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The Lokayukta Travesty

Because laws do not work, they are worked.

Written by Jagdeep S. Chhokar |
Updated: January 15, 2016 12:03:08 am
Akhilesh yadav, CM akhilehs govt, up travel and tourism, up tourism, hotel set up, UP hotel set up fund, lucknow news Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

The shenanigans of the UP government over the appointment of the Lokayukta (‘How Akhilesh Yadav tried to handpick Lokayukta until Supreme Court cracked down’, The Indian Express, January 12) is merely the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is common experience that a large proportion of appointments are actually made by manipulating the process. This is true for almost all appointments, including constitutional and statutory ones.

Why does this happen? One explanation, as The Indian Express editorial (‘Nuts and bolts’, January 13) rightly points out, is that “the devil is always in the details. Insufficient clarity about the institutions, systems and protocols that are expected to drive the change is bound to derail it.” The “details” and the “insufficient clarity” in this case presumably refers to the process of appointment.

But, assuming that the process of appointment can be specified in full and to the last detail, is that likely to guarantee that only the most appropriate person will be appointed to each position? Unlikely. The reason for this seemingly pessimistic conclusion is found in the writing of Granville Austin. In the introduction to his scholarly work Working of a Democratic Constitution, Austin writes, “constitutions, however ‘living’, are inert. They do not work, they are worked.”

What Austin stopped short of saying is that all documents, including constitutions and clearly laid down appointment procedures, are worked by people and they will work only as well or as bad as the people who work them. So, while systems and protocols are definitely important, what is equally important, if not more, is that there are appropriate people to “work” the protocols. How do we ensure that?

The Indian Express editorial makes another very important observation: “A reasonable democratic process is built on the premise of multiple candidates for almost all posts”. The critical expression in the statement for our purpose is “reasonable democratic process”. The criticality of this expression lies in the fact that a lot, if not most, of our political leaders seem to be blissfully ignorant of what constitutes a “democratic process”. Hardly any has risen through one. They, therefore, only pay lip service to democracy. They have neither any understanding of nor any belief in democracy.

The root cause of this state of affairs is the way our political parties function. It does not require any insight to see that none of our political parties has any democratic element in its internal functioning. This is not something hidden. The Law Commission of India, in its 170th report as far back as 1999, stated that, “A political party which does not respect democratic principles in its internal working cannot be expected to respect those principles in the governance of the country. It cannot be dictatorship internally and democratic in its functioning outside.” The tragedy is that parties continue to be dictatorships internally and even outside to a significant extent, as long as they can get away with it.

The Law Commission went on to say, “With a view to introduce and ensure internal democracy in the functioning of political parties, to make their working transparent and open and to ensure that the political parties become effective instruments of achieving the constitutional goals set out in the Preamble and… the Constitution… it is necessary to regulate by law [emphasis added] their formation and functioning”.

The question at present is: How will such a law be made? All political parties have been stubbornly resisting any attempt at systematising their internal functioning. Ever since the Law Commission’s 170th report, all efforts at even proposing a law, along the lines recommended, have been successfully blocked by all parties working together. Persuasion has had no effect whatsoever. The only option, though not very encouraging, seems to be consistent public pressure. But until that succeeds, attempts at such devious appointments will continue to be made, and many of them will succeed too.

The writer is former professor, dean, and director in-charge of IIM, Ahmedabad. Views are personal.

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