Essay on the Functioning Of Democracy throughout the world.
Democracy as a form of government implies that the ultimate authority of government is vested in the common people so that public policy is made to conform to the will of the people and to serve the interests of the people.
Today we have indirect democracy where government is conducted by the representatives of the people, who are elected at regular intervals.
Development of Thought:
Effective democracy requires principles and working institutions. Although the Constitution of the Republic of India affords a perfect model for a democratic state, the importance of the machinery of democracy has been undermined by the secessionism, sectarianism, parochialism and other vested interests.
This is not a democracy, hut its death-knell. Suffice to say that every Indian must look forward to build up an India which will stand as a man or society against whatever calamity befalls our lot.
The responsibility therefore lies on the people of India where each man will play the role of a poet, philosopher, warrior, and administrator, rolled into one, in the cause of the motherland which stands paramount to the narrower interests of his family, community or political affiliation.
In brief, democracy as an idea can neither be achieved only through political institutions, nor only through a transformation of the mode of production.
It has to be achieved in all spheres simultaneously; in the legal and political sphere through constitutional structures; in the economic sphere through socialist mode of material production and in the cultural sphere through inculcation of new values of human equality.
The defeat of Germany and Japan in the Second World War and the disintegration over forty years later of the Russian Empire finally saved the world from domination by one dictatorship or another.
The United Nations after the war pointed in the direction of democracy based on universal suffrage and human rights. Effective democracy requires principles and working institutions.
The principles of democracy must be enshrined in a constitution which defines the roles of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary; guarantees human rights and fundamental freedoms and ensures that executive and legislative powers are exercised by elected representatives of the people.
The institutions of democracy are basically six in number. There must be a legislature elected at intervals by universal suffrage. There must be political parties with coherent policies and capable alone or in conjunction with other parties for carrying out a consistent programme.
There must be an executive stall with civil servants who are politically neutral. There must be an independent legal system.
There must be a free press and the principles and institutions of democracy can function satisfactorily only in a free enterprise and competitive economy which increases the wealth of the country and provides for the health, housing and education of its citizens.
One of the oldest, albeit unwritten, constitutions is that of the United Kingdom. Democratic institutions under this evolved gradually over seven centuries. The present problems are three in number.
First, there is confusion over the role of democratically elected local government authorities as the political complexion of the central government has been for thirteen years and will remain for the next five years at least of a conservative persuasion, whereas parts of the United Kingdom.
In particular Scotland and Wales and certain industrial areas, persist in electing local authorities of a more radical nature. The central government, despite protestations to the contrary, reduces the powers and the available finances of local authorities.
So that there is no scope for local authorities to carry out policies which are not consistent with the policies of the central government.
Secondly, there is a dispute over the provision of money by taxation. Indeed, this may be the only substantial difference between the government and the opposition.
The policy of the government is to decrease taxes on wealth partly by reducing government expenditure, partly by increasing taxes on consumption and partly by obtaining finances from the sale of North Sea oil and of nationalized assets.
Under this policy, so it is said, although the rich get richer, the poor do not get poorer because there is an overall increase in wealth which brings prosperity to all.
There are, however, some who argue that this policy reduces the standard of living of the poor and erodes standards of education, housing and welfare.
Thirdly, there is the problem of British industry , large parts of which are basically anti-democratic in practice, indulging in monopolistic practices, in racial and sex discrimination and in poor industrial relations.
Hence the constant conflict between the Government of this country representing British industry and the governments of other Member States in the European Community.
Despite the three problems, there is no real threat to democracy in the Untied Kingdom save the formidable threat posed to Northern Ireland by sectarian violence.
One of the oldest written constitutions is that of the United States of America, which dates to the eighteenth century. That constitution has been an inspiration to every other democracy. But in the United States, as in England, there is a disparity between principle and practice.
The standard of living of the white citizens of the United States is the highest in the world but the freedom and opportunities enjoyed by the black citizens are circumscribed by poor standards of living, housing and education.
So there is a danger to democracy, illustrated by the recent riots in Los Angeles, resulting from the fact that democracy appears to be failing the black members of the community.
In Western Europe, the shame of years of dictatorship and war produced democratic written Constitutions which guarantee human rights and freedoms.
Those were in close association with the European Economic Community and in agreement with the European Convention of Human Rights.
