Justice Markandey Katju on electoral bonds: The Indian public’s right to know

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman of Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

The recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India (SCI) — the Constitution Bench included Chief Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud (in picture above) on the controversial electoral bonds can be summed up thus: in a democracy, people have the right to know which business house/businessperson gave how much money to which political party, and for what reason, so as to enable the people to effectively exercise their franchise.

I have earlier expressed my opinion that the judgment will have no effect in the upcoming parliamentary elections, as most voters in India have only caste and religion in mind while voting, and donations to political parties are the least of their considerations. In theory, though democracy means government by the people, for the people, and of the people — as President Abraham Lincoln once said — and, therefore, theoretically, people have a right to know about public affairs, in practice few democracies in the world give the people such a right.

For instance, the American people were kept in the dark for years about the reasons for the Vietnam War, until it was revealed by the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Similarly, the British people were deceived by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that the Munich Agreement of 1938 with Hitler would ensure ‘peace in our times’.

Democracy is just a façade to hoodwink the people that they are governing themselves, when the truth is that they are being governed by some powerful and crafty vested interests, who claim to represent the people (though they only represent themselves, seeking power and pelf).

Important decisions which may affect the lives of tens of millions of people are invariably taken not publicly or even in parliament, and without consulting the people, but behind their backs, in closed doors, and by a small number of persons (ministers, bureaucrats, etc). One is reminded of the masterful book and television series ‘Yes, Minister’ where the senior civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby explains how British democracy works, and why the truth must be kept away from the ‘barbarians’ (i.e. the people).

The Indian Supreme Court’s decision, however well-intentioned, seems to be based on a fallacious premise.

Related posts