Chandigarh, 27 : For the success of anything, three things are required. Firstly; we need an excellent system. Secondly; there must be some outstanding individual to man that system and thirdly; there should be perfect environment in which that system is to be implemented. Let us analyze the success of the Indian democratic system on the basis of this formula.
The Constitution has provided for the three organs of the government- legislature, executive and judiciary. The main task assigned to the legislature is to enact the laws. Executive does implement the laws. Judiciary interprets the laws including Constitution.
The parliamentary form of democracy is to be run by the representative of the people. The people elect their representative for five years and they continue to govern them for that period. They again come to the people and seek a fresh mandate from the people. This system reflects and confirms the age-old saying of Abraham Lincoln that “it is the government of the people by the people and for the people”. In the parliamentary form of democracy, people are governed by legislatures through the enactment of laws. Jeremy Bentham says that the legislators are best educated in the society and its problem therefore laws should come only from the parliament. In India, we follow the system of parliamentary form of government. How far the legislators know the people, society and their problems? Even if they know the problems, how much attention legislators do pay to them? If the legislators want to govern its people directly, they have to spent lot of time in the parliamentary debate and discussion. We are aware that how long the parliamentary sessions and qualitative discussions do take place on the issues related to the people. It has two aspects. Firstly, the parliament meets only for around hundred days in a year, so that the members can go back to their areas to meet the people from where they have to seek re-election. The State legislatures do meet only for around thirty-five days in a year for the same reasons. Secondly, the democracy depends upon the organization, ideology and functioning of the political parties. The experience in India shows that political parties have not come up good. Most of the political parties are still organized around the particular ‘family’ and cling to their leadership without any ideology of national interest. Rest of the parties even if they are organized with the support of people their functioning is not democratic and as such they are being run like private club membership and not as organizations of the national trust which are responsible for the functioning of most of the public institutions. The mushroom growth of the regional parties has taken place, which has landed the national polity into the coalition governments. Because of this, the main philosophy of the modern day legislature is not to make best of the laws to the people and society. The main mantra is to become a boss in his own political party and then seek re-election; win it and reach the parliament. The process continues until he completes his life or so rejected by the people. The election process is costly enough. It needs stockpile of wealth to contest and win election. The governance has been reduced from service to profiteering. Here politics breeds corruption and not the ideology. As many in India, including the chief election commissioner S.Y. Qureshi believes that the elections are the gangotri of corruption. If we take all these factors into consideration the obvious conclusion would be that, the parliamentary form of democracy has not able to produce the desired results. There is another dimension added to this state of affairs. The parliament has been deprived off its basic functions – to amend the Constitution, after the judgment of Supreme Court in Keshvanand Bharti’s case.
The main function of the government is to formulate the policy for the country. The executive is headed by the president but he is nominal head and actual powers are vested with the council of minister of which the prime minister the head. It is the collective wisdom of the collegium of ministers including the prime minister, which prevails for framing the national policies. The collective wisdom is also eroding for many reasons. The political party bosses have started overshadowing not only the ministers but also even prime minister. Therefore, the policy-making has gone beyond the system of constitutional provisions, which requires that the policies are to be framed by the ministers who are the political-executive head of their own departments.
Bureaucracy has its own role in democracy. No doubt it is headed by the minister but he has a fixed term and bureaucracy is permanent. Policies are long-term as well as short-term. These policies are implemented by the bureaucracy. Sir Warren Fisher; a noted civil servant in Britain, delineated the minister-civil service relationship, in the following words. Determination of’ policy is the function of ministers, and once a policy is determined it is the unquestioned and unquestionable business of the civil servant to strive to carry out that policy with: precisely the same energy and goodwill, whether he agrees with it or not. That is axiomatic and will never be in dispute. At the same time, it is the traditional duty of civil servants while decisions are being formulated to make available to their political chief all the information and experience at their disposal, and to do this without fear or favour, irrespective of whether the advice thus tendered may accord or not with the minister’s initial view.
In the democratic republic like India, the observation has not been proved correct. The bureaucratic influence on policymaking is two-fold. Firstly, the members of the bureaucracy can give shape to stated policies through the exercise of choice and judgment in administering them and, secondly, they engage in policy formulation through their suggestive, analytical and interpretative roles. It takes lot of time to implement the policies because of its technicalities, which causes much delay and budget. The Indian Administrative and Allied Services replaced Indian Civil Service as it were established by the British. The Constitution designates them as civil servants. However, the bureaucracy continued to see themselves as the masters of the masses. They continued to understand their function in terms of administering and controlling their areas instead of understanding that their function now was to work for the development and welfare of the area. Mr. Wajahat Habibullah a retired civil servant observed that the structure of our bureaucratic system is one that was designed to feed, to service an Empire. It is not really designed to service a democracy.
