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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Not Supreme Court’s duty to advise Parliament, says CJI
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Not Supreme Court’s duty to advise Parliament, says CJI

The court rejects PIL seeking guidelines to ensure parliamentary proceedings take place without interruptions

Political analysts say the apex court was correct in refusing to intervene in Parliament’s functioning, a problem that needed a political solution. Photo: MintPremium
Political analysts say the apex court was correct in refusing to intervene in Parliament’s functioning, a problem that needed a political solution. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to intervene on the issue of key reform legislation stuck due to parliamentary disruptions, saying that doing so would be overstepping its boundary.

The apex court rejected a public interest litigation (PIL) by a non-profit group, whose advisers include industrialist Ratan Tata, seeking guidelines to ensure parliamentary proceedings take place without interruptions or disruptions.

A bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu said it was not the court’s duty to advise or make suggestions to Parliament, whose members had the wisdom and experience to conduct themselves appropriately. “It is not for this court to start advising or making suggestions (to members of Parliament) about what to do, what not to do. They are all experienced people, they have wisdom. They know their responsibilities. They know how to conduct themselves. We are not here to advise them and we are not expected to either," Dattu said.

Political acrimony between the ruling alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress party marked by sharp exchanges between leaders both inside and outside Parliament washed out the monsoon session last month.

The Lok Sabha saw only 48% productivity in the monsoon session, whereas the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, saw only 8% productivity, according to data collated by New Delhi-based PRS Legislative Research, a non-profit organization that tracks India’s legislative processes.

Two of the key reform bills that have been stuck over parliamentary disruptions include the constitutional amendment bill for a goods and services tax (GST) and the controversial land acquisition bill, which has now been left to be formulated by individual state governments.

The petitioner, Foundation for Restoration of National Values (FRNV), claims there is a loophole in the law because there are no guidelines that would stop disruptions.

In response, the apex court said, “If the Parliament thinks there’s a lacuna in the Constitution, they’ll make appropriate amendments. You make a representation before them, they will take it very seriously."

The advisory board of FRNV includes chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd Ratan Tata, former managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corp. E. Sreedharan, and former chief justice of India M.N. Venkatachaliah.

In its petition, the foundation focused on the monsoon session of Parliament—21 July to 13 August—which saw sustained and continuous disruptions by opposition parties. The petition said these disruptions have resulted in “severe loss" of parliamentary time and public money. It said that since 1991, in the past six Parliaments, nearly 2,162 hours have been lost.

“There is, accordingly, the urgent and pressing need to improve the overall structures, systems, skills, styles, policies and procedures needed for good governance, with a robust, wholesome and socially responsible administration, while simultaneously imbuing in those responsible for public administration, a deeper understanding of their responsibility to further the welfare of the people of our country," the petition said.

Political analysts say the apex court was correct in refusing to intervene in Parliament’s functioning, a problem that needed a political solution.

“The stated structure we have is that sphere of judiciary and Parliament are two spheres and there has to be a balance between them. The legality of what the Parliament does can be brought to the Supreme Court but to advice the Parliament on how it should function is not within its purview," said Manisha Priyam, a New Delhi-based political analyst and a fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

“This has to be guided politically. There are rules of business, conduct and procedures which should be followed. The issue is very serious right now. The Congress party has lost its base and so it no longer has the incentive to cooperate with the government. On the other hand, the BJP too has not made enough efforts to reach out to the opposition parties," she said.

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Updated: 25 Sep 2015, 12:13 AM IST
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