The Telegraph
Friday , March 14 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Khurshid takes a potshot at poll code

London, March 13 (PTI): External affairs minister Salman Khurshid has dubbed the Supreme Court judgment disqualifying convicted lawmakers “a judge-made law”, and suggested that the Election Commission guidelines’ “broad philosophical approach” seems to be that “you should do or say nothing that wins you an election”.

“The recent instructions that we received from them (poll panel), interestingly, are that our manifesto must be certain that it does not offer the building of roads, because promise of building roads distorts democratic decision-making. You should also not offer drinking water because that distorts decision-making,” Khurshid said, speaking on the “Challenges of Democracy in India” at the School of Oriental and African Studies here last night.

He said the philosophy, as he understood it, was that “you should try your best to lose elections”.

“I cheekily said to them we try to lose our elections for five years; give us 15 days in which we can try and win them, please.”

The minister, however, described the commission as a “very vigorous and highly respected” body that has “cleaned up a lot of the ugly warts of our election process”.

“But they (the election commissioners) are only three of them, with no appeal…. And (the) three of them can decide what word you can use in an election campaign.… That is an interesting area of study on how much election commissions can interfere in public discourse,” Khurshid said.

On the apex court, he said that “important democratic decisions are being transferred to an unaccountable body of people”.

“In India, courts are taking a view on issues that are, in democratic theory, really an area of Parliament or government to decide. Their explanation is that if you will not be able to act and if you will not address these issues, we will have no choice but take them over,” Khurshid said.

“They are also deciding who can now go to Parliament and who can’t go to Parliament. This is not law, but judge-made law. At least in theory, if democracy throws up a wrong kind of person, you can say this is what the people want. But to have an un-elected, unaccountable body taking these decisions then becomes a major challenge to Indian democracy.”

He added: “Supreme Court judges never sit in benches which have more than two or three judges.… Generally, only two of them sit together and two of the total 31 can decide what should happen.… The trouble is, when they make mistakes, what do we do?”

Khurshid, here for a Commonwealth ministerial meeting, continued: “Judges sit and they say, ‘This is not to happen; that is not to happen’ and, of course, go to the extent of threatening contempt proceedings against officials. Two judges can say anything about parliamentarians being tried or not being tried, that they’ll be allowed to contest or not, what kind of affidavit they have to file, what they can do and so on.”