Retired judges are no longer “colleagues” and their opinions are not binding, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said on Tuesday, in reaction to the statement by the former top judge and current Rajya Sabha member, Ranjan Gogoi, about the ”doubtful jurisprudence” of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
The Chief Justice was responding to senior advocate Kapil Sibal’s reference to the statement made by Mr. Gogoi in Parliament on August 7.
Mr. Gogoi’s statement came during the passage of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023. He supported the Bill, which was passed as law despite multiple judgments from the top court upholding the elected Delhi government’s power to administer the capital. The new law has dropped the administrative reins and the bureaucracy of the capital back into the hands of the Lieutenant-Governor, considered an arm of the Centre.
“One of your esteemed colleagues has said that the Basic Structure theory is also doubtful,” Mr. Sibal told a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud during the day-long hearing of the challenge to dilution of Article 370 of the Constitution.
But Chief Justice brushed off the comment lightly.
“Mr. Sibal, when you refer to a ‘colleague’, you have to refer to a sitting colleague. Once we cease to be judges, whatever we say, they are just opinions and not binding,” the Chief Justice responded.
The senior lawyer was arguing in the Article 370 case that the government had used brute majority in Parliament to abrogate the special status bestowed on Jammu and Kashmir.
Mr. Sibal voiced apprehensions that what happened to J&K, which was converted from a full-fledged State to Union Territories directly controlled by the Centre, may be repeated in other States unless the court stepped in.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta intervened and said Mr. Sibal, who is a Rajya Sabha member himself, should have responded to Mr. Gogoi in Parliament and not take it up in court.