Is Parliamentary form of Government good enough for India?: Need for a Change

By Rooha Khurshid,  National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi

Editor’s Note: At the time of independence, our leaders adopted the Parliamentary form of government, and today our country is the largest democracy in the world. This paper analyses the pros and cons of the Parliamentary form of government for India, and compares it with the Presidential system taking France as an example.

ABSTRACT

This paper attempts to illustrate the efficiency of Parliamentary form of democracy in the Indian polity and culture. It also enunciates the comparison of it with the Presidential form of democracy in U.S.A. This paper would emphasize on the factors that drove India to adopt the Parliamentary system of government and how the Constitution of our country is conducive to this political system. The researcher would analyze the impacts and repercussions if Presidential form of government is adopted and practiced in India. Indians usually comment against the existing political system and hence there are a lot of opinions and arguments both for and against the existing form of democracy in the country. Due to the decline in the efficiency of the Parliament as an institution of accountability, the purpose served by the Parliamentary system, this issue has become a matter of great debate and discussion and hence, the researcher took up this topic. This paper will assess the competency of the Parliamentary system with respect to Presidential system in India by focusing on the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature, mainly at the Union level.

INTRODUCTION

The Parliamentary system of government refers to “a system of government having the real executive power vested in a cabinet composed of members of the legislature who are individually and collectively responsible to the legislature.”[i] That means it is a kind of democracy where the executive and legislature are inter-connected and the former obtains its democratic legitimacy[ii] from, and is held accountable to, the legislature and therefore, the opposition always keeps it alert for it “always lives in the shadow of a coming defeat.”[iii]

The emergency regime of Mrs. Indira Gandhi between 1975-1977 called for a serious discussion over the form of government in India. The demand for the change came from the supporters of the emergency regime who argued that the unrest and divisiveness in the country that had preceded the declaration of a national emergency in June 1975 indicated the failure of the parliamentary system.[iv] It was suggested that, in order to prevent the recurrence of similar situations, India should adopt a stronger presidential rule in the country.

Rationale behind adopting Parliamentary form of Government in India:

India adopted the Parliamentary form of democracy in the year 1947 since India has been familiar with its working during the times of British Rule. The type of government that functioned in India before independence in 1947 was very much similar to the British model of parliamentary. The framers of the constitution were greatly influenced by the English system. Therefore, the members of the Constituent Assembly decided to adopt this form of government for the independent India. India is a nation deeply divided into several groups with conflicting interests. All these varied groups are ensured representation in the Parliament through this form of government.

As explained by K.M. Munshi in the Constituent Assembly, “We must not forget a very important fact that during the last one hundred years Indian public life has largely drawn upon the traditions of the British Constitutional Law. Most of us and during the last several generations before us, public men in India, have looked up to the British model as the best. For the last thirty of forty years, some kind of responsibility has been introduced in the governance of this country. Our constitutional traditions have become Parliamentary and we have now all our Provinces functioning more or less on the British model. As a matter of fact, today, the Dominion Government of India is functioning as a full-fledged Parliamentary government.”[v]

Besides Munshi, K. Santhanam, referring to the Presidential system in the U.S.A., too made it clear “that the presidential system the executive and legislature could be seen at loggerheads because of their separation with each other and when they are at loggerheads for a period of three or four years till either the legislature is renewed or the president is re- elected, the whole thing will be a deadlock.”[vi]

The Constitution of India rejected the Presidential system as in the U.S.A. on the grounds that under such a system, “the Executive and the Legislatures are separate from and independent of each other, which is likely to cause conflicts between them, which our infant democracy could ill-afford to risk.”[vii]

Therefore, the familiarity of the Indian polity with the working of the British system of government, representation of diverse interest groups, fear of dead-lock between the executive and legislature- all led to the adoption of the parliamentary system of government in India by the Constituent Assembly.

