The debate on setting an appropriate age for parliamentary candidacy in India dates back to the time of the Constituent Assembly.
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.
- 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.
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. copyright©iasexpress.net
- Age of candidacy often not aligned with voting age.
- 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.
- Align with legal marriage age. copyright©iasexpress.net
- 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.
- Rethink Age Requirement: Modern democracies worldwide are revisiting age requirements, and India should too.
- Bipartisan Support: Seek cross-party support for necessary constitutional changes.
- Harness Demographic Dividend: Enable the massive young population to shape India’s political future.
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)