Relation of Courts to the Legislature*

While the Constitution has not recognised the doctrine of separation of powers in its absolute regidity, the functions of the three organs of State viz., the legislature, the judiciary and the executive have been sufficiently demarcated. As observed by Raghava Rao J. :

The powers of each one of the three organs have to be exercised as fundamentally subject tot he provisions of the Constitution relating to that organ individually as well as to the provisions relating to other organs...It is the respect that is accorded by one organ of the State to the others that ensures that healthy working of the Constitution which is the acid test of its merits whatever the paper value of its provisions [ In re. A.K. Gopalan, A.I.R. 1953 Madras 41].

Both Parliament and State Legislatures are sovereign within the limits assigned to them by the Constitution. The supremacy of the legislature under a written Constitution, as observed by the Supreme Court, is only within what is in its power but what is within its power and what is not, when any specific Act is challenged, it is for the Courts to say [ Rustom Cawasjee Cooper v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1970 S.C. 1318].

All legislation, whether Union, State or delegated, is subject to the doctrine of ultra vires and liable to judicial review [ K.J. Thomas v. Commr. of Agricultural Income tax, Madras, A.I.R. 1958 Kerala 6]. The scope of review is limited to see whether the legislation impugned falls within the periphery of the power conferred and whether it contravenes any of the articles of the Constitution. The Courts are concerned only with interpreting the law and are not to enter upon a discussion as to what the law should be [ Purushottam Govindji Halai v. B.M. Desai, A.I.R. 1956 S.C. 20]. The legislature can amend laws to meet the lacuna or defects pointed out therein by the Courts, or legislate afresh to give effect to their original intentions and such amendments etc., are accepted by the Courts as valid law.

In the last resort, Parliament which is vested also with the constituent power, can amend any of the provisions of the constitution to override the effect of a judicial decision, but without altering the basic structure or frame-work of the Constitution [Art. 368; Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India A.I.R. 1980 SC 1789]. The final say as to what the Constitution means, however, rests with the Supreme Court.

[ *Source: Page No. 943 to 944 of Practice and Procedure of Parliament. By Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap; Fourth Edition 1991. Published for Lok Sabha Secretariat ]