NEW DELHI: In a surprise development, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was on Thursday divested of Law and Justice Ministry portfolio and made the Minister for Earth Sciences.
According to a notification, Arjun Ram Meghwal will be a Minister of State in Law Ministry with independent charge.
In his reaction, Rijiju said it was a privilege to serve as Union Minister of Law and Justice and thanked the entire judiciary, including Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, for their "huge support".
He further said that he is now looking forward to fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision in the Earth Sciences Ministry.
In a tweet, he said, "It has been a privilege and an honour to serve as Union Minister of Law and Justice under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji."
He also thanked Chief Justice of India Chandrachud, all judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices and judges of high courts, lower judiciary and law officers for the "huge support" in ensuring delivering ease of justice and providing legal services for citizens.
"I look forward to fulfilling the vision of PM Narendra Modi ji in the Earth Sciences Ministry with the same zeal and vigour I have imbibed as a humble 'karyakarta' of (the) BJP," he said.
Rijiju is a three-term Lok Sabha member from Arunachal Pradesh.
His replacement, Meghwal was Minister of State for Finance and Parliamentary Affairs.
Notably, a Minister of State with independent charge is a minister without an overseeing Cabinet Minister in the State or Union Government of India.
Such a minister is in charge of his ministry, unlike Minister of State who is also a Minister but assists a cabinet minister.
In his tenure, Rijiju has taken on the judiciary a number of times and repeatedly slammed the Collegium system for appointment of judges, saying nowhere in the world judges appointed themselves.
On January 6, he shot off a letter to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud for including a government's nominee in the process for picking up judges, stirring up a big controversy.
However, it was later transpired that the letter had sought inclusion of a central government's nominee in search-cum-evaluation committee, as part of the Memorandum of Procedure to be formulated in terms of the Supreme Court's judgement in the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act case.
In January, he had expressed his concern with the Supreme Court Collegium publishing inputs of Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) on candidates recommended for judgeship, saying it is a serious issue.
In a programme organised by the Delhi Bar Association, the Minister had in January fired a fresh salvo against the judiciary by saying judges don't face public scrutiny, they don't stand for elections but are being constantly observed by people.
"The people are watching. How you work, what you do, your judgements. People are seeing this and forming opinions. No one can hide in the time of social media," he said.
He had also tweeted a video of a retired high court judge, Justice R S Sodhi who said the Supreme Court “hijacked” the Constitution by deciding to appoint judges itself. The Minister said he considered the former judge’s view “sane”. The Law Minister said the majority of the people have similar views.
Sharing the interview by a portal LawStreet Bharat, Rijiju has then tweeted , “Voice of a judge...Real beauty of Indian Democracy is- it's success. People rule themselves through their representatives. Elected representatives represent the interests of the people & make laws. Our Judiciary is independent and our Constitution is Supreme”.
In another tweet, the Minister had said: “Actually majority of the people have similar sane views. It's only those people who disregard the provisions of the Constitution and mandate of the people think that they are above the Constitution of India”.