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The Congress on Thursday accused the government of “constantly undermining” constitutional and regulatory institutions, terming it a “dangerous” trend. “Since 2014, the BJP has been constantly undermining institutions in India under a clear pattern… There has been a constant attempt to undermine institutions across the board. “This is a dangerous trend and this is something that must be condemned and this is something that the Congress will fight in the House and outside,” party spokesperson Rajeev Gowda told reporters. He said the series of developments in the past few months indicate a clear pattern of undermining constitutional, regulatory and academic institutions.
On Aadhaar being made mandatory for filing income tax returns, Gowda said it was a “brazen attempt” to undermine the Supreme Court’s directives. “Aadhaar is being made mandatory in a brazen attempt. The Supreme Court directive says that it should not be made mandatory,” he said. Gowda said the original purpose of Aadhar when the UPA government brought it was to provide an identification to be used in the right-based entitlement. He said making it mandatory for filing income tax returns can create fresh problems for NRIs as they are not residents.
The Congress leader said there is a lot of concern about the manner in which the Finance Minister is using the Finance Bill to include all kinds of “extraneous, non-relevant” measures, undermining the authority of Parliament. This, he said, is being done to ensure that the Rajya Sabha will not get a chance to play its constitutionally mandated roll in terms of examining and constructively critiquing legislation and it also ensures that the entire process of Parliamentary Standing Committees which scrutinise the Bills are also bypassed.
On the Finance Minister introducing provisions seeking amendments to the Representation of People Act and the IT Act, he said, “These are ways of bypassing Parliament, the Rajya Sabha and Parliamentary Standing Committees and this must be condemned.” Noting that this is not the way to move forward, he took a swipe at the Centre, saying the Finance Minister could put every Bill in the Finance Bill and dispense with the Monsoon and Winter Sessions of Parliament.
“He can get it done with all legislative business in one shot because nobody can raise any objection. They have a brute majority and they can and they will not be subject to the scrutiny of the Rajya Sabha and Standing Committees,” he said. The Congress leader also cited the example of demonetisation whereby, he alleged, institutions like the RBI were “reduced to a mockery by this government”. He said the issue was not yet over as provisions like the electoral bonds that come under RBI’s purview and require changes in the RBI Act, should be debated first.
On the issue of electoral bond, Gowda alleged that this will open the door to anonymous donations and crony capitalists giving funds to political parties to influence policy outcome without any suspicion, without leaving any kind of trail so as to introduce more opacity. “This clearly is not a better solution. We will not know who contributed, we will not be able to follow them and find out who influenced what public policy and that is a dangerous development in terms of transparency for our democracy,” he said.
Gowda also talked about the academic institutions that have been attacked, especially Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where the number of research scholars has been reduced citing UGC guidelines. The job of the government is to reach out to the UGC to make amend. “Instead, this has become a backdoor method to strike on JNU and various student bodies which otherwise may have had expressed their opinions freely and critically against this government,” he said.