Preserving democracy in India

Source: The post is based on an article “Preserving democracy in India” published in the “The Hindu” on 18th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.

Relevance: Issues and Challenges in the Parliamentary System of India

News: In recent period, the government of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra toppled. Further, there were selective arrests of Opposition leaders. This indicates serious issues in the functioning of the Indian democracy

Basic Concept of a democracy

A democratic executive must satisfy two conditions – (1) It must be a stable executive and (2) it must be a responsible executive.

It is not possible to ensure a stable executive and a responsible executive in equal degree in a particular system. Therefore, the constitutional makers have to adopt either of the two features. Former is ensured in the Presidential System and later is ensured in the Parliamentary system. For Example:

(a) England Case: executives are subjected to daily assessment by members of Parliament, through questions, resolutions, no-confidence motions, adjournment motions and debates on addresses and they are also subjected to Periodic assessment by the electorate at the time of the election.

(b) The US Executive: Daily assessment is not available under the American system. There is only periodic assessment.

Therefore, the constituent assembly India adopted the parliamentary system because the fathers of the Indian constitution preferred “more responsibility to more stability as per the Indian need.

What are the problems being faced by Indian democracy?

(1) India has preferred responsible executives to stable executives. However, there are attempts to weaken the opposition in India. which is not in the interest of parliamentary democracy. A vigilant opposition is important for daily assessment of the executive, ensuring a vibrant democracy as well as the very survival of the democracy.

(2) The Anti-defection law has failed to serve its purpose. It was inserted in the 10th Schedule through the 52nd Connotational Amendment Act. Further, the Supreme Court upheld its constitutional validity long ago.

There are cases when a party member shows disloyalty to his party through violation of the whip. They simultaneously decline to resign from his/her seat and to fight an immediate by-election.

Others Issues

In the recent past, the draconian provisions of various legislations, especially the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, have been invoked by the ruling regime against Opposition members.

Way Forward

Political parties, the judiciary and civil society must take steps to ensure that democracy does not fail.

Some political thinkers’ advocates for the ‘theory of recall,’ so that a member whose personal behaviour falls below standards expected of his constituents goes back and seeks the approval of the voters.

Role of Judiciary

The judiciary must be aware of the ground realities and not allow such politically motivated investigations. Judges should readily grant anticipatory bail or regular bail in politically motivated matters.

The Supreme Court can re-write the anti-defection law by invoking powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Political Parties

In a democratic set up, criticism from the opposition parties must be tolerated because it is the essence of democracy.

During the Constituent Assembly debates, Ram Narayan Singh said, “A government which does not like opposition and always wants to be in power is not a patriotic but a traitor government.”

At the same time, while Opposition must be credible and strong. It must work constructively. It can make itself credible and strong by feeling the pulse of the people of India and reforming itself.

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