Reinvigorating The Indian Parliamentary Democracy. By Father Anand Muttungl
03 Oct 2013
The withdrawal of the Ordinance that allows the elected representatives to continue being members of the house even after being punished for more than two years by a Court has given a clear note of changes in the Indian politics. To understand the reinvigorating the Indian Parliamentary Democracy we need to go back about two decades. The Rediscovering the Indian Parliamentary Democracy began with the works of T N Seshan as the Chief Election Commissioner in 1991. The small plant that he planted is still growing to become a big tree adding new chapters in to the history of Indian Parliamentary Democracy.
The high standards set by Seshan became the land mark for his successors and social activists to make efforts to maintain the sanctity of the world’s largest democracy. In this line in 2004 the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) moved the Supreme Court with a plea that voters should have a right to negative vote, if the voter does not want to vote any of the candidates listed in EVM. PUCL had sought directions to Election Commission to make provision in the EVMs providing option "None of the Above" and the right to say NOTA should be kept secret. The apex court referred the matter to a larger Bench in 2009. Accordingly the larger bench of the Apex Court on 28 September, 2013 pronounced its judgement that the Election Commission should make changes in voting machines and ballot papers, giving voters a "none of the above" choice, and publicise this change widely saying that "Article 19 guarantees all individuals the right to speak, criticise, and disagree on a particular issue. It stands on the spirit of tolerance and allows people to have diverse views, ideas and ideologies. Not allowing a person to cast vote negatively defeats the very freedom of expression and the right ensured in Article 21 ie, the right to liberty”.
Yet in another landmark decision on the PIL filed by advocate Lily Thomas and Lok Prahari (NGO), the Apex Court struck down the legal provision that protects a lawmaker from disqualification even after conviction in a criminal case. Mounting pressure from all political parties the Union Government filed review petition against the judgement but after hearing the review petition on 7 September 2013 the Apex Court reiterated its earlier decision that on conviction for offences more than two years the elected members will be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House. Without considering the minds of people all the political parties unanimously brought the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 in the Lok Sabha. They argued that the verdict of court is "clearly erroneous" as the right to vote and right to be on electoral roll were being dealt by separate sections in the Constitution and till proven guilty, everyone was to be taken as innocent. It threw cold water on hopes of reformation of the Parliamentary Democracy.
Since the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 could not be passed in the Lok Sabha the Union Government brought an Ordinance to save the membership of 1,448 of the country’s 4,835 MPs and MLAs from all political parties reportedly facing criminal charges. The mind of India against this Ordinance grew stronger with the stand of the president which boosted the spirit of Rahul Gandhi to open up his conscience strongly against this ordinance. He said that "My opinion on the ordinance is that it's complete nonsense and it should be torn up and thrown out." The outburst of Rahul Gandhi came to end with Union Government withdrawing the Ordinance clearing the way for political cleansing.
It is clear that these historic developments will definitely pave way for selection of candidates with clean records and mass support base. It will slowly reduce corruption and criminalization in politics. The Indian Parliamentary Democratic system can become more effective if we introduce some safeguards against the misuse and manipulation of the present law and Right to Re-call the elected members who do not perform. With a hope we can conclude that we need to work hard even when only hopelessness prevails because THE CHANGE makes its way itself.