Courting People’s Hope

The Congress led UPA Government at the Centre which is presently holding the reins of the executive power must be breathing a sigh of relief following the decision of the Medical Doctors to call off the nation wide anti-quota strike continuing for the last eighteen days. Two things however should be noted here. Firstly, the government and more so the people of the country would have by now realized that if not for the Judiciary, the uncertain phase of mindless protests would have continued taking its toll on ordinary people who would have been left without proper access to basic health care. Continuing to deny this would have been tantamount to infringing on the Right to Life itself. Therefore much credit lies with the institution of the Judiciary for its ability to save the situation from further deteriorating. 

Secondly, it also goes to show that the political executive has lost much of its credibility in the eyes of the public who are not willing to trust the wisdom and ability of politicians to deliver ultimate justice on issues touching their lives. That the protesting doctors had relented only after the Supreme Court gave some form of assurance would go to show the citizen’s lack of faith in politicians as against the credibility enjoyed by the Judiciary in their eyes. In a similar vein the decision of the President to refuse assent to the Office of Profit Bill passed by Parliament and his subsequent action of referring the Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration should be seen as a welcome check against parliamentary majoritarianism which has the bad habit of riding roughshod over the letter and spirit of the constitution. 

The unfortunate part in the entire democratic sequel is that although the country has a conscience keeper in President APJ Abdul Kalam, the political system will not recognize his concern unless off course the Legislature (in this case) also dons the mantle of moral responsibility. The UPA government in all probability will be guided more by political consideration. The numerical majority it enjoys is all that will matter. At the end of the grueling exercise, the President will end up merely as a rubber stamp and nothing more. What little hope there is, in order to salvage democracy therefore lies at the hands of the Judiciary. It is for this reason that when democratic institutions are moribund, judicial activism is the only hope of justice for its citizen. 

Whether it is reservation or the Office of Profit Bill, unless the Judiciary intervenes, justice and fairness should not be expected from the political class. At a time when cases of maladministration and misuse of public offices by politician and bureaucrats is increasing it goes without saying that the restoration of rule of law depends on the wisdom of the Judiciary. While it should not entertain thoughts of assuming the mantle of a super-government, an independent and active judiciary nevertheless is surely a sign of good health in a democracy. One cannot however be so sure whether a dominant judiciary is a good thing. This will only mean the debilitating of the two other organs of democracy. Undoubtedly, the state of equilibrium among the three limbs of the State is the ideal situation. Once legislators start behaving with the grace that goes with their high position as representatives of the people and the executives also learn to manage within the wide powers already placed at its disposal, the judiciary will also shrink back to its intended size.