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‘Public Policy’ as an academic discipline emerged to promise to the world a multidisciplinary approach to conceptualizing some of the world’s most pressing problems and to understand the ramifications of government action and inactions, which colors and affects the lives and experiences of people and communities the world over. The discipline of ‘public policy’ however is at a nascent stage in its developmental trajectory in India. To further the cause of adding to the academic discourse on ‘public policy’ in the country, this blog aims to provide a platform where public policy concerns can be discussed and deliberated by participants of the public policy programme at the National Law School of India University, for the benefit of readers across the world, who can access the most pertinent policy issues facing policy makers in India. The blog aims at encouraging discussions pertinent to policymaking and this include five broad themes – ‘Education and Employment’, ‘Environment and Energy’, ‘Food Security and Poverty’, Governance and Development, and International trade and Affairs. While this blog would primarily deal with ‘public policy’ at a theoretical and conceptual level, which has a universal appeal, this blog will overwhelmingly explore public policy issues pertinent to policy discourses in India and from an Indian perspective.

Ambedkar in the Gandhi-Ambedkar Debate

Neha Mallick

Deconstructing Ambedkar through the Gandhi-Ambedkar Debate

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was one of the architects of the Indian Constitution. The significant contributions of Ambedkar to both British and modern India has been his work for the socioeconomic inclusion of the ‘Dalits’. Ambedkar’s efforts to eradicate social evils like untouchability and caste restrictions were remarkable. The political views of Ambedkar are brought to relief in his exchange of ideas on caste and untouchability with Mohandas Gandhi, after the publication of his ‘Annihilation of Caste’. This essay examines this debate between Ambedkar and Gandhi to understand Ambedkar’s political position.

Ambedkar’s Political Life

In 1936, Ambedkar founded the independent labour party, which won 15 seats in the 1937 elections to the central legislative assembly. He published his book ‘The Annihilation of Caste’ in the same year, based on the thesis he had written in New York. Attaining popular success, Ambedkar’s work strongly criticized Hindu religious leaders and the caste system. He protested the Indian National Congress (INC) decision to call the untouchable community ‘Harijan’, a name coined by Mohandas Gandhi. Ambedkar served on the Defense Advisory Committee and the Viceroy’s Executive Council as Minister for labour. Ambedkar oversaw the transformation of his political party into the ‘All India Schedule Castes Federation’, although it performed poorly in the elections held in 1946 for the constituent assembly of India.

Ambedkar’s opinion on partition remained in a state of confusion for many. Between 1941 and 1945, he published a large number of books and pamphlets, including ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’, where he criticized the Muslim league’s demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. While in the chapter ‘A nation calling for a home’, in his book ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’ Ambedkar eloquently stated that the things that divide are more crucial than the things which unite. He also stated that depending upon certain commonality of Hindu and Muslims social lifestyle, common language, common race and common country, the Hindus are mistaking what they consider accidental and superficial to what actually is essential and fundamental. The political and religious antagonisms divide the Hindus and the Muslims far more deeply than the so-called common things that are able to bind them together. Ambedkar considered that the Muslims have developed a ‘will to live as a nation’. For them, nature has found a territory, which they can occupy and make it a state as well as a cultural home for the new-born Muslim nation. While justifying the partition of India, he condemned the practices of child marriage in Muslim society, as well as the mistreatment of Muslim women (Hamdani, 2014).

Ambedkar and Jinnah had a friendly association with each other. As men of the law and as leaders of groups outside the upper caste milieu of Hindudom and Congress, they considered each other as the great resistance to the Hindu caste domination in India. At the time when the Congress quit the government in 1939, Ambedkar joined Jinnah in the celebration the day of deliverance along with Periyar E V Ramasamy Naicker of the Dravidian movement. While he criticised Jinnah, publicly and privately, wherever and whenever he felt Jinnah was making a mistake and Jinnah took it uncharacteristically. He argued that Hindu and Muslims should segregate and the state of Pakistan be formed, as ethnic nationalism within the same country would only lead to more violence. He cited precedences in historical events such as the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and Czechoslovakia to bolster his views regarding the Hindu-Muslim communal divide (Hamdani, 2014).

