Why we need ‘right to recall’ the elected

They aren’t the sovereigns for five years


Prasanna Mohanty | August 17, 2011

The prime minister thinks Anna Hazare’s fast to press for a stronger Lokpal Bill is an affront to parliament, a challenge to the highest democratic institution of the country. He left nothing to imagination when he told parliament on Wednesday, "All of us agree that the Lokpal Bill should be passed by parliament. The question is who drafts the law and who passes the law. Hazare wants to impose his Jan Lokpal Bill on parliament."

Two senior union ministers, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, have described Anna’s action “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional” and that “laws can’t be made by social activists in a maidan”.

Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari likened Anna’s action to “tyranny of unelected and unelectable”.

Two things come out very clearly in this discourse and also in the manner Anna was first refused a place to hold his fast, then given a conditional clearance but arrested before he could begin his fast on the plea that he posed a “threat” to public order.

One is that Anna’s movement for a stronger Lokpal is ultra vires of our constitution and the constitutional rights of our elected representatives to make laws. And two, once elected, our representatives are free for the next five years to do what they please.

For example, the prime minister or and cabinet colleagues haven’t yet explained why the Lokpal Bill is pending for the past 42 years if the government is indeed keen to fight corruption in spite of rampant corruption in the country. And they haven’t yet explained why if Anna has a right to protest he was made to beg for a site to protest and why 22 conditions were put, which included the number of people who can join the fast and the time limit for the protest. On many occasions the apex court of the country has said arbitrary imposition of prohibitory orders is “violative of the fundamental rights of the citizens”.

Evidently, the government of the day is interpreting constitution and democracy in a manner that undermines their very concept.

It is worth reminding the meaning of the constitution. The very preamble reads: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens….”

The meaning is clear. We, the people of this country, have given this constitution to ourselves to govern ourselves in a particular manner.

And that manner stems from our belief in democracy – a system of governance of the people, for the people and by the people.

Parliament and our elected representatives, therefore, have been given constitutional powers to make laws on our behalf, the people of India, to make laws. They are not sovereigns unto themselves. They are subject to people’s will and wishes.  And that is why elections are held every five years.

To arrogate that the “elected” representatives have the sovereign right to make whatever law they want to make or that they are immune from public will and wish for the intervening five years is a flawed understanding of our democratic set up and the constitution that we have adopted.

That lesson needs to be driven to the elected representatives.

And what better way than to bring in a “right to recall” law to make sure those who willfully violate people’s trust, or so arrogate themselves as to be completely disconnected with what people want and think which the Anna’s movement has exemplified so clearly?

If we can have a right to recall law for our civic bodies, as is the case in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, we should also have such a law for our MPs and MLAs too.



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