Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Saturday said that the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution – which separates powers of the judiciary and the executive – is a guiding star, reported Live Law.

Chandrachud’s comments came days after Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankar had criticised the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement in the 1973 Kesavananda Bharati versus State of Kerala case. A 13-judge bench, with a 7-6 majority, had concluded that Parliament has the authority to amend the Constitution but it cannot alter its basic structure, reported The Indian Express.

On January 11, Dhankar had said: “Can the power of Parliament to amend the constitution be dependent on any other institution? Can any organisation or institution say that this needs our stamp?”

He had also said that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act proposed by the government in 2014, to replace the Collegium system was unparalleled in the democratic history of the world.

Also read: How is the appointment of judges related to debate on the basic structure doctrine?

However, on Saturday, Chandrachud gave credits to lawyer Nani Palkhivala, who represented Kesavananda Bharati and had filed the writ petition challenging Kerala’s 1969 land reforms, for the basic structure doctrine, reported Live Law.

“The basic structure of our Constitution, like the north star, guides and gives certain direction to the interpreters and implementers of the Constitution when the path ahead is convoluted,” Chandrachud said, reported The Indian Express. “The basic structure or the philosophy of our Constitution is premised on the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law, separation of powers, judicial review, secularism, federalism, freedom and the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.”

Chandrachud also said that a judge’s craftsmanship lies in interpreting the text of the Constitution with the changing times while keeping its soul intact, reported Live Law.

Centre versus Judiciary

The Chief Justice of India’s remarks come amidst the standoff between the Centre and the judiciary regarding appointments of the judges.

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, on several occasions has reiterated that the present collegium system should be replaced with the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015.

The law was passed by the Parliament months after Narendra Modi took over as the prime minister in 2014. However, the court had deemed the law unconstitutional.

The National Judicial Appointments Commission Act had proposed to make judicial appointments through a body comprising of the chief justice, two senior Supreme Court judges, the law minister and two other eminent persons nominated by the chief justice, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition.

Under the collegium system, five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, decide on the appointments and transfers of judges to the top court and the High Courts.

Centre is also sitting on number of judicial appointment recommendations made by the collegium as the standoff continues.

On Thursday, the three-member collegium comprising Chandrachud and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph had said that appointment of lawyer Saurabh Kirpal as a judge in the Delhi High Court is pending since 2017 and needs to be processed expeditiously. Last week, the collegium had also reiterated for the third time its decision to appoint advocate Nagendra Ramachandra Naik as a Karnataka High Court judge.

Also read: Why are the Supreme Court and Modi government in a war of words over judicial appointments?