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An all-India judicial service will ensure transparency

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An all-India judicial service will ensure transparency

Dammu Ramakrishnaiah


After striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) as unconstitutional in 2015, the five-judge constitution bench of Justices JS Khehar, Jasti Chelameswar, MB Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel explored alternatives to make the Supreme Court’s collegium system, which appoints judges to the nation’s constitutional courts, transparent. The court sought suggestions from the public and the response was overwhelming. There are many who have questioned the SC’s decision to ask for suggestions, but what is significant is that the issue of transparency in judicial appointments is finally being debated across the country.
While it is no longer possible for nepotism and favouritism to sneak into judicial appointments, vested interests are still trying their best to promote their own since there are vacancies in the Supreme Court and high courts (nearly 40%). They are trying to push the agenda of the old non-transparent appointment process through the collegium system. This should be stopped by the Supreme Court. Vacancies might be affecting the criminal justice system but pendency and vacancies cannot justify non-transparent appointments.
Even when there were fewer number of vacancies, the performance of the judiciary in clearing outstanding and pending cases was not extraordinary. While it is important to ensure that we have a mechanism for speedy disposal of cases, the most important thing is to ensure a transparent appointment mechanism of the higher judiciary. This mechanism must be thoroughly examined and a proper procedure should be first put in place before any appointments are made.

To avoid wrong appointments, the government in consultation with the chief justice of must introduce an all-India judicial service. This will go a long way towards attracting the brightest and the best talent available in the country. This is a five-decade-old demand but it has not been implemented on account of vested interests both in the political and judicial systems. Their intention is to perpetuate nepotism and favouritism in judicial appointments. This goes against objectivity, fairness, sensitivity and professional approach to the judiciary’s working. Several people have asked the Centre and Supreme Court for such a service but it appears that the judiciary is taking advantage of a divided Parliament to push its agenda of perpetuating judicially-sponsored appointments.

Dammu Ramakrishnaiah is former vice-chancellor of Osmania University

The views expressed are personal


Judiciary yet to meet aspirations for speedy justice: Pranab Mukherjee

With courts across the country burdened with a backlog of more than three crore cases, President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday said that judiciary was yet to fully meet people’s aspirations for “speedy and affordable” justice.

With courts across the country burdened with a backlog of more than three crore cases, President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday said that judiciary was yet to fully meet people’s aspirations for “speedy and affordable” justice.
“Though the Indian judiciary has many strengths, it is yet to fully meet the aspirations of our people for speedy and affordable justice,” said the President, while inaugurating the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Allahabad High Court.
President Mukherjee pointed out that there were over three crore cases pending in various courts, adding that about 38.5 lakh cases were pending before 24 high courts. He said that while the pendency of cases in the high courts had slightly declined from 41.5 lakh in 2014 to 38.5 lakh in 2015, “we still have a long way to go”.
“Overall, out of a sanctioned strength of 1056 judges in all the high courts, the working strength of high court judges throughout the country as on March 1, 2016 was only 591. Similarly, the sanctioned strength of judicial officers in district and subordinate courts in the country is about 20,500, out of which the working strength is only about 16,000 at present,” said the President.
Stressing on the need to always maintain people’s faith and confidence in the judiciary, Mukherjee said that for justice to have a meaning for the people, it must be “accessible, affordable and quick”. He said that increasing the number of courts, judges and judicial officers at all levels was the first step towards achieving the objective of timely delivery of justice.
“Justice delayed is justice denied….The governments, judges and lawyers must work hand in hand to make justice a living reality,” he said.
The President also pointed out that the high court at Allahabad had only 71 judges, including the Chief Justice, against the sanctioned strength of 160 judges.
“As many as 9,11,908 cases are pending in this court as on February 2016, a decline from 10.1 lakh cases in 2014. The pendency in subordinate courts of Uttar Pradesh is 57,06,103 as on February 29. More than 42,17,089 of them are criminal cases,” the President said.
Mukherjee said that another way to reduce the number of pending cases before courts was through widespread adoption of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms that allowed for quick and effective settlement of disputes.

