Friday, February 22, 2008

Some amount of conflict within the Supreme Court

It appears that there is some amount of conflict within the Supreme Court of India, if one goes by recent judgments; there was the recent judgment where the 2 judge bench made scathing remarks about the tendency of the judges to stray into areas that are outside the judicial domain, and into areas where the legislature and executive should be responsible. They took numerous cases, such as the nursery admission case, sealings case, etc; cases where it is the responsibility of the executive to uphold law and do as per law (so, letting illegal constructions stand and creating a law to make them legal is the normal response of the executive and legislature, because there are too many pressure groups that will not allow them to act in another way).
This judgment and the comments were seized upon by politicians of all shades and hues as a vindication of their recent protests that the judiciary was over-stepping its brief; they could not care less that they are failing to respond as per law or not creating law where it is required (as another example, for handling sexual discrimination in the office-place, the current approach is laid down by the Supreme Court in a prior case, and not due to any law passed by the legislature). This judgment and the observations made were quoted in filings made by lawyers working for the Government in different cases. It is another matter that a larger bench struck down these observations as not valid, and said that the court will continue to work as it has before, helping the various junior courts that were affected by the observations of the court. Well, this seems to be happening again, although in a reverse way:

In a strong disapproval of a Supreme Court judge's direction, a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan on Thursday held that courts should "desist" from issuing general directions affecting executive and legislative policy unconnected to a particular case.
The court must ensure that its orders and decision do not create any doubt or confusion on legal position in the minds of any authority or citizen, a three-judge bench, including Justices R V Raveendran and J M Panchal said. Justice Katju, in a concurring but separate judgement, had given directions to Uttar Pradesh government to issue an Ordinance for restoring the provisions of anticipatory bail in the state.
However, the three-judge Bench held that Katju's directions "are not directions to be complied with".

In an ironical twist, the statements made by the judge about directing the Uttar Pradesh Government were made by the same judge who had earlier bemoaned the way in which his fellow judges were trying to over-reach into areas beyond their domain. In this case, the observations made by the learned Supreme Court judge had no reference to the case in hand, and deserved to be struck down.
However, this whole matter leads itself to confusion, since different benches of the Supreme Court ruling on judgments made by another judge are unseemly, and the Honorable Chief Justice should step in and ensure that such divisions are resolved.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 6:14 AM