Undermining Constitutional Authorities & Institutions

In an earlier article, the author had analysed factors behind the Congress led opposition parties’ motion for the impeachment of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s disallowance, subsequent reaction of the opposition leaders and law luminaries including the historical perspective and remedial measures on the subject. Disagreeing with the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s decision, the Congress had expressed its resolve to file a petition against it in the Supreme Court and desired that the CJI should stay away from taking any decision with respect to it, be it listing or anything else. They argued that the CJI should recuse himself from allocating or hearing the writ petition and leave it to the next senior-most judge to deal with it.

Contrary to the expectation that good sense prevail and the party might drop the idea of moving a writ petition to the Supreme Court in impeachment case, the Congress indeed moved a petition through its two MPs on 7 May 2018 before a bench of Justice J. Chelameswar. The latter too after initial reservations agreed to hear the plea on the following day. Thus the Congress appeared in no mood of deescalating the controversy possibly because they see a political mileage in projecting themselves as a crusader against the corruption in the higher judiciary and saviour of the Constitution. Also in the process, they most probably wanted a bench of own choice to rule that the moment 50 or more MPs move a motion, Section 3 (2) of the Judges Inquiry Act of 1968 must be operative beginning the process of impeachment.

Ever since the present NDA government came in power in May 2014 dislodging the Congress and its allies through a massive mandate, the grand old party which has ruled the country for most of the years and has a history of seeking committed judiciary and other constitutional institutions, is passing through a transitional phase of utter frustration and turmoil in a tearing hurry to bounce back in power. In the process, apart from the ruling opponents, they have not spared even constitutional institutions like Judiciary, Parliament, Election Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (C&AG) in aiming their hostile barbs. Any institution which does not deliver according to the needs and wishes of the grand old party, has come under fire with criticism with the charges of bias and favourism.

Let there be no doubt that the best assurance for the rule of law may come only from an independent judiciary, a strong bar and enlightened public opinion in the country. Similarly, the Election Commission and CAG too derive their strength from the Article 324 and 148-151, respectively. These institutions have been granted adequate autonomy to enable them to function independently without any prejudice and favour. Of late the way opposition politicians, mainly the Congress, have been attacking these institutions, it is not only undemocratic but also likely to put these institutions under tremendous stress in their endeavour to function as free and fair democratic institutions.

Perhaps the hawks in the grand old party find it so difficult to accept that they are no more in power, and they should gracefully accept it and wait for an opportune time for seeking the mandate of people again. Their restlessness and frustration is apparent from their flawed strategy to oppose every move of the government, but for more cause of concern is their constant targeting, in collaboration with the other like-minded political parties, of the independent constitutional and statutory institutions. First it was the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (C&AG), then it was the Election Commission of India and CBI, and now it is the Supreme Court. Let’s have a look at some recent controversies including the recent squabble with Judiciary following the disallowance of the impeachment motion against the CJI and few such instances with other Constitutional and/or Statutory institutions.

Judiciary: Impeachment of CJI

Perhaps a more appropriate term would be ‘removal’ as the term impeachment has been used in the constitution specifically in the context of the President of India. In the history of the independent India, so far only two cases of Justice V. Ramaswami of the Supreme Court and Justice Soumitra Sen of the Culcutta High Court for the removal were undertaken by the Parliament. An another case of Chief Justice PD Dinakaran of the Sikkim High Court, the incumbent resigned before the motion for removal could be undertaken. The remarkable feature in all these cases was that the acts of misbehaviour or incapacity of these judges were taken cognizance by the Bar Council of India and/or the CJI himself and motion for their removal was undertaken by the Parliament on their recommendation.

