- British constitution has parliamentary sovereignty as compared to constitutional sovereignty in India. Discuss. Also analyse challenges to constitutional sovereignty in case of India. (15 marks)
- Parliamentary committees ensure holistic formulation of policy and laws by better discussions and in this it establishes accountability of the executive. Explain the role of the public accounts committee in this regard. (15 marks)
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1. British constitution has parliamentary sovereignty as compared to constitutional sovereignty in India. Discuss. Also analyse challenges to constitutional sovereignty in case of India. (15 marks)
- The British constitution has parliamentary sovereignty because the legislative body or parliament is supreme over other organs like executive and judicial bodies. In the case of India, constitutional sovereignty implies that authority of a state is sustained by power of people, through their elected representatives.
- Comparison of parliamentary and popular sovereignty-
- Sovereign parliament means the house can alter any previous legislation without being bound by any law like the constitution. Whereas constitutional sovereignty of India denotes executive, legislative, and judiciary are only agents of the people to bring change.
- Popular sovereignty denoted by federal structure in India even though the constitution says union of states, whereas British polity has unitary structure.
- Limited amendment powers with a written constitution in case of India means any action by three organs of government has to be in line with the constitution but the British constitution is unwritten and hence no such compulsion.
- Lack of any legal separation between constitutional or fundamental laws and also judiciary can’t declare a parliamentary act void. Judicial review is the basic structure of the Indian constitution.
- Can't discuss conduct of judges in legislatures of India as per article 121 and 211. No such restriction in the case of Britain.
- Still, there are few challenges to constitutional sovereignty like-
- Presence of parliamentary privileges but lack of their codification creates a situation where lawmakers face no kind of threat.
- It also curbs freedom of press as seen in case of Karnataka assembly imposing penalty and imprisonment on two journalists.
- Use of privileges to avoid being liable for corruption under reasoning that they are not public servants.
- NCRWC under Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah recommended defining privileges so that constitutional sovereignty balances parliament powers through proper checks and balances.
2. Parliamentary committees ensure holistic formulation of policy and laws by better discussions and in this it establishes accountability of the executive. Explain the role of the public accounts committee in this regard. (15 marks)
- Parliamentary committees are appointed or elected by house, or nominated by the speaker helping in furthering the process of policy formulation. Among them, the public accounts committee (PAC) is the oldest and most important set up post Montague-Chelmsford reforms.
- The public accounts committee is one of three financial committees and draws its authority from article 105 and 118 of the constitution. Role of public accounts committee includes-
- Ensuring accountability by scrutinizing appropriation accounts of the Indian government and reports of CAG. It makes sure that money reflected in the accounts is legally available and used for intended purpose.
- Every re-appropriation from the consolidated fund is as per provisions made by the competent authority.
- PAC is the watchdog of the public purse as it examines audit reports on appropriation accounts and finance accounts.
- Expenditure is confirmed by the authority governing it.
- Impartial discussion on financial discipline and principles for better practices are established.
- This helps point out cases of tax-evasion, under-assessments, misclassifications etc.
- The effectiveness of PAC can be gauged by recent instances like-
- Inquiry into the 2G spectrum case and pointing out the previous government for mismanagement in the Commonwealth Games case.
- Probe into technical irregularities in demonetization.
- The Government has to report to the Committee if any action is taken on the recommendations thus ensuring accountability of the executive.
- There are few limitations in the functioning like-
- Can look into expenses only after they actually happen and can’t limit expenses.
- Recommendations are only advisory and it cannot intervene in day-to-day administration.
- Cannot question the prudence behind policy.
- Members of PAC align along party lines thus affecting objectivity.
- Checks and balances along with accountability is pivotal to parliamentary democracy and the Public Accounts Committee is a significant part of it. Therefore a mechanism must be there to address these issues and address them at the earliest.