Swaminathan Aiyar has written a somewhat interesting piece in the Times of India today. Titled ‘Democracy depends on the unelected’, he raises some appealing issues on the status and working of the democratic process in India and the role of the unelected institutions. (See TOI, Sunday, Editorial 27th Jan, 08)

“The Constitution created other unelected bodies such as the Supreme Court and the Election Commission – which are the most respected in India precisely because they keep elected politicians in check.”

These are the last few lines in the Article that sum up his basic arguments in the paper. What is worth to be noted is that Mr. Aiyar bases this on the primary premise by drawing a link amongst what he suggests are the most respected institutions in the Country (The SC, Election Commission and the Army) – that they all are unelected. Theoretically this statement could be true, but I’m not sure with the present state of things in the Country, I’d agree with it.

When the Supreme Court goes on a popularity track, deciding cases it is not authorized to do so, creates new mechanisms to solve issues; it violates the democratic ethos in the Country. When the Court has decided according to the law, it has always gained respect in the eyes of the people. On the other hand, when it has involved itself with political questions and not decided otherwise according to the law, it has lost the respect of the people. The best examples of losing respect that I can give are ADM Jabalpur and PV Narsimharao’s case( JMM Bribery case).

I have written earlier that there is an idea of constitutional limitations prevalent in our Country and the Court is presented with the task to see that the executive and legislatures work within these limitations. Needless to say, the Court itself is bound by these limitations and cannot violate them. Mr. Aiyar rightly points out that the Constitution has created institutions such as the Supreme Court and the Election Commission to limit the abuse of political power – that is the very idea of judicial review that is prevalent in the paramount parchment. However, the ‘most respected institution’ in the Country must exercise some amount of self-restraint in interfering with the democratic process. The more it does so, the more it loses respect.

The second part of Mr. Aiyar’s piece, one that I totally agree with, is about the two pillars of democracy. Mr Aiyar elucidates that democracy stands on two pillars- Constitutional democracy that lays down the rule of law, and popular democracy that elects the politicians.

“Constitutional democracy nurtures dissent, which elected politicians would dearly love to squash if they could”

The essence of democracy is about the right to dissent and be heard and it is the Constitutional democracy that protects this rights, while popular democracy supports the majority with and interplay of money and vote-bank politics. It is very essential in a democracy that the rights of minorities are protected and Constitutional mechanisms do precisely that. The individuality of the rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution and remedies for the same under Article 32 are sacred in this nature.

I was a little surprised to see Mr. Aiyar writing like this at first, but after remembering his views on Gujarat and other similar situations, one is expected to get such views from him. On republic day, he seeks to pay tribute to the unelected officials for preserving the democracy, mainly the unelected constitutional framers (Constituent assembly) who gave us the document.