Justice V. Ramaswami was charged with a scandalous and ostentatious expenditure on his official residence during his tenure as the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana. Taking a note of the resolution of the Supreme Court Bar Association, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties submitted a notice of motion to the Indian Parliament seeking his removal from office. The motion was accepted by the speaker in March 1991, and the 3 member committee constituted for the purpose found Justice Ramaswami guilty of the most of charges framed. Of the 401 members present in the Lok Sabha, 196 voted for his removal while 205 member of the ruling Congress and its allies absented from the voting. Thus the motion was defeated and, incidentally, the defence lawyer was Kapil Sibal, well known Congress politician and lawyer. Sibal who is now proactively pursuing a case against the CJI, was said to be then vehemently against the impeachment of any sitting judge.

In another case, Justice Soumitra Sen was held guilty of misappropriation of funds in his capacity as receiver by the committee of three judges appointed by the then CJI. Thereafter, on the recommendation of the CJI, the Rajya Sabha Chairman had appointed a probe panel in February 2009, which duly endorsed the charges against Justice Sen as proven. The case dragged on and finally in August 2011, the Rajya Sabha passed the removal motion by an overwhelming majority of 189 to 17. Before the motion could be undertaken by the Lok Sabha for vote, Justice Sen resigned from the post.

In the above perspective and background, the recent move of the Congress and other like-minded parties to move a notice of impeachment motion against the serving CJI was unprecedented and clearly politically motivated. The other notable contrast is that in the past any misconduct or misbehaviour of a judge was taken note either by the Bar Council of India or the CJI himself and the Parliament acted on the recommendations of the apex judiciary. In the case of the present CJI, a political party initiated the move, prima facie it appears, annoyed with not getting the desired verdict in a politically sensitive case. The scanty and frivolous charges framed against the CJI can at best be categorised as some lack of administrative acumen or foresight, even if proven true, and for sure don’t merit the extreme step of impeachment. The paradox is that a national party and its particular leader-cum-lawyer member put entire weight to ensure that the impeachment motion against a judge is defeated in a fit case of ‘proven misbehaviour’ in the past and now the same political party and leader-cum-lawyer tirelessly worked to impeach the CJI on frivolous grounds.

Earlier, disagreeing with the Chairman, Rajya Sabha decision to disallow the petition, the Congress senior leader Kapil Sibal had stated that they would certainly file a petition against it and would want the CJI to stay away from taking any decision with respect to it, be it listing or anything else. They argued that the CJI should recuse himself from allocating or hearing the writ petition and leave it to the next senior-most judge to deal with it. The next judge in the seniority line is Justice J. Chelameswar who along with three other colleagues had gone public in January 2017 against the working of CJI - the known grievance being the matter of allocation of cases in the latter’s capacity of the ‘Master of Roster’.

The two Congress MPs moved the Supreme Court on 7 May 2018 challenging the rejection of the impeachment notice against the CJI by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha. The petition claimed that the reasons cited in Rajya Sabha Chairman’s order were ‘wholly extraneous’ and legally not tenable. Sibal pressed the matter for urgent listing before a bench headed by Justice J. Chelameswar, next to CJI in seniority. Though Justice Chelameswar (in a bench with Justice SK Kaul) initially advised him to mention it before the CJI, he later told Sibal and Prashant Bhushan (activist and lawyer) to come back on the following day. However, the petition was heard by a constitutional bench on 8 May comprised of five senior most judges from a seniority number six to ten.

As Sibal wanted their petition to be heard by a particular judge, he raised technical issues including the copy of the order whereby the listing of the matter was scheduled before the larger constitutional bench. He contended that the composition of a constitutional bench can be made only through a judicial order, and not by an administrative order, and in the latter case, he would like to consider whether to challenge the validity of the order itself. Justice Sikri, the presiding judge of the bench, observed that the issue is considered of seminal importance and therefore merited hearing by a constitution bench. “It will lead us nowhere,” Justice Sikri said, while responding to Sibal’s plea to share the order setting up the bench, and asked him to argue on the merits of the petition. On this, unhappy Sibal expressed their contention of withdrawing the petition and the bench recorded its order of dismissal consequent to withdrawal.

