If you were even slightly in touch with what was going on in the country back in 2013 during the UPA rule, you must remember the Supreme Court’s Caged Parrot remark for the Central Bureau of Investigation because the news made headlines for quite a long time. This comment was made with respect to the coal scam that happened about 7 years ago when the CBI apparently ‘guessed’ that bribery could be involved, calling in anger from the Apex Court, with remarks such as the probe agency had become a caged parrot in the sense that they speak in the voice of their political masters. “It’s a sordid saga that there are many masters and one parrot,” the apex court had reportedly added in its observation, calling for the government to make the CBI impartial and allow it to function without external pressures and influences.
Cut to 2021, and while we can’t say anything different about the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Apex court, however, has added itself to the list of the ruling government’s puppets and as you must’ve figured, we’re in more democratic crisis today than ever. The unbiased judicial body that is supposedly believed to be the strengthening pillar of democracy has evidently lost all strength and will to stand up against the ruling government, which, however, has been growing in power ever since. The once most powerful court of the world saw an upside downturn in the scenario, quite literally, after the 2014 elections when the NDA government sought to establish who will get to call the final shots over judicial appointments. Giving no hoots about established conventions, the central government split up collegium recommendations to reject the proposal for elevation of senior advocate Gopal Subramanium. There have been a large number of incidents since, pointing at the effect of this movement by the ruling government, with the result always being the exceeding growth of the Modi-led NDA government and loss in stature and power of the apex court of the country. The verdicts in politically charged cases such as Sahara-Birla, Loya, Bhima-Koregaon, Rafale, Aadhaar etc. have invited a lot of criticism that when it comes to taking on the system, the Court acts hesitant. The most recent of these, however, is the discernible silence of the Supreme Court over the excessively crowded election rallies amidst the coronavirus pandemic that has made its comeback with a stronger, more transmissible version. As can be witnessed from any news channel on the television, no political parties, ministers or people are following the COVID-19 protocols, including the Home Minister and The Prime Minister themselves. Amidst a continuously rising threat of the pandemic with people having to face stricter and stricter rules, the parties are given free rein to campaign their rallies and chant their agendas between large crowds of people, putting at risk not only themselves but also everybody attending the rallies. Well apparently, the right to health and life of a common man is less exalted, sacred and precious than that of the right to canvassing and campaigning for a candidate. While the MP High Court represented its disapproval to the cause, the Supreme Court, however, was busy with its silence.
Oh, and if you were wondering why the rate of growth of active cases in the election states is not as high as would be expected by looking at the current crowds and COVID-19 protocols, well, it is because these states that are conducting elections and holding these rallies have evidently dropped the number of tests being conducted at a very significant rate, as per data available publicly through various notable sources. No tests mean no cases, right? How fair is this system of putting blinds on people’s eyes without even letting them know about it? Oh, and if the data is publicly available and you and I can question it, why can the Supreme Court not? Well, I’m sure you guessed the answer by now. Unbiased body beyond central influences? What is that?
While we are at calling out institutions for their caged parrot natures and boding well for the democracy of the country, how can we miss out on our very own Election commission, whose reputation has tarnished exponentially over the past few years? This constitutional body that took charge as a commission independent of executive control and interference has not really been very good at maintaining the interdependence in the recent period. Many of its decisions have been questionable, even troubling during the 2019 elections. The perception has grown that it is biased and, even if this may be not totally true, it is a worrying sign that voters and citizens have come to believe that the organisation has favoured the incumbent party. Right from the announcement of the schedule of holding a seven-phase election back in 2019 during the peak of summer to turning a blind eye to the numerous infractions of senior BJP leaders — including the prime minister — the EC’s many actions have been baffling and problematic. The number of ‘clean chits’ issued to Narendra Modi, despite him making provocative statements and skirting very, very close to the regulations, have raised multiple eyebrows. More recent of these doubt-provoking decisions was the election commission’s order relaxing the rules for the appointment of polling agents has been referred to as biased, controlled and influenced by the Ruling government’s influences. And how can it not? According to a March 2009 rule by the EC, polling agents who are appointed by the contesting candidates shall have to be electors in the same polling stations or from neighbouring polling stations falling in the same constituency. However, the provision was amended recently to allow an elector from any part of an Assembly constituency to be appointed as a polling agent.
You have the data and the wisdom to infer for your own if these agents of democracy have succumbed to the ruling government’s authority, and if you’re unbiased, the decision won’t be too hard to make. The last time I checked, we were still a democracy.