With the government facing embarrassment over some recent observations by the courts, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Monday said the judiciary must draw its own “Lakshman rekha” and the executive should be allowed to take executive decisions.
Pointing out that executive decisions have three layers of accountability — in that the people can seek changes in its decisions, the courts can strike them down, and they can be voted out by the people — Jaitley said: “Courts cannot substitute the executive and say, ‘I (judiciary) will exercise the executive power’. If you do so, the three options will not be available, which are there when the executive takes executive decisions.”
Interacting with media persons at the Indian Women’s Press Corps, Jaitley expressed concern over judicial overreach and said a line needs to drawn: “Judicial review is (a) legitimate domain of judiciary but then the Lakshman rekha has to be drawn by all the institutions themselves. (The) Lakshman rekha is very vital…executive decisions are to be taken by the executive and not the judiciary.”
He argued: “Just as independence of the judiciary is part of basic structure, the primacy of the legislature in policymaking is also part of basic structure…. In the name of independence of judiciary, we cannot compromise the other two basic structures.”
Referring to protests by many states over Supreme Court’s decision on National Eligibility Entrance Test, Jaitley asserted that the manner of holding the entrance test across the country is essentially an executive matter since it is in policy domain. According to the finance minister, the judiciary and the executive are “on the same page” over maintaining the fairness and integrity of exams at all costs.
Jaitley also maintained that despite the acrimonious debates between the Treasury and the Opposition benches, civility in discourse should be maintained in politics. “We can have argument in a language that does not embarrass the polity.”
He brushed aside the charge that BJP-ruled states were revising textbooks to ignore icons associated with opposition parties. “Every time a revision takes place, the charge is normally made…. (But) when explanation comes, they present a contrary picture. Without examining it I will not get into details,” he said.