Asia News Agency
Virtually endorsing Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar’s remarks on judicial overreach, presiding officers of State Assemblies and Councils from across the country Thursday recognised the separate powers of the judiciary and legislature and said that each should “respect” the boundaries provided by the Constitution.
A resolution passed at the conclusion of the 83rd All India Presiding Officers’ Conference said that it reaffirmed its complete faith in the primacy of the people of India in law-making through the legislative bodies of the nation, and while reposing confidence in the principle of separation of powers, it exhorted all organs of the state to respect the Constitutional boundaries enshrined in the Constitution of India.
While inaugurating the conference Wednesday, Dhankar made strong comments on “posturing” or “one-upmanship” by the judiciary, adding that one could not have an “ostrich-like stance” on judiciary-legislature relations.
The resolution passed by the conference Thursday also sought a code of conduct to rule the behaviour of legislators in Assemblies, Councils and Parliament.
The conference resolved that Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of legislative bodies must be reviewed comprehensively, and model uniform Rules be formulated incorporating best practices in order to secure greater participation of Members and more productive functioning of the Houses of legislature.
The resolution further said that a Code of Conduct for Members should be introduced in the Rules to bring about an effective check against indecorous and unparliamentary conduct.
The resolution extended full support to the projection of India as the “Mother of Democracy” during the counry’s ongoing G-20 presidency. It also empowered the committee system to ensure scrutiny of the executive. It exhorted all State Assemblies and Councils to join the National Grid for Legislative Bodies for better transparency and efficiency.
VP’s criticism of the basic structure doctrine
The controversy is regarding the remarks of the Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, in particular comments on the relationship between parliament and judiciary and the basic structure doctrine. According to The Indian Express, “it is clear that he is actually trying to contrive an opposition, by ranging one institution of constitutional democracy against the other: Legislature vs judiciary….”
The basic structure doctrine was laid down by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati judgement in the turbulent 1970s. The court ruled that while Parliament has vast powers to change the Constitution, it cannot touch certain “basic features” or foundational principles that give the Constitution its coherence or identity, make it what it is. That is, Parliament can amend, not destroy. Ever since, The Indian Express writes “the doctrine has held firm and stood the test of time because the court has kept the formulation of ‘basic features’ wide and abstract. It has been careful not to spell them out too exhaustively or narrowly and thereby tread on the toes of the elected legislature. The fact also is that, contrary to the V-P’s blunt oppositions, these checks on the powers of the legislature, which is governed by the majoritarian principle, by the court, an institution that is not, are an integral part of the democratic framework, not outside it, or in opposition to it. These constraints help maintain the fine balance that makes democracy work better for the people.”