- Statement by 3 former Judges on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

The Text* of the Statement by 3 former Judges on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Statement on the Powers of the Executive with reference to the Indo-US Nuclear deal

1. The Executive has no power to enter into any agreement, either with a foreign government or a foreign organization, which is binding on the nation. The agreement will be binding only when it is ratified by Parliament…There is no provision in the Constitution which gives such authority to the executive. We have a written Constitution and, therefore, we must have a written provision in the Constitution which gives such authority to the Executive.

2. Articles 73 and 253 and entries 6, 13, & 14 in the Union List of the Constitution refer to the powers of the Executive. Article 73, among other things, states that, “…the executive power of the Union shall extend (a) to the matters with respect to which Parliament has powers to make laws, and (b) to the exercise of such rights, authority and jurisdiction as are exercisable by the Government of India by virtue of any treaty or agreement.” This means that the matters n which Parliament has no powers to make laws are also matters on which the Union Government cannot exercise its executive power. It also means, conversely, that the Union Government cannot exercise its executive powers beyond the legislative powers of the Union. Both these propositions have an underlying assumption that, before the Union Government exercises the executive power, there is a law enacted by the Parliament on the subject concerned. Some argue that the provisions of Article 73(1)(a) gives power to the Executive to act on subjects within the jurisdiction of Parliament, even if the Parliament does not make a law on those subjects. This is both a distortion and a perversion of the said provision and a subversion of Parliament’s supreme control over the Executive. If this interpretation is accepted then the Union Executive can act on all subjects on which Parliament has to make law, without there being any law made by Parliament. You can thus do away with Parliament and the Parliament’s duties to make laws. We will then have a lawless Government. Democracy presumes there should be a rule of law and all Executive actions will be supported by law and that there shall be no arbitrary action by any authority, including the Union Executive. It may also be necessary in that connection to remember that it is for this very reason that when Parliament is not in session and, therefore, unable to enact a law, that the power is given to the President to issue an ordinance (which is a law), so that the Executive may act according to its provisions. These ordinances are to be placed before the Parliament within six weeks of its reassembly, and if Parliament approves they become law. The Constitution-makers were, therefore, clear in their mind that the Executive cannot act without the authority of law and it has no power independent of law and it has no power independent of law made by Parliament.

3. “Article 253, which is relevant in the context of the present Indo-US nuclear deal, is very specific on the subject. It says, “Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this chapter, Parliament has power to make any law ---for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision at any any international conference, association or other body.” This article gives specifically the power to the Parliament to make laws on treaties, etc. with other governments or even on decisions made in international conferences, etc. This makes it clear that even the treaties, etc. entered with other countries or decisions made at international conferences have to be translated into laws and read with the provisions already discussed above, before they are acted upon by the Executive.

4.The Union List Entry –6 makes “Atomic energy and mineral resources necessary for its production” a subject matter of legislation of the Parliament. Similarly, Entry—13 which reads, “participation in international conferences, associations and other bodies and implementing of decisions made thereat” and Entry –14 which reads, “entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and of implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries” make them also subject matters of legislation by the Parliament.”

5. “All these provisions make it abundantly clear that the present Indo-US deal cannot be implemented by the Union Government unless it is translated into law enacted by Parliament. Any action, therefore, taken by the Union Government to implement the said deal without the authority of the Parliament is un-Constitutional, because it amounts to the usurpation of the Parliament by the Union Executive. It is also undemocratic because the Union Executive will be acting arbitrarily, trampling both the rule of law and also the wishes of the people of India. It will be nothing short of an arbitrary rule by the Executive, leading to an un-Constitutional government in the country, because what is arbitrary is also unconstitutional.

6. With regard to the Indo-US nuclear deal, it may be stated that, on the face of it, it is subject to the internal laws of both the countries, namely India and the U.S. Article 2.1 of the 123 Agreement states in the clearest possible terms, “Each Party shall implement this Agreement in accordance with its respective applicable treaties, national laws, regulations and license requirements concerning the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” This means that the 123 Agreement is subject to all the present internal laws of the US government, right from the US Atomic Energy Act 1954 to the Hyde Act 2006, all inclusive. Not only that, but it will be subject to amendments to these present laws and to any new law that may be enacted in the future. The position is further made clear also by Articles 3.3 and 5.2 of this agreement. Article 3.3 states, “This agreement does not require the transfer of any information regarding matters outside the scope of this agreement, or information that the Parties are not permitted under their respective treaties, national laws, or regulations to transfer”. Article 5.2 states, “ ---Transfers of dual-use items that could be used in enrichment, reprocessing or heavy water production facilities will be subject to the Parties respective applicable laws, regulations, and license policies.” What holds good for Article 2.1 holds also good for these two provisions as well.

7. Furthermore, Article 5.6 (a) of the agreement clearly states that “As part of its implementation of July 18, 2005 Joint Statement, the US is committed to seeking agreement from the US Congress to amend its domestic laws and to work with friends and allies to adjust the practices of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to create the necessary conditions for India to obtain full access to the international fuel market, including reliable, uninterrupted and continual access to fuel supplies from firms in several nations,” In view of this statement in the 123 Agreement dated August2007, it is clear that before the US is obliged to act under this agreement in so far as assured and continual fuel supplies are concerned, the US Administration will have to approach the US Congress to get their present laws, including the Hyde Act 2006, amended. It is unfortunate that the Government of India is rushing through this deal even before the US has got its laws, including the Hyde Act 2006, amended to assure life-time uninterrupted fuel supplies, under all circumstances, for the nuclear reactors we intend to import. As it stands, the 123 Agreement of August 2007 does not in any way provide binding fuel supply assurances.”

(Justice V R Krishna Iyer)
Former Judge
Supreme Court of India

(Justice P B Sawant)
Former Judge
Supreme Court of India

(Justice H Suresh)
Former Judge
Bombay High Court

*An attested copy of this Statement has been sent to me by Mr. B K Keayla, the Convenor of the National Working Group of Patents (of which organization Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer is the Patron). I put in my high appreciation for him. This statement by the eminent persons is referred to, and commented upon in my 11th article on the Indo-US Deal: vide in the folder on ‘Articles and Papers’. - Links on Shivakantjha - Links on Shivakantjha

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