Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: Constitution of India

CAG and constitution

It is strange that former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) V. K. Shunglu suggested that CAG be made a multi-member body. Narayanasamy, MoS in PMO said the government is actively considering it and later retracted.

V. K. Shunglu had submitted six reports on Commonwealth Games. The government implemented first report which was against B. S. Lalli. Other reports which were against Sheila Dikshit and others were not implemented.

About CAG, V. K. Shunglu had suggested that a three-member body would obtain greater transparency in operation. Was there not enough transparency when Shunglu was CAG?

Former CEC S. Y. Quraishi said CAG will become more powerful if it has more than one member. The fact is additional members are appointed to make Election Commission fall in line with government. One CEC had problem with Navin Kohli who was then Election Commissioner. The CEC did not want Navin Kohli to succeed him as CED but UPA government appointed him as CEC.

The constitution provides for CAG as one person and Election Commission as a body headed by CEC. Articles 148-151 deal with CAG, duties and powers, accounts, and audit reports. Article 148 is clear that CAG is one person. There is no provision for multi-member CAG.

Article 324 deals with Election Commission. It states, among other things, “The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix…” CEC is enough. ECs are optional. For a long time India had only CEC. In 1989 Rajiv Gandhi government appointed two ECs. Rajiv Gandhi was unhappy with R. V. S. Peri Sastry. When V. P. Singh government came to power they removed the two ECs. When T. N. Seshan became CEC he took decisions that favoured Congress. Janata Dal wanted his removal. P. V. Narasimha Rao promised that but did not keep his promise. Later T. N. Seshan became a problem for Congress. Then Congress government appointed two ECs. As the governments changed they continued with Election Commission as a three-member body. They promoted ECs as CECs and brought as ECs people who thought were suitable for them. Sometimes the calculations went wrong.

UPA is unhappy with Vinod Rai as CAG. Previous CAGs were quiet. Vinod Rai said the brazenness with which the decisions are taken is appalling. Amending the constitution to curb CAG’s powers is not easy for UPA. CAG is a constitutional functionary. There is no bar on him holding press conferences, giving interviews, blogging, or tweeting.

Rajya Sabha nominations

Rajya Sabha nomination is not an award or a prize or a title. Article 80 of the constitution prescribes that a person to be nominated to Rajya Sabha should have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of literature, science, art and social service.

Over the years many people have been nominated to Rajya Sabha in violation of the constitution. Mani Shankar Aiyar lost Lok Sabha election, he was nominated. Kuldip Nayyar was a journalist. Fali Nariman was a lawyer. Chandan Mitra, Shobhana Bhartia and Cho Ramaswamy were journalists.

Some qualified for nomination but did not know the importance or responsibility of Rajya Sabha membership. Lata Mangeshkar treated it as an award. Maqbool Fida Husain did not know nominated members did not have the right to vote in presidential election.

Now there is news that Sachin Tendulkar, Rekha and Anu Aga are nominated to Rajya Sabha. Rekha qualifies for her special knowledge or practical experience in art. Sachin Tendulkar and Anu Aga do not qualify. There is no provision for nomination in sport, law, journalism or business. Sport is not art. Journalism is not literature.

Sachin Tendulkar was the surprise choice. On 26/4/2012 Rajiv Shukla took him to meet Sonia Gandhi, ostensibly because Sonia Gandhi wanted to congratulate him on 100th 100. Soon came the news of nomination. The file of nomination moved from prime minister to home minister to president who signed it. Congress was having bad time. On 24/4/2012 it had to suspend its eight Telangana MPs from Lok Sabha for four days. On 25/4/2012 S&P cut its outlook on India from stable to negative. Bofors was back. On 26/4/2012 BJP attacked Congress in Parliament over Bofors. Once the news of Sachin Tendulkar came out that was the main topic on TV channels. Bofors, RISAT, Jhina Hikaka’s release and other matters lost their importance.

There was talk of Sachin Tendulkar getting Bharat Ratna. Sport was not a category for which Bharat Ratna was given. Criterion was changed so that Sachin Tendulkar may get Bharat Ratna. However there were demands for Bharat Ratna for many people. Some people said Dhyan Chand should be the first sportsperson to get Bharat Ratna. When Republic Day came there was no announcement of Bharat Ratna. Sports Ministry is said to have mentioned the names of Dhyan Chand, Tenzing Norgay and Abhinav Bindra but not of Sachin Tendulkar. Sports Ministry said BCCI did not recommend his name. BCCI said we thought government gives Bharat Ratna. Later Maharashtra government recommended Sachin Tendulkar’s name but the government of India did not announce Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar.

