Debate on the President’s Address

Transcript of a speech made by H K Dua in the Rajya Sabha on February 23, 2011 in the debate on the President’s Address to the joint session of Parliament.

National consensus on vital issues needed

SHRI H.K.DUA (NOMIATED):   Thank you, Mr Vice-Chairman, for giving me time. I have heard the debate, during the last two days, on the President’s Address.  Members of all shades of opinions have expressed their opinions on the President’s Address and the various issues confronting the country.  In a nation of one billion people, there are bound to be differences of opinion, but I do find that despite the acrimony witnessed during the last several months in the country, despite the different views expressed in the House and outside, there is no difference of opinion among the leadership of various parties and the people that this country should emerge as a major economic, political and military power of the 21st century.  There is no difference of opinion on this central aim which has emerged after 64 years of freedom.  This is not an armchair  dream of any one political party, but this is the national aim.  Everybody, whether on the Treasury benches, or on the Opposition benches, realizes that the country has achieved the potential of becoming a major power of the 21 century.

The world is also acknowledging, possibly; the world is acknowledging this, more liberally, than we are doing ourselves, considering a sort of cynicism and cynical mood that has developed over the last few months or over the last few years.

But are we, as a nation, doing all what needs to be done to emerge as a major power of the 21st century? And if we examine this question, in detail, the answer will be, “NO.” All that is sought to be done, all that needs to be done, we are not doing.  If we have to build this country into a big military, political and economic power, befitting a nation of a billion people, then we need to do much more.

And one of the things which we need to develop is, to evolve a national consensus on some essential issues. This kind of attempt — although feeble — has been made, often during the last few years to evolve a national consensus on some issues, but these efforts have not succeeded. The time has come now, fairly in the beginning of the 21st century, to evolve a consensus over some issues on which the parties should sink their differences and evolve a consensus and approach which facilitate achieving that potential aim which we can possibly achieve.

What are those issues? Considering the time, at my disposal, I will be brief, Mr Vice-Chairman.  Issues of national security, for instance, deserve  national consensus. I do not find anybody, in this House, who will place any obstacles in evolving a national consensus on security issues, both internal and external. There are formidable challenges to national security  Terrorism is one; nobody can differ on the need to combat terrorism. In the last few months there has been no real big terror strike. But that does not mean that the threat of terrorism has disappeared from the country.

SHRI H.K. DUA (CONTD): One weapon which the terrorists have, which we can’t anticipate, is the weapon of surprise. They can strike anywhere they like, at any time they want, unless there is a danger to them on a crucial occasion. The vigilance which the President’s Address speaks about fairly in the beginning of the Address is necessary. But that should have the backing of all shades of opinion and a national consensus which is necessary.

Another is the Maoists’ threat. It is not, in a sense, a threat that cannot be tackled.  Over all, there are 160, or 180, districts affected by Maoists threat. Out of them, 60 districts have been identified as very sensitive. Even 60 is not a small number.  Essentially, the Maoists threat to the State is very serious and can’t brook a partisan approach. It has to be met with a national approach.

Not only the parties have to cooperate with each other, but  also the Central and the State Governments, irrespective of the denomination which governs there, have to cooperate to find a way to tackle this national menace.  The Maoists also strike a surprise. Dantewada was one where 76 people of the CRPF were killed one night. Now they have the temerity to kidnap a District Collector in Orissa and keep him in custody. He is a public-spirited officer, which is a very rare breed these days. He is popular among the people and that popularity itself is nagging the Maoists.  They captured him and wanted some of their  people to be released. I am glad that he has been freed and some praise should go from this House for the brave officer like him.

But the essential message which comes out clearly is that the Maoists are not relenting in their efforts to disturb peace in the country and they want to strike wherever they want. They do spring surprise, some time in Chhattisgarh, another time in Jharkhand and the third time in Orissa, and tomorrow they can do it at another place.

Sir, I will keep it brief. There is a need for national consensus also on…

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF P.J. KURIAN): Your time is going to be over. What can I do? There is so much of time constraint.

SHRI H.K. DUA: I WILL CUT IT SHORT. Mr. Vice-Chairman. I am sure, you will give me marks for patience.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN; TAKE TWO MORE MINUTES.

