Obliged to save power of judicial review, says Supreme Court
Attorney general KK Venugopal made the submission while arguing that the court cannot rely on the Parliamentary Standing Committee report during judicial proceedings.india Updated: Oct 26, 2017 23:38 IST
The Supreme Court asserted on Thursday its authority under the Constitution and told the government that it was obliged under law to save the power of judicial review to declare a law illegal.
“We are obliged to enforce the law. We are also required to respect the doctrine of separation of powers. What remains in the Parliament does not affect our judicial function. We can declare a law illegal under the constitution,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
The comments were in response to the government’s charges that the court has been legislating through judicial pronouncements. Attorney general KK Venugopal made the submission while arguing that the court cannot rely on the Parliamentary Standing Committee report during judicial proceedings.
“Members of Parliament bring out this report that is prepared for the benefit of the Parliament. What Parliament would do is in the realm of conjecture. However, the court cannot jump into it. A parliamentary report cannot be called or summoned,” Venugopal told a constitution bench of five judges, which is hearing a reference made on the issue.
The question arose in a public interest litigation (PIL) concerning alleged irregularities in clinical trials conducted for cervical cancer. The petitioners, who moved the apex court in 2012 regarding quashing of licences granted to pharma companies involved in the trials, referred to the 98th Parliamentary Standing Committee report on health and family welfare pointing to irregularities conducted for two vaccines. On an objection raised by one of the companies, the matter was referred to a constitution bench.
Venugopal said the SC had, through various judicial orders, acquired vast powers. “This is also because the government of the day respects the judiciary and does not want confrontation with it,” he said. “If you ask jurists, many of them will say the court has taken over the executive powers.” He complained against the court for reading into 30 separate fundamental rights under Article 21 (to live with dignity), most of which he said cannot be enforced. The bench did not accept the contention.
“It can be. Look, our brother, justice AK Sikri, did so and let us breathe clean air after Diwali by not allowing the sale of crackers,” said justice DY Chandrachud. Justice Sikri is also a member of the constitution bench.
Justice Chandrachud disagreed with Venugopal’s submission that the court had rendered over a 100 persons unemployed after the judgment that banned liquor sale within 500 metres of national and state highways.