The combination of a democratic constitution and private enterprise economy has resulted in high standards of living, education and culture.
Eastern Europe and the countries which were formerly in the empire of Russia lack many of the institutions and traditions which are essential to democracy. In particular, their political parties lack organization and credibility and fall a prey to the ambitions of individuals.
Inefficiency and corruption afflict officials and the guardians of law and order. There is the ever present menace of uncontrolled armed forces. In Africa and South America where the machinery for democracy is not lacking, the constraints of poverty and corruption subvert the principles of democracy.
Chile, a country which lurched from communism into dictatorship, now seeks to build a private enterprise oriented democratic community.
Over South America and Africa as a whole, democracy will not flourish unless the West allows and inspires home industries to flourish and the standard of living is improved.
India became a republic at the time when the world dictatorships had been destroyed and at the time when the statesmen of India included men and women who had both studied and worked to establish a democratic constitution for many years.
The draftsmen of the constitution took into account models and examples from all parts of the world. They possessed a command of different languages which enabled them to combine clarity and ability of expression so that the constitution is a complete blueprint for India and a model for the rest of the world.
The implementation of the constitution has been assisted by traditions inherited from the British of integrity in the legal system and in the civil service. There were two intractable problems in India which could not be solved by a written constitution, namely, poverty and religious sectarianism.
Famine which had haunted India for generations was overcome by the most Herculean efforts to improve the extent and quality of agriculture and immense strides were made in industry. But the inexorable increase in population has defeated all attempts to improve substantially the standard of living of the poor.
All that can be is that in those industrial and other areas where poverty has declined, the crease of population has fallen. The government has begun to realise the importance of foreign investment and the West has begun to realise the importance co-operating with the largest democracy in the world.
The Constituent Assembly which was responsible for drafting the Constitution of India began its labours on December 9, 1946. India became an independent republic on August 15, 1947 and the Constituent Assembly duly completed its task on November26, 1949.
The Constitution was the best debated and most detailed in the world and its authors, who included eminent jurists statesmen experienced in the complexities of Indian society, considered, as point out earlier.
The theory and practice of all the democratic countries and in particular the Constitutions of the United States of America and the Republic of Ireland The Constitution provides that India shall be a union of states.
Fundamental rights are defined and guaranteed and include freedom of speech and express so that the freedom of the press is secured. The legislature of the Union cons: of a two chamber Parliament. The House of the People is elected by universal suffrage at intervals nut exceeding five years and the Council of States is elect: by the Legislative Assemblies of the states.
The executive power in the Union is vested in the President who must however act on the advice of a Council Ministers collectively responsible to the House of the People.
The Constitute establishes a Supreme Court of Judges who are appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice and who hold the office until the age of 65 a judge of the Supreme Court can only be removed by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament.
The Supreme Court exercises appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts of the states. The independent of the judges of the High Courts of the states is likewise assured by giving the security of tenure of their offices.
The Constitution provides for the recruit” of a civil service and the appointment of a Public Service Commission which exercises a supervisory role. By Article 53 “The supreme command of the defense Forces of the Union shall be vested in the President and the exercise thereof shall be regulated by law”.
Part 4 of the Indian Constitution is concerned with “Directive Principles State Policy”. This part of the Constitution is a striking attempt to indicate principles and policies which should be pursued by the Constitution.
The Constitution provides that the directive principles shall not be enforceable by any court of law but it is fundamental to the governance of the country that it shall be the duty of the states to apply these principles in making laws.
The principles enjoin the states to Endeavour to secure social and economic welfare and justice for all people without discrimination and to provide education and free legal aid.
The Constitution of India, apart from the innovative directive principles, makes ample and detailed provisions for the institutions and principles which are essential to the functioning of democracy.
Although the Constitution of the Republic of India affords a perfect model for a democratic state, the importance of the machinery of democracy has been demonstrated by subsequent events in India.
Strangely enough a threat to democracy in India was posed by Indira Gandhi, one of the greatest Prime Ministers of India and a world statesman. Her services to our country were outstanding but in common with her brilliant and revered father, she was impatient to secure progress for the country.
In 1975, impatient with the slowness of the Parliament, Mrs. Gandhi declared a State of Emergency and ruled by decree. However, she did not attempt to interfere with the democratic rights of the electorate and called an election in accordance with the Constitution.
