SC to See if Ministers Can Air Own Views on Matters Public

April 21, 2017 07:23 AM


COURSTEY Apr 21 2017 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
SC to See if Ministers Can Air Own Views on Matters Public
Samanwaya Rautray
New Delhi

SPEECH CONTROL Salve says if a minister speaks he must speak in line with govt policy
The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to refer the issue of whether politicians holding public office can air their private views on official matters in a Westminster type collective responsibility model of governance after senior advocate Harish N Salve accused the Centre of trying to take the country back to 1949 by backing former UP minister Azam Khan's right to say that the Bulandshahr rape never happened at all.
“Should we be back pedalling?
The government now wants us to go back to 1949. The court must reject any attempt to read the Constitution like the Income Tax Act i.e. construe it strictly. The time has come for the court to give the Constitution a philosophy ,“ he said. “A time has come to also lay down a civil rights act ­ which will determine how one citizen treats another. Part III rights only deal with rights vis-àvis the states. Perhaps cull out the civil rights from Part III,“ he said.

He objected to the former minister's remarks on several counts.Firstly, it was against the doctrine of collective responsibility which was the hallmark of a Westminster model of democracy. If a minister speaks, he must ensure that he speaks in line with government policy or not at all.“A minister cannot say that I am airing my personal views on a matter of official business.Departments are just a matter of convenience.“

He urged t he court to lay down the rule on this, saying far too many politicians were now shooting their mouths off.

He also argued that the minister's remarks were against all the principles of gender justice and right to dignity for women enshrined in the Constitution. “Can someone say that he has the right to air his views even though it is violative of another person's rights and dignity? This was apart from its actual ramifications on the way the issue was handled by the government,“ he said. “Can someone say that he has the right to insult the dignity of women?“ The bench also heard senior advocate Fali S Nariman, the other amicus in the case. Nariman in his submissions openly questioned the inclusion of fundamental duties in the Constitution.“You can't say that everything was wrong about Emergency , but the fundamental duties brought in then were fine,“ he said. He instead said that the court must look for a civil rights act which will determine one individual's rights and duties vis-a-vis the next. Salve said that the limitations of right to religion, that a man cannot convert another because his rights end where another one's begins, were found in Article 25. He also spoke of the issues of privacy inherent in the issue of politicians increasingly speaking their private views unnecessarily. “I may not want to share any of my personal life with any body ,“ he said. All these issues will come up in the Whatsaap case, he said.

Nariman chuckled at this point: “Whatsapp is way above my head.“ Nariman senior does not carry a mobile, unthinkable for Salve who loves the latest gizmos in the market

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