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Indian hype and hypocrisy
Publication Date : 07-01-2013
There is Indian theory and Indian practice. There is Indian promise and Indian performance. There is Indian hype and Indian hypocrisy. There is awesome gap between what we plan and what we deliver. And as superb rationalists and escape artists we dwell on one and ignore the other. Thereby we salvage our disturbed conscience.
This trait in India’s national character has seldom been exposed more painfully than by the recent horrendous rape crime in Delhi. After the tragedy there is unprecedented outpouring of grief and emotion, for law and justice, for reform and change. There is no dearth of demands for new laws and new plans to prevent future crimes against women. We overlook the simple truth.
The only male witness to the crime and a victim of violence himself has given to a TV channel a restrained, matter of fact and entirely credible account of what happened during that fateful event. His account exposes callousness of the public and the gross inefficiency of police and hospital authorities. Had legal provisions already in place been implemented with a modicum of efficiency the crime would never have occurred. Had public apathy been less and police efficiency more the victim might have been saved.
The bottom line is that there are enough laws in place to prevent such crimes from taking place. But neither law nor procedure is respected. That is why not only rapes but all manner of crimes against men, women and children continue to torture society.
Doubtless there is room for improvement in the enactment of laws. Doubtless authorities may succeed in improving laws. But what, then? If even the best laws remain unimplemented, how will the situation change?
The most glaring lesson to be drawn from the recent tragedy is that law enforcement must be drastically improved if we seek meaningful change. Many wise suggestions have been offered about how to augment and improve the police force as well as our judicial system.
These are necessary long-term remedies that must be undertaken. But the most urgent and compelling reform required is to ensure that even existing laws and procedures are implemented.
Efficiency in implementation depends upon clear demarcation of responsibility and accountability. We are clear about assigning responsibility. We are vague about assigning accountability. That lies at the heart of India’s crisis related to poor governance. It was recently pointed out in these columns how the Supreme Court in its judgment on the Gujarat Lokayukta case having failed to identify the president as the final authority over the governor fell back on the dubious option of giving the High Court a right to override the decision of the Council of Ministers.
Because the governor could not be considered a sovereign entity, the Supreme Court resorted to the questionable device of granting authority to the Gujarat Chief Justice to override an executive decision. Not surprisingly, Opposition leader Arun Jaitley has criticised the court’s verdict in explicit terms.
It needs to be repeated again and again that India’s governance system will never function satisfactorily until the President preserves and protects all laws as is prescribed in the Constitution. Today the CBI works under the same authorities it might be expected to investigate and prosecute.
This glaring conflict of interest can be easily addressed by making the body constitutional and directly accountable to the [resident. That would presuppose of course that the president has a role to play that is more than ceremonial. The president is the only check to the Union Cabinet as the governor is to the Council of Ministers in the state. A system of checks and balance is the very foundation of democratic functioning.
The president alone is elected by all the people of India through an indirect poll conducted by the elected representatives of the people. The president alone has the mandate and moral authority to act as the government’s watchdog at the centre. The governor under his authority discharges the same responsibility in the State. The president is accountable to Parliament that has the power to impeach him if he transgresses law. That is what our system really is according to the Constitution. That is how our system must operate if we genuinely seek reform in governance.