In a surprising reshuffle ahead of the 2024 polls, the government has replaced Kiren Rijiju as the Union Law Minister with Arjun Ram Meghwal, who was previously in charge of Parliamentary Affairs.
Mr Rijiju, who was seen as a prominent and influential minister in the cabinet, has been assigned to the Ministry of Earth Sciences, which is considered less important.
Mr Meghwal, who will have Independent Charge of the Law Ministry, is the first minister in recent times to hold this portfolio without being a cabinet minister.
Mr Rijiju thanked the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, and all the judges in a note for his former ministry.The change comes at a crucial time when the relations between the government and the Supreme Court have been strained over the issue of judges’ appointments and transfers.
Mr Rijiju had often criticised the Supreme Court for its collegium system, which allows judges to select their own colleagues. He had also dismissed the court’s displeasure over the delay in clearing judges’ names, saying that the country would be governed by the Constitution and the people’s will.
He had also said that people in responsible positions should think before speaking and consider whether their words would benefit the country or not.
The tension between the judiciary and the government increased when Mr Rijiju criticised the collegium system last year. He said that this system was not in line with the Constitution and lacked public approval.
He said, “How can the country support a decision that goes against the Constitution, just because some courts or judges made it?” He also mentioned the NJAC Act that was passed by the parliament in 2014, which gave more power to the government in selecting judges, but was struck down by the Supreme Court.
This morning, the President’s House announced Mr Rijiju’s shift, following the Prime Minister’s suggestion. Mr Rijiju updated his Twitter bio soon after.