The Poona Pact

Ambedkar was a critic of Gandhi and the INC. Gandhi had an arguably romanticized view of traditional village life in India and a sentimental approach to the untouchables. Ambedkar rejected the epithet ‘harijan’ as condescending. He encouraged his followers to leave their home, villages, move to the cities, and get an education. In his book ‘Gandhi & Gandhism’ he strongly criticized Gandhi as an incapable leader who failed to fulfil his promise given to the untouchables in Satyagraha through temple entry bills.

The Poona Pact refers to an agreement between the ‘Untouchables’, who were excluded from the varna system (then called Depressed Classes, now called Dalits) of India led by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and the upper caste Hindus of India that took place on 24 September 1932 at the Yerawada Jail in Poona.

During the first Round Table Conference of 1930-1931, Ambedkar supported the move of the British Government to provide a separate electorate for the oppressed classes which was done in the case of other minorities, like Muslims, Sikhs and others. The British Government invited various Indian leaders for Round Table Conferences during 1930-32 to draft a new constitution which would include self-rule for Indians. Mahatma Gandhi was absent from the First Round Table Conference but attended the latter ones. At that time, Gandhi strongly opposed the proposal of separate electorate for the depressed classes, , which was initiated by the British Government and supported by Ambedkar. He thought that it would disintegrate Hindu society. Gand then went on an indefinite hunger strike from September 20, 1932 against the decision of the then British Prime Minister J Ramsay Mac Donald. Ramsay who granted a communal award to the depressed classes and he gave them a separate place in the constitution for governance of British India (Poona Pact, 2012).

The whole country was agitated at Gandhi’s fast. A mass upsurge began in India to save the life of Gandhi. Dr B.R Ambedkar had undergone great pressure and was forced to soften his stand on the separate electorate for the depressed classes. The compromise between the leaders of caste Hindu and the depressed classes was achieved when Dr B R Ambedkar signed the Poona Pact on September 24, 1932. The resolution was then announced at a public meeting held on September 25, 1932, in Bombay, which declared that “henceforth, amongst Hindus, no one shall be regarded as an untouchable by reason of his birth and they will have the same rights in all the social institutions as the other Hindus have”. This was a red letter day in the Dalit movement process in India that gave a share to the Dalits in the political empowerment of democratic India (Poona Pact, 2012).

The Annihilation of Caste

‘The Annihilation of Caste’ was a speech that Ambedkar was going to deliver in Lahore. Ambedkar never gave the lecture as he was asked by the organisers to modify its content. Later he published it as a book. He did not accept the defence of caste on the basis of division of labour and stated that it was a division of labourers. The former was voluntary and depended upon one’s choice and aptitude and rewarded efficiency. The latter was involuntary, forced, killed initiative and resulted in job aversion and inefficiency.

In the book, Ambedkar reflected mainly on the caste issue and Hindu social system. He cites from D R Bhandarkar’s paper ‘Foreign Elements in the Hindu Population’ stating that there is hardly any caste or class system in India left untouched with a foreign strain in it. These castes and classes are an admixture of foreign blood not only among warrior classes but also among the Brahmins who happily consider themselves to be free from all foreign elements. Ambedkar thus makes a strong argument for the caste system having no scientific basis. Ambedkar states that caste has destroyed the concept of ethics and morality. He said that “The effect of caste on the ethics of the Hindus is simply deplorable. Caste has killed the public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible. His loyalty is restricted only to his caste. Virtue has become caste-ridden, and morality has become caste-bound.” Ambedkar found the solution to the problem of caste in inter-caste marriage (Mungekar, 2011).

