Friday, May 10, 2013

Right to Recall – An Indian perspective

Right to Recall” referendum, recalling representatives, is important and necessary feature of an effective Governance system. This system of recall has its origins in Vedic culture and is more than 5000 years old. Later in medieval times it is termed as “Rajdharma“. Various forms of Rajdharma can be found in various texts likeDharmashastras, Nitishastras, Mimamsa, Manusmriti, Narad-smriti, Raja Kalasya Karnam,  and Arthashastras. Not all the texts have been translated yet, especially the legal and socio-political aspects, the role of the King and the citizens.  Various scholars are trying to unearth these old ”Smriti”s. These texts also mentions about the existence of “Jury” system in the court. (for more details please visit
M N. Roy, a radical humanist of India, in 1944  proposed an alternative system of political economy emphasising decentralisation and devolution of power, which would be in tune with his humanistic approach of restoring sovereignty to the individual in society with a right to recalling their representatives.(New Humanism, page 13, 62). Jayprakash Narayan, the “Loknayak” in 1950 demanded “Right To Recall” in ”Total revolution”, and is supported by Nitish Kumar, CM Bihar, in this TOI article.
In 2008, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee advocated a system of ‘Right of Recall’ of a legislator as a possible remedy to the misconduct by members of Parliament and legislatures. But the outcome of the round table had mixed views and most of the members opined it is a recipie for chaos given the political scenario existing in India.(Source:
Currently the law of “Right to Recall” exists in five countries. It is effectively applied and used in USA and Switzerland. (
In USA, the recall referendum exists for local jurisdictions. In 19 states it is applicable to recall State officials. It is not incorporated in the constitution yet. The requirements vary depending on the states, but the common factor is his non-compliance of his duties, like, incompetency, felony, involvement in corrupt act, misconduct, etc. It requires 20% to 40% votes, depending on the states requirement, from the voters participated in the last election. (Source:
In Switzerland it exists in six cantons. It requires 2% – 13% adult votes, depending on the cantons voting requirement, to trigger a recall referendum. (Source: JSTOR)
Venezuela‘s constitution has a provision described in article 72, where once the representative has finished his 1/2 term then a motion for revocation can be called and requires 25% voting of the registered voters who voted earlier. (Source:
Australia is also advocating and educating to implement Right to Recall. (Source: ALOR)
Here is the question asked regarding implementation in Australia.
Q:How can the Swiss principle be implemented?
A: In the same way that the Australian people created their own Federal Constitution. The concept first grew in the minds of farsighted men. It had to be fostered by a grassroots  movement. Only when the public demand becomes strong enough will the principle be adopted by the politicians. If present politicians will not pledge to work to introduce the principle, or permit the electors to decide by referendum whether or not they want to have the principle implemented, they will have to be replaced by others who will. There are no short-cuts to success; hard work is required by dedicated people along with the use of the type of innovations developed by the pioneers of the Australian nation.
In Newzealand, a better argument, its pros and cons, is provided by Steve Baron. (Source: Better Democracy)
Examples of Right to Recall in USACanada and consideration in UK. (
Don’t we need “Right to Recall” in Indian Governance system?
In my opinion, India requires electoral reforms to implement RTR. The reason being, we have too many corrupt politicians and RTR might create a chaos and will be an expensive treat to India. Thus it will be disastrous for India to implement at National level. The best approach will be bottom-up, implementing at Municipal levels and move upwards.
Here is the example of Chattisgarh Province, probably for the first time in India, the Nagar Palika Act of Chattisgarh Province, which gives ‘the right to recall’ to the citizens, has taken a toll of three civic chiefs who were voted out of their office recently. ( Ground Report - Link provided by Vishal K. Singh FTI member)