THE PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

There are a number of features[viii] of this system of democracy. Some of them are as follows:

  • Nominal Head of the State: Under this form of government, the head of the state i.e. the President in Indian context is titular, while the Prime Minister is the Real head. This implies that the person holding the Presidential post may have great stature but he does not exercise his power independently. Constitutionally, all the powers belong to him and every affair of the State runs under his name and assent as articulated in Article 77 of our Constitution, but those powers are actually exercised by the “Council of Ministers” headed by the Prime Minister who is the head of the Government. This has been provided by the Constitution under Article 74. Thus, there exist two heads of the executive, a real and a nominal head. The president has to act according to the advice of the Council of Ministers or else it might be set aside.
  • Close Nexus between the Executive and Legislature: The Constitution-makers adopted a partial separation of powers between the executive and legislature so that they are not totally independent of each other. Therefore, under this system the executive and the legislature have a close collaboration with each other. This is done by choosing the Council of Ministers from the legislature, which involves 15% of the strength of the House of the People. The President summons the legislature and gives his consent to the bills that are initiated and passed by the legislature to make them Acts.
  • Accountability of the Executive: The executives have to perform all those residuary functions of the government which involve the implementation and administration of various policies & Acts and orders determined by the legislature and ordered by the judiciary respectively. In the Parliamentary system, the executive is responsible and accountable to the legislature for all its actions since it has the right to seek detailed information about the working of the Ministers. The Council of Ministers remain in office as long as they enjoy the support and confidence of the Lok Sabha, i.e., the House of the People.
  • Collective Responsibility: The Council of Ministers has Collective Responsibility towards each other which mean that the council shares the responsibility for the lapses of each and every minister. Moreover, the individual minister cannot differ from the decision of the council, particularly the Cabinet. Thus, in order to oppose the policy or decisions of the cabinet, the minister has to resign from the council and then refute it on the floors of the legislature. Therefore, the ministers “swim and sink together”.
  • Leadership of the Prime Minister: J. Laski said, “Prime Minister is central to formation, central to growth and central to the death of the Council of Ministers.” Since he is the Head of the Government and also the Real head of the State, the President appoints and distributes portfolios among the members of the Council of Ministers upon the recommendations of the Prime Minister as enunciated by Article 75 of the Indian Constitution. The Prime Minister has the power to dismiss any minister any time without assigning any reason. Also, his resignation leads to the resignation of the entire Council of Ministers. He also serves as a “link or pivot” between the Council and the President by conveying the decisions taken by the council after every meeting.

The above are the essential features of the Parliamentary system of government in India. Therefore, it can be said that this form of democracy rests on the “Body of representatives or Political Parties” elected by the people of the country. The Indian Constitution has various provisions facilitating the parliamentary system. It has also been held by the Supreme Court of our country that the Parliamentary system forms the basic structure of our constitution and therefore, many legal problems might arise if any switch from the present system is made.

Benefits of the Parliamentary system of Government[ix]:

The parliamentary form of government offers the following benefits owing to its features:

  1. Smooth Functioning- The close link between the executive and the legislature avoids any kind of conflict between the two organs of the government. This also ensures as working of both of them in a complementary way to each other. In India, there is a concept of partial separation of powers which accounts for freedom accompanied with responsibility and accountability. Therefore, the two organs can function without any interference if they work as per the interest of the masses.
  1. Quick Decision Making- If the ruling party enjoys majority in the legislature, then the executive can take decisions quickly and implement them without any hindrance and fear of being let down on the floor of the House. This can be very helpful in case of constructive decision making and overcoming the problems of procedural delays.
  2. Flexible System- This form of government is highly adaptive in nature to the changing situations. An example of benefit of a flexible system can be seen in case of grave emergency, wherein the leadership can be changed without any harassment and objections. This will enable the government to tackle the situation efficiently as was seen in as it happened during World War II in England when Mr. Chamberlain made way for Mr. Winston Churchill to handle the War.[x] Even the elections can be delayed till normality is restored in the country.
  1. Open Administration- The executive remains vigilant and always tries to administer properly and effectively in order to secure its electoral prospects and confidence of the Parliament. The Parliament controls the executive, particularly the Cabinet in two ways:
  2. Need of Confidence by the Government- Since by a motion of “No Confidence” against the government would make the Prime Minister resign from his office, leading to the dissolution of the Council of Ministers as a whole.
  3. Financial Powers of the Parliament- The Government has to seek for financial grants by the Parliament to implement its policies and for the purpose of administration. The Parliament has the power to grant or refuse to grant the requested funds, thereby controlling the executive. The House also has to control the expenditure made out of granted funds.

This control over the executive keeps it on its toes and ensures that there is no misuse of powers and funds. The more mistake the executive commits, the less popular it gets and more confrontation by the opposition and hence it becomes vulnerable to the restraint of funds and collapse of the government.

