New Delhi: In an affront to the Supreme Court, Attorney General K K Venugopal told it on Thursday that it was overstepping its boundaries and intruding into the legislative arena by expanding the scope of the fundamental rights with “judicial legislations” that will take 40 to 100 years to implement.
Arguing before a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on behalf of the Centre, he said that it was no surprise that former Chief Justice P N Bhagwati had described the Supreme Court of India as the most powerful court in the world in an interview to the Time magazine back in 1996.
He said the apex court has very often issued directions to the government in its PIL jurisdiction and the latter has honoured the mandate, irrespective of whichever party is in power, as it never wanted confrontation, but the court is crossing the limit by exercising powers permitted only to Parliament and the legislatures under the Constitution.
The court is hearing a ticklish issue of the legal validity of the parliamentary committees’ reports and whether they can be relied upon in courts in deciding matters concerning pharmaceutical firms in the dock. The Constitution Bench includes Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.
It was irked when Venugopal said, “You have read into Article 21, 30 separate fundamental rights, in which certain rights like eradication of poverty, right to housing, right to shelter … There is no manner that they can be executed in the next 50 or 100 years.”
“It is your responsibility to implement our orders. If you have not implemented, it is an admission of failure,” retorted Justice Chandrachud. The Chief Justice found nothing wrong in enlarging the ambit of Article 21, pointing out that “every addition into Article 21 has to be read in a particular context.”
On this, the Attorney General referred to the Apex Court last December slapping a ban on the sale of liquor on national and State highways within 500 metres that affected the livelihood of over one lakh people. Justice Chandrachud exhorted him to better read the judgment that he had authored correctly. “We have not done anything. It is your policy, not our policy. The Government of India has issued hundreds of advisories to the State government (to curb sale of liquor on highways).”
Coming to the specific issue of the court relying on parliamentary committee reports, the AG said separation of powers under the Constitution interdicts the court from looking into such reports or scrutinising or judicially reviewing them.
“The carefully structured dividing lines between the judicial, executive and legislative wings of the State would be obliterated if it were asserted that notwithstanding the separation of powers between the three wings of the State, it will be necessary for the court to scrutinise or judicially review the reports of parliamentary committees for the effective and complete discharge of its functions,” the AG added.