Less than a week back, the Chief Justice of India, Shri SH Kapadia cautioned that judges should not rule the nation. He said, “Judges should not govern this country. We need to go by strict principle. Whenever you lay down a law, it should not interfere with governance. We are not accountable to people. Objectivity, certainty enshrined in the basic principles of the Constitution has to be given weightage.” He said this whilst delivering a lecture on ‘Jurisprudence of Constitutional Structure’ at the India International Centre at New Delhi.
This got me thinking: who should actually rule India? Over a period of time I have made a short list of those who shouldn’t. Here goes:
1. Judges. They can’t be ruling India for the reasons given in Justice Kapadia’s speech. Before the British gave us a central legal system based on Indian Penal Code in 1860 and Indian Evidence Act in 1872, India’s justice system was based on laws as given in The Arthashastra dating back to 400 BC and Manusmriti dating back to first century AD. Indeed, the caste or religion based codes of laws, eg, Hindu code of laws and Muslim code of laws were prevalent even after independence. Then there were – what is known as – customary laws. It is taking India a very long time indeed to become a civilized nation whose people respect the rule of the law. Many archaic laws and rules took considerable time in changing with changing times. Amongst other reasons, we have rampant political exploitation of the masses and thus – as came out in the infamous Shah Bano case – even after four and half decades of independence, we are nowhere near a uniform, easily understood civil laws. Everything is left to interpretations, technicalities and the like. Folklore says that it is better to sort out things between the people themselves rather than going to police, judges and lawyers. All these three categories are not averse to taking money from both the parties and prolonging the cases until the grandchildren of the original contenders opt for compromise (to sort out things between themselves). Then there are certain categories of people in India who consider themselves above the law. When a politician is charged with scams worth crores of rupees, he/she initially says it is “political vendetta” but later says, “Iska faisla to ab janata ki adalat hi karegi” (Only people’s court (mob mentality?) can now decide on this. You may feel that it is contempt of the court to even make a statement like that. However, since the politician feels that he is above the law, he has scant respect for the courts or the judiciary except for those who are on his payroll. India faces another problem in that, for a long time in history, the Judiciary, the Executive, and the Legislature were the same person. It is taking us a long time to get out of this. Our people are, by nature lawless, indisciplined, and prone to taking short-cuts.The reason for me to tell you this reality about the justice system in India is that our judges have hands-full (in more ways than one). We have lakhs of cases rotting in the courts for decades. Our people require newer laws every passing day but have scant regard for laws already enacted. In such a scenario, where is the time, energy, inclination etc for judges to rule the nation. If they are able to sort out the judicial mess we are currently in, that itself is too much to hope for.
2. Military. Sorry, we are very clear about this; we don’t want military to govern India. We don’t want to become like Pakistan. From the time of independence when our Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had this obsessive mania about keeping military far removed from governance to this year’s ‘exposure’ in a reputed Indian daily turning a routine movement of troops from Mathura and Hissar to New Delhi as likely design by Army under General VK Singh to take over governance of the country, our politicians and people at large have this unexplained mortal fear that one day military would take over the country. We ourselves call military to fill up lack of governance in many parts of the country, which we conveniently cover up by a term we have specifically coined for this purpose, viz, “law and order situation”. But, let alone giving the military a modicum of say in matters of governance, we disdainfully question even Armed Forces Special Powers Act in such states where we expect military to thanklessly sort out mess caused by politics and lack of governance. The armed forces chiefs are now 13th in the Order of Precedence in our nation. When Admiral Joshi took over as the 21st Chief of the Indian Navy, The Times of India, used to giving six column ‘news’ for Yuvraj having hit six sixes in an over, gave it as a small news on page 15. Indeed, Delhi Varsity or St. Stephen’s College not promoting Unmukt Chand, the Captain of the Under 19 team winning world cup, making it a bigger news. Our nation is now in a state that our cricket team winning a match is bigger news than the armed forces winning skirmishes, battles and wars against the enemy; many a times losing their lives (“the ‘b——-s’ are paid for it, so what’s the big deal?”) No, Sir, military should never be allowed to rule India.
3. Politicians. They should, if you really ask most people, be actually ruling India provided they are not corrupt or criminal. Regrettably, there is no other variety of this animal found in India. He or she has proved the English saying wrong, which ended with ‘but, you can’t befool all the people all the times’. There are many who have written volumes about how did the Anna Hazare movement ‘India Against Corruption’ fail; and why a strong Jan Lokpal Bill is still not around the horizon. My reason is simple: how can the corrupt be asked to make a Bill that curtails their own powers and take punitive action against themselves? It is like asking the thieves to lay down traps for themselves. Another big reason for the IAC to have failed is because it was wrong to assume that in our country only the politicians and big-wigs are corrupt. India is at an unfortunate period of time in history when people at large are corrupt and opportunistic; there is a race to somehow become richer, more powerful and more influential. In a democracy people not only get the government that they vote for; they get the government that they deserve. We can never expect and trust such politicians elected by such people to rule India.
