Q) Citizens’ assemblies will fulfil an essential requirement for good governance and will provide free, orderly and democratic deliberations and fulfil citizens’ rights to participate in democracy. Examine.
Why this Question?
Important part of GS Paper-II.
Key demand of the Question
Discuss in detail the need for citizen’s assemblies in India.
Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.
Start with an introduction about citizen’s assemblies.
In the first part, discuss the need for citizen’s assemblies in India.
In the next part, write about the advantages of such assemblies in the Indian Political system.
Conclude with a way forward.
A Citizens' Assembly is a body of citizens who come together to deliberate on a given issue and provide a set of recommendations, options, or a collective decision to the convening body. Assemblies aim to increase public trust in the convening government by remedying the "divergence of interests" that arises between elected representatives and the electorate, as well as "a lack in deliberation in legislatures."
Need for Citizens’ Assembly
- There is disenchantment with political parties and with institutions of electoral democracy in countries like the US and Europe.
- There is hardly any open-minded deliberation in elected assemblies divided along party lines about urgent problems such as increasing inequality, environmental unsustainability, and invasions of citizens’ privacy by both private and government agencies.
- The monsoon session of the Indian Parliament ended with members standing on tables, throwing files around.
- Citizens who appealed to the Supreme Court were asked to desist from public discussions about matters placed before the court.
What can be done?
- Right to Information was a step in the right direction. Social media has opened other avenues for protest. However, the flow of information must be two-way, where the Government must listen too.
- When they don’t, Citizens must have the right to protest. The government, in the public interest, can place restrictions w.r.t site or timings, but should not seek to curb the protest completely.
- We need to build a middle layer of institutions for public deliberation to solve public problems.
- Consent of Governed should go beyond just the elections. It should also include expanding the franchise of democracy through the widespread inclusion of people in the political process.
- An EU civil society movement “Citizens for Europe” proposed “A European Citizens Assembly” – a transnational forum for deliberation and citizen’s participation.
- These assemblies should be established in cities, districts and states.
- They not only act like think tanks but also act as a forum where citizens are heard.
- They should run parallel to formal constitutional bodies that have “decision rights”, such as elected assemblies and courts, and must become a source of solutions for them.
Citizens’ assemblies will fulfil an essential requirement for good governance. They must be provided resources by the state for their conduct. It is essential they operate independently of the government. Therefore, they must be governed by respected citizens with integrity to ensure they remain non-partisan and fulfil their constitutional purpose of filling the “missing middle” in democratic institutions.