In presence of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that the judiciary has to decide "how far" it can go in taking over power on issues of governance as he stressed the need for all organs to appreciate the proverbial 'Lakshman rekha'.
He was speaking at a Constitution Day event in the presence of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and other senior judges.
"Governance being a highly complicated exercise, may be there is a need to reflect within as to how far the judiciary needs to go. That is for the judiciary to decide," he said.
Prasad said there are lots of "competing interests", "lot of complicated claims, lot of other vested interests" that need to be understood when running a government.
"Yes, I understand the temptation with greatest respect. But mere temptation should not lead to taking over of the power that leads to a larger narrative of some reflection," he said.
He was responding to remarks made by Attorney General K K Venugopal and Supreme Court Bar Association's Vikas Singh earlier on the issue of separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive.
In the past too, Prasad has referred to the issue of judicial over-reach, saying law-making must be left within the realm of those elected to make the law.
Referring to the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, through which the government had sought to have a larger say in appointment of SC and high court judges, which was struck down by the Supreme Court, Prasad said while the government has accepted the judgment, it has certain reservations on some of the reasons given when it was struck down.
He, however, did not refer to the reservations.
In the past, though, he had dwelt on the issue extensively.
Prasad also referred to public interest litigations, saying the idea originally was to allow the marginalised and deprived to be heard.
"Perhaps time has come to restate more clearly the noble narrative of PIL," he said.
Earlier Monday, during the inaugural ceremony, Prasad said, "We hear about constitutional morality, we appreciate innovations but nuances of constitutional morality should be outlined with clarity and should not differ from judge to judge and there must be a consensus."
He said, "We need to trust India's democracy because they (the people) have this confidence that we can unseat any political leader or political party howsoever popular, howsoever powerful in Delhi or in states."
Not heeding 'advice' of Constitution will result in 'descent into chaos', says CJI
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said it was in "our best interest" to heed the advice of the Constitution as not doing so would result in a "sharp descent into chaos".
The Constitution proved critics like Rudyard Kipling wrong as it worked well for last 70 years and not only united 1.3 billion people, but also gave them a 'national identity', the CJI said, addressing the valedictory session of the Constitution Day celebrations in New Delhi.
Justice Gogoi, in his inaugural address on Constitution Day function at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, said, "It is in our best interest to heed the advice of the Constitution. If we do not, our hubris will result in sharp descent into chaos."
The Constitution Day, also known as Samvidhan Divas, is celebrated on November 26 to commemorate the Constitution being adopted.
Referring to Kipling's criticism and apprehension that the Constitution might not work in a vast country like India, he said, "Had he been alive today, he would have been surprised to find that India is a well-functioning polity and this is no mean achievement for the world's largest democracy.
"The Constitution is working and working well for 1.3 billion people... and the credit mainly goes to the framework of the governance which is laid down in the Constitution," Justice Gogoi said.
Referring to B R Ambedkar, the CJI said the success of working of the Constitution does not depend on its nature and would rather depend on the "people who work for it".
"The Constitution has successfully united immensely diverse people into one nation. Notwithstanding, the caste, creed and religion, we are a community because we share the same Constitution. The Constitution has the very basis of national identity. It is the source of our Indian-ness.
"The Constitution has succeeded in working well for almost 70 years now. The credit for this lies partially with the members of the Constituent Assembly."
Justice Gogoi termed the journey of India as a republic as "remarkable" in last 70 years and said despite "flaws and shortcomings", the citizens had accepted and amended it time and again and given new meaning to it.
"Despite flaws and shortcomings, it is the spirit of the Constitution. It would not be an exaggeration to say that our Constitution is intricately intertwined with every sphere of life, be it political, social or economical. In each moment of crisis we have turned to it for refuge. This is because of our unshakable belief in Constitution in its ideals such as rule of law, democracy, human rights and so on," the CJI said.
The constitutional texts, the people, who worked for the ideals, and their undying spirit for the constitutionalism ensured the longevity of the Constitution, he said, adding that citizens were blessed to have such a "rich inheritance" which needed to be passed on to future generations.
Justice S A Bobde, who would be succeeding the CJI, in his speech referred to the efforts put in by members of the Constituent Assembly in drafting the Constitution and specially mentioned 15 women members and their contributions.
He also referred to the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and said the strike and its aftermath established that there was rule of law in the country as the Bombay High Court worked during the ongoing strike when all the terrorists were at large and gunshots and explosions were being heard.
"I remember when these terrorists were still at large in the city, we could hear gunshots and bombs exploding. We decided as a court to sit through the morning without staff ..." Justice Bobde said.
He said then there was clamour for the sole surviving accused to lynched, but the rule of law prevailed, as a proper trial was conducted and the terrorist was executed by following the law and procedure.
"That judgement was subject to two appeals which eventually resulted in the execution. This I think is a recent example as to how deeply entrenched the rule of law is and this is what we as courts should and do stand for," he said.
Justice A K Sikri, who also spoke at the concluding session, said the Constitution had endured, but there were "miles to go".
He became emotional while talking about the constitutional rights and the plight of yje "bonded labourer, the pavement dweller sleeping on railway platforms, the rickshaw puller, landless farmer and the homeless wanderer living in hellish cesspool".
He said these people "remind us today that they were amongst those people who on November 26, 1959 enacted, adopted and gave to themselves the Constitution".
Attorney General K K Venugopal referred to the pendency of 29 million cases in the country's courts and said the judiciary and the government would have to come together and cooperate to find a solution to the problem so that the fundamental right to speedy justice was made available to all.
Senior advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association President Vikas Singh said the apex court lawyers should also be considered for appointment as judges in higher judiciary.