Admonishments that endanger the Constitution

Source– The post is based on the article “Admonishments that endanger the Constitution” published in The Hindu on 19th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Indian constitution and Basic structure

Relevance– Working of the constitution

News– The article explains the basic structure and its importance for Indian constitutional structure. It also explains the recent attack of judiciary by executive

What is the basic structure?

The judgment is widely recognized as a milestone in India’s history. It held that Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution was not plenary. Any change that damages the basic structure of the constitution would be declared void.

What is the recent attack on the judiciary by the executive and why is it not healthy criticism?

Much of this criticism has been aimed at the functioning of the collegium. The Union Minister of Law and Justice, and Vice President  have repeatedly doubted the Court’s judgment in 2015, in which it struck down NJAC.

Mr. Dhankhar claimed that the striking down of the NJAC had no parallels in democratic history. In a democratic society, the basic of any basic structure is supremacy of people, sovereignty of parliament.

He said that the ultimate power is with the legislature. Legislature also decides who will be there in other institutions. All institutions must confine themselves to their domains. One must not interfere in the domain of others.

Genuine criticism of the Collegium’s functioning ought to be welcomed. But the Government confirmed in Parliament that it has no plans to implement any systemic change in the way we appoint judges.

The Government itself has done little to promote transparency in the process. Therefore, the present reproach is unprincipled. It is an attempt at subverting the judiciary’s autonomy.

Why is basic structure the foundation of the constitution and inherent part of it?

India’s Constitution comprises a set of principles that together give it an identity. The Constitution is a product of a collective vision. That vision was built on distinct but interwoven ideals.

These ideals consist of rule of law, Westminster parliamentary form of governance, separation of powers, independence of judiciary and federal structure. These cannot be amended as they would change the fundamental pillars of the constitution.

In Minerva Mills vs Union of India, SC held that Parliament too is a creature of the Constitution. Therefore, it can only have such powers that are expressly vested on it.

If those powers are unlimited, it would cease to be an authority under the Constitution. It would become supreme over it, because it would have power to alter the entire Constitution including its basic structure.

SC in the Keshvananda Bharati case gave the interpretation of the word “amendment”. The dictionary definition of “amendment” means “minor change or addition designed to improve a text”.


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