Are lawmakers above law?
TONGUE IN CHEEK
It can only happen in India: Elected representatives beating and ill-treating the very people who send them to legislative assemblies or Parliament, maintain their lavish lifestyle, provide 24X7 security not only to the elected member but his kith and kin – all these through various taxes — in the hope that the honourable members will work for the good of the people and the country.
They are expected to work like true representatives of those who have sent them to various legislative bodies, irrespective of their political affiliations. Since such selfless souls are a rare breed in the present world, at least people expect their leaders to behave in a more responsible and decent way. If they turn unruly and violent at the drop of a hat, what’s the difference between a lawmaker and a lawbreaker? As it is, the line separating these two has been thinning over the years.
Every election held so far, from village to national level, has seen some with criminal background legislating laws and lawmakers turning criminals. This trend has become so common that not many people are bothered about criminals in politics or criminalizing politics. Since we know we are not living in a Utopian world, and unhealthy political practices are more than a norm, it’s taken for granted that we have to put up with the corrupt, unscrupulous, power-hungry and haughty leaders until our democracy matures and evolves itself into a more responsible and accountable system of governance. Even if such facetious argument is accepted, what is untenable and intolerable is the outrageous conduct of people’s representatives, not only in legislatures, but also in public.
For a long time, rowdy behavior by some classes of people has been associated with money and political power and fuelled the belief that with double power one could do anything and get away with it. Scores of incidents confirm the long-held belief.
In the latest, a Telugu Desam member of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council, on Friday night. Apparently, the legislator flew into a rage over ‘poor arrangements’ made at the AP Government-run Haritha resort at a beach in Bapatla for the birthday party of film producer Koratala Sandeep.
The MLC was reported to have slapped the resort’s Deputy Manager thrice on the face for delay in serving food while the partiers were dancing around a campfire. When some of the resort staff members tried to stop the MLC from assaulting the manager, they were also said to have been beaten up.
However, the worst was yet to come. When the resort staff went to the Bapatla police station to lodge a complaint, the police, without giving any reason, detained the staff overnight without filing a FIR. Clearly, it was a knee-jerk police reaction not to get into trouble with a ruling party leader. Nevertheless, a case was booked against the MLC on Saturday morning and the Haritha staff was allowed to leave.
A week earlier, a former TDP legislator, Raavi Venkateswara Rao, created panic in a club in Gudivada, near Vijayawada, when he fired two shots in the air from his license-expired pistol.
In the neighbouring State of Karnataka, BJP Member of Parliament Ananta Kumar Hegde was caught on camera beating up three doctors in Sirsi for not treating his mother ‘properly.’ It is said that the incident that occurred two/three days after the New Year was not widely reported as the hospital management did not want to file any case for obvious reasons.
In just about a week, three incidents of bad behavior by lawmakers have been reported. There may be many more and dozens of such cases had come to public notice last year. Still, the elected representatives move around nonchalantly, sermonizing and pontificating!
In Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is reported to have given the MLC and ex-MLA at least a dressing down. In most of the cases, parties don’t even bother to reprimand law-breakers. On the other hand, they turn the tables on the victims and justify the action.
The larger question, however, is who will protect the interests of law-abiding common man if law-makers turn breakers and the guardians of law are subservient to them.