In ‘The Annihilation of Caste’, Ambedkar’s critique of the Hindu social order was so strong that Mahatma Gandhi, in the weekly journal ‘Harijan’, described Ambedkar as a ‘challenge to Hinduism’. Ambedkar wrote a reply to Gandhi. He was convinced that political empowerment was a key path to achieve the socioeconomic development for the untouchables. Therefore, he demanded a separate electorate for the depressed class in the Second Round Table Conference in 1932. When the British agreed to fulfil his demand, Gandhi started his historic fast unto death at the Yerawada jail. Pressure aroused from all corners that mounted on Ambedkar to forego the demand for a separate electorate as Gandhi’s life was at stake. Unwillingly Ambedkar agreed to the formula of a Joint Electorate with reserved seats in legislatures for untouchables (Mungekar, 2011). Ambedkar thought that only through the abolition of untouchability and the eradication of caste would India become a unified country (Mungekar, 2011).

A statesman, scholar, crusader of the downtrodden and above all a spiritual guide, Dr. Ambedkar has left an indelible impression in the Indian history. Throughout his life, he fought for the rights of the untouchables and during his political career, he remained a strong critic of Gandhi. Gandhi had a more positive, arguably romanticized view of traditional village life in India and a sentimental approach to the untouchables. This essay was a reflection on the contradictory principles of Gandhi and Ambedkar and on the debate that took place between them throughout their political career.

References

Mungekar, B. (2011, July). Annihilating Caste. Frontline. 28 (15). Retrieved December 18 from http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2815/stories/20110729281509500.htm

Hamdani, Y.L. (2014, March 10) Ambedkar, Jinnah and Muslim nationalism. Daily Times. Retrieved from http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/10-Mar-2014/ambedkar-jinnah-and-muslim-nationalism

B. R. Ambedkar. (n.d.). In New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 1 July 2015 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/B.R._Ambedkar

Poona Pact (2012). Retrieved on 1 July 2015 from http://www.indianetzone.com/15/the_poona_pact.htm

(An economics graduate and a keen follower of contemporary debates, the author is a postgraduate student of MPP: Master of Public Policy (2016) at the National Law School, Bangalore.)

Featured image source: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/doctor-and-saint

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The Rural Rural Divide: Mobile Phone in Rajasthan

Srisagar B.

Mobile Phone Penetration in Rural Rajasthan Understanding the Rural-Rural Divide: A Study of Two Panchayats

India’s tryst with telecommunication began with the laying down of the first telegraph line between Calcutta and Diamond Harbour in 1850 and setting up of a separate department of posts and telegraph in 1854. Since then India has come a long way from ‘land line phones’ to ‘GSM’ mobiles. The telecom revolution in modern India began during the liberalisation period (1990) when the mobile phone subscribers increased from just 10 lakh to 94 crores until December 31st, 2014, making India the world’s second-largest mobile phone user base (TRAI, 2014). After the opening up of the economy in 1990, private investment in the sector of Value Added Services (VAS) was allowed and cellular telecom sector was opened up for competition from private investments. It was during this period that the Narasimha Rao-led government introduced the National Telecommunications Policy (NTP)  in 1994, which brought changes in the following areas: ownership, service and regulation of telecommunications infrastructure. The policy introduced the concept of ‘telecommunication for all’ and its vision was to expand the telecommunication facilities to all the villages in India. Liberalisation in the basic telecom sector was also envisaged in this policy. The LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation & Globalisation) policies of the 1990s created huge inequalities in society as we focused more on growth and less on distribution. One such inequality related to telecom sector is between ‘digital haves’ and ‘digital have not’s’. As it is said that India lives in its villages, it has created a huge rural-urban digital divide as development in telecom sector was focused mainly in urban areas leaving the rural people behind. This is the challenge for the future policy makers to reduce this digital divide between rural and urban people. My study focuses on how people in two panchayats (Kakarmala and Barar) of Rajasthan were accessing mobile phone technology, two decades after the country opened up to the mobile phone revolution.