The electorate roundly rejected Mr. Gandhi although on a subsequent occasion she and her party were reinstated.
Also in 1977, Mrs. Gandhi, impatient with the decisions of the Supreme Court persuaded Parliament to pass the 42nd amendment to the Constitution.
By tide 368, the Parliament was authorized to amend the Constitution by a Bill which was required to be passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that house and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.
Certain amendments required to be ratified by the legislatures of not less than one half of the states. In practice, there have been over 102 amendments to the Constitution.
The 42nd amendment pro- tided inter alia that no amendment of the Constitution “shall be called in question in any court on any ground” and that “there shall be no limitation whatever the constituent power of Parliament to amend by way of addition, variation repeal provisions of this Constitution under this Article”.
The Supreme Court India has, however, in a number of decisions laid down that the power of ding the Constitution contained in Article 368 cannot be so exercised as to alter or destroy the basic structure or framework of the Constitution.
In other words, the power of amending a democratic constitution cannot be exercised so as to destroy the democracy created by the constitution. Putting this principle into practice, the Supreme Court in Minerva Mills Limited v. Union of India R 1980, SC 1789) declared void and invalid those provisions of the 42nd amendment which purported to confer on Parliament an unfettered power to ltd the Constitution and to exclude the jurisdiction of the court.
In order that democracy may function efficiently and give effect to the fences of the majority of the electorate, it is essential that there shall be political parties which shall give the electorate a choice.
In the United States, there are for all practical purposes only two parties, the Democratic Party and Republican Party, whose policies can hardly be distinguished. In practice, the
President is supported by one of the two parties. A change in administration only brings about a change in the persons who are rewarded with office and in the persons selected to be appointed to judicial offices.
By and large, a President and his party only lose an election if the standard of living of the majority of voters has declined or a war has been lost. The riots in Los Angeles were a cry of despair by the black community which could find no political party prepared to do anything about the grievances of black people in relation to poverty and discrimination.
The same kind of problem is becoming apparent with regard to the British Parliament. The differences between the political parties are not substantial.
Even the disagreements over the amount of government expenditure and the amount of taxation are unreal in that no administration will in practice have much choice.
The most that can be said is that under one party the burden of taxation will be imposed on consumption rather than wealth whereas under the other party the burden will fall more heavily on wealth.
In Peru, the disillusionment of the electorate with all political parties led to the election of a President who was not the leader of any party. Thereupon the Parliament got united to frustrate the measures which the President had been elected to take against corruption, inflation and tax evasion.
The President then suspended the Parliament aid promised to secure the consent of the electorate to an amended Constitution which will preserve democracy but confer more power on the President as opposed to the Parliament.
The United States of America has suspended aid to Peru because the United States disapproves of the action of the President in suspending the Parliament. Under the Constitution of the United States, there is a possibility of deadlock between the President and Congress but in practice a compromise is usually found.
In India and in the United Kingdom, no such problem arises because of the absence of a President with executive power. In the United Kingdom, there is a slightly more subtle problem. The Parliament is so organised that the dominating influence is the Prime Minister.
The policy of the Government can only be changed if the Prime Minister is changed and a political party will only change a Prime Minister if there is a danger that the policy of the Prime Minister is likely to lose the next election (hence the replacement of Mrs. Thatcher by Mr. Major).
India has been plagued with a superfluity of political parties. The implementation of a consistent programme by which a political party secures election becomes impossible if members of that party, for their own private purposes, refuse to support that programme.
Government can be brought to a standstill by insubordinate members of the political party which forms the administration. This problem applies both to the Parliament of the Union and to the Legislative Assemblies of the states where political allegiance is liable to be volatile.
In 1985, the Constitution of India was altered by the addition of the Tenth Schedule. By that Schedule, a Member of Parliament who belongs to a political party ceases to be a Member of Parliament if he voluntarily gives up his membership of his political party or votes or abstains from voting disregarding any direction issued by his political party.
There are complicated provisions which apply when a party splits into two groups each of which consists of not less than one-third of the original party and further complicated provisions provide for mergers between political parties.
Any dispute as to whether a Member of Parliament has tome subject to disqualification must be referred to the Speaker. Similar provisions apply to the members of political parties in the Legislative Assemblies of the states.
It will be interesting to see whether this innovative attempt to secure stable governments by stable political parties has the success which it deserves.