An assertion by Civil Society,in the light of the Anna Hazare Imbroglio, Guest Post by Devdas T M,2nd year LLM, NUALS.





Revisiting Popular Sovereignty;
(An assertion by Civil Society,in the light of the Anna Hazare Imbroglio)
Guest Post by Devdas T M,2nd year LLM, NUALS.

The main virtue of democracy is that it places common man at the center stage and give change to participate in the decision making process. A true democracy is directly related to liberty, equality and fraternity, which are the ideals of French Revolution which are incorporated in the Constitution of India as Justice-social, economic and political. In many European Countries democratic ideals and values grew in response to the oppressive rule of absolutist monarchs.Indian democracy taken its shape through agitation against oppression from outside rulers, even though there are lot of contradictions and issues with in India itself.  In this aspect, India is different from many other countries where form of polity and nature of recognized rights were formed as a result of social change through addressing the social and political contractions and issues. We adopted the Constitution of India which stresses on popular sovereignty, established various democratic institutions and envisages a mechanism of social change and social engineering[1] through such institutions. In our Constitution which envisages a limited government, every ideals and institutions within the framework of the Constitution is limited by the provisions of the Constitution, by proper checks and balances.  Our Constitution starts with the phraseology “We the People of India…” is an emanation of the doctrine of popular sovereignty. But this phraseology used in our Constitution is also has some limitations and institutional framework. It is pertinent to note that institutions have a permanent existence, outlives the people and different from individuals[2]. Our constitution identified certain institutions, legitimizes, clearly laydown rights, functions and obligations and also demarcate their boundaries. It is also important to observe that there institutions are not at the mercy of people in all the times, except a few and our constitution recognizes the situations in which the people can exercise their sovereign power. So the popular sovereignty has its own limitations, and our Constitution did not recognize any concept like absolute sovereignty.
Assertion of Civil Society: Whether it is legitimate or not
As I have already pointed out civil society has no absolute rights to claim certain rights unless and until it was recognized and legitimatized by the law and the Constitution of India. Our Constitution recognizes certain institutions and assigned them certain functions and rights, and no other body except specifically provided has or cannot assert certain rights and powers. Our Constitution follows the division of powers or separations of power, but not in the strict sense. Even though the Constitution provides for certain institutions like Parliament, Executive and Judiciary at the Centre and State level, and demarcates their powers, duties and responsibilities.
All these institutions are came in to force according to the procedures established by the law and Constitution. Parliament and State legislators are elected people through free and fair election and certain powers are assigned to them and no institution except Parliament or State Legislative body, except the exceptions provided by the constitution, can exercise the powers assigned to them. The most and foremost power is the power to legislate after thorough deliberations with in the House which consists of members from the Ruling front and opposition. Every elected member has responsibility towards his constituents. It is true that democracy is a utilitarian principle and has its own negative side. Here comes the relevance of certain institutions and mechanisms which provides to overcome ‘counter majoritieran difficulty’[3] through the adoptions of principle of rule of law, free and fair election, deliberations in the Houses, accountability mechanisms of elected members, etc. Accountability is one of the basis of democracy where every elected member is responsible to each and every member of his constituency, irrespective of whether he voted in favor of a the elected member or not. So an MP or MLA is representing the whole society, irrespective of the political party a person belongs.
Assertion of Rights and the out sourcing of Power
The essence of democracy is to allow open criticism of its institutions, not only in the Parliament but also in the society. At the same the institutions of democracy are also important and the destruction of such institution shall not be allowed and it is disastrous to the whole nations. It is a fact that the members comprises various individuals from the society acted against those values and even tries to undermine the dignity of these democratic institutions. It is true that civil society has a very important and significant role in a true democracy. It is also dangerous when a group of people, who may have different political agendas,  in the name of civil society claiming and asserting the power which ought to have been exercised by legitimate institutions, whether they are making bonafide efforts or not. Various Parliament Ethics Committees established after the adoption of our Constitution stressed the importance of developing a working culture among people who are contesting elections and later become the members of the house.In this area political parties have a much important role in formulating and following a better mechanism to select individual as their candidates and prevents those who are self-interested, to became their future candidates. Another important factor is that every effort of social change should be made by being part of democratic institutions which stress on the doctrine of accountability, the ultimate basis of democracy.


[1] Roscoe Pound
[2] Andre Beteille, The Institutions of Democracy, EPW Vol XLVI No. 29, at p.77, 2011
[3] Alexander Bickel, 

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