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Power Of The People Was Undone, World Doesn't Know Of Any Such Instance : Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar On NJAC Verdict

Awstika Das
2 Dec 2022 4:16 PM GMT
Power Of The People Was Undone, World Doesnt Know Of Any Such Instance : Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar On NJAC Verdict

Image Courtesy : The Week

The Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankhar on Friday on Saturday rang a note of caution about the incursion of any one organ of the government into the exclusive preserves of the others. In what appeared to be a pointed response to the rejection of the proposed National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) by the highest court of the land, the Vice President asked whether the "ordainment of the people" that was converted into a constitutional provision through "a legitimised mechanism", namely, the legislature, and in "a most sanctified manner", that is after the issue was debated in extenso and passed by both the houses, could be "undone" by the judiciary. 'We the people' in the Preamble indicated that the power resided in the people, and it was their mandate and wisdom, and as a reflection of their will, the Parliament, that was supreme, Dhankhar said.

Without expressly referring to the amendment relating to the NJAC, the President said that the "Indian Parliament was dealing with a constitutional amendment in 2015".

"As a matter of record, the entire Lok Sabha voted unanimously for the constitutional amendment. There was no abstention, no dissension. In Rajya Sabha, there was a single abstention, but no opposition. So, the ordainment of the people was converted into a constitutional provision. The power of the people came to be reflected reflected in the most certified mechanism." the Vice President recalled. Implicitly referring to the Supreme Court's judgment which invalidated the NJAC judgment, he said, "That power was undone. The world does not know of any such instance".

Dhankhar, who was formerly the Governor of West Bengal and a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court, opined that Article 145(3) of the Constitution gives the power to the Supreme Court only to interpret the Constitution. "Nowhere it gives the power to run down a Constitutional provision".

Vice President Dhankhar was invited as the Chief Guest at the 8th L.M. Singhvi Memorial Lecture organised by O.P. Jindal Global University. antle as the Chief Justice of India. Also in attendance was Chief Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud, who delivered the memorial lecture.

"After this verdict, there was no whisper in the parliament. We are proud of our judiciary, which has contributed massively to the growth of the rights of the people. An innovative mechanism was taken recourse to in the eighties, where a postcard could galvanise judicial action. However, the doctrine of separation of powers is fundamental to our governance," the Vice President explained. While conceding that the US Patriot Act, which was promulgated after the September 11 terrorist attacks, was "discriminatory", the Vice President used the example of this act to explain why "the primacy of national interests" should prevail. "The most basic of the basic structure is the primacy of the will of the people. There can be nothing more basic than this," he exclaimed. "If a constitutional provision that carries the ordainment of the people at large in such a vibrant democracy is undone, what will happen? I appeal to everyone, these are not issues that must be viewed along partisan lines," Dhankhar said.

Any incursion, "howsoever subtle", in the domain of one organ of the government by another has the capacity and potential to "unsettle" the entire governmental apparatus, Dhankhar said. He added, "Every institution has a well-defined role, and all are subject to the ultimate ordainment of the people. There is only one mechanism for that, which is the Parliament." He also attempted to shed light on the "helplessness" of the members of the parliament in the face of what he indicated was judicial overreach. "Many immensely talented legislators have said to me that on the floor of the house, they have to do as directed and indicated," Dhankhar told the gathering.

Emphasising that lack of courage and conviction should not lead to dereliction of duty, the Vice President criticised, "We are a country on the rise. To introduce politics when it comes to constitutional offices is unfortunate." He concluded his speech with an urgent call to action to the elite and the intelligentsia of the country to "generate a public opinion that political stance should be distanced from sublimity of our constitutional functioning". "It is never too late to make a different way of life available to us. We have lived with the basic structure doctrine. But, can parliamentary sovereignty ever be compromised?" he asked.

The Vice President's comments come as the government has intensified its efforts to assail the Supreme Court's collegium system. One of its fiercest critics is the incumbent Union Law Minister, Kiren Rijiju, whose comments have recently come under the judicial scanner. While hearing a contempt petition against the centre for not approving the names recommended by the Collegium, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, one of the seniormost puisne members of the top court and a part of the collegium, remonstrated against the Law Minister's remarks. Justice Kaul told the Attorney-General for India, R. Venkataramani, "Many people may have reservations about the law. But till it stands, it is the law of the land. I have ignored all press reports, but this has come from somebody high enough. It should not have happened."

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