What is law? When is it to be respected, when should it be challenged and when should its purported authority be flouted? These are questions that have plagued the Goan citizen ever since the movement against the large scale degradation of the Goan environment in the name of development began. This is a question that needs to be answered if we are to bring some relief to the State. Happily, the circumstances over the past few days provide us with a route to an answer to this question.
The Law is the covenant by which we agree to be governed. The covenant assures us that through the operation of law we will be assured security, peace and predictability through which we can continue with our lives, unhindered and able to develop our capacities and potentials. This covenant binds all the parties to it, State, government and citizens; no one can be outside this covenant. If they are, then they need to be brought into the embrace of this covenant. As long as the Law assures us security, peace and predictability, this Law is to be respected and followed. When the Law does not do so, when we see it being unpredictable, and resulting in a disturbance of the order around us; when the law perpetrates inequality, inequity, injustice, then it is clear that the Law, this covenant must be renegotiated and a new Law brought into place.
Take for instance the case of the Regional Plan process. What is the law under which this entire process has been initiated? What provisions of the law govern the process through which village committees are constituted and then go on to fulfill their tasks under the Regional Plan process? The answer is none. There exists no law, what governs the Regional Plan process is the word of the Chief Minister (who may be here today and gone – God willing – tomorrow) and the word of bureaucrats with their own vested interests. Because there is no law, the process in each village has been different. Some have 5 member committee, other 16, some have met with the Gram Sabha, some have not. Some have prepared ward maps others have not. It is an entirely arbitrary process. Arbitrariness as any student of law will tell you, is something that the Law abhors and strikes down. And yet the same merrily continues in
The Law to avoid arbitrariness indicates that there must be a process, clearly laid out and applicable to all, without exception. The proposed amendment to the Goa Panchayati Raj Act is a wonderful example of how the State of
The straw that breaks the camel’s back however, has to be the ordinance approved to save the Cidade de Goa. Ordinances are to be resorted to only in the case of emergency. Normal procedure is to pass changes to the Law via a legislature. A fundamental norm of parliamentary democracy was flouted in the instant case. This particular ordinance is shocking in its audacity. That it has been instituted to save just one hotel – Cidade de Goa- is bad enough. What is worse is that once written into the law books, this exception will be extended to all illegalities and irregularities in
What is going on in the State of
The length, strength, and duration of the protests against the State and its combination with the profit interests of a few indicate that the people are tired of this nonsense. It is in this context that we have to realise that the actions of the State are the desperate attempts of a crumbling regime. The State of
(Published in the Gomantak Times 4 March 2009)