Thursday, November 02, 2006

Delhi ruled by mob rule

Delhi has been going through some unprecedented turmoil in the last few months. The issue of sealing of illegal buildings has rocked the city, with a clash between the Government on the side of the traders and the High Court and the Supreme Court on the other side. The traders claim and the Government supports the claim that even though their establishments are constructed in violation of by-laws and totally illegal, their actual presence demands that they be made legal and no action taken against them. Further, that if these shops are closed down, it will lead to loss of employment.

The actual issue of whether the sealings should happen has been discussed intensively before, and as per proper existing law, these establishments are all illegal. A lot of them, especially the big ones are a nuisance to their community with massive parking and traffic issues; safety of the old, young and the female community in their neighborhood has got impacted because of the increased public pressure at these establishments; and a lot of other such reasons. In addition, the folks who have taken shops in proper shopping areas will feel thoroughly cheated, why did they try to do the right thing. They should have not followed thelaw like others and then claimed that they were cheated later when somebody tries to enforce the law,

Let us examine what is the normal process for an issue to get resolved in this country, under the legal system. Any citizen can complain against any issue they face to either the courts or to their elected representatives. It is for the body of elected representatives, be it the municipal council, the state assembly, or the national parliament to make laws for the benefit of society. It is assumed that these laws are made for the purpose of being followed, and will be modified by these elected bodies as and when they deem suitable. In addition, these laws will be enforced with the full force of the law. For the current sealing cycle, we can assume that the elected representatives have taken the opinion of traders and are thus changingthe laws based on this opinion. We will ignore the fact that the opinion of other sections such as residents has not been considered and will be adversly affected by such decisions.

Now what is the catch in this rosy picture? In our way of Government, the Constitution is supreme. The courts are the last defender of the constitution, and the interpreters. The Supreme Court is the decider of what is right or wrong under the constitution. Parliament makes the laws, the executive implements the laws, and the courts decide whether these are valid. This is part of the system of checks and balances, and is to prevent a situation where the rule of the majority rides roughshod over the others, and that there is somebody to defend the rights of the one who is not able to defend it themselved. To break this system of checks and balances is to go down a slippery slope where the majority can turn dictatorial. In the current sealings case, the approach has been totally opposite. The Court has repeatedly ruled that these shops are illegal, and are largely public inconveniences. The Government has tried different measures to over-turn these rulings, with the honorable inept Urban Affairs minister declaring that the court has no authority in this area. Does this man, who swore to defend the constitution, under the influence of the trader money, even know what he is saying ? He should have been dropped from his ministership.

Now the traders mob, loot and block traffic and the Government says that it cannot do anything because of a law and order problem. As the courts have stated in the past, the law and order authority cannot claim that law and order problems are preventing implementation of court orders. What a ridiculous argument, the government cannot enforce law and problems. Hah ! Such a statement is below contempt. Maybe the govenment should go if it cannot enforce its primary responsibility of enforcing law and order.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:47 AM