Courts cannot question the wisdom of the legislature in enacting a particular law and the judiciary is required to act within the domain available to it, the Supreme Court on Friday said. It said that though the Supreme Court or the high courts, while exercising its power of judicial review of legislative action, can declare a law passed by Parliament or a state legislature as invalid, the power to strike down a primary legislation enacted by the Centre or a state was on limited grounds.
“Courts can strike down legislation either on the basis that it falls foul of federal distribution of powers or that it contravenes fundamental rights or other constitutional rights/provisions of the Constitution of India,” a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said while upholding the validity of a law making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN and filing of income tax returns.
It, however, exempted those without it for now until the larger privacy issue is decided.
The court noted, “No doubt, since the Supreme Court and the high courts are treated as the ultimate arbiter in all matters involving interpretation of the Constitution, it is the courts which have a final say on questions relating to rights and whether such a right is violated or not.”
It observed that in a democratic society governed by a constitution, the actions of a democratically elected government are judged in the light of the Constitution.
“In this context, the judiciary assumes the role of protector of the Constitution and democracy, being the ultimate arbiter in all matters involving the interpretation of the Constitution,” it said.
The bench also dealt with the arguments that the Centre’s move making Aadhaar mandatory for filing of income tax returns and for allotment of PAN would create a separate class among the citizens.
“No doubt, it is the right of a citizen to approach the court and question the constitutional validity of a particular law enacted by the Legislature. However, merely because a section of persons opposes the law, would not mean that it has become a separate class by itself,” it said.
The apex court also said that all income tax asessees “constitute one class” and they were treated alike by the provision which was under challenge before it.
The court’s observations came while upholding the validity of the law making Aadhaar mandatory for allotment of PAN and filing of income tax returns but exempted those without it for now until the larger privacy issue is decided.