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Suo motto powers are those powers where the concerned executive, investigative or judicial authority can initiate action, enquiry, investigation, judicial proceedings without any complaint from anybody. It is generally presumed that the issues are so important that leaving it unattended would lead to public harm. The authorities of whatever nature in a democracy are created for this purpose. It is generally made out to be that a complaint needs filed to initiate action but that is the not the legal mandate. No compliant in simple terms cannot be tantamount to no action is the spirit and word of law and so should it be in practice.

In the public domain and with the civil society and the opposition as well, they never raise the issue of Suo motto powers not being used. Given the present state of affairs, the Suo motto powers seems to have been forgotten both by the stakeholders who are supposed to put pressure on the authorities for not using it and the authorities have forgotten in any way. It suits them all. It is a ready made alibi for the powers that be and for the concerned agencies who are averse to act in the murkier of the deals, shadiest of activities and most devious of acts.

It is even more alarming because of the fact that large number of such authorities and agencies have a preventive role as well. First you fail in doing so and then when something happens, which you are duty bound to act upon/investigate, then you see the other way round. Can a democracy be left to this fate, while the social and electronic media and the elected representatives create a hue and cry and everything is lost in that din. It gives a feeling that everything in stage managed. People who are supposed to act live in the shadows of those whom they are supposed to guide because of their expertise, acumen and position and if needed go against them and act, the purpose for which they are there.

Have these authorities be Suo motto power(less)? They have tacitly decided not to use their Suo motto powers. The de jure has completely caved in and gave way only to the de facto. The power play of democratic politics is designed in a fashion that even if one of the Suo motto initiate an action, it would be sufficient to bell the cat. Rest as they say would follow. It also creates a legal momentum and mostly all concerned swing into action. If it is related to crime police can start a Suo motto case, in banking / stock trade related issues it can be RBI / SEBI and any concerned agency having Suo motto powers on the issue in question. The courts can intervene with the similar inherent powers they have. All agencies looking for instructions is not the way democracy designed to function. Most of the panels /committees in the spirit of law don’t have the inherent powers with these constitutionally mandated Suo motto powers enabled institutions have. Only they can be harbingers of real an effective democratic action.

Sanjay Sahay

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