The People’s Republic: Constitutional basis

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

exclusively in the paterfamilias are absolutely fortuitous and subjective. A man cannot choose his family. He is born into it. And once born into it, he clings.to it with unflagging spontaneous love and devotion for the rest of his life, or until he establishes his own separate and independent family.

When two or more families amalgamate, they will, under normal circumstances, want to retain as many of the rights and liberties which they enjoyed in their respective families before amalgamation, as will be conducive to the viability and permanence of the union. These rights are inherent in every man and are inalienable. They are:

(i) Freedom from intentional deprivation of life.

(ii) Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment.

(iii) Freedom from slavery or servitude.

(iv) Freedom from deprivation of personal liberty.

(v) Freedom from interference with privacy and family life.

(vi) Freedom of religion.

(vii) Freedom of expression.

(viii) Freedom of assembly and association.

(ix) Freedom of movement.

(x) Freedom from discrimination.

(xi) Right to education.

(xii) Right to work and to just remuneration.

(xiii) Right to support in the event of sickness, disability, or old age.

(xiv) Right to personal property, and to protection thereof.

In addition, it is natural that the members of one family will not trust any of the other patresfamiliarum as they trust their own in the matter of prescribing mores or laying down injunctions which will affect their lives or regulate their activities, and as to the modes of executing such injunctions. It stands to reason that, even in their primitiveness, all the adult members of each family will want to take part in the working out of such injunctions. They will insist that the execution of the injunctions should be done to the general and equal satisfaction of all the families in the union, and that the adjudication of disputes between all or any members of one family and another is undertaken by an impartial and disinterested arbiter. In short, each family will very much want to retain the sovereignty which inheres in it before the union, but will, in the common interest, delegate it to any person or persons within the union in whom it has confidence. Since such a delegate or delegates cannot be expected to possess the spontaneous affection and transparent selflessness of a paterfamilias vis-a-vis his family, each family will also insist that the delegation of its sovereignty and the manner in which it is exercised by the delegate or delegates should be subject to such limits and conditions as can be objectively ascertained and controlled.

It must be pointed out, however, that these normal arrangements have not always obtained. In fact, untila century or so ago they rarely did. Now and again, down the ages, some dominant character (the autocrat or tyrant), or a cabal of dominant personalities (the oligarchs) emerge and usurp the inherent rights of the people. Happily, however, all autocrats, tyrants or oligarchs have invariably ended up in disgrace and disaster.

As in the family then, so is in the State which is a union of many families: political power or sovereignty belongs to the entire people, who are entitled to exercise it for their own benefit. And as we have explained, by ‘people’ we mean ‘the adult members of the family or State’.

When the adult members of a State personally take part in the administration of the State; direct democracy is said to exist. In this connection, it is true to say that no country in the world, from antiquity to the present day, has attained to the ideal of direct democracy. The Greek city-state of antiquity, because of its small size, went very close to attaining the ideal. In nine of the Swiss cantons, direct democracy is practised to the extent only that a referendum, in which only the adult males vote, is mandatory for all legislation.

The advent of nation-states and multi-nation-states has made it much more difficult to practise anything resembling the democracy of the Swiss cantons or that of ancient Greece.

But in its efforts towards the attainment of the ideal, mankind has evolved a representative or indirect democracy. In this form of democracy, the adult members ‘Of the State periodically elect some persons from among themselves who are charged with responsibility for the making and execution of laws for the State, and for its general day-to-day administration.

Various methods have been devised for the practice of representative democracy. We will consider them under the two heads of Legislature and Executive.

Legislature: There are three broad methods of electing the members of a Legislature; the relative-majority method, the proportional-representation method, and the absolute-majority method.

The relative-majority system is essentially the British system.

The State is divided into a number of parliamentary constituencies, each of which is entitled to send a single member to Parliament. At election time, any candidate who scores the highest number of votes in a constituency is declared elected. If there are three candidates, A, B, and C, sponsored by different parties, and they score 7,000, 6,990, and 6,980 respectively, then A will be declared duly elected, even though his majority is only relative, not absolute.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

 

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