It was not an exercise in democracy but in strengthening parliamentary system which was founded on democracy. Some 30 persons, eminent in their own fields, met at a Roundtable to discuss how to refurbish the image of the Parliament and rehabilitate it in the minds of the people who are increasingly finding it irrelevant, ruckus and drenched in parochial politics. That Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee should be convening such a conference after the country has travelled down the road of democracy for 61 years since independence indicates the disconcerting Indian scene he is seeing while presiding over the house. Indeed, over the years, the members have fallen from the standards expected from them. Parliament is losing credibility and it is lessening in performance and rising in disorderly spectacle. Chatterjee was greatly moved by the letters, messages, telephone calls he received after conducting with dignity and decorum the motion of confidence in the Manmohan Singh government. The speaker intends to associate more outsiders and organisations with his one-man crusade to evoke respect for Parliament which I, as a Rajya Sabha member, found almost in tatters because of political parties' priority to their narrow agenda, with an eye to the gallery for attention. Parties are always thinking of elections. The speaker has a daunting task before him because what he demands from members is devotion, dedication and discipline. The content of members has fallen and political parties would rather have loyal zeroes than independent heroes. The main flaw is that the institutions which strengthen the parliamentary system have got enfeebled. Take the judiciary. It has spread itself in such a way that it interferes even in matters like fixing fees for the school children. Even otherwise, the judiciary does not realise that people change the law, not the law changes people. Parliament represents people and they are the masters. A judicial scrutiny does not mean supplanting Parliament, but strictly adhering to the interpretation that the constitution demands. A recent judgement by the Supreme Court that the bribe-taker was not to blame has left the public and lawyers gaping. The verdict indirectly encourages those members who take money and give the government a majority for the time being, as was seen in the Lok Sabha where the ruling coalition scrapped through the confidence motion. In fact, the money-taker is more to blame than the money-giver because the former is influenced to act or not to act in a particular way. The speaker has many a time said that the judiciary should be sensitive to the power of Parliament and the legislatures because they represent the aspirations of people. Some Supreme Court judges like Justice Katju have pointed out that the judges have taken up the work that belongs to the executive. But this has not stopped the judiciary from poking its nose where it should not. The media, an important wing, is dominated by the corporate sector, which is on a spree to sell not realising that consumerism and commercialism which it has brought in the process is harming the country. Chatterjee's remark that P3 has become P1 has the ring of truth because the best of speeches in Parliament are ignored while some wishy-washy account appears. People are bound to infer that nothing worthwhile takes place in Parliament. The demand that meetings of parliamentary committees should be open to the media is worth considering. But the problem will be what is newsworthy. When it comes to Parliament, the media has to bear in mind that the dignity and importance of the two houses should not be trifled with. Without the awareness of what is right, and a desire to act according to what is right, there may be no realisation of what is wrong. The third pillar, the executive, has become weak because of that it does not serve Parliament members properly. Answers prepared to the questions asked are designed to cover the subject cursorily, not to inform. I recall when I was Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's Press Secretary he was once on the point of resigning. A joint secretary had prepared the answer in a beautiful language without divulging the information the member had sought. Shastri apologised the following day and submitted all the material that the government possessed. For many a public functionary the dividing line between right and wrong, moral and immoral, has ceased to exist. In fact, the biggest dilemma Chatterjee faces is how to restore values and how to make the 700 million electorate act in a manner that the interest of the voters - in whom the sovereignty vests - remain intact. They have stayed marginalised for too long. They are still out in the cold. The exercise to reinvigorate Parliament will be judged in proportion to the plight of the common man improves. The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior journalist E-mail: knayar@nation.com.pk