Posts tagged ‘Politics-Constitutional Rights’

Gujarat Governor returns bill on voting

The Gujarat Governor Dr Kamla has returned unsigned the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009 which had sought to make voting in all self governing bodies compulsory. This on the basis of three objections:
1-Compulsory voting is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution which gives the citizens freedom of speech and expression.
2-The second one which relates to a punishment to those who do not turn up to vote is also related to the first in that it violates the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression.
3-The third one points out that this compulsory voting was a failure in different parts of the world.
With due respect to the Governor Dr Kamla let me exercise my freedom of speech and expression to question the validity of her objections. Freedom of Speech and Expression is given under the Constitution but of what use will this be if the people do not participate in the operation of the Constitution; namely in making democracy valid and vibrant especially at the local levels? Does the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression mean non- expresssion non participation and non- articulation in that vital sphere of governance? If voting is a right then it has an obligation-to cast that precious vote. This is a very negative way of reading into Art 19-Freedom of Speech and Expression in operation means not voting-in operation means an indifference to the whole process of electing people’s representatives. What is the use of a Constitution which cannot make people constitutionally aware of their Rights in a positive way-namely to make democracy meaningful at the local level and uphold that very Constitution which ensures them of Rights? The Constitution then becomes a book of Rights in only in print.
When it came to the business of Hussain then one found this Right very much articulated and Hussain was defended on his right to the Freedom of Speech and Expression-even if meant committing jihad through his brush. Does Freedom of Speech and Expression mean indifference and non-involvement in the affairs which deal with one’s daily business of life? If one does not express this in the form of voting then how does one express approval/disapproval of functioning of the government at the local level? If one does not care to express through voting who should represent one in governance then what is democracy? Why then have a whole process of electing representatives when people are totally indifferent to this and now this indifference legitimated as a Right! Be it positive or negative Freedom of Expression in this specific case is expression through voting and does not by any stretch of imagination mean indifference. Why only in this the Right means inaction? As far as the spirit of the Constitution is concerned it calls for action, it calls for articulation in the democratic process. Citing that Right of Freedom to negate the right to better governance is not what that Right envisages.
To put in more succinctly it is taken for granted that the Constitution sleeps or at least is inactive and non-operational until and unless it is awakened. It suits most of the politicians that it sleeps. For example the oaths taken by all the Constitutional heads- governors, judges and the Ministers on the solemn promise that they would function without fear or favor. But this is not so in reality. Starting from the highest in the Judiciary-we have judges who instead of upholding justice was busy grabbing land, and refusing even to vacate the chair. We have the Prime Minister who looks on indifferently even when one of his cabinet ministers was absconding; he tells the Parliament that he is not aware of the whereabouts of the man . Now after years of the case against Sibu Soren just two days prior to the culmination of the long drawn case and the pronouncement of the verdict -the judge resigns. This would mean that the new judge must start at the very beginning. In the meantime Sibu Soren sits comfortably in the CM’s seat. So did the judges in the above two mentioned cases act according to the oath they took ‘to function without fear or favor? So such oaths are dead but only ceremoniously upheld without any meaning nor are they operational. Even the PM has failed to uphold the solemn oath he took-to function without fear or favour. Otherwise he will not countenance the continuation of his cabinet colleague A.Raja. The moment there is even a notion of fraud and corruption it is obligatory for the PM to ask the person concerned to put in his papers till his name and the alleged charges are cleared. So what is the substance of the oath of the PM in reality?
How are these related to Governor Dr Kamla’s sending back the Act passed by the Gujarat Assembly? Constitutional heads, taking of oaths in the name of the Constitution and Constitutional Rights are all inter related. Well the constitution also envisages the role of Governors. The institution itself is a legacy of the British Raj. It has to go by and large by what the CM and his council of ministers and the Assembly passes because the Governor is not the representative of the people and is not accountable to the people- The CM and his ministers are. So when Governor Dr Kamla points at the Constitution I am wondering how constitutional correct is she in citing the Art.of Freedom of Speech and Expression to send back an Act which the representatives of the people have passed? So like the oaths made by all the constitutional functionaries from the top to the bottom do we want a Constitution which in substance means nothing-which speaks of us as the biggest democracy etc but in practice it has become an oligarchy-a banana republic?
Democracy is based on numbers. It is the rule of the people for the people and by the people. But it has come to become the rule of a few by a few for all the people-Participation in democracy is the hall mark of making it vibrant-nay even valid. It is towards this that Narendra Modi’s government was working towards.
