These are very interesting times in Indian democracy. With social media also contributing to the fifth estate of the democracy, we see a lot of churning in the democratic process. The growth of social media has also chipped in with truth, the iron curtain of invincibility of mainstream media also is getting blown. No wonder we have trolls of many hitherto celebrity journalists and invincibly prominent and infallible media channels biting the dust.
The obvious fallout is also that there is an absolute lack of trust inter se between different pillars of the democracy. But what is most important is that the trust deficit between three fundamental pillars namely, the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary cannot exist for far too long else the concomitants could be disastrous. A cursory perusal of the media and social media these days are reflexive of such an intense distrust between the ruling dispensation and the opposition, the ruling party and state governments which has a different political dispensation at the state, head of state and head of government in state governments not one but in many, the citizens at large are at loss as to whom to trust.
1991 saw the political stability in the centre coming back to some extent although mandate was still not overwhelming in support of a single party. The leader had the guile to manage it.
What could be the reason and what all could be a succour to these? I am not going the reinvent the wheel of what has been stated obviously from Constitutional provisions, judicial precedents oft-quoted, ratios and all that. These do exist as matters of record but these have done nothing to resolve the problem. On the contrary, matter getting to be arraigned before the higher judiciary is very often referred to by one party or the other. The end result in recent years, is judiciary had made unpleasant remarks on another Constitutional arm of the state or taking over the distributorship of medical supplies. The time of our Honorable judges is too precious to be applied to such mundane trade activities. The prestige of Honorable Judges is too precious and important to be safeguarded not only in the eyes of citizens but also in the international community. In a lighter vein with due respect to Honorable Judges and the institution of Judiciary as a whole, I would say they should be dispensing with justice, not oxygen cylinders.
What is the remedy? There is a need for a trust-building mechanism. It is too short-sighted to call these three pillars namely Legislative, Executive and Judiciary mere pillars of democracy. In the modern-day, they are important partners in managing the state. The entire orientation should be of a partnership between the three at both the Union of India level and state level. We have some successful examples in this regard in the past.
Let me take the readers to the time when there was absolute distrust between the “so-called desk thumping majority” and the divided opposition during the 1980s. In many cases, even important items on the agenda like demands for a grant for several ministries were passed without discussion or what they called guillotined in parliamentary language. There was regular name-calling of each other on most days both the houses were adjourned. This was followed by the year 1990-1991 which was a period of political uncertainty in the Centre and economic turmoil in the nation.
1991 saw the political stability in the Centre coming back to some extent although mandate was still not overwhelming in support of the single party. The leader had the guile to manage it. Here the man I have most criticized as Home Minister had really covered himself with glory. Mr Shivraj Patil was the Honorable Speaker of Lok Sabha. He did show his mettle. He introduced the concept of Standing Committees for examining the respective demands of the grant of every Ministry as well their respective performance review. Let me remind the readers that in the period of Congress Government at the Centre, the number 1 family had very little say and Later P V Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. Hence being under no pressure and orders and allowed to do his job independently he did introduce this path-breaking concept to ensure there is proper oversight in the real sense of parliament over the executive.
Again after 1996, there was instability in governance at the Centre due to fractured mandate we had a stable government in 2000 onwards. During this period I had the opportunity to serve in Parliament Secretariat. An erudite parliamentarian and Member of Lok Sabha of this period who was Chairman of fee committees did take the path-breaking initiative of department-related Standing Committees to further innovate so that the distrust and rancour between the Executive and Legislature are further address. The tendency of the executive to not accept failures, defend their actions, commissions and omissions and also be forthwith in seeking the legislature in strengthening their hands in governance. A new partnership concept had evolved. An article has been written and contributed by Dr (Late) B B Ramiah (Eluru Constituency) capturing his experiences both in diagnosing the problem and bringing the two together is available in a commemorative volume brought out by Lok Sabha Secretariat in 2002 on the 50th Anniversary of Lok Sabha. People may refer to that.
This experiment also made a lot of mechanisms being given lifelike meaningful examination of Subordinate Legislations by the relevant committees of both houses of Parliament, increasing the effectiveness of Committee on papers laid on the table in both houses of Parliament. The executive also was not shy of sharing information and their concerns with such limited Parliament committee as such. Besides, since by the Directions of Speaker or Directions of Chairman (For RS) any sharing of the proceedings with media is barred, a great burden is taken off from the back of executive and they are more forthright and candid in sharing the real perspective.
In so far as the Executive and Judiciary relationship is concerned except matters arraigned before the Judiciary or on advisory jurisdiction the Supreme Court or other courts do not have an institutional mechanism of receiving information about a significant event in the nation, government initiatives, challenges before the nation. The matters get arraigned before the Judiciary after a counter-action to resolve the problem or challenge is initiated by the government that to in an adversarial petition. With the burden of pendency also on their back with little time to really go deeper into the issue at times, the judiciary does have to admit many such cases even without seeking the government perspective.
There may be lawyer friends who can counter saying there is a provision of caveat. This provision is embedded with issues of locus standi of the caveat filer and the attendant reliefs are limited. Further, the state cannot be filing caveat on every policy decision of executive decision. Hence an institutional mechanism needs to devised. There must be some mechanism of suo moto sharing of very vital significant and sensitive information between Executive and Judiciary on a periodic basis. Maybe a threat from a neighbouring country manifesting itself as shortages in essential commodities or a protest or trouble being triggered. Or maybe a pandemic to destroy or disrupt the fabric of India.
Our Honorable Judges are too professionals and nationalists and they are entitled to the trust of the executive. I have full faith in them that they won’t get carried out by this advanced information. But they will be familiarized with the challenges of National security or economic or other interests well in advance and will be able to decide the cases especially those which have bearing on India’s national interests like deportation of Rohingyas etc.
The Supreme Court or the High Court in states surely can set up a repositories section under Assistant Registrar. Internal institutional mechanism of familiarizing the Honorable Judges by the circulation of internal digest of significant events, etc., periodically shall be left exclusively to the judges.
I earnestly trust that this partnership approach will enhance the quality of governance in the country and also reinforce the values of democracy with each pillar discharging its domain in a seamless way and there will be great synergy between the three arms of the state.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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