Prelims 2021

Q. Which one of the following factors constitutes the best safeguard of liberty in a liberal democracy?

a) A committed judiciary
b) Centralization of powers
c) Elected government
d) Separation of powers

Correct Answer: d) Separation of powers

Question from UPSC Prelims 2021 GS Paper

Explanation : 

Separation of Powers in Liberal Democracy

The best safeguard of liberty in a liberal democracy is the separation of powers. This principle divides the government into different branches, each with its own powers and responsibilities. The purpose of this separation is to prevent any one branch from gaining too much power and to create a system of checks and balances where each branch can limit the powers of the others. This helps to protect individual liberties by ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of a few and that government remains responsive to the will of the people.

Assessing the Options for Safeguarding Liberty

Let’s break down the options to understand why separation of powers is the best choice:
A Committed Judiciary : While a judiciary committed to upholding the law and protecting rights is essential to liberty, it is not sufficient on its own. Without separation of powers, a committed judiciary could still be overpowered by other branches of government that have centralized power.

Centralization of Powers: This is actually the opposite of a safeguard for liberty in a liberal democracy. Centralization of powers can lead to authoritarianism, as it concentrates power in the hands of a small group or a single entity, making it easier for them to abuse power and infringe upon individual freedoms.

Elected Government: While having a government that is elected by the people is a cornerstone of democracy, elections alone do not ensure liberty. Elected officials can still abuse power if there are no mechanisms in place to limit their authority and hold them accountable.

Separation of Powers: This is the correct answer because it creates a system where power is distributed among different branches of government—typically the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Each branch has its own distinct functions and can check the powers of the others, preventing any one branch from becoming too powerful. This structure is fundamental to ensuring that the government respects and protects the liberties of its citizens.

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