The Constitution of India happens to a masterpiece and is the fundamental charter of our democracy. The visionaries who drafted the Constitution envisaged that the country will always be ruled through the prism of constitutional rules and regulations but the contemporary dilapidated and fractured state of Indian polity is a cause of concern for all Constitutionalists.
There is a lot of tomfoolery going around. The Parliament’s stature has been corroded as disruptions appear to reign supreme instead of debating. The three holy institutions of our democracy, namely, the Parliament, Executive and Judiciary appear to be at loggerheads with one another and this confrontation is undermining the spirit of the Constitution. Some States are clamouring that the principle of federalism is being assaulted by the Union Government by enacting centralized schemes while on the other hand the Centre is concerned over the growing obstructionist methods adopted by States which are ruled by regional parties and by those who happen to be sitting in the Opposition in Delhi.
There has been an incredible spread of anarchy which threatens to abandon the rule of law in the State. These are some of the challenges faced by the Democratic Republic of India. On this Republic Day, let us take a pledge that with a resurgent effort we will ensure the establishment of a country which is not contrary to its constitutional principles.
Last week the Union Cabinet sanctioned a very bold program which was precisely a picture perfect example of the Union Government superbly practicing all that it had been preaching since quite a while. Post 26/11, the then Home Minister was made to resign and P Chidambaram vacated the Finance Ministry to take over the reins of the Home Ministry. P Chidambaram envisaged an effective National Counter Terrorism Centre to tackle terrorism in India. He emphasized that the creation of such an institution, wholly devoted to the cause of countering terrorism, was necessary to sabotage terror plots against the nation.
Chidambaram launched a blitz of institutions to strengthen the anti-terrorism armoury of the country but Chidambaram’s idea of tackling terrorism in India was in contradiction to the principle of decentralization of power which has been a fundamental policy being actively carried forward by the incumbent government. Chidambaram wanted the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) to act like a parent body and advocated in the favour of bringing agencies like the NSG, NIA, NATGRID etc under the umbrella of the NCTC to give buoyance to the proposed institution. The Union Cabinet gave a go-ahead to the setting up of the NCTC but it refused to entertain Chidambaram’s plea to subsume institutions like the NIA and NSG under the ambit of the NCTC. What does this signify? It shows the zeal with which the government is committed to ensuring the propagation of decentralization of power.
The Government refused to accept the draft Jan-Lokpal Bill because it was a similar sort of a proposal where the demand was to circumscribe institutions like the CVC and the CBI under the Lokpal, the placement of the citizen’s charter under the ambit of the Lokpal, bestowing the Lokpal with suo-moto power and giving it powers of preliminary inquiry, investigation, prosecution and other departmental powers. The Government courageously struck down the proposal since the proposal aimed at loading a single institution with all possible powers. Chidambaram’s vision for NCTC sounded a bit similar but the government passed a different version of it.
What we need to realize is that no matter which issue is to be dealt with, be it corruption or terrorism, it has to be dealt by a medley of institutions working in active coordination and consonance with one another, not by a single omnipresent body. The Government is deeply committed to address all such burning issues but at the same time it is the Government’s responsibility to hold up the spirit of decentralization of power. Just because the Government doesn’t clear proposals wanting to create centralized institutions and instead gives its nod to creation of institutions undertaking the task prescribed by means of sharing powers and responsibilities, it doesn’t mean that it is wilfully trying to weaken institutions and is not enough committed to address the concerns facing the nation. What we must correctly comprehend is that decentralization of duties and power is the primary step towards addressing any concern. A lot of troublesome concerns have persisted just because a single institution based in Delhi has tried to slug around with it. With the power of legislating let us create institutions and not dismantle institutions, let us strengthen the Executive and let us not weaken it.
Rick Santorum, one of the leading Republican Presidential hopefuls for 2012’s Presidential Elections of the United States, who’s campaign pushed on the accelerator a couple of days back when he finished a surprise second in Iowa, just eight votes behind the current GOP favourite Mitt Romney, has dropped a bombshell by stating that he intends to replace the existing legal system in the United States with a fundamental Christian law system so that the laws prevalent in the great land of dreams are in consonance with God’s laws but the irony lies in the fact that Santorum’s idea of God’s law seems to be postured around a uniform Christian law which quite undiplomatically suggests that everybody’s God is bound to get ignored apart from the God of Christians if Santorum comes to power in the States by winning the Republican primaries and then by outlasting Obama in the real race for being President.
What amazes me is that till now I haven’t seen any hardcore American libertarian lash out at him for suggesting the propagation of such kind of an idea. When the Islamists surged ahead in the post-Egyptian revolution polls held in Egypt and hinted at the setting up of a Government based on Islamic law ie the Sharia, the United States quite vocally opposed the move and stated that it is necessary that the interests of the minorities are upheld and they usher in a totally democratic society free from all sorts of religious bias but till now Mr Santorum hasn’t faced any real opprobrium (internal or external) for hinting at the coupling of the State and the Church, a thing which is fundamentally contradictory to the idea of a libertarian America as envisaged by Thomas Jefferson who stressed on the need for separation of the State and the Church. I think that the United States, the self-proclaimed protector of democracy, liberty, free speech and tolerance has once again shown the world a glimpse of how fundamentalist it has become.
The difference between American and Indian culture gets exposed and becomes evident when we compare the agenda dominating the pre-election scenario in the polity of these two countries. In both the countries when a person runs for public office we delve deep into his past and look for loopholes (this work primarily being carried out by the media and the candidate’s opponents) with the intention of discrediting him and derailing his campaign.
In India we tend to estimate whether the person is corrupt or honest and the second thing (in many cases the numero uno concern) which plays on our minds is whether he is communal or secular. In America the elections are largely issue based but in the initial stages there is a great amount of focus centered on the sex life of the candidate as to whether he has committed what we call marital infidelities or has he had too many partners. This political example serves as a clear line of demarcation between the cultures of these two countries.
The psychological mindset exhibited by Indians during elections is largely based on insecurities coupled with a communal outlook which is detrimental for the society whereas the American mindset is based on intellect and voyeurism which is again a symbol of shame. Both societies need to overcome massive limitations. The Americans need to obfuscate their too much of emphasis on sex whereas the Indians need to evolve their thinking and untangle the web of communalism and casteism.
Ever since a lot of legal professionals have forayed into politics, we have witnessed politics drenched into legalism which has resulted into administrative inaction, freeze in decision making, policy paralysis and governance deficit.
Lawyers practicing as politicians inside Parliament and as legal luminaries in law courts is a lethal combination but along with themselves lawyers have brought an inseparable and intrinsic aspect of their profession inside Parliament and that is of delays and pendency. But is this thing really worth caring about? Because if you delve deep into the history of politics of any democratic country with India being no exception, you will find out that an overwhelming majority of politicians happened to be lawyers either by degree or profession but the worrying factor is that earlier active politics provided no space for any other sort of activity to be carried out simultaneously but now scenes of politicians putting on their black robes when the Parliament is not in session is a very frequent phenomenon.
This dual tasking maybe a healthy prospect for money making but it raises certain serious questions which are primarily related to another indirect encroachment on the institutions of Parliament and the Executive by judicial officers. Is India’s judiciary (comprising of both lawyers and judges) being the law maker, law enforcer and also the one interpreting laws ?