Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur’s sharp comments on the government, in an interview to a television channel on Monday, are indicative of the growing chasm between the judiciary and the executive over the perceived over-reach of the former.
The debate on the limitations of the judiciary in intervening in the matters of the legislature and the executive is neither new nor can it be wished away. But the cutting remarks against each other in recent weeks, at the highest level, reflecting the extent of bitterness.
The distrust between the two sides has been growing especially since October 2015 when the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, calling it “unconstitutional.” The Act was meant to replace the Collegium with a commission for the appointment of judges to the highest courts, with a role in the process for the political class and civil society. The court had said the judiciary could not risk being caught in a “web of indebtedness” to the government.
The Chief Justice’s comments to ETV were in response to strong remarks in recent days by senior government functionaries, critical of the judiciary for allegedly poaching on the powers of the legislature and the executive.
“The extent of judicial interference in governmental issues depends on how effectively and efficiently the government does its job. Which court would want to intervene if the government works efficiently and sincerely? The courts only fulfil their constitutional duty and the need would not arise if the governments do their job,” the CJI was quoted as saying in the interview.
The CJI said the governments should do their job instead of hurling accusations, and said the people went to court only after they were let down by the executive.
On May 11, in unusually strong words, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asked Rajya Sabha members: “Can’t you see, step by step, brick by brick, the edifice of India’s legislature is being destroyed.” In his reply to the debate on the Finance Bill, he was referred to media reports on the Supreme Court’s suggestion for creation of a disaster mitigation fund headed by a judge.
“Mr. Bhupinder Singh [of BJD] just now mentioned. Now, we have already passed the Appropriation Bill. From where do I get this extra money outside the Appropriation Bill to comply with this direction of the Supreme Court? Can’t you see, step by step, brick by brick, the edifice of India’s legislature is being destroyed?”