At the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor alleged that the BJP government had successfully reduced Parliament to “notice boards and rubber stamps”.
During a session titled “Sustaining Democracy; Cultivating Democracy”, he claimed that tightening the already tough Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in a way that Siddique Kapan Like holding people in jail without bail for up to two years, is one of many ways. The present system “has succeeded in deviating from the democratic spirit of the Constitution”.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP alleged that the government “has been able to take so many autonomous measures without ever declaring an emergency”, adding, “You can call it an undeclared emergency.”
“They have done it within the ambit of the law and the constitution. Look at something like the draconian UAPA that has resulted in people being jailed without charge and in some cases granted bail for up to two years. Like the example of Siddique Kapan,” said Tharoor.
He added that such incidents raise questions about “whether our constitution can be broken so easily in an undemocratic way”.
Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan was arrested in October 2020 on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh where a Dalit woman had allegedly died after being raped. He and three others were accused of having links with the now-banned Popular Front of India.
The Supreme Court had granted him bail in the case in September last year, but he remained in jail due to a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate. In December, the Allahabad High Court granted him bail in a money laundering case.
At the 16th edition of the Literature Festival, responding to a question about Parliament’s ability to hold the government accountable, Tharoor said, “During (Jawaharlal) Nehru’s tenure, we had a Parliament in which the ruling party Members could also challenge their Prime Minister. Finance backbenchers were forced to resign over scandal and we even saw the Prime Minister answerable to Parliament during the 1962 China War.
Today I regret to say that our government has successfully reduced Parliament to a notice board and a rubber stamp. It is a notice board for the government to announce whatever it wants to do and it is a rubber stamp as their overwhelming majority obediently passes every bill exactly as it comes from the cabinet,” They said.
Tharoor also noted that “in the first seven decades, apart from ending the Emergency, democracy deepened in the country”.
“You see democratic institutions get more power, more power, look at the Election Commission, you see a commission that has more formal powers than what was previously in power and actually became a powerful tool that Controlled political parties and their conduct,” he added.
Touted as the world’s “biggest” literary festival, the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023 will host some of the world’s best thinkers, writers and speakers over the next five days.
Among the 250 speakers in nearly 240 sessions, including music concerts, are Booker Prize winners Bernardine Evarstow, Marilyn James and Gitanjali Shri, plus author Umya Srinivasan, academic David Vengrove, MP Varun Gandhi, and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani.