The golden jubilee celebrations of the Delhi high court on Monday took an unexpected turn when Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the phones of the members of the Indian judiciary were being tapped and their conversations were being monitored – an allegation that was soon after denied by law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
According to the Indian Express, addressing the function at Vigyan Bhawan where the Delhi chief minister shared the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kejriwal said, “I have heard judges talking among themselves. Two judges telling each other let us not talk on our phones as phones are being tapped. I told them this cannot happen; phones of judges cannot be tapped. They, however, said that they are being tapped. Everyone’s phone is being tapped.”
He further added that though he did not know whether these statements were true, there was still a “widespread fear” and even if there was any “wrongdoing” by a judge, the tapping of their phone should not be allowed.
“There are many other ways to gather evidence for wrongdoing…” he said according to the Indian Express, “otherwise it [tapping] will be the biggest assault on the independence of the judiciary.”
The Congress on Tuesday, in response to Kejriwal’s allegations, asked the Delhi chief minister to produce evidence to substantiate his charges, Financial Express reports.
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said, “If true, the charges are very serious one. It becomes more serious because it comes from a constitutional functionary such as the chief minister.”
According to the Financial Express he further added that “Kejriwal is obligated to produce some material” in support of his “blanket white statement.”
Prasad, who spoke after Kejriwal at the event on Monday that was also attended by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, quickly rebutted the charges and said, “I wish to deny with all the authority at my command that the phones of judges have been tapped… I want to make it very clear and categorical.”
According to the Indian Express, he said that the prime minister along with other ministers in his government had fought for the independence of judiciary and freedom of media during the Emergency.
Prasad also asserted that the commitment of his government to the independence of the judiciary was “fundamental, impeachable and uncompromising.”
Modi, on the other hand, did not comment on the allegations but hours later the home ministry issued a statement calling the charges “baseless and unfounded.”
The Delhi chief minister, while referring to the ongoing tussle between the Centre and the Supreme Court over the appointment of judges, also criticised the former for meddling with the independence of the judiciary, the Times of India reports.
According to NDTV, on Friday, the apex court issued a warning to the government and said that the delays in the appointment of judges threatened to “decimate” the judiciary. The court had demanded to know why the government had not acted on names sent by a collegium of judges.
Kejriwal, in his address on Monday, also said that he had read that the Supreme Court collegium had sent the judge’s names a few months ago and the Centre had not approved them.
“If there is any interference, it is not good for the independence of the judiciary… The judiciary has to be completely independent of the executive,” he said. “The executive already has so much power that the judiciary is required to keep a check and balance on them.”