Supreme Court credibility cannot be eroded by individuals' statements, says Bombay High Court [22.2.2023]

The Constitution is supreme and sacrosanct, and the apex court's credibility is sky-high and cannot be eroded or impinged by statements of individuals, the Bombay High Court observed while dismissing a public interest litigation against Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar over their remarks against the judiciary. A division bench of Acting Chief Justice S V Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne had on February 9 dismissed the PIL filed by the Bombay Lawyers Association (BLA) against Rijiju and Dhankhar over their comments against the judiciary and collegium system related to appointment of Supreme Court and HC judges. A detailed order of the bench was made available on Tuesday. The HC, in its order, said every citizen, including constitutional authorities and persons holding constitutional posts, must respect and abide by the Constitution. It maintained a PIL is filed for protection of public interest and ought to be used for redressal of a genuine wrong or injury caused to citizens and it cannot be publicity-oriented. The lawyers association's PIL had sought disqualification of Rijiju and Dhankhar from their constitutional post on the ground their remarks had shaken the public faith in the SC and the Constitution. The bench, however, noted the credibility of the Supreme Court is sky-high. It (SC credibility) cannot be eroded or impinged by the statements of individuals. The Constitution of India is supreme and sacrosanct. Every citizen of India is bound by the Constitution and is expected to abide by the constitutional values, the court said in its order. The constitutional institutions are to be respected by all, including constitutional authorities and persons holding constitutional posts, the judges added. The HC took note of the statements of Rijiju and Dhankhar submitted by Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, which said the government has never undermined the authority of the judiciary and its independence will always remain untouched, and that they respect the ideals of the Constitution. The constitutional authorities cannot be removed in the manner as suggested by the petitioner. Fair criticism of the judgment is permissible. It is no doubt, fundamental duty of every citizen to abide by the Constitution. Majesty of law has to be respected, the HC said. Law Minister Rijiju had recently said the collegium system of appointing judges to higher judiciary was "opaque and not transparent". Vice-President Dhankhar, who also serves as the Rajya Sabha Chairman, had questioned the landmark 1973 Kesavananda Bharati case verdict that gave the "basic structure" doctrine.

The doctrine stipulates that the Constitution has certain basic features that cannot be changed by Parliament. Dhankhar had said the 50-year-old verdict set a bad precedent and if any authority questions Parliament's power to amend the Constitution, it would be difficult to say we are a democratic nation.

22 Feb 2023