Sunday, September 16, 2018

Flustered and cornered Arnab backs away from debate with noted social commentator .


Dear Arnab

This is a strange post in the series “Dear…”.  You see it started with a letter to the leader of the Congress followed by one to their exalted lordships. Logically our respected Pradhan Mantri ji should have been next but my irritation when I happen to drop in on your channel is so large that I thought I would change the priority a little bit. I see this letter more as a social service rather than a forum to reduce my vent out as I will explain as we go on.

To give some context, From childhood I viewed journalism as a noble profession. Without  intending to brag I must state that  from my childhood people considered my general knowledge good. This GK had largely been built up by regular reading from beginning to end of the newspaper which happened to be the primary source of information in those days.  Newspapers had journalists of high calibre and integrity and they were  people what modern day MBAs would call “thought leaders”, a sadly extinct species nowadays.

Let me reiterate some of the “noble” principles of the profession.
  •         Newspapers disseminated facts for their viewers and presented “news”
  •        There was some separation between the editorial and business leanings
  •         Opinion (not to be confused with facts) was largely presented on the editorial page
  •         Parliamentary decorum was maintained. I might be  a bit conservative on this point, but I do strongly feel  that there is a certain dignity that journalism  demands.
  •         The most important principle was that a journalist considered himself as a pillar of  and an integral structure of democracy . This carried a certain responsibility and becoming a TRP machine or a spokesperson of a political party  was not an agenda. 


    Maybe my naivety and idealism is showing with this last statement.
With the advent of news channels things changed as they had to. The attention span of viewers reduced, the competition became intense and like the medical profession and education the business ran supreme and the primary mission of the journalist changed. The noble tenets of the profession  was the casualty of these development.
So what are my grievances against you? Let me try to enumerate them in order:

  • You masquerade as a journalist. Refer to the first paragraph of this post to  which I am sure you will be able to relate. A journalist has to be objective something which is absent among your various virtues.  Now I have read somewhere that you are trying to redefine journalism but my feeling is you are trying to destroy and not redefine. The examples to substantiate my beliefs but will  make this letter  too long. So I look forward to discuss this further  sometime somewhere in a neutral forum.
  • Our Indian society has some core values, chief among them being tolerance and co-existence. These values have stood us in good stead since eternity and while the world is  all about change, what you preach is an assault on our values and if people take you seriously will take us on a dangerous path. You have an eye on TRP’s and journalism be damned.  You and your cronies on panel  have a one point agenda to preach hatred and try to make non issues into major issues.
  • During  your  schooling I am sure you would have been exposed and maybe even participated in debates. There are actually two types of  debates, one where you “win” by presenting your points in a manner to awe the audience even if you don’t belief in them. The other are more discussion than debate where you listen with an open mind  and try to convince the others of your viewpoints and are willing to listen and even change your position depending on the persuasiveness of your panellists with differing view points.  The second one is largely fantasy  on my part and does not exist but a responsible journal should really pursue this option. What I never had heard before being subject to your channel was where the moderator had an agenda and had a lethal weapon in the form of the microphone and the power to silence anyone he could not browbeat.
  • The very purpose of your program is not to  inform nor report nor solve. It is all about appealing to the basic instincts. You and your cronies are modern day gladiators fighting your selected opponent gladiators by tying their hands in the form of shouting them down and lowering their volumes when they speak
  • I am sure with  little effort you could find panellists who could play a constructive role in a debate and don’t have hard line positions. However this would be against your business interests so you specialize in finding hard liners and people who can easily be bashed.
  • Bad debating. You seem to have learnt all dirty tricks of the street fighting of debating. Let me elaborate on the most important one.
    •  Ad-hominen (By far the worst)
    • Accusation by innuendo. (Refer  to the title of this post, it might have been written by you)
    • Changing the subject on difficult questions addressed to you.
    • Asking  your panellist to defend positions  they never made
    • Making mountains out of molehills
    • Making mountains into molehills
    • No serious attempt at finding a solution to anything

I think you are a smart person and am sure you know the damage you are causing. You see there seems  to be a certain  portion of our populace who think you are a “patriotic  journalist”. I think the journalist part is already covered and  I will leave the subject of being patriotic for another day. It needs a whole article by itself.



