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Kapil Sibal References Ranjan Gogoi’s Parliament Remark in Supreme Court Hearing

Aug 9, 2023

In a current Supreme Court hearing addressing the petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, senior advocate Kapil Sibal drew upon the remarks made by former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, during a Parliament session. This reference added a new layer of complexity to the ongoing discussions.

Kapil Sibal evokes Ranjan Gogoi's Parliament remark in Supreme Court

Ranjan Gogoi’s statement was delivered during a discussion in the Rajya Sabha, where he spoke in support of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill 2023. This bill aims to limit the powers of the elected government of Delhi concerning services.

Gogoi questioned, “Does it violate the basic features of the Constitution? There is a book by Tehmtan Andhyarujina, the former Solicitor General of India, on the Kesavananda Bharati (1973) case. Having read the book, my view is that the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution has a debatable, a very debatable jurisprudential basis.”

The Basic Structure doctrine empowers the court to review and restrict Parliament’s authority to amend the Constitution’s foundational principles.

During the hearing before a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Kapil Sibal emphasized, “In the guise of a majority, you cannot take away what our forefathers granted us.” He further commented, “One of your esteemed colleagues has also expressed doubts about the basic structure theory.”

Responding to Sibal’s remarks, the Chief Justice clarified, “Mr. Sibal, when you mention a colleague, it should refer to a current colleague. Once we are no longer judges, our statements are opinions, not binding.”

In response, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta argued against debating parliamentary proceedings within the court. He stated, “The Parliament does not deliberate on court matters.” Mehta added, “Mr. Sibal is raising this here because he was not present in Parliament yesterday. His concerns should have been addressed there.”

Ranjan Gogoi became a Rajya Sabha member in March 2020 after retiring as Chief Justice of India in November 2019. In his debut parliamentary speech, he expressed skepticism about the jurisprudence behind the basic structure doctrine.

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