I have heard two important comments in the past twenty four hours which worry me.
The External Affairs Minister Shri Salman Khurshid was delivering a talk in London. In the course of his lecture he appears to have commented that both the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of India are overreaching their jurisdictions. He believes that a few unelected persons cannot regulate Indian democracy because it is always the elected representatives who represent the will of the sovereign. The argument is both misconceived and misleading.
There is a clear separation of powers under the Indian Constitution. The responsibility for interpreting the law is with the Courts. The Court can judicially review the constitutional validity of any law framed by the Legislature. The Court can judicially review all acts of the Executive. It is for the Court to decide the limits of its jurisdiction. Ordinarily, the courts do not substitute their wisdom for that of the Executive. Policy formulation is the job of the Executive. Law framing is the function of the Legislature. In the course of judicially reviewing their functions the Court can always step in and prevent an unconstitutionality or arbitrariness. The Court can direct the Executive to follow the mandate of law. The Court can even desire to ascertain whether there are good reasons for the executive acting in a particular manner while taking a decision. All decisions have to be informed by reasons. Reasons must be recorded and cannot be assumed to exist. In the course of interpretation of law and judicial review, the Court can lay down the parameters of constitutionality and reasonableness. We may choose to call it judge-made law. It is true that at times the Supreme Court lays down rules/regulations/guidelines for the Executive. In recent years, the separation of power is obliterated by some judicial pronouncements. But these are exceptions. There can even be aberrations. They do not indicate the normal pattern of India’s judicial functioning.
The Election Commission of India has evolved over the years. It is the principal institution which is responsible for the conduct of free and fair elections. It has conducted itself well. Indian democracy has survived and survived well primarily because of free and fair elections and an independent judiciary. A free media, a vibrant parliamentary democracy have also contributed in strengthening the tradition of democracy in India. The Code of Conduct was initially non-statutory. It has today got the authority of law as being a part of the residuary jurisdiction of the Election Commission under Article 324 of the Constitution. It has also got a judicial sanction by a pronouncement of the Supreme Court in 2002. It is primarily because of the Model Code of Conduct which the governments at times find inconvenient, that Indian elections are free, fair and provide a level playing field. It is a bit unusual for a senior Minister of the Government to criticize these institutions on the foreign soil. These are institutions which have contributed to strengthening democracy in India.
The second disturbing comment has come from Arvind Kejriwal. He claimed that the Media has been managed by Narendra Modi and it was playing up the Modi wave. He therefore presumed that the media has been paid and after Arvind Kejriwal comes to power at the Centre he would lock up the journalists responsible for this. Realizing that his comments have been found disturbing by the people he has now gone into a denial mode.
Arvind Kejriwal started as a populist. He has evolved into a demagogue. He can make allegations against anyone and everyone without any supporting evidence. He has little concern for the truth. He believes in repeating the falsehood several times. He convinces himself that facts manufactured by him are true. As a populist in many areas he is ideology-less. He looks at the mood of the mob before presenting his case. Such persons can be extremely dangerous for democratic institutions. The theory he espouses in simple language is –“Media must be taught a lesson because it is not honest. The proof of dishonesty is that they are reporting that there is an electoral advantage that Modi seems to have”. With a straight face he can deny he ever said what is recorded on camera.
Why are Salman Khurshid and Arvind Kejriwal angry with democratic institutions like the Judiciary, Free Press or the Election Commission? Their criticism is not a sign of mature politics. Electoral victories and defeats are a part of the electoral process. It is India and its democracy which is immortal. Men are not. The prospects of an electoral defeat should not frustrate Salman Khurshid and Arvind Kejriwal into believing that democratic institutions in India have been compromised.