In Praise of…Parliament

Written by  //  August 18, 2011  //  National Politics  //  1 Comment

[I have always been a fan of The Guardian’s ‘In Praise of...’ column on its editorial page. This is a personal attempt  inspired by it]

At a time when it has become the norm in civil society, large sections of the media and the judiciary to criticise Parliament and politicians, it was refreshing to see Parliament serve a strong reminder to the nation as to what it is capable of. The impeachment motion against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court had all the makings of a dramatic spectacle— the dramatis personae- a judge accused of corruption being brought to ‘the bar’ of the Rajya Sabha for the first time in its history, the legislators determined to mete out justice, amongst them several legal eagles with sharp minds and sharper oratory; the setting- the hallowed halls of Parliament, the cornerstone of Indian democracy, the context- in the midst of unprecedented popular protests against corruption in governance, challenging the legitimacy of Parliament itself.

In such heady and tumultuous circumstances, witnessing the equanimity with which the MPs of the Rajya Sabha conducted themselves during the impeachment proceedings was heartening. There was no playing to the galleries, no hyperbole, little superfluity- instead, the speeches arguing both for and against the impeachment were measured, the scrutiny of the legal points, rigorous, the assessment of the Justice’s character, balanced, the reactions to his impassioned plea of innocence, honest, and the humour, refreshing. At its very root, the debate was essentially human—a coming together of divergent points of view that sounded very much like what the average Indian on the street would have said regarding the consequences that ought to be faced by a judge of a High Court who had been accused and twice found guilty of corruption.

This was especially creditable given the setting and the circumstances. To be sure, there was nothing ordinary about a judge being brought into Parliament, eloquently and passionately pleading his innocence, claiming he was being made a sacrificial lamb to protect a higher judiciary that was rotten at the core. In fact with allegations flowing thick and fast against a former Chief Justice and other judges, Parliament would have been very much out of its comfort zone, in the awkward and unfamiliar position of having to form an opinion and pass judgment on the higher judiciary, an institution, that has of late, assumed a halo of immunity. Equally there was nothing ordinary about the protests a few kilometres away outside Tihar Jail, where one man had captured the popular imagination by challenging the supremacy of Parliament itself. Parliament could scarcely have risen to the occasion better and served a more fitting riposte to its detractors than by discharging its constitutional obligation of impeachment wisely and responsibly, in a manner that would have made both the drafters of the Constitution, and the people of India proud.

About the Author

Arghya is currently doing the doctorate in law at the University of Oxford. Dithering between academia and litigation for a future career but sanguine in Oxford with his current researcher status.

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One Comment on "In Praise of…Parliament"

  1. ASG August 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm ·

    It was a momentary throwback to the golden era of Parliament when eminent representatives of the people like Jawaharlal Nehru, Hiren Mukherjee, Barrister Nath Pai, Hari Vishnu Kamath, Nirmal Chatterjee, Piloo Modi , Atal Vihari Vajpayee and even the acerbic Ram Manohar Lohia and many others regaled the House with their soul-stirring oratory. While debates were on party lines, such was the sweep of their intellectual prowess that they would never hesitate to come together when it came to core issues touching the fabric of democracy. Yes , the Rajya Sabha has shown that it can, hope the Lok Sabha also lives up.

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