Location of the studyim1im2

My first field trip was on October 27, 2014, to October 31, 2014. I had been to Khakarmala Panchayat of Amet Tehsil in Rajasamand district of Rajasthan. In my second field trip from November 4, 2014, to November 8, 2014, we had been to Barar Panchayat of Bhim Tehsil in Rajasamand district of Rajasthan.

Rural-rural digital divide

The Khakarmala Panchayat had no internet or mobile connectivity, whereas as the neighbouring village Nanana, which was just 2 km away had network coverage. The main reason for this is the hilly topography of Rajasthan and while travelling from Nanana to Khakarmala. This was creating a Rural-rural digital divide between the two villages.

Usage of mobile phones by different kinds of people

Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers

ASHA workers in Rajasthan were using their mobile phones to contact Auxiliary Nurse or Midwife (ANM) and doctors before bringing a pregnant woman to the Primary Health Centre (PHC). It can be said that usage of the mobile phone by ASHA workers in an effective way has reduced the MMR to some extent.

I compared this with a similar service in my home state Karnataka, in the south of India. Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) in Karnataka: an example for usage of mobile phone effectively in public service delivery. This is a centralized web-based application for improving delivery of health care services to pregnant women and children up to five years of age through name based tracking of each beneficiary and monitoring service delivery. The ASHA worker identifies the pregnant women in her locality and persuades her to come to PHC for health checkups. Once the pregnant women visit the PHC for the first time her mobile phone number is noted down in a registry and fed into a computer database which in turn sends SMS to the mobile phone of the pregnant women informing her of the next due date for a check up.

Once the baby is delivered periodic SMS are sent until the baby turns five years informing the mother about the immunisation and vaccination programs being run in her locality. Also, nutrition tips for feeding the baby are sent over the phone.This kind of public service delivery system using mobile phone has helped Karnataka to reduce MMR and IMR. The state was awarded the Rockefeller foundation innovation award in 2011 for making use of technology effectively for public service delivery.

Farmers

Few farmers in the villages we met were using their mobile phones to call ‘kisan call centre’ (1800-180-1551) to get the market price of their produce so that they are not cheated by the middlemen who directly buy from the farm of the farmer.

Women in the house

The villages we had been to, had a huge outward migration of the male family members. So the women in the house used their mobile phones to stay connected with their male relatives and children.

College going students

The college-going youth in the villages used mobile phones to stay connected with their friends via Whatsapp and Facebook.

Markets for mobile phones in Bhim town

The picture below shows a place called as Badnaur Chauraya in Bhim town where the study was conducted. This is the place where people from surrounding villages congregate on every Thursday to participate in a fair. This fair is usually organised on Thursday because it is a holiday for MGNREGA workers in Rajasthan.
The study was conducted in this area by interviewing 5-6 mobile shop owners.

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The number of mobile shops has increased from 15 in 2008 to 90 in 2014. This shows that the mobile phone market is expanding and the demand has increased enormously and hence the number of shops.

Type of mobile phone most sold

Spice (M-5007) is the most sold mobile phones in the Bhim market. 20-30 pieces of Spice (M-5007) mobile are sold every month per shop depending on the location of the shop. The reason for people choosing this one particular model over the other is that it is cheaper, simple to operate, supports regional language and has long durability.

Most preferred networks

Almost 60 percent of the mobile phone owners subscribed to ‘Airtel’ network, 30 percent of them to ‘Vodafone’ and the remaining 10 percent to BSNL. The reason for this is the quality of network offered by the private players and easily available SIM cards at low cost.

Effect of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) on mobile phones

I happened to talk to two women in the mobile shops who were buying mobile phones from the savings they had done by working under MGNREGA. It is no doubt that MGNREGA has increased the purchasing power of the people and also empowered the rural women by putting money into their hands as more than fifty percent of the MGNREGA workers are women. It is not that only literate people can use the mobile phone, but also the illiterate can operate the basic function of receiving and making a call. So mobile phone is no more a luxury good, it has become a basic necessity for the people and has become a part and parcel of their life. So mobile phones have been as indispensable as the three basic necessities of life, namely, Roti, kapda, makan – “Roti, kapda, makan aur mobile phone”.