SHRI H K DUA; There is a need for consensus on Kashmir. I am afraid, this has been lacking and even if some consensus was evolved a few years ago,  I find  it is disappearing. There is no political consensus on it now.  The fact is that we have been promising autonomy to Kashmir over the years. Successive Prime Ministers have promised autonomy. Mr Narasimha Rao had promised autonomy to Kashmir; Mr Vajpayee had promised autonomy to Kashmir; and the present Prime Minister Dr Manmohan singh has promised autonomy to Kashmir.  I don’t think that we should relax on that aim. How the consensus can work in Kashmir is evident from the President’s Address acknowledgement of the mission of All-Party Delegation which visited Kashmir a few months ago and came back with the impression that it was possible to evolve a solution of Kashmir. The message will go much deeper if all the parties agree on Kashmir.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF P.J. KURIEN): Okay, Duaji.

SHRI H.K. DUA: I will cut it short. I will take just two minutes.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN; I am unwillingly saying. I am also helpless.

SHRI H K DUA:  Just a couples of minutes more and I will be done with this.

On foreign Policy issue, we require a different Foreign Policy for the 21st century from the earlier one. It is no longer a bipolar world. It is a multi-polar world. I think that a consensus on foreign Policy will help the Government to deal with the rest of the world better.

But one other thing certainly needs to be done and I would like to lay emphasis on it in my concluding remarks. We need to have a consensus on how to run this Parliament; how to bring about  judicial reforms which are very badly needed and how to bring administrative reforms because they are  key to the governance of the country.

I am sorry to say this – I am a new Member comparatively – that the way  Parliament has conducted itself for some time does not enjoy the support of the people. The judiciary is also losing support of the people when  cases are not decided for twenty years, or thirty years and some times after a person is no more.

SHRI H K DUA (CONTD): At the district level, at High Courts level, prestige of the courts has suffered, and somehow, the Supreme Court lately is also hitting the headlines for wrong reasons which I don’t  have the time to elaborate. On the judicial reforms which have been promised in the President’s Address, I hope, the political parties will support.

Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chairman.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF. P.J. KURIEN): Duaji, in fact, an erudite person like you should be given more time, but I am helpless. There are three speakers and the time allotted is 17 minutes.

A judicious overhaul

Over the years, the vital wings of the State — Parliament, the judiciary and the executive — have not taken steps to retain the respect of the people. People are disappointed especially with the judiciary because the court is their last resort when the other two fail. There are indications that the government intends to push judicial reforms in the next few months. Time was when any attempt made by Parliament or the executive to set things right in the judiciary was suspect in the eyes of the Bar and the Bench. Way back in 1970s, protests greeted any discussion on the judiciary’s commitment or when pliable judges were appointed.

It was in this context that the Supreme Court snatched from the executive the power to appoint judges to the high courts and the apex court. In 1993, the Supreme Court came out with a judgement that enabled it to appoint judges by consultations in a collegium, thus depriving the government any opportunity to pack the courts with their own men. This system of appointment is now under threat. The way the collegium has functioned over the last 17 years, it’s placed the judiciary on the backfoot.

Not all the appointments made by the collegium are questionable, but some of them have been the subject of cynical comments. It is extremely difficult to get rid of a corrupt judge, as was evident in the case of Justice V. Ramaswamy, since the impeachment process is rigorous. He survived the House’s attempt in the 90s because MPs from Tamil Nadu joined hands and protested to the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao on a peculiar plea that a judge from the state was being hounded out. Interestingly, this move failed in Parliament just about the time the apex court came out with a verdict taking away from the executive’s domain the powers to appoint judges. That power has been exercised by the collegium of judges for nearly 17 years. But the quality of selections has not improved.

That the balance of power in the constitutional scheme of things is slowly shifting away from the apex court will be evident when Parliament chooses to debate the cases of Justice Soumitra Sen of Kolkata and Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran of the Karnataka High Court.

The judiciary as an institution itself will be the subject of critical examination by the MPs during the discussion, further weakening its support base. Whatever be the outcome of the debates in Parliament on the two judges, the collegium’s utility is bound to come under serious questioning.

The apex court took away the power to appoint judges from the executive with the promise that it will select only the best. To ward off the executive’s interference, it also promised that it would deal with corruption and misuse of power in-house. On both counts, the judiciary has left much to be desired.

It also remains to be seen how Parliament and the government will set up a system that will help select the best of the judges without undermining its independence. Involved is the question of whether the system of institutional checks and balances will willy-nilly get disturbed in the judicial reforms that are in the works.

– Hindustan Times, June 17th, 2010

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