Indian parliament not sovereign: Ram Jethmalani

Eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani on Sunday asserted that the Indian parliament "is not sovereign" as its decisions can be challenged in court, as he hit out at finance minister Arun Jaitley for criticising the Supreme Court verdict to scrap National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act on appointment of the higher judiciary.

The NJAC Act was the "product of complete unity between the old corrupt government and the new corrupt one", the former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member said.

Speaking at the 155th anniversary celebrations of Indian Penal Code 1860, organised by the Directorate of Prosecution in Kerala, Jethmalani came down heavily on Jaitley for terming as "erroneous" the Supreme Court's reason for striking down the NJAC Act and saying "Indian democracy cannot be a tyranny of the unelected".

"Every student of the Constitution in an LLB class knows that the Parliament of India is not a sovereign body ... the parliament of England is sovereign because the judiciary has no power to set aside any legislative Act by the Parliament," Jethmalani said, referring to the Supreme Court's verdict striking down as unconstitutional the NJAC Act which would have replaced the collegium system for judicial appointments.

"The parliament of India is not a sovereign body. It is a truth," he said.

Countering Jaitley's argument, the 92-year-old former law minister said, "The judges of the Supreme Court of India or even high court judges can never be called unelected because the law does not require them to be elected so that kind of adjective does not apply to the judges at all."

He said the judiciary could withstand "the pressure of a political document" when it was produced before the Supreme Court for its scrutiny.

Speaking on the issue of black money, Jethmalani said Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to fulfil his promise despite canvassing in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that black money worth thousands of crores of rupees would be brought back and distributed to poor people of the country.

"He (Prime Minister Modi) went to the extent of telling the people that I will put Rs15 lakh in the account of every poor man in the country.

"Even till today they are not able to get back one dollar," Jethmalani said, and warned that Bihar election results will be repeated if he fails to fulfill the promise made in the BJP manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

"Look at the kind of margin by which Modi has lost (in Bihar)," he said.

Jethmalani, who was expelled from the BJP in 2013, said he wanted "nothing from him (Modi)" except "for God's sake fulfil the promise that you have made to the poor people of India".