September 20, 2020
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The Uncivil Campaign Against Civil Society

The Uncivil Campaign Against Civil Society

Two much-needed interventions in the chorus of  charges of being "undemocratic", "un-Parliamentary", "un-elected", "un-Constitutional" against the "civil society", in the Indian Express:

Shazia Ilmi, of India Against Corruption, on June 18:

There is a rather uncivil campaign afoot to discredit the role of “civil society” in co-authoring the Lokpal bill draft. While some serious commentators and members of the NAC have pointed out reasonable doubts and genuine misgivings, the bulk of the criticism has been centred on a series of platitudes and banalities based on the supposed “lack of legitimacy” of the civil society members themselves.

And Ramaswamy R. Iyer, joining issue with Ashutosh Varshney’s ‘State of civil society’, in the  Indian Express of June 14:

We are not talking about law-making, but about drafting a bill. If civil society (whatever that may be) can raise political issues, offer comments and suggestions, advocate radical changes in policies, and so on — and I doubt if Varshney would disapprove of that — there is no reason why it cannot put forward draft laws for consideration.

I see nothing inappropriate in non-officials putting forward a draft order or bill for the government’s consideration. In fact they do not have to go the government. They can get a member of Parliament to introduce a bill. Is there not a quaint practice known as a private member’s bill? It rarely happens but theoretically I presume it is a possibility. Leaving that aside, I repeat, I see nothing improper in a private person drafting a bill and offering it to the government for consideration. If that is wrong, I plead guilty: I have just drafted a national water framework law, first for consideration by a group of which I am the chairman, then by the Planning Commission, but eventually for the government’s consideration.

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