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Your Exalted Lordships


Your Exalted Lordships,

This is but one letter in the series of “unsolicited advice” I am writing. I did start the series with a letter to the leader of the largest opposition party.  You can read it at http://blog.deepakmisra.com/2016/12/dear-mr-gandhi.html . I don’t know if he did get around to reading it, but I do observe a certain maturity in him now and would like to think that my advice contributed to this change.

I thought that a letter to the head of the government would be the next one, but yours is an important institution and I am bumping up the priority of my  letter.

It is with a bit of trepidation that I write this letter.  You see, the laws regarding contempt of court are a big vague and I am not sure as to how frankly I can talk without invoking the majesty of your wrath. My legal advisers are my  family, one of whom is an advocate with a rich  experience of 6 months. The consensus like many of your judgments were split and the majority decision was “Why to get into this?". However I decided to persevere.

I did a cursory reading before starting this letter and if I see http://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l255-Contempt-of-Court.html  along with other reading I might be on the right side of the law. If by chance I don’t, an unqualified apology from me right away. My intent is not to lower the  dignity of the court , scandalize it or obstruct the delivery of justice , but view my  advice more of what would be called constructive criticism.  As a citizen of the “world’s largest democracy”  my unease of the developments happening around our democratic institutions have been increasing day by day in an increasing order of magnitude.

Most articles of this nature are written as “articles” addressing the population at large and referring to everyone in third person, but I find this a bit constraining and think that writing as if addressing you directly makes my points a bit direct.

Now I don’t know a good place to start.
Maybe looking at a photo of Mr. B R Ambedkar might be a good starting point since his image adorns the walls of every institution and probably is framed behind your desks. 



(source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Dr._B.R._AMBEDKAR_OIL_PAINTING.jpg)

This great Indian was the chief architect   behind the formation of our republic’s guiding principles in the form of a constitution. For agnostics like me, this document replaces a holy book.
One of the guiding principles of this “holy book” was the defining of organs of the republic. There is some scope for discussion on which is supreme, the people or the constitution. I think it is safe to say that the will of the people is supreme provided  it does not contradict the core values of what we as a nation decided so many decades back. Our constitutional creators were great people and in my opinion reasonably ahead of their time. I do wish that they had framed their output in somewhat simpler language which would enable laymen such as myself to understand the broader and subtle nuances of the law.
Let us take a quick look at what the framers of the constitution had envisaged as a main role of judicial organ which is one of the pillars of our democracy. I am sure that Dr. Ambedkar, as he spent late nights and numerous meetings,  had never thought  that the highest court of the land and final dispenser of justice would be spending time among other things on:

      - How cricket should be administered in India.
      - How many injections TB patients need to take.
      - What should be the engine size of vehicles in one specific city.
      - Whether jokes against a certain community should be banned. I can just imagine the dignified face of Dr Ambedkar were he alive and listening to this case.

If I continue in this vein, I would be spending a substantial amount of my time and yours if you happen to read this letter. This would dilute the overall focus of what I am trying to say , so let’s leave it at that. 

I do think that the founding fathers had envisaged that a constitutional court and high courts would spend their time adjudicating on matters relating to the constitution and ensuring that the fundamental rights of citizens remain, as per their definition, fundamental. There has been an increasing attack on one of the fundamental rights, the freedom of expression. The attack has unfortunately been originating from all directions including your courts. As per my layman’s understanding, a judge steps in when there is a dispute and adjudges this dispute bases the reasoning on existing laws. I don’t think the framers of the constitution had envisaged a situation where the judiciary would step into deciding on laws, depending on what is good for the country, getting into policy and reforming the country.

While I do appreciate your noble intent of reforming the country, a good place to start is always at home.  What are the matters closer to your  home?

