Beard of the Minister of Justice in Bengal

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Kiren Rijiju said that by the end of the year, a “record” number of judges will be appointed. To file

New Delhi:

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju today denounced the Government of West Bengal for delaying the establishment of special fast-track courts to deliver speedy justice in sex offense cases and alleged that it behaved as if the state was “outside the Indian Union”.

Addressing the Times Now summit, Mr Rijiju spoke in favor of the sedition law, saying punitive measures must exist to ensure the absolute right to free speech is not used to undermine to the unity and integrity of the country.

He also said that by the end of the year, a “record” number of judges will be appointed.

On Fast Track Courts, the Union Minister said he will ensure that enough pressure is exerted on the government of West Bengal to set up such special courts.

“It is very unfortunate that the government of West Bengal has not implemented fast track courts. This is an injustice to the youth of the state. In fact, West Bengal is the only state that has not taken no action in this regard.I have written to the Chief Minister of West Bengal and will remind him again.

“West Bengal is behaving as if the state exists outside the Indian Union. This is not good,” he said.

After the enactment of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2018, the central government decided to set up 1,023 special expedited courts, including 389 to exclusively deal with cases related to the violation of the protection of children against Sexual Offenses (POCSO). Law, in 31 states and union territories.

According to government sources, 28 states and union territories have given consent to the program.

West Bengal, which was to have 123 such courts, Andaman and Nicobar, which was to get one, and Arunachal Pradesh, which had planned three, have not yet given their consent.

Arunachal Pradesh has told the Justice Department of the Ministry of Justice that at the moment there is no need for such courts in the states due to a lower caseload.

Goa has been asked to set up two such courts. He has given consent for one, but has not yet operationalized it, the sources said.

State consent is required, as the Special Fast Track Courts are part of a center-sponsored program where both the center and the state contribute funds.

“I will ensure that enough pressure is put on the government of West Bengal to set up fast-track courts,” he said.

Mr. Rijiju also stressed the need for Lok Adalats, saying that judiciary and justice should be brought to people’s doorsteps to encourage them to seek legal aid.

The minister spoke on the often contentious subject of judicial appointments and said the government has become more proactive.

He said that it is not the government alone that appoints the judges, but they are chosen after a long process.

“The government cannot generate the names on its own. Over the last five months the government has been very proactive and by the end of the year you will see a record number of judges appointed. After that many misconceptions will be dispelled,” he said.

Addressing the oft-repeated allegation by opposition parties of government influence over the judiciary, Mr Rijiju said such accusations were “unsavory” and only served to discredit his independence.

The minister also said that the government’s differences of opinion with the judiciary in certain cases should not be interpreted in the light of “divisions and fissures”.

“If you exist in a democratic society, such differences exist and show independent thought. We have to appreciate differences of opinion,” he said.

Responding to a question about a possible incentive for judges with post-retirement posts, Mr Rijiju said such appointments were neither “unconstitutional nor illegal”.

“I believe as Minister of Justice that unless a step is unconstitutional or illegal or prohibited by any provision of law, there should be no problem (in such appointments),” said Mr. Rijiju, stating that the appointment of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to Rajya Sabha was not prohibited by any law.

Although the minister declined to comment on specific cases, he backed the sedition law by stating that no liberty may be used to harm national interests.

“Actions prejudicial to the national interest, there must be something in the law to ensure that no freedom is granted to a person who can destroy the unity and integrity of the country.

“To exist as a nation, you need certain things that must be part of your thought process…

“While I do not wish to comment on the provisions of the Sedition Act, generally speaking, although freedom of speech is absolute, it should not extend so far as to harm our unity and our diversity,” he said.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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