Opposition parties across the spectrum have strongly condemned Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that “Judiciary is destroying the edifice of India’s legislature step by step, brick by brick.” Parties have stated Jaitley’s comment as “constitutional breach and out of frustration”.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill on Wednesday, the FM urged the MPs not to hand over budgetary and taxation powers to the judiciary. “With the manner in which encroachment of legislative and executive authority by India’s judiciary is taking place, probably financial power and budget making is the last power that you have left,” he said.
Reacting sharply to Jaitley’s comment, eminent lawyer and Rajya Sabha member from Congress KTS Tulsi said, “I think step by step and brick by brick this government is destroying federalism in the country. They are not allowing states run by Opposition parties and that is the real problem of this BJP-led government at the Centre.”
Another Congress leader and party’s general secretary, Shakeel Ahmad called it “the most unfortunate statement”.
“It’s very unfortunate because Jaitley, who is a legal luminary himself despite knowing fully about the Constitutional functioning, he made such a statement. He must have read Constitution of India and knows that Supreme Court is the final interpreter of our Constitution. He should have learnt from the incident of 1999, when NDA was in power at the Centre,” he said.
In February 1999, the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee dismissed the 18-month-old Rabri Devi government on charges of failing to maintain law and order in Bihar. The immediate provocation for putting the state under President’s Rule was the killing of 12 Dalits, allegedly by the Ranveer Sena, a private army of upper caste landlords in Jehanabad district.
The NDA government, which did not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, soon realised its mistake and the decision could not be ratified in the Upper House. Within three weeks, Vajpayee advised the then Home Minister LK Advani to announce on the floor of the House that the decision to impose President’s Rule in Bihar was being revoked. As a result, Rabri Devi was reinstated as CM in March 1999.
“Now the Modi government repeated the same mistake. It’s their modus operandi to destabilise elected state governments by undemocratic means like they did in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. The Vajpayee-government was forced to restore Rabri Devi government in Bihar,” added Ahmad.
JD(U) Rajya Sabha member KC Tyagi has termed Jaitley’s statement – “a result of frustration”.
“Arun Jaitley made this statement in the Rajya Sabha out of sheer desperation and frustration over his government’s failure to topple the elected Uttarakhand government. The failure of the BJP in its attempt to destabilise the elected Harish Rawat government has exposed the party’s undemocratic ways of dealing with the Opposition parties,” remarked Tyagi.
The Left parties – who are staunch critics of the BJP-RSS ideology and the Modi government —have termed Jaitley statement as a “fascist reaction”.
CPM leader Nilotpal Basu said, “Mr Jaitley should remember that the initial damage was caused by the central government by interfering into the working of Uttarakhand government – the Speaker was challenged and on its basis President’s Rule was imposed. Even after the judgment in SR Bommai vs Union of India, the BJP failed to understand that imposition of Article 356 needs ratification of the two Houses of the Parliament. Since, it wasn’t done, the Supreme Court had to intervene. As far Constitutional scheme is concerned-- in different point of time--whenever someone acted in a manner which goes beyond brief, other organs tend to occupy that void.”
He further added, “It’s a case for examining whether judicial over-reaching took place or not. But this situation related to Uttarakhand or earlier Arunachal Pradesh was created due to BJP’s obsession to gobble up everything.”
CPM Central Committee member, Badal Saroj, is more incisive. He caustically said, “Whatever BJP did to destabilise Uttarakhand government by using Article 356 reflects the fascist tendency inherent in BJP’s ideological mentor RSS. Their only agenda is to take over all the non-BJP ruled state governments by hook and crook through autocratic and anti-democratic means.”
He added, "Had the BJP government read the observations in the Supreme Court judgment of the 1994 SR Bommai vs Union of India case, this embarrassing situation could have been avoided. The BJP is hell bent in destroying brick by brick the basic tenets of our Constitution, where the role and function of the three pillars – executive, legislature and judiciary — have clearly been defined. Jaitley’s statement as a noted lawyer is highly objectionable and derogatory. Both the PM and Jaitley should apologise for this.”
In the Bommai judgement the apex court also made clear that the only time a decision to impose President’s Rule can be made without going for a floor test is when there is "a situation of all-pervasive violence where the governor comes to the conclusion — and records the same in his report — that for the reasons mentioned by him, a free vote is not possible."
The Opposition parties have termed that the Modi government's decision to impose President’s Rule in Uttarakhand was disrespectful to centre-state relations.
CPI leader D Raja stated that the Constitution has clearly defined the division of power between the Centre and the states, and both sides should respect the centre-state relationship. "The central government acted autocratically in imposing President’s Rule in Uttarakhand. Even Dr BR Ambedkar had said that Article 356 should be considered as a ‘dead letter’. BJP should accept its mistake as they committed a blunder. It was a result of their lust for power. Whether, the judiciary can interfere or not is a different issue, but BJP speaks up in favour or against the judiciary depending on wherever it suits them.”
However, in the midst of strong condemnation from Opposition parties, there is some relief for Jaitley. His statement has received support from the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Justifying Jaitley’s statement, Rajya Sabha MP Majeed Memon from the NCP said, “I endorse what Jaitley, who is an eminent lawyer, has said in Rajya Sabha. In the past few years, judiciary has been found to be over-stepping in all the matters, even in the basic policy matters, which are in the domain of executive autonomy.”
Surprisingly, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chose not to comment on the issue.
Published Date: May 12, 2016 04:57 pm | Updated Date: May 12, 2016 04:57 pm