From: news from the cpi(m) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, May 13, 2012 at 5:02 PM
Subject: [Marxistindia] Sitaram Yechury's Speech on the Occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Indian Parliament
news from the cpi(m)
Speech of Sitaram Yechury, Leader, CPI(M) Group in the Rajya Sabha
On the Occasion of 60th Anniversary of the Indian Parliament
I rise to join all the Hon'ble Members of Parliament and the rest of the
country on this 60th birthday of independent India's Parliament. As the
country celebrates this sashtipurti, ancient belief suggests that a new
life will begin. It, however, does not say a `better life'. It is
incumbent upon the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha today to make the Parliament
and our democratic system a better one for the future. This requires
consideration of at least four aspects.
Before we discuss these issues, it is necessary to recollect what the then
Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Anthony Eden, said: "Of all the experiments
in government, which have been attempted since the beginning of time, I
believe that the Indian venture into parliamentary government is the most
exciting.... The Indian venture is not a pale imitation of our practice at
home, but a magnified and multiplied reproduction on a scale we have never
dreamt of." Indeed, during these six decades, we have consolidated this
process and enriched its content, overcoming the challenges of internal
emergency and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
The centrality of our Constitution lies in the sovereignty of the people.
This is exercised by those elected to the legislature (Parliament/State
Assemblies). The executive (government) is accountable to the legislature
which, in turn, is accountable to the people.
The efficiency of this mechanism depends on the duration and proper
conduct of the parliamentary proceedings. On this score, there is much
need for corrective action. During the last two decades, the Parliament
never sat for more than a hundred days in a year. The closest was in
1992 with 98 sittings. The 14th Lok Sabha was marked by the least in
Parliament's history with 332 sittings (an average of 66 a year). Worse,
24 per cent of this time was wasted in disruptions and adjournments. The
British Parliament, on the other hand, sits for at least 160 days a year
on the average.
Clearly, unless the Parliament sits for longer durations, its vigilance
over the government is not effective. Thus, the executive's
accountability to the legislature becomes the casualty. This seriously
undermines our Constitutional scheme of things engendering authoritarian
tendencies. This needs correction by ensuring a mandatory 100 sittings a
year through a Constitutional amendment.
The second issue relates to the role of the judiciary as being both the
interpreter of the Constitution and law, the custodian of the rights of
citizens through the process of judicial review and the delivery of
justice. During the last session, the Law Minister informed us that there
are 3.2 crore cases pending in High Court and subordinate courts across
the country while 56,383 cases were pending in the Supreme Court. As of
December 2010, there were 3,50,003 under trails languishing in jail due to
such delay. Justice delayed is justice denied. The system of delivery of
justice, thus, needs to be urgently beefed up. Further, recent
experiences of judicial activism have blurred the delineation between the
three organs of democracy. The judiciary interprets the law but cannot
make them or decide on public policy. The Constitutional mandate is for
judicial review and not for judicial activism.
The time has come for us to seriously consider the establishment of a
National Judicial Commission with representatives from the three wings
and the Bar. This could deal with an entire range of issues from the
appointment and transfer of judges, examining complaints of corruption and
other expressions of possible judicial misconduct and for ensuring
Thirdly, the maturation of Indian democracy needs to be accompanied by
certain structural changes to enrich the process further. Consider the
fact that not once in our history since the first general elections in
1952 has a government been formed which commanded over 50 per cent of
the polled vote. All the governments at the Centre had more people voting
against them than supporting them. The closest to reach the majority mark
was the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1984 that polled 48.1 per cent with 415
seats. The lowest was the 1998 NDA government whose alliance polled 36.2
per cent. Thus, democracy as the rule of the majority has not yet been
achieved in its full sense. This merits a serious consideration of the
proportional representation system where the people vote for the parties,
who, in turn, will send to the Parliament the number of MPs, on the basis
of a prior-declared prioritised list, in proportion to votes they
receive. Any government that is formed on this basis by a majority of MPs
in the Parliament will necessarily reflect the majority as expressed by
the electorate. This issue was seriously debated in the Constituent
Assembly, but in its wisdom, it adopted the British `first past the post'
system. The 1928 Motilal Nehru Committee report had recommended the
system of proportional representation as the best answer to reflect
In the Indian context, therefore, a combination of proportional
representation with the present form may be ideal. This could be done,
for instance, by clubbing two adjoining constituencies where people, with
two votes, vote for individual candidates as well as the parties.
An additional advantage of this system would be the prescription of a
minimum percentage of the national vote required for parties to send their
representatives to the Parliament as per the submitted list. They, of
course, can be represented by individual candidates who may win. In the
coalition era, this would be of immense relief to foil unreasonable
pressures and demands.
Finally, notwithstanding all the talk of `inclusive growth', the reality
is that during the course of the last two decades of economic reforms,
there have been two Indias in the making – a `shining' for the rich and a
`suffering' for the poor. In this context, recollect what Baba Saheb
Ambedkar had to say when he presented our Constitution's draft for final
consideration and adoption by the Constituent Assembly.
"On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of
contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and
economic life we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognising
the principle of one man-one vote and one vote- one value. In our social
and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic
structure, continue to deny the principle of one man-one value.
"How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long
shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life?
"If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our
political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the
earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will
blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has
laboriously built up." (25th November, 1949)
The Parliament must enact necessary laws which empower our people
economically, politically, socially and culturally. One man, one vote,
one value must be transformed into one man, one value. The time has come
for us to heed the above warning.
As incumbent Members of Parliament at this moment, it is our
responsibility to rise to the occasion to create a better future.
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