Let us face it that the delivery of justice in this country has miserably failed.  I looked at some old data and find that 66% of the prisoners in the countries jails are undertrials out of which more than  40% remain in jail  for 6 month before getting bail. I thought that is no authoritative substantive data to support my assertion that most of these people would be illiterate and won’t know how to spell constitution.  However I see https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Heres-proof-that-poor-get-gallows-rich-mostly-escape/articleshow/48151696.cms and if the data is assume to be accurate.

To quote the article:

A first of its kind study, which has analyzed data from interviews with 373 death row convicts over a 15-year period, has found three-fourths of those given the death penalty belonged to backward classes, religious minorities and 75% were from economically weaker sections.

The reason why the poor, Dalits and those from the backward castes get a rougher treatment from our courts is more often than not their inability to find a competent lawyer to contest their conviction.
 As many as 93.5% of those sentenced to death for terror offences are Dalits or religious minorities.

The other point is  the delayed justice system.
Let us take 2 extreme cases:
* Rudal Shah, arrested in 1953, remained in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur jail for 30 years despite being acquitted in 1968.
* Boka Thakur, arrested at age 16, was jailed and detained without trial for 36 years in Bihar’s Madhubani jail.

These maybe  isolated cases ,  but are in my opinion an indicator of the systematic rot that remains in our countries justice system.  I do vividly remember the L N Mishra case  since I had started the daily reading of newspapers around the time of his assassination.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/seven-things-you-should-know-about-the-40-year-long-l-n-mishra-case/20141208.htm   informs me that 4 people were convicted of his murder 40 years after the assassination. One of  the accused who is now 67 years old had 31 of his 37 witnesses die during the trial. A more religious person than me would say that the almighty is the final dispenser of justice but then, the nation’s founders wisely decided to keep the almighty out of the justice system.

Now a country’s progress to a large extent can be measured by the  value it puts on its values and it is envisaged that the highest court in the country is the final succor for the ordinary citizen.  His  rights are protected by the constitution which again is the book which you swore your allegiance to ,when you took your oath of office. The right to speedy justice is a very important right explicit or implicit. The supreme web site informs me that the pending cases in the court as on -1-Nov-2017 was 55259. With this backlog, do you really think deciding on how cricket is to be governed in India is a priority?

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/24-high-courts-short-of-43-65-judges-have-40-54-lakh-pending-cases/story-rY3IH9e760SfheEzKI38JJ.html informs that there are approx.. 54 Lakh pending before various high courts. While is it is easy to blame the shortage of judges as the primary reason , I would strongly differ with the proponents of this assertion.  Let me humbly ask, with these statistics, does it really seem correct for courts to  have summer, winter, Diwali vacations?  Just think of the state of the nation if any other organ had these type of vacations.

Let us switch tracks a bit and come to my duties as a citizen of this country. As a dutiful citizen I try my best to go and vote every election. For better or worse , by this process we have someone who represents the will of a majority of the  people and hopefully will do his best to ensure that this will get translated into some action within the framework by which he was elected. For example, if he feels that liquor is against the interests of the people he will work to see that availability of liquor is restricted. He has a certain accountability for his actions since he knows that the next election is the acid test whether he was faithful to his constituent or not. Okay I admit that I have gone into a very idealistic mode  and real life is far removed from this idealistic scenario that I painted.  What I am thinking about belongs in a text book and I could be justifiably accused of hallucinatory tendencies with this essay,  but let us assume that we are in a text book mode. 

Your institution has been making gradual inroads into areas outside your jurisdiction and this is reaching an alarming state. You see, you are getting into areas your don’t have expertize on nor do you have the authority or accountability to see your actions being actually implemented. The vast long term damage your actions are causing cannot be understated.

All this writing maybe a bit heavy to assimilate, so let me stop at this point and plan on a part 2. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The National Anthem issue resurfaces

I had pondered over this subject last year and reading the old post http://blog.deepakmisra.com/2016/12/rambling-thoughts-on-playing-of.html will help to get the context of this post better.

