NEW DELHI – A popular majority is not a defence for arbitrary actions taken by a government and every action is required to comply with the Constitution, said Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana.
“Every action is mandatorily required to comply with the Constitution. If the judiciary does not have the power of judicial review, then the functioning of democracy in this country would be unthinkable,” he said, while delivering the Sri Lavu Venkateswarlu 5th Endowment Lecture at Siddhartha College in Vijayawada on Sunday.
He said the concept of separation of powers cannot be utilised to restrict the scope of judicial review.
“This concept only protects bona fide and legitimate actions. It is required that the legislative and executive wings recognise their limits under the Constitution to ensure smooth working of the democracy,” he observed.
Pointing out that the power of judicial review is often sought to be branded as judicial overreach, he said such generalisations are misguided. “The Constitution created three co-equal organs, namely the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. It is in this context that the judiciary has been given the role of reviewing the legality of steps taken by the other two,” he said.
Defending the collegium system, he said it is nowadays fashionable to reiterate phrases such as ‘judges are themselves appointing judges’. “I consider this to be one of the widely propagated myths. The fact is the judiciary is merely one of the many players involved in the process. Many authorities are involved, including the Union Law Ministry, State governments, Governor, High Court collegia, Intelligence Bureau, and lastly, the topmost executive, who all are designated to examine the suitability of a candidate. I am sad to note that the well-informed also propagate the aforesaid notion. After all, this narrative suits certain sections,” he felt.
Justice Ramana said another aspect which affects the fair functioning and independence of judiciary is the rising number of media trials. It may be pertinent to note here that the High Court of Andhra Pradesh has ordered a CBI inquiry into the derogatory social media posts on judiciary. “New media tools have enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad and real and fake. Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases,” the CJI opined.
On the absence of a well-considered legislation, Justice Ramana said the minimum that is expected out of the legislature while drafting laws is that they abide by Constitutional principles. “While making laws, they must also think of providing effective remedies for issues which may arise out of the law. But these principles seemingly are being ignored,” he observed.
Supreme Court Judges Justice Lavu Nageswara Rao, Justice PS Narasimha, Justice JK Maheshwari, Telangana High Court Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, Andhra Pradesh High Court Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and others were present.