He called for greater efforts to spread legal literacy across the nation and to improve the quality of legal education.



Marxist matrix
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) should readily concede its failure to build up a second line of leadership after the electoral debacle of 2011. A month before the West Bengal Assembly elections, it is too late to attempt a diagnosis. Yet Monday’s list of nominees is particularly significant not least because of the shift in the party’s matrix. The list does suggest that the Bengal lobby is intent on emitting a critical signal to Gopalan Bhavan, more specifically in the context of the party positions of the contestants. It thus comes about that no fewer than five members of the state secretariat, indeed the party’s apex policy-making entity in Bengal, will throw their hat into the ring come April. Implicit therefore must be the profound change in policy.
This must rank as a signal deviation from the conventional paradigm that had enabled  the brass to keep their distance from the hurlyburly of the hustings... and since the split inthe Communist Party in 1964. Of course, a notable exception was Jyoti Basu who in the 1950s was both state secretary and MLA, till Promode Das Gupta took over. This “aloofness’’ vis-a-vis electoral politics has on occasion provoked the in-house barb that the dominant section of ombudsmen have only contested the JNU students’ union elections, if at all.
It might sound uncharitable but nonetheless is true that the denouement of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, to cite one example, has never been shared by equally influential comrades, pre-eminently Biman Bose, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechuri.
Chief among those who will deviate from tradition is the party’s state secretary, Suryakanta Mishra. Nay more, he will be able to contest from his constituency of Narayangarh in West Midnapore and will, in effect, lead the charge of the Left brigade. Besides, Rabin Deb, state secretariat member, will be fielded in Singur and Asok Bhattacharya from Siliguri.
The fineprint of the candidatures that have been announced makes it more than obvious that the CPI-M is intent on closing the gap between parliamentary politics and the party apparatus. Having ratified the shift effected by the party’s state secretariat, the state committee at Alimuddin Street has made an assertion independent of Gopalan Bhavan. Specifically, there need be no conflict between whole-time party work and contesting elections.
The essay to field leaders engaged exclusively in party work is a message addressed as much to the electorate as to the central leadership in Delhi. More than 50 years after its formation, the CPI-M has blurred the contrived distinction between acceptance of parliamentary democracy and a certain avoidance - on the part of its leaders - to contest elections. Blurred no less is the distinction between two sets of leaders - of the organisation and the legislative/parliamentary party.



'PM, CMs stand on same footing in federal polity'
The central government on Wednesday opposed restricting use of the prime minister's photographs in government advertisements, while telling the Supreme Court that in a federal polity, the position of chief ministers or union ministers was in no way less than that of the prime ,inister.
"If the prime minister can be shown in the government advertisements, there is no reasons why photos of the chief minister can't be shown. If there has to be the prime minister's photo, then chief minister is equally important," it maintained.
Contending that the right to give information and the right to receive information under constitution's article 19(1)(a) could only restricted by a law framed under article 19(2), Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose that the rights under article 19(1)(a) could not be restricted by a judicial order.
Seeking the recall of its May 13, 20215, verdict, he also sought that the entire matter be referred to a larger bench for fresh consideration, which Assam and Karnataka have also sought.
The court was told this as it reserved order on a batch of petitions by the central government, Assam, Karnataka, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu seeking the recall of its May 13, 2015 verdict restricting the use of photographs to the president, prime minister, and chief justice of India in the government ads. 

It also issued notice to Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi and Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu on a contempt plea for violating its verdict by issuing advertisement aimed to promote the two chief ministers and for political messaging.

