Focus on the Constitution’s Agenda !

It is heartening to learn our Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra is in discussion with his four senior-most colleagues on the issues they raised at their January 12 press conference. At this conference Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph of the Apex Court accused Chief Justice Misra of selectively assigning cases of “far-reaching consequences to the nation.” They complained they tried to persuade the Chief Justice to take remedial measures but failed.

The current friction between the Chief Justice and his esteemed  colleagues is very unfortunate . This has long been a well-settled principle that the Chief Justice is the master of the roster. He/ she determines the composition of Benches and their work. The convention herein is the Chief Justice hears all important cases of public interest or  sensitive matters . If he/she cannot for some reason,  such cases would be assigned to the next senior-most judge.

Some well-meaning groups rightly suggest that a Full Bench of the Apex Court headed by the Chief Justice must ponder over and resolve the issues raised by the four judges. An independent, impartial judiciary is the hallmark of our democracy.  Any infighting within the Apex Court would create doubt as to its integrity. Our democracy cannot afford it.

Presently, the Apex Court is seized with several crucial issues such as those related to the on-going Delhi-Centre power tussle and the Aadhar scheme controversy. The Court must focus on them. More importantly, the Court must ensure that its directives against allegedly criminal elements in  our politics are complied with. Currently, over 34 per cent of our Members of Parliament have criminal cases pending against them. The scenario in our legislative bodies in various provinces is not much different. Recently, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to establish special courts to try politicians facing criminal cases. Earlier , the Court had directed that all cases against such politicians be disposed of within one year.

There is a near consensus across our enlightened non-partisan  public spectrum today that our judiciary must intervene wherever the Government deviates from  our constitutional agenda. A fundamental reason for the lack of good governance and all- inclusive development in India is that our political class has by and large not been true to the spirit of our Constitution. The Constitution assures good governance and all-inclusive development . Elected representatives legislate and ultimately run our parliamentary government. If they themselves are criminal and corrupt, good governance cannot even be conceived.

The Court must do whatever is needed for the sake of our Constitution. Fortunately, the Apex Court has already held that our law must necessarily be just, fair and reasonable. The Court has also propounded the doctrine of basic structure. This makes it clear that our  Parliament’s power to amend our Constitution is not absolute.