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An Independent Institutions Bill remains a long-unrealised constitutional aspiration

8 22 26
16.03.2019

The independence and credibility of our (admittedly imperfect) state institutions have never been so thoroughly in doubt since the Emergency. Characterised as the fourth branch of the state — because of their distinctiveness from the executive, legislature and judiciary — these institutions are tasked with the protection of key constitutional values such as democracy, legality, impartiality, probity, human rights and price stability. While Chapter Nine of the South African Constitution explicitly guarantees independence to the fourth branch of the state, the Indian Constitution does so implicitly by expecting Parliament to enact a law prescribing detailed mechanisms for appointments to and functioning of such institutions — for example, through Articles 280(2) and 324(2). However, an Independent Institutions Bill remains a long-unrealised constitutional aspiration.

In the Indian context, institutions of the fourth branch include the Election Commission, Lokpal, Central Bureau of Investigation, Reserve Bank, National Statistics Commission, National Human Rights Commission, Information Commission, commissions for various marginalised groups, Central Vigilance Commission, Comptroller & Auditor General, Attorney General, Public Service Commission, University Grants Commission, Finance Commission, Niti Aayog, media regulators and many others. Some of these institutions........

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