Conclusion

Mobile phone technology is a wonderful platform that still needs to be explored for effectively delivering public services. The TRAI data shows that mobile phone penetration India is skewed towards urban centers with a teledensity of 142 percent whereas rural areas witnessing a teledensity of 40 percent. So one has to take this huge digital divide into account before deciding to make mobile phones as the core for the beneficiaries to receive their entitlements. Mobile phones with internet connectivity would make life simpler for the citizens to access services of the government. Also, it is very important to provide internet connectivity to the panchayat offices as they are the main source of contact for the people in villages. So the Government of India in 2011 has come out with a project called as National Optical Fiber Cable Network (NOFN) to connect 2 lakh odd Gram Panchayats with broadband connectivity so that the people in the rural areas can access the government services offered over the internet. Also, few initiatives like ‘internet.org’ by social media website Facebook which offers to provide free internet facility by placing drones over an unconnected locality would go a long way in bringing down the rural-urban digital divide in India. So connectivity should be seen as a basic human right in future for the all round development of the country.

Bibliography and References

Bharat Broadband Network Limited (n.d.). Project National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). Retrieved on 27 February, 2015 from http://www.bbnl.nic.in/content/page/national-optical-fibre-networknofn.php .

TRAI (2015, February 6). Highlights of Telecom Subscription Data as on 31st December, 2014. In Press Release No. 11/ 2015. New Delhi: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

(A graduate engineer having worked with a leading IT firm of international repute and a gym enthusiast, the author is reading for Master of Public Policy (2016) at the National Law School.)

Featured image source: http://www.pciglobal.org/portfolio-posts/economic-empowerment/
Other images: author.

The Executive Vs the Judiciary: The Ghost of Rex Lex

Anirudh T.

The Executive Vs the Judiciary: The Ghost of Rex Lex with special focus on the Judicial Accountability Commission (JAC) Bill 2013, and the 120th Constitutional Amendment Bill (CAB)

Before Aristotle, the belief was Rex Lex or ‘The King is Law’. But it was the great Aristotle of Stagira who proposed Lex Rex or ‘The Law is King’. This was later popularized by the British jurist, Albert Venn Dicey as ‘The Rule of Law’(RoL). According to Dicey, RoL is one of the fundamental principles of any civilized legal system. He attributed the following three meanings to it: (i) Supremacy of Law, (ii) Equality before Law and (iii) Judicial Independence.

The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution ensured that this principle of Rule of Law was enshrined in the document. Consequently, this was included in Article 14 as the ‘Right to Equality’ which includes: (i) Article 14 (a) – Equality before Law and (ii) Article 14 (b) – Equal protection of the laws. The independence of Judiciary under Article 50, Part IV, Directive Principles of State Policy. Our Constitution mandates an integrated judiciary with the Supreme Court (SC) at the apex court under which High Courts (HC) and subordinate courts function. The Supreme Court has been vested with the responsibility of being the guardian of the Indian Constitution and a faithful custodian of the fundamental rights. This was also suggested by Dicey, who had said that rights would be secured more adequately if they were enforceable in the courts of law.

The great French luminary Montesquieu elucidated the doctrine of separation of powers viz. The Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, with appropriate checks and balances. The interference of the Executive in the functions of the Judiciary has repeatedly happened in India. This article especially focuses on the contentious CAB and JAC bills, 2013. The independence of Judiciary, recognized as one of the basic features of the Constitution in the several landmark judgments of the Supreme Court of India, must be respected and any attempt to abrogate it by any of the State institutions should draw attention of not only the legal community but also each and every citizen of this country as the repercussions of such an action would touch every life aspiring and hoping to get justice. A history of such interferences by the Executive is also discussed along with the evolution of the present day “Collegium System” of judicial appointments accompanied by the reasons for its criticism. Finally, the article touches upon the pièce de résistance of the theme, the Executive’s malicious attempt to muzzle the Judiciary’s enthusiasm with the Machiavellian JAC Bill 2013. The threat of the return of Rex Lex looms in the form of the controversial JAC Bill 2013 and the CAB 2013.

