Dr Ashwani Kumar is not only a prominent lawyer but also a popular figure in the social circles. He is known for his straight forward views and talks. Although presently not a Member of Parliament he takes keen interest in its working and proceedings and wants it to run smoothly. Our Editor talked to him on the recent happenings and performance of Parliament
Of late there had been lot of criticism of the working of Parliament. Number of bills introduced and passed in recent sessions has gone down considerably. What is the basic reason?
It is indeed unfortunate that Parliament as the highest forum of India’s democracy has been rendered dysfunctional repeatedly. The logjam in Parliament is primarily on account of a total breakdown of communication between the ruling party and the opposition parties. While the Opposition should not be obstructionist and should in larger national interest debate important legislative measures on subjects of public interest, it is equally important for ruling party to create an atmosphere conducive to discussion. A highly personalised and vicious campaign by leaders against each other is getting destructive for politics and consciousness. Our parliamentary democracy is getting derailed. It should be our collective endeavour to restore the institution of Parliament to health and glory. The important bills that are pending for clearance and discussion in the houses need to be debated and a view is to be taken as a whole so that the nation as a whole does not suffer.
The quality of debates in the Parliament has also gone down. Are members not coming fully prepared?
Whenever debates do take place I can assume that most of the members come prepared and make a useful contribution. Most of the debates take place in the afternoon and regrettably are not adequately covered in the media. In the last debate on the Constitution day in which I was also a participant we heard some of the most inspiring interventions from members cutting party lines.
The important thing is to ensure that atmosphere inside the houses of Parliament is such in which serious matters can be debated in the finest traditions of parliamentary democracy.
GST has been a brainchild of Congress but now it is being opposed by the party itself. Why this obstruction?
GST is an important piece of legislation and I believe that it will be passed in the both the houses of Parliament in the next session.
As you know GST was the bill of the Congress party. Congress has some reservations with respect to some provisions of the bill introduced in the Parliament by the BJP Government. On the whole it will be in the national interest to pass the GST.
I hope the BJP will take the concerns of opposition on board.
There is too much shouting in Parliament. Does it look nice? It damages the reputation of law makers. What is your take on this? Also recently there was a talk of cash for vote. It was said that rich and influential get into the Rajya Sabha by virtue of money. Is not it very bad?
It is most unfortunate that money power is being used to obtain membership of the Rajya Sabha. This is indeed a sad reflection on our political system. Such abrasions need to be corrected. The Election Commission and Government must move to apply the correctives. They should take stringent action against those who try such routes. For example if it is found that somebody has tried to pay money or taken it then he can be barred for six years or so.
Critics have gone to the extent of saying that Rajya Sabha is a useless body and should be scrapped. What is your take on it?
I entirely disagree with the view that the Rajya Sabha has lost its relevance. Institutions are as relevant as the individuals who make them work. The fault is not with the institution of Rajya Sabha nor have the reasons for its existence disappeared. The decline of Rajya Sabha is primarily due to the processes and the means adopted for getting elected to the Upper House.
How hopeful are you about the upcoming Monsoon session of the Parliament?
The people of India are watching. No one in the country wants endless disruptions in Parliament and as I said earlier it takes two to tango and therefore both the ruling party and the Opposition will need to ensure that the relevance of Parliament is maintained and that as the highest democratic forum for debates and discussions, it is not rendered dysfunctional.
I am against blocking Parliament. If there is big issue there can be some disruptions for half a day or one day but not the entire session. What prevents anarchy to set in in the institutional integrity of our democratic institutions creates doubts in the minds people. There is a limit to what you can do in the name of constitutional governance.
People should remember that Dr Ambedkar gave grammar of anarchy speech in which he has cautioned against the extra constitutional means of protest in a free country. In his speech that time which is known as grammar of anarchy speech he has said It is quite one thing to protest against an imperial or occupying power but it is quite another thing to use extra constitutional means in protest against a democratically elected government.
What AAP is doing is nothing but anarchist politics. In the year which we are celebrating his centenary we should heed to his advice.
“…. where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods,” Dr Ambedkar had said.