New Delhi: Rajya Sabha chairperson Jagdeep Dhankhar in his maiden speech in the House Wednesday criticised the judiciary for scrapping the NJAC bill, terming it as an instance of “severe compromise of parliamentary sovereignty”, and said the government’s three organs should respect the “Laxman Rekha”.
Asserting that the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) bill had “unprecedented” support of Parliament and members “unanimously” voted in its favour, he said there is “no parallel to such a development in democratic history where a duly legitimised constitutional prescription has been judicially undone”.
Democracy blossoms and flourishes when its three facets — the legislature, the judiciary and the executive — scrupulously adhere to their respective domains, Dhankhar said, adding that the doctrine of separation of powers must be respected.
He said that “any incursion by one institution, in the domain of the other, has the potential to upset the governance apple cart”.
Referring to the 99th Constitutional amendment Bill that entailed the formation of the NJAC, he said the “historic” parliamentary mandate on it was “undone by the Supreme Court on October 16, 2015 by a majority of 4:1 finding the same as not being in consonance with the judicially evolved doctrine of ‘Basic Structure’ of the Constitution”.
Dhankhar’s remarks also come in the backdrop of recent run-ins between the government and the judiciary over appointment of judges.
“We are indeed faced with this grim reality of frequent incursions. This House is eminently positioned to take affirmative steps to bring about congeniality amongst these wings of governance. I am sure you all will reflect and engage in way forward stance,” the vice president said.
It is institutional seamless connect marked with mutual trust and respect that generates an ecosystem best suited for serving the nation, Dhankhar stressed.
“This House needs to catalyse this wholesome environment to promote synergic functioning of constitutional institutions, emphasising need to respect Laxman Rekha,” he said.
“On August 13, 2014, Lok Sabha unanimously voted in its favour with there being no abstention. This House too, passed it unanimously on August 14, 2014, with one abstention. Rarely in parliamentary democracy, there has been such massive support to a Constitutional legislation,” Dhankhar said.
Talking about the Supreme Court’s order, the vice president said this was a “glaring instance of severe compromise of parliamentary sovereignty and disregard of the mandate of the people of which this House and the Lok Sabha are custodians”.
Dhankhar also noted that it is disconcerting that on “such a momentous issue, so vital to democratic fabric, there has been no focus in Parliament, now for over seven years”.
“This House, in concert with the Lok Sabha, being custodian of the ordainment of the people, is duty bound to address the issue, and I am sure it will do so,” he said.
Last week, Dhankhar had termed the scrapping of the NJAC bill as “too serious an issue” and said there was “no whisper” in Parliament after the Supreme Court struck it down. A law passed by Parliament, which reflects the will of the people, was “undone” by the Supreme Court and “the world does not know of any such instance”, he had said.
The vice president in his speech in Rajya Sabha called for all constitutional institutions “to reflect and give quietus to public display of adversarially challenging stance, trading or exchange of advisories emanating from these platforms”.
He also urged the members of the House to “proactively catalyse evolution of wholesome cordial ecosystem ending this aberration”.
Dhankar also reminded the members of their responsibility in the smooth functioning of the House, saying obstruction and disruption of proceedings as parliamentary practice or option are antithetical to democratic values.
“Contemporaneous scenario on this count is concerning and makes it imperative for us to follow the high standards set in the Constituent Assembly. We need to be cognizant of severe public discomfort and disillusionment at lack of decorum in the temple of democracy,” he said.