By TN Ashok / New Delhi
Justice (retd) AK Patnaik on Saturday stressed that India needed a new law to be enacted by Parliament to regulate political parties, political funding and conduct of politicians as done in other democracies in the world.
Delivering the keynote address at the 11th edition of Sansadratna Awards held in the capital today by a Chennai based NGO Prime Point foundation, Justice Patnaik said “ In my considered opinion, ethics cannot be expected from a parliamentarian who has to go through the struggles of politics to become a Member of Parliament. Max Weber in his lecture on ‘Politics as a Vocation’ has said that a political career provides a sense of power but, the three qualities required of a good politician are:
(i.) passion for a cause, (ii) sense of responsibility, and, (iii) sense of proportion.
The idea of Prime Point Foundation to confer Sansad Ratna Awards, which has been appreciated by late Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, as I understand, is to promote high ethical standards amongst our parliamentarians, he said at the function where the Chief Election Commiscsioner Sunil Arora distributed awards to 12 parliamentarians for their exemplary performance as representatives of the people in both the lok sabha and rajya sabha as also a parliamentary standing committee on agriculture. .
For ensuring these qualities in our next generation political leaders, India needs a new law to be made by Parliament to regulate political parties, political funding and conduct of politicians, as have been made in some other democracies in the world, he said at glittering function of a very distinguished gathering where eminent MP of parliament and MoS Arjun Ram Meghwal were present.
Justice Patnaik said Parliamentarians express their criticism so that the Government is held in check and made responsible and accountable to the people of India. I have been listening to the debates in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and have been reading the parliamentary debates published in the newspapers and I appreciate the quality of debates on the national issues and some of the criticisms that the opposition members make in Parliament.
For such debates and criticisms, Parliamentarians need to be rewarded. Sansad Ratna Awards are recognition of Parliamentarians who have performed well in Parliament, he said adding “ Considering the role that parliamentarians play in our representative democracy, the best available in our country, in merit and integrity, must get elected to the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. I’m not quite sure whether Parliament in India today is represented by people who are best amongst their party members in their constituencies and their State. I am of the view that our political parties do not send their best talents, with merit and integrity, to Parliament for various reasons, some of which I would like to narrate.
The first reason is that there is no internal democracy in our political parties. In a democracy, a political party should give an opportunity to its members to participate in the debates on the formulation of the programmes of the party. This is now recognised in the laws of various other countries. For example, Article 21 of the German Basic Law states that political parties shall participate in the formulation of the political will of the people, they may be freely established and their internal organisations must conform to democratic principles. The Political Parties Act, 1967 of Germany has elaborate provisions to ensure internal democracy in a political party. This Act in Germany provides that political parties shall be organised in regional and/or local branches and the assembly of members or delegates in party convention and executive committees are indispensable bodies of a political party and of its regional and/or local branches. It also provides that the assembly of members or delegates of party shall decide on party programmes, statutes, rules and membership dues, rules on arbitration procedure for disciplinary action against members, party’s dissolution and its merger with other parties.. In contrast, there is no such internal democracy in political parties in India.
The second reason is that persons, with merit and integrity, who want to contest election to seats in Parliament do not have the funds for campaigning for their election. Considering the huge resources required by a candidate in an election for parliamentary seat, a prospective candidate has to either depend on a political party for such funds for election or has to organise his own funds as an independent candidate.
This has discouraged many capable and meritorious persons from contesting elections for seats in Parliament. In other countries, laws have been made by the legislatures to regulate political funding. In accordance with this provision in the Constitution of South Africa, the Political Parties’ Funding Act, 2018, has been enacted for regulating public and private funding of political parties. This Act in South Africa provides for permissible donations by private persons to political parties and for funds for political parties to be sanctioned by National and Provincial Legislatures.
“There is no such law in India as yet regulating the funding of political parties. As a result, funding the political parties and independent candidates contesting elections for seats of Parliament is not transparent and a number of criminal cases have been filed against politicians for raising funds for their politics illegally, and their credibility is now doubted by the electors and members of the general public”, he said in a hard hitting speech.
Referring to Cambodia (formerly Kampuchea), justice Patnaik said the Law on Political Parties made in 1997 in Cambodia defines a ‘political party’ to be a group of persons who have the same ideas and willingness and to voluntarily join together through a contract to form a permanent and autonomous organisation in order to participate in the national life in accordance with liberal, democratic and pluralist regime through free and fair election as determined by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and relevant laws in force.
There is no such law in India regulating the conduct of politicians. The result is that some members of political parties are not committed to the programmes of a political party and are willing to switch over to another party as soon as they are denied tickets to contest elections by the political party they originally belonged or if they are made a minister in the Council of Ministers. This demonstrates these members are only keen to enjoy the powers and privileges of the office of the Member of Parliament or of the Minister, he lamented.