PARLIAMENT is supreme, sovereign. It is its exclusive prerogative to legislate. It derives its sovereignty from the people —”We, the people” who have given unto themselves the Constitution and thereby delegated their sovereignty to its organs, including the Parliament. Still, the ultimate sovereignty resides with the people.
The issue of Parliament’s supremacy was raised by parliamentarians themselves, at the height of Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption insisting on Parliament enact the Jan Lokpal Bill urgently. Some protested that Parliament could not be coerced into passing a bill drafted by a private party or association on the pain of a fast.
But this was exactly the course adopted by Mahatma Gandhi in his fight against the alien British rulers when he embarked upon fasts to force them accede his demands. Further, it is fallacious to treat Anna’s fast as a mere threat to force his views on Parliament. It was a countrywide movement against corruption which culminated into spontaneous bursting of support for the cause from every section of society in almost every corner of the country.
The Anna fast will go down in history as the most peaceful and non-violent movement where not even a simple brawl took place and police had not to use force. It gave lie to the prophets of doom in the UPA who raised the bogey of “threat to peace” if Hazare was allowed to fast and people were allowed to assemble at JP Park as planned earlier.
MPs are people’s elected representatives who should always keep their finger on the pulse of the people and reflect the same in their functioning. If some of our MPs were trying to overlook the spontaneous support for Anna Hazare, it only laid bare disconnect with their own people. If there was some rancour and use of some unsavoury words by people, it was because of the frustration and anger generated by the everyday changing posture of the government. Had the government done on August 14 what it did on August 27 to respect the will of the people, much of the bitterness could have been avoided and nation’s money and energy saved for better purposes. It is a victory for India, its people, the Constitution and its organs.
It is also a hard reality that the legislature has not always been found to be right. This fact manifested itself a number of times in the past. The legislators do not necessarily vote for or against as per the call of their conscience. They raise their hands in faithful obedience to the whip of their political bosses. In the process, many a times, the people’s interests get overlooked. Recall the fact that it was the Parliament which had put its seal of approval into killing democracy in 1975 by late Mrs. Indira Gandhi by imposing emergency and enacting draconian laws curtailing freedom of Press, speech, expression and fundamental rights.The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act 1983 met a similar fate. In all such cases, the people stood not with the Parliament but with the courts.
Whether it is construed as a ‘unanimous’ resolution or the ‘sense of the House’ on August 27, a doubt is being raised in some quarters that it was just a ploy to make Anna end his fast. But if Parliament fails to honour the word it gave to Anna and the nation, the loss this time would be that of the integrity of Parliament. In that eventuality, it would not be Anna or the mobocracy, but Parliament alone to blame for attracting the ire of the people.