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Criticism, dissent part and parcel of democracy: Speaker

Sumitra Mahajan

New Delhi : Amidst raging debate on intolerance, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan today said individual rights and freedom are sacrosanct and criticism and dissent are part and parcel of the country’s democracy.

India has a liberal polity that ensures the trinity of ‘liberty, equality and justice’ as central to the scheme of governance in demoracy, she said in her opening address at the Special Sitting to discuss ‘commitment to India’s Constitution’ to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ambedkar.

“Individual rights and freedoms are as sacrosanct as the common good,” she said. “Criticism and dissent, especially through the media and intellectual discourse, are vibrant and are part and parcel of our democracy.”

The Constitution, she said, guarantees each person the freedom of faith, religion and worship.

Mahajan said “consensus building” was a very crucial element in democratic governance that required elected representatives of the people to engage with each other and work together to address the issues and find solutions to all problems.

“The Directive Principles of State Policy in our Constitution seek to secure and protect a just social order,” she said. “Our parliamentary democracy has been able to ensure peaceful co-existence and progress of all communities, irrespective of castes, creeds, religions and languages.”

For a country that is home to adherents of almost all the major religions of the world, “it is both an imperative and a societal culture to respect each other’s religions and to promote harmony among all of them,” the Speaker said.

Mahajan said the Constitution provides for strong institutions as the fundamental pillars of democracy. The three organs of the State – the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary – are required to work in harmony.

“Our Constitution has been a dynamic and living document responsive to the changing needs of our people,” she said.

Observing that it was no time to rest on laurels, Mahajan said “there are innumerable development challenges before us. As we have steadfastly developed strong institutional and governance structures over the years, it is time to work even harder to achieve our objectives in some of the most important areas of concern like education and literacy, health and nutrition, infrastructural development, farmers’ welfare and women’s security.”

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