Disadvantages of the Parliamentary system of Government:

There is no system which can be completely foolproof. Irrespective to the soundness of this system, there are certain flaws of this system which are as follows:

  1. Absolute Majority- In case there is absolute majority enjoyed by the government in the legislature, then the executive may become “virtually dictatorial”[xi]. It may become whimsical and corrupt in using its powers without caring about the liberty and rights of the people.
  1. Politicization of Administration- The executive is bound to take political considerations into account before implementing any policy and decision. This can be said for the opposition too as it may oppose the government merely for the sake of politics rather than offering constructive criticism after looking into the working of the government and interest of the people. This may simply fail the purpose of democracy as people suffer at the cost of political considerations and actions.
  1. Unsuitable for Multi-party system- In a country like India where there are multiple parties contesting elections, there is no absolute majority to one party and this leads to the formation of a coalition government which is highly unstable and chaotic. The leader is also chosen after political considerations and there is no autonomy and efficiency in the government. Dual party system is the essence of parliamentary system as in Great Britain. India has witnessed a high level of political instability due to the presence of numerous parties and this makes the system flawed, chaotic and confused.
  1. Emergencies- Professor Dicey has pointed out that the Parliamentary system fails to respond properly to the critical situations since the Prime Minister has to consider the party and every political outcome before coming to a decision. Also, the members of the Parliament are not always unanimous to a particular decision. This may make the situation even worse and uncontrollable.
  1. Mal-administration- Since the government is elected from the social field, having no administrative training, background or skill, the efficiency of the system depends largely on the civil servants for proper formulation and implementation of the policies. Thus the bureaucrats assume huge importance in the system and they often misuse their position leading to maladministration.

Therefore we see that within the enlisted benefits of the parliamentary system, there are flaws and lacuna too. This makes the system questionable and calls for a consideration over another form of democracy in India, i.e., Presidential System of Government.

THE PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

The two forms of government are essentially different from each other. Briefly enlisting the following:

  • Features and Merits of Presidential System:
  • President is the Real Head- The President is both the head of the State as well as of the Government. This enables him to take bold and quick decisions without any interference of the ministers. They may advise him, but the President is not bound to follow them and the Ministers have to implement the decisions taken. This adds to the efficiency of the system in times of emergencies by taking prompt and bold decisions. This concentration of executive power and control makes the President to handle any situation effectively. He has no obligation to convince the Ministers about the outcomes of the decision taken.
  • Checks and Balances- In the Presidential system, the executive, legislature and judiciary are independent of each other. This separation of power contributes to checks and balances in the system making it more democratic since there is no absolute concentration of powers in the same body and the presence of other organs ensure proper working of the system.
  • Stability and Efficiency- Since there is a fixed term for both the President and legislature, there is political stability, continuation of policies and freedom to make long term policies. Also, the President has the power to appoint competent and expert persons as ministers. These ministers are answerable only to the President. This assures that they perform their duty efficiently amounting to proper administration.
  • More Suitable for Multi-party systems- The multi-party system invokes political concerns everywhere in the system making it prone to political instability and inefficiency. To check this, a strong executive as in the Presidential system is required, for the sake of people’s interest and stability.
  • Disadvantages of the Presidential System:
  • Dictatorial- Since there is a concentration of all of the executive powers in the President and there is no accountability of the executive to the legislature and people; which President cannot be recalled by the people if he is found to be incompetent or dishonest, instead of following a complicated and difficult process of his impeachment. Therefore, there is every possibility of the misuse or abuse of those powers by the President.
  • Deadlock and Rigidity- No accountability leads to lack of cooperation between the executive and legislature. There is a tendency in both the organs to find fault and refute each other’s decisions and policies. This gives rise to conflicts in the administration. Moreover, this system is too rigid to adapt to the changing situations and demands. No matter how grave or critical the situation demands the change of leadership, the Presidential system cannot be changed instantaneously.
  • Foreign Policies- The President has no power to declare war even if the country is attacked by an enemy. This power rests with the legislature. Also, the validity of foreign treaties entered into by the President can be obtained after they have been ratified by the Legislature.

PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM vs. PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

There has been an increased consideration over the system of government in India. Many recent uproars like scams, corruption and mere perverted politics among the parties in India has made people moan and groan over the existing system. As discussed earlier, the discussion over this issue started way in the 1970s era of Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s Prime ministerial regime which continues till date.

