Suspension of MPs: Necessary step to uphold democracy

NEW DELHI | Updated: 23 December, 2023 12:14 pm IST

The suspension of 141 opposition MPs from the Parliament for the rest of the winter session for disrupting the proceedings and violating the rules of the House has sparked a heated debate on the state of democracy in India. The opposition parties have condemned the move as undemocratic, arbitrary, and vindictive, and have staged protests inside and outside the Parliament. They have also accused the government of using the suspension as a tactic to pass controversial bills without proper discussion and scrutiny.

On the other hand, the government has defended the move as a legitimate and justified action to maintain the dignity and decorum of the House and to ensure the smooth functioning of the Parliament. The government has also blamed the opposition for creating chaos and anarchy in the House, and for preventing the passage of important legislation for the welfare of the people.

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The question that arises is whether the suspension of MPs is a democratic or an undemocratic act. The answer is not simple, as it depends on the context and the perspective. However, one can argue that the suspension of MPs, if done by the rules and procedures of the House, and if done for valid and reasonable grounds, is as much a part of democracy as the nationwide peaceful protests against the government.

Democracy, as defined by Abraham Lincoln, is the government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is based on the principles of representation, participation, deliberation, accountability, and transparency. The Parliament, as the supreme legislative body of the country, is the embodiment of these principles, and the MPs, as the elected representatives of the people, are the custodians of these principles. The MPs have the right and the duty to express their views, raise their issues, debate their bills, and hold the government accountable.

However, they also have the responsibility to respect the rules and the norms of the House, to maintain the order and discipline of the House, and to cooperate with the Chair and the other members of the House. The MPs cannot abuse their rights and privileges, and cannot disrupt the functioning of the House, by resorting to unruly and violent behaviour, such as shouting slogans, tearing papers, throwing objects, snatching papers, breaking mics, and manhandling security personnel. Such behaviour is not only unbecoming of an MP but also detrimental to democracy.

Also, in a democracy, peaceful protests are not just essential but also advantageous. They have the potential to yield positive and constructive results, including raising public awareness and fostering education, facilitating dialogue and consensus among stakeholders, instigating policy and institutional reforms, and empowering and mobilizing the populace. Peaceful protests play a crucial role in averting and resolving various issues like oppression and injustice, corruption and inefficiency, polarization and radicalization, as well as violence and instability. Furthermore, they contribute to nurturing democratic values such as liberty and equality, diversity and unity, cooperation and competition, trust and respect.

The suspension of MPs is an essential measure to safeguard democracy and maintain the integrity and authority of the House. It does not equate to a negation of their rights; rather, it is a repercussion of their conduct. The suspension of MPs does not stifle their voices; rather, it reinstates their dignity. Far from being an infringement on democracy, the suspension of MPs serves as a safeguard for democratic principles. Yet at the same time, peaceful protests are also a right and a duty of the citizens in a democracy, protected by the Constitution of India, which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of association.

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