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Tuesday 10 July 2007

Achieving a True Democracy: India and South Africa

The other day, I happened to attend a Public Lecture on “Achieving a True Democracy: India and South Africa,” under the aegis of NALSAR University of Law for which, Z M Yacoob, Judge, Constitutional Court of South Africa was the Chief Guest.

Mr. Yacoob, during the course of his lecture drew a parallel between the freedom struggles of both the nations and their Constitutions in the post independence eras.

For me, Yacoob’s observations on the evolution of the Constitutions of both the nations seemed significant more so in the context of the current ‘burning’ topic of “Who should be the next President of India.” (Please read my next posting “Right President for the Right Times”).

While the Constitutions of both the nations are born out of struggle, aimed at upliftment of the poor and equal in terms of value, the President of South Africa unlike his Indian counter part has additional powers in addition to being the Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defense Forces, appointing ministers and members to the Cabinet, appointing the Chief Justices of the State, approving all bills, amendments and legislation and declaring war or peace.

And those additional powers are being the Head of the State & Government and Leader of the Cabinet of Republic of South Africa.

In India, the President does not have Constitutional powers but to obey it. It is the Cabinet which can alter the Constitution and the President has to sign on whatever the Cabinet says. The only alternative he has is to refer any issue to the Supreme Court or not take any action which is permissible.

Earlier, Yacoob told the audience that Gandhiji’s passive resistance and unprecedented sacrifice was the connecting factor for the freedom struggle of both India and South Africa and the next generations of both the nations must value Gandhi’s ideologies.

Towards this end, the Indian Constitution echoed “Untouchability is a Crime” and the South African Consitution advocated the concept of “No Discrimination,” concluded Yacoob.

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