Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on Saturday asked the judiciary to exercise “self-restraint” and be mindful of its “Laxman Rekha” even as it sought to police the other two organs of democracy.
Minutes later, Justice J S Khehar, who is next in line to become the Chief Justice of India, responded to the top law officer of the government, saying the judiciary was well aware of its Laxman Rekha. The current Chief Justice, Justice T S Thakur, retires on January 3.
“Be is the 39th amendment in the Constitution (placing office of the Prime Minister beyond the ambit of judicial scrutiny) or the latest amendment that had the element of affecting independence of the judiciary (amendment to replace the collegium with a National Judicial Appointments Commission), the Supreme Court has struck them down… It has upheld the constitutional ethos and its principles… that, if I may respectfully tell the Attorney General, is our Laxman Rekha,” Justice Khehar said.
They were speaking at a function organised by the Supreme Court to celebrate Constitution Day.
Earlier, the AG had said that while the judiciary had been given the power under the Constitution to ensure that the executive and legislature did not cross their limits, it must also remember its own limits.
“Self-control and self-restraint are as important as policing… even judiciary must also remember it has a Laxman Rekha… If other two organs have it, it is not as if judiciary doesn’t have one,” he said.
Rohatgi added that the judiciary must remember that “greater the power, greater the need for circumspection”. In an obvious reference to the running battle between the judiciary and the executive over the power to appoint judges, the AG said it was time to introspect whether an equilibrium had been reached despite the churning over decades.