NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asserted its authority under the Constitution and said that it will act to protect rights of people and made it clear that it would not stay away from an issue just because Parliament was debating it.
The apex court, which was hearing the case on whether courts can rely on reports of Parliamentary Standing Committees while deciding cases under Article 32 or 136, also witnessed a sharp exchange of words between Justice D Y Chandrachud, who was one of the judges from the five-judge Constitution Bench, and attorney general K K Venugopal.
The issue of whether a parliamentary panel report can be relied upon in judicial proceedings had arisen after the petitioners had referred to the 81st Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee, issued on December 22, 2014, allegedly indicting some pharma firms for conducting trials of the controversial human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.
Venugopal referred to the privileges of the House and its committees and the concept of separation of powers and said that no report of any committee of Parliament can be subjected to judicial scrutiny or
“In a parliamentary form of democracy, there is a doctrine of collective responsibility of the government and the question is where we draw the line. Like separation of power, the power of judicial review is also part of basic structure. It is not that our power of judicial review gets affected. We can take up a case and do the needful on our own,” the bench said.
Venugopal said the Supreme Court of India is perhaps the most powerful court in the world because the government has always honoured its mandate. Justice Chandrachud, who was the youngest on the bench among the present 25 apex court judges, is vocal about the opinions he has about issues concerning him and minces no words when he talks.
During the hearing, while responding to Venugopal’s submission on the nature of rights being read into Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) and the enforceability of the same, Justice Chandrachud retorted and said, “Article 21 can be enforced.”
Not only this, Justice Chandrachud was part of the nine-judge bench and had authored the judgment in the Right to Privacy case and showed how firm his views were and created history when he overruled a judgment of his father, Justice Y V Chandrachud, who had held in 1975 that right to liberty is suspended during the Emergency. The hearing in the instant case remained inconclusive and would resume on October 31.