The new and dark interpretations of ‘We the People’

Source– The post is based on the article “The new and dark interpretations of ‘We the People’” published in The Hindu on 25th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Polity

Relevance– Working of institutions in Indian democracy

News– The article explains the recent speech by the Vice-President about separation of powers. It tells about the features of democracy in the US and Britain. It explains the conventions followed in democracy and onslaught on institutions by the current central government in India.

What were the viewpoints presented by the Vice President about separation of powers at 83rd All India conference of presiding officers’ in Jaipur?

‘We the People’ essentially gives primacy to elected members of Parliament and the State legislatures. Separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution gives this primacy.

It implies that the judiciary and the executive are inferior as they are appointed and not elected directly by the people.

What are arguments against President viewpoints?

The Constitution does not define ‘people’. Its concern is about citizens and not any group or a particular institution. They are all people of this land.

To identify representatives in the legislature to be the sole representatives of the people is not appropriate. The theory of a separation of powers is basic to any democratic society, more than the letter of the Constitution.

What are some features of democratic setup in the US and Britain?

In the United States, the President has the power to appoint judges. This should be endorsed by Congress. But the President is directly elected by the people and has prerogatives in several issues which do not apply to a parliamentary democracy. The Prime Minister does not have the powers of the U.S. President

In the case of the United Kingdom, it is run by time-honoured conventions and laws passed by the House of Commons. It does not have a written Constitution which gives judicial review. But strong conventions are in place in spite of the primacy of Parliament. Even in Parliament, the Speaker becomes a non-party man, choosing when to retire from office.

In India too, the first two Speakers and later Neelam Sanjiva Reddy resigned from the ruling party for impartial work. This convention is not followed now.

What are different viewpoints about conventions?

Democracies cannot be run only by the laws passed in representative Assemblies. They need conventions.

B.R. Ambedkar realised that conventions are suitable for Indian conditions. Unless conventions are solidified into constituent laws and bound by strong threads, institutions may even be destroyed. It will endanger the very purpose of a Constitution protecting the citizen.

How are the institutions in India being destroyed by centralising tendencies?

Today’s onslaught on the judiciary is aimed at a powerful constitutional authority which is  refusing to deviate from its constitutional responsibilities. The basic structure of the Indian Constitution is to be protected by SC, in spite of any over-reach by the legislature.

Other institutions like the ECI, independent investigating agencies and the civil service and police have deviated from constitutional and other legal responsibilities.

There are examples of confrontation in current times between elected governments in States and the Governors. The Constitution does not intend Governors to be subordinates to the central government.

This goes against the very dignity of the people of a State as inferior to a higher power outside their State.

The centre is pushing for greater centralisation not only within constitutional institutions at the Centre. It is also in States which are ruled by parties other than the national ruling party.

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