Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Supremacy of Parliament

(Pasted below is a blog by a friend who is yet to create a bog for himself)

Our Constitution gives us a Parliamentary Democracy with a scheme of distribution of powers between the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive, at the Centre as well as the States. Recently, during Anna’s fast and demand for a strong Lokpal Bill to be put up before the Parliament, Central Ministers of the Congress Party in the Cabinet, questioned the wisdom of challenging the status, powers and privileges of the Parliament and its Standing Committee with regard to bringing in such legislation. It may be a mere coincidence that both these Cabinet Ministers happen to be eminent lawyers by profession as also with a long association with the Congress Party.

Writing in his book, ‘The President under the Indian Constitution”, published in 1963, Sh. K M Munshi, a staunch Congressite, Gandhian and a Cabinet Minister in Pt. Nehru’s Ministry, wrote, “In pursuit of his policy of securing Marxist achievements through democratic forms and processes, Prime Minister Nehru began setting up extra-constitutional authorities to meet the difficulty rather than depend upon the devices prescribed by the Constitution. He set up the Planning Commission nominated by him as an extra-constitutional super-Cabinet in economic matters; transferred the centre of power from the Cabinet to the Congress Working Committee(CWC), and reduced the position of the Congress Parliamentary Party(CPP) to a mere registering body.

He adds, “Sri K Kamaraj, as President of the Congress, by exercising extra-constitutional authority, introduced an extra-constitutional body consisting of members of the CWC, representatives of the CPP, members of the Union Cabinet not already on the CWC and special invitees. The election of Sh. Lal Bahadur Shastri as Prime Minister, instead of being left to the Congress Parliamentary Party, was decided by Sri Kamaraj through the application of the consensus doctrine.”

He further adds, ‘The Constitution was thus twisted out of shape. The Parliamentary Party was deprived of its legitimate role as the controlling body in the State……….. The Cabinet reduced to a rubber-stamping appendix of the CWC.”

Granville Austin, in his book, Working a Democratic Constitution: The Indian Experience”, published in 1999, wrote, “ … the federal structure of the Congress Party disappeared as many ministers became New Delhi’s instruments and the PM gained control of the Congress Party machinery. In New Delhi, the distribution of powers among the three branches of government was gravely unsettled. Mrs Gandhi’s grip on the CPP exceeded the power typically enjoyed by PMs in parliamentary systems, where PMs heed as well as lead their followers. The Executive Branch came to dominate Parliament to such a degree that Parliament lost any effective identity of its own. And, authority within the executive became concentrated in the PM’s office and then was exercised from Mrs Gandhi’s residence, to the exclusion of all but few.”

Even in the present context, the National Advisory Council under the UPA-2 Chairperson Smt Sonia Gandhi, is an extra-constitutional body, which is deliberating on tasks exclusively in the domain of the Parliament. It is drafting bills and deciding on matter which ought to be discussed in the Parliament. A Constitutional body such as the Public Accounts Committee has been reduced to petty politics.

It is clear that these extra-constitutional bodies are a greater threat and challenge to the status and powers of the Parliament. As honourable Members of this august body, the Ministers should speak against such practices. Anna never wanted the Parliament to be circumvented. He, however, wanted the public representatives to know and feel the pulse of the common man which, they seemed to have lost sight of. The spontaneous and enormous public response to his demand proved him right.

Arun Gurtoo IPS (Retd.)

43, Baghira Apartments,

E-5, Arera Colony,


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