Parliamentary faux pasThe bills introduced by Govt. and laws passed by parliament sometimes appear to be not in the best and long term interests of democracy and society. As indicated in Ref. (1), there is an urgent need for Govt. to take steps to end corruption and lack of accountability in private and public sectors, stop using caste officially in quotas and reservations in education and jobs and instead have the benefits allocated on the basis of economic condition, and implement the UCC (Uniform Civil Code) so that religion cannot interfere in Govt. through religious laws. Yet the Govt. and parliament have ignored these issues (APPENDIX), and whatever policies and actions have been implemented have so far led to little or no improvement.
(a) Digressing from civil society’s anti-corruption LokPal bill.
When civil society members (under the leadership of Anna Hazare) started a movement against corruption and asked the Govt. to implement a comprehensive anti-corruption law or legal watchdog (in the form of LokPal which would be applicable equally to everyone in the country), Govt. tried to evade the issue. It first indicated that there was no need for a new bill or law against corruption because the existing laws, according to Govt., were sufficient to curtail and take care of corruption. But when people made noise that the existing laws were not working properly or curtailing corruption and had even helped India attain a high position on the list of corrupt countries in the world, Govt. relented but only conditionally.
Instead of using the LokPal (legal watchdog bill or a type of Ombudsman) suggested by Anna Hazare et al. which would apply to everyone equally, Govt. tried to introduce in parliament a diluted form of LokPal which planned to keep the prime minister and higher judges out of its jurisdiction. This was a very bad first step by Govt. trying to reassure and instill confidence among corruption weary public. People don’t like the Govt.’s version of LokPal and are even calling it JokePal sarcastically (Ref. 2). People basically need a mechanism (law or watchdog) to fight corruption which applies equally to everyone, no matter whether the person is a peon, or prime minister, or one of the higher judges. There is no doubt that civil society leaders are disappointed with Govt.’s approach so far, trying to leave the prime minister and higher judges out of LokPal.
As indicated in Ref. (2), the Indian parliamentary democratic tradition is such that anyone (even a person who has not faced a parliamentary election and won a seat in Lok Sabha or Lower / People’s House of Parliament) can be appointed to the position of prime minister. This has the potential that prime minister (the head of Govt. in a parliamentary democracy) sometimes is able to enter and continue in that position without facing the voters or being answerable to public directly in a parliamentary election. Note, even though prime minister sometimes in parliament answers questions from members of Lok Sabha, that is not same as facing public (voters) directly in elections. Moreover, the questioning of prime minister by members of Lok Sabha (parliament) could be skewed and superficial if there is a nominee-nominator type relationship and loyalty between the prime minister (especially unelected one) and Lok Sabha members (parties). Thus it is imperative that prime minister be held accountable to public watchdog (e.g. LokPal) like others.
Moreover, it is unreasonable to think that framing of laws is the sole prerogative and responsibility of parliament and parliamentarians and nobody else has anything to do with it. It is also absurd to imply that others (not in the parliament) are undermining the parliament and democracy by insisting on the implementation of a good and effective anti-corruption law (e.g. LokPal). Similarly, it is strange for Govt. to ask ordinary citizens demanding a good LokPal, including the members and leaders of civil society, to first run in parliamentary elections and get elected to Lok Sabha and then pursue the LokPal. Note there have already been numerous examples in the past in which people not running for elections and not elected to Lok Sabha (or Vidhan Sabha – State Legislature) took active part in the framing the laws in parliament (or state assembly) and they even held the positions of ministers, prime ministers and chief ministers. Anyway, there is no reason for anyone to become a member of parliament before asking for a good law or legislation from Govt., considering that India’s parliamentary democratic traditions are already fraught with inconsistencies and exceptions. Some important people and politicians (usually vying to become ministers, chief ministers and prime ministers) have even been permitted in the past to run in the same election for Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha from multiple constituencies (even up to three or four). It basically was done to enable them to win a seat in at least one constituency and thus be able to enter Lok Sabha (or Vidhan Sabha) and later join the cabinet (as a minister etc.).
Needless to say, it is unconstitutional for anyone to run in more than one constituency in the same election under the parliamentary democratic system which allows only one vote (or seat) to each elected representative in Lok Sabha (or Vidhan Sabha). Thus there is no constitutional basis for anyone (wishing to become a member of Lok sabha or Vidhan Sabha) to declare his / her commitment or association with more than one constituency (or seat) during the election or at the time of filing nomination (candidacy) papers. Even the argument that candidate running in multiple electoral constituencies (seats) plans to resign afterwards in all seats (constituencies) except one (if he / she wins in more than one constituency) is not valid. The very idea of a candidate’s name appearing in more than one constituency (i.e. being the potential representative of voters in more than one constituency for Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha) is unconstitutional, and that makes the running in elections for anyone from multiple constituencies unacceptable.
Similarly, the higher judges (judges dealing with higher cases as well as on High Courts and Supreme Court etc.) should be brought under the ambit of LokPal. Note, if the judges on lower cases and courts are deemed fit by Govt. for LokPal, then there is no reason to put the higher judges above the jurisdiction of LokPal. Govt. probably thinks that there is a change in behavior and conduct of judges along the judicial ladder. Thus judges might seem, according to Govt., to become more honest and accountable as the size / level of their assignment / bench grows or rises (from lower to higher), leading higher judges to rise above LokPal while their lower brethren / judges remain behind (under LokPal). It seems insulting to lower judges that Govt. thinks less of them (in terms of their integrity and values etc.) in relation to those on higher courts and cases. There is no reason to believe that higher judges (on higher cases and courts) are any different (in terms of values etc.) than their lower counterparts or people elsewhere, including in legislative and executive branches (Ref. 3). Some judges, while dispensing decisions in High Courts and the Supreme Court, were seen in the past engaging in corruption (including land grabbing and non-delivery of justice). There was also opposition by some top judges to reveal their assets which raised suspicions about their conduct. Moreover, the members of judiciary (including the higher judges) are also prone to undue political pressure and influence, like others, which can be effectively checked, along with enhancing overall accountability in judiciary, if all the judges (higher and lower) are kept under LokPal.
