Vox Populi, Vox Dei !

The recent March 13 Supreme Court judgment on disclosure of candidate details raised several interesting questions. Many well-meaning and concerned citizens are asking: Will we really get information on candidates? Don’t disclosures disqualify candidates? Does it not affect the candidates’ privacy? Don’t people know the antecedents of candidates anyway? Is it enough to cleanse elections? What can people do now? etc. If we have to proceed further in the cause of democratic reforms, we need to find honest and sensible answers to these questions.

The Battle has just Begun

The Supreme Court verdict of March 13 reiterating the fundamental right of voters to know about candidates is a significant milestone in the evolution of our democracy. First, it has upheld constitutionalism and strengthened our faith in the institutional vitality and corrective mechanisms in our republic. Second, it provides a priceless opportunity for parties to break out of the shackles of criminal elements and moneybags at the constituency level. Politics as big business, power at any cost, and public office for private gain will simply not do.

Politicians and Public – Dangerous Standoff

Democracy is about peaceful change. If that hope of peaceful transformation is extinguished, all that is left is anarchy or violent upheavals. President Abdul Kalam’s courageous act in returning the patently unconstitutional Representation of the People (Amendment) Ordinance 2002 for the reconsideration of the Council of Ministers is a great morale booster for all those who seek peaceful change. This act of diligence and statesmanship helps uphold the letter and spirit our Constitution as few official actions have done in recent times.

Speak Now, Or

If we keep quiet now, the politicians of the country will soon enact a law to deny us the fundamental Right to Information about our prospective candidates.  And we will have only ourselves to blame. Today it is our Right to know, tomorrow it could be our liberty. If murderers and rapists and dacoits are not disqualified, the worst of things becomes possible.

Unfounded Fears of Disqualification

We will disclose the assets of only the winning candidates and that too, to the presiding officer of the House

Only the Parliament has the right to legislate.” – Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Congress (I);

Are we supposed to disclose even our electricity and telephone dues and let an ordinary Revenue official have the right to disqualify our nomination?” – an indignant Mr. Arun Jaitley, BJP official spokesperson.

Speak Up and Be Counted

This week marks the 27th anniversary of imposition of ”internal emergency” in this country. That dark chapter in our country’s history saw suspension of basic civil liberties and habeas corpus, and stifling of press freedom. About 100,000 people were incarcerated for daring to speak-up. Contrast this with just 864 persons detained during the whole of US Civil War!

Criminalization and the Anomalies of Law

The sorry episode of Shibu Soren has once again focused the nation’s attention on criminalization of politics. The problem of criminalization goes well beyond the political fates of a few individuals. We need to understand the law and its limitations.

Opposition to Disclosure – Defense of the Indefensible ?

The March 13 verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) on candidate disclosures declaring Section 33B of the Representation of the People (3rd Amendment) Act, 2002 (Amendment Act) illegal, null and void, and reiterating its earlier judgment on May 2, 2002, generated a serious countrywide debate on the jurisdiction of courts.

Balanced Federalism - Need of the Hour

The recent spurt in terrorist violence and the unresolved Cauvery river water dispute brought to the fore once again the imbalanced nature of our federalism. For long scholars have argued with reason that our Constitution is quasi-federal in nature, and in times of emergency (under Article 352) and imposition of president’s rule under Article 356, it becomes completely unitary. These apart, the states in India are completely at the mercy of the Union for their very existence.

Plundering the Poor and Protecting the Rich

Exactly a decade ago the Narasimharao-Manmohan Singh duo initiated the economic reform process under severe fiscal compulsions. The process has been incomplete and there have been many problems. But even the worst critics of economic liberalization would admit that there are many successes. Moderately high growth rates have been sustained for a decade. Inflation has been under control. Consumers have far greater choice now, with quality of goods improving, and prices declining.