Today: Jun 17, 2024

Dhankhar slams ‘one-upmanship’ from judicial platforms, says cannot have ‘Ostrich-like’ stance

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Jaipur: Virtually censuring the judiciary, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday said “one-upmanship and public posturing” from judicial platforms is not good and these institutions must know how to conduct themselves, while pointing to the apex court’s remarks on the issue of the collegium system.

Dhankar, who is the Rajya Sabha chairman, again criticised the NJAC Act scrapping in 2015 and also questioned the landmark 1973 Kesavananda Bharati case verdict, saying it set a wrong precedent and that he disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling that Parliament can amend the Constitution but not its basic structure.

As presiding officers of legislatures, “we cannot have an Ostrich-like stance” on judiciary-legislature relations. Parliamentary sovereignty cannot be permitted to be diluted or compromised by the executive or the judiciary,  he said in his strongest remarks yet against alleged judicial interference in the working of Parliament.

“If any organisation strikes down a law by Parliament, then it is not good for the democracy. And it would be difficult to say we are a democratic nation,” he said addressing the 83rd All India Presiding Officers Conference here.

Speaking in the same vein, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said the judiciary is expected to follow the principle of separation of powers as defined in the Constitution.

“Legislatures in our country have always respected the powers of the judiciary. The judiciary is also expected to follow the principle of separation and balance of powers conferred by the Constitution,” Birla said.

Dhankhar, who has criticised in the House and outside the striking down of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act by the apex court, said it was “a scenario perhaps unparalleled in the democratic history of the world”.

“The executive is ordained to be in compliance with the constitutional prescription emanating from Parliament. It was obligated to adhere to the NJAC. Judicial verdict cannot run it down,” he said.

His statement comes in the backdrop of a raging debate on the issue of appointment to the higher judiciary with the government questioning the current Collegium system and the Supreme Court defending it.

Referring to a bench of the Supreme Court asking the Attorney General to pass on the message to constitutional authorities to refrain from making statements on the collegium system, Dhankhar said, “I declined to entertain the Attorney General on this point. I cannot be a party to emasculate the powers of the legislature.”

“Today this one-upmanship and public posturing from judicial platforms are not good. These institutions must know how to conduct themselves,” he said.

Observing that comments made on the Supreme Court collegium by the government functionaries are “not well taken”, a bench headed by Justice S K Kaul had on December 8 asked Attorney General R Venkataramani to advise the government about it.

A day earlier, Dhankhar had, in his maiden speech in the House, slammed the judiciary for scrapping the NJAC Act, describing it as an instance of “severe compromise of parliamentary sovereignty”, and said the government’s three organs should respect the “Laxman Rekha”.

Addressing presiding officers on Wednesday, Dhankhar asserted that parliamentary sovereignty and autonomy are quintessential for the survival of democracy and cannot be permitted to be compromised by the executive or judiciary.

“Basic of any basic structure has to be the supremacy of mandate of people.

“In 1973, a  wrong precedent (galat parampara) started. In the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court gave the idea of basic structure saying that Parliament can amend the Constitution but not its basic structure.

“With due respect to the judiciary, I cannot subscribe to this,” Dhankhar, who has been a Supreme Court lawyer, said describing himself as a soldier of the judiciary and a student of law.

Dhankhar further asked, “Can parliament be allowed that its verdict will be subject to any authority.”

The executive has to follow laws and the judiciary cannot intervene in lawmaking, Dhankhar added.

“If any institution on any basis strikes down the law passed by parliament, then it will not be good for democracy and it will be difficult to say we are a democratic nation,” the Rajya Sabha Chairman said.

Dhankhar said no institution can wield power or authority to neutralise the mandate of people. He told the presiding officers at the conference that Parliament and legislatures must protect the sovereignty of the people.

On disruptions in the House, Dhankhar said there is “disappointment and anguish” among people at the lack of decorum and discipline in proceedings in parliament and legislatures.

He said disruptions and adjournments cannot be a political tool.