In recent times there have been intense debates and speculations about increasing judicial interventions into the legislative and executive policies of the government. Being a parliamentary democracy, it is essential to understand the limitations and distinctions of the authority vested in the executive, legislative and judiciary to ensure proper cooperation and coordination within the government.
Recently, the Supreme Court of India taking suo motu cognizance of some of the key issues related to Covid-19 management which included the supply of oxygen and essential drugs and declaration of lockdowns noted that the matter being heard in the several High Courts is ‘creating confusion’ and ‘diversion of resources’. Various High Courts were dealing with such cases when the Supreme Court of India took up the issue to itself and decided to pass some orders on the issue of ‘distribution of essential supplies and services during pandemic’. Additionally, the Court issued an order asking the State governments and the Union Territories to “show cause why uniform orders” should not be passed by the Supreme Court. It thus indicated the possibility of transfer of cases to the Supreme Court which it has done on various occasions. The recent incident brings out the issue of judicial federalism to the fore and highlights its functioning in India.
On February 2020, a Lok Sabha MP stated that the government should immediately put all issues pertaining to reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution so that they are not challenged in the court. This statement comes days after the Supreme Court ruled that the reservation in the matter of promotions of the public post was not a fundamental right and that a state cannot be compelled to offer quota if it chooses not to. The Ninth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, since its enactment, remains a contentious issue as its constitutionality is questioned.
The NITI Aayog, in 2017, had called for Competitive Cooperative Federalism to define the relationship between the Centre and the States. This concept puts the burden of transforming India into the hands of the State governments. In recent times, this concept has gained prominence following the participation of the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories in the presentation of the best practices in each of their jurisdictions. However, NITI Aayog must take the necessary steps to analyse the ground reality so as to provide equal grounds to all the states – including those that are economically and socially marginalized.
The notion of parliament as a mechanism to hold the government accountable has been questioned due to its recent failure in doing so. While the pandemic proved to be a hindrance to its normal working, the parliament when it worked failed to hold the executive accountable on many accounts. The saddest example of it is the passing of farm bills in the parliament which threw most of the parliamentary procedures out of the window. Let’s discuss the notion of parliamentary oversight and its importance in a parliamentary democracy like India in this article.