Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar’s comments on the judiciary were part of a “game plan to orchestrate a confrontation,” the Congress alleged on Friday and quoted Mr. Dhankhar’s predecessor M. Venkaiah Naidu’s remarks in 2020 that “the Constitution is supreme”.
On Wednesday, while addressing the 83rd All India Presiding Officers Conference (AIPOC) in Jaipur, Mr. Dhankhar had criticised the striking down of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act in 2015 and questioned the landmark 1973 Kesavananda Bharati case verdict, saying it set a wrong precedent.
Mr. Dhankhar disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling that Parliament can amend the Constitution but not change its basic structure and went on to say “one-upmanship and public posturing from judicial platforms is not good and these institutions must know how to conduct themselves”.
The Vice-President’s comments seemed a virtual censure of the judiciary and followed the Supreme Court’s assertion on the issue of the Collegium system.
“Mr. Chidambaram has pointedly countered the Vice-President’s assault on the judiciary by saying the Constitution and not Parliament is supreme. Just a year ago, Mr. Dhankar’s predecessor Venkaiah Naidu garu had said exactly what Mr. Chidambaram has,” Congress general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh tweeted to refer to former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as well as Mr. Naidu.
‘None is supreme’
The Congress leader also posted an official release of Mr. Naidu’s remarks at the inaugural session of the 80th AIPOC, held at Kevadia, Gujarat, in November 2020. In his speech, the former Vice-President had said none of the three organs of the State can claim to be supreme as only the Constitution is supreme and the legislature, the executive and the judiciary are bound to work within the respective domains as defined in the Constitution.
“This is clearly an orchestration of a confrontation between the judiciary and the government. Different voices are being raised. It is one thing to have a committed judiciary but if the objective is to have a captured judiciary then I think democracy is under threat,” Mr. Ramesh said at a press conference.
Asked about Mr. Dhankhar’s repeated statements on the judiciary, the Congress leader said, “This is part of a game plan to orchestrate a confrontation”.
Mr. Ramesh said this year would mark the 50th anniversary of the Kesavananda Bharati verdict and it is one judgment that has found wide political acceptance. “I have heard Atal Bihari Vajpayee speak in favour of the Kesavananda Bharati verdict, I have seen Mr (L.K.) Advani speak in its favour and of course I have heard Mr. Arun Jaitley speak multiple times on how the Kesavananda Bharati case is a milestone,” he said.
“On the soon-to-be 50th anniversary of the Kesavananda Bharati judgment ... no less than a man the Vice president, one constitutional functionary is attacking another constitutional institution, it is an extraordinary situation,” Mr. Ramesh said.