Legislature faultering in holding the executive accountable Tuesday, Jun 10 2008 

Entrance of Kerala AssemblyAccountability of the executive to the legislature is the hallowed principle of democracy. The legislature should be able to make the executive accountable. However, the Kerala Assembly is increasingly failing to keep tab on the executive, despite fora like the subject committees.

Ruling front legislators usually act subservient to the executive. Their role is often to support everything that the Government does. The Opposition is so ineffective in using traditional ways to ensuring accountability that it had to resort to sit-ins and boycotts. All this reduce the role of the House as a pillar of democracy and people’s faith on it.

A recent example will suffice to show the disregard the executive is showing to the Assembly. It recommended promulgation of four Ordinances to the Governor on June 9 and convening of the Assembly the next day. Legislation is basically the right of the legislature. The executive can legislate through Ordinances only when the House is not in session and when there is utmost urgency for such a measure. All the four Ordinances proposed to be promulgated could very well have waited for the Assembly session.

A basic problem is that the Assembly often did not find time to do its legislative business as it does not meet even for 100 days in a year. As CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yachuri himself pointed out during the valedictory of the Assembly’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations, the House should meet more often to ensure the accountability of the executive.

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Cacophony of Kerala Cabinet on display in Legislature Thursday, Feb 28 2008 

Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. AchuthanandanThe authority and prestige of the Chief Minister’s office in Kerala suffered another blow when the Chief Minister could not comprehensively reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor for his address in the Legislative Assembly on February 28.

More than half a dozen ministers rose to reply to the debate ahead of the Chief Minister, in an unprecedented display of lack of collective responsibility in the Ministry. In that process the Power Minister Mr.A. K. Balan and Chief Minister Mr. V. S. Achuthanandan even contradicted each other. (While Mr. Balan said that no land was available for acquisition by government for distribution to the tribals, Mr. Achuthanandan said that land taken back from encroachers would be given to tribals on a priority basis.)

The practice so far in the Assembly was for the Chief Minister, who heads the government, to comprehensively reply to the debate while a few Ministers may specifically answer any allegations raised against them during the debate. As his Minister’s had taken over the stage, the Chief Minister confined his remarks to few words.

Mr. Achuthanandan was tongue tied when the Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy asked about the stand of the Government on the HMT land deal. While the Advocate General has filed an affidavit before the Court saying that there were no irregularities in the sale of land by the public sector company (Hindusthan Machine Tools), the Chief Minister did not appear to share the same view. But all he said was that the Court verdict would serve interests of the State. He avoided an answer whether the affidavit filed by the AG was in the interests of the State.