As for the second reason which is also linked to the Art. of Freedom of Expression and Speech to hold out a punishment to the people who do not make democracy valid and get involved in the governance at the local level seem to be sensible and does not negate Art 19.Carrot and stick is the method. Rights and obligations go together. But in India we have taken the easy way. This is precisely why our Public sectors are sick while the private sectors are minting money. The government is unable to pull up the babus who through their indifference, and don’t care attitude create such heavy losses. Even the government is a big defaulter in this respect. A small instruction to all ministers and officers to use only the Air India when on official work the GOI has failed to issue-result the AI is in red. Don’t punish, don’t reprimand, don’t streamline, let things go on-take it easy after all it is people’s money and hence not accountable for. This is a free for all country. Grab as much as you can, no laws will touch you as long as you are on the right side of the UPA-2.
Take the latest IPL controversy-Why was the GOI sleeping? Why had it allowed this obscene gambling with a sports item which former was sheer entertainment and everyone thoroughly enjoyed? Now with the entry of big-nay black money and fashion parade betting on players like betting on horses, came in corruption and the sleaze. Had Tharoor’s and Lalit Modi’s show of strength not erupted then everything would have gone on and the people of India will be cheated. Where were the Income Tax and the Enforcement Directorate? What was the PM and his council of Ministers doing about this? Now why suddenly the hectic raids and tracing the route of off shore black money involvement all being dug out? Is this part of the ‘to function without fear or favor” The same can be said of the CBI and the SIT. These are statutory bodies which the government uses as agencies of harassment against the political opponents or when it wants to take cover for its non governance.
All this and more calls for making the Constitution valid and vibrant.People need to become aware of their obligations not only Rights.How can the very Constitution which is the foundation of our democracy become valid if people are indifferent to casting their votes?Can democracy be democracy if a large section of the population not vote? To make is clear let me give an example-In any one ward/constituency (of say 1000 people) if only 45 percent(450) casts their votes and this get divided between the 10 contestants one with even just a 45 votes wins. He/She represents the 1000 voters and we call it democracy. Is this a valid democracy?
One must not make a mockery of democracy.Somehow we have done that.It is to stop such a mockery that Narendra Modi’s government came up with a Local Authorities Laws(Amendment) Act to make voting compulsory. Let democracy become more meaningful, at least at the local levels. It could be tried out and later amended to make it more viable. Instead the Governor sending it back and pointing at the failure of other countries as one of the reasons is not very encouraging for upholding of democracy in this country. As pointed out earlier the big question is- do we have a democracy? No country in the world claims to have a democracy as we do. Failures in other countries on compulsory voting are no indications that in Gujarat it will fail. Why not put it on trial?
Other countries have rejected the Electronic Voting Machine.Will our Governor Dr Kamla on the same basis make a case to the CEC to discontinue the EVMs? One can enumerate any number of reasons and cite examples to substantiate just one point; that anything good and new coming from Narendra Modi’s government must be rejected by the Centre and the Governor is an appointee of the Centre. This is the hard truth. I am using my right to the Freedom of Speech and Expression positively-without fear or favor-to state a truth. Even a law passed against the organized criminal activities in Maharastra was found valid and was approved by the President. But when a similar law was passed by Gujarat government there was opposition-by the Home Minister and a whole lot of Modi bashers were picking holes in it. The UPA2 advised the President against giving assent to it. The President sent it back. So here again democracy becomes valid in fits and starts. It must get the approval of the Centre and if the Centre and the State government are not allies then the problem arises. This is not a fantasy but a reality that we see. The step motherly treatment meted out to all non-congress State governments by the Congress led government at the Centre is apparent and obvious. When it comes to Gujarat it becomes blatant.
There are two yardsticks in this country which is a violation of the Constitution. When the Governor falls back on the Constitutional Right of the Freedom of Speech and Expression and state that Local Authorities Act is a violation of the Constitution I am stunned to speechlessness because of the contradiction. Equality is a Right in the Constitution but why has the GOI segmented people on religious basis for benefits? Is that not a violation of the Constitution so blatant and using people’s money towards operating it? Can any citizen be discriminated on the basis of religion? Yet the GOI has a whole ministry to uphold and finance this violation of the constitution. Does it mean that the Government under Manmohan Singh can violate the Constitution with immunity? It all points at one single motive-block all that Modi proposes.
It is a fact that Raj Bhavans in many States are becoming anti-constitutional in functioning.We in Gujarat are proud that the Raj Bhavan in Gujarat has not and will not fall into that category. Because Gujarat stands heads and shoulders above all States in India in its development and in its stewardship in administration inspite of the anti-Modism prevailing in some quarters, a concomitant of vote bank politics. We fervently hope that Dr Kamla our Governor would strengthen the vibrant Gujarat’s upward mobility built so judiciously and with such hardships-thanks to the untiring efforts of Narendra Modi the duly elected popular Chief Minister of our State.
Dr Mrs Hilda Raja,

April 20, 2010 at 3:46 am 140 comments


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