Almost all people screaming vociferously on this issue are missing  what in corporate jargon we call the big picture. There are a couple of points to take into consideration before discussing  the act of  respecting the national anthem, if one should stand or sit when the national anthem is being  played.

Let us separate this discussion into 3 parts

1)     The appropriateness of a court asking theatres to play the national anthem
-         The moot point is whether courts can pass arbitrary and possibly illegal orders and usurp the job of the executive. It is absolutely shameful that the government and the parliamentarians are happy with the courts taking over their job. Passing laws is parliament’s job. It is not the job of an unelected body.  However it benefits the leaders when they can have unpopular decisions taken by someone else. Why do we need parliament at all if courts have assumed the role of law making?  My earlier blog mentions how the whole controversy started and why the court order is improper. So to sum it up, this controversy has started from an improper if not incorrect order.
-         Luckily the Supreme Court seems to have realized that they have bitten off a bit more than they can chew and are trying to deflect the whole controversy by pushing it to the government.  A correct approach would have been to admit that they, the court were wrong and rescind their order.  This turnaround by the lordships is bizarre particularly since one of the judges seems to be attacking his own order.
-         The puzzling part is why only cinema ? Why not before a court session starts ? Why not before a flight takes off?  Why not before offices, parliament …. Incidentally someone has asked for the anthem to be played before court starts and was told by the court “not to take things too far”.

2)     Patriotism and the national anthem
-         Patriotism cannot cannot be forced. I think by and large people are patriotic and the national anthem has been imbibed into us from early childhood. Hard boiled egg as I am, the anthem  brings a lump to my throat when I hear it on republic day. The same sentiment does not repeat when I hear the anthem in a cinema hall just before a movie starts. I do resent anything pushed down on me and while I will respect the anthem by standing up when played, the resentment of this forced patriotism will continue. The national anthem is a solemn “work” and in order to preserve the solemnness ,  we should restrict the frequency with which it is played and more important the forum in which it is played. The reason why it was stopped being played in cinemas a few decades back was the disrespect shown when people rushed out of the theatres when it started playing.

3)     Standing up when the anthem is being played
-         Now let us discuss the point on whether it is unpatriotic for someone not to stand when the anthem is being played. From my point of view, it is a sign of disrespect to the country not standing when it is being played. There might be a couple of reasons why someone does not stand up for the anthem
a)     He might have some genuine reason. This is a no brainer and does not need  discussion.
b)     He might oppose imposition of something on him and is not gripped with the same fervour that some people have.  Citizens of this country do have their rights and the absolute right to exercise them. If there is no law currently that mandates someone to stand during playing of the anthem,  we just have to respect the person’s right not to stand much as we disagree with it. If there is very strong public desire the government should make a law. Such a law would have to pass the test of not being against a fundamental right of expression and more learned minds than mine can comment on this.
c)      He might just not identify himself as a citizen of the country and might be an unpatriotic Indian.  Such incidents do  need to be condemned.
I gathered from some “debates” on TV that certain liberals, fiberals, pseudo secularists, commies are asking people not to stand when the anthem is played but could not encounter the identities of such people using  cursory google search. Anyway if some one is preaching such ideologies it needs to be condemned. The best way to deal with someone trying to start a controversy is to ignore him. You defeat his purpose in a simple way.

What is extremely dangerous is the polarization being created by politicians and worse certain news channels by trying to stoke up a controversy.  The distinction between cinema and news is slowly blurring and it would be most appropriate to play the national anthem before the news. As an afterthought, I would suggest to the right wing television channels to play the national anthem before office starts.



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dear Mr. Gandhi

Dear Mr. Gandhi,

Given your recent antics, history would not judge me harshly if I addressed you as Rahul-baba, but since this is a serious letter let us keep the communication formal. In spite of this aforementioned  formality let me jest by clarifying upfront that  I don’t anticipate any seismic tremors  from my communication.

I am quite sure you would not  read my letter to you anytime, but I just do hope you would somehow chance upon it.

