The Supreme Court of India needs to be appreciated for its decision which it has served for a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on 2 March 2023. The Apex Court has said that the method of appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners for the Election Commission of India (ECI) will henceforth be done by the President of the Union based on recommendations by a committee that will comprise the Prime Minister (PM), the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the Leader of Opposition (LoP) as its members. It also elaborated that in case there is no single party capable of taking up the post of Leader of Opposition due to lack of requisite strength in the Lok Sabha, the leader of the largest Opposition party shall be inducted as a member.
This, of course, has been perceived by some interested parties as a judgment that demonstrates judicial overreach. Their argument is that the Courts, which are overburdened with a few million cases pending at various levels of the judiciary for long, should first make all out efforts to sort out their own problems and do their own work efficiently rather than interfere in matters of governance. While this allegation of pending cases cannot be brushed aside, the relevance of transparency in the nomination of Election Commissioners also deserves great attention, especially in present times when the world views India as turning away from its avowed path of democracy as the means of forming governments.
On one hand such people blow the trumpet loud that India is all set to become an internationally recognized economic ‘Super Power’. They love praises and acknowledgements from across the world. Getting photographed with foreign dignitaries is a wonderfully pleasant pastime for some leaders in India. However, when the same foreigners point fingers and criticize the dwindling freedom within the country, our leaders are indignant and intolerant. At such times, our ‘Super Power’ dreams are damned and the ‘foreign hand’ becomes the enemy within and without.
It is sad but true that most Indian voters believe casting their ballot once every five years is their penultimate contribution towards upholding and safeguarding democracy in the country. The interim five years are time to sit back and praise the government for all the wrong reasons or be negative towards the government for all the wrong reasons again. Those who oppose the government today forget what and how they treated the people of this nation when they were occupying the seats of power. Those who support the government today forget how they bitterly criticized the people in power earlier for sins which are now, again, being committed by their favorite politicians today. One can only laugh seeing retired bureaucrats, judges and people with business interests vomit wise words now but were mute spectators when they were holding the reins of power themselves or, like business folks, got their work done post haste at great costs to the nation earlier but not a whimper was heard from them when it mattered most. Similarly most politicians, when not in power, criticize governmental actions vehemently. Yet when they themselves get to form a government, they tumble into the same trap and repeat the exact same follies albeit in different forms.
It is undoubtedly a sign of great incompetence that the Indian judicial system is slow and it meanders at snail’s pace when judgments are to be pronounced. However, it is also a matter to be pondered as to why the whole Indian legal system is so bogged down with these millions of cases. One guess could be that the instruments of civil society do not function as they should. For instance, the Police in this country is not only terribly corrupt but also highly inefficient. Refusal of timely and seemingly honest action on the part of the Police results in petty cases going to Courts. Police, it can be said, deals mostly with criminal activities and is rarely, if ever, observed to be offering justice to the negatively impacted parties. Similarly, Revenue department that deals with land holding matters, Tax and other such departments of the government, both of the Union and the States, that deal with civil matters that touch the life of every single citizen, refuse to function transparently and efficiently, resulting in the Courts getting clogged with cases those that could have been easily dealt with by the concerned government agency. Apart from these reasons, every Indian knows that in any judicial matter in this country, no matter at which Court a case is listed, both sides of the litigation invariably instruct their lawyers to postpone the dates of hearing as long as is possible. It can safely be said that the long pending cases in Courts of India are the gifts of the litigants themselves to the system. Very rarely does a Complainant and more so the Defendant desire immediate justice. Prolonging cases is also in the interest of almost all lawyers. Magistrates and Judges make it easier for the advocates as it suits everyone to delay and drag the litigations seemingly endlessly. That apart any judgment passed hastily, with the ground work prepared by inept investigating agencies and untruths abounding, will be very lopsided. So to expect any judge to pass a judgment quickly, under Indian circumstances, will be equal to expecting immediate injustice to be served.
On the other hand, it is extremely dangerous to compartmentalize the Indian governance system. We have all observed how the Indian Legislatures, Judiciary and Bureaucracy function. With no overlapping and if everyone goes in one singular direction, it becomes difficult to obtain justice from the system. India has seen it in the mid 1970s and is seeing it in current times also. Therefore, not only the Election Commission but other constitutional posts also need to be democratically selected. It is important that posts like the Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Chief of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and even Governors of the states should all be vetted by a committee which could have a similar composition as suggested by the SC in the matter pertaining to the Election Commission of India. Such a move would greatly strengthen the democratic set up of India.
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