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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 11:08 GMT
India court opens laws to review
Parliament building in Delhi
Politicians say parliament should be protected
India's Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling opening more than 200 controversial laws to judicial review.

Judges led by the chief justice closed a loophole that has kept some laws from their scrutiny in a part of the constitution called the Ninth Schedule.

The Ninth Schedule was created in 1951 to help protect progressive laws on land reform and ending feudalism, but critics say it has since been misused.

Only laws passed after April 1973 could be challenged, the Supreme Court said.

Laws placed in the Ninth Schedule would not enjoy full immunity
Chief Justice YK Sabharwal

Chief Justice YK Sabharwal said: "If laws put in the Ninth Schedule abridge or abrogate fundamental rights resulting into violation of the basic structure of the constitution, such laws need to be invalidated."

Far-reaching implications

When it was first created, the Ninth Schedule had 13 laws; now it has 284.

Many say governments have misused this provision to push through laws which only serve their interest.

Nine judges led by outgoing Chief Justice YK Sabharwal ruled that laws placed in the Ninth Schedule since April 1973 should not have blanket immunity from legal scrutiny.

Analysts say the verdict is expected to have far-reaching implications on various issues.

Controversial caste quotas for government jobs and schools are among hitherto protected acts which can now be challenged in court.

In the recent past, the judiciary and parliament have been at loggerheads over whether the courts have the right to overturn laws passed by parliament.

In several recent judgements, the Supreme Court has overturned government decisions on the grounds that they were against the constitution.

Accountability

Politicians say laws passed by parliament should be protected from judicial review since MPs are people's elected representatives.

But nearly a quarter of Indian parliamentarians are facing criminal charges and many welcome judicial activism which, they say, calls for some sort of accountability from the legislators.

They say Thursday's judgement is another example of judges holding India's political system to account.

Ssome critics, however, say Thursday's ruling is an example of one arm of Indian democracy trying to establish its supremacy over another.

In recent months, India's Supreme Court has challenged a number of government decisions, saying they are unconstitutional.

Earlier this month, the court ruled that affirmative action quotas for disadvantaged groups should be capped at 50% and that prosperous members of these groups should be excluded from benefiting.

And the court has also made a number of rulings which have struck down moves by the government to protect illegal businesses and ordered that their premises be demolished.


SEE ALSO
Court vs parliament in India
30 Oct 06 |  South Asia
Indian court upholds caste quotas
19 Oct 06 |  South Asia
Two die in Delhi traders' protest
20 Sep 06 |  South Asia
India to implement caste quotas
24 May 06 |  South Asia
Court blow for Muslim quota rule
04 Jan 06 |  South Asia

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