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SC draws ‘Lakshman rekha’ on Parliament

MPs know better, can’t teach them how to run House: Bench.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | Amsterdam/new Delhi, New Delhi |
Updated: September 25, 2015 8:37:42 am
Supreme Court of India Supreme Court of India

Underscoring its “Lakshman rekha”, the Supreme Court said Thursday it cannot “advise” or “teach” parliamentarians about functioning of Parliament and that the judiciary would be “overstepping its limits” by making such interventions.

In a statement demarcating boundaries of the judiciary, a bench led by Chief Justice of India H L Dattu said that lawmakers are “people with wisdom” who “know better” about managing their affairs regarding how Parliament should function and that the court cannot “monitor” them.

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“We know our Lakshman rekha and courts should never cross the Lakshman rekha. This court is not for monitoring Parliament and the parliamentarians. It is a democracy and in a democracy, parliamentarians know how to function. We are not here to teach them. They know better,” the bench, also comprising Justice Amitava Roy, said.

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The bench was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Foundation for Restoration of National Values which sought guidelines so that the public at large and the public exchequer are not adversely affected on account of Parliamentary proceedings being stalled and disrupted.

Representing the NGO, advocate Ravi P Mehrotra told the bench that every minute of running Parliament during the last six sessions cost an average Rs 2.5 lakh and 2,162 hours had been wasted. He contended there is a vacuum in law on this issue and, hence, an emergent judicial intervention by the apex court was imperative to restore public faith and credibility in the institution of Parliament.

But the bench told Mehrotra: “We will be overstepping our limits if we are going to make suggestions to say Parliament be conducted in this manner and not in that manner. No, we cannot say that.”

The top court said is not for a constitutional court to start making suggestions to Parliament. “They (parliamentarians) are all experienced people… people with wisdom and that is how they have been elected. They know and understand their responsibility well. We are not here to advise them,” it said.

The bench also rejected Mehrotra’s argument regarding a vacuum in law on the subject. “We don’t see a vacuum in the Constitution or in the law. If you see a vacuum, why don’t you make a representation to the Speaker of the House and the parliamentarians? It is for the Speaker of the House to see how Parliament has to function. And if there is a vacuum in law, Parliament will step in to fill up the lacuna. They are responsible people,” it said.

In his attempt to highlight the gravity of the problems emanating from the continuous logjam in Parliament, Mehrotra also drew the attention of the court on concerns voiced by President Pranab Mukherjee on these disruptions.

The bench, however, said: “If the first citizen of the country has already advised them, they would definitely take his advise seriously. But we cannot start making suggestions that Parliament should be conducted in one manner or another. We are not here to advise or are expected to advise.”

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