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PUCL Bulletin, March 2006

Pillars of democracy - where we stand?

-- By R.B. Mehrotra, (Former President, Delhi State PUCL & Former High Court Judge, Allahabad), January 10, 2006

BJP Spokesperson Arun Jaitly have on one had supported the expulsion of tainted Members of Parliament, in the same breath has also contended that procedure adopted for expul

sion was unconstitutional (Article published in Hindustan Times). This statement is also not in line with his Party stand that punishment awarded by Parliament to the tainted Members was disproportionate to the offence they have committed which ultimately means that even if Member of Parliament is caught taking bribe he should be let off with some minor punishment. What that minor punishment, should have been, has also not been told. The whole stand is ridiculous. However, the people at large has welcomed the Parliament’s decision and the expeditious manner in which the Parliament has taken unanimous decision, except some walk out, but there was no vote opposing the resolution of expulsion. Some Nath Chaterji the Lok Sabha Speaker deserve some kudos for all this.

      As a student of Political Science we were taught that for functioning of an efficient democracy three independent organs- Legislature, Executive and Judiciary should work in a coherent manner. Out Constitution recognized it and made appropriate provisions for their working. Later on some political philosophers like Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia added independent Panchayat Raj System (Local Self Government) with specific powers on specific subjects for their independent functioning. To a large scale this was also recognized by 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment in 1993. Some writers are rightly contending that an independent Media is also a necessary ingredient of functional democracy. Constitution fully guarantees the independence of Media under Article 19 of the Constitution by providing Right of Freedom of speech and expression, which includes right to get information and to large extent provide a system of openness and transparency in functioning of system. The recent Right to Information Act buttress this guarantee.

      Another aspect, which is to be highlighted, is about functioning of the Judiciary. The Higher Judiciary has contributed a lot for effective implementation of fundamental rights and have given many landmark judgements which to a large extent have strengthened our democracy. We need not wait here but we must acknowledge that Judiciary, which is being considered as a last resort to ‘Indian Democracy’, is also under severe internal pressures. A recent news items, published in The Times of India Lucknow edition of 18th December, 2005, has raised many serious issues in this regard. In the said news items it was published, on the front page of the paper, that one of the Judges, who was presiding over the Bench, said in open court that case is not to be decided in near future. The Junior Judge, however, disagreed and delivered his judgement and also wrote a three-page note bringing all this on record which had happened in the court. In the same news item, another very alarming news, reported was that an application was moved in the court making allegation against a sitting Judge regarding his illegal connection with a lady advocate of the court and petition was moved by not less a person than the husband of the said lady Advocate. The application was rejected by the Senior Judge who was hearing the matter without taking any cognizance of the scandalous statement made in the application. Scandalizing the court is punishable under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act. Here is a case where no body took any cognizance of these two news items published in a very reputed news paper of the country. If such allegation of scandalizing the court goes un-noticed, it certainly sends a wrong message and erodes credibility of the Judiciary. This is only an instance to show where we have reached and what reputation the Judiciary is carrying in the aforesaid background. I have given only one instance in this regard. There are several other instances to show that credibility of the Judiciary is also being eroded by the Judges themselves and no body is taking any serious note of such a situation which is very unfortunate.

      Entire proceedings of the Parliament, session after session, are barren in their discussion on vital issues of the country, particularly, how the deprived section of the society is leading their lives. No body is discussing the issue of poverty, issue of show of ugly wealth in public function, issue of rising disparity between rich and poor and the consequence of blatant capitalism being made a policy of the country resulting in a situation where law and order situation is deteriorating every day in the country. Naxalite activities are gaining ground throughout the country resulting in such an alarming situation that they managed to break gate of Jahanabad Jail and managed to kill some of the inmates of the Jail against whom they had animus and so on so forth.

      The point, which I would like to emphasize, is that the Parliament, which is meant for discussing the problems of the country, is not performing its function in the manner it is required to perform in a Parliamentary Democracy. Long back Vohra Committee Report disclosed in the year 1990 that there is nexus between Mafia, Criminals and Bureaucracy, to some extent Judiciary was also involved in running a parallel Mafia Government in the country. The situation since then in no way has improved and the nexus today is writ large. Some of the Officers of IAS rank have been voted to be most corrupt Officers. They have amassed enormous wealth and property not only in the country but outside the country also, but unfortunately those Officers have been backed by the political parties and have adorned the offices of the highest responsibility up to the time the Supreme Court intervened to ensure that they are not allowed to continue on responsible post. So it is undisputed that corruption is rampant in the country. Every body is realizing it but they are helpless in this regard.

      At one point of time, election reforms were on top of Agenda to ensure free and fair election. The issue is side tracked. The recommendations of the Election Commission, which is responsible for conducting free and fair elections in the country, are only being partly accepted and that too an interference of the Judiciary.

      73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment have also very little effect and to a large extent the system of decentralized development has not taken roots, centralized functioning of the Government and the Centralized System of development is creating a situation where villages after villages, where vast majority of the country resides, still are suffering for want of basic needs. There are no hospitals; whatever is provided by the Government in the name of Primary Health Centres are non-functional; Doctors are not attending their duties; schools in the villages are also non-functional; in every State scheme of mid-day meal has become source of corruption and required results have not been obtained. Despite Constitutional Amendment, right to education up to children of 12 years, has not been achieved due to corrupt bureaucracy and equally corrupt elected Village Panchayat of the people. There are always exceptions to all these things but they do not represent picture of the country.

      Lastly, I would like to say something about media. Media has also played a very important role in bringing forth several vital issues before the country and has successfully done it to some extent, particularly in exposing corruption and crime but real issue of the country i.e. poverty, increasing disparity between rich and poor, show of ugly wealth, unemployment, closure of Industries and the situation where health and education have been left in the hands of private Agency and the common man who, cannot afford their expenses, is sufferer which is creating serious problems before the country. Media is only concentrating in creating sensations and making news. They are performing the real task of furnishing information on the vital issues.

All this I have said to highlight that despite some encouraging improvement in the functioning of Parliamentary Democracy in the country there are some serious issues which show that we are reaching a situation where system is failing in this country. We must take note of this and right people are requested to sit over the matte and find out, why this erosion in all walks of life in the society? There is dangerous influx of Mafias in the present day politics. Unless right educated people come forward, the politics of the country is bound to be managed by the Mafias and we cannot blame the political parties or the persons who are controlling political system in the country. We should take note of deteriorating situation and do something in this regard.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014