Finance minister Arun Jaitley
Finance minister Arun Jaitley

Jaitley says country is higher than any institution or govt

Federalism in India is essential. India is and should always be a union of states: Finance minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: In an oblique reference to the recent developments in the CBI, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday wondered whether the non-accountability of institutions could be a ground for investigative adventurism and masking corruption.

The country was higher than any institution or the government, Jaitley said while delivering the first Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial lecture.

The Supreme Court had to intervene in the infighting between senior functionaries of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Opposition parties led by the Congress made the government’s decision to send CBI director on forced leave a political issue, saying it was done to prevent him from investigating the Rafale jet fighter purchase deal.

“The nation that is India, is higher than any institution or government … Can non-accountability be a mask for corruption? Can it be a ground for investigative adventurism, or can it, as in case of other non-accountable institution, be a ground for inaction? What does the nation do? It is a major challenge," Jaitley said.

Observing that he was not providing any answer to the vexed questions, the minister said: “One answer is clear to me. The country is taller than any institution. And therefore, when we deal with non-accountable institutions, which is a challenge of the day, we will have to keep these challenges in mind. And those who think right will perhaps reflect on this."

He also regretted that attempts were being made to weaken the authority of the elected and creating a power shift in favour of non-accountable institutions. “Ultimately at the Centre or states, it is the elected who are accountable. The non-accountable are not accountable."

Referring to the issue of separation of powers, Jaitley said the concept is part of the basic structure, which ought not to be violated by any Indian government or any party.

“In fact greater encroachment into the functions of other organs, both through entering the executive domain, at times laying down legislative guidelines under Article 142 by a process of misinterpretation as in the judges appointment case, usurping the power which belongs to Parliament, we can actually see the principle of separation of power at times being obliterated or diluted.

“It is a tendency which must be avoided and it require statesmanship of all institution to do so."

Talking about federalism, he said it was an important challenge but India should always be a union of states. “The moment India becomes a confederation of states, greater challenges to India will emerge. The responsibility of the Centre in keeping this country together and looking after states is far higher."

“... I just want to put a word of caution. Federalism in India is essential. India is and should always be a union of states," he added.

Talking about the quality of politics and public discourse, Jaitley said democracy cannot be saved by those committed to dynasties and are governed by the left-wing philosophy of overthrowing the government, and who believe in breaking India into pieces.

“Political parties based on caste, where inheritance is only based on family principles ... How long can Indian democracy afford this? And this has a direct impact on the quality of politics.

“Because when you have a following, which either becomes a caste following or in case of families becomes a crowd around a family, for their own ambitions and interest the quality of politics suffers. And when it suffers the quality of public discourse suffers. How does India meet the challenge? But at the end of the day we have to keep the spirit of democracy alive."

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.