In conclusion, prime minister and higher judges should be under the ambit of LokPal.
(b) Strengthening and prolonging the caste system by using caste in census etc.
The parliament, at the behest of Govt., last year decided to introduce caste in census (Ref. 4). It was totally unnecessary as it will lead to strengthening and prolonging of caste system (Ref. 5). It was the latest step by politicians and Govt. to serve their caste based vote banks. Politicians keep on blaming the caste system for social ills in India, yet they have no hesitation in using caste system for votes by having caste included in census (enumeration of people). This will keep the caste system alive and well and even growing because the Govt. has decided to attach and affirm caste labels to people officially through its census program. Needless to say, the caste situation for people keeps on getting worse and casteist due to ill-advised caste oriented policies and programs by Govt. (Ref. 5), including the quotas and reservations in education and jobs based on caste rather than economic condition.
Thus the caste should be removed from census and in quotas for education and jobs
(c) Overriding the individual rights and freedoms for group (community) rights.
Govt. has recently also introduced a bill in parliament (“prevention of communal violence etc.”, Ref. 6), which states in Section 8 (on hate propaganda): “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, whoever publishes, communicates or disseminates by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise acts inciting hatred causing clear and present danger of violence against a group or persons belonging to that group, in general or specifically, or disseminates or broadcasts any information, or publishes or displays any advertisement or notice, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate an intention to promote or incite hatred or expose or is likely to expose the group or persons belonging to that group to such hatred, is said to be guilty of hate propaganda.”
This appears to be another effort by politicians, perhaps for the sake of votes, to show preference to people collectively and as groups (according to religion etc.) while undermining and overriding individual rights and freedoms (including the freedom of speech). This definitely is a step away from secularism which encourages separation of religion and Govt. and enhances individual rights and freedoms without unnecessary restrictions and interferences from religion. Note the freedom of religion (choice to worship and pray etc. in one’s own way) granted under secularism does not mean that religion can be used to impede the individual rights and freedoms through religious laws and other considerations (whether based on one’s own religion or that of others).
Instead of bringing the much needed UCC or Uniform Civil Code (same law for everyone, Ref. 7), Govt. seems intent to continue and strengthen the religious biases and laws in the nation through such bills. If the above bill becomes a law, it will hamper the freedom of speech greatly. People will be afraid to question or comment about religion and religious matters (including funding and other activities in the name of religion) for fear of getting accused of hate propaganda.
Thus instead of the above bill, Govt. should immediately implement the UCC the lack of which seems to be the reason for many problems and issues.
APPENDIX(i) Corruption, mismanagement and lack of accountability exist all around in and out of Govt., yet the Govt. has not yet implemented a good and effective anti-corruption and anti-graft law.
(ii) In addition, instead of using the logical and fair economic consideration to help people in education and jobs no matter what their caste or religion, Govt. currently uses casteist and anti-secular entitlements (such as quotas and reservations in education and job based on caste and religion) which not only undermine the manual and menial work but also make it possible for many well-to-do persons in OBC and SC/ST classes to receive Govt. benefits while poorer persons in other categories (not part of OBC and SC/ST) are deprived of Govt. help.
(iii) Furthermore, instead of having a single, modern and progressive legal system in the nation (e.g. UCC or Uniform Civil Code) which will be applicable fairly and equally to everyone irrespective of religion, race, gender or caste, Govt. currently sanctions officially the use of several exclusionist, anti-secular and ancient religious laws (different for different communities and people) which often lead to confusing, contradictory and unexpected results. For example, under the present system of separate religious and community based laws, women in different communities have different legal rights, different not only socially with respect to the male counterparts in their own community but different also financially etc. (such as in the matters related to parental properties and spousal compensations) from women in other communities. Moreover, ironically, under the current multiple religious legal systems, a judge who has the legal right as a Muslim under the Islamic law to marry more than one woman (up to four women) at the same time can still find a person of another community (a Hindu for example) guilty and send him to prison on charges of bigamy (according to Hindu Marriage Act) for taking a second wife while he officially is still married to his first wife.
(1) Subhash C. sharma, “India and the parliamentary democracy,” Oct. 8, 2009, http://seva.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/10/india-and-the-parliamentary-democracy.htm
(2) Subhash C. Sharma (Lamberdar), “LokPal versus the so called JokePal,” Aug. 2, 2011,
(3) D.P. Poddar, “Judicial system in India has become a joke,” April 29, 2010, http://dppoddar.com/Default.aspx?Archive=True&BlogID=58
(4) “Caste census in June-Sept next year (2011),” The Indian Express, Sep 10 2010, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/caste-census-in-junesept-next-year/679771/
(5) Subhash C. Sharma, “Should the question on caste be included in census forms?”, May 10, 2010, http://lamberdar.sulekha.com/blog/post/2010/05/should-the-question-on-caste-be-included-in-census.htm
(6) “Prevention of communal and targeted violence (access to justice and reparations) Bill, 2011,” http://nac.nic.in/pdf/pctvb_amended.pdf
(7) Subhash C. Sharma, “Comments and questions on secularism and UCC in India,” May 12, 2011, http://lamberdar.sulekha.com/blog/post/2011/05/comments-and-questions-on-secularism-and-ucc-in-india.htm
by: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma
(dated: Aug. 26, 2011) ---- http://lamberdar.hubpages.com/hub/parliamentary_faux_pas
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