The court also reserved its order on a review plea by NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), seeking exclusion of the prime minister's photograph also as it was being "grossly misused".
Appearing for the CPIL, counsel Prashant Bhushan said "order permitting prime minister's photographs is being grossly misused and same should be dropped".
Earlier, Rohatgi contended that the chief ministers held the same position in the states as the prime minister in the national context and admitted that in the earlier hearing leading to May 13, 2015, verdict, the centre's counsel failed to highlight the issue in proper perspective. 
Developing his case for permitting the use of the ministers' photographs in the government advertisements, he said though "prime minister is first among equals (but) prime minister is also a minister".
He also advocated permitting the use of bureaucrats' pictures in government advertisements which are department centric.
Pointing to the significance of the visuals in the advertisements, Rohatgi said that without visuals, an advertisement would be like notice inviting tenders which nobody reads.
Supporting the position taken by the Attorney General, senior counsel Kapil Sibal appearing for Assam cited the vast and uncontrolled reach of social media and decline in the reach of print media to buttress his point that court's order could not be complied with in its entirety.
Agreeing with the court's concern over the misuse of public money for political promotion and purposes, he however said: "Without interaction, the government can't function. Economic and social planning would require dissemination of information."

In bad company: - A rude shock awaits many Indians if Trump comes to power

K.P. Nayar

For a people as self-obsessed as Indians, Donald Trump's praise for Narendra Modi has not come as a surprise. Because the Modi government's parallel foreign policy machine in the prime minister's party has successfully fostered the illusion that India is the pivot on which the entire world now revolves on matters of diplomacy - with help from some television channels which have unquestioningly swallowed this line - it has not bothered Indians very much that judging by Trump's standards, their prime minister is in bad company.

For the Republican Party's front runner for the presidency of the United States of America, the few foreign leaders who meet his yardsticks for approval include North Korea's bloodthirsty dictator Kim Jong-un. That Vladimir Putin has been described by Trump as "highly respected" does not mitigate Modi's predicament because it was the Russian leader who first praised Trump as "bright" and "talented."

For an ultimately vain man like Trump, praise from someone of Putin's standing, although cleverly crafted, must have been like balm. Europeans, who are closest to the Americans in state-to-state relations, think of this US presidential aspirant as nothing short of crazy and far too erratic to be ever considered for occupancy of the White House. As an example of European disdain for Trump, recall the January debate in Britain's Parliament where members variously described the billionaire American real estate mogul as a "buffoon" and as "poisonous." He was even colourfully called a "wazzock," slang for stupid.

Trump's approval of Putin is, therefore, an instance of grateful reciprocity from someone craving for political acceptance overseas. All the same, Trump's praise for Modi is not a case of happenstance. It is the natural progression of an organic alliance which has been slowly but surely developing in the last two and a half decades between those who control the levers of power in both India and the US.

It is often overlooked in scholarly analysis of the history of Indo-US relations that one of the primary reasons for the diplomatic distance and ideological divergence between Washington and New Delhi in the first nearly half century of India's independence has been the contrasting ways in which power is exercised in the two capitals.

Since World War II, much more than at any time in America's history, big corporations have controlled power in Washington. Apart from the military-industrial complex, which became so powerful during this period that a president could ignore it only at his peril, fund-raisers, where only the wealthy matter, are integral to the US political process.

In January 2010, the US Supreme Court gave its final seal of approval to a system which allowed the wealthiest individuals to bid for political influence. Judgment in a case known as " Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission" gave the green light to unlimited corporate spending on elections through political organizations funded by rich individuals. In April 2014, the Supreme Court expanded on its 2010 decision in another case -McCutcheon vs FEC - this time by striking down limits by individual donors to political action committees, that is, groups that mainly campaign for candidates of a certain ideological persuasion.

These decisions legalized what has been the factual situation in US elections for a long time: American politicians are beholden to big bucks in order to survive.

In India, realpolitik had entirely different mooring in the first five decades since Independence. Unlike in America, political power in India flowed out of the strength of the dispossessed. During the long years of Jawaharlal Nehru's and Indira Gandhi's socialism, leaders gained electoral acceptability riding on the backs of trade unions, farmer's organizations and the landless poor. On a parallel track, the minorities, backward castes, Dalits and tribals became sources of political power. They were all indescribably less privileged than the classes which influenced America's political fate.

Until P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh initiated economic liberalization and gave political respectability to the wealthy and the owners of capital, the idea that India and the US shared values such as democracy barely found its place in any public discourse. If at all, such declarations were nothing more than lip service. There was little in common between the political class in India and the one in the US. Even the Indian political elite of that period looked to the United Kingdom for inspiration, not across the Atlantic.

