Detentions should be in conformity with Constitution, laws, says SC judge

October 22, 2020 04:43 am | Updated 04:43 am IST - NEW DELHI

Supreme Court judge, Justice U.U. Lalit, said on Wednesday detention of persons should be in conformity with the Constitution and the laws.

Justice Lalit was speaking at an international web series of Indian judges and jurists in conversation with American jurists conducted by the Georgetown University Law Center and the Society for Democratic Rights based in New Delhi. The topic of the conversation was “Keeping the Executive in Check — The Role of the Judiciary”.

Justice Lalit was responding to a question from debate moderator, Dean William M. Treanor, on how the Supreme Court of India has been called upon to rule on the limits of the government’s national security powers.

“There are two facets to national security — our Constitution permits preventive detention in certain matters to stop somebody from indulging in prejudicial activities against the nation. There laws framed under the Constitution. There are checks and balances so far as the exercise [of preventive detention] is concerned,” Justice Lalit said.

Justice Lalit said preventive detention, as a facet of the State’s powers under national security, allows the government to detain a person without adjudication of his or her guilt. This detention can be extended to a year or so, Justice Lalit explained.

The Supreme Court judge said the power of judicial review of the court is wide and extends to even Constitutional Amendments.

Justice Lalit said the very fact that over 40,000 cases come to the court was proof of the public faith in the Supreme Court.

At one point, Professor Neal Katyal, Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of National Security Law and the former Acting Solicitor General of the United States, also a participant, asked Justice Lalit how Benches were formed in the Supreme Court to hear cases and whether there was any public explanation made from the court why particular judges were selected to hear a case.

Justice Lalit said the choice of judges on a Bench was left to the “pure discretion” of the Chief Justice of India.

Professor Katyal said the judges on the United States Supreme Court treat their Chief Justice as first among equals with no special powers.

Justice Lalit replied that the Chief Justice of India was equal to other judges on the judicial side. Other judges could overrule his judgment. But he was the master of the roster, deciding on his own which judge should hear which case.

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