Taking over the arguments advanced by both pro and anti Parliamentary system of democracy in India under the following heads:

Anti-Parliamentary system arguments[xii]:

  • No Development[xiii]The Parliamentary government produces drift in policy and incoherence. A Presidential government would help to restore order to our politically troubled country, dilute the corruption of the political system and accelerate the pace of development through quick decision making and implementation. It also provides stable governance in the country, unlike the changes of government through political realignments and mid-term elections. Such changes in government brings about disruption in the formulation and implementation of various developmental and welfare policies, schemes and decisions.
  • Criminalization of Politics[xiv]It is argued that the politicians today are mostly incompetent, dishonest and have criminal background. Thus, the criminalization of Indian politics has made it a “dirty game”[xv]. They hardly think about the progress of our nation and its people. They take their parliamentary tenure as a period to gain as much as they want. They work as per their whims. Unlike this a Presidential system would allow the President to appoint men of talent as the ministers.
  • Debilitated Capacity of Cabinet- The cabinet is said to be not able to respond to the urgent demands and because there is lack of consensus among the ministers regarding a course of action. It is burdened with varying interests and contrary decisions which makes it incapable of proper administration. The Presidential system is free of such burden and hence, it can pursue the actions of national interest, since the executive power rests with the President himself.
  • Mere Politics- The anti-parliamentary group also argues that the bane of Indian politics is the existence of multiple parties which call for coalitions. This way there is no sense of belongingness among the members and there is only politics and trading of “support”[xvi] among the parties. There is no consideration of development and welfare. The Presidential system, on the other hand overcomes this problem owing to its feature of “fixed tenure of the President” in normal circumstances.
  • Less Democratic- It is claimed that the Parliamentary system is less democratic since the Real head of the State i.e. the Prime Minister is not chosen by the people directly as in case of India. There is a lot of politics involved in the name of the Prime Ministerial candidate. There is a rule of party in power as the President is a mere titular head having no actual powers. But the Presidential system allows the people to directly choose their Head which is the President. Hence, he enjoys popular authority and therefore acts in their best interest.

Owing to the above arguments, there is a claim made that the Presidential system would be better than the existing Parliamentary government in India. All the aforementioned arguments have been very well answered by the pro-Parliamentarian democracy group. Their arguments are as follows:

Pro-Parliamentary system arguments:[xvii]

  • Over-estimation of the other system- The pro group argues that the Presidential system is too prone to the acquiring of presidential position through persuasion, manipulations and bargaining which makes the situation very dangerous. This will further lead to abuse of power and failure of the system. The Parliamentary system makes the tackling of such a situation effective as this mechanism allows easy removal of a bad leader in three legal ways, namely, vote of confidence; removal by the party; removal by the Prime Minister.

Comparing this with the presidential system wherein the only legal recourse is through the process of impeachment, which is too difficult to be successful, leaving the people with the option of either waiting until the end of the term or forcefully removing the leader through a risky revolution like coup d’etat, which are certainly undesirable.

  • Accountability ensures efficiency- In the Parliamentary system, the people have a direct say in the day-today administrative affairs of the country through legislature since each member of the legislature has the power to pull out the executive in case there is any shortcoming or mistake on its part. The executive is responsible to the legislature and hence, they work in the best interest of the public. However, in the Presidential system, there is no accountability of the executive and this may make the person in power tyrannical and abusive. He may also dictate the state by his whimsical and wishful decisions. This can be very harmful to the very essence of democracy.
  • Qualified and Talented members- It is argued that such talented and qualified members who are nominated or are the members of the Rajya Sabha in the Parliamentary system can be inducted in the cabinet, thereby making good people available for administration and law making purpose as in the case of Presidential system. Therefore, it is pointless to argue that such appointments can be made only in the presidential system. Also, it can be argued that politicians of Parliamentary system are more competent than that of the presidential one since there is a possibility for the legislature to engage the executives into constructive debates and checks. The executive is obligated to readily participate and act in a proper desired manner to remain in power. This obligation is absent in the presidential system which makes them less competent than the parliamentary politicians.
  • Multi-party suitability- It cannot be said that the Presidential system is suitable for the multi-party system like that of India. The regional or small parties may choose the President in order to pursue their own legislative ideologies, which also represent varied interest groups and their demands. Once the president is elected, then there is no surety that the President would fulfill those demands and aspirations. Moreover, there is no check upon him to make him act in the desired direction.
  • Quality of Leadership- It is argued that the presidents are mostly chosen in the Presidential system mainly on the basis of their ability to win elections owing to their popularity and election campaigns, rather than on their ability to rule and administer. Unlike this approach, the Parliamentary system provides for the best politician who is accepted by all and has the capacity to rule properly, thereby enhancing the quality and level of leadership than what is found under the other system.
  • Deadlocks are not feasible- For a country like India, deadlocks and conflicts arising out of the Presidential system due to “separation of power” is not affordable at all. Referring to the recent event of deadlock of Congress in the U.S.A. between the Democrats and Republicans, President Obama said, “shutdown will have a real economic impact on real people, right away, with hundreds thousands of federal workers furloughed and veterans’ centers, national parks, most of the space agency and other government operations shuttered…”[xviii]. This clearly depicts that it creates a highly critical situation for the country, stagnating all its activities. This is surely overcome by the Parliamentary system.
  • Too idealistic- The proponents of the parliamentary system argue that the portrayal of the Presidential system is too ideal. The only consideration is made over the situation prevailing in the U.S.A., which is exceptionally better off with its system. However, it is not the only country with the Presidential system. Many Latin American countries also share the presidential regimes which are unfortunately not that better off. It has been seen that some Presidents in Philippines and Indonesia are not more decisive and effective than the most ineffectual PMs in India.

