Constitutional Supremacy v/s Parliamentary Sovereignty in India: Recent Issues and Case Law
India is a constitutional democracy, which means that the Constitution is the
supreme law of the land. This means that all other laws and government actions
must be consistent with the Constitution. The Indian Constitution also
establishes a system of checks and balances between the three branches of
government: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.
The legislature, or Parliament, is responsible for making laws. The executive,
headed by the President and the Prime Minister, is responsible for carrying out
the laws. The judiciary, headed by the Supreme Court, is responsible for
interpreting the Constitution and laws, and for resolving disputes between the
legislature, the executive, and individuals.
The principle of constitutional supremacy is enshrined in Article 13 of the
Indian Constitution, which states that all laws in force in the country must be
consistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. If any
law is found to be inconsistent with the fundamental rights, it is void to the
extent of the inconsistency.
The Supreme Court of India has played a crucial role in upholding the principle
of constitutional supremacy. In a number of landmark cases, the Court has struck
down laws that it has found to be inconsistent with the Constitution. For
example, in the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973), the Court
held that the Parliament of India cannot amend the basic structure of the
In recent years, there have been a number of challenges to the principle of
constitutional supremacy. For example, in the case of NJAC v. Union of India
(2015), the Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act,
which had been passed by the Parliament to change the way that judges are
appointed to the Supreme Court and High Courts. The Court held that the Act
violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
However, there have also been some instances where the Court has upheld laws
that have been challenged on the grounds of constitutional supremacy. For
example, in the case of Sabarimala Temple Entry of Women Case (2018), the Court
upheld the right of women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala,
even though the temple authorities had argued that this would violate the
religious freedom of Hindus.
The conflict between constitutional supremacy and parliamentary sovereignty is a
complex one. On the one hand, it is important to uphold the principle of
constitutional supremacy in order to protect the fundamental rights of citizens.
On the other hand, it is also important to respect the sovereignty of
Parliament, which is the elected body of the people.
In addition to the cases mentioned above, here are some other recent case laws
and instances that illustrate the conflict between constitutional supremacy and
parliamentary sovereignty in India:
Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) Case (2019): The Supreme Court of India upheld
the Citizenship Amendment Act, which had been passed by the Parliament to make
it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan
to become Indian citizens. However, the Court is still considering whether the
CAA violates the fundamental rights of Indian citizens.
Farm Laws Case (2021): The Supreme Court of India stayed the
implementation of three farm laws that had been passed by the Parliament. The
Court held that the farmers' protests against the laws were justified and that
the government should engage in dialogue with the farmers before implementing
Pegasus Case (2022): The Supreme Court of India ordered the government to
form a committee to investigate the use of the Pegasus spyware to surveil Indian
citizens. The Court held that the government's surveillance of citizens is a
serious violation of their fundamental rights.
These cases illustrate the fact that the conflict between constitutional
supremacy and parliamentary sovereignty is an ongoing one. The Supreme Court of
India has played a crucial role in upholding the principle of constitutional
supremacy, but there have also been instances where the Court has upheld laws
that have been challenged on the grounds of constitutional supremacy.
It is important to note that the Supreme Court of India is still in the process
of developing its jurisprudence on constitutional supremacy and parliamentary
sovereignty. The Court's decisions in these cases will have a significant impact
on the development of constitutional law in India in the years to come.
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