Steve Baron had put a list of arguments, which he addressed in the his document, of Answers to Arguments Against Direct Democracy. They are listed below:
  • Voters lack competence and good information to make sensible decisions
  • The public are irresponsible and will only support Referendums that promise short term benefits
  • Moneyed interests & the media decide referendums
  • Referendums are a tyranny of the majority & harm minorities and civil rights
  • Referendums do not allow for compromise
  • We elect MPs to represent us, let the professionals do their jobs
  • This removes the need for political parties and Weaken democracy
  • There would be referendums every day of the week, This is government by referendum
  • Referendums are badly drafted & Misleading
  • Referendums lead to demagoguery and mob rule
  • Referendums are too expensive
  • Referendums stifle innovation and damage the economy
  • Radical minorities will disrupt society by forcing referendums
  • Do referendums favour Conservatives or Liberals? the left or the right?
  • Referendums should have minimum thresholds & turnout requirements
  • Referendums should be limited to certain uses
  • Would the Government be bound by the result of a referendum?
Two final year students, of New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune  have submitted their essay on “Right to Recall: Need of Democracy” which is interesting to read. This article throws some light on merits and demerits of this RTR referendum. (
  • Recall is a process which enables voters dissatisfied with an elected official to replace him before the expiry of his term of office, which will make them more accountable to the people.
  • The ‘recall’ device has also the potential to encourage the citizens to keep themselves side by side of contemporary public issues in order to monitor the conduct of their elected representatives.
  • It provides a way for citizens to retain control over elected officials who are not representing the best interests of their constituents, or who are unresponsive or incompetent.
  • This mechanism holds that an elected representative is an agent, a servant and not a master in a democratic state.
  • How will the government determine whether the petition submitted to it for the recall of the elected representatives carry the signatures of the genuine voters?
  • How will it be ensured that the signatures of such a large number of people have not been forged?
  • It can lead to an excess of democracy, where the threat of a recall election lessens the independence of elected officials.
  • It undermines the principle of electing good officials and giving them a chance to govern until the next election, and that it can lead to abuses by well-financed special interest groups.
  • It will only compound an already problem-ridden system.
  • Country like India is not in a position to hold election so frequently.
Excerpts from Rahul Mehta’s website “Right to Recall Party” where Rahul Mehta explains in his own words, underneath which is an eye opener.
You must have heard from your relatives, friends in US that the corruption in US police\courts is far less than corruption in India’s police\courts. Every NRI in India must have noticed this from day one. And this must have been a mystery to you – why are the policemen\judges in US far less corrupt? Are the policemen\judges in US so stupid, compared to the policemen\judges of India, that they can’t think of clever ways to extort bribes from their citizens? Surely, they are not so stupid. Are they so coward that they can’t muster courage to arm twist citizens and squeeze bribes from them? Surely not ; they are as courageous as policemen in India – no less. Then are all policemen\judges in US saints free from greed? No. There can’t be millions of greed-free people in any country. Then is higher salary alone main reason for low corruption? Well, lets say we double the salaries of our policemen\judges in India this week; then will they will they give us even 10% discount in bribes starting next week? For example, in 2009-2010, Govt tripled the salaries of all judges. Did the judges give even 10% discount in bribery next day? I guess not. If a GoI employee thinks that his salary should be twice of what he is getting, and so he needs bribes, then does he stop taking bribes after collecting bribes equal to 30 years of salary difference? No, most of them never stop. So salary is surely an important issue, but not a major factor to create the difference between levels of corruption in India and US. Then what else can be the reason?.