Sanjay Manjrekar said he was shocked Sachin Tendulkar accepted the nomination. Some wondered what he will do in Rajya Sabha. He has not retired from cricket. Will he find time to attend Rajya Sabha? It may happen that on a TV channel half screen will show live telecast of Rajya Sabha debate and other half will show live telecast of Sachin Tendulkar playing in a cricket match. Some fans did not want Sachin Tendulkar in Rajya Sabha. Some fans wanted him to join Rajya Sabha later.

Rekha’s nomination is curious. Jaya Bachchan had returned to Rajya Sabha after two years. Sonia Gandhi does not like her. Some years back Congress had got her disqualified on office of profit issue. That had boomeranged and Sonia Gandhi had to resign as MP and chairperson of NAC. Later a bill was passed to make many offices not offices of profit. Amitabh Bachchan was happy that Lindstrom had said there was an attempt to frame him in Bofors case. He had held a press conference and had appeared on TV channels.

Many businessmen have made it to Rajya Sabha by paying money to party presidents or MLAs. Recently a Rajya Sabha election was countermanded because around two crore rupees were found in a car and that money was meant to be payment to MLAs. Now we have nomination of a businesswoman to Rajya Sabha.

Article 80 does not say eminent citizens are to be nominated to Rajya Sabha. If challenged in courts many nominations will be struck down as unconstitutional.

Rajya Sabha should be abolished. That will save time and avoid duplication. Lok Sabha should have at least one representative per million people. India’s population being 121 crores as per 2011 census the strength of Lok Sabha should be 1210. If Parliament House cannot hold that many members Lok Sabha sessions should be held elsewhere.

Church and Better India

Catholic Bishops of India had met in Bangalore on 1-8 February 2012 and after having reflected on “The Church’s Role for a Better India” have given their message. They have quoted the Preamble of the Constitution, talked about India’s condition, what the Church has done and what the Church intends to do.

Bishops should know that the words Socialist Secular were not part of the Preamble when the Constitution was adopted on 26/11/1949. They were added by 42nd Amendment in 1976 which came into effect on 1/3/1977. Bishops should be inspired by the Bible and not the Constitution.

The good work the Church does through its educational institutions, hospitals, orphanages etc. should continue.

It is wrong to blame economic development for inequalities, gap between the rich and the poor and tensions spilling over into violence. There was inequality before economic development. On the whole the people of India are better off than 20 years before. Some policies and actions of government have benefitted industrialists at the cost of others. Bishops can speak against devaluation of currency, stimulus, bail outs and corporate debt restructuring.

Jesus was not a do-gooder, social worker, activist, revolutionary or evolutionary. He was not a rebel without a cause or rebel without a pause. He spoke of the Kingdom of God. He did not speak of a better society. Jesus did not come to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

If a major cause of violence is injustice, bishops should strive for quick justice. Cases drag on for years and there are appeals and people lose hope. Bishops should ask for death penalty in all cases for murder, attempted murder, abduction, acid throwing, character assassination, hijacking, kidnapping, piracy and such high crimes. Bishops should ask for change in legal system. There should be no lawyers. Then the cases will be heard and settled fast.

Female foeticide is a concern. The Church can ask for ban on abortion except in cases of rape and saving mother’s life.

It is good that bishops want to root out untouchability and caste system wherever it exists from within the Church. I have heard that segregation is practised in churches and cemeteries of Tamil Nadu and parish bulletins in Goa carry matrimonial advertisements that mention caste. CBCI should put an end to it. However it is wrong to ask for reservation for some Christians because they were once Dalits. CBCI should fight for abolition of reservations as they are discriminatory. Reservations perpetuate caste system.

It is good to stand for protection of environment. It is not good for bishops and priests to lead agitations against illegal mining, deforestation, mega projects, pollution and so on. Lay people can lead agitations and bishops and priests can lend moral support. Governments crack down on protestors and politicians change their colours as we have witnessed at Koodankulam protests. Tuticorin Diocese was targeted and inquiry conducted about its finances.

Bishops have not said anything about corruption. Corruption is the root of many evils. As long as there is corruption there cannot be Better India. The Church can have some days of prayer and fasting against corruption.

It seems bishops have forgotten about evangelization. They have not said anything about use of media to make Christ better known. Fight against injustice or oppression can be fought by anyone but the Church is needed for evangelization.

Bishops can do something to promote Christian Unity in India. Anglicans who wanted to join the Catholic Church were granted personal ordinariates in UK and USA. Similar arrangements for Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants and other Christians can be made in India.

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