Saturday, April 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Who will protect the Constitution?

RECENTLY the happenings in both Houses of Indian Parliament were highly agonising and shameful for the country. On petty matters the Opposition raised a hue and cry and blocked the proceedings. All this is shown to the people on television. The people in general are disgusted and unhappy with the behaviour of their representatives. If somehow or the others referendum were held throughout the country to know whether the people would like the representatives to continue, my firm belief is that a vast majority would like these representatives to be removed.

These representatives should understand that India is not a rich country. The common man pays taxes through his nose. Every minute of Parliament session costs the exchequer Rs 7,000, that is Rs 4.20 lakh per hour. I am at a loss to understand why their conscience does not prick at the criminal waste of public money. They must realise that their behaviour has made the Indian democracy a road-side “tamasha”. Democracy is very sacred. It has to be ennobled by the acts parliamentarians who must follow the highest principles of ethics.

  Members of the Opposition do not allow the treasury benches to speak and present their viewpoints. They rush to the well of the House and cause mayhem. Rule number 349 clearly states that no member shall interrupt any member while speaking by disorderly expression or noises.

How to stem this rot and restore the dignity? It is the duty of the Speaker to be firm and maintain decorum and decency. The adjournment of the House by the Speaker or by the Chairman for half a day or the whole day is no remedy. It seems that the Speaker and the Chairman today are too “gentle and mild” to be able to uphold the high traditions of the House. But then there is the Constitution itself. The President of India is the final custodian of the Constitution. He has got to be active and alert. Mere expression of platitudes and sentiments will not bring any change for the better. The President is non-partisan, he must send directives to the Speaker and the Chairman to do their job firmly and stop the parliamentarians from doing anything which brings down the prestige of the House. Even if by doing so the President finds that the things have not improved, he should dissolve Parliament.

Further, the habitual offenders should be duly booked and legal proceedings should be started against them.

My suggestion may seem unworkable. But I would like to remind cynics that before the coming of Mr Seshan as Chief Election Commissioner the conduct of elections in all the states of India was not as fair as it is today. He gave teeth to the Election Commission, which today is a formidable organisation. His predecessors believed in the policy of “Chalta Hai”. I make bold to say that if all the political parties agreed to bring in somebody like Seshan as the President of India, in no time there will be a sea change in the conduct of the proceedings of the Houses. My contention is that the President must be active and ruthless in eradicating the evils that have made Indian democracy a roadside “tamasha”.


Criminal neglect

The tragic death of several persons in Daltonganj (Bihar) during a religious procession is not an isolated incident. In many parts of the country incidents have taken place. Thousands of innocent persons die every year in road accidents, at unmanned railway crossings and due to falling in uncovered manholes.

Hundreds of innocent persons are killed every day due to the sheer carelessness of reckless/drunken drivers. Many of these accidents occur due to overspeeding and the plying of unfit vehicles. The government has done pretty little to ensure that the violators of the traffic laws are suitably booked. There is immediate need to amend Section 304-A of the IPC to ensure that there should be a provision that such foolhardy drivers are awarded 10 year of imprisonment. The officials who are responsible for maintaining the transmission system and those responsible for covering the manholes should also be booked under the same section of the IPC in the event of the death of an innocent. Such remedial measures would reduce such avoidable killings.


Double speak

Excellently worded and masterly delivered speech by President Clinton during his short sojourn here defies correct evaluation of certain utterances. When he spoke of “no violence” did he mean both countries should eschew it? When he observed there is no military solution to Kashmir problem, did it mean a “disguised plebiscite” since negotiated settlement of the problem has not been possible all these 50 years? While advocating respect for LoC did he conceive it as a line of demarcation?



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