Therefore, these arguments are good answers to those of the anti-parliamentary groups.

Analysis of Parliamentary form’s applicability in India:

After establishing the main features and aspects relating to both the forms of government, it’s now time to analyze the conditions relevant in India since independence, tracing the past records and comparing it with that of Presidential system, hypothetically. India celebrated its 65th Republic day this year and it also amounted to more than 60 years or six decades of parliamentary democracy in our country. Time and again, there have been certain issues which have distorted the image of the current polity like that of corruption, scams, party-politics, economic slugger, denial of welfare at the altar of self-interest of the legislature and so on. This has led to a major doubt among the masses that whether the democracy really is “of the people, for the people and by the people”. Analyzing the conditions that have existed and what would have been the conditions had there been the presidential system, by comparing it with that of other country, like that of France and analysis shall be made in its case which opted from the prior Parliamentary system to the present semi-presidential system.

According to Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution too favored the Presidential form of government as he believed that “A Democratic Executive must be stable and responsible…”[xix]. However, the fulfillment of both the conditions is not possible since in the case of America and Switzerland, the government is more stable than responsible, while in Indian and British systems, the government is more responsible and less stable. Over the past post-Independence years, there has been a change in the political parties both in terms of quality and quantity.

1951-52 saw the first general elections in our country under the new constitution with the British Parliamentary system as its model. The Indian Congress won the elections absolutely with only about 15% total voting. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of our country. Looking at the economic aspect of our nation, since 1951, the emphasis was laid down on heavy industries in order to make the manufacturing sector the backbone of the Indian economy. The agricultural sector comprised 60% and service sector a mere 30% in the 50s. India was then at the beginning stage to emerge as a planned economy and it had started its journey afresh in those days. There were a lot of hindrances to the development of the economy including the political obstacles towards opening up to the world through international trade. Main focus was laid down on the domestic industries and products in an effort to pace the economic growth.

In 1971, the Congress government came back to power with majority having Mrs. Indira Gandhi as the PM. Her regime turned out to be more of a dictatorial one than a democratic system. She was found guilty of misusing her powers in the election process by the Allahabad High Court. Our then President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared the Emergency under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution. This proclamation gave the powers to the Union Government to maintain and defend the law and order in the nation. Mrs. Indira Gandhi postponed the national and state elections and suspended many of the civil liberties on the grounds of threat to national security and crush of law and order in the country. The situation was criminalized and became serious in those days. Protests, strikes, imprisonment, postponements, arbitrary decisions and abuse of power characterized that era. However, many socialist economic policies were introduced enhancing the industrial and agricultural productivity and employment generation. Mrs. Gandhi called for elections in the year 1977, and was defeated by the Janata Party. “People wondered how Indian democracy could survive, but it has strengthened”[xx] 

1980s saw the death of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Congress Government coming back to power and Rajiv Gandhi, being the youngest PM of India which brought a youthful insight in the country as well as in the polity. The government attained an absolute majority of over 415 seats out of 545 in the Indian Parliament. Under his leadership, there was a relaxation of the economic policies and encouraged foreign investments through abolishment of license raj system, restrictions on imports and foreign currency.

In 1991, there was an introduction of LPG (Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization) policy of the government. Thus, 1990s saw the opening up of the Indian economy to the global trade and investment and the rise of many regional based small parties. There were short term governments in the Centre lasting for about less than a year or so. There were all efforts made by the political parties to remain in the House in the form of coalitions. Therefore, there were not much development in the late 1990s except for the commencement of the bus service between India and Pakistan. However, there were certain political and social indifferences between the two nationals owing to the increased infiltrations and terrorist activities in both the countries.

