WITH THE independence of judiciary under attack in the country led by none other than law minister Kiren Rijiju, who has been harping on the desire to have the government its say in selection of Supreme Court and High Court judges, the current developments in Israel should be an eye opener.
Israel has been witnessing massive street protests since January against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed legislation to undermine the independence of judiciary in that country.
His government’s proposed “judicial overhaul”, seeks to give the government an upper hand in the selection of judges in a committee that appoints judges – just what is being proposed by Rijiju who even has got the backing of the vice president.
The Israeli proposal also includes a clause that divests the judiciary to strike the legislation passed by Knesset, its Parliament.
Not just that, the proposed legislation also proposes to take away the judiciary’s powers to intervene where it sees threat to the country’s “Basic Laws”. These are a set of laws enacted by Parliament defining the rights and freedoms of people and closely resemble our own basic structure of the constitution.
All these provisions of the proposed laws in Israel have an echo on what the present government in India would like to do. Several senior government and BJP functionaries have been speaking on these lines in public.
While there is no mass movement yet in the country against such draconian proposals, citizens of Israel have been coming out in streets in large numbers since January to demand withdrawal of the proposals.
Not just the ordinary citizens on the street but even government employees, defence services professionals, academicians, lawyers, health workers, industrialists and even diplomatic staff across the globe have been registering their protest against the proposed legislation.
Israel’s main international airport was forced to shut down for several hours as employees abstained from duty. What’s more, Israel’s diplomatic missions in several countries, including India, got paralysed for some time due to a strike by the diplomatic staff.
The country’s defence minister Yoav Gallant, who advised the prime minister to drop the proposed legislations, was summarily dropped by Netanyahu. What followed was a spontaneous protest across the country in support of the dropped minister who has emerged as a national hero.
The largely peaceful protests culminated in a massive shows of strength a day before the legislation was to be tabled in the Knesset. This forced Netanyahu to announce that he was holding the proposed legislation in abeyance for the present.
He also agreed to hold talks with representatives of various sections of people on the issue. Citizens have, however, decided to carry on with their weekly protests till the proposed legislations are withdrawn.
Any one following the developments between the executive and judiciary in India can immediately relate to the intentions of the government in India.
It is true that the opposition parties or the ordinary citizens have not yet taken to the street but the danger of the government going to any extent to curb the independence and power of judiciary is very real.
None of the top leaders of the BJP and the RSS, including the prime minister and the Sangh chief, have spoken against the almost relentless campaign by the law minister Kiren Rijiju.
This definitely gives the impression that he has the blessings of the powers that be.
Incidentally, while Israel is the latest example, mass uprisings against governments have been seen in several parts of the world including Sri Lanka, France, Iran and even China in the recent past. These massive protests have led to the governments concerned to review their proposals or withdraw measures in the face of stiff opposition.
The striking resemblance in what the Netanyahu government in Israel was proposing to do in Israel and what the government here is contemplating cannot be missed by anyone.
It is also very well known by now that the government can go to any extent to ensure that any legislation brought in by it can be bulldozed through Parliament just as it has been succeeding in blocking debates on any particular issue it doesn’t like.
The paralysing of both Houses of Parliament in the last few days, not by opposition members but by the ruling party members themselves, is an example of what it is capable of.
The post haste with which a lower court had acted, the highly controversial judgment and the lightening speed with which Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified and asked to vacate his house, have raised several questions.
Also Read: Israel – Majoritarianism on March
A government which has now got used to having its way for everything it likes, there are lessons to be learnt from the recent developments in Israel and other countries.
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