Nienu calls on leaders to protect rights, democracy
KOHIMA — Leader of the NPF Legislature Party Kuzholuzo (Azo) Nienu on Friday called on all bold and upright leaders to speak out to protect rights and democracy, while expressing concern about the perceived threat to democracy in India.
In his address at the 29th edition of Secheku Wrestling Association held at Porba village in Phek district, the NPF leader said that the mass suspension of opposition MPs during the 2023 Winter Session raised apprehensions about the future of parliamentary democracy.
He highlighted the depletion of Opposition strength with the suspension of 146 members, and the subsequent passage of key legislations without deliberations, emphasising the detrimental impact on parliamentary democracy.
To many political observers, the suspension spree is a carefully thought-out action by the Modi government to throw out and bulldoze the Opposition while the Opposition regards the act as a betrayal of parliamentary democracy and a move to demolish democracy in the country by an autocratic BJP, Nienu maintained.
He said that while both Houses have experienced frequent suspensions over the past 15 years due to disruptions and unruly behaviour, the current situation raises questions about the appropriateness of suspending MPs who were seeking a statement from the Union Home Minister regarding an incident in Parliament.
“Suspension as a tool to bulldoze the Opposition and to pass important Bills without any deliberations and debates is detrimental to the future of parliamentary democracy,” he added.
Misuse of central agencies
The NPF leader went on to express concern about what he termed ‘misuse’ of the three Central Agencies – the CBI, ED and NIA – and their alleged politicisation by the Union government.
He pointed out that various media outlets have also scrutinised the alleged misuse of these agencies, citing Supreme Court Justice RM Lodha’s characterisation of the CBI as a “caged parrot” speaking “its master’s voice” in 2013.
Nienu underscored the abuse of power by the CBI in targeting opposition figures and dissenters, citing instances such as the targeting of NDTV, a news channel critical of the BJP, since 2014. He highlighted that, despite numerous scandals during the UPA governments from 2004, the CBI’s probes targeted 29 leaders from the Congress and its allies and 43 from the opposition out of the 72 key leaders investigated by the agency. He contended that the timing of these probes and arrests, coinciding with the rise of leaders to prominence and national or state elections, suggests political motives.
According to Nienu, to mitigate political interference, the Supreme Court had recommended a selection committee, led by the Central Vigilance Commission, to appoint the CBI director in 1998. He mentioned that the Lokpal Act of 2013 established a committee comprising the Prime Minister (as chair), the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India as members to select the director from a senior IPS officer panel for a two-year term, a system that proved ineffective by 2016.
He also alleged that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been used against opposition leaders and dissenters to change the popular verdict in a state by intimidating a MLA of a party and engineering defections. He alleged that the misuse of the ED intensified after the NDA assumed power in 2014, citing that out of the 121 political leaders investigated by the ED since then, 115 (95%) belonged to the opposition.
Another concern raised by the NPF leader pertained to the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Office and Terms of Office) Bill, 2023, recently passed by the Rajya Sabha, likely to be enacted in its current form.
Stating that “The independence of the Election Commission of India is essential for ensuring free and fair elections that is paramount for a vibrant democracy,” Nienu pointed out the Supreme Court’s declaration in March 2023 about the legislative vacuum in the appointment of the CEC and EC over the last 73 years.
He also pointed out recommendations from the Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) and the Law Commission’s 255th report (2015), and the Supreme Court’s directive under Article 142, suggesting the appointment of CEC and ECs by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and Leader of the Opposition or the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
Nienu criticised the proposed Bill, noting that it provides for the appointment of the CEC and ECs by the President on the recommendation of a Selection Committee, which includes the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister. He raised concerns about the committee’s independence, as its recommendations would remain valid even in the absence of certain members, potentially leading to a monopoly of ruling party members and undermining diversity and independence.
“While it is the prerogative of Parliament to legislate on this subject, it would have been more appropriate to retain the CJI in the Selection Committee to ensure utmost independence,” he maintained.