It was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who declared, two years into his prime ministership, that India and the US were "natural allies." It took another three years and a president who is often ridiculed for his lack of intellectual prowess - George W. Bush - to grasp the significance of the first Bharatiya Janata Party prime minister's profound declaration and accept it. In New Delhi, Vajpayee's idea of a natural alliance with Washington was dismissed as a mere slogan.

However, the profile of the 13th Lok Sabha of which Vajpayee was the House leader, told another story. It had an unprecedented number of members of parliament who had graduated from American universities, not Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick or Exeter. Vajpayee wanted to send the executive head of an industry organization with excellent connections in Washington as his ambassador to the US in acknowledgement of changes in the ownership of India's policy towards America. But he was thwarted by the bureaucracy, including his principal secretary, Brajesh Mishra, whose loyalty was to the Indian Foreign Service, to which he belonged.

By the time Modi was sworn in as prime minister, India's political landscape had become more approximate than ever before to that of America. Trade unions and kisan movements rarely shape political careers any more in India. Corporate-owned aircraft of the Gulfstream variety are now part of the campaign tools of several political parties, sadly, without the checks attached to their use under law or ethical considerations in the US. Corporate ownership of the media, as in the US, is a factor that cannot be overlooked in India's political battles any more.

When Trump asserts that "India is doing great," what he means is that there are a large number of Indians now in all walks of life, including politics, with whom he is comfortable. For someone like Trump - and many Americans of his ilk - these are PLU: "people like us." Three or four decades ago Indians who filled those slots were by instinct and temperament PLT: "people like them."

Since Trump is very much in a zone of opaqueness for a public figure, one can only assume that his views on India and his impressions about Modi have been formed by talking to fellow businessmen and not to analysts or India experts on the American capital's Beltway, like Ashley J. Tellis who have helped shape candidate attitudes to South Asia during previous Republican campaigns for the White House.

Many Americans who have dealings with India, cutting across political loyalties, had hoped that with Modi's victory in May 2014, there would be evolution towards a two-party State seeing off the instabilities resulting from having to deal with one-man - or one woman - political parties or one family-led state governments. They are disappointed that there is a resurgence of such parties after their brief eclipse two years ago.

There was also hope that economic development, job creation and growth would replace caste as the mantra on the streets. Haryana, which calls attention in many corporate board rooms from Manhattan to Silicon Valley because of American stakes in Gurgaon, today stands as testimony to such hopes which have been belied.

If Trump becomes president and assuming that he pipes down and embraces the element of responsibility that comes with the most powerful job in the world, he will not have patience with the way India engages the world. That is when many Indians who have been made to believe by the BJP's spin doctors in the last 21 months that their country is the pivot of global diplomacy will be in for a rude shock.

With Hillary Clinton, it may be much smoother sailing. She and her husband Bill know India after all and above all they know how to handle India and Indians very well.



Full pants are in vogue, therefore the change: RSS

The RSS had deliberated upon a change in uniform in 2010, but the decision was deferred for five years failing consensus.

Written by Mahim Pratap Singh 
IN AN apparent bid to attract more youths to its ranks, the RSS Sunday announced a major change in its “ganavesh” (uniform), replacing its khaki balloon shorts with brown trousers.
While giving no reason for the choice of the colour, RSS general secretary Suresh ‘Bhaiyaji’ Joshi said the decision was taken in keeping with the times. “You people must also have been wanting a change (in uniform). So we have changed it,” he told reporters on the concluding day of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the Sangh’s highest decision-making body.
“We have been making changes from time to time… but this is one change that will be visible,” he said. “Full pants are in vogue in society…so we have decided to go with it.”
The RSS had deliberated upon a change in uniform in 2010, but the decision was deferred for five years failing consensus.
The other decisions include change of headquarters of sah sarkaryawah Datta Hosbale from Patna to Lucknow. Also, former RSS Kerala prant pracharak S Sethumadhavan has been appointed as the outfit’s dharma jagran pramukh.
This post had been vacant since the death of Mukund Rao Pansikar last year.

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