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The right to recall legislators – OPINION – The Hindu

  • It must coexist with the right to vote in order to deepen our democratic roots

    • There can be no doubt, that if power is granted to a body of men, called Representatives, they like any other men will use their power not to the advantage of the community but for their own advantage if they can. ”— James Mill
    • A recall election is typically a process by which voters seek to remove elected officials through a direct vote before their term is completed. It has been in place in Canada’s Legislative Assembly of British Columbia since 1995

  • It’s progress in India

      • One of India’s leading humanists, M.N. Roy, proposed, in 1944, a shift to a decentralised and devolved form of governance, allowing for representatives to be elected and recalled. Jayaprakash Narayan, in 1974, spoke extensively on the subject
      • Section 47 of the Chhattisgarh Nagar Palika Act, 1961, provides for holding of elections to recall elected officials due to non-performance.
      • The Right to Recall also exists at local level bodies in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh.

  • In a first-past-the-post system in a democracy, unfortunately, not every elected representative truly enjoys the mandate of the people

      • There exists no recourse for the electorate if they are unhappy with their elected representative.

  • The Representation of the People Act, 1951, only provides for “vacation of office upon the commission of certain offences and does not account for general incompetence of the representatives or dissatisfaction of the electorate as a ground for vacation”.

    • However, due care must be taken in the introduction of legislation associated with such recalling laws. California’s gubernatorial recall elections are notorious for the influence of special interests, with Governor Davis’ recall vote, in 2003, a classic example.

  • Some safeguards

    • A free and fair election is a right of the citizens of the country. When their elected representatives no longer enjoy the confidence of the people, the people must have a right to remove them.
    • The true idea of democracy can only be achieved on this edifice of accountability for politicians. Having a process to recall could also limit campaign spending, as morally skewed candidates weigh the risk of being recalled. This right would help engender direct democracy in our country, broadening access and raising inclusiveness. To deepen democracy, the right to recall must be given hand in hand with the right to vote.