Friday, 21 August 2015

LAWYERED OUT!


Lawyers have been the pre-dominant force in Indian politics since the freedom movement days. Gandhi was a lawyer, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah and of course Ambedkar; the list goes on. In fact, research shows that lawyers dominate politics all over the world. One does not find it difficult to make sense of this dominance of lawyers in politics. But we can’t stop wondering, why is it that lawyers make good politicians? Or is it just that it is convenient for political parties to have lawyers?

The answer is rather simple. Political parties in India have always been very closed and unapproachable for the general public, they conduct various rallies across the country to expand voter base, but seldom do they indulge in public discourse on critical issues. There is a conventional manner in which they function and they are in no mood to transform anything. Arguments on behalf of political parties are made by spokespersons who are lawyers- mostly, and the issue at hand is discussed in television debates which are of no consequence- essentially. Law is often used as a tool to shoot down critics and dissenters. It has proved to be a potent weapon for political parties appointing lawyers into key party positions. Although these appointments cannot really be questioned, one needs to look at the pattern meticulously.

For instance, let us look at the Vodafone case- highly controversial in nature and many thought may have cost the UPA government the elections in many ways. It may have been the final nail to their coffin. Corporate India was said to have given up on the government after the retrospective amendment. Our current finance minister was one of the advisers to Vodafone in his capacity as a lawyer. He was also the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He was a vehement critic of the government’s decision to bring about a retrospective amendment. Now whatever the case may be, one cannot help but notice the clear case of conflict of interest, although now as finance minister, he is said to have recused himself voluntarily from looking at the files, why is it that the government has still not reversed the amendment? We have another example of the former telecom minister who was also a lawyer. He examined the policy that directly impacted his former client-Reliance Communications. He later went on to claim zero loss in the allotment of spectrum.  The concept of conflict of interest was clearly on display.

In a worth welcoming initiative, the Central Information Commission proposed to bring political parties under the purview of Right to Information Act. Unfortunately, these political parties have opposed the decision with unity and unanimity. We need to enact a conflict of interest law like the United States wherein declaration of any possible financial interest in any company or organization or even with an individual would be a prerequisite for all MP’s. It is desirable to transform the system to bring in transparency and accountability as it will establish a much needed trust between the legislature and its electorate.


The problem is not with lawyers dominating the political scene. The problem is with what happens as a result of that.