Democracy is a system of government in which citizens exercise power directly or elect a representative from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. It is also referred to as “rule by the people” or “rule of the majority”.
The term “democracy” first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity. The word originates from the Greek word demos meaning “common people” and kratos meaning “strength”. It was established in 508-507 BC in Athens led by Cleisthenes, who is known as the “father of Athenian democracy”.
Equality is fundamental to democracy, which is present in each individual’s right to vote. In this system of government, each individual’s vote has equal weight. Democracy requires that each individual be free to participate in the political economy’s self-government, thus, political freedom lies at the heart of the concept of democracy.
The United Nations reaffirmed at the 2005 World Summit that “democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives,” There is no fixed definition of the term democracy, there is scope for each country to operate democracy differently. Nevertheless, there are some essential facets of what is universally considered democratic in government:
- Free, fair and frequent elections mean that all adult citizens can vote in elections and stand for office. The elections are fundamentally honest and transparent. Voters must not be stopped from voting and all votes must be accurately counted. Elections should be held often enough to enable people to exercise their control of the government. People must have alternate sources of information to make informed choices, therefore freedom of the press is an essential aspect of democratic government.
- Constitutional government limits government power by authoritative fundamental laws embedded in the constitution, which is usually a written document. Constitutions define and limit official powers. No one is above the rule of law.
- The central purpose of democracy is to protect fundamental rights that all individuals are entitled to. These rights include freedom of the press, freedom of individual expression, right to privacy, right to freedom of association in public and private life, political and religious freedom, etc.
Democracy in India:
India is the world’s largest democracy, with a population of over 1.37 billion in 2019, all endowed with a right to vote. On 15 August 1947 India became an independent country in which its citizens were given the right to vote and elect their leaders, irrespective of their caste, religion, gender or disability. The Constitution of India, which came into force on 26th January,1950 is the longest constitution of any independent nation and states that the country is sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic. The constitution also endows citizens with 6 democratic rights:
- Right to equality
- Right to freedom
- Right against exploitation
- Right to Freedom of Religion
- Cultural and Educational Rights
- Right to constitutional remedies
- Tarini Ranadive