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Age of Candidacy- The Case for Reducing Minimum Age for Indian MPs

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The debate on setting an appropriate age for parliamentary candidacy in India dates back to the time of the Constituent Assembly.

This topic of “Age of Candidacy- The Case for Reducing Minimum Age for Indian MPs” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Historical Context

Constituent Assembly Debate

  • Date: May 18, 1949.
  • Main Issue: Setting the minimum age for entering Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
  • Original Proposal:
    • 25 years for Lok Sabha.
    • 35 years for Rajya Sabha.

Durgabai Deshmukh’s Amendment

  • Proposal: Reduce the minimum age to enter Rajya Sabha from 35 to 30.
  • Rationale:
    • Wisdom does not depend solely on age.
    • Modern education equips youth with civic rights and duties awareness.

Support and Outcomes

  • H V Kamath:
    • Supported lowering the age uniformly to 21 for both Houses.
    • Cited William Pitt’s early entry into the UK parliament as evidence.
  • Other Supporters: Shibban Lal Saxena, Tajamul Hussain.
  • Result: Amendment accepted. Article 84 & 173 now stipulate 25 & 30 years as entry ages for lower and upper houses respectively.

Global Youth Movements

  • Young people today are proactive about their rights and responsibilities.
  • International movements such as “Fridays for Future” initiated by youngsters like Greta Thunberg at 15.
  • Core Insight: Youth are active agents in promoting sustainable, rights-based governance globally.

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Youth Representation in Political Institutions

UN Human Rights Council Report (2018)

  • Identified challenges for young people in accessing various rights.
  • Global underrepresentation of youth in politics:
    • Less than 2% parliamentarians under 30.
    • Age of candidacy often not aligned with voting age.

Indian Scenario

  • Student Politics:
    • Laxmi Shankar Ojha elected to AUSU at 52 in 1979.
    • Lyngdoh Committee (2012) set upper age limits for student union elections.
    • Average age of student leaders in 2019 was 22.5 years.
  • Panchayat Level: Younger individuals (21 years and above) finding representation across states.
  • Parliament Representation:
    • Decline in young MPs (25-40 years): 26% in the first Lok Sabha to 12% in the 17th Lok Sabha.
    • Discrepancy: India’s young demographic vs. older parliamentary representation.

The Need for Legislative Review

  • India’s Demographic:
    • 65% population below 35.
    • 600 million aged between 18 to 35.
    • Median age: 28.2 years.
  • Contrast: Minimum Rajya Sabha entry age (30 years) is more than India’s median age.

132nd Report on Election Process and Their Reform (2023)

  • Recommendation: Lower the minimum age for elections to 18 years.
  • International Perspective:
    • Most European countries set age limit at 18.
    • Some like Bulgaria, Estonia, Ireland, etc. have a limit of 21 years.

Election Commission’s Viewpoint

  • Opposes reducing the age requirement.
  • Belief: 18-year-olds lack the maturity for parliamentary responsibilities.
  • Historical Precedence: Plato’s view on age and political competence.

Private Member’s Bill (December 9, 2022)

  • Aim: Amend Article 84 and 173 to reduce minimum age to 21 years from 25 for Centre and state elections.
  • Rationale:
    • Align with legal marriage age.
    • Middle ground between committee recommendation (18 years) and Election Commission’s status quo.

The Case for Youth in Parliament

  • Representation Impact: Greater representation brings visibility to specific issues.
    • Women, SC/ST, minorities have changed discussions with representation.
  • Argument for Youth:
    • 21-year-olds serve in defense, win sports accolades, lead businesses, and vote.
    • Yet, they cannot participate fully in democracy as candidates.

Way Forward

  1. Rethink Age Requirement: Modern democracies worldwide are revisiting age requirements, and India should too.
  2. Bipartisan Support: Seek cross-party support for necessary constitutional changes.
  3. Harness Demographic Dividend: Enable the massive young population to shape India’s political future.

Conclusion

The age of candidacy in India has long been a topic of debate and introspection. While historical decisions laid a foundation, current global and national contexts necessitate a reevaluation. As India stands on the cusp of demographic potential, it’s crucial to harness the energy, aspirations, and perspectives of its youth for a more inclusive, progressive, and representative democracy.

Practice Question for Mains

Comment on the age criteria for MPs in India. Examine the case for reducing the age of candidacy. (250 words)

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