Earlier, the move of Congress and other opposition parties to impeach the CJI had been described as ‘suicidal’, ‘unfortunate’ and ‘dangerous’ by many legal and judicial luminaries, including the former CJI TS Thakur. Some constitutional experts opined that the move to remove CJI smacked of political overtones rather than any actual instance of the ‘misbehaviour’ and ‘misuse’ of authority. In this context, the views expressed by Subhash C Kashyap are relevant and hardly need any validation. According to him, the CJI is the sole authority on roster in the present dispensation. Therefore, nothing can stop him from the allocation work; however, he may not allocate such a petition to a bench headed by him. As for the contention of Congress that such a writ petition should be left to the next senior-most judge, the argument has an inherent flaw as the views of the next four senior-most judges against the CJI are well known, hence their intervention too would tantamount to the conflict of interests. This clearly meant that a petition against the CJI could not be left to the next four senior judges to decide applying the same logic and rationale.

Actually, the lawyers are known to operate in the cracks and crevices of the law. Therefore, it was not surprising that Sibal was seen hell-bent on creating a crevice which didn’t actually exist. Had he succeeded in his illogical and nefarious design, it would have effectively benched the CJI for the most of his remaining tenure (less than 5 months) leaving the fate of several crucial cases including Ram Janmbhoomi - Babri Masjid case uncertain. Remarkably, only sometime back, Sibal had argued the postponement of this case till after the 2019 election – as part of a clever political agenda. The alleged impeachment case was clearly a politically motivated move with ‘an Agenda’, otherwise the parties and MPs that supported the motion knew very well that even if taken, it would have been defeated in the House of the Parliament.

Let’s remember that the Indian Constitution is based upon certain fundamental principles such as the rule of law, devolution of powers among different organs and principles of natural justice. The legislature, executive and judiciary are three different organs of democracy, and each with clearly defined authority and responsibility. Of these, the legislature and executive are prone to the political influence; hence are open too for any political attack and fallout. But the judiciary operates in the legal domain and should be free from any politics. Introducing politics in this organ would mean ‘hara-kiri’ for the Indian democracy because on date people still see some hope only in judiciary.

A politically motivated impeachment motion, particularly when its fate is known beforehand, is nothing but clearly a cunning move to derive political mileage by raising a controversy. Both the introduction of the motion in the Rajya Sabha and the subsequent challenge in the Supreme Court through a petition smacks of political overtures. The Supreme Court was under obligation to hear this petition. It was against the CJI and next four senior most judges had already made allegations against him; hence it was in all fairness that the top five judges, with their conflict of interests, stay away from the petition.

Being a seminal and unprecedented case, the constitutional bench comprising of the next five senior-most judges appears to be the most logical and fairest possible composition. Sibal’s contention that the CJI cannot constitute the bench is incorrect. The CJI is the master of roster, and he will naturally do it as long as it is done with a fair logic. If a party and his lawyer want to choose the bench, it is impossible irrespective of their manipulative power and antics. In fact, now raising the questions on the constitutional bench, the political party is politicising and compromising these judges too.

Parliamentary Disruptions

The Indian Constitution provides for three important organs i.e. the legislature to make laws, the executive (government) to implement laws and the judiciary to interpret and enforce these laws. While the independence of the judiciary is made paramount and exclusive, the other two organs viz. the legislature and government are interdependent as the latter is formed with the support and from among the majority of the elected members in the legislature. For the very reason, the government is collectively accountable to legislature (Parliament) for its actions. The Parliament (i.e. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) exercises this control on the government through various methods such as debates on issues and Bills on the floor of Parliament, asking questions from the ministers during the Question Hour, raising issues of public importance during the Zero Hour and through various parliamentary committees.

The above stated functions can be performed only if both the houses of Parliament function smoothly without interruption on the scheduled days and hours. Over the years, there has been a steady decline in the working of the Parliament so also in the expected output and outcome. As per PRS research data, the 1st and 2nd Lok Sabha sat for an average 600 days with over 3700 working hours. As against this, the 15th Lok Sabha sat only for 335 days and 1329 hours utilising only about 72% of the productive time and recorded as the most disrupted Lok Sabha. The decline in working days and hours would mean slowing down and reduction in the legislative business i.e. law making as also losing time on the scrutiny of the government functions.

