House not in order: on detention of elected representatives

No Parliament can condone the preventive detention of its members for long periods

More than 1,300 people who were detained around the Centre’s abrupt move on August 5 that downgraded and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continue to be so 15 weeks later. In detention are dozens of elected representatives including a member of the Lok Sabha, Farooq Abdullah, who also happens to be a former Chief Minister. Senior functionaries of the government have repeatedly said the situation is normal in J&K, but indefinite preventive detention of people is difficult to justify under any circumstances. With continuing restrictions on communication, gauging the mood of the people may be tricky, but some signs of normalcy are visible as more businesses open and vehicular traffic increases in the Valley. Now that the first Lieutenant Governor has also taken charge in J&K, immediate steps must be taken to open up political and civil society space. Instead of trying to hard sell an improbable portrait to the outside world, the Centre would do well by engaging with those most affected by its decisions — the people of J&K. The government cannot possibly see merit in undermining mainstream political leaders in J&K.


The paradox of continuing detentions and restrictions in J&K was stark when Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the forthcoming Constitution Day and the role of the Rajya Sabha in sustaining India’s federal structure on the first day of the winter session of Parliament. As the PM rightly indicated, Parliament is for giving meaningful voice to the people, not to make disruptive noise. But those prevented from attending the House are denied the right to speak for the people they are elected to represent. The PM’s call for frank discussions and dialogues in the current session would ring hollow when some of them remain in detention. The government has refused to make any commitment on Mr. Abdullah’s release, while a member of Rajya Sabha, Congress leader P. Chidambaram remains in judicial custody as government agencies and law officers show an alacrity that they reserve exclusively for pursuing Opposition leaders. The PM’s appreciation of the Rajya Sabha’s role in the hollowing out of Article 370 through a hurried resolution in the last session was disingenuous. The non-deliberative manner in which a full-fledged State was reduced into two UTs in one stroke was an unprecedented assault on federalism. Disruption by the Opposition is a marginal challenge to the role of Parliament at present. The real and graver trial of the legislature is the executive’s refusal to be scrutinised by it. By undermining parliamentary committees and brazenly labelling any Bill as a money Bill in order to bypass the Rajya Sabha, the government has shown scant regard for parliamentary precedents and processes. A course correction is in order.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 5:08:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/house-not-in-order-on-detention-of-elected-representatives/article30019842.ece

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