Special Correspondent

We’ll have to be unbiased to ensure it is not misused: Somnath

“Right to recall” can be a deterrent against distortions: Yechury

Take note of people’s aversion to politics: Sezhiyan

NEW DELHI: Members of Parliament from Commonwealth countries were on Friday guarded in their approach to the “right to recall” a legislator as a strategy for enforcing greater accountability to people.

While the need for making legislators more accountable was not disputed, the dominant view during a discussion at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) here was that the recall device was beset with problems. In particular, how could the veracity of the people who signed a petition for recall be established? Smaller countries feared that this could become a source of permanent instability in thinly populated nations. The two most vocal advocates of recall –— a subject mooted for discussion by India as the host branch of the 53rd CPC — were Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury.

In his address, Mr. Chatterjee said democracy today envisaged a much bigger role for the citizenry and the time was not far when a more vigilant citizenry would demand much greater accountability from the representative institutions and their members. Hence, it was time to look for devices such as “recall” to ensure accountability of the members of democratic institutions before the common man got totally disillusioned with the prevailing system.

Urging Commonwealth members to explore the possibilities of empowering the electorate with the “right to recall,” he said: “At the same time, we will have to be very pragmatic and unbiased in our approach to ensure that the ‘recall’ mechanism, if adopted in our democracies, is not misused to settle personal scores.”

Mr. Yechury said the “right to recall” could be an important deterrent to deal with the distortions which had crept into democratic institutions. Conceding the problems in its implementation — especially in elections decided on the first-past-the-post principle — he said it would function only under proportional representation.

The former parliamentarian Era Sezhiyan said if the growing aversion of the people to politics in general and politicians in particular was not recognised and remedial measures were not taken to make elected representatives more accountable, “the time may soon come for the people to throw away lock stock and barrel the entire system of Parliament and parliamentary democracy.”

The former Solicitor-General of India T. R. Andhyarujina said the emergence of the party system and communication facilities diluted the effectiveness of the “right to recall,” which was the only means of controlling representative assemblies in the past. Today, “even if the voters of a constituency took the initiative for recalling a particular representative by a prescribed strength, his party or his opponent’s party would be involved in the voters’ action of recall. Recall is no longer voters’ choice only.”