When the 16th Lok Sabha was constituted in May 2014, the first Budget session in July-August recorded high productivity of over hundred per cent perhaps due to absolute majority of the new government, though it faced obstruction of business in the Rajya Sabha where it was in minority. But then in the following parliamentary sessions, irrespective of the strength of the treasury benches in the Lok Sabha, the smooth running of the legislative business in the Parliament increasingly became a distant dream with the opposition led by the Congress resorting to repeated disruptions rather indiscreetly and at a greater scale in both Houses of the Parliament. Since they didn’t have any major issues of policy failure or the corruption cases against the government, they became rather inventive and innovative making an elephant out of mole from every incident of some significance occurring here and there.

In an endeavour to oppose and embarrass their political rivals (the NDA government), the most unfortunate and regrettable part of the strategy of the opposition, particularly the Congress, has been their petty politics with utter insensitivity questioning even the veracity of operations impinging the national security, vital inter-governmental defence deals with unsubstantiated kickbacks, making common cause with the regional parties on selfish and divisive local issues, inciting minorities and dalits for violent behaviour to create unrest and law and order problems, questioning action and intention of the government in the context of Indian workers killed by the ISIS in Mosul, Iraq in 2014, and so on so forth.

With the continued utter confusion and pandemonium, the Parliament could hardly work for a few hours during the last Budget session February-April 2018 spreading in two phases. These sessions witnessed the record minimum use of the productive time of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Frequent disruptions have made the Question Hour to almost null and void in the Parliament, thereby spoiling an opportunity for the MPs to ask questions of vital public and national importance to hold ministers accountable for the functioning of their ministries. As per PRS research, during the last concluded Budget session as many as 250 crucial business hours was wasted. Of the available time, only about 1% (19 minutes) in the 16th Lok Sabha and 6% (2.5 hours) in the Rajya Sabha was utilized on the legislative business.

According to the provisional statement of work, the Lok Sabha functioned for 34 hours, lost a time of 127.7 hours in 29 sittings passing only 5 bills; similarly, the Rajya Sabha functioned for 44 hours, lost a time of 121 hours in 30 sittings passing just one bill. The Budget session was held in two parts, while the first half was little bit productive, the second half mostly remained non-functional as few regional parties MPs (TRS, YSR Congress, TDP and AIADMK) actively supported by the Congress blocked both the Houses from functioning. The no-confidence motions submitted by some of these parties and Congress further widened the fissure and logjam in the House.

Such a situation arises when the ideological differences mix with the personal vendetta and enmity of the political parties and their leaders. It is not surprising that leader of one national party called themselves Pandavas and declared the rival party as Kauravas engaged in a war of Mahabharata. All parties including the two major national parties namely the Congress and BJP are responsible for the constant erosion and decline of Parliament. The difference remains only in their approach. While the BJP did it in the previous Lok Sabha to embarass the Congress party and press the government to take action to fix responsibility in a number of high value scams like the Coalgate, 2G/3G Scam, Common Wealth Games scam, huge kickbacks in defence deals, the Congress is now doing the same at a greater scale for revenge often on petty and frivolous matters in the absence of real issues.

Recurring Attacks on Election Commission

The Election Commission of India is another Constitutional Body provided under Article 324 of the Constitution since January 1950. Earlier, the Election Commission was a single member body but vide the Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1989 a provision of multiple members was made. The Commission has remained a 3-member body ever since 1989 and their decisions are taken by a majority vote. The Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners draw salaries and allowances at par with those of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India and enjoy same immunity. The removal process too is same as in the case of judges of the Supreme Court on the grounds of proven misbehaviour or incapacity.

