The stench of fish becomes overwhelming whenever the government is in a hurry. It has just passed an ordinance that blunts the Supreme Courtís July ruling that a legislator, if convicted, should be immediately disqualified. All parties became jumpy, especially since the Supreme Court refused to review this order when requested. A neutralizing law being the only way out, an amendment bill giving convicted legislators scope to continue in the pretext of a pending appeal was ready to be passed. But that bill is still hanging fire. As are many other matters, given the continual disruptions in the Lok Sabha. And of all business stalled, the leaders of the people have chosen as subject of an ordinance the one issue that allows identified criminals to irradiate Parliament.
The unity, the mutual sympathy, among political parties in this matter is remarkable. It is as though the dignity of parliamentarians and ministers were an archaic, inapplicable concept. Why an ordinance? Why could the issue not have waited till the next session? The logical answer, that of timing, has been refuted by the Union law minister himself. The ordinance, according to him, has nothing to do with the fact that the Congress member of parliament, Rashid Masood, has been recently convicted of fraud regarding MBBS seats and that a lower court is going to pronounce on Monday its verdict on Lalu Prasadís alleged involvement in the fodder scandal. Denying the obvious does not add to the dignity or credibility of the minister; at least there should be stronger and more persuasive arguments to convince the people. By not respecting the people, the government has given up any claim to respect for itself. Political leaders who are focused on protecting criminal elements among themselves, allowing them to rule people who are expected to follow the law, are deliberately and openly flouting the fundamental principles of justice that underpin the institutions of democracy. The corruption has truly gone deep. The overturning of just principles is expressed through the opposition to the Supreme Court that the ordinance represents. If there are genuine concerns about the possibility of wrongful convictions, they have to be solved through other means, not by head-butting with the courts. And politicians will go nowhere without credibility and moral sense.