The Government placed its proposed Bill on communal violence on the agenda of the recently concluded National Integration Council (NIC) meeting. Eight chief ministers (CMs) refused to attend the meeting. Among those who attended it there was criticism of the proposed Bill by several participants including Odisa CM Mr. Naveen Patnayak. The government placed the Bill on the agenda of NIC because it dealt with communal issues relevant to national integration. The CMs boycotted the meeting because of the Bill’s unrealistic approach to an issue of law and order which is a state subject. The mix-up created by these cross purposes was sought to be addressed by Gujarat CM Mr. Narendra Modi. A day after the meeting ended in disarray and confusion he suggested that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh should form a committee of CMs to resolve differences between the Centre and the states.
|Why, does the President not act? Oops – I forgot! The President has been reduced to a rubber stamp of the Union Cabinet. The President is not allowed to act.
It is symptomatic of the way politics is being conducted in this country that Mr. Modi should have made this suggestion. If things do not work, create a new law, a new group or new institution. An ad hoc approach seems to be the accepted way. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is not successfully curtailing corruption? The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is not successfully unearthing corruption? No problem. Create a new Lokpal under a new law with more powers! The public and the media seem to lap up this approach. To come back to the dispute about the communal violence Bill and Mr. Modi’s off the cuff solution a reminder would be in order.
Article 263 of the Constitution relates to the establishment of the Inter-State Council. It states: “If at any time it appears to the President that the public interests would be served by the establishment of a Council charged with the duty of –
- (a) inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may have arisen between States;
- (b) investigating and discussing subjects in which some or all of the states, or the Union and one or more of the states have a common interest; or
- (c) making recommendations upon any such subject and, in particular, recommendations for the better co-ordination of policy and action with respect to that subject,
It shall be lawful for the President by order to establish such a Council, and to define the nature of the duties to be performed by it and its organization and procedure.”
Does not this Article give enormous scope to the President, the only office bearer elected by Parliament and all the State Assemblies, to establish the Inter-State Council which rightfully should be chaired by the President? The dispute over the communal violence Bill is only the latest of many such differences between the Centre and the States. Why, then, does the President not act? Oops – I forgot! The President has been reduced to a rubber stamp of the Union Cabinet. The President is not allowed to act.
Our politicians often behave as if the Constitution does not exist. Do people ever hear any mention of the Inter-State Council? Politicians rely on ad hoc solutions that set the precedent for conventions to be followed. Then why have a written Constitution at all? Why not scrap it and state honestly that India will follow the unwritten Westminster model that relies upon conventions and precedents?
No wonder the late BR Ambedkar was so disgusted by the manner in which the written Constitution that he had drafted was distorted and ignored that he remarked that as far as he was concerned the Constitution could be burnt. Indians should ask themselves: if the present trend continues, should not the Constitution be scrapped?