Bureaucracy and democracy are often considered antithetical properties of political systems. Bureaucracy is the major problems limiting the capacity of democratic political systems to effectively respond to their citizen. The importance of bureaucracy for democracy in contemporary political systems arises in part from the weaknesses of more conventional institutions of democracy. Bureaucracy’s role in governance has become essential in democracy, which does not always support the democracy. Therefore, we are administered and not governed. Here falls the shortcoming of the democratic system. There must be direct relationship between the people and their representative.
The third branch of the government is judiciary. It interprets the laws including the Constitution. After the emergency in 1975, the judiciary in India has taken a new avatar. It has become the champion of individual rights after the Supreme Court judgment in Maneka Gandhi’s case. Then, it relaxed the locus standi rules. It gave an opportunity to pro-active citizen to take the public interest issues to the higher judiciary. The new development started with the Hussainara Khatoon case, in which the Supreme Court ordered the release of under trial prisoners, holding that the right to speedy trial was the part of fundamental right under article 21- right to life and personal liberty. This judicial approach later extended to the cases of environment, child labour, education, women rights, judicial appointments/transfers etc. It was marked as judicial activism or judicial overreach. The judiciary justifies it under the Constitution, in the garb of doing complete justice under article 142 and its role for redressal of fundamental rights under articles 13 and 32. Similar powers are vested with high courts under articles 226 and 227. It is worth mentioning here that judicial approach has been appreciated by the society. For the simple reason that it gives an equal opportunity to all parties and decides the matters logically. The same is not true about the legislature, as the parliamentarians have lost the direct relationship with the people. The political-executive (minister) has the constitutional protection for non-disclosure of the policy considerations and bureaucracy functions through file notings. Hence, the actual stakeholders are not given any opportunity for the formulation of the policies. The right to information may breach this basin of secrecy in the administration. The guidelines of the Supreme Court enthuse confidence in the policy-making. Earlier democracy has been bureaucratized and now guidelines of the Supreme Court are doing the supervision of the people. However, it has stimulated a new debate. Can judiciary through its decisions deliver justice to the masses? Can it fulfill the aspirations of the people? Judicial decisions and guidelines have its own limitations. Like parliament, judiciary may also crumble under its own weight and expectations of the people. The parliament has become dependent on executive, which in turn taken the support from bureaucracy. The justice through courts is also slipping to the establishment of various tribunals. I reiterate that the best system of governance is through the popular elected government of parliamentarians and not even through the judicial guidelines.
Lastly, let us discuss the role of ‘we the people’ in the governance of the country. The political interpretation of this expression is that the people are supreme. However, the Supreme Court in the famous case of J. Jayalalitha has interpreted it slight differently. In the written Constitution, no institution is supreme and not even its people but the Constitution itself is supreme. The Constitution has considered the participation of people in the governance of the country through election process. People’s participation and interest have been falling rapidly in our democratic systems and membership in political parties is declining. Thus, the usual instrumentalities of political democracy are, if not failing, certainly weakened. It is very difficult to establish relationship of the government with the masses. Since independence, no government has bothered about the population. The problem of population has never been taken seriously except during the emergency, which produced negative results on the freedoms of citizens.
If we follow the abovementioned formula of success then one thing is certain that we have an excellent system through the Constitution, which establishes strong institutions and includes everyone in the process of making of such democratic institutions. However, we have certain suspicion/doubts when we look at the second point i.e. excellent individual to run the system. Definitely, we fall short of the individuals who have impeccable and scrupulous integrity. Today, the nation is surrounded by the scams. Without naming anyone, a safe conclusion can be drawn and i.e. these are inventions of dishonest politician. The politicians of the country are rich become richer while in power. The mother India has been portrayed as poor and helpless. This is the result of unscrupulous sons of the nation. As far as the third point is concerned then we do find that the whole environment in the country is being created as such that we deprive the good things to happen by the good people. As a result, the goodness of the first point has been over-shadowed by the remaining two points. These developments have adversely affected the functioning of the democratic set up in the country. If has become government off the people bye the people and far the people.
Actually, the need of the hour is to reduce the gap between the parliamentarians and people. To establish thick relationship between the rulers and ruled. Before it becomes too late. People have started raising their voice collective against the ruling class. People may resort to self-help in their own way. However, there is no alternative to the glory of parliament and the grace of its members. Only closeness of the relationship between legislators with its own people is earnestly desired. It may be achieved through resorting to the re-organization of the States based on smaller administrative units and increasing the number of seats in the parliament. One right step has already been taken by establishing and empowering the panchayati raj institutions. Regarding the environment in which the system is be implemented, every one of us has to remember our duty which included in the article 51A (j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement. We can create en excellent environment for the functioning of a system.