Judiciary asserts itself, yet again
Former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal once said judiciary need not have a cozy relationship with the government, as it may come in the way of taking independent and difficult decisions.
The SC verdict quashing an apparently arbitrary and illegal appointment of a tainted man as the country’s anti-corruption watchdog has only proved the statement right.
After the January 2006 verdict during the UPA-1 rule declaring the imposition of President’s rule in Bihar as illegal, this is the first major government decision undone by the apex court using its power of judicial review, which at times offends the political class.While agreeing with the government’s argument that a Governor enjoyed complete immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution and was not answerable to any Court for exercise his of powers, the SC had ruled that such immunity did not take away power of the Court to examine validity of the action including on the ground of mala fides.
In the CVC case too, the government had argued the court could not go into the question of eligibility and suitability of candidates, as it was the sole prerogative of the executive. But the court did not agree.
The PM had recently said the power of judicial review should not be used to erode the role of the government. The court has clarified: “Government is not accountable to the courts in respect of policy decisions. However, they are accountable for the legality of such decisions.”
“People can ill afford to forget that the constitutional courts’ power of judicial review is the only peaceful device available to control a government, which has an innate tendency to arbitrariness.”
Governments can go wrong and a wrong decision need not be deliberate. The best thing is that there is rule of law in India enforced by the Constitution that assigned different roles to the three main organs of the State — legislature, executive and judiciary. While legislature makes law, executive runs the country’s administration. The judiciary exercising its power of judicial review corrects the mistakes, if any, committed by the first two organs.
The days of committed judiciary are gone and the apex court has once again done a commendable job. That no government wants a stronger judiciary is a different story.