Plea in SC for citizens to petition Parliament

NEW DELHI, 28 Jan: A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking a direction to the Centre and others to take steps to create an appropriate system which empowers citizens to petition Parliament and seek initiation of deliberations on issues highlighted by them.

The plea came up for hearing on Friday before a bench comprising justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna.

The bench asked the counsel appearing for petitioner Karan Garg to serve a copy of the plea to the Centre’s lawyer and posted the matter in February.

Advocate Rohan J Alva appeared for the petitioner.

The plea has sought a declaration that it is the fundamental right of citizens under Articles 14, 19 (1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution

to directly petition Parliament to seek initiation of a debate, discussion and deliberation on the issues highlighted by them in their petitions.

“The present writ petition prays that it is imperative for the respondents (Centre and others) to take substantive steps in order to ensure that citizens can have their voices heard in Parliament without facing undue barriers and difficulties,” it said.

The plea said that, as an ordinary citizen of the country, the petitioner feels “disempowered” when it comes to participation in the democratic process, and that, after people cast their votes and elect representatives, there is no scope for any further participation.

It said that there is a complete absence of any formal mechanism by which citizens can engage with the lawmakers and take steps in order to ensure that issues which are of vital importance are debated in Parliament.

“The absence of this mechanism creates a void between elected representatives and the citizens. The people are disconnected from the law-making process. This distancing of the citizens to their inherent rights to fully participate in Indian democracy is a matter of grave concern and is an issue which needs to be immediately addressed,” the plea said.

It said that a system by which the citizens can directly petition Parliament is already in place in the United Kingdom and it has been working well for several years.

It said also that if citizens have the ability to engage with the Centre and Parliament at a deeper level, it may reduce the burden on the apex court and high courts, “since there may exist an effective and alternative remedy for espousing and pursuing public interest causes.”

The plea said that citizens have a fundamental right to participate in democratic affairs and are constitutionally entitled to present workable and constructive suggestions to Parliament on matters of national importance, so that public interest is appropriately safeguarded.

“The current system does not fully allow citizens to initiate discussions in Parliament by moving appropriate petitions,” it added.

The petition said that formulation of well-reasoned and reasonable rules which allow citizens to directly petition Parliament will usher in a transformative era of democratic governance and create an environment for robust engagement between the people of the country and the members of Parliament.

It has sought a direction to the Centre and others to expeditiously take steps to create an appropriate system or reasonable rules and regulations which empower citizens to petition Parliament and seek initiation of a debate on the issues highlighted by them. (PTI)