Curbing Diwali fireworks, denying the executive a role in the appointment of judges and monitoring investigations are judicial pronouncements giving a “distinct impression of over-reach,” Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said Wednesday underlining that the legislature, executive and the judiciary should respect “jurisdictional sanctity enshrined in the Constitution instead of arrogating (to) themselves a sense of supremacy”.
Addressing the two-day 80th All India Presiding Officers’ Conference held at Kevadia in Gujarat, where President Ram Nath Kovind was in attendance, Naidu said, “Our Constitution has demarcated very clear domains of each of these three organs in the lines of separation of powers, though not in a very formalistic manner… Harmony lies in each organ doing its job without interfering in the domain of others… Unfortunately there has been several instances of crossing the boundaries.”
“Since Independence, the Supreme Court and the High Courts have delivered several far reaching verdicts in furtherance of socio-economic objectives, besides making correctional interventions,” said Naidu, who is also Rajya Sabha chairperson.
“But occasionally, concerns have been raised to whether they are entering the domains of the legislative and executive wings. There have been debates whether some issues should have been more legitimately left to the other organs of the government. For example, Diwali fireworks, steps on registration and movement of vehicles from the National Capital Region through Delhi, banning the use of vehicles of certain make after 10 or 15 years, monitoring police investigations, denying the executive any role in appointment of judges by instituting the collegium, which is said to be an extra constitutional body,” Naidu said.
Saying such actions by the judiciary “have resulted in avoidable blurring of the contours demarcated by the Constitution,” Naidu said, “They have led to the question as how these three organs of the state should respect the jurisdictional sanctity enshrined in the Constitution instead of arrogating (to) themselves a sense of supremacy,” he said.
Reiterating that the Constitution of India was “supreme”, he later said, “Judicial review, declared as one of the basic features of our Constitution, imposes certain restrictions on the legislature. Lawmakers have the liberty of defending their territory even by nullifying judicial decisions, if so warranted.”
Naidu also touched upon the excesses of the executive and legislature. “We are familiar with the excesses of the executive in disregard of their accountability to the legislature on certain occasions… Violation of rights and liberties of citizens by the executive at times is too visible. At times, the legislature too has crossed the line. The 39th constitutional amendment placing the election of President and Vice President and Prime Minister beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny in 1975 is one such instance,” he said.
Naidu also questioned the conduct of legislators, saying their conduct within and outside the chambers, and rise in the number of those with criminal backgrounds, has led of a “negative perception” among citizens.
He said instead of “character, caliber and conduct”, issues such as “caste, community and cash” have dominated legislatures, adding that it was a matter of serious concern that in the last 30 years, the utilisation of Question Hour time has been declining.
Earlier, inaugurating the conference, President Kovind too touched upon the need for “harmony” — the theme of the conference — saying that in a parliamentary democracy, the Opposition also has an important role along with the ruling party, and therefore, harmony, cooperation and meaningful deliberation between the two is necessary. It is responsibility of the presiding officers to provide congenial atmosphere for a healthy debate in the House, he said.
“In the last few decades, expectations, aspirations and awareness of the general public have been on the rise. Therefore, the role and responsibilities of Parliament and legislatures have come into focus even more. People’s representatives are expected to remain true to the principles of democracy. The biggest challenge before democratic institutions and people’s representatives is to live up to the expectations of the people,” he said.
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