Brief History

The independence of the Judiciary has been recognized as one of the basic features of the Constitution (Kesavananda Bharati Vs State of Kerala 1973). This principle of independence of Judiciary also compliments the constitutional principle of the separation of powers.

The first instance of interference by the Executive was the bypassing of senior judges (Justices Hegde, Shelat and Grover) to the post of the Chief Justice of the SC in April 1973, instead, A.N. Ray was appointed superseding the above three senior judges. In 1975, as a result, the SC’s decision in Indira Gandhi Vs Raj Narain 1975, upheld the verdict of Allahabad High Court declaring Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s election ultra vires to the election procedures. Subsequently, the Emergency was declared on 25th June, 1975 unilaterally. In 1976, HC judges were transferred without providing valid reasons by the Government.

The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution was introduced in 1976, It introduced Articles 323A and 323-B, which was an attempt to curb judicial independence. Article 323-A, empowered the Parliament and Article 323-B, the respective State Legislatures, to create tribunals which could adjudicate upon disputes, which were originally under the jurisdiction of the SC and the HCs. There was also a provision made to transfer pending cases from HC to these special tribunals. These tribunals were also empowered with judicial review, giving rise to a parallel judiciary remote controlled by the Executive itself.This would have set a dangerous precedent and an independent judiciary would have just been a farce in such a system where the balance of power with delicate checks and balances institutionalized by our Constitution would have been disturbed with direct interference in the independent functioning of the judiciary.Without an independent judiciary, a vibrant democracy is impossible to imagine and it would ultimately lead to concentration of power following the trail of autocracy by institutionalizing a “surrogate judiciary” put in place by the executive to compete and subdue the original institutions of judiciary enshrined in the Constitution.

The Judiciary has upheld its credibility, respecting the Constitution by exercising constraint on its jurisdiction. In the Rustom Cavasjee Cooper Vs Union of India 1970, the SC held that the court is only required to adjudicate the legality of the policy, its coherence with the Constitution and not its contents, merits or demerits. In the Delhi Science Forum and Others Vs Union of India 1996, the Supreme Court held while rejecting a claim against opening up of the telecom sector, reiterated that the policy efficacy must be debated in the Parliament alone and not in the courts.

Evolution of The Collegium

In S.P.Gupta Vs Union of India 1981, the SC opened the weir to executive interference in the appointment of judges by making the executive the ultimate authority in the appointment of judges of SC and the HCs.It could consult the CJI but the executive was not bound to act in accordance with the CJI’s recommendation completely tilting the pivot of power towards the executive. This was subsequently overruled by the SC in Advocates- on- Record Association Vs Union of India 1993, a nine judge’s bench decision restored the balance in favour of the Judiciary by introducing the ‘Collegium System’. The Collegium is a system under which appointments and transfers of judges are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior most judges of the SC and three senior most judges of the HC.

According to the Constitution, Article 124 deals with the appointment of SC judges. It says the appointment should be made by the President after consultation with such judges of the HCs and SC as the President may deem necessary. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is to be consulted in all appointments. Article 217 deals with the appointment of HC judges. It says a judge should be appointed by the President after consultation with the CJI and the Governor of the state. The Chief Justice of the HC concerned too should be consulted. Article 222 deals with the transfer of judges.Article 124, 217 and 222 all are very significant in constitutionalizing the independence of the judiciary. A constitutional backing would be absolutely necessary to protect and safeguard the offices of the judiciary from executive interference for time-bound delivery of justice to common man.The executive encroachment would have been imminent in the absence of such a constitutional provision providing for judicial independence, again clearly mentioned under Article 50, Part 4, Directive Principles of State Policy emphasizing the importance of maintaining the delicate balance of powers with checks and balances, the most important prerequisites for a vibrant democracy. In the presence of these constitutional safeguards for judicial independence itself, there have been repeated attempts to penetrate the judiciary, we just cannot imagine the counterfactual!

