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PM tells judiciary not to 'overreach' itself

BS Reporters  |  New Delhi 

'PILs cannot become a vehicle for settling political or other scores'.
To avert what seems like a clash between judiciary and legislature, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan today tried to draw boundaries around their domains.
At a meeting of chief ministers and chief justices of the high courts here, the prime minister suggested that the judiciary should not breach the thin line dividing the two wings while the chief justice said the perceived tension among the courts, legislature and executive was an inevitable corollary of a healthy democracy. Several legal luminaries were present at the conference.
This assumes significance in the context of the UPA-Left meeting last week over the difference between the two pillars of Indian democracy over the 27 per cent quota for other backward classes in higher educational institutions. The Supreme Court has stayed the government's quota order.
While Singh spoke at length, virtually advising judiciary not to overreach itself, Balakrishnan, who spoke before the prime minister, left no room for doubt in asserting the judiciary's independence, particularly its power to review the actions of legislatures.
"The application of judicial review to determine constitutionality of the legislation and to review the executive decision sometimes creates tension between the judge and the legislative and the executive branch. Such tension is natural and to some extent desirable," Balakrishnan said.
In his speech, the prime minister said, "Courts have played a salutary and corrective role in innumerable instances. They are highly respected by our people for that. At the same time, the dividing line between judicial activism and judicial overreach is a thin one. All organs including the judiciary must ensure that the dividing lines between them are not breached."
The prime minister called upon the Supreme Court to take the lead in framing rules for screening public interest litigation. In a veiled hint that the courts were using PILs to play politics with the system, he said: " that only genuine PILs with a justiciable cause of action based on judicially manageable standards are taken up. This will also ensure consistency in judicial pronouncement".
Leaving nothing to the imagination, the prime minister said, "PILs cannot become a vehicle for settling political or other scores. We need standards and benchmarks for screening PILs".
Telling courts they must work faster to dispose of cases, the prime minister said states and the high courts needed to execute and implement a time-bound exercise to fill vacancies of judges. "I am sure once the unfilled vacancies are filled up, there would be a reduction in arrears", he said.

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First Published: Mon, April 09 2007. 00:00 IST