Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court AP Shah on Sunday said India was moving towards a form of “elected autocracy”, reported The Hindu. He criticised the Parliament for failing to lead the people of India amid the worsening coronavirus crisis and gave the ruling dispensation “a free rein to do as it pleases”.
Shah made the remarks during his speech at the Janta Parliament webinar, which was jointly organised by several civil society groups.
The former judge said that the institutions empowered to keep the government in check were being systematically destroyed in India. “Since 2014, every effort has been made to systematically destroy these institutions, not necessarily in the blatantly destructive way that the Indira Gandhi government did in the past, but certainly, in ways that have rendered the Indian democratic state practically comatose, and given the executive the upper hand in most matters,” he said.
Shah said that the Parliament had been a “ghost town” since March, when the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus was first imposed. “Besides failing to provide leadership to the people in a time of crisis, like the pandemic, it compounds the problem of representation and accountability by granting the executive a free rein to do as it pleases,” Shah was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “Executive accountability, in these conditions, is a thing of memory, for there is no one to raise any questions about its actions.”
The former Delhi High Court chief justice observed that in the past, the Parliament had not stopped functioning even during India’s wars with China and Pakistan in 1962 and 1971, respectively. Shah added that Parliament had also convened a day after an attack on its building in 2001.
Shah said that the Indian Parliament had adjourned its budget session in March but the parliaments of other nations continued to operate virtually amid coronavirus fears.
Shah also sharply criticised the judiciary for failing the people. “In some cases, such as that of internet access in Kashmir, the Supreme Court has all but abdicated its role as arbiter, and handed over the matter to an executive-run committee to determine,” he said.
Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani also spoke at the session. He alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party government was not convening Assembly and Parliament sessions deliberately, according to The Tribune.