The judiciary and the executive came face to face on Sunday, but did not appear to see eye-to-eye on the boundaries of their domain.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned the judiciary against 'judicial over-reach' and playing the executive; Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan conceded that judicial review could sometimes create tension between the three organs of the State but sought to justify it as natural and to some extent, desirable.
Singh went a step further to ask courts not to allow public interest litigation to “become vehicles for settling political or other scores” and suggested the Supreme Court (SC) take the lead in framing rules for screening of PILs.
The PM’s remarks come within weeks of the SC putting the OBC quota law on hold; the move provoked an angry reaction from the political class and has got the government working to move the court this week to get the stay order vacated.
At a conference of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts on Sunday, the CJI described judicial review as an 'extraordinary legal invention' that seems deceptively simple, but is one of the most baffling of legal devices. "Sometimes it is described mistakenly as a veto power over legislation."
Singh acknowledged the corrective role played by the judiciary in innumerable instances, but reminded the judiciary that the "dividing line between judicial activism and judicial over-reach is a thin one".