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Are politicians above the law?

It is particularly disconcerting to see politicians of all hues and shapes unite under the umbrella of castigating the judiciary for the latter’s efforts at trying to cleanse the political system of its many sins. An all-party meeting on Thursday saw leaders across the political spectrum talking in sync about the issue of ‘erosion of supremacy’ of Parliament, a questionable claim given the fact that the legislative house is pretty much the seat of all that is not well with our country.

However, the meeting that was intended to highlight the conflict between legislature and judiciary, saw birds of different feather flock together in consensus on their mutual grievances on the excesses of the judiciary, as it were, that was encroaching into the powers of Parliament by passing judgements that made political accountability not a vague luxury but a tangible reality.

Yet, the 90-minute-meeting, convened by parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath, expressed reservations in a unanimous voice on the Supreme Court’s recent spate of orders, particularly singling out two such verdicts: one, involving disqualification of members of legislature if they are criminally charged, and the second, squashing reservation in the faulty of super specialty hospitals such as AIIMS.

This reluctance to disqualify party figures even when they have been criminally charged indicates that political parties across the spectrum have virtually no respect for the law of the land, and considering the figures that have been reported in studies, demonstrating the appallingly high number of criminals contesting elections, it is shameful that our leaders have the brazenness to openly oppose the court order seeking cancellation of such candidatures involving a criminal background.

When combined with the political parties’ other major grievance, that of their refusal to come under the ambit of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, and the union cabinet’s move to amend to Act so that the political parties can be excused from disclosing their financial sources, declaring assets and appointing a public information officer to respond to public enquires, it becomes evident that the political spectrum has escalated the war against what has been perceived by many as judicial activism, or the proactive role played by the judiciary in this country to bring about a semblance of transparency, equality before law, accountability and clean politics into our system.

However, the cabinet’s decision to bring in a National Judicial Commission Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament and see it passed immediately is a clear signal that the executive and legislature have decided to curb the powers of the judiciary.

It is extremely regrettable that ours is a system wherein the two pillars of democracy, viz., legislature and executive, are at war with the third (and also the fourth) pillar(s), that is the judiciary (and the media), to the extent that the judicial commission bill, a draconian act seeking to clip the wings of the defiantly independent hawk that is the judiciary in this country by introducing hurdles in its way to function smoothly or to give potent observations from time to time. Looks like the political classes have set out to cage the phoenix and turn it into a parrot, but it’s the responsibility of the civil society and the media now to vehemently oppose such a deplorable action.  
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