We can’t be referred to as upon to manipulate: SC

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 5 

Refusing to set aside the clearances given to the Central Vista Redevelopment Project, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it can’t venture into policy matters and areas reserved for the Executive without any legal basis.

Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari – who delivered the majority verdict upholding the clearances given to the project – noted that “the petitioners enthusiastically called upon us to venture into territories that are way beyond the contemplated powers of a constitutional court.”

Justice Sanjiv Khanna delivered a dissenting verdict.

The majority said, “We are compelled to wonder if we, in the absence of a legal mandate, can dictate the government to desist from spending money on one project and instead use it for something else, or if we can ask the government to run their offices only from areas decided by this Court, or if we can question the wisdom of the government in focusing on a particular direction of development. 

“We are equally compelled to wonder if we can jump to put a full stop on the execution of policy matters in the first instance without a demonstration of irreparable loss or urgent necessity, or if we can guide the government on moral or ethical matters without any legal basis. In light of the settled law, we should be loath to venture into these areas.” 

Describing the right to development, as a “basic human right” the top court said, “no organ of the State is expected to become an impediment in the process of development as long as the government proceeds in accordance with law.”

Noting that in recent past, the route of public interest litigation was being increasingly invoked to call upon the court to examine pure concerns of policy and sorts of generalised grievances against the system,” it said, “No doubt, the Courts are repositories of immense public trust and the fact that some public interest actions have generated commendable results is noteworthy, but it is equally important to realise that Courts operate within the boundaries defined by the Constitution.”  

The top court said, “We cannot be called upon to govern. For, we have no wherewithal or prowess and expertise in that regard.”

The majority verdict pointed out that the constitutionally envisaged system of “checks and balances” has been completely misconstrued and misapplied in this case. 

“The principle of “checks and balances” posits two concepts – “check” and “balance”. Whereas the former finds a manifestation in the concept of judicial review, the latter is derived from the well-enshrined principle of separation of powers.  

“The political issues including regarding development policies of the Government of the day must be debated in the Parliament, to which it is accountable. The role of the Court is limited to examining the constitutionality including the legality of the policy and Government actions,” the majority verdict read.

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