted for its consideration.
Both Nariman and Salve said that an increasing number of matters were coming up wherein persons holding high positions in government were making controversial statements on matters pending before courts or being investigated by state agencies.
The central government is opposed to imposition of restrictions on public comments by politicians holding public offices, like Ministers, other than those restrictions prescribed under the Constitution.
The Centre had, during hearings in March and April, told the top court that it “did not want to open new avenues of restrictions” on those holding public offices.
The Centre had, in March, also said that public figures, including politicians, cannot be refrained from commenting on acts of crime because it would affect their right to free speech and expression.
The entire issue is rooted in a controversial statement by then Uttar Pradesh Minister Mohammad Azam Khan, who had dubbed the Bulandshahr gang-rape case as a political conspiracy.
A woman and her teenaged daughter were gang-raped by five to six men in the fields of Dostpur village on National Highway-91 in Bulandshahr district on the night of July 29 and 30, 2016.