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is not important, but what is important is that I was a Congress voter on the few times I used to bother to vote. The reasons for this was not my love for the party or my admiration in the ideology. Face it that most political parties in India including yours  don’t have any recognizable ideology. My reasons for voting Congress was what was called in your fathers time TINA (There is no alternative). There was really no credible alternative for a long time. Disastrous experiments by Successive non Congress governments just reinforced this belief leading me on the path of “The Congress was the least evil of all the known devils”.

Being what many people would call a pseudo secularist, I watched  with great unease the rise of the BJP who worried me with their thought process. I was always hoping that the Congress would somehow counter this threat and keep the nation safe from these right wingers. My support was solidly with your spokespersons in the Arnab  days running up to the elections hollow as their debating might have been. 
However as the last days of the UPA approached, I watched with amazement at the kind of scams that kept coming up. We had a government which seemed  to be completely lost themselves  and also  lost the ability to govern. Now politics is known to be dirty and let us not fool ourselves that any party in India is “not corrupt”. However the nature and quantum of  scams that seemed to be coming in and kept  weakening  my resolve and I was left at some stage wondering if it is better to have some one who could govern the country irrespective of their position viz a viz their orientation to the center, left off or right off.

I finally cast my lot with the BJP in the last elections and I have not regretted it since. Let me be clear at this point I don’t support in any way the ideology of this party’s parent organization. However I have seen no evidence till now of the fascism from the BJP that many of us were worried about. To digress at this point, many people who use the word fascist don’t know the meaning of this phrase.

As far as Prime minster Modi is concerned, he has my solid vote behind him based on his actions after taking over leadership of this country.

I am just a social commentator and not a writer, journalist or general pundit and don’t know how one quantitatively measures a prime minister.

However from  a subjective point of view, he has shown himself to be a statesman and has put the country at the top of his mind. He has developed a vision for this country and managed to articulate much of it. India has got a leader the people can look upon. What is clearly visible is a gradual betterment of quality of governance and most important putting India on the world stage.  I can just give one data point (which is not data in any form)  which is the pride when I felt during a holiday in Cambodia when  the auto driver in a remote place mentioned to me how India has become so strong in such a short time. Let us face it, there was a lot of cleaning up to do from the era of coalition politics of UPA II and I atleast am not expecting some grand immediate results. Strangely most of my fellow pseudo secularists seem to be very polarized and the majority  seem to be against Prime minister Modi. This disturbs me since they seem to oppose the prime minister on principle and not on an issues base.   I don’t see this changing in the near future but then pseudo secualrists don’t change election results. 

To clarify,  I am not a blind supporter of Prime Minister Modi and am opposed to some of his governments decisions and actions. I am also aware that many of his achievements had been started during the time of the UPA and it would be unfair to credit it all to the prime minister.

Now at this stage let me give you some unsolicited advice.  
This advice is not from any altruistic motives but a selfish one since it impacts me. You see I am a strong believer in democracy and for a strong democracy we need a strong and responsible opposition. 
In India the role of the opposition is to oppose the government whatever they do irrespective if this opposition is in the country’s interests or not. While such an approach might keep you in the limelight temporarily, the long term effect would be detrimental for the country for sure and quite likely for you. Face it, the electorate of today is not the same electorate who kept your family in power for so many decades. In the age of the internet ideas opinions and information flows at a very fast pace and it is difficult to fool all the people all the time.
As much as I support the prime minster, I do get uneasy at the thought of his party becoming another Congress. At the national level yours is the only party which can play the role of an opposition and if you play your cards right may even be back at the government in the medium term. To do this, you need to increase your maturity and reduce your “antics”. Face it, your attacks on PM Modi will not get you anywhere. He has managed to sell his vision to the people (whom I belong to) and all  seem to be behind him. To shake this off , you need to:
      
      1)   Develop an ideology of your own. Being anti Modi is not an ideology. TINA has been demolished and replaced with TIAA.
    
