Don't Want To Make 'Off The Court Pronouncement' On Basic Structure Doctrine, Says CJI Chandrachud Who Had Earlier Called It A North Star That Guides Interpreters Of Constitution
While speaking at the Ram Jethmalani Memorial 2023 on Friday, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said that though he had been asked by Mahesh Jethmalani to speak on the Basis Structure Doctrine, he does not want to speak about it since he does not want to make an off the Court pronouncement on the subject. He said that if he has to do something about the doctrine, he should do it only through his judgments.
In January this year, CJI Chandrachud had remarked while speaking at a public event that Basic Structure is like a north star that guides interpreters and implementers of the Constitution. "The basic structure of our Constitution, like the north star, guides and gives certain direction to the interpreters and implementers of the Constitution when the path ahead is convoluted. ...The basic structure or the philosophy of our Constitution is premised on the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law, separation of powers, judicial review, secularism, federalism, freedom and the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation," he had said while delivering the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture in Mumbai.
"Topic of the day which Mahesh Jethmalani has thought everybody should open up with, is about the Basic Structure Doctrine. Much as I admire Mr. Ram Jethmalani, one thing I wouldn't like to share with him is his ability to court controversy. So I thought that if have to do something about this doctrine, I should do it through my judgments and not in an off-the-court pronouncement", the CJI said on Friday.
The CJI's remarks supporting the Basic Structure Doctrine in January came in the backdrop of Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar questioning the 1973 Kesavananda Bharati case verdict that gave the basic structure doctrine. Dhankar had said the 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".
Last month, former CJI, Ranjan Gogoi had said in Parliament that the Basis Structure Doctorine “has a very debatable jurisdictional basis”. When the said remarks were pointed out by Kapil Sibal during a hearing before CJI Chandracuhd, the CJI had remarked that, "Once we cease to be judges, they are opinions, not binding diktats".
In March this year, Kerala High Court Judge, Justice A. K. Jayasankaran Nambiar had said that questions will be asked about the Basic Structure Doctrine since it militates against the basic scheme of our Constitution.
While dismissing a PIL against Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar over his remarks against the Basic Structure Doctrine, the Bombay High Court in February this year observed that fair criticism of a judgment is permissible.
During his speech on Friday, the CJI also said that the Collegium is criticised saying that it has no factual data about people who are being considered for appointment to the Supreme Court. He said that though it is a work in progress, it is improving. He said that the Centre for Research and Planning of the Supreme Court has prepared a platform where it has "accessed every one of the top 50 judges in the Country who would be considered for appointment as Judges of the Supreme Court". He added, "We have data on Judgments, we have data on reportable Judgments, we have data on the quality of Judgments which judges are delivering. The idea is to make the process of recommending appointments to the Supreme Court more transparent... By laying objective parameters for selection both to the High Courts and the Supreme Court".