09/08/2018 11:44 AM IST | Updated 09/08/2018 11:46 AM IST

Government Tries To Teach Supreme Court Its Job, Gets Schooled Instead

"You should only ask your officers to follow the laws made by Parliament”

Adnan Abidi / Reuters
A man walks inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India, July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

On Wednesday, the government told the Supreme Court to try to refrain from making 'adverse comments' and 'sweeping observations' about its workings. In response the court said it would have not have to intervene in Public Interest Litigations (PIL), if the government did its job properly.

The court was presiding over the proceedings on a PIL filed on the dismal conditions of Indian prisons. Attorney-general KK Venogopal told a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur that the "honourable court must desist from making adverse remarks against the governance in entirety". The other judges in the bench were Deepak Gupta and Abdul Nazeer.

According to a report on The Telegraph, Venugopal was referring to an earlier observation made by Justice Lokur, who had said 'women are being raped left, right and centre', and the government has failed to curb crimes against them.

NDTV reports that Venugopal also pointed out that often courts issue orders based on individual pleas without realising the financial impact of such orders. He cited the examples of the the court cancelling 2G licences, which reportedly wiped out a lot of foreign investment. He also spoke about the court ordering liquor shops and places serving liquor along highways to be removed, which led to huge financial losses for individuals. He argued that the government has to first look at the welfare of the poorest people and said, "Not everything is negative."

However, Justice Lokur was not having any of that. He said: "Mr Attorney, let us make it clear that we are not criticising the government. We are also citizens of this country and we know about the problems. We are only enforcing rights of people. We can't wish away Article 21 (right to life and liberty). Many developments have happened only because of the orders of the court. You should only ask your officers to follow the laws made by Parliament."

The court also pointed out that in several cases, it was an order from the court which had got the government to act promptly for the welfare of people. The court alleged that often even after the court had issued an order, the government failed to follow it through. Lokur invoked a case where based on a court order the government collected Rs 30,000 crore as cess, which was supposed to be used for the welfare of construction workers. However, the court noted that the money was being spent on other purposes.

Venugopal tried to contest that as well, reports The Telegraph. He said that that amount was insignificant in the present budgets and the Centre alone was not responsible for spending.

Again, the court retorted saying that amount could be at least used for 'improving the shelter homes, for rehabilitation of widows and also for making prisons better'.