Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has registered a note of dissent against some recent orders of the Supreme Court including the appointment of a Special Investigation Team to hunt and repatriate black money stashed by Indians abroad.
Without meaning to support the UPA government or show any disrespect to the learned judges, he also disagreed with the apex court’s supervision of the CBI probe into the 2G spectrum scam. “What is the expertise of the court to directly supervise investigations into such technical matters,” he asked. “Its intervention is very good and pro people. But it’s causing unnecessary complications with officers under the threat of contempt because they have to report to the court.”
A barrister of considerable repute, Chatterjee’s term as LS Speaker witnessed run-ins with courts on the separation of powers under the Constitutional scheme. He stood up against the SC’s directions on a confidence vote in the Jharkhand Assembly, garnering support on that count by speakers of several state legislatures.
He refused to say what Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari should do in response to the SC’s order for advocate PP Rao’s removal from the three-member panel he has appointed to make a report on the conduct of Sikkim High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran. The Court’s direction has its genesis in Dinakaran’s charge that Rao was biased against him and should be removed from the committee whose findings could lead to his impeachment.
“It concerns our most eminent Vice President in his capacity as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. But I would have needed a lot of persuasion to accept (the court’s directive) with my limited knowledge of the Constitution,” Chatterjee said.
He said the basic postulate on which the Constitution was framed is the separation of powers that assigned different responsibilities to different organs of the State. “The judiciary justifies its actions on the plea that the government does not function and people are suffering. But with all respect, (I ask) whether the court can change governments or decide who with be Prime Minister? That has to be decided by the people,” he said.
The former Speaker said the State can smoothly run only when all organs work honestly and sincerely. “But nowadays, the executive does not govern, the judiciary is happy to discharge the executive’s functions and Parliament, with all respect to that great institution, is busy investigating rather than law making,” he remarked.
Chatterjee is of the view that courts can intervene only when there is some illegality or a need for Constitutional protection. “Some issues are not judicially determinable,’ he averred, recalling an SC directive for distribution of food grains to the poor the court wasn’t in a position to supervise.