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When upper House in Andhra Pradesh made a mockery of democracy

When upper House in AP made a mockery of democracy
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When upper House in AP made a mockery of democracy 

Highlights

Democracy is a system in which governance is carried out in accordance with the Constitution and the laws which are passed in the true spirit of the Constitution

Democracy is a system in which governance is carried out in accordance with the Constitution and the laws which are passed in the true spirit of the Constitution. That is why the Constitution occupies a sacrosanct place in a democracy. In our country, the Constitution is seen as a reflection of the hopes and aspirations of the people as conceived by the best brains of the time when it was written. That is why people in public life, especially those in politics, vouch by the Constitution.

They, indeed, take their oath in the name of the Constitution and swear to uphold the Constitution. But, in reality, what they do is to ridicule the Constitution by playing petty politics in the name of the Constitution. The recently concluded budget session of the Andhra Pradesh Legislature offers a perfect example of this growing trend. In this instance, the Assembly passed the budget proposals of the government and sent it to the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council does not have any powers in financial matters and its role is limited to discussion. There is no scope for a decision or dissent according to the Constitution on the part of the Council in money matters. However, the Council neither discussed the budget nor returned it to the Assembly. The Council was adjourned sine die without even taking up the budget for discussion. The session is known as the budget session and if budget is not taken up, it is a clear violation of the Constitution. The budget will be deemed as passed by the Council or the Rajya Sabha in the context of Parliament if it is not returned within fourteen days.

In other words, the Council can delay the budget by a mere two weeks and no more. But such a delay can cause a lot of inconvenience to the processes of governance. Money cannot be drawn without the budget being passed by the Legislature. Despite two weeks lapse, the budget cannot be deemed to have been passed by the Council and unless the budget is passed by the Legislature as a whole, it cannot go to the Governor for assent. There are any number of examples when our Parliament sat till 4 am to pass the budget in order to meet constitutional requirements. But such niceties were thrown to the winds in Buddha's Amaravati!

This raises a question over the relevance of the second chamber. French scholar Sieyes said with amazing clairvoyance, as if he visualised Amaravati, nearly two hundred years ago: "If a second chamber agrees with the first chamber, it is superfluous and if it does not agree, it is obnoxious!" This is exactly the situation in the AP Legislature as elsewhere when the Council is dominated by the Opposition. When a political party loses power, it must graciously accept public verdict and introspect over its failure to win public trust than play petty politics to create hurdles for a party that won the public mandate and formed the government.

In the Constituent Assembly, there was a heated debate over the second chamber with some vehemently opposing its creation even in Parliament, while some others stood firmly for the second chamber in our legislative bodies. "I do not think there is a real need for the second Chamber. Its creation will only result in so much waste of public money and so much waste of time. I therefore submit that if the House is not prepared to change the Constitution of the second chamber as proposed in the Draft Constitution, it will be much better for us to do away with the second chamber altogether," said Loknath Mishra from Orissa. However, Anatasayanam Aiyengar said: it is necessary that we should have another House where the genius of the people may have full play. Gopalaswami Aiyengar argued thus: the most that can be expected from the second chamber is perhaps to hold a dignified debate on important issues… until passions subside, and calm consideration is bestowed on the matters which come before the Legislature. But the Council chose to ignore constitutional proprieties in preference for political expediency. Not to speak of dignified debate, there was no debate at all on the budget. The Council could have discussed the budget and offered its view than delay its passage and deprive employees their salaries on the first working day of July! In the corona crisis, that is the gift of the Legislative Council to the people! This is completely contrary to what the framers of the Constitution visualised in the gigantic task of drafting a Constitution for independent India. One cannot help wishing that saner counsel prevailed over the Council than scoring a political point over the ruling party. After all, our Constitution starts with the resounding words of 'we the people of India' and not 'we the political parties of India'!

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Dr BR Ambedkar Law College, Hyderabad. Views expresses are personal)

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