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PSIR 1B-3.4 Parliamentary System – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2023)

1] Differentiate parliamentary supremacy from parliamentary sovereignty. Would you consider the Indian parliament as a sovereign parliament? Examine. [2017/20m/250w/6a]

Parliamentary supremacy denotes – the supremacy of parliament above all other institutions, specifically judiciary and executive. Parliamentary sovereignty denotes the freedom of parliament to make and amend laws the way it desires without fear of judicial review.

Essentially, both mean the same thing and the terms are also used interchangeably.

In India what we observe is judicial supremacy. Thus, the Indian parliament cannot be said to be sovereign parliament. The laws made by legislature are subject to judicial review by parliament, and Supreme Court has the right to strike them down.

Further, even the amendments to the constitution are not immune from judicial review. The doctrine of basic structure, an innovation of the Indian judiciary has clearly demarcated the powers of parliament.

The best example of parliamentary sovereignty can be observed in Britain. The highest court of Britain cannot review the laws made by parliament, and there is no written constitution against which they can be judged either. It works on the Hobbesian notion of liberty which suggests liberty is where law is silent.

There is a debate about whether the original Indian constitution envisioned such a powerful judiciary for India. In the constituent assembly, the due process of law was explicitly kept out of Art 21. In one constituent assembly speech, Dr. Ambedkar suggests that “2/3rd of the majority is sufficient to amend the constitution the way the elected government desires”.

But the Indian judiciary has gone for innovation. It was the darkest time for democracy, and the judiciary saved the day. It is expected that the doctrine will not be used frequently to undermine the parliament, and will remain a dead letter, only to check occasional excesses. [278 words]

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