New Delhi: Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said on Wednesday the independence of the judiciary was not undermined because it did not have primacy in the membership of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
In an interview to India Today Television, the minister said the independence of the judiciary begins after judges are chosen. It's not connected with how they are chosen.
"Judges should not appoint judges," he said, adding that "appointment of judges is not part of the judiciary".
The belief that because the committee that chooses eminent comprises the prime minister, the chief justice and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha (LoP) it was dominated by politicians and, therefore, politically rather than judicially acceptable eminent people will be chosen, is wrong, the minister said.
"I do consider this issue (that) eminent personalities should be above all doubts," he said.
Speaking about amendments in the Land Acquisition Bill, the minister indicated that the government could retain a clause of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 which stipulates that acquired land will be given back to farmers if it lay unused after 5 years with the amendment that this would not apply to long gestation projects like atomic plants.
Gowda said the land in the industrial corridors would be owned by investors and industrialists.
The minister said repeated claims by the BJP that the amendments are not designed to help industry were made to counter the propaganda that the amendments were anti-farmer.
The minister said: "If necessary, the government would be prepared to take the amendments to a joint sitting of parliament", but he hoped it wouldn't come to that.
Asked about repealing Article 370 of the constitution, the law minister said that it could only be abrogated after widespread consultation and consensus.
"It needs wider consultation... consensus has to be formed (before we really do away with it)," he said.
On Article 331 of the constitution which permits the government to nominate two Anglo-Indian MPs to the Lok Sabha, the minister said this had not happened during the first year because the BJP was preoccupied with its membership drive.
However, when asked how much more time is needed before nomination happens, the minister said it depended on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "It depends on the prime minister," he said.
Questioned about the All India Muslim Law Board's stand that it was unconstitutional to make yoga compulsory in schools and that Surya Namaskar, in particular, was offensive to Islam, Gowda said persuasion and consultation was necessary and yoga must not be introduced in government schools by coercion.
"Efforts must be made to persuade those Muslims who think Surya Namaskar is against their religion. This is a sensitive issue and needed to be handled delicately," he said.