Source: 
Deccan Herald
https://www.deccanherald.com/india/karnataka/bengaluru/experts-push-for-collective-citizen-action-to-keep-power-excesses-in-check-3028741
Author: 
DHNS
Date: 
19.05.2024
City: 
Bengaluru

Major General Anil Verma, head, Association for Democratic Reforms, explained that some of the challenges faced in the city pertained to the inability to effectively deal with corruption and money and muscle power.

Bengaluru: What is the way forward to bring more transparency, accountability, and independence to “independent” institutions in the country? Concerted efforts by all citizens to raise awareness about threats to these institutions and sustained pressure on those in power.

Addressing a packed hall at the Bangalore International Centre (BIC) on Saturday at the fifth Air Marshal P K Dey Memorial Lecture, Major General Anil Verma (retd.) and Prof Trilochan Sastry of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) dissected the threats to independent institutions such as the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Supreme Court (SC) and emphasised the need for the citizenry and civil society to collectively act to ensure that excesses of power by the executive are kept in check and such institutions’ independence are not affected.

Major General Anil Verma, head, Association for Democratic Reforms, explained that some of the challenges faced in the city pertained to the inability to effectively deal with corruption and money and muscle power. 

“The role of money and muscle power is evident from the fact that all major political parties have fielded 31per cent of candidates who are crorepatis, 19% of the candidates who have criminal cases, of whom, 14% have serious criminal cases against them. 

“When the results come out, you will find that these numbers will more than double because the guys who win are those who have maximum criminal cases and maximum money,” he said, noting that this hurts the principle of free and fair elections, participatory democracy and a level playing field.

The need of the hour, Verma said, is to examine how independent constitutional bodies are functioning. Some of the potential solutions to tackle these challenges are to provide voters as much information as possible, independent journalism, safeguarding rights, and empowering independent institutions, he added.

Prof Trilochan Sastry, Chairman, Founder Member and Trustee, ADR, noted that the Constitution of India is the document that will protect against excesses of power but the government’s “toying” with the Constitution is evident.

“The government amended the Finance Act, the RBI Act, the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act, and the Representation of People Act. They amended four laws to introduce a scheme of electoral bonds which would be completely opaque. If we did not have the power of judicial review, that scheme would still be on,” he said. 

Noting that three laws were being misused in the country: the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the sedition act, and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), he pushed for citizen action and “taking to arms like Lord Rama” to ensure independent institutions are truly independent, transparent, and accountable.

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