Of late, the Election commission too is under constant attack from the Congress and other opposition parties with the criticism and charges of bias and favourism. Ever since the NDA government led by Mr Narendra Modi came in power in May 2014, the Congress and other opposition parties have had a series of pole debacles in various state assembly and local bodies elections, largely on account of the popularity and charismatic personality of the prime minister. On their part, the political parties, instead of facing the truth and carrying out introspection, find it convenient to pass the blame on the Election Commission for every pole debacle.

The stated criticism and allegations are mainly on two counts. First, opposition parties and more particularly Congress habitually lodge complaints with the Commission against the BJP and its leaders, and if a favourable order is not received, they outrightly blame the Commission for bias and favouritism. The other issue relates to the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which the Congress led opposition alleges are being tampered with and wriggled in favour of BJP, the ruling political party at the Centre.

In 2017, Assembly Elections were held in February – March in five states namely Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The Elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh were virtually swept by the Congress and BJP, respectively. For the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the loss in Punjab was a major setback, so in their ultimate analysis they blamed the Election Commission and BJP for manipulating EVMs to ensure their defeat. In Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), one of the aspirants with high stake, faced a complete wash out and they too promptly blamed wriggling through EVMs as their major cause of defeat. Needless to mention, that the fuel to the fire was added by the Congress joining hands with parties crying wolf and passing buck on the Commission.

During August 2017, Gujarat was a scene for the most bitterly fought Rajya Sabha elections, in which Ahmad Patel, the political secretary of the then Congress President Sonia Gandhi, was one of the contestant. Fearing a coup and defection, the party took away all its MLAs to Karnataka, kept them in captivity only to return on the eve of polling for the Rajya Sabha in the state. It was a spine-chilling contest with claims and counter-claims, allegations and counter-allegations putting the Election Commission in a delicate situation with tightrope walking. It was the last-minute decision of the Election Commission to hold two votes in favour of the BJP candidate as invalid on technical grounds that saved the day for the Congress and its candidate Ahmad Patel. Then again during the Assembly Election in Gujarat in December 2017, the Congress constantly put the Commission on trial and tenterhooks on account of the use of EVMs and handling of election related complaints.

The Election Commission had introduced EVMs in 2000 and ever since all major elections have been held electronically. The EVMs are supplied by two public sector enterprises namely the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). The components of the machines are sourced from Japan and USA and the Commission has high faith and stake about in EVMs, claiming it utmost reliable and tamperproof. After losing Punjab Elections, the AAP had gone tooth and nails against the use of EVMs in MCD elections of April 2017 in Delhi. Despite their objection, the electronic voting was held and AAP lost miserably to their main rival BJP. Thereafter, the Congress vehemently opposed the use of EVMs in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh too, pleading restoration of the old practice of paper ballots.

Earlier in May 2017, the AAP organized a demonstration in the Delhi Assembly to show that the EVMs could be easily tampered with to produce vote-counts contrary to how the electorate may have actually cast its votes. Several Congress leaders publicly criticised the use of EVMs and its possible tampering in favour of the ruling party. On one occasion, even a high level delegation of the Congress party comprising of senior leaders met the Chief Election Commissioner pressing a demand to scrap the use of EVMs. Recently, the Congress party has adopted a political resolution during the party’s plenary in March 2018 too insisting the use of paper ballot voting for ensuring free and fair elections to retain people’s faith in the integrity of the electoral system.

Following the last year’s complaints and squabbles, the Election Commission had invited all political parties and critics of EVMs to come on 3rd June 2017, and crack its EVMs to prove their contention. Simultaneously, they reiterated that the EVMs are not hackable as these are stand-alone machines and not connected to internet and/or any other network. However, none of the political parties including the Congress and AAP turned up to accept the challenge, only a few parties agreed to send their representatives as observers of the process. This too clearly indicates that the political parties are not serious about the issue, instead they are simply looking for the excuses of their own failure and, in the process, undermining the position of the constitutional body.

