On Monday, retired Supreme Court judge Jasti Chelameswar questioned the legality of the process by which the new Andhra Pradesh High Court was established on January 1. Speaking to The Indian Express, the judge said Parliament was sidestepped to create the court – and it does not augur well for India’s parliamentary democracy.
The former judge’s comments raise troubling questions about the functioning of the Union government and the Supreme Court. They also underline the carelessness of the Opposition, which failed to take this matter up strongly in Parliament.
According to Chelameswar, the President of India can issue a notification creating a new High Court only after Parliament’s approval. Parliament has to fix a date for the court’s formation and it can delegate the authority to the President as has been done in all such cases in the past, he said.
Following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, a demand was made for a separate High Court for the new state of Telangana. But until early this month, a single High Court had jurisdiction over both the Telugu-speaking states.
What Chelameswar has brought up is no simple matter. Upholding procedure is a requisite for Parliament to retain people’s trust. As an institution Parliament lies at the heart of a representative democracy. It cannot be allowed to be undermined by the executive, which is answerable to the legislature.
It’s surprising that Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi did not stop the establishment of the High Court without Parliamentary approval. There is no information in public domain about whether Gogoi took this matter up with the government.
What is also worrying is that the Opposition in Parliament seems to be clueless about the bypassing of crucial procedures.
The Narendra Modi government has faced severe criticism for using the money bill provision to undermine the Rajya Sabha. The manner in which the Andhra Pradesh High Court was formed, as Chelameswar pointed out, only heightens concerns about the government treating Parliament and Constitution casually.