       2)      Having a dynastic rule has the major problem that you tend to supress strong leaders. Most of your inner circle cannot face the people directly and have been elected from the safer havens of the Rajay Sabha. It is quite unbelievable  to have a prime mister, home minister and finance minister none of whom  could  directly face the electorate. This is clearly a result of dynastic thinking. If a political party has to depend on one person as leader based on his lineage, it cannot have an ideology. Please do reflect on this. To build a strong party you need to have people who will one day challenge you. If you think that you can politically survive by a sycophantic circle with no direct power base, I have some stocks in gold mines and oil wells that I would like to offer you at a bargain of a lifetime.

       3)      Have patience. Your rout in the last elections is the result of your party’s actions and inactions and recovery will take some time. You cannot build a castle from ashes overnight but if you start now you might recover at some stage.

       4)      My request to you is to have a broader vision for the country. Disrupting parliament and continuous attacks on the government is not going to get you any “equity” as a MBA would say. An easy way out for you is to say that the “BJP” did the same when they were in opposition. That is not a line that a statesman would use and if you hope one day to achieve the exalted status of a statesman you better abandon this line. Playing the role of a responsible opposition and keeping the countries interests at heart viz viz pandering to vote banks might get you some short term gains at the cost of the long term ones. However thinking of the country as a whole might get you the longer term benefits even though the process is slow. Your actions right now are diametrically opposite to all that I am advising, but if you read my communication with an open mind I am sure there will be a convergence of thought.

Once again, India as with any democracy needs a strong opposition which does not have to be you. If you do not fill this place, someone else will. I would like this to be you assuming you do show me that you have the interests of the country at heart.

Feel free to ask me for any clarifications or further advise.

Yours Sincerely

Deepak Misra
Citizen
Republic of India


P.S.  Next letter is to Prime Minster Modi which I might get around to once I recover from the effort   of writing this one and I will keep you copied.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Rambling Thoughts on playing of the National Anthem

The recent controversy about the national anthem got me  bit interested in researching and "opiniating" on this a bit further. There has been sufficient media coverage on this but I learnt from my almost lawyer daughter the importance of reading a judgement and not going by 3rd party reports.

So doing a google search I downloaded, printed and studied the judgement and here is my analysis and opinion.
The judgement can be accessed here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzXilfcxe7yuRkFrMUZSdmExY3M/view

An excellent summary is here  https://indconlawphil.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/the-illegality-of-the-supreme-courts-national-anthem-order/.

This  write-up gives  a very good understanding but maybe a bit technical so my  layman’s analysis meant for fellow laymen. Much of the information is got from the above site which incidentally is also a very informative site on law in general.

The facts/history:
1)      This is not a judgement but an interim order.
2)      One Mr. SHYAM NARAYAN CHOUKSEY  a  [sic] Public Spirited person on 28th October 2016  filed a writ petition before the supreme court. The basic request  which this  public spirited person had to the court  was “take appropriate steps to specify what would be constituting disrespect and abuse of the National Anthem. In the petition, reference has been made to Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. It is averred in the petition that sometimes the National Anthem is sung in various circumstances which are not permissible and cannot be legally countenanced regard being had to the national honour.”
3)      The petition contained some “suggestions” to be followed.
4)      The court posted this case for hearing for 30th Nov.
5)      The court passed an interim order on 30th November. Highlights of the order are:
a.       There will be no commercial benefit from the national anthem
b.      There can be no “dramatization” of the anthem.
c.       National Anthem cannot be printed on any object
d.      All cinema halls will play the national anthem before the start of any movie
e.      The doors to the hall will be locked during this playing so that no one can create any disturbance.
f.        The national flag should be shown on the screen during this playing
g.       ….

The court felt that among other things:
[sic]The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National 4 Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instill the feeling within one, a sense committed patriotism and nationalism.

