Fairness in Indian Democracy: A Vital Thread

3 Min
Fairness in Indian Democracy: A Vital Thread

Hari Jaisingh

In the intricate tapestry of India’s legal system, an unseen thread exists – a silent yet sturdy strand that calls for fairness, reason, and transparency. It is the thread that shapes the essence of justice in our country, resonating through stories etched in the hearts of most Indians.

The essence of fairness doesn’t merely exist in statutes; it springs from ancient stories like the epics of Mahabharat and Ramayana or the story of Adam and Eve. Remember when Adam and Eve were cautioned about the consequences of their actions? Even then, decisions were preceded by discussions, a chance for voices to be heard – a glimpse of fairness before judgment was cast. Similar reflections of justice, guided by these principles, can be traced to the Mahabharat and the Ramayana, exemplifying the administration of justice through fair hearings and reasonable opportunities.

Consider the resolute spirit of Maneka Gandhi; her passport was unjustly seized without explanation. Her fight was not just personal; it ignited a movement towards fairness within India’s legal framework. Maneka Gandhi’s battle in court highlighted the violation of her right to a fair procedure. The Supreme Court’s ground-breaking ruling in her favor redefined Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, emphasizing the integral nature of a fair process in the right to life and personal liberty. This watershed moment emphasized that any action impacting individual liberty must adhere to fairness, reasonableness, and transparency.

Now, let us leap forward to today’s world of governance, where decisions often come swiftly. Amidst the flurry, whispers emerge – concerns about decisions made without involving all voices. The Modi government has faced scrutiny and criticism on various fronts regarding potential violations of the principles of natural justice. One prominent case that sparked debates about procedural fairness was revoking Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.

The government’s decision to revoke Article 370, which granted special autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, was met with widespread debate. While the decision itself was a matter of policy, concerns were raised regarding the procedural aspects, especially the need for more involvement of local representatives and other stakeholders. The sudden imposition of restrictions, including communication blackouts and a clampdown on local political leaders, without a transparent and inclusive consultation process raised questions about fairness and transparency in decision-making.

Additionally, instances related to specific high-profile investigations and actions, such as arrests or raids conducted by investigative agencies, have been criticized for their timing and perceived lack of due process, leading to debates about potential violations of natural justice.

The concept of “Reasonable Opportunity,” enshrined in Article 311 of the Indian Constitution, intertwines with the principles of natural justice. Landmark cases – such as those of A.K. Gopalan, Tulsiram Patel, D. K. Nayak, and the aforementioned Maneka Gandhi case – examine the practicality, flexibility, and rigidity in applying these principles within the constitutional framework.

In the Kasab case, despite the severity of the crimes, efforts were made to ensure that Kasab received a fair trial by the principles of natural justice. He was provided legal representation and allowed to present his case, and the trial was conducted openly and transparently.

In courts, judges grapple not just with laws but with the essence of fairness – how much opportunity is enough, what is reasonable, and what is just. It is a dance of justice, not confined by rigid rules but guided by the wisdom and conscience of those who seek fairness within the law’s embrace.

In the corridors of power, stories circulate about investigations and actions that seem to skip steps, missing a beat of due process. These incidents stir debates, questioning the invisible thread of fairness that should guide every decision, especially in today’s fast-paced world.

The challenge is not just about following rules; it’s about preserving the heartbeat of democracy.

In India’s vibrant democracy, fairness isn’t a mere legal term; it is the guiding light that illuminates paths, nurtures rights, and upholds dignity. It is an ancient tale interwoven into modern debates, a thread of justice shaping our collective future.

Let us look at what is happening in Parliament today. A record number of Opposition MPs have been suspended. This suspension spree was triggered by a gas attack incident in Parliament, which led to protests from the Opposition MPs, who were dissatisfied with the lack of response from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.

This trend of suspensions is not entirely new, but the recent escalation is concerning. It has highlighted that the lack of clear constitutional limits on these powers makes them prone to abuse, impacting the essence of democratic processes and debates within Parliament.

The surge in suspensions emphasizes how Parliament’s core role in passing legislation and engaging in meaningful debate is compromised. It notes a disturbing trend where bills are being rushed through without proper discussion, raising concerns about the functionality of a deliberative democracy.

The increased suspensions shed light on Parliament’s compromised role in legislating and engaging in meaningful debates. This trend reveals a troubling pattern where vital bills are expedited without adequate discussion, raising doubts about the functionality of a deliberative democracy. This erosion of fundamental democratic elements necessitates urgent attention. It is time to look beyond today and ensure the transparent functioning of our democratic institutions. In a world where fairness is the cornerstone of justice and democracy, its absence risks unraveling the fabric of our collective future.

(December 22, 2023)