Is our culture a reason? Many intellectuals (ku-buddheejeevies?) of India have 4 digits IQ, and they say that policemen in India are more corrupt because we commons are uneducated, unaware, lack moral character, we have bad political culture etc. IOW, as per these intellectuals with 4 digit IQ, we the citizens are responsible for the corruption in policemen\judges !! These “blame the victim” explanation given by intellectuals with 4 digit IQ is something I dismiss as a white lie. It reeks and stinks like “women are responsible for rapes”. The whole argument of “citizens don’t have awareness” is a total humbug. Even most illiterate person is very much aware that corruption is immoral and it is crime. And surely all policemen, judges, Ministers are very much aware that corruption is illegal and immoral. And even when education in US was less than 5% in year 1800s, they did not have such corrupt police, courts etc. Hence IMO, lesser education is a non-issue and “citizens lack awareness” is total humbug cooked up by intellectuals with 4 digit IQ.

Then what are the real reasons behind lesser corruption in US policemen?
Lets divide police force in two broad parts – junior officers like Constables\Inspectors and seniors like District Police Commissioner. The Police Constables in US don’t take bribe because District Police Commissioner in US spends a lot of his time in setting traps. So a Constable knows that 1 out 100-500 law violator is a trap set by Commissioner and he might land in prison if he dares to ask for bribes. E.g. when I was in US from 1990-1998. I was stopped by Constables 5 times for traffic violations. The constables fined me three times and pardoned me two times, but didn’t even hint that they were interested in bribes. Why? The main reason being : he knew that 1 out 200 such traffic violators are traps set by Commissioner and he doesn’t know which one is the trap. So he forgoes bribes in all 200 cases. And many nodal officers in US like District Education Officer, District Public Prosecutors, Governors etc set traps against officers, Ministers, judges. The occasional traps keep all junior staff bribe free.

So this explains why junior staff is less corrupt. But then why does Police Commissioner of US set traps to stop bribes while Police Commissioner in India orders Constables to collect bribes? Why the difference? Why doesn’t Police Commissioner of US also give targets to Constables? The one and only reason is : citizens in US have procedure to expel District Police Chief. IOW, if citizens in an US district want to expel District Police Chief they don’t need to approach DIG/CM and file useless complaints. They do not need to approach High Court judges and file worthless PILs. The citizens in US only need to prove that majority district voters want Police Commissioner to be expelled. And once the majority is proven against a District Police Chief, he is expelled and no High Court judge or Supreme Court judge dares to throw stay order and delay his expulsion. Likewise, if citizens in US want to expel CM, Mayor, District judge, District Public Prosecutor, District Education Officer etc they don’t need to approach MLAs or PM or party leaders or judges – the citizens only need to prove majority opinion in that District or State, and the officer is expelled. So Police Chief etc in US knows and thinks that if staff becomes very corrupt, citizens will expel him. And so these nodal officers like Commissioners set traps and so corruption in junior staff is less.

Now strangely, Atharvaved can explain low corruption in US policemen. How? Chap-6 of Satyarth Prakash is Raaj Dharm. In this chapter, Swami Dayanand enumerates powers of citizens, officers, Ministers, judges and their duties. In the very first page of chap-6, Swami Dayanand establishes the foundation of Raaj-Dharm. He gives two words – “Prajaa-aadheen Raajaa”. And in these two words, he summarizes 10000 proposals on good politics. And then he elaborates : “Raajaa must be Prajaa-aadheen, or else he will rob the citizens and destroy the nation”. And he has taken shlokas from Atharvaved. And a cursory comparison of India’s Police Commissioner, Ministers, judges etc with US Police Commissioner, Ministers, judges etc shows how correct the sages who wrote Atharvaved and Swami Dayanand are. The citizens in US have procedures to expel their District Police Chief, CM etc i.e. they are all Prajaa-aadheen, and so Police Chief, judges, CM etc in US don’t rob citizens but protect citizens Whereas citizens in India cant expel or do any damage to Police Chief, CM etc and thus they are not Prajaa-aadheen. And so we see that most Ministers, judges in India are busy robbing us commons. How apt is the analogy of Maharshi Dayanand – “just as carnivorous animal eats other animals, a Raajaa who is not Prajaa-aadheen would rob his citizens”. And thus of all things in this world – two words from Satyarth Prakash explain why corruption in US police is low. And to me, it is an utter irony that I have to give example of US to prove the worthiness of these two words of Satyarth Prakash.
Right to Recall means procedures by which citizens can expel/replace PM, CM, judges, Police Chief etc. This system came in US in 1800 AD. Today, corruption in US police and courts is much less than India. And the only reason is that citizens in US have procedures by which they can replace Governors, Police Chief, judges, Govt lawyers etc. In Europe, Karl Marx had demanded Right to Recall in 1871. In India, 1946 M N Roy in his book “Draft Constitution of India” had put utmost emphasis on Right to Recall. M N Roy had said that election alone without recall is of no use. Between 1960-77, Jayprakash Narayan demanded Right To Recall 100s of times. The 1977 Janata Party manifesto by which Advaniji and Vajpayeeji became Minister for the first time had promise of implementing the Right to Recall……..
There is a Gujarati saying “garaj patee ke veree” i.e. “I don’t need you anymore and so I am your enemy”. Why is it that the moment election ends, the Ministers become enemy of citizens and friend of the rich? Because we citizens don’t have procedures to expel them.

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