An interesting issue was being heatedly debated on TV channels yesterday. If the Parliament passes a Lokpal bill that provides only for a weak and ineffective Lokpal, do the people have the right to protest? Surprisingly, most participants, whether they be from the political arena or the media, forcefully asserted that our democratic set up will be under mined if the supremacy of the Parliament vis a vis law making is questioned by people's movements like the Anna Hazare-led India Against Corruption and the laws/proposed laws protested against.
The argument is as follows: our Constitution vests the power to make laws in the Parliament. Ordinary people elect their representatives to the Parliament, and having once cast their vote for X, they should then repose complete faith in the wisdom, experience, and bona fide of X, trusting him to make sure that the laws that the Parliament makes are the ones that serve best the people's interests.
They should not question his actions even when they smack of indifference to what is best for the people in the people's own wisdom. He's becomes wiser than them, you see, once he's been elected by the very people whose wisdom becomes suspect once they have cast their vote. Even if they cry themselves hoarse that what they want is not what he and other august Parliamentarians are planning to enact as law, they will not be heard. They"ll be told instead, in the supercilious tones that the clever use for those who are simple, that they must let Parliament do its job, that the Parliament knows best.
What IS the Parliament's job? Is it to enact laws that promote the welfare of the people , or is to enact laws that the Parliamentarians THINK achieve that objective? If it is the former, and indeed it is, then it is the people's right to articulate what best promotes their welfare. If what people say they want is at odds with what the elected representatives think is good for the people, then in a system which is by the people, of the people, and FOR the people, it is the people's view which should prevail.How then can it be unconstitutional for the people to protest against a proposed law that they do not perceive as serving its stated purpose, and to articulate what they think its contours should be?
Are they to remain silent simply because they cast their vote and elected to the Parliament men and women who appear, as a class, to be interested only in perpetuating a status quo that is hurting ordinary men and women ? Can they only speak when its time to cast their vote again? The wise men and women who drafted our Constitution would have declared that to be a travesty of the spirit of the Constitution, which states clearly, unambiguously, and emphatically that the people are the source of all sovereign power that is exercised in their name. They can speak, demand, and protest as and when the Parliament or any other organ of the government is perceived to be acting against their interest.
The reason why so many elected representatives, media personalities, intellectuals and academics are reacting so strongly to the people's protest against a weak Lokpal, and going to the extent of describing it as unconstitutional, is that all these years, they have arrogated to themselves all the wisdom of 1.2 billion people. It is as if they, and they alone, know what is best for the "people", as if they are in a distinct and superior and select class. So now when the "people" speak, they are aghast. The reaction is no different from that of the ruler who'd look askance at the ruled asking him questions. We, the people, remain the "ruled", notwithstanding our having won independence from the British decades ago, and the "rulers" remain, notwithstanding the departure of the British!!
In the history of our nation, we are at a cross roads. Either we let ourselves be "ruled" or we decide what is good for us, we decide what we want, we make ourselves heard whether by casting our votes or in a myriad other ways.
We, the people, are the democracy -----how can we be accused of being undemocratic? So, speak up !!