Flagging concerns over judicial overreach yet again, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 16 May said that the judiciary must draw its own "Lakshmanrekha" and not take decisions that encroach in the domain of the executive.
"Judicial review is legitimate domain of judiciary but then the Lakshman rekha has to be drawn by all the institutions themselves. Lakshman rekha is very vital," he said, adding, "The executive decisions are to be taken by the executive and not the judiciary".
At an interaction at Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC), Jaitley reasoned that there are different kinds of recourse and "layers of accountability" available when the executive takes decisions. He said people have the options of seeking changes in the decision taken by the executive besides voting out the government.
The courts can also strike down a decision taken by the executive if it is found to be unconstitutional but all these options are not available, when the court ends up taking executive decisions, Jaitley said.
Jaitley also referred to protests by many states over the Supreme Court decision on the NEET and asserted that what should be the manner of holding the examination across the country is essentially an executive matter as it is in policy domain.
"It is the case of some of the states that boards are unequal, their languages are dissimilar.Can those who are dissimilar in language and unequal be placed on the pedestal of quality and asked to give the same exam? "I think this matter is essentially in the executive domain.We now have a Supreme Court judgment. We will have to see how we deal with that particular issue," he said.
The Finance Minister also said: "Just as independence of the judiciary is part of basic structure, the primacy of the legislature in policy making is also part of basic structure.
"In the name of the independence of judiciary, we cannot compromise the other two basic structures," he said. Jaitley said that "element of activism always has to be blended with element of restraint," and the "correct course is when the two are balanced."
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley had earlier urged the legislators to refrain from handing over budgetary and taxation powers to the judiciary. Jaitley had made the remark while replying to opposition Congress' demand for a dispute redressal mechanism under which a judge would resolve any dispute between the Centre and states on GST.
On New Delhi's tax treaties, the Finance Minister said India will have to renegotiate the tax treaty with Singapore to extend the capital gains tax provisions of the recently-concluded tax pact with Mauritius. "I am not giving it a timeline, because if you recollect, the renegotiation process of the Mauritius treaty started first in 1996 and it continued till about 2002 and then there was a pause. Singapore was entered into in 2005 and one of the covenants of Singapore was that provisions of what happens in Mauritius treaty would extend to it," Jaitley said.
The Finance Minister exuded confidence that the GST Bill will be passed in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament. He added that he is "reasonably confident" that when it comes to the crunch, "it would be extremely difficult even for the Congress party to take a contrarian view" on GST Bill. Jaitley said he believes consensus to be the way ahead. "If consensus does not emerge, then the only other alternative is the parliamentary process. We will ask the Rajya Sabha and take a view on it."
On industrialist Vijay Mallya, Jaitley said investigating agencies will make every endeavour to bring him back to face law. Last week, the UK told India that it cannot deport Mallya but that New Delhi could consider an extradition request for him.
With Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government facing criticism over huge spending on advertisements, Jaitley, who also holds the Information & Broadcasting portfolio said excessive publicity has become a tool of "political bribery" and underlined the need for tackling the "big menace" of paid news.
"Therefore we need to find out a way to check it...We are now reaching a phase when excessive advertisement is acquiring the proportion of political bribery," he said, wondering should large-scale advertisement with the intention of affecting the quality of reportage be allowed.
Jaitley dismissed suggestions about "censorship" on media, saying the media now is "too large".
Replying to questions about drought, Jaitley claimed the Modi government had done more than what had ever been done to tackle the problem plaguing several states.