In the last few days the UPA leaders have started mobilizing criticism of Anna Hazare on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to question the Parliamentary process. Hence it is important for us to reflect on the sanctity or otherwise of the constitution and how it is affected by the demands of Anna Hazare.

As pointed out by Mr Nariman, in a TV debate, the Constitution of India puts People before the Parliament. Hence the people always have an overriding voice when it comes to suggesting how the Parliament has to function.

We cannot forget that the Indian Constitution has been amended at least 94 times and more amendments are in the pipeline. It is not as if Indian Constitution is a rigid document which the political parties have respected in the past. Many of the amendments that have been passed on the constitution have been passed by the MPs and will not get the sanction of the people of India if put to vote.

In the Anna Hazare case, the people’s verdict is out before the verdict of the MPs. MPs themselves have a vested interest in the Bill and there is an  an inherent conflict of interest in MPs passing this legislation. In the past MPs have ofcourse passed the laws relating to their own salary where also there was a conflict of interest. In fact that legislation should have been struck down as improper but no body challenged it.

In the case of all decisions where the Parliament has an inherent conflict of interest the only method to resolve the constitutional crisis is to go for a referendum based on adult franchise. In all matters of national interest the entire country should participate. This is more important than electing our representatives.

So far the MPs were never challenged by people even though there have been demands for “Recalling of elected representatives” in the past.

Now it is necessary that all matters of public interest where the Parliamentarians have a conflict of interest should be resolved through a referendum. If the issue is national the referendum should be national. If the issue is a State matter then there can be a statewide referendum.

Though there is a cost in conducting such a referendum, it would be far less than that of conducting an election since it is issue based and no politician need to project himself through a campaign.

The time has now come to test the efficacy of a referendum in respect of the Lokpal Bill. Let us have all the three versions of Lokpal Bill currently in focus namely the Government Bill, Anna Hazare Bill and Aruna Roy Bill after a process of finalization of the draft. Let us keep the referendum to one main question “Which Bill is acceptable”.

If required the bill can be split into not more than 5 sub questions such as “Scope of Bill in terms of coverage “, “Constitution of Lokpal Committee”, “Appointment of Lokpal Members”, “Investigative powers” and “Prosecuting Powers” and separate questions can be framed on each of the five points. All the questions along with the support documents (like manifestos) submitted by the sponsors of the three versions should be translated into as many languages as necessary and publicised through media.

The election commission can undertake the task of conducting the referendum.

This will be a referendum where there is no caste or religious consideration and hence it should be exciting to see if the voters respond in full strength and express their opinion.

Since people’s will is even above the constitution itself there should be no issue in translating the referendum into a law with an unanimous decision of the Parliament. Parliament should not be given any powers to modify the will of the people.

I hope that all stakeholders will agree to such a system and we will bring in a revolution in the democratic system in our country.

Naavi of Naavi.org

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