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BJD MP Baijayant Jay Panda today batted for direct election of members to the Rajya Sabha and criticised the veto power given to the upper house of Parliament. The Rajya Sabha was supposed to act as a check against "populist" measures being adopted by the Lok Sabha instead of holding the veto power, he said, delivering the 22nd Prem Bhatia Memorial Lecture here. The indirectly elected Upper House should act as a caution against the Lower House getting "carried away in a rush of madness" to do something that is "populist" and "against" long term interests of the country, he said. "But if the Rajya Sabha, which is unelected, has a permanent veto, that is not a real democracy as it goes against the will of the people," he said, pointing to the powers of the Rajya Sabha to block non-money Bills. Citing the example of the United States, where provision to elect members of Senate through direct election was made in 1913, he said that it could be considered as an alternative in the case of the Rajya Sabha. "An alternative that we could consider is to make the Rajya Sabha directly elected to represent the state in its entirety not just nominated by party leadership," he said. Speaking on the subject 'India at crossroads: the future of our democracy", Panda called for judicial, parliamentary and electoral reforms to be topped by proper checks and balances to pave the way for a robust democratic set up in the country. "We cannot have a government that is so bogged down by checks and balances that it cannot function, nor there are so few that it acts wantonly," he said. Discussing his recipe for judicial reforms, Panda termed National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill as a "wonderful piece of legislation". India is the only country having "self appointing" judiciary in the world, he said, adding "In most democracies, executive is involved in judicial appointments". He also supported state sponsorship of election campaigns, as an electoral reform. "Enormous money is spent during elections under the carpet.
A system is needed to be provided to enforce transparency without restricting itself to the limits of expenditure," he suggested. The event was marked by presentation of Prem Bhatia awards 2017 for political and environmental reporting. Senior journalist Manini Chaterjee of 'The Telegraph' was awarded for political reporting while Kairali TV editor K Rajendran, received the award for environmental reporting.
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