New Delhi: The Chief Justice of India (CJI), DY Chandrachud, on Wednesday expressed surprise over the Centre’s stand that it does not accept the 1981 amendment inserted by the Parliament to confer minority status on the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Presiding over a seven-judge Constitution Bench hearing a clutch of pleas concerning the minority status of the AMU, the CJI stressed that the “Parliament is an eternal and indestructible body under the Indian Union.”
“How can you not accept an amendment by the Parliament?” the CJI asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the second-highest law officer of the Centre.
“Parliament is an eternal and indestructible body under the Indian Union – irrespective of which government represents the cause of the Union of India. I cannot hear the government of India saying that it does not stand with the amendment made by Parliament. You will have to stand by this (1981) amendment,” the CJI observed.
He said that the Union Government has always an “option to go through the amending route and change the amending Act again.”
During the hearing, Justice Sanjiv Khanna asked Mehta, who was arguing for the Centre: “This is an amendment by Parliament. Is the government accepting the amendment?” “I am not,” Mehta replied.
The law officer said that he was answering “constitutional questions” before a seven-judge Constitution Bench.
Further he said, “As a law officer, it is my right as well as my duty to say that the view taken by the Allahabad High Court declaring the amendment in question as unconstitutional is correct.”
It may be recalled that the 1981 amendment conferring minority status on the institution was struck down by the Allahabad High Court in 2006.
To this, CJI Chandrachud said, “This will be radical because a law officer would be then telling us that he does not abide by what the Parliament has done. You ought to stand by what the Parliament has done.”
“Parliament is undoubtedly supreme in its law making function and can always amend a statute. Can we hear any organ of the Union Government to say that it does not accept the amendment brought in by Parliament? Parliament is an eternal, indivisible and indestructible entity under democracy,” the CJI said.
Mehta submitted that he was supporting the 2006 view taken by the High Court. “How can you say that I do not accept the validity of an amendment?” the CJI asked him.
Responding to the query, Mehta said, “It is not my stand. There is an affidavit filed by the government.”
He added, “Would a law officer be expected to say that all amendments made in the Constitution during the Emergency were true only because they were made by the Parliament.”
The CJI said, “The 44th amendment came to redress the evils which were perpetrated in the name of constitutional amendments. Parliament – the elected body of the people – can always say that what we did during the Emergency was wrong and we are rectifying it with the 44th amendment.”
The matter will be heard next on January 30.