Government and Discretion

Should we give discretionary powers to bureaucrats, politicians and ministers which over-rides rulings already arrived at by Courts of Law ?

This aspect of granting discretionary powers to government is common in the Commonwealth Group of countries. India is one amongst them and so has been strongly influenced by the arbitrary assumption of discretionary powers in matters which have been decided by the Courts. Many a time, politics plays a big role in delaying decisions – especially, the uncomfortable ones which the government is forced to take.

But now, there is a fierce debate on such powers which have mostly been misused in the past.

Well, we can question – do we not, as a fully functioning democracy, the largest one in the world at that, grant powers to the elected government to decide on matters such as mercy petitions ? What about land allocations to private companies then ? and, what about many other matters which could be decided to favour one or the other vested interest ? and so on, and so forth………

Governments need to have some discretionary powers. But, there should be oversight on how it is exercised. The best way to do that is to have a committee comprising of the Judiciary, the Executive and the Parliament which would consider matters of national interest – for example, allocation of natural resources, determination of national security impact, mercy petitions, et al. How can the President of the country act on a mercy petition based on a much delayed clearance from the Union Cabinet ? He should receive counsel from such a high-powered committee instead of depending on just the Union Cabinet which could in turn, be taking directions from the political parties controlling the votes in the Parliament.

It is time to calibrate our responses in a new manner, so as to achieve equitable justice on social and judicial matters of key interest to the country. We cannot just be looking at votes all the time, let us not worry about the next elections.

We have to do what is right for this country.


Vijay Srinivasan
10th Feb 2013


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