“No alternative to democracy”

Hegde1Mr Santosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court and former Lokayukta of Karnataka is of the firm belief that democracy is the best form of governance and no other forum will give us as much freedom to the people as they have been enjoying today in India.

Mr Hegde who has held important positions over the years and who has fought cases concerning some of the illustrious politicians of the country, says the real remorse does not occur in corrupt people. If at all, it is only for public consumption and publicity. Mr Hegde was the speaker at the Round Table session of National School of Journalism (NSoJ) recently, in which students from several colleges apart from those of NSoJ participated. The former Lokayukta spoke on “Understanding and combating corruption: Role of the media”. Following are the excerpts from the the question-answer session that followed his talk.

Q) What is the role of the Rajya Sabha in the current situation? Do you think little dilution is needed in respect to the role of the Rajya Sabha to get a bill passed in Parliament? (Harsh Singh, Presidency College)

A) The Rajya Sabha, like in the United Kingdom’s political system, is the House of elders. Since we have not imposed any educational qualifications on the candidates, who are contesting for elections, they thought of an Upper House in the would be Parliament. The idea was, if Lok Sabha, the lower House, did something wrong the Rajya Sabha would correct it. If I understand the constitutional provisions, the Rajya Sabha was formed to advice the Lok Sabha when in need. It should actually be an intellectual body. People who are elected to be a part of the Upper House are more people who have excelled in their professions. But today, it is all about having party representation there. Anybody can buy a Rajya Sabha seat today. And I am deliberately using the word “buy”, because I am aware of incidents in which people have gone to the Rajya Sabha and done nothing for the benefit of the public.

Q) Do you think the Parliamentary form of government is the main cause for the rising corruption in the country? (Khushboo Aneja, National School of Journalism)

A)The alternative is dictatorship. There is no better political system than democracy. In democracy you can have the people’s representatives go to a forum. In India we call it the parliament or the Legislature of the state. I don’t think any other forum will give as much freedom as we are having today. If you have a system which is of even a beneficial dictator, it will not give you the freedom which democracy gives.

Q)Touching on the humanity side, I am curious to know that being a Lokayukta have you ever witnessed an accused politician regretting his/her actions? (Sachin, Presidency College)

A)I am sure, when they end up in jail they do regret. But, that regret doesn’t come from the heart. I don’t think politicians, bureaucrats, or for that matter any corrupt person ever regrets his action. Karnataka Lokayukta is the best institution in India. It has two powers. One is fighting against corruption, which is done by the Lokayukta police, and the other is responding to the people’s problem arising out of bad administration. In the course of that, I can give you some statistics from 2006 to 2011 when Lokayukta police trapped and raided some 750 big offices, right up to former Chief Minister, sitting Chief Minister, and others. In that process, I have never seen a person who really regretted his act. If the regret is shown publicly, it’s a drama.

Q)What inspired you to take up law? (Jahnavi, CMR College)

A) Lack of any other opportunity, I should say. I always considered myself as destiny’s child, I never planned my life. I wanted to take up medicine, but because of certain changes in the educational system I could not get admission in a medical college. In course of time, I took a two-year B.Sc course after which my father advised me of taking up Law. After finishing law, I joined a small lawyer’s office. Nearly nine years after I joined the profession, during the emergency, the court appointed me as the lawyer for Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr. L.K. Advani, Mr. S.N. Mishra and Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde. After 18 months when the case came for hearing I didn’t have the courage to argue the case myself. So I invited Mr. M.C. Chagla, the former Chief Justice of India, who readily agreed to fight the case. We won the case in High Court. Consequent to my contact with these people, in 1983 I became the Advocate General of the Karnataka State. Later, I became the Law officer for Karnataka under Prime Minister V.P.Singh’s tenure. Then in 1998, I became the Solicitor General of India. Later, on the invitation from the Chief Justice of India I became a judge in the Supreme Court. The only good thing I have done is I have served whichever post I was on with honesty.

When I was serving as the Chairperson of the TDSAT, I got an offer from the state of Karnataka to take over as the Lokayukta and then rest is history.

Q)What is your opinion about youth joining politics? (Pradeep, Oxford College)

A) Every person who is honest and has a desire to serve the people must join politics and cleanse the system. It’s a service to the nation.

Q) India follows a representative type of government, unlike in Switzerland which has a direct democracy. Don’t you think the non-involvement of the people in decision making process and the making of laws hamper the feeling of democracy and increases corruption? (A student from Presidency College)

A)What you mean is, the President of the nation should be elected by the people and not the representatives of the people. It is a good system, provided the person who becomes the President is honest. In a country like ours, where there is such deep rooted caste system, regional and religious bias I am not sure if it will work at all. I don’t think it is good to change the present system, as the people of India have now started understanding the advantages and disadvantages of democracy.

NSoJ Bureau

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