Edit/Op-Ed

NDA set for Rajya Sabha Majority: Here’s what Media, Judiciary and Opposition should do

Lawmaking always happens to be the foremost responsibility of an elected government depending upon obtaining a majority mark in parliament. In India, with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government reaching beyond 100 seats in the Rajya Sabha after the recent victory of 11 seats, the waiting list of preferred legislations of BJP appears to be confirmed as the ruling government is just 23 seats short of the required majority out of 244 strengths of Rajya Sabha. Though, the first regime of the NDA government had initially struggled to get its preferred bills passed despite having an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha.

But, the second regime of the NDA has begun with full of vigorous and enthusiastic by passing BJP’s own preferred laws suited for its ideological perspectives, namely, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, abrogation of Article 370 and Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act and Constitutional Amendment Act 2019. Though, the long-running protest against CAA 2019 has signified the importance of check and balance of the government’s decisions as few of the laws passed in NDA II appeared as ideologically motivated and with narrowed constitutional provisions.

Therefore, the opposition parties and the media need to have a check and balance in accordance with the constitutional provisions and the national interest as the ruling government may push a few of the other preferred bills in parliament after securing the majority mark in Rajya Sabha. Under these circumstances, balancing between the democratic power of the majority government and national values and ethos would also be a challenge to the judiciary as the last remedy to check and balance over the government’s decisions always remains with the Supreme Court.

Regional parties may act as a censor for legislations 

The purpose of having Rajya Sabha in a federal structure government amounts to be an instrument of check and balance over the majority government. Now, the ruling NDA government would shortly cross the majority mark in Rajya Sabha if backed by parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). Hence, these political parties have to be a micro guide for Indian democracy as the ruling party needs to be censored in terms of policymaking if the constitutional provisions are narrowly interpreted with ideologically motivated agendas. The legislation made by the majority government may be brought to a halt by a few small regional parties representing in Rajya Sabha if national interest and constitutional values get debased. Indian democracy happened to be witnesses of a number of incidences where regional parties representing parliament acted independently for national interests by backing government or opposing the government policies.

In 1978, the Banking Services Commission (Repeal) bill was rejected by the Rajya Sabha, and in 2002, the prevention of Terrorism Bill could not pass the Rajya Sabha scrutiny. Likewise, in 2008, the Samajwadi Party supported the UPA government in the floor test after left parties withdrew its support from ruling government on account of Indo-US nuclear deal as the Samajwadi party acted in favour of the national interest and scientific temperament needed for the energy sector as opined by Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam. Such healthy decisions from regional parties or national parties deserve to be applauded as their course of actions appeared to be above political interest which could be seen as a strong foundation for a healthy democracy.

Media prevents hasty legislation as an outsider

The active role of media as an independent voice representing public sentiments always happens to be a healthy sign for democracy if it fulfills its responsibilities without bias and apolitically. In India, the significance of media as an independent voice against the unlawful decisions or ignorance of public welfare has been seen in an assorted way as few of the cases were dealt by media positively in the national interest, whereas, few of the incidences were dealt commercially and politically leading to trust deficiency among the people.

The introduction of a specific law to address crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, namely ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act – 2012 (POCSO)’ has been possible with the pro-active role of media pressurizing the government after the Nirbhaya incidence of 2012. But, for the last few years, media escaped from its ethics and professionalism due to the existence of capitalism, which compels them to align with the government side sometime as proprietors of the media belong to the capitalist class.

Therefore, the media has started losing its relevancy in democracy as both government and media begin to appreciate each other’s work. Whereas, criticisms from the government is a badge of honour for journalists in democracy as quoted by Raj Kamal Jha, a well-known journalist. Now, the time has come for the media to show professionalism and mellowness by fulfilling its responsibilities apolitically as the remaining period of the ruling NDA government has to be completed with the majority in Rajya Sabha leads to pass many more preferred bills in the parliament.

Judicial intervention as a last remedy

As true custodians of the constitution, the Supreme Court remains intact to have control of over administration or executive actions by applying judicial review if laws passed by the government breach fundamental rights or misinterprets the constitutional provisions. Though the constitution has not used the expression, judicial review, yet Article 13 clearly says that any law which disobeys the fundamental rights of an individual shall be void to the extent of the contravention.

Other than this, the extent of judicial review also occupies a vital place rooted in the Indian Constitution as Articles, 32, 131-136, 142, 143, 226 and 246. The role of the judiciary has been witnessed with a number of the landmark judgments preventing the government from formulating or implementing any laws which violated the basic structure of the constitution.  A long list of judgments may be referred that changed the course of India in terms of lawmaking or executive actions of the government. For instance, In Golaknath v State of Punjab, 1967, it was provided that the amending power of the Parliament does not include the power to amend Fundamental rights. The Keshvananda Bharati v State of Kerala provided that the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be amended. In 1992, Indra Sawhney v Union of India, reservation in central government jobs, the Supreme Court held that caste could be a factor for identifying backward classes.

Therefore, the ruling NDA government needs to peek out the previous landmark judgments of the supreme court as a reference guide so as to respect for the fundamental rights as well as preserve the national values while formulating any laws. The most controversial act, namely CAA 2019 passed by ruling the NDA government is still awaited from the scrutiny of the judiciary as agitating people, including opposition parties, approached the court for seeking an interpretation of ‘reasonable classification’ as a source of CAA 2019. In the coming days, the responsibilities for interpreting the constitutional provision in the context of lawmaking assume to be frequent for the supreme court as the ruling NDA government looks forward to push many more preferred and controversial laws to the parliament after reaching the majority mark in the Rajya Sabha.

In conclusion, control over the government always happens to be the soul of the democratic, hence, the role of opposition parties, the judiciary, and the media should be experienced as creditable, authentic and national interest. Though, Indian democracy has flavoured a combination of both the taste of sweetness and sourness in terms of the way the three institutions performed their duty to have a check and balance on government decisions. At several times, opposition parties acted as a power seeker, media lacked in professionalism and the judiciary remained engaged in conflict with the legislature and the executive. Although, the way, the rule of law has been established in Indian democracy over the 73 years is a satisfactory outcome of the institutional independence provided under the constitution.

Dr. Ahmed Raza is Assistant Professor at MANUU & Project Director, Minor Research Project, ICSSR sponsored, MHRD, Govt. of India.

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