The era of 2000s, saw an increase of the conflicts within the nation with a blend of politics involved like that of Gujarat Godhra Riots. There were coalition governments formed under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then Dr. Manmohan Singh, the present PM of India. There is a continuing process of economic liberalization in India and improvement of friendly relations with other nations. There have been summits like G20 and Rio+20, of which India has been a signatory, thereby achieving the objective of developing relations with other countries and participation in the issues prevailing in the world.

In the recent years of 2010s, there has been a distorted image of Indian politics carved by the ruling party, Indian National Congress. The years began with a number of scams and scandals, namely, the Commonwealth Games scam, the 2G spectrum scam, the Coal-gate scam and so on. Even the PM of India, including eminent leaders of the party came under the scrutiny of the public. There have been recent campaigns launched by Anna Hazare, a social activist as well as an introduction of a new party at the centre by Arvind Kejriwal, namely the Aam Aadmi party (AAP) in November, 2012. Economically, India is still able to maintain its strong position against recession. There are still further developments going on. There are consultations for passing the Food Security Bill, the FDI is still pending for debate in the House, the Jan Lokpal Bill has been passed by the Houses, Corporate Social Responsibility made compulsory and many more. These developments are very much needed and desired for the country, irrespective of the political scenario prevalent.

The conditions since independence have not been so good. Even today, one-third of world’s poor are found in India. Although the life expectancy has increased to 62 years from 32 years since independence, the infant-mortality rate which is 50 deaths per 1000 births holds the highest rate in the world. As per Pramod Paliwal, the secretary of the Jaipur-based Indian Institute of Rural Development, a non-profit focusing on rural healthcare, “Lack of government spending is largely to blame for our ailing healthcare system,” said. According to a Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, India spends only 1% of its GDP in the healthcare sector. Because of lack of modernization of the Indian economy, more than half of our population is still employed in the agricultural sector, making it overburdened and less productive. India ranked 132 out of 187 countries on the UNDP’s gender inequality index in 2013. Literacy levels have increased from 16% in 1951 to about 74% in 2011 as per the statistics.

Summarizing the said developments, we see that while there was an absolute majority in the legislature, there was stability and favorable political atmosphere for economic growth and development of the country.

Comparison with that of France:

Political Aspects:

The French Parliamentary system is different from the British or Indian Parliamentary system. This change was brought by a change in the Constitution of the Fifth Republic in the year 1958 and this was approved by a referendum on 28th September, 1958. This change has increased and widened the powers of the Executive with respect to the Parliament. Under this constitution, the French Republic President is directly elected by ‘universal adult suffrage’ for a 5-year term. Presidential election by the general people assures regular and smooth functioning of the public duties of the state and its continuity. The President names the Prime Minister, presides over the cabinet, determines and concludes policies of the State with the assistance of the Council of Ministers, is the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed forces, and concludes treaties in his own name. The French citizens have a major say in the policies or treaties or Acts or reforms of the Government “relating to the economic, social or environmental policy of the Nation, and to the public services contributing thereto, or which provides for authorization to ratify a treaty which, although not contrary to the Constitution, would affect the functioning of the institutions.”[xxi] Meanwhile, the Parliament too has powers vested in it unlike the wholly Presidential system of Government. It still advices the President and the PM is responsible for making the policies of the country. Also, immunity from prosecution, arrest or investigation for the discharge of public duties is granted to the parliamentarians. It can be said that there is a mixture and clear distribution of powers between the Parliament and the Executive. A balance can be seen between the two sects of the Government.

Economic Aspects:

Coming to the economic aspects of the Republic of France, we find that France is characterized by one of the developed economies of the world. It is also termed as a ‘rogue economy’ since the work force is usually on strike, businesses are played by all the powerful unions and no free enterprises are allowed in the economy. But it is claimed by the French government that this terminology is nothing but a myth and has been perpetrated by the outside commentators and people who have never experienced the working of the French economy and is a mere nomenclature used to sweep away all the strengths and exaggerate all the weaknesses of the economy. It is the strongest economy of the world relating to the sectors like automotive, aerospace, and railways. It is also seen in case of power generation, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, luxury goods, insurance, telecoms, defense, hospitality and agriculture. France is also the world’s leading tourist destination. The labor market too is rich having highest number of graduates, particularly, the science graduates per 1000 workers in Europe.

