Unfortunately, space for Opposition in the country diminishing: CJI

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Saturday said that a strong, vibrant and active opposition helps to improve the governance and corrects the functioning of the government, but “unfortunately the space for Opposition in the country is diminishing”.

In his address at an event on ’75 Years of Parliament Democracy’ at the Rajasthan Assembly, he said: “Particularly, the leaders in the opposition used to play a stellar role. There used to be a lot of mutual respect between the government and the opposition. Unfortunately, the space for opposition is diminishing. We are witnessing laws being passed without detailed deliberation and scrutiny.”

Chief Justice Ramana said strong, vibrant and active opposition helps to improve the governance and corrects the functioning of the government. “In an ideal world, it is the cooperative functioning of the government and the opposition which will lead to a progressive democracy. After all, Project Democracy is a joint effort of all the stakeholders,” he added.

He added that in the absence of a thorough debate involving all the sides of the house, as a judge, he, at times, wonders as to how one traces the legislative intent behind the enactments. “Instead of engaging in meaningful debates for furthering democracy, politics has become acrimonious. The diversity of opinion enriches polity and society. Political opposition should not translate into hostility, which we are sadly witnessing these days. These are not signs of a healthy democracy,” he said.

The Chief Justice said building a peaceful and inclusive society is not just a matter of public administration, but also a duty of a statesman. “You are a reflection of the people’s aspiration. Let morality of the constitution guide you in the right direction. After all, you are all role models. Strengthening parliamentary democracy demands strengthening the opposition as well,” he said.

“We have a form of government where the executive, both political and permanent, is accountable to the legislature. Accountability forms the core principle of democracy. I have, on several occasions, highlighted the significance of parliamentary debates and parliamentary committees. In fact, I used to look forward to the legislative debates.”

The Chief Justice said a year ago, on Independence Day, he had expressed views on a decline in the quality of debate and, at times, even the lack of debate in the legislative bodies.

“On this occasion, I have a suggestion to make. Law making is a complicated process. One cannot expect every lawmaker to have a legal background. It is essential that Members of the Legislature have quality assistance from legal professionals, so that they are able to contribute to the debates meaningfully. The Hon’ble Speaker may consider providing the assistance of qualified law clerks to each of the MLAs.

“We, as judges, are also assisted by law clerks in our day-to-day Court work. Let me assure you, it will really be helpful to you all,” he said.

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