Constitutional checks and balances

August 28th, 2012

The CAG has done it again. Another series of reports castigating the government for its wrongdoings and causing a loss of hundreds (or maybe thousands or may be lakhs of crores) to the exchequer have been tabled in Parliament (CAG reports on allocation of coal blocks, mega power projects under special purpose vehicles and on the private public partnership project for Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport). And yes, the government has responded in its own trademark manner, by either rubbishing the findings or remaining silent. The government has always responded in this manner to anything which is not in sync with its line of thinking.

The one response that is new this time is that the CAG has exceeded its brief and is now working beyond the powers vested in it by the constitution. This is what Narayanswamy (MoS PMO) meant when he accused the CAG of “exceeding his mandate”.  This is not a matter of joke and such a comment should not be taken lightly in any democracy. CAG is one of the few independent institutions deriving strength from the constitution - not from the government and any comment questioning the limits within which it can perform its duties is surely an attack on democracy.

This response is in line with the Government’s stand on judicial overreach which it is trying to counter by introducing the judicial accountability bill. What perplexes the mind is that is this government trying to champion the cause of independent constitutional authorities which form the bedrock of democracy or it is fast trying to bring all such institutions under its the control? In all probability, it is the latter which is the main intention of the government. If the government succeeds in this effort, it is going to be a disaster for the long-term survival of the democracy.

The constitution of India has developed a system of checks and balances to ensure the smooth functioning of the democracy. The CAG and the judiciary are two important constituents of these checks and balances. By lambasting them in public and trying to bring in laws to curb their work areas, the government is doing the nation a huge disservice. The ruling UPA should realise that the nation will not come to an end in 2014 (when it faces the electorate) and so should not try to respond to serious issues like scams etc. by undermining the authority and functioning of the independent authorities.

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