Should MPs face mid-term appraisals?
Dhananjay Mahapatra, IN THE TIMES OF INDIA DECEMBER 21,2009
A written Constitution is generally acknowledged as supreme and sovereign. In a federal democratic set up like ours judiciary has always been recognised and respected as the guardian of the Constitution. And the guardian is staring at the eye of a storm.
In an unprecedented development, two motions each signed by more than 50 MPs were moved in Rajya Sabha within a year seeking removal of Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court and Karnataka HC Chief Justice P D Dinakaran.
It signifies three things — people have become sceptical about the need for the traditional iron curtain that hid happenings inside the inner sanctum of judiciary; advocates have become bolder to speak out against misconduct of judges; MPs are increasingly becoming restive at being singularly subjected to public scrutiny and started asking why not judiciary?
Prior to MPs resorting to the removal procedure prescribed under Article 124(4) of the Constitution, what actually causes immense damage to the judiciary is the manner in which charges fly thick and fast against judges. In an era like the present one, charges, howsoever wild they may be, generally stick, even against the most honest.
It is only on proven misconduct or misbehaviour that Parliament can remove a judge. That is why necessary inquiry has to be done by a panel headed by a Supreme Court judge prior to the debate in Parliament on motion for removal of a judge.
But so much is said before a judge faces the inquiry prior to debate, that he can do little to salvage his image even if he gets a clean chit. God forbid the panel if it gives a clean chit to a judge, for the panel head and its members would then be instantaneously condemned for being partisan.
On the flip side, the two motions in RS for removal of HC judges proved many a sceptic wrong that it was a cumbersome process. It is difficult, but not so difficult as it was thought to be.
Having said this about judiciary, a reflection on the conduct of MPs would not be out of place. Once a person gets elected to Parliament, whatever be his performance in the House, indifference towards his constituency or his misdeeds, he would get his salary and later pension.
There is no mechanism with the voters to recall a representative if he does not perform well. Should there be a mid-term referendum to judge an MP’sperformance and possible removal if he is found wanting? If an MP has fared miserably or found to have committed misconduct, can the voters not have a say, in the least, whether he deserves to get pension?
The winter session of Parliament is a ready example. MPs were not there to ask questions. Should they be paid salary and pension for being absent? Who censures them? Except for expressing concern by veterans, has the House ever withheld their salary and pension on that count?
Voters have to wait for five years, if the government does not break on its own. Here is an example of how chaos can be scripted in a country that needs urgent administrative measures to control spiralling prices of essential commodities taking them out of common man’s reach. Food is more vital than security as in the present scenario one can discount the looming terror threat.
Succumbing to a 11-day fast, home minister P Chidambaram declared initiation of process for formation of Telangana and scripted the state-bifurcation chaos across the country and the unruliness that ruled in Parliament. Who finds who is accountable for such situations? None, least of all the voters.
Removal of judges is codified. The procedure may be made less cumbersome or even over-simplified to meet the demands of judiciary baiters. But, given the manner in which our elected representatives are conducting themselves, it is time for introspection whether voters could have a binding mid-term appraisal of their MPs and MLAs.
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Dhananjay Mahapatra //
A written Constitution is generally acknowledged as supreme and sovereign. In a federal democratic set-up like ours, judiciary has always been recognised and respected as the guardian of the Constitution.