Ademocracy in practice is the free and full functioning of its core pillars at the service of the people to which the democracy belongs. If it does not, a democracy is a mere theoretical construct, which is of no use to the people – though it may be of use for sheer academic deliberations. Its core pillars are the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, and a free press. In India, the first two have become virtually dysfunctional in the sense that they no longer serve the people even though a charade is meticulously maintained that all is being done for the welfare of the people. The judiciary and the press are still active, thankfully. It is the judiciary, of all, that has come to the rescue of ordinary citizens – especially the Supreme Court, given its rulings in cases such as the IM(DT) Act (scrapped in 2005), triple talaaq, marriage between two consenting adults in which no third party has now the right to interfere, and its profound advocacy of right to privacy as a fundamental right. On almost all occasions, the apex court has ruled in favour of the people of the country held to ransom by political whims and fancies. It has thus salvaged this hard-earned democracy of ours from the vicious politico-bureaucratic grip. What about the fourth pillar – the press or the media? With the explosion of information in the last decade especially, and the irreversible surge of social media platforms, the media has come to be reckoned with as a very potent instrument of change that people look up to for aid when they feel hoodwinked by the legislature and the executive. True, it has been functioning freely, thanks to media activism itself apart from social watchdogs, but much remains to be done when one is confronted with some ugly facets such as paid news that is a terrible bane on not just fair information dissemination but also on the whole architecture of democracy. One must remember that when out of the four pillars, two pillars fail, or rather choose to fail, the other two pillars of a democracy aspiring to be a truly functioning one must never fail if it has to be sustained and not reduced to a banana republic. Therefore, the media must be more responsible than what it has been so far. Expectations from it are growing by the day.
When Two Pillars Fail