A conference on 'Deliberative Democracy Institutions, Law & People' kicked off in Delhi today. The international forum is being jointly hosted by O.P. Jindal Global University and Centre for Deliberative Democracy of Stanford University. The two-day international forum has brought together leading lawyers, legal scholars, regulators, academics and public policy practitioners from across the world and is being hosted on October 24, 2016 in New Delhi and at the JGU university campus in Sonipat Haryana on October 25, 2016.
Delivering the welcome address at the inaugural session of the forum, Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice-Chancellor, JGU observed that the conference had commenced at the most opportune time to discuss matters pertaining to institutions, law and people as the day also marked the setting up of the United Nations.
"We couldn't have chosen a better day to start this conference as October 24th also happens to be United Nations Day," he said.
"The idea of a collective consciousness of humanity to build an organization such as the United Nations is a reflection of what is possible, when people come together. The idea of deliberative democracy is one such idea, which has taken deep in-roads in many parts of the world," noted Professor Kumar.
(Dr.) Raj Kumar, further observed that deliberation and discussion are the central ideas to decision-making in a deliberative democracy. As the largest democracy of the world, the ideas of deliberative participation, transparency and creation of a rule of law society will be central to our growth and progress as a nation. As a university we are deeply committed to promoting these causes and engaging in such discussions.
Delivering the inaugural address on the occasion, Mr. P. P. Choudhary, Hon'ble Minister of State for Law & Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India, said, "I am delighted to be a part of this scholarly conference, that will deliberate on some of the most crucial and central issues of deliberative democracy, I am hopeful that the recommendations arising from this international conference will be able to contribute ideas that will help strengthen the democratic system of our nation."
Speaking on the importance of the freedom of the legislature, he said, "The framework of the Indian constitution specifically postulates the independence of the legislature, in the absence of independence of legislature, a deliberative democracy cannot exist." Speaking on the accountability of the legislature to the citizenry of the country, he noted, "Accountability of legislature to the people of the country is of paramount importance and is crucial for the smooth functioning of the democratic system of the country."
Highlighting the central role of technology in a democracy, Mr. Choudhary, observed, "Technology will play a critical role in engaging and empowering every citizen of the country; it must be employed in an increasing manner to collect feedback and recommendations of the people. Adopting these measures and practices is the real practice of democracy and deliberation."
"While the central tenets of a democratic setup structure are the legislature, executive and judiciary, but its accountability to the people and its separation of powers are its true cardinal principles," noted the Hon'ble Minister of State for Law & Justice.
Professor James S. Fishkin; Janet M. Peck, Professor of International Communication and Director, Center for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford University, USA, who has designed practical implementations of deliberative democracy for over 15 years in various countries highlighted that public participation in the decision-making process was of utmost importance.
Defining his views of a deliberative democracy, Professor Fishkin observed, "To be fair, a deliberative democracy should ideally be called a deliberative democracy by the people. Deliberations by the people themselves have its own peculiar appeal as the people are thinking about the collectively self-imposed rules, regulations, laws and policy priorities."
Describing five characteristics essential for legitimate deliberation, he said, "Information, substantive balance, diversity, conscientiousness and equal consideration are the central tenets of any legitimate deliberation."
"My experience of doing projects in 25 countries across six continents has taught me that an institutional design and an opportunity that effectively motivates people to think about the problems that affect their communities and their countries is the best approach to take informed decisions. This way you can practice deliberative democracy and insert it in various ways into the policy process and I am here to see, if the practice of deliberative democracy with a specific scientific balanced rigorous method can be brought to this country," noted Professor Fishkin, in his closing remarks.
Delivering the vote of thanks, Professor Dabiru Sridhar Patnaik, Director, Centre for Post Graduate Legal Studies, JGU, said, "This conference is a great opportunity to discuss, the different virtues of deliberativism and the complexities of public reason by engaging amidst different themes in relation to deliberative democracy."
The conference is expected to be a melting pot of ideas on democracy and its institutions and likely to determine the course of future discussions and debate on the subject.