“Judges’ phones are being tapped and they are afraid to talk”

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today created ripples by alleging that there is a “widespread” fear that the phones of judges are being tapped and said if it is true, then it is the biggest assault on the independence of the judiciary.

Kejriwal claimed during his meetings with judges he has “overheard them telling each other that they should not talk on phones because they could be tapped”. The Chief Minister said when he told them the phones of judges cannot be tapped, “they retorted by saying that all phones could be tapped”.

“I don’t know whether it is true or not but there is a widespread fear. If it is true that phones are tapped then judges can be influenced…,” he said.

Addressing the golden jubilee celebrations of Delhi High Court in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India T S Thakur also participated, he said even if there has been a wrong-doing by a judge then phone tapping should not be allowed.

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“There are many other ways to gather evidence for wrongdoing, otherwise it will be the biggest assault on the independence of the judiciary,” he said.

Kejriwal also referred to the actions of judiciary as well as the executives which may take away the rights of the people.

“If any action of the executive snatches the power of the people, if any judicial interpretation of the Constitution takes away power of the people then it is not good for democracy,” he said.

Judges' phones

Modi, for his part, wondered why the mood amongst the judges was so serious.

He said, “Bada gambheer mahaul bana hua hai yahan, 50 saal mana rahe ho, thoda toh muskuraiye. (The atmosphere here looks pretty serious. You must smile a bit, after all you’re celebrating 50th anniversary.)”

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Kejriwal’s allegation came just two days after a person no less than the Chief Justice of India, Justice TS Thakur, had slammed Modi government for stalling the judges’ appointment.

An angry Supreme Court on Friday slammed the Centre for not appointing judges whose names were sent for clearance in February adding that the delay threatened to ‘decimate’ the judiciary.

In a scathing attack, the Supreme Court today said the government cannot bring the judiciary to a “grinding halt” by not appointing High Court judges despite the recommendations of its collegium long ago and said it could as well close the courts and lock “justice out”.

“You cannot bring the entire institution (of judiciary) to a grinding halt. If there is a problem with the name of a person, please send it back and ask us to reconsider,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre, in a packed courtroom.

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Expressing deep anguish over the delay in appointment of judges in high courts, the bench also comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao gave the example of the Karnataka High Court where one of the floors, having court rooms, is locked due to lack of judges.

Meanwhile, the central government said that there was no truth in the allegation of phone tapping.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “I have been Communication Minister for two years and I completely deny that phones of judges are tapped at all.”

PTI quoted him as saying, “I deny with all authority at command the allegations that phones of judges have been tapped.”

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