In 1998, there was a Presidential Reference to SC as to what the term ‘consultation’ between the President and the CJI meant in the Articles 124, 217 and 222 of the Constitution. The term ‘consultation’ was defined very elaborately that it is not discretionary but it involves a series of internal peer consultations in the judiciary in writing and such a recommendation should be in accordance with such internal consultations. The collegium system gradually took its current shape and finally introduced for the appointment of judges.It is this watershed moment of giving a concrete definition to the term “consultation” by the SC that leads to the gradual development of the current collegium system of appointments.It doesn’t allow to vest the power of appointments in a single office of the Chief Justice of India, eliminating discretion and infusing a more democratic flavour to the appointment of judges by including other senior SC judges in the loop of decision-making.This definition simply implies that this recommendation to the executive is not just from the CJI but from the judiciary as a single organic institution.

However, the Collegium system has been criticised as an opaque and a non-accountable system. Justice Ruma Pal, a former SC judge, calls it as “one of the best-kept secrets in the country” (Shah, 2012). The administrative burden of appointing and transferring judges without a separate secretariat or intelligence-gathering mechanism is another lacuna in the system. To eliminate non-transparency, CAB was proposed.

CAB 2013 – a coup de grâce for the Indian Judiciary?

The proposed JAC Bill, 2013 (pending before the Parliamentary Standing Committee) and the CAB 2013 (already passed by Rajya Sabha) aim to constitute JAC instead of the incumbent Collegium in the appointment and transfers of SC and HC judges. According to the Bill, the JAC will consist of (i) CJI, (ii) two senior most judges of the SC, (iii) Union Minister for Law and Justice, (iv) two eminent jurists to be nominated by the Prime Minister, CJI and the Leader of Opposition and (v) the Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Law and Justice.

The alternative to the Collegium was a National Judicial Commission (NJC). The Constitution (98th Amendment) introduced in the Lok Sabha by the NDA Government in 2003. It provided for the constitution of an NJC to be chaired by the Chief Justice of India and with two of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court as its prime members representing the Judiciary. The non-judicial members of the NJC would not be endowed with any voting rights regarding the appointments and transfer of judges. But, they would play an important role in conveying its views, making recommendations and providing fruitful suggestions to the Judiciary in its process of appointments and transfers. These recommendations for the non-judicial side would not be binding on the Judiciary.

The ‘raison d’être’ of the non-judicial side is that it would help in establishing a double feedback channel with the Executive and with the highest echelons of the civil society, taking all the stakeholders on board and also keeping the checks and balances on the State institutions intact. The NJC ultimately, would decide the appointment and transfer of judges and also probe cases of misconduct by judges, including those of the highest judiciary.

The appointments and transfers of judges, their qualifications and antecedents would be published and updated regularly on the NJC’s website. A dedicated, digitized All India Judicial Registry would be created consisting of all the judges’ records, previous judgments, qualifications, experience at the Centre and in the States The NJC would also be armed with wings connected to the proposed Lokpal.

Separate judicial tribunals and fast-track judicial courts would be established to deal with the cases that would arise involving the alleged corruption in the offices of the Judiciary. Such a reform would safeguard the independence of Judiciary and at the same time introduce transparency, accountability into its system and further instil the trust and faith in its ardent believers.

Conclusion

This JAC Bill 2013 and the CAB 2013 pose a serious threat to the independence of Judiciary and the other democratic institutions in our country. There may be lacunae in the Collegium system, but the Executive’s interference in the Judiciary’s affairs in the form of JAC cannot be the solution. The judicial appointment is the sole prerogative of the judiciary.

The enthusiasm to reform the Judiciary by the Executive must be channelled in a direction in which alternatives can be sought without abrogating the basic structure of the Constitution. We should remember the old saying that “a bad remedy can be worse than the disease itself”.

