Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday claimed that there were allegations that phones of judges from the Supreme Court to High Courts, were being tapped.
His claims were promptly rejected by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Addressing the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Delhi High Court, Kejriwal, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur among others, said if true, then tapping of judges' phones would be the biggest assault on independence of the judiciary.
"There are opportunities when you get to talk to judges, and during one of those, I heard two judges telling each other not to talk over phone because the phones are being tapped. When I said that this cannot happen, they said from the Supreme Court to the High Court and District Courts, all of the judges' phones are being tapped," said Kejriwal.
"I don't know if this is true, but if it is true, then this very dangerous. In such a scenario all the judges can be influenced. Even if a judge has indulged in any wrong doing, even that doesn't justify phone tapping. Other means can be used to gather evidence against them," said Kejriwal, leading to loud murmurs among the audience.
"Independence of judiciary is paramount. And if true, phone tapping would be the biggest assault on the independence of judiciary," said Kejriwal, who also questioned the Centre's delay on implementing the Supreme Court Collegium's recommendations for filling up vacancies in the courts.
"I don't know what is the reason behind the central government not implementing the Supreme Court Collegium's recommendations for filling up vacancies in the courts. But this is giving rise to rumours.
"There are rumours that only because certain minister's (preferred) men will not be given the opportunity, the Centre is not implementing the recommendations - and similar such rumours. Such rumours are dangerous for democracy.
"Even 001 per cent of executive interference is not good for judiciary. Since executive is very, very powerful, an independent judiciary is paramount for keeping checks and balances," said Kejriwal.
He also called for a law to ensure implementation of the Colegium's recommendations within 48 hours after they are sent to the Centre, as well as codifying the relation between the executive and the judiciary.
Speaking at the event a little later, Law Minister Prasad, who earlier held the Communication and Information Technology Ministry, categorically denied Kejriwal's claims of phone tapping and asserted the Modi government's commitment towards independence of the judiciary.
"I don't want to join an issue today, but I have to put the record straight. I have been the Communication Minister for more than two years and wish to deny with all command and authority that phones of judges were tapped," said Prasad.
Taking on Kejriwal, Prasad asserted that independence of judiciary was "unimpeachable and uncompromisable".
"Right from Prime Minister Modi to other ministers like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and myself, we have fought against the Emergency for upholding three freedoms - individual, media and judiciary.
"So as the Law Minister let me categorically declare the Modi government's commitment towards independence of the judiciary. It is absolute and complete. The independence of judiciary is unimpeachable and uncompromisable," added Prasad.