The order goes on to state with some reasoning in-between:

“Be it stated, a time has come, the citizens of the country must realize that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem which is the symbol of the Constitutional Patriotism and inherent national quality. It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

 The above are all factual Here are my comments in no specific order:

1)      If you can understand the last sentence, please enlighten me. I have read it a couple of times and don’t understand what this means. I might be wrong, but it seems to me  that the learned lordships state that individual rights have no place. Hopefully I am wrong.
2)      The judgment seems to have accepted all the suggestions of the petitioner. There  is no logic as to why this applies only to cinemas and not to any other place and also asks the question if citizens can start making their own laws by filing a public interest litigation and requesting the courts to accept the same
3)      Someone has since requested  modification of this order to include singing of the national anthem in courts which has been rejected on technical grounds and a statement to not take the judgement too far [HAHA].
4)      This gets  a bit interesting.  There seems to have been a similar case filed in Bhopal against the move Kabhi Khushi Khabi Gham  before (hold your breath) the same judge who had ordered a stay on the film on account of the national anthem being played in the film. Details here https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1836522/ (Warning: A lot of “learned” and “honourable” people are mentioned in this document and it is not light reading. I gave up after 2 pages).  This judgement was subsequently quashed by the supreme court https://indiankanoon.org/doc/862307/.  So part of this new judgement about not allowing dramatization of the national anthem is an old story which was found to be not in order and it seems it being reopened.

Some thoughts:

1)      This is one more example of judicial activism which I had written about earlier and which seems to getting more and more dangerous with time. The courts seem to be wanting to take over legislative functions.
2)      It is shocking that the government along with various politicians seems to be supporting this order. This is a complete abdication of their duties. 
3)      As a citizen of this country, I am shocked that the highest court of this country spends time listening to such issues.  As per my understanding the role of the supreme court is to adjudicate largely on constitutional issues and ensure that fundamental rights of citizens are not violated. The constitution of India guarantees me the freedom of speech and expression within reason and this judgement seems to say the opposite. I just hope my understanding is wrong

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why dont they get it about linkedin ?

I don’t have any quantitative data to prove or disprove my hypothesis that  a vast user base of linkedin don’t get it. They don’t understand the purpose of linkedin and how to use it effectively. Let me try and list out the major annoyance that affect me.
  • Confusing linkedin and social networking sites like facebook

Maybe in some industries the distinction between social networking and professional networking is blurred but it is certainly not in my industry and I would assume most of my network.  Posts on politics, sports etc. really have no place on linkedin. I would go one step further and say that is  downright annoying. The problem is that if one your connections “likes” the post, it comes up in the news feed.  It is not a very big job to unfollow the perpetrator but then what is the purpose of being connected?
  • Cryptic “I would like to add you to my professional network”.

This actually belongs as cardinal sin one. Now if I don’t know you why would I want to add you to my network unless I know something about how this connection would be beneficial to me. If you are trying to tap my network, you are not going to succeed since this is hidden. I initially used to not add anyone I didn’t know personally but had to abandon this after realizing that I forget names of people who resurface after years and decades. Now there is no algorithm to decide which invitations to accept and which ones to reject and it is quite random.


Glancing through this post a bit, I thought this is a good excuse to start cleaning up the connection list and removing people I personally don’t  know but had  to abandon this  planned action seeing the amount of work involved.
So how does one use linkedin in  way to get benefit. ?
I don’t fully don’t know the answer to this one. I find the noise to signal ratio just to high.
My rough cut estimate is that 10-20% of my connection list post something of interest to me. So what works now is that as I am glancing through my connection list, I just unfollow the remaining 80% as when I see some posts.  Another technique is to use tags constructively.  I add a tag as soon as I add a connection. I have not yet found out what to do which this tagged information but assume it will help me at a later date.

If anyone reads this post and can comment on how they use linkedin effectively and get some benefit out of it –  it would be appreciated.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

My unease with the NJAC judgement



I type this as I am watching the news of the Supreme Court striking down the NJAC enacted by parliament. Following current events with knowledge of elementary civics since many many years, I am slightly more informed than most even if this is a self-assessment and this self-assessment may not pass the pomposity testrder on.

