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SC’s striking down of NJAC Act disregard to people’s mandate: Dhankhar

New Delhi: The striking down of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act in 2015 by the Supreme Court is a “glaring instance of severe compromise of parliamentary sovereignty and disregard of the mandate of the people”, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said in his maiden address in the House on Wednesday.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the day of the commencement of winter session, Dhankhar said that it is “disconcerting” that there has been no focus in the Parliament for over seven years on such a momentous issue so vital to democratic fabric.
“This historic parliamentary mandate was undone by the Supreme Court on October 16, 2015 by a majority of 4:1 finding the same as not being in consonance with the judicially evolved doctrine of ‘Basic Structure’ of the Constitution. There is no parallel to such a development in democratic history where a duly legitimized constitutional prescription has been judicially undone,” he said.
“This House, in concert with the Lok Sabha, being custodian of the ordainment of the people, is duty bound to address the issue, and I am sure it will do so,” Dhankhar added.
Notably, Dhankhar’s observation has come amid apparent friction between the government and the judiciary over the appointment of judges.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman said that the power of Parliament of the day to act in exercise of its constituent power to amend the Constitution in accordance with the procedure is “unqualified and supreme, not amenable to executive attention or judicial intervention.”
“The essence of democracy lies in the prevalence of the ordainment of the people reflected through legitimized platform. In any democracy, Parliamentary sovereignty is inviolable. We all here are under oath to preserve it,” the Chairman added.
The NJAC Act stated that a commission consisting of the Chief Justice of India, SC judges, Union law minister, and two eminent persons would select judges. The commission was to replace the current collegium system under which the judges appoint fellow judges.
Dhankhar said that the Parliament “in a much-needed historic step” passed the 99th Constitutional Amendment Bill paving way for the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC).
“There was unprecedented support to the above. On August 13, 2014, the Lok Sabha unanimously voted in its favour with there being no abstention. This House too, passed it unanimously on August 14, 2014 with one abstention. Rarely in Parliamentary democracy has there been such massive support for Constitutional legislation,” he said.
He said that this process fructified into a Constitutional prescription, after 16 State Assemblies out of 29 States ratified the Central Legislation, the President of India accorded his consent on December 31, 2014.
“We need to bear in mind that in democratic governance Basic of any ‘Basic Structure’ is the prevalence of primacy of the mandate of the people reflected in the Parliament. Parliament is the exclusive and ultimate determinative of the architecture of the Constitution,” he added.
The House needs to catalyse this wholesome environment to promote synergic functioning of Constitutional Institutions emphasizing need to respect Laxman Rekha, Dhankhar further said.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman said that the authorities in constitutional positions in any institution are required to exemplify their conduct by high standards of propriety, dignity and decorum.

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