Bettering the Law
On the eve of 67th Republic Day, the President Pranab Mukherjee spoke to the nation about the quality of dissent and the need for progressive legislation. On the first point, President Pranab Mukherjee said, “Let us continue to complain, to demand, to rebel.” He recalled acts of intolerance and warned against the “forces of violence” and “unreason”. He reminded his audience of the virtues of dialogue. In an age, where anyone who criticises the ruling dispensation is branded an “anti-national”, Mukherjee said that being a nationalist did not merely entail a neat, unquestioning allegiance to the state. Dissent, he argued, can have regenerative powers. At the University of Hyderabad last year, a group of Dalit students demonstrating against the hanging of Yakub Memon was branded “anti-national and extremist” by a Union Minister no less. On the issue of progressive legislation, Mukherjee said, “For revitalising the forces of growth, we need reforms and progressive legislation. It is the bounden duty of the lawmakers to ensure that such legislation is enacted after due discussion and debate. A spirit of accommodation, cooperation and consensus-building should be the preferred mode of decision-making. Delays in decision-making and implementation can only harm the process of development.” Such a discussion arose after a number of bills and legislative decisions were stalled in Parliament last year. President Mukherjee articulated that a lot of these bills were of crucial importance. Unfortunately, the overriding feeling is that the President’s pleas are going to fall on deaf ears. With the Congress party’s support crucial for passing important bills, there seems to be no end to the current status quo. The BJP wants to corner the Congress party by attacking the Gandhi family and by leveling personal attacks. Meanwhile, the Congress will find any excuse to stall legislation. For example, its insistence on capping the GST tax rate at 18 percent in the constitutional amendment bill is ridiculous. And to use that as an excuse to stall on the crucial GST Bill is unfortunate. Including a cap on the tax rate would require an amendment to the law every time the tariff needs to be revised.