Even more painful and deplorable part is that the criticism of the Election Commission by the opposition parties has not been merely restricted to the issue of EVMS, on many occasions the politicians have crossed all norms of decency and courtesy while dealing with this Constitutional body. For instance, during the Gujarat Assembly elections when the Commission issued a notice to the Congress president-elect for violating the model code of conduct by giving interview to TV channels after campaigning for the final round of polling in the state, the party accused the Commission of behaving like “puppet and frontal organization of the BJP”. One spokesman of Congress went to the extent of saying, “Mukhya Chunav Aayukt jo PS to Modi ji ki terah kaam kar rahe hain. Ye chunav aayog ke liye sharm ki baat hai” (The CEC who is working like the PS to Modi ji. This is shameful for the Election Commission). The Congress leaders used terms like “naked prejudice”, “double standards”, “complicity with the ruling party” and “failure to act against the prime minister and BJP leaders” against the Commission. These are only few illustrations, in fact, the Commission has received similar raw deal in every election which the opposition has fought and lost recently.

Be it the paper ballot or EVM, depending upon his (or her) preference, anyone can argue so many pros and cons but the fact is the use of technology is the present and futuristic order, hence it must be accepted and welcomed by all. It undoubtedly makes the process easy, smooth and prompt among many other advantages. Now the Congress and other opposition parties are pressing for the paper ballot voting which in itself had many inherent defects. In fact, apart from being very slow and cumbersome demanding the deployment of huge manpower and other resources, there have been umpteen reports (and unreported instances) of the booth capturing and mass proxy voting through paper ballots in various parts of the country in the past.

Therefore, the need of the time is that the parties and politicians learn to have faith and confidence in the Constitutional bodies and their impartial working rather than undermining their position by levying frivolous and untenable allegations to cover their own weaknesses and rejection by the electorate. Even more unfortunate is that the political leaders are unable to make distinction between their political rivals and constitutional institutions and frequently cross the delicate line of dignity and decorum while dealing with the latter in own selfish interests.

Castigating CAG

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is yet another constitutional authority, established under Article 148 of the Constitution, which is responsible for auditing all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments, including those of bodies and authorities substantially financed by the government. He is also the statutory auditor of the Government-owned corporations and companies, i.e. any non-banking/ non-insurance company with equity share of the Indian government of at least 51 per cent. Article 148-151 of the Constitution provide for various provisions, norms and functions for the CAG who enjoys the same status and immunity as a judge of the Supreme Court of India.

The institution of the CAG invited tremendous flak and criticism from the Congress and its leaders ever since it published its audit reports on the 2G Spectrum allocation and Coal Mines allocation (or Coalgate) during the latter part of the previous Congress led UPA regime. The 2G Spectrum case was an alleged scam by the politicians and government officials accused of undercharging mobile telephone companies for the frequency allocation licenses, while the Coalgate was another major political scam relating to the Indian government's allocation of the nation's coal deposits to the public sector enterprises (PSEs) and private companies. The losses estimated by the CAG to the government exchequer were of the order of Rs 1.76 trillion in the spectrum allocation and Rs 1.86 trillion in the allocation of coal fields for mining by the public and private companies.

The methodology of the computation of the alleged losses was questioned by some independent entities too apart from the officials and politicians of the then Congress government. The Supreme Court had intervened in both the cases on public interest litigations, ruled the allocations of spectrum and coal as “unconstitutional and arbitrary” thereby cancelled by the apex court and CBI was roped in to investigate and fix responsibilities in both the cases. Recently, the CBI Court, though ruled in case of the spectrum scam that some people created a scam by artfully arranging a few selected facts and exaggerating things beyond recognition to astronomical levels, but exonerated all accused in December 2017 declaring that no sustainable evidence to prosecute the accused persons existed.

