By Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan
On 26th July,2023,the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla admitted a No Confidence Motion against the Narendra Modi government, moved by Congress led 26 party I.N.D.I.A. Opposition.And the back and forth Whataboutery has begun. Daniel Kahneman’s new classic ‘Noise’ is all over our Parliament. Do we have confidence in this No Confidence?
During the debates in the Constituent Assembly of India regarding the role of Parliament, various perspectives were put forth by the members, reflecting their diverse opinions and ideologies. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Indian Constitution, played a crucial role in shaping the discussions and providing insights into the significance of Parliament in India’s democratic framework.
The debates highlighted the following key points :The Constituent Assembly emphasized that the Parliament’s primary role should be the enactment of laws. It was considered essential to have a bicameral legislature, comprising the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, to ensure effective representation and scrutiny of legislation.
Members of the Constituent Assembly stressed the importance of Parliament as a representative body. They believed that the MPs should be elected directly by the people to ensure that the voice of the citizens is heard in the legislative process.
There were extensive discussions on the need for Parliament to act as a check on the executive branch viz. faculties of accountability and oversight. Members felt that the Parliament should have the authority to scrutinize the government’s actions, decisions, and policies to maintain transparency and accountability.
The debates also revolved around the role of Parliament in India’s federal structure. It was emphasized that the Parliament should respect the powers and rights of the states while also having the authority to intervene in specific matters for the greater good of the nation.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, in his role as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, presented his erudite and overpowering views on the role of Parliament during the debates.
Dr. Ambedkar emphasized that the Indian Parliament would be the sovereign/supreme legislative body, and its decisions would be binding on all other institutions and authorities within the country. Babasaheb envisioned Parliament as an essential instrument for social reform. He believed that through legislation, Parliament could address the historical injustices faced by marginalized and oppressed sections of society, working towards a more equitable and just society. The good doctor stressed the importance of Parliament safeguarding the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. He argued that the Parliament should protect these rights and not pass any legislation that would violate the principles of liberty, equality, and justice.
Above all else, Dr. Ambedkar underscored the significance of having a responsible government accountable to Parliament. He believed that ministers should be answerable to the Parliament, and their actions should be subject to scrutiny to ensure good governance.
The history of no-confidence motions against ruling parties in a parliamentary democracy is rooted in the system of parliamentary government itself. In a parliamentary democracy, the government’s legitimacy and stability depend on the support of the majority of members in the lower house of the parliament (e.g., House of Commons in the UK, Lok Sabha in India, etc.). A no-confidence motion is a mechanism through which the members of parliament can express their lack of confidence in the ruling government, potentially leading to its removal from power.
The concept of no-confidence motions can be traced back to the early development of parliamentary systems in Europe. One of the earliest recorded instances of a no-confidence motion took place in the United Kingdom in the 18th century. In 1782, the British government of Lord North faced a motion of no-confidence after suffering significant military defeats during the American Revolutionary War. The government was defeated, leading to its resignation.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the practice of using no-confidence motions as a means to hold the government accountable and change the ruling party became more widespread in parliamentary democracies around the world. These motions can be introduced by opposition parties or even by members of the ruling party who have lost confidence in their own government.
If a no-confidence motion is successful and the government is defeated, it typically leads to the resignation of the entire government or the prime minister. Subsequently, the head of state (such as a monarch or president) may invite the leader of another party or coalition to form a new government that can demonstrate majority support in the parliament.
It is essential to note that the specific rules and procedures governing no-confidence motions can vary from one parliamentary democracy to another. Some countries may require a specific majority threshold for the motion to be successful, while others may have additional rules to prevent frequent misuse of this mechanism.
The history of no-confidence motions against ruling parties in a parliamentary democracy reflects the importance of accountability and the ability of the parliament to hold the government answerable to its actions and decisions. It is a fundamental aspect of the democratic process, allowing for peaceful and constitutional changes in government when the confidence of the parliament is lost.
The debates in the Constituent Assembly highlighted the critical role of Parliament as the primary legislative body in India’s democratic setup. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s views emphasized the significance of Parliament in enacting laws, representing the people, ensuring accountability, safeguarding fundamental rights, and working towards social reform and a responsible government.
Regretfully, Parliament has long since ceased to be the ‘meaningful deliberative forum to make law and policies for We the People it was envisaged to be, by our forefathers’. The politicians just care to be in the limelight. And therefore disruption and bedlam are passé. Do we?
One has no Confidence in this No Confidence Motion . It would be no more or less than a whip driven and party b(i)ased a.k.a. polarised and divisive one. The result is a given. The exchanges would be a charade, just sounding the bugle for 2024 general elections. We may as well pass an order -Adjournment Sine Die, and move beyond, as We the People!
( Writer is practicing advocate in the Madras High Court)