NEWS Since Independence, India has managed to stay on the democratic path but recently the press world is replete with stories of India’s ‘diminishing democracy’ in which, apart from the organs of state, even India’s highly regarded criminal justice system and the courts have come in for a share of criticism.
WHAT IS DEMOCRACY ?
In the words of Maclver- “Democracy is not a way of governing, whether by majority or otherwise, but primarily a way of determining, who shall govern, and broadly to what ends.” Therefore in order to safeguard this democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self-respect and their oneness, and should insist upon choosing as their representatives only such persons as are good and true.
WHY DEMOCRACY IS BETTER THAN OTHER FORMS OF GOVERNMENT ?
Democracy unlike any other form of government seeks to maintain following rights to its followers:
- It provides a method to deal with differences and conflicts by providing the right to free expression of opinion and of opposition and criticism of the Government of the day.
- It allows people to correct their own mistakes with the right to change the Governments of which the people disapprove through constitutional means.
- It protects from arbitrary actions of the government, as it provides for primary safeguards against arbitrary arrest and prosecution of an individual.
- It maintains balance between fundamental rights of the citizens and their duties towards the state.
- It provides for equal treatment of all sections of society
- It protects the rights of minorities.
EVENTS RESPONSIBLE FOR PERCEPTION – ‘DIMINISHING DEMOCRACY’
- Amidst ongoing pandemic, Indian economy is in recession, and is among the worst performing among major nations. Among key currencies, the Indian Rupee is one of the very few which is depreciating.
- India also claims to be among the worst affected by ransomware attacks. Meanwhile, India is also turning increasingly protectionist, for e.g. India declined RCEP membership.
- The atmospherics surrounding India’s external relations are quite depressing. India Pakistan relations could hardly be worse while India-China recently had the most violent clash in the Line of Actual Control since the war of 1962.
- In this background China has chosen to sign a new Military Memorandum of Understanding to boost the China Pakistan relationship. In central Asia India will find it increasingly difficult to steer between the Scylla of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt on the one hand and the Charybdis of Turkey, Qatar and Iran on the other.
- Dilution of Article 370 of the Constitution, and restructure Jammu & Kashmir ( J&K) and Ladakh into two Union Territories followed by the clampdown in Kashmir, and the incarceration of almost the entire top leadership of the regional parties
- Elections — whether to State Assemblies, District Councils, or even local panchayats — are turning into conflict zones, leading to extremely tense situations. In many instances, they have become tinderboxes for communal, caste, political and other forms of violence.
- Constitutional protection and principles of natural justice as also freedom of the individual, all seem to be coming under strain lately, current examples of such incidents are- campaign against ‘Love Jihad’, a term which finds no mention in any lexicon has been the main focus point for few states law making, despite the existence of judicial pronouncements declaring the inherent right of any individual to choose whom to marry, irrespective of caste, religion or creed.
- The plight of political prisoners in jails is evident from the recent incident -Father Stan Swamy, a victim of Parkinson’s disease, who was denied to be given a straw to drink water. Such labeling of dissenters as urban naxals and being indifferent to their plight when in custody, marks a sharp decline from past democratic practices.
- Under the label of fighting fake news and the social media’s pernicious use of fake news, India is beginning to clampdown on social media platforms and enact draconian laws towards this end for e.g. Kerala even sought to introduce an ordinance mandating a jail term for any offensive social media post, making the police the arbiter to determine the nature of social media abuse.
- Presently going farm protests are the other evidence of declining democracy where law is being without due discussion and acceptance by those affected.
“Democracy may not be the best form of government but definitely better than others”, as said by W. Churchill. The need of the hour for policymakers is to relook their way of law making and continuously strive to improve upon the present lacuna, thus making it more inclusive and tolerant to dissenting views.