Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Azo Nienu Ventilates more area of concern

MLA & Leader of NPF Legislature Party Kuzholuzo (Azo) Nienu addressing the 29th Secheku Wrestling Meet stated that As we step into the New Year and start a new Chapter, let us embrace the excitement and promise it holds for all of us. May the year be filled with laughter, friendship, and exhilarating moments that take our breath away. Let us positively welcome the challenges and transform them into opportunities to grow and give us the opportunity to celebrate the victories, whether big or small.
The first concern, I have is the mass suspension of opposition MPs which naturally has kicked up a political storm and is seen as a big threat to India’s Parliamentary future, inviting reactions ranging from “Namocracy in all its tyranny” to “writing obituaries for parliamentary democracy”. All together 146 members of the Opposition, an unprecedented figure in the history of Parliament were suspended from both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha from December 14 to December 21 for the remainder of the 2023 Winter Session of Parliament. After the suspension, only 42 MPs opposing the BJP remained in the Lok Sabha while in the Rajya Sabha almost 50% of the Opposition strength was depleted while the Government chose to push through key legislations without any deliberations and debates with empty Opposition benches, thus depriving the House of the mandate. As such Bills like the Criminal Law Amendments which could unleash draconian powers and impede citizen’s Rights were passed without discussions. To many political observers, the suspension spree is a carefully thought-out action by the Modi government to throw out and bulldoze the Opposition while the opposition regard the act as a betrayal of Parliamentary democracy and a move to demolish democracy in the country by an autocratic BJP. Moreover, though both Houses have witnessed repeated suspensions in the last 15 years for disruptions and unruly behaviour, in the present situation the question remains whether the MPs should have been suspended when they were demanding a statement from the Union Home Minister on an event that happened in Parliament. Suspension as a tool to bulldoze the Opposition and to pass important Bills without any deliberations and debates is detrimental to the future of Parliamentary Democracy.
The disconcerting trend of the misuse of the three Central Agencies – the CBI, the ED and the NIA and their politicisation by the Union Government is another matter of concern. Several Media outlets have also analysed the misuse of the agencies by the Union Government. Supreme Court Justice R. M. Lodha had way back in 2013 described the CBI as a “caged parrot” that speaks “its master’s voice”. The misuse of the CBI since 1980 was seen in Delhi riots in 1984 and the Bofors Arms Deal in 1986. The abuse of CBI in targeting opposition and the dissenters since then has been glaring; even the news channel NDTV (and its owners) which is critical of BJP has been targeted since 2014.Several leaders in opposition parties have been targeted by the CBI since 2004. Despite scams rocking the UPA governments since 2004 of the 72 key leaders probed by the agency, 29 were from the Congress and its allies and 43 were from the opposition. Probes against 118 opposition leaders by the CBI since Narendra Modi-led NDA came to power are evidence of abuse when glaring cases against the BJP and leaders were ignored. Another feature of these probes and arrests was their timing; from the rise of a leader to prominence to national and state elections, all have invited CBI probe. In order to reduce political interference, the Supreme Court prescribed a selection committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commission to select the CBI director in 1998. The Lokpal Act, 2013 created a committee consisting of the Prime Minister (chair), the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India as members to select the director from a panel of senior IPS officers for a two year tenure which however fell flat by 2016. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also been used for prying against leaders of the opposition and other dissenters, even to change the popular verdict in a state by intimidating a MLA of a party and engineering defections. After the NDA came to power in 2014, the abuse of the ED has intensified; of the 121 political leaders probed by the ED since then, 115 (95%) belong to the opposition.
Another concern is the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Office and Terms of Office) Bill, 2023 passed recently by the Rajya Sabha and which in all likelihood is likely to be enacted into a law in its present form, as the new mechanism is different from the one spelled out by the Supreme Court. The independence of the Election Commission of India is essential for ensuring free and fair elections that is paramount for a vibrant democracy. The Supreme Court in March 2023 held that there has been a legislative vacuum due to the absence of any law by Parliament in the last 73 years (since adoption of Constitution) with respect to the appointment of the CEC and EC. The Supreme Court drew reference to various other institutions supporting constitutional democracy that have independent mechanisms for the appointment of its head/members like the National and State Human Rights Commission, the CBI, Information Commission, Lok Pal, etc. The Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) and the Law Commission 255th report on Electoral Reforms (2015) suggested that the CEC and ECs should be appointed by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and Leader of the Opposition or the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha. Considering these recommendations, the Supreme Court, exercising its powers under Article 142 (to issue directions for doing ‘complete justice’ in any matter), laid down that the CEC and ECs shall be appointed by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the CJI and the Leader of Opposition or the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha. However, the proposed Bill lays provides the procedure for appointment that the CEC and ECs shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister; recommendations of the Selection Committee will be valid even when there is a vacancy in this Committee. The international practices for selection and appointment of members to the electoral body vary between different democracies; in South Africa, the President of the Constitutional Court, representatives of the Human Rights Court and gender equality are involved; in the U.K., the House of Commons approves the candidate; in the U.S., the appointment is by the President and confirmed by the Senate. While it is the prerogative of Parliament to legislate on this subject, it would have been more appropriate to retain the CJI in the Selection Committee to ensure utmost independence. Though the proposed Bill moves the appointment process from just an executive decision to a committee-based selection, it is tilted in favour of an incumbent government; at the same time allowing the Selection Committee’s Recommendations to be valid even with a vacancy could result in a monopoly of ruling party members, undermining the diversity and independence of the Committee.
What the future holds and where our country is heading in totally disturbing it’s almost as if this biggest democracy is coming to an end therefore , the MLA has given a clearion call for all bold and upright Leader’s to voice out to protect our rights and protect democracy.
Kuzholuzo (Azo) Nienu
MLA & Leader of NPF Legislature Party

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