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Preserving democracy in India

  • IASbaba
  • July 19, 2022
  • 0
Indian Polity & Constitution
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Context: The presence of a vigilant Opposition is necessary not just for a vibrant democracy but for its very survival

Parliamentary democracy

  • The Indian Constitution adopted the parliamentary system
  • The rationale quoted by R. Ambedkar for this is – A democratic executive must satisfy two conditions –
  • It must be a stable executive and
  • It must be a responsible executive.
  • Unfortunately it has not been possible so far to devise a system which can ensure both in equal degree.

Role of Opposition

  • Parliamentary democracy does not envisage a condition where a one party-government becomes permanent.
  • The presence of a vigilant Opposition is necessary not just for a vibrant democracy but for its very survival.
  • When the Opposition criticises the government or carries on an agitation to arouse public opinion against a party’s misdeeds, it is performing a duty that is assigned by the Constitution.
  • Without an effective Opposition, democracy will become dull and legislature will become submissive.
  • The public will then think that the legislature is a sham and is unable to perform its functions and will lose interest in the functioning of Parliament.

Failed Anti-defection law

  • Encouraging defections from the parties in power in States will sound the death knell for democracy.
  • The whip system is part of the established machinery of political organisation in the House and does not infringe on a member’s rights or privilege in any way.
  • That is why some political thinkers have recognised as an additional device the ‘theory of recall,’ so that a member whose personal behaviour falls below standards expected of his constituents goes back and seek their approval.
  • This power is particularly apt when a member shows disloyalty to his party but declines to resign from his seat and to fight an immediate by-election. The anti-defection law was supposed to be the justification underlying the power of recall And the law failed.

Reasons

  • The law does not provide a time-frame within which the presiding officer has to decide a defection case.
  • There have been many instances where a Speaker has misused this in not determining the case of a defecting MLA until the end of the legislature term.
  • Parties often sequester MLAs in resorts to prevent them from changing their allegiance or getting poached by a rival party.
  • Recent examples are Maharashtra (2019) & (2022), Karnataka (2019 and 2018), and Tamil Nadu (2017).

Misuse of Powers

  • Recent trend of the use of draconian powers, especially the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Investing agencies against Opposition members

Way Forward

  • Political parties, the judiciary and civil society must take steps to ensure that democracy does not fail.
  • The Opposition must be tolerated because if it is left for the party in power to decide what ishealthy and unhealthy criticism, then every criticism of the latter will be treated as unhealthy.
  • At the same time, while the Opposition must be credible and strong, it is for the Opposition to make itself credible and strong.

Learn from best practices

  • In England, where the parliamentary system prevails, the assessment of responsibility of the executive is both daily and periodic.
  • The daily assessment is done by members of Parliament, through questions, resolutions, no-confidence motions, adjournment motions and debates on addresses.
  • Periodic assessment is done by the electorate at the time of the election.

Source: The Hindu

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