In the case of coal block allocation and alleged notional loss, the CAG’s take was that the Government had the authority to allocate coal blocks by a process of competitive bidding, but chose not to do it. Later Supreme Court decided to cancel 214 out of 218 coal blocks allocated since 1993 besides imposing penalty on the operational mines. Even the recent court verdict of setting free all accused in the spectrum allocation case only suggest that the investigating agency didn’t do its job properly, it didn’t deny occurrence of the scam. As soon as the report of the CAG was out, one spokesperson of the Congress lashed out at the CAG, accusing them of “adding zeros” to sensationalise and vitiate the environment. Another leader of the Congress made allegations that the CAG has failed to maintain the “fine balance” and transgressed its constitutional mandate intervening in the domain of policy-making.

Here the issue is not simply adding zeros and sensationalising the matter. The CAG had submitted its findings in both cases in due discharge of its constitutional and statutory role. Apart from the notional losses in terms of numbers, it had clearly established that the whole process of the allocation of the spectrum and coal mines was riddled by the arbitrariness and lack of transparency, which permitted 'sweetheart deals' with the private players. Therefore, even if one ignores the headline number for the alleged loss of revenue to the exchequer, the CAG’s observations in respect of the flawed processes, that emboldened unscrupulous politicians and officials to take arbitrary decisions passing undue benefits to the private parties, needed due cognizance and consideration by the very government which chose to castigate and discredit the statutory auditor.

Is There A Way Ahead?

It is not merely a case of raising doubts and questioning the integrity, independence and neutrality of the aforesaid constitutional bodies and institutions, of late the opposition parties and more particularly the Congress is increasingly resorting to a habit of interfering and putting pressure on virtually every institution of the some national significance. The role and functions of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a statutory organization, is so often put under scanner and question mark. Recently on some occasions, the role and modus operandi of the Indian army and Army Chief has also been questioned by the Congress and left parties and politicians. It is okay for a political party to attack the rival party and its leader(s) on policies and principle but extending their anger and frustration to undermine and compromise the independence and neutrality of the constitutional and statutory institutions is unfair and unjust by all means.

For bigger question is about maintaining the institutional balance. Recent years have seen the Congress and other left parties to cross swords with the Supreme Court, Election Commission, CAG and others, often violating the fine line of the dignity and decorum. The present government too is seen in conflict with these institutions at times but fortunately they are not known to cross the Lakshman-rekha. The recent instances of the Congress to undermine the apex judiciary by initiating a politically motivated motion for the impeachment of the CJI, accusing the CAG for sensationalising the audit reports, constant disruption of the functioning of the both Houses of the Parliament and repeated attacks on the Election Commission are indeed a cause of great concern for the Indian democracy.

Let’s not forget that the Judiciary, Election Commission, CAG, RBI and such other constitutional and statutory bodies were created to discharge their assigned role and functions independent of the executive wing of the government irrespective of any party or ideology. Persons of known merit and integrity are selected to run these institutions. They may be appointed by a particular government or they may have some preferential thoughts, but once appointed to these constitutional posts they have a great degree of independence and immunity from removal besides a fixed tenures. So for them, there is no need to fear the government/opposition or become political stooges; and a majority of them indeed work diligently without any prejudice or favour. Those who nurture institutions all fairness and integrity are fondly remembered and those doing the opposite are scorned, and presumably those heading constitutional bodies know these facts very well.

Those at the helm of the constitutional posts have a unique opportunity and chance to serve the nation without any fear or favour. In fact, a majority of them are indeed performing their responsibilities and duties without any prejudice or favour to any party or government; numerous instances could be quoted vindicating this averment. The Congress and such other parties must carry out honest introspection to judge why the electorate in various parts is increasingly getting disillusioned and drifting away, rather than blaming EVMs or conveniently passing the buck on the constitutional authotities and institutions. Also they must stop disrupting the Parliament and start contributing like a healthy and responsible opposition before it is too late. In a parliamentary democracy, the electorate (the people of India) is bound to see truth and take cognizance of successes and failures of their current and prospective representatives, sooner or later, and reward or punish them accordingly at the opportune time.


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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