With CJI next to him, Vice-President questions judiciary’s power to ‘undo’ a Constitutional amendment passed unanimously by Parliament

His comments are significant in the backdrop of war of words between the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and the Supreme Court over the delay in the judicial appointments.

December 02, 2022 10:28 pm | Updated 10:28 pm IST - New Delhi

Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Justice of India Justice D.Y. Chandrachud at the 8th Dr. LM Singhvi Memorial Lecture on ‘Universal Adult Franchise: Translating India’s Political Transformation Into A Social Transformation’, in New Delhi, Dec 2, 2022.

Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Justice of India Justice D.Y. Chandrachud at the 8th Dr. LM Singhvi Memorial Lecture on ‘Universal Adult Franchise: Translating India’s Political Transformation Into A Social Transformation’, in New Delhi, Dec 2, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar has said the world does not know of an instance where a Constitution provision, reflecting the will of people, can be undone by the judiciary.

Though the Vice-President did not explicitly name the Constitutional amendment, his reference was to the now repealed National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) through the 99thamendment.

Mr. Dhankhar made these remarks in the presence of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud at the 8thL.M. Memorial Lecture, organised by the O.P. Jindal University on Friday.

His comments are significant in the backdrop of war of words between the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and the Supreme Court over the delay in the judicial appointments.

“In the year 2015-16, the Parliament was dealing with a Constitutional amendment Act and as a matter of record the entire Lok Sabha voted unanimously. There was no abstention and no dissension. And the amendment was passed. In Rajya Sabha it was unanimous, there was one abstention,” Mr. Dhankhar said.

While the NJAC — that sought to replace the collegium system of appointing judges to the higher judiciary — was passed unanimously in the Lok Sabha, Ram Jethmalini, an independent member of the Rajya Sabha, had abstained in the Upper House. However, the NJAC was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in October 2015.

“Please find out a parallel in the world where a Constitutional provision can be undone. Our Indian Constitution provides in explicit terms Art 145 (3). Interpretation of the Constitution when a substantial question of law is involved can be done by the court. Nowhere it says that a provision can be run down,” he said, adding, “I am startled that after this verdict, there was no whispering in the Parliament. It was taken as such. This is too serious an issue”.

Mr. Dhankhar added that in a democracy, “the basic of the basic structure is primacy of the will of the people”.

‘Feminist document’

Delivering the keynote address on the role in universal adult franchise in translating India’s political transformation into social transformation, Justice Chandrachud asserted that India’s Constitution was a feminist document.

“The introduction of Universal Adult Franchise was a revolutionary act at a time when such a right had only recently been extended to women, people of colour, and the working-class in supposedly ‘mature’ Western democracies. In this sense, our Constitution was a feminist document, as well as an egalitarian socially transformative document,” Justice Chandrachud said.

Talking about the importance of the right to vote,“The exercise of the right to vote by citizens is an informed choice made by them. The actual realisation of one’s vote is to continuously participate in democracy in everyday life, to ask questions from the elected representatives and to keep the state accountable”.

The CJI also stressed on the need to ensure that migrant workers got to assert their right to vote even as they migrated for work.

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