The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a plea seeking direction to Centre to take steps to create an appropriate system, which empower citizens to petition the Parliament and seek the initiation of a debate, discussion, and deliberation on the issues and concerns highlighted by citizens in their petitions.
A bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna expressed its reservations in connection with the prayers raised in the plea. It said if allowed, it could impede the functioning of the Parliament, and pointed out that India has a huge population, as compared to other countries which have such systems.
"You want it to be declared as part of Article 19(1). It will completely clog the working of Parliament," the bench told advocate Rohan J. Alva, representing petitioner Karan Garg.
Alva, assisted by advocate Aby P. Varghese, argued that the petition raises substantial questions of constitutional law and there is an engaged electorate, which is attentive to issues but there is no avenue to engage with the lawmakers after they have been elected.
Counsel urged the top court to issue notice in the matter. As the bench asked how is the writ petition maintainable against the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, counsel argued that the system is there in the UK's House of Commons "and we are based on the Westminster model", while adding that these practices are in vogue abroad.
After hearing arguments, the top court asked counsel to serve the petition to the Central government's standing counsel, saying: "Let us see what they have to say".
It scheduled the matter for further hearing in February. It, however, did not issue notice on the plea. The petitioner has made three respondents in the petition: Union of India through its Secretary, the Lok Sabha through its Secretary General, and the Rajya Sabha through its Secretary General.
The plea sought a declaration that citizens have a fundamental right to directly petition the Parliament and invite discussion on important issues of public interest.
The plea, filed through advocate Joby P. Varghese, said: "The present writ petition prays that it is imperative for the respondents to take substantive steps in order to ensure that citizens can have their voices heard in Parliament without facing undue barriers and difficulties.
To that end, the present writ petition presents a detailed and nuanced framework under which citizens can prepare petitions, seek popular support for it and if a citizen petition crosses a prescribed threshold, then the citizen petition has to mandatorily be taken up for discussion and debate in Parliament".
The plea argued that after the people cast their votes and elect their representatives to Parliament as well as to the state legislatures, there is no scope for any further participation.
"There is the complete absence of any formal mechanism by which citizens can engage with the law-makers and take steps in order to ensure that issues which are important are debated in Parliament," it added.