Deploring increasing instances of judicial intervention in matters that lie within the domain of the legislature or executive, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee asserted on Thursday that this practice went against Constitutional provisions and warned of serious implications if it continued.
"Of late, it is being noticed that the lines demarcating the jurisdiction of different organs of the state are getting blurred as a section of the judiciary seems to be of the view that it has the authority by way of what is described as judicial activism to exercise powers which are earmarked by the Constitution to the legislative or executive branches,” he said at a function where several serving and former judges of the Supreme Court and other legal luminaries were present.
Chatterjee, who is known to harbour strong views on Supreme Court’s invtervention in Parliament’s powers , gave full vent to his feelings on the subject while delivering the annual Dr K.N.Katju Memorial Lecture here.Significantly, Chief Justice of India K.G.Balakrishnan who was scheduled to preside over the function , as per the invitation card, was conspicuous by his absence.The topic of the lecture was ‘ Separation of powers under the Constitution and judicial activism’.
Former Chief Justice J.S.Verma and Justice Markandey Katju of Supreme Court were present on the dais while the speakers on the subject included prominent lawyers and parliamentarians like Fali S.Nariman, K.K.Venugopal,Arun Jaitley and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
Observing that the Legislature had been accorded a “pre-eminent position” in the constitutional and political set-up, Chatterjee stated that the framers of the Constitution had taken ample care to provide for an indepedent and impartial judiciary as its interpreter and as the custodian of the rights of citizens through judicial review.
This gave judiciary the mandate to interpret laws but not to make them or lay down general norms of behaviour for the government or to decide upon public policy, he emphasised.
“The Constitution does not contemplate a super-organ nor confers an over-riding authority on any one organ.No organ has any power to superintend over the exercise of powers and functions of another unless the Constituion strictly so mandates,”Chatterjee stated further.
He cited the Jagdambika Pal case of 1998, involving the UP Assembly, and the Jharkhand Assembly case of 2005 as two “glaring examples” of deviations from the clearly- provided constitutional scheme of separation of powers.
Broaching on the subject of judicial activism , the Speaker noted that there were “umpteen” instances where judiciary had intervened in matters that lay entirely within the domain of the executive.Citing a list compiled by a news correspondent, he pointed out that in recent times the Delhi High Court had passed orders on a wide range of subjects such as nursery school admissions, unauthorised schools, criteria for free seats in schools, number of free beds in hospitals on public land, begging in public,use of subways, illegal constructions in Delhi, size of speed breakers, autorickshaw overcharging and frequency of road accidents.
However, Chatterjee sought to dispel the impression that he was in a confrontation mode with the judiciary saying he held it in “highest respect” but felt there was need for a proper debate on the relationship between the three organs of the state.He opined that there was “sufficient space” in the system for all institutions to co-exist and work together for common good.