4. Babus or Bureuacrats. Many people feel that when the British gave independence to India, it wasn’t complete independence as such. They had already created something called a Babu or a Saheb who, they were sure, would keep India from competing with England or rest of the world. As Winston Churchill said, “If the British left, India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages. If India becomes Independent power will go into the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight among themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles.”What an accurate prophecy? By endowing India with the scourge of babudom, in one stroke, the British curtailed the power of India by several centuries. The makers of the Constitution of India defined a term called ‘civil-servant’ or ‘public-servant’. I have finished living nearly six decades in this country; I haven’t yet come across a single babu or bureaucrat who regards himself as a ‘servant’ of the people or in ‘service’ of the nation or public. If you, dear reader, have come across these species kindly mention his/her address in the space provided for comments.
5. Police. No, Sir, we don’t want to become a police state. In 1948, after India became independent, the erstwhile Imperial Police was replaced by the Indian Police. If at one time we used to hear horrible stories about the excesses of the Imperial Police, we had no idea of what our police was going to do to us. Over a period of time, the police by itself and through political and bureaucratic interference, became completely corrupt. As an example, after 26/11, one of the recommendations of the Experts Committee was to have 6000 networked cameras installed at important points in the city. The city policemen, used to taking bribes as with the rest of their ilk, are more fearful of the cameras than the potential terrorists. Indeed, the terrorists know that they don’t have to fear being caught red-handed on the cameras because the police and the babus would make sure that the cameras even if installed would never function. The Indian Police is in dire need of reforms but it suits the politician, the bureaucrat, and the police itself, to continue pussy-footing on the reforms. Police have largely garnered powers to themselves and whilst the Director Generals are now equated higher than C-in-C’s of the armed forces, one has lost count of how many DGPs are there in each state. How can such people be trusted to rule India?
6. Industrialists. Even though, after independence, mainly to prove ourselves as a society forever fired by the need and zeal to see upliftment of and empowerment of people, we selected a socialist model of economy for ourselves, we soon realised that it was only making poor poorer. So, Manmohan Singh, the great spin doctor, came up with ‘reforms’ and we resumed being a capitalist society that we always were. Capitalism is an economic system that is based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods or services for profit. Look back in the last few decades and you will see the truth of this statement. Recently, whether it was 2G spectrum allocation, or Coal Mining auctions, or even Common Wealth Games, the common wealth of the people quickly went into the hands of ‘private ownership’. As the infamous Radiia tapes brought out there is now an unholy nexus between the politician, industrialist and the media. When John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Under capitalism, man exploits man; under communism, it is just the opposite”, he wouldn’t have ever known how true would it be for India. Irrespective of the type of the economy, in India, the industrialist, in cahoots with the politician (from whom he has to get crores of rupees even to fight elections), makes sure that the goose of the common man is cooked. Quite a few of them have now come out openly in support of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and some like WIPRO’s Azim Premji have donated crores for welfare projects, but it is still miles to go before we can think of an industrialist in India fired by philanthropic intents rather than profit making plans. In such a scenario, it would be asking too much of them to rule the country.
7. Filmstars, Godmen and Cricketers. carried away by their mass-appeal, some people of these categories dream of or are nominated to enter politics, eg, Dhirendra Brahmachari, Hema Malini and Sachin Tendulkar. Some others such as Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev dream of changing the corrupt system; but, if you ask the corrupt politician he too would tell you that the ‘realities of politics’ made him corrupt whereas earlier he wasn’t. Ruling or governingIndia is not merely showmanship. These categories of people can pull the masses but what exactly can they promise them other than dance and drama, religious mantras and sixes? No, ladies and gentlemen, these won’t do to rule India.
8. Media Personnel. At first glance they appear to be ideally suited to rule the nation; more so, when on debates on telly and talk-shows, they project themselves as the only people who have any idea of how to rule or govern the nation. However, look a little closer and deeper and you will find that they too have been rendered unfit for the job. Even as respected a figure as Padam Shri Barkha Dutt, as seen in the Radiia Tapes, was not beyond degeneration of soul for earthly gains. Collectively or individually, they haven’t shown great penchant for what is good for India. Being slaves of TRPs and industrialists and foreign powers who control the media, they ain’t expected to be more than watch-dogs and poodles of the people who feed them.
What’s the Choice? We started off with Justice SH Kapadia telling us that judges shouldn’t rule India. But, in the end, we are left with no choice as to who should rule India. We require the following in men and women chosen to ruleIndia:
He or she (henceforth, when I say ‘he’, it would mean both) should place country above his or her own interests and those of his or her family, friends and cronies.
He should realise that in our constitution there is a term called ‘Civil Servant’ or ‘Public Servant’ but there is no term called ‘Public Ruler’.
The only power sharing formula (our politicians are constantly working on these) he works out would be with people.
He would instil discipline, nationalism, religious tolerance, uprightness and honesty in the people through personal example.
Every decision taken by him would have people of India as its basic concern.
He would make India a corruption free, equitable society.
Any takers? Instead of ruling India, how about serving India and Indians? If you have any suggestions of your own, please feel free to pen them down.