The New Indian Express
Puran Choudhary

What about when the government breaks a law or the police? Our constitution lacks answers to this. At least the US has the tort law, said Trilochan Sastry

India holds the proud record of being the country with the highest number of hate speeches. With politics ingrained, no one is open to others’ views, which often leads to conflicts. We have not evolved as a democracy, said Trilochan Sastry, founder and chairman of the Association for Democratic Reforms. ADR is also the organization that filed several petitions against the electoral bond scheme, which was subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court bench, and termed as unconstitutional.

Speaking about Transparency, Accountability, and the Threat to Independent Institutions at the PK Dey Memorial Lecture on Saturday, Sastry said, “The Election Commission of India (ECI), an independent body, has received over 20,000 complaints from civil society groups and individuals to act against hate speeches and flouting of several other Model Code of Conduct (MCC), however, there has been no action.”

He touched upon the necessity to keep independent institutions such as ECI, the judiciary, CBI, the Income Tax department, and others free from the excess of executive powers for a healthy democracy. He raised a fundamental question asking, “When a common man breaks the law, he can be arrested and jailed. What about when the government breaks a law or the police? Our constitution lacks answers on this. At least the US has the tort law.”

The founder explained that since 2014, 8,947 cases under the UAPA, 788 under Sedition, and 1,797 cases under the Money Laundering Act have been registered respectively, the highest when compared to previous regimes. He added that officers in positions of independent bodies end up joining political parties, with some becoming ministers or governors, which raises eyebrows on whether they were “actually independent during the years in office or not.”

Anil Verma, Head, ADR, during his address, spoke about a three-pronged approach to keeping institutions independent. He said, “Targeting political parties and not allowing them to field candidates with tainted profiles and criminal cases against them; intensive campaigns to educate voters, especially youth, are needed. Lastly, to maintain pressure on political parties, judicial activism is critical for transparency and accountability.” He added that ADR’s recent report read that 31 percent of candidates are crorepatis and 19 percent have criminal cases against them.

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