Name: Arunima Sinh Jadaun
University: Chanakya National Law University
Level of Study: Undergraduate Student
Democracy is generally defined as the system of governance wherein the citizens of the country exercise the power to choose their representatives in the government through free and fair elections. Etymologically, the word ‘democracy’ can be derived from the Greek words ‘demos’ and ‘kratos’, meaning ‘people’ and ‘power’ respectively. Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that Democracy is a form of government “for the people, of the people, and by the people”. The people of a country are at the very centre of any democracy. Therefore, it can be said that democracy is a form of government where the people of the country are vested with the power to elect their own leaders in the government, which are answerable to the people due to the importance of public opinion and supremacy of law.
Democracies around the world can be classified into various forms depending upon the social structure of the society in a country, indirect or direct participation of the people of the country while choosing to elect their representatives, and also rights and obligations that may or may not be equally applicable to or conferred upon all the people. However, for the sake for supporting an argument in favour of importance of living in a democracy, which in itself is a very subjective question depending upon the reasons of personal beliefs, psychological influences, statistical evidences as to stability, and life experiences of an individual, among others, I would like to put forth certain characteristics of a democracy that can cast a light upon my belief in the importance of a democratic system.
Democracies, in my opinion, are much better as compared to other forms of governments because of certain distinctive features that shine out in the light of the values of a modern world that respect and protect human rights, dignity of individuals, including the minorities, along with guiding principles of a constitution that strive for equality among all, and guarantee of certain freedoms inherent in the right to life, and division of power among the various organs of the government, along with a system of universal adult franchise.
The provisions of a constitution provide the ideals to be achieved by a country, enshrine certain rights and duties on the citizens and he government, and lay down the principle of supremacy of law. In Kelsenian terminology, the constitution may also be called as the ‘grundnorm’ of the country, meaning thereby that all other laws and authorities derive their power from the constitution.
In a democracy like that of India, where ‘unity in diversity’ is observed, importance of majority opinion along with respect for the right to equality of law and equality before law guarantees the equal treatment of all citizens irrespective of their gender, religion, race, caste, etc. It is the hallmark of a modern society that everyone, be it a woman, a man, a transgender person, a black person, a white person, or anyone on the spectrums constructed by the society, they are all equal in the eyes of law and are given equal opportunity and status, which in itself is a very important human right. Also, the provisions to bring the minorities at par with the others, like reservation, etc. play an important role in providing equity so that equality in representation may be ensured.
The power exercised by the people of the country in choosing their political leaders to represent the public opinion in governmental bodies and to influence the political decisions taken in national interest, is another paramount feature of a democracy. The principle of universal adult franchise where each adult citizen has one vote and each vote has equal value, further strengthens the fundamental of equality, and it also increases political awareness among the people. Democratic elections also bring about a peaceful change of government through free and fair periodic elections.
It has been famously said by Lord Acton that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Separation of powers, therefore, as advocated by Rosseau, Locke and Hobbes, becomes a prime concept that holds its place in a democracy. It refers to the division of government responsibilities among the various organs of the government, which ensures a system of checks and balances between these organs by limiting their domain in which to exercise their powers without any interference and prevention of concentration of power. Judicial review is one of the examples of such power of checks and balances exercised by the judiciary to review and call into question the actions and legislations of the executive and legislative, respectively. Also, geographical division of power into Federal and State and district, etc. enhances the effectiveness of the governance in a democracy.
Further, the presence of opposition parties and pressure groups seeks to improve the atmosphere of tolerance in the country. As the government is under the scrutiny of such bodies, this constant vigil on the actions of the government and criticism upon its failure to fulfil its promises to citizens, builds a kind of performance pressure on the government, also serving as a check on the misuse of government offices by people for their personal benefit.
Certain rights like right to life, education, privacy, free legal aid to the indigent people, etc. are certain rights guaranteed to the people in any democracy. The guarantee of certain freedoms is one of the most lucrative features of any democracy, like the freedom of religion and thoughts and beliefs, freedom of speech and expression, freedom to profess any occupation, freedom to reside in any part of the country, freedom to form peaceful associations, etc. These freedoms are very important as they guarantee that the public has a voice and it can be heard by the others. The freedom of press and publication free from coercion, interference and censorship are historically very important due to the circumstances of imperialism and suppression of the people by the colonial powers in many democracies of the contemporary world. The recent legalisation of same-sex marriages looks like a step towards expanding this horizon of right to freedom. Also, these freedoms seem to back the ideals of human rights and as such form a vital part of the right to life and human dignity, however they may be subject to certain reasonable restrictions.
Since a democratic society seeks to serve the interests of the people, a democracy that can ensure the welfare of the citizens through equitable distribution of important resources of the country, by preventing concentration of power and wealth of the country in the hands of a few influential and powerful sections of the society, suits an environment of growth and development in economic, social, and almost all spheres.
In conclusion, looking at the vast variety of features of a democracy, I opine that democracies are the most conducive to the individual growth of citizens. Being based upon humanistic ideals, they are very valuable for the overall development of a compassionate, tolerant, and a stabilised nation which can subsequently lead to a better world as a whole. Therefore, I support the importance of living in a democracy due to the previously mentioned reasons which seem pretty convincing from the viewpoint of any person who enjoys a life without unreasonable restriction and interference from the government and anyone else.