Mar 03, 2024
Mar 03, 2024
The President of India, The Supreme Court and The Election Commission of India are constitutional entities besides some others that are provided for in the Indian Constitution in the system of 'checks and balances'. These constitutional entities were designed to guard against the prospects of any irresponsible government of the day or an irresponsible polity hijacking the Parliament to subvert the Indian Constitution for narrow political partisan ends or indulging in constitutional improprieties.
The current controversy being sought to be created on the return of the Office of Profit Bill by the President of India is a case in point which highlights the imperatives of having constitutional checks and balances in place. This Bill was hurriedly got passed by the Congress Government under active pressure and support by the Indian Communist parties which form the mainstay of the present Government. The Congress Party was under pressure to protect its President, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi position for holding the office of Chairperson, National Advisory Council, which in any case is not provided for in the Constitution. There were other Congress Members of Parliament (MPs) who also stood the risk of being disqualified for holding Offices of Profit while being MPs. Mrs. Gandhi resigned from Parliament and sought re-election but now again stands in danger of disqualification if the retrospective condonation included in the Bill is struck down.
The President of India returned the Bill sent for his approval on the grounds that this Bill had a number of infirmities which need to be re-examined by the Parliament. The main observations are said to centre on that any bill should not cater for retrospective condonation of disqualification and that such a bill should cater for laying down comprehensive guidelines for determination of offices of profit held by MPS and those of legislatures. As the editorial in The Tribune (June 1) states: 'Moreover, there was no delineation of the criteria for granting exemptions in various cases .Only the favorites were sought to be exempted in a grossly partisan manner. The President has now faulted it exactly on those counts' The current Bill sought to add a large number of Offices of Profit to cover the prospective disqualifications of Congress Party and Communist Parties MPs including the Lok Sabha Speaker who is a Communist Party MP. With the return of the Bill, the sword of Damocles once again hangs on the petitions for disqualification of MPs pending with the Election Commission.
In marked comparison of the Congress whose reactions have been restrained, the Communist Parties have launched a virtual onslaught on the Constitutional entities stated above. The reaction from the Communist Parties is sharp as the maximum number of MPs who stand to be disqualified on this account belong to them. If 14-18 Communist Parties MPs are disqualified , it would make a serious dent in the Communists current stranglehold over the Congress Government. It would also entail a serious loss of political face for the Communists.
The Communist Parties are therefore pressing that the Bill should be speedily returned to the President in its current form, without any amendments as the President constitutionally would then be obliged to give his assent despite his reservations . Implicit in this is the harsh reality that should the Bill be held up for re-examination by the Parliament, the Election Commission will have no option but to process the pending petitions for disqualification and the Communist Parties will have to bear the maximum toll. That is not all, even if the Bill is returned amended to the President and his assent is taken, the Bill has to stand judicial scrutiny by The Supreme Court, if challenged, which the main Opposition party would in any case do.
Faced with such prospects, the Communist Parties are in an onslaught mode on the Constitutional entities which stand in their way. While the President has not been directly attacked, criticism is implicit in statements by some Communist leaders that it is only the Parliament that can decide such matters. In other words the President of India has no powers to intervene.
The Election Commission of India, a body reputed worldwide for its impartial role in conducting fair and free elections in the world's largest democracy, is the special target of attack. It first started with the Election Commission' revision of bogus electoral rolls for West Bengal elections. It extended to pressurizing the Government not to give extension to K J Rao so that he was removed from the election scene. Their present onslaught against the Election Commission is aimed at deterring the Election Commission to process the disqualification petitions against the Communist Party MPs till such time that they can prevail over the Congress Party to return the Bill without any amendments to the President and thereby ensure that their MPs continuance in Parliament is protected retrospectively.
The Supreme Court constantly is under criticism by Communist Party leaders on one pretext or the other. Their senior leaders have been virtually promoting a confrontation with the supreme judiciary on grounds that Parliament is not judiciable.
The Communist Parties, while indulging in these onslaughts on India's Constitutional entities, seem to forget that India is not a Communist State where the Communist Party Politburo is the supreme body with no one to question its dictatorship. India is a democracy functioning under the Indian Constitution which in the wisdom of its founding fathers saw fit to incorporate a system of 'checks and balances' in the form of various Constitutional entities to safeguard the Constitution. By indulging in verbal onslaughts on these Constitutional entities, the Communist Parties are betraying that their attitudes to the Constitution may be otherwise.
The Communist Parties, mistakenly believe that they are an All-India political force, forgetting that their political power in India is only confined to West Bengal and Kerala. Even in the Indian Parliament their strength is just 61 out of 500 plus seats. They stand emboldened courtesy the Congress Party which has allowed them to determine their external and domestic policies without any political accountability by not joining the Congress Government but providing only outside support. This allows the Communist Parties to rule India by proxy without any basis, except the survival instinct of the Congress Party.
More by : Dr. Subhash Kapila