 After the Second World War, the French economy developed massively from a largely agrarian economy with over 40% of the population still living on the land, into a modern industrial economy with leading business leaders and corporations.  In the years 1945 – 1975, the French economy grew by an average of 4.1% in terms of GDP per inhabitant, much more rapidly than the USA or the UK. The French Conservatives played an important role through the establishment of a series of four year plans wherein the state set economic targets and priorities, and left them onto the private enterprises to achieve or apply them. The rapid development of the French motorway system is being achieved by public investment offset by the sale of long-term concessions to private or semi-private companies to operate and maintain them.[xxii] As per the INSEE (Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques), French government office of statistics, public spending in France is among the highest levels in the world, it reached 57.1% in 2013. Over the years, the French economy has been victimized by the recession and its productivity and efficiency has considerably fallen. Huge increase in budgets, followed by a colossal increase in taxes in the year 2013 is one of the consequences of the fallen productivity of the French economy. However, the situations are getting better as claimed by the French president. They are likely to improve by the introduction of some of the reforms.

Politically, there have been no affects on the economy. This degradation of the economy was due to the wave of recession in the whole world, of which the developed economies became prey to. The government is friendly to the reforms relating to modernization of the French economy. It became hugely unpopular owing to such “reforms”, but this did not affect the step of the government towards modernization which is in the interest of the economy in the long run. This is where we find a big difference between Indian and French Governments.

Contrasting the two conditions:

The above conditions prevailing in France are after the adoption of the new constitution for the Fifth Republic having a more powerful President and increased role of the public in the politics as well as in matters of great public concern. Contrasting to the conditions prevalent in India, the legislators work only for the purpose of staying in office and holding power. They are least bothered about the long term aspects of any reform or policy. The Opposition opposes the policies of the government only for the sake of opposing the ruling party. They do not look deep into the matter and seek for merits; rather they hold onto the superficial flaws of the policies. Their duty is not to oppose but to check the public interest undermining activities of the government.

In India, the president is nothing but a rubber stamp. He does not possess any real powers in his hands except in rare situations. The President has no say in the policies of the government. He is obliged to assent to the advice of the Council of Ministers. Also, the people of India have no say in the election of the President. Their views are not taken into account while the deliberations take place. As already stated, the opposition party opposes only for the sake of opposing the ruling party, no matter how beneficial is the policy for the country in the long run. Indians have seen and enjoyed undisrupted democracy since Independence except during 1970s while the proclamation of emergency was in effect. There is always a fight among the political parties for vote banks. The agricultural sector is overburdened and the economy needs a wave of modernization and industrialization for sharing the burden and pacing up its growth and development of the country, which appears to be impossible in the current conditions of perverted form of democracy.

France has shown an impressive and consistent growth and development in almost every sector owing to the allegiance of the government to the interest of the public and consenting to modernize the economy even after receiving an unwelcome attitude of the people in the beginning. This is a lesson yet to learn by the Indian politicians. Also, the increased role of people has created a path of improved administration, transparency and will of the people in France unlike that of in India.

CONCLUSION

India’s tryst with democracy began with its efforts to overcome the colonial legacy marked by underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy and social and economic inequalities. Democracy was construed as a flexible system wherein every citizen makes his/her contribution to the society. However, the past few decades since independence have clearly demonstrated that in India, democracy has failed to deliver its purpose, both theoretically and practically. In the present context of rapid degradation of democratic norms, criminalization of politics, corruption in the legal, executive and political sects of the government meant for facilitating and catering to people’s needs and open violation of electoral reforms, alternative forms of democracy have become increasingly needed in India. The alternative form of democracy that could be made applicable in India is that of Participatory Democracy.

Suggestions:

Participatory democracy is seen as a form of social action and political practice expanding the arena of politics beyond the representational institutions of elections, political parties and the bureaucracy.[xxiii] The Participatory democracy is inclusive of deliberative, consensus, anticipatory and semi-direct democracy. However, the researcher recommends the Semi-direct Democracy or Semi-Presidential system of democracy in India like it has been adopted in France. In such a system, the balance of power shifts decisively from the politicians to the citizens where it truly belongs. This form of system is effective and desirable since it is not a fully Presidential form of democracy, nor it is as similar to the present Parliamentary system. This will increase the role of common man in the matters of public concern and importance. The President shall be made more powerful and responsible. People will be able to elect their head of the executive as well as the State. The active role of the president will ensure smooth functioning of the three organs of the government. This idea of participatory democracy was central to Gandhiji’s political thinking and practice. It features public participation, Rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus of the public and the three organs, efficiency and accountability. Thus, this form of democracy will be a key to effectuate good governance and participatory citizenship in India because of the following reasons:

  • The demand for greater transparency in government decision making processes in order to assure public scrutiny and participation in governance. The RTI (Right to Information) is an example for such a demand.
  • The demand for accountability of people in power through decentralization of the decision making power to the lowest levels for direct people’s participation in the process.
  • The demand for competition in government monopolized areas by encouraging the participation of private individuals in those areas which will lead to better delivery of services.

