On Gandhi Jayanti, lets renew pledge to respect rule of law (Article)

New Delhi, Oct.2 (ANI): There was a time when India was respected and honored all over the world because of the fact that its Government respected the rule of law. The Indian state was run under the provisions of a constitution on which the founding fathers of the nation had worked hard. It was perhaps not a coincidence that most of the founding fathers of the nation, including Mahatma Gandhi were lawyers by profession. Thus, adherence to rule of law was ensured.

All that now seems to be long time ago. Once the founding fathers disappeared from the scene, with passage of time, it was electoral politics which became rule of law! Tragically, the people now coming forward to join politics included those without any vision or commitment to rule of law. If anything, they were getting into politics to exploit the system for aggrandizement of wealth. Feudalism that was sought to be uprooted by the removal of zamindari and jagirdari soon after independence re-emerged in the form of new "netas".

The beginning of the devaluation of India Parliamentary democracy started with the crisis that the Indian National Congress faced following the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri and the failure of the old guard of the party to adjust to the new emerging leadership under Mrs. Indira Gandhi. It finally led to the split of that grand old party that had led India towards freedom. The Indian National Congress disappeared into the pages of history. The ruling Congress became Congress (I), that also signaled the beginning of family controlled political parties.

The establishment of electoral politics meant slogans and promises were made to the people, party manifestoes were a mere formality for no government whether in the states or at the centre has ever adhered to what had been promised to the people. Electoral politics also signaled the entry of criminal elements that could coerce the poor voters in the slums to vote en bloc for one or the other or else face dire consequences.

In the countryside it was the diktat of the Panchayats that decided as to which way the villagers voted. Thus voter's independence stands defeated by these new feudal god fathers.

The functioning of any democratic system is based on rule of law and accountability. In any government the ministers are responsible for the area under their ministry and accountable for that.

It was for this reason that Lal Bahadur Shastri as Railway Minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet resigned from his post following a rail accident, making himself fully accountable for the ministry under his purview. It was again for a similar respect for accountability that Finance Minister T.T. Krishnamachari resigned following what then came to be known as the Mundhra affair. No fault of the minister, but the investments made by the Life Insurance Corporation into Mundhra shares came under the purview of the Finance Ministry? All that respect for accountability seems to belong to a different era, a different age! Those in power today consider such acts foolish. They find scapegoats in bureaucrats.

India's political system as it is today, while suffering from a variety of ailments is crippled by two major ones - (1) Family control over political parties and (2) the entry of criminals in the political system. All this has led to dynastic rule. The situation even in such political parties as the BJP which takes pride in their system, yet many of the leaders of that party want their children to be given preference in party tickets for election. Thus, we see whether in the states or in the Centre, it is impossible for a true visionary leader to emerge and beat the system. Narendra Modi seems to be a rare exception in the current political scenario of the country.

The entry of criminals in the political parties has led to utter subversion of the rule of law. Whether criminal 'neta' reaches the power does not matter so long such a person can influence the course of justice and rule of law. Amassing wealth in the name of the poor masses is the vision of such politicos.

The people of India over the last four years have seen enough scams , have become aware of the loot of the nation's natural resources by the manner in which rule of law has been subverted. In the midst of all this utter helplessness and frustration that the people face in failing to get any relief from the country's democratic institutions, it is the Supreme Court of India that comes to their rescue every now and then. That court is the only avenue left for the people of India to seek rule of law. Thus, it came as a great relief to the people when the Supreme Court ordered that the politicians facing serious criminal charges be disqualified and India's political system be cleansed of them.

The people of India no longer look up to the Parliament to find solutions to their problems, but rush to the Supreme Court to seek their right even to clean air - to fight pollution and such other issues that should really be dealt with by the executive as part of normal governance. That being not so, what has been the response of the Government to the order of the Supreme Court.

It first tried to present a bill in Parliament that would negate the order of the Supreme Court. It now became clear that the ruling party- the Congress had come a long way from the high values set before it by Mahatma Gandhi and the founding fathers of the nation. The Government is seen now on the side of criminals in politics and those who deny good governance to the nation.

How does the world trust India if its own government is not going to accept the ruling and order of its own Supreme Court?

India's credibility has been hit hard as a nation that respects rule of law; a nation that fails to protect its women or offer security to its population. We all see the police forces being used to protect the 'netas', including the criminal ones among them. Terrorists strike in India at their will, being aware that the police forces are only protecting the country's politicians.

Now with an ordinance sent to the President of India nullifying the judgment of the Supreme Court, whatever was left of India's government being law abiding has been thrown to winds. It is now the people of India who are shocked and horrified at the action of a government that claims its inheritance from no less a person than Mahatma Gandhi.

It is gratifying to note that the President of India, upholding his oath to protect the Constitution of India, has refused to ratify the ordinance and sent it back.

It is high time that steps are taken to rid India's political system of criminal elements and those who support the retention of criminals in India's body politic.

The time and moment has come when the politicians and those governing this country must understand the anger and frustration of the people of India.

India is now at the cross roads. We can only move ahead if India is able to restore rule of law and make a fresh pledge to respect it. (ANI)

Mr. Prem Prakash is a senior journalist and chairman of ANI Media (P) Ltd.

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