The need for legislations that favors authentic lobbying and the vital role that lobbyists play to foster the democratic interests of a nation
The nexus of “lobbying” has a tangled understanding in our country. This as a subject has time and out fallen to multiple scrutinizes and debates not just in India, but all across the globe. We share this big conurbation with countries like the United States which allows a massive industry and a thriving business to operate under the shelter of law, with expert lobbyists as big participants in the reformation of legal policies. On the other end we have strong opposing views of corruption, bribery or inducements being the most closely linked terms to lobbying activities. India, as the biggest democracy of the conurbation and a country rapidly making advancements to a developed nation-state has timely seen the emergence of interest-groups and lobbying activities taking place within its political realm. Yet however the laws have been never defined in the niche. We do not have country laws that recognize fair lobbying activities, let alone a legal framework to legitimize or regulate these activities. At the face of contemporary India’s political picture painted in vibrant colors of democracy and people power, we are yet taken back to apprehension of who ought to command regulations of laws? Who ought to protect the nation’s interest, if not the adroitness of politically aware groups from within the nation?
Lobbying classically tags advocacies that happen outside of court rooms. In its present Indian context, the legal framework essentially refuges grass-root lobbying activities, with no ban on lobbyism of any kind while also extending rights to expression and mobilization, formation of interest groups and pressure groups within the country. There’s however very deep-seated disrepute that lobbyists are often denounced to, mostly arising from monetary parallels that are doubted to shift-shape and change interests. It is very important to note that this very feature is what differentiates lobbying activities from what is otherwise plain “bribery”. Within the umbrella term of “lobby” we yet miss the key players that use their interest to protect the nation’s collective benefit. At its intention, I believe lobbying for collective interest is not just a healthy affair but a necessary pursuit to establish a link between the government and the ones who are governed. The benefits of lobbying activities draw from organized expressions to reforms. Lobbyists involve themselves actively in comprehending perceptions to legal policies and exploring the implications of the same, decomposing elaborate ratifications for the people to readily realize political orders and shape outlooks on the same. Lobbying essentially influences greater public engagement in governance, intensifying the spirits of democracy and statesmanship. As opposed to the fear of it submerging into bribery and corruption, the legal existence of lobbying activities establish an alternative to bribery, keeping money out of the picture and yet establishing a just, fair system that allows vouching in favor or against certain political orders
Historically, our country and its constitution give us the right to freedom, to speech, assembly and association. At the genesis, democracy in its truest values stands in solidarity to all sorts of formation and expressions of interest. Countries who have accepted lobbyism as a fair States’ affair have well propounded on the entitlement ‘to be heard’. When we come to consider the bad reputation that has sunk in for lobbyism in our country, we often disregard the strengths that “good lobbying” can bring in the long run for a developing country with growing business landscapes, multitudes of people and multifaceted interests to harbor. I have examples of institutions like labor unions, charities, corporations and foreign governments who have centrally-placed lobbyists representing their agendas yet practicing in deep ethics, legitimizing the robustness of good lobbyism.
I have highlighted the classic example of the USA where as early as 1791 saw its first legislation in regard to lobbying activities with ‘The right to petition the government for redressal of grievances’ was first introduced. The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 further legitimizes the process. The law requires the lobbyists to get themselves registered with the ‘Secy of the Senate’ and the ‘Clerk of the House of Representatives’ where they put forward all the information regarding themselves and their client’s transactions along with information of their financial contributions (more than USD 10000) for lobbying activities. The subsequent Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 also legitimize the process further, ensuring transparency and regulation in the industry. Australia is another nation joining the league. The country has legally sheltered lobbyism activities with mandates of registrations for professional lobbyists to practice within the boundary, with the information on the same available for all citizens to view. The United Kingdom also fosters the same spirits with a transparent yet authorized professional stature to lobbyists in the country.
India has been an actively growing economy where people ought to be aware of all the laws that are targeted to them. Corporations need ease to function and a link to connect to the wider base of consumers to be able to feature a collective interest. People increasingly need ties to the government to be able to convey their desires. Authorization to practice fair lobbying in the country is thus a change that I believe, can certainly clear the air of skepticism and immorality attached to the subject, to be able to derive the best benefits of lobbyism activities. In my opinion, what conclusively needs notice is the critical need for government policies that favors proportion, regulation and transparency under a legal framework that vindicates professional lobbying as a vital contributor to democracy.