Stop the tide of "disturbing developments", says Justice RF Nariman (Rtd)

The year 2023 has been a year of disturbing developments and unless the Supreme Court intervenes to reverse the tide, “it is all over”, quipped the former Supreme Court judge

Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman (photo: @teampolstrat/X)
Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman (photo: @teampolstrat/X)
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AJ Prabal

Referring to the BBC documentary on the Gujarat riots in 2002 banned by the government in January and the subsequent tax raids on the BBC, Justice RF Nariman (Rtd) believes the Supreme Court has failed to protect the media and the steady subversion of the Constitution.

In a talk delivered on Friday, 15 December, at the Asiatic Society, Mumbai Justice Nariman cited the attacks on the media, the government legally packing the Election Commission with its ‘yes men’, the Kerala Governor Arif Md Khan referring as many as seven bills to the President, and the Supreme Court upholding the abrogation of Article 370 as the four ‘disturbing’ developments this year.

He also referred to the Supreme Court judgment of 2019 which removed all restrictions on Governors in referring bills to the President. Earlier only those bills which impacted the judiciary could be referred to the President or the union government. The 2019 judgment held that Governors could refer all bills to the President. Now the Governors can stall a state’s legislative powers by referring all bills, as has been done in Kerala.

Kerala Governor Arif Md Khan sat over eight bills for 23 months and when the state government approached the Supreme Court, the Governor gave his assent to one bill and referred the remaining seven to the President. The Supreme Court must review its judgment of 2019, felt Justice Nariman.

He also referred to a little noticed change brought in by Presidential proclamation or executive fiat—by which the President had unilaterally amended the Constitution by substituting the central legislature in place of state legislature while consulting and obtaining the consent for extending the jurisdiction of the union government to states.

The Election Commission (Appointment of Election Commissioners) Bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha and awaiting approval of the Lok Sabha, he hoped, would be challenged and struck down by the Supreme Court immediately. A compromised Election Commission would be the end of fair elections and democracy, he pointed out.

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