Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said in the Rajya Sabha on Monday that the basic structure of the Constitution has a “very debatable jurisprudential basis”. Gogoi was nominated as a member of the Upper House in March 2020, four months after he retired as the chief justice.
On Monday, Gogoi made the remarks on the basic structure doctrine while voicing his support to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill. The bill was passed on Monday, giving the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government to control the postings and transfers of bureaucrats in Delhi.
In laying down the basic structure of Constitution in 1973, the Supreme Court had said that the legislature cannot make amendments that remove certain essential features of the Constitution.
“There is a book by [former Solicitor General of India] Andhyarujina on the Kesavananda Bharati case [in 1973],” Gogoi said in speech in the Upper House on Monday. “Having read the book, my view is that the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution has a debatable, very debatable jurisprudential basis. I would not say anything more than this.”
Notably, during his tenure as the chief justice of India, Gogoi had invoked the basic structure doctrine while adjudicating several critical cases, reported The Indian Express.
In 2019, Gogoi led a five-judge bench in a case during which it struck down the law restructuring tribunals for violating the basic structure of the Constitution.
“The doctrine of separation of powers has been well recognised and re-interpreted by this Court as an important facet of the basic structure of the Constitution, in its dictum in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, and several other later decisions,” Justice Gogoi had written in the order.
In another case in the same month, a bench led by Justice Gogoi had invoked the doctrine to rule that the chief justice of India’s office was within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, according to The Indian Express.
He had also led the Constitution bench that passed the verdict in the Ayodhya land dispute case, while underlining that secularism is a basic feature of the Constitution that is inviolable.
The Congress on Monday criticised Gogoi’s views and questioned the BJP asking whether it endorses the former chief justice’s views.
Congress MP KC Venugopal said that it was shocking that a former chief justice was questioning the jurisprudence of the basic structure of the Constitution.
“Is this the BJP’s trick to begin the full-fledged dismantling of the Constitution of India?” Congress MP KC Venugopal asked. “Does it think that democracy, equality, secularism, federalism, judicial independence are all ‘debatable’ ideas?
Four women MP boycott Gogoi’s speech
Four women MPs on Monday walked out of the Rajya Sabha to protest Gogoi’s maiden speech in Parliament, reported the Hindustan Times. The MPs who walked out were Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party), Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena-UBT), Vandana Chavan (Nationalist Congress Party) and Sushmita Dev (Trinamool Congress).
In 2019, Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment by a junior assistant at the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court’s secretary general had said that an inquiry panel had found “no substance” in her claims.
Gogoi himself had headed the bench that heard the case suo moto.