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Does democratic India need more draconian laws than the ones under the British rule?

By Prabhakar Sinha*
Democratic India has far more draconian laws than the India under the British imperial rule. In fact, the Rowlatt Act whose opposition led to the massacre of more than a thousand men, women and children at the Jallianwala Bag is very mild and liberal compared to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, (POTA), 2002, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1985, Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), 1971, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), 1958, and numerous other laws enacted by the Union and the State governments after Independence.
Under the Rowlatt Act thousands could not have been arrested indiscriminately as is done under the dreaded draconian laws enacted in the Republic of India. When a democratic government needs draconian laws, it means that it has ceased to be a government for the people and is engaged in serving a handful at the cost of the multitude leading to the need of an arsenal of draconian laws to suppress the protesting masses.
Would the people create such a situation for a government which serves them well as to warrant enactment of draconian laws for their own suppression? Such a course would be illogical and irrational. If there is a need for ruthless laws in our country, there has to be a reason.
The fact is that successive governments after Independence have been shamelessly violating the letter and spirit of the constitution and betraying the people to serve the rich causing anger and resentment. To take only a few examples, the constitution enjoins the State to 'minimise the inequalities in income' and 'eliminate the inequality of status, opportunity and facility' but the rulers have been maximising them.
The constitution enjoins the State to prevent concentration of wealth and the means of production into a few hands, but the rulers have been doing the opposite and have created a class of the rich and super rich. The constitution mandates the State to utilise the resources of the nation for the community, but the same is being gifted to the handful of the rich to make them richer.
The rich fund all the political parties and finance their leaders, and they all return the favour by employing the power of the State and resources of the nation to serve the interest of their benefactors at the cost of the people. They have reduced our democracy to a plutocracy (the rule of the rich) with the facade of democracy.
It is this plutocracy, which impels the government of the day to fill its arsenal with draconian laws to suppress the masses clamouring for the fulfilment of the dream which the politicians have sold them.
The people are helpless in forcing the government to implement the provisions in the constitution (mentioned above) because they have been made non-justiciable i.e. the courts cannot direct the State to implement them. All the provisions dealing with the welfare of the people have been placed in Part IV of the Constitution, which are non-justiciable.
Thus the people have been made helpless spectators of the usurpation of their rights and their future while the usurpers have been vesting themselves with ferocious laws to suppress them if they raise their voice against their betrayal.
Ours is a government of the people and by the people because it is elected by the people, but is not a government for the people because it serves a handful instead of the general public. It offers bouquet to its paymasters and lathis, bullets and prison to the rest. The draconian laws are needed to shut us in the prisons and ask us to shut up.
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*Former national president, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). Source: PUCL Bulletin, March 2019

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