Bibliography and References

Divan, A. (2013, June 14). A trojan horse at the judiciary’s door. Hindu. Retrieved on 25 February 2015 from http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-trojan-horse-at-the-judiciarys-door/article4811353.ece

PRS Legislative Research. Last viewed on 24 June 2014 at http://www.prsindia.org.

PTI. (2013, August 29). Bill to scrap collegium system of appointing judges. Hindu. Retrieved on 26 February 2015 from http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bill-to-scrap-collegium-system-of-appointing-judges/article5071469.ece

Shah, A. P. (2012, January 26). Who should judge the judges? Hindu. Retrieved on 22 January 2015 from http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/who-should-judge-the-judges/article2832090.ece

(A graduate engineer, university hockey player and an Indian civil service aspirant, the author is reading for Master of Public Policy (2016) at the National Law School.)

Securing the future

Mounik Lahiri

The most pressing challenge for public policy is to manage the twin imperatives of sustaining economic growth and guaranteeing food security to vast proportions of the population that are afflicted by chronic poverty and are therefore become increasingly vulnerable to food inflation that is becoming a constant challenge to policy makers and governments in the developing world. In the context of developing countries, especially India, huge proportion of households are afflicted by chronic poverty due to rapid food inflation, despite relative income growths. They also find it difficult to access other minimum developmental imperatives that constitute the Human Development Index, since they spend a sizeable amount of their monthly budgets on food.

It is acknowledged by governments and international organisations that food security needs to be guaranteed if poverty needs to be eradicated by public policies that can make use of different policy instruments like social protection programmes, programmes to improve agricultural productivity, rural development, and most importantly massive investments in the creation of human capital to tackle and subsequently eradicate poverty.

Image Credit: http://www.ryot.org

For a sustainable future

Anna Salome Dunna

In a world where global warming is the next big emerging concern, it ought to be the starting place to apply our ingenuity such that it links all aspects related to the sciences of energy conservation and the interconnected environmental impacts to the larger picture of the political, social and economic structure of various growing economies. The idea is to debate the feasibility of such alternate fuel technologies and the technological implications that these environmental regulations will have in the context of growth and development that is being targeted by the countries world over. This is where we would like to bring in the finer nuances related to the issue and discuss it exhaustively without leaving any stone unturned.

Image Credit: ec.europa.eu

Building the future

Anna Salome Dunna

Education and employment are two inseparable concepts that are intricately woven with each other, especially when it comes to addressing policy issues related to each other. It is due to this strong correlation that while addressing either of the issues, it inevitably leads to a direct impact on the other; therefore the solutions addressing such problems need to have a notion of coherence built in them. This is a platform to showcase many such problems that currently exist in the Indian context when it comes to the two concepts. This is where we will try and find innovative coherent ideas to address this persistent problem, which has been the bane of our existence from even before the independence. After all, the future of our country depends on the backbone of a universal education system of a type that would result in the achievement of full productive employment.

Photo Credit: Rashmi Nayar

People’s Governance

Deepa K. S.

Governance has come to denote a larger domain of decision-making of which government is only a factor. With increasing democratization in parts of the world, governance in development literature stands for decision-making. Development itself has come to mean the enlargement of choices and a way towards fulfilling human lives. Traversing the path of this enlarging definition, this section is devoted to thoughtful takes on what it means to be developing in an environment of governance and participatory decision-making. This is especially relevant for a country like India, whose vantage point gives valuable insights into how people’s power work in a complex calculus of power.

Image Credit: guardian.com

Going global

Deepa K. S.

As the world opens up to a globally competitive market, equitable prosperity and fairness become the emerging concern. Commerce and intergovernmental transactions are the beginning of a large landscape of interaction between nations. The pressures on national interests and goals to conform to and contest the global challenges, fair principles of competition and cooperation, border regulations and monitoring co-exist with free and regular exchanges between people, goods, services and cultures. This ever-changing transnational scenario poses immense opportunities as well as challenges. This is the space where we try to capture the dilemmas and dynamics of transforming into a global citizenry.

Image Credit: activistpost.com

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