Such an adoption will require the amendment of the Constitution. Since the constitution has already been amended multiple times by the legislature, another amendment for the benefit and in the interest of the public would not be objectionable. Also, to implement the idea of participatory democracy, technological resources can be used to enhance the role of people in the election and decision making processes and look into their interest and political and social destiny. Internet has a great role and ease to deliver in such a case. An online voting mechanism can be introduced for the purpose of people’s will and views in major areas. Today, internet has reached almost every district of India and its usability and connectivity would be effective in this regard. People would be able to vote and participate without any harassment. This will entail a fairer and a more appropriate approach to the prevailing demands and needs. Therefore, semi-direct democracy type of participatory democracy along with technology would be in the interest of the nation.

Edited by Sinjini Majumdar

[i] Definition according to – http://www.merriam-webster.com, Last seen on 17/4/2014.

[ii] Arun Aggarwal, “The Indian Parliament.” Paper presented at the Conference on Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, February.

[iii] Devesh Kapur And Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Indian Parliament As An Institution Of Accountability.

[iv] Kul B. Rai, Should India change its parliamentary system?, As on 28/01/1981, http:// www.theHindu.com, Last seen on 17/4/2014

[v] Subir K. Bhatnagar, Need for Structural Changes in Indian Parliamentary Model I, Central Law Quarterly, ¶ 2

[vi] Ibid, ¶ 3

[vii] According to Durga Das Basu, Commentary on The Constitution of India, (8th Edition 2012, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, Nagpur)

[viii] Devesh Kapur And Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Indian Parliament As An Institution Of Accountability, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, January 2006

[ix] Shri P.A. Sangma ,“Functioning of Parliamentary Democracy in India”, 01/2008.

[x] S.A. Aiyar, Obama shows why India must not seek a presidential system, The Times of India Blogs as on 13th October, 2013, Last seen on 17/4/2014.

[xi] Rohini Dasgupta, “Notes on Parliamentary Form of Government in India”, As on 28/02/2014, available at http;//www.indiaBIX.com, Last seen on 3/3/2014.

[xii] Ramesh Thakur – Parliamentary Government Trumps Presidential, as on 15/03/2008, http://www.thehindu.com, Last seen on 18/04/2014.

[xiii] Supra note 9 at                ¶ 1.

[xiv]Supra note 8 at ¶ 38.

[xv] Supra note 10 at ¶ 4.

[xvi] Ibid at  ¶ 5

[xvii] Supra note 5 at ¶ 7.

[xviii] http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/common/briefing/Senate_Deadlock_2013.htm,  Last seen on 18/04/2014.

[xix] Dr. B.R.Ambedkar Speech –  http://casenglishdepartment.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/dr-b-r-ambedkars-speech/, Last seen on 1/5/2014.

[xx] Sanjay Kumar, “The Changing Face of Indian Legislative Assemblies, Published in the year 2009, available at

http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/the-unfolding-scenario-of-indian-politics/, Last seen on 18/04/2014.

[xxi] Title II, Article 11(1) of the French Constitution of 04/04/1958.

[xxii] About the France – http://about-france.com/geo/french-economy.htm, Last seen on 9/05/2014.

[xxiii] Renu Vinod’s article in – “Quest for Participatory Democracy”, Rawat Publications, 2010.

6 Replies to “Is Parliamentary form of Government good enough for India?: Need for a Change”

  1. The Lokpal as a constitutional authority and the use of technology for strengthening participatory democracy may do good to India.

    1. May be. But, with the unfolding of the Lokpal authority already, the intended transparency in participatory democracy is still awaited.

  2. ReallyGood Article
    Semi Presidential System of democracy(SPSD) in India I personally feel is the mark of the time.since the balance powers decisively shifts from politicians to the common citizens. This will increase the role of common man in the matters of public concerns n importance. Rather it will feciltate common man would be seen as Out-Side-In and Inside-Out meaning that for common man there will be total Transparency in Govt working n good governance / participation.
    Secondly congressional Research Service wings need to opened by intellectuals/ngos for preparing policy papers in the inerest of citizens so that decisions could be taken while framing Rules/Act in the intitution.

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