haryana-clears-bill-on-right-to-recall-panchayat-member

Context: The Haryana Assembly passed a Bill which provides the right to recall members of Panchayati Raj institutions to those who elected them and gives women 50% reservation in these rural bodies.

Haryana Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • The Bill allows the recall of village sarpanches and members of the block-level panchayat samitis and district-level zila parishads if they fail to perform.
  • Accountability to the voters: People in rural areas will get the right to remove a sarpanch or members of the two bodies even before their tenure is over.
  • Conditions for recall: 
    • To recall a sarpanch and members of the two bodies, 50% members of a ward or gram sabha have to give in writing that they want to initiate proceedings. 
    • This will be followed by a secret ballot, in which their recall will require two-third members voting against them.
  • Enhancing participation of women in the three-tier panchayati raj system: The Bill allows 50% reservation to them in gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zila parishads, according to the statement said. 
  • The Bill also proposed 8% reservation to the “more disadvantaged” among the Backward Classes.

Right to recall

  • A recall election is typically a process by which voters seek to remove elected officials through a direct vote before their term is completed. 
  • Provisions worldwide:
    • It has been in place in Canada’s Legislative Assembly of British Columbia since 1995. 
    • In the United States, the states of Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington allow for recall on specific grounds such as misconduct or malfeasance.

Right to recall in India

  • The concept of “Rajdharma”, wherein the lack of effective governance was a cause for removal of a king, has been in practice since the Vedic times. 
  • Currently, the Right to Recall exists at local level bodies in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. 

Need 

  • Issues with the 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”. 

Significance: 

  • Vertical accountability: Logic and justice necessitate that if the people have the power to elect their representatives, they should also have the power to remove these representatives when they engage in misdeeds or fail to fulfil their duties. 
  • Check on corruption and criminalisation of politics: Numerous studies highlight that economic growth is typically higher and taxes, spending and borrowing costs are lower under re-election-eligible incumbents than those operating under fixed-term limits.
  • A free and fair election is a right of the citizens of the country. Having a process to recall could also limit campaign spending, as morally skewed candidates weigh the risk of being recalled. 
  • Engendering 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.

Way forward: To encourage the process of the right to recall, legislative change is needed which seeks to introduce recall petitions, for elected representatives in the Lok Sabha and in respective Legislative Assemblies. 

  • With safeguards: It is necessary to ensure that a recall process is not frivolous and does not became a source of harassment to elected representatives
    • The process should have several built-in safeguards such as an initial recall petition to kick-start the process and electronic-based voting to finally decide its outcome. 
    • It should ensure that a representative cannot be recalled by a small margin of voters and that the recall procedure truly represents the mandate of the people. 
  • To ensure transparency and independence, chief petition officers from within the Election Commission should be designated to supervise and execute the process.

Panchayati Raj in India

  • 73rd and  74th Constitutional  Amendments  were  passed  by  Parliament  in December,  1992.  Through  these  amendments  local  self-governance  was introduced  in  rural  and  urban  India.

Salient Features of the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts

  • Panchayats and Municipalities will be “institutions of self-government”.
  • Basic  units  of  democratic  system-Gram  Sabhas (villages) and  Ward Committees (Municipalities) comprising   all   the   adult   members registered as voters.
  • Three-tier system of panchayats at village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal and district levels except in States with population is below 20 lakhs (Article 243B).
  • Seats at all levels to be filled by direct elections Article 243C (2).
  • Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the chairpersons of the Panchayats at all levels also shall be reserved for SCs and STs in proportion to their population.
  • One-third offices of chairpersons at all levels reserved for women (Article 243D).
  • Uniform five year term and elections to constitute new bodies to be completed before the expiry of the term. In the event of dissolution, elections compulsorily within six months (Article 243E).
  • Independent Election Commission in each State for superintendence, direction and control of the electoral rolls (Article 243K).
  • Panchayats to prepare plans for economic development and social justice in respect of subjects as devolved by law to the various levels of Panchayats including the subjects as illustrated in Eleventh Schedule (Article 243G).
  • 74th Amendment provides for a District Planning Committee to consolidate the plans prepared by Panchayats and Municipalities (Article 243ZD).
  • Budgetary allocation from State Governments, share of revenue of certain taxes, collection and retention of the revenue it raises, Central Government programmes and grants, Union Finance Commission grants (Article 243H).
  • Establish a Finance Commission in each State to determine the principles on the basis of which adequate financial resources would be ensured for panchayats and municipalities (Article 243I).

Image source: Change.org