Sunday, February 26, 2006

Re-reading Ram Jawaya Kapoor

I never had the opportunity of reading Ram Jawaya Kapoor v. State of Punjab, AIR 1955 SC 549, in law school. Recently, I had to look at it for one section of my book, and I realized how important this case is. It is actually a fairly brief judgment. Yet, it is an authority for at least three important propositions. First, our Constitution does not embody the full separation-of-powers doctrine, only a separation-of-functions principle. Second, despite what some scholars may tell you, our democracy embodies a parliamentary form of government. Third, the cabinet, formulates all important questions of foreign policy.

I found this passage especially nicely written, although Chief Justice Mukherjea borrows the hyphen-joining-the-buckle metaphor without proper attribution from Walter Bagehot's The English Constitution.

In the Indian Constitution, therefore, we have the same system of
parliamentary executive as in England and the council of ministers, consisting,
as it does, of the members of the legislature is, like the British Cabinet, “a
hyphen, which joins, a buckle, which fastens the legislature part of the State
of the executive part.” The Cabinet enjoying, as it does, a majority in
the legislature concentrates in itself the virtual control of both legislative
and executive functions; and as the Ministers constituting the Cabinet are
presumably agreed on fundamentals and act on the principle of collective
responsibility, the most important questions of policy asre all formulated by

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