POLITICIANS CLEAR ORDINANCE TO SHIELD TAINTED OF THEIR LOT: WHY DEMOCRACY IN INDIA IS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF DISINTEGRATION?

September 2013

July this year, in two landmark judgments, the Supreme Court had ruled that jailed persons could not contest elections and a convicted politician was to be immediately disqualified. It sent shockwaves in the political fraternity, for future of many politicians, many big names including existing members of legislative bodies, was in imminent danger. But they had a clear ray of hope, a certain way out of the abyss, in their political brethrens.

In August, the Rajya Sabha, the upper House of the Indian Parliament, unanimously passed a proposed amendment in the Representation of the People Act 1951 (RP) to negate a landmark Supreme Court order that could have brought fundamental (and desperately required) improvements in the conduct of the political class. But, somehow, the amendment act could not be passed in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament due to the sustained ‘political’ pandemonium, over this or that issue.

It had to come down to the Lok Sabha. It was supposed to be discussed by the enlightened wisdom of the political parties on the floor of the Lok Sabha. That was, once again, supposed to be a decorative sham, as it was their collective wisdom only that had it passed unanimously in the Rajya Sabha. Even the political furor over the ordinance route now is nothing more than a sham. Had it not been the case, the amendment bill could not have passed the Rajya Sabha hurdle.

The Winter Session of the Parliament (coming November-December) was supposed to be the time for the final execution in this episode of subversion of democratic values in India’s democratic evolution.

But, suddenly, within three weeks of the Monsoon session of the Parliament, the Congress led UPA government yesterday cleared an ordinance to shield the convicted of the political lot.

And it should not be surprising at all. What is surprising is it could not be passed in the Monsoon Session after all the political bonhomie. After all, all politicians are similar under the skin they had shown once again by ensuring the unanimous passage of the amendment act in the Rajya Sabha.

But its timing worries like most of the acts of the Indian political theatre. It is ominous for the democratic spirit of the country. The ‘fact’, that it was not unexpected or it is not surprising, makes its even more menacing.

Reports say the decision in a Fodder Scam case where Lalu Yadav is an accused is just one week away. Only last week, a court convicted Congress Rajya Sabha MP Rashid Masood in a corruption and sentencing is due.

Whether reasons like these played any role pushing the UPA government to bring an ordinance so early may be debatable but the intent is always clear – it was to undermine the guiding spirit of the Indian Constitution envisioned by its framers.

And if it is timed to work for reasons as reported, it shows how irresponsible the existing political class has become to the democratic values.

This frequent audacity, the recurrent brazenness of the political class to change or co-opt anything that is coming in its way is threatening the democratic structure of social weaving in the country.

The practice was always there but it has grown at a deafening pace in recent times. The ordinance to shield the convicted politicians is just yet another democratic casualty.

*“Why India is in imminent danger of disintegration?’ is a regular column on my blogging platforms to take a periodic look (say a weekly or a fortnightly or a monthly round-up of events depending on the factors in play) on political developments that are dangerous to the democratic health of the country and contribute to the process of social disintegration of the nation..”
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/why-democracy-in-india-is-in-imminent-danger-of-disintegration/

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE (AMENDMENT AND VALIDATION) BILL, 2013: WHY DEMOCRACY IN INDIA IS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF DISINTEGRATION?

The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013: Rajya Sabha, the upper House of the Indian Parliament, on August 27, unanimously passed a proposed amendment in the Representation of the People Act 1951 (RP) to negate a landmark Supreme Court order that could have brought fundamental (and desperately required) improvements in the conduct of the political class.

The Supreme Court decision united the whole political class in an unholy alliance to thwart the reform measure as they viewed it as something affecting the political career of many of their types, scores of the tainted politicians of the day.

Now, once approved from the Lok Sabha, the amended RP Act will be effective from July 10, 2013 and will negate the Supreme Court order passed on July 10, 2013 that said the people lodged in jails and convicted politicians could not contest elections. The Supreme Court, as per the RP Act, very logically had ruled that those who could not vote because of being in jails could not contest the polls either.

Let’s see what the sub-section (2) of the section (62) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 states:

62. Right to Vote. (2)No person shall vote at an election in any constituency if he is subject to any of the disqualifications referred to in section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950). (From the Law Ministry website)

Section 16 of the Representation of the People Act 1950: (From the website of the PRS Legislative Research)

16. Disqualifications for registration in an electoral roll — (1) A person shall be disqualified for registration in an electoral roll if he—
(a) is not a citizen of India; or
(b) is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court; or
(c) is for the time being disqualified from voting under the provisions of any law relating to corrupt* * *practices and other offences in connection with elections

(2) The name of any person who becomes so disqualified after registration shall forthwith be struck off the electoral roll in which it is included:

[Provided that the name of any person struck off the electoral roll of a constituency by reason of a disqualification under clause (c) of sub-section (1) shall forthwith be re-instated in that roll if such disqualification is, during the period such roll is in force, removed under any law authorising such removal.]

With an ever increasing number of corrupt and criminal elements in Indian politics the authoritarian mentality in politicians saw it big threat coming, and in their usual style, amended the concerned section of the RP Act (sub-section (2) of section 62) on which the Supreme Court had based its decision. They did so even while they had already filed review petition in the apex court to review the decision.

The proposed amendment seeks to ‘subvert’ the provision of this section that disqualifies those in jails based on certain categories of unlawful behavior.

According to a Time of India report, “The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013, which was passed by the House, seeks to add a proviso to sub-section (2) of section 62 of the RP Act to state that a person cannot cease to be a voter while in detention as h/his right is only temporarily suspended.”

It further said: “One of the amendments states that as the name of the jailed person continues to be on the electoral rolls, s/he also continues to be an elector and can file nomination for an election.”

Though, today, the Supreme Court rejected the review petition to review its decision on convicted politicians (while accepting the same for politicians lodged in jails), it cannot be the said the political authoritarianism would not act to subvert it further.

Now, once the amendment is approved (some Constitutional or legal expert can tell it better, but if we go by the possibility), anyone (read politicians or their affiliates) in jail would be able to contest elections, the way they have been doing, making mockery of the Constitution, manipulating the democracy and humiliating the primary stakeholders of this Republic, the voters.

What is worrying is the frequent audacity, the recurrent brazenness of the political class to change or co-opt anything that is coming in its way. The practice was always there but it has grown at a deafening pace in recent times. The Representation of the People Act is just yet another democratic casualty while our politicians enjoy a highly subsidized lifestyle.

Their opulence humiliates the poverty of India.

Such moves are effectively blocking the possibilities to reform the Indian democracy.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

*“Why India is in imminent danger of disintegration?’ is a regular column on my blogging platforms to take a periodic look (say a weekly or a fortnightly or a monthly round-up of events depending on the factors in play) on political developments that are dangerous to the democratic health of the country and contribute to the process of social disintegration of the nation..”
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/why-democracy-in-india-is-in-imminent-danger-of-disintegration/