PM advises judiciary to exercise restraint
Hyderabad/N.Delhi, Feb 6
The Prime Minister’s comment came in the wake of Supreme Court Justice A.K. Ganguly describing as “shameless” the continuance in the Union Cabinet of Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Rural Development Minister, even after being hauled up by the apex court for directing the police to go soft on a Congress MLA in Maharashtra, who was also a moneylender and against whom police had received complaints.
An increasingly combative Supreme Court had put the government in the dock in several recent cases including the 2G spectrum allocation scam and the appointment of the CVC. Judges have increasingly been asking embarrassing questions in court and making sarcastic observations, which is believed to have prompted the PM to break his silence.
Inaugurating the 17th Commonwealth Law Conference in Hyderabad, being held in India after a gap of 40 years, the Prime Minister said, “ While the power of judicial review must be used to enforce accountability, it must never be used to erode the legitimate growth assigned to other branches of the government.”
His remarks come in the wake of the Supreme Court’s proactive role in the 2G spectrum allocation, CVC appointment and other cases.
Meanwhile, Justice Ganguly’s allegedly ‘personal comment’ in Mumbai yesterday has caused ripples in political circles and among jurists.
Quashing an instruction issued by Deshmukh on June 5, 2006, when he was Maharashtra Chief Minister, a Bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and Ganguly had noted that the SC “is extremely anguished” by the CM’s total disregard for a law enacted by the state to protect farmers from unscrupulous money lenders.
The SC had noted that the CM had tried to protect a Congress MLA who was also in money-lending activities, charging as much as 100 per cent interest a year. At the instance of the MLA, Deshmukh had asked the respective collector to ensure that the complaints against the MLA were first referred to the District Anti-Money Lending Committee.
A case on the issue had come to the SC with the Maharashtra Government appealing against the high court verdict. Affirming the HC order, the apex court held the CM’s instruction “has no warrant in law and is unconstitutional”. The SC also imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh on the state government.
The SC had then said it “is extremely anguished to see that such an instruction could come from the Chief Minister of a state which is governed under a Constitution which resolves to constitute India into a socialist, secular, democratic republic. The CM’s instructions are so incongruous and anachronistic, being in defiance of all logic and reason, that our conscience is deeply disturbed. We condemn the same in no uncertain terms.”
Deshmukh resigned as the CM in the wake of the November 2008 terror attack on Mumbai and was subsequently inducted into the Manmohan Singh government as a Cabinet minister in charge of the heavy industries portfolio, which he held at the time of the SC verdict. In the recent reshuffle, he was shifted to the Rural Development Ministry.
Speaking at a function of lawyers in Mumbai yesterday, Justice Ganguly said it was “shocking to see how the government allows and appreciates such ministers. Not only that, and also gives them a Cabinet post. It is not a dignified act. I would call it a shameless act.”
Asked about the judge’s remark, Constitutional expert PP Rao said, “It was a personal comment of Justice Ganguly on a matter of public importance. Many people will share the view.”
“In the days of coalition, compromises are being made on values and political standards are declining,” he said, citing several instances when Chief Ministers used to quit following adverse remarks by the judiciary. He mentioned how AR Antuly and Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar had quit as Maharashtra CM following court strictures. He also recalled how N Sanjeeva Reddy and N Janardhana Reddy had resigned as CM of Andhra Pradesh.
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