Abdicating governance

Excerpts from Sitaram Yechury ,a CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal. Source:HT

Parliament continues to remain paralysed as the UPA 2 government seems to have decided it will remain brazen about acts of omission and commission that keep tumbling out of its cupboard rapidly. The demand for the resignation of the railway minister, which follows the arrest of his nephew for accepting bribes in return for postings, has been rejected on the grounds that investigations are still on. How can an investigation proceed properly if the railway minister himself presides over the ministry? Even if the minister is given the benefit of doubt, any investigation has to be publicly perceived as being unbiased. Such public trust is undermined by the Congress’ brazenness.

On April 13, a three judge bench of the apex court made scathing remarks against the government and the CBI. It said that the agency had “said before this very court in unequivocal terms that this investigation would be independent”. The AG had himself earlier told the court that the CBI report was not seen by the government. The apex court is about to start hearing this PIL. The government and the agency are likely to be rapped on their knuckles for not abiding by the court’s prescriptions pertaining to the CBI investigation. Resignations may then follow.

This, however, totally distorts our constitutional scheme of things, especially issues like the separation of powers among the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, as also the exercise of the Constitution’s centrality where supreme sovereignty lies with the people. “We the people” exercise this sovereignty through our elected representatives, those who are accountable to them and to whom the executive is in turn accountable to. This chain of accountability is now being grievously distorted. When parliamentary functioning is paralysed, its mandate to make the executive accountable essentially fails. This in turn distorts Parliament’s accountability to the people, thus undermining our Constitution’s foundations.

The current parliamentary impasse raises a fundamental question – how do the very organs of power, vested to implement the Constitution, go on to then subvert it themselves? When Parliament cedes its ground and when the executive abdicates its responsibility, then blaming the judiciary for ‘activism’ is futile.

There is a serious issue at stake here. The executive and the legislature are given responsibility under the Constitution to manage public affairs and in the final analysis, to be accountable to the people. Accountability, in fact, differentiates democracy from other systems of governance. It is precisely the abdication of such accountability that we are seeing now.

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