Now I might be in a minority in my views but I do  think that this is a judgement which has far reaching consequences which might conflict with our democracy.  Whether it is correct/legal or not can be better opinioned by experts in this field and I cannot claim to be one. But I can claim to have some  amount of common sense and at the end of the day, law is largely common sense. There are some aspects which are slightly more complex than can be  obtained by common sense but this can easily be understood by  some reading on the subject.
As was remarked in an earlier blog entry, democracy has 3 + pillars:
-          The legislature – who make laws
-          The executive who administer the laws
-          The judiciary who interpret the laws and protect the rights of citizens and the constitution on which our society is based.

No one organ is above the other and these pillars are like a three legged table. If any one leg is of unequal length, the stability of the table is affected. This is the exact situation we are in today.

For a little historic perspective in a highly compressed form:

In the 60s and 70s, the governments of the day were very strong along with a strong backing of a strong legislature. This made pushing laws quite easy. The judiciary abrogated it role of protecting the rights of citizens during the emergency, for example by ruling that fundamental rights were not so fundamental during an emergency.  A strong prime  minister then ensured that the judiciary remained sympathetic to the government cause and there was a clear executive interference in the judiciary and which compromised the integrity .  Post emergency saw a resurgent judiciary determined to regain lost ground. It would take volumes to  explain this in detail but the resurgent judiciary along with weak collation governments and a fractured parliament saw what is called “judicial over reach”.

One milestone was ruling about the basic structure of the constitution. While this cannot be explained in brief, the basic points that arose was:
1         Parliament was a creation of the constitution and could not do anything to alter the “basic structure of the constitution”
2         The supreme court was  the final authority on deciding what was the basic structure of the constitution.

Another milestone was changing the method of appointment of judges. Till then, Supreme court and High Court judges were selected by the executive in “consultation” with the chief justice of India. In the name of judicial independence and interpretation of “conulatation”,  the supreme court changed the system  and took over the role of appointment of judges and made a system of collegium. The collegium has no basis in law nor the constitution and this in my opinion was a  case of overreach.

Another  milestone was the concept of Public Interest litigations.  The intent was a noble one and was meant to protect the rights  of undertrials and that section of society which was not aware of their rights nor had the means to protect the same. The PIL allowed not stake holders to file cases. More on this a few paragraphs later.

What Changed:
Subsequently weaker governments and a lack of accountability from the judiciary saw a lop sided situation in our democracy. The system of judges appointing judges remained unprecedented and is unique to India. As has been widely reported there is no country in the world with such a system. The NJAC was an attempt to restore some balance by making the executive a stakeholder in the judicial appointment process.
Now the constitution has placed law making the prerogative of the legislature.  Parliament is accountable to the people who have voted them and it has to be assumed that they reflect the will of the people.  While this might be not be realistically true on many occasions, we have to go with this assumption or acknowledge that democracy has failed .  The role of the judiciary viz a viz laws  is to check whether laws are in line with the constitution and they cannot get into either the law making process or policy/administrative domain.

The NJAC has been held to be against the basic constitution. The judgement runs into a bit more than 1000 pages so it is difficult to get into the reasoning behind the judgement. However going by media reports the following are the points with my comments:

1)      The new law alters the basic structure of the constitution by giving the executive a primacy in judicial appointment thereby impacting judicial independence which is a basic structure of the constitution.
-          As far as I can see, there is no primacy given to the executive with the NJAC. It is quite a balanced  body with enough checks and balances. There are members of the body from the  judiciary who have veto powers and an undesirable candidate. Executive involvement should not be confused with executive primacy.  Executive/Legislative participation in the appointment process is something established all over the world and we do need to look inwards if we think it is wrong in the Indian context.

2)      The collegium system is a good solution and can be improved.
-          There are 2 parts to this point.
o   Which system is better ?
o   Does it make any difference from a legal perspective ?
-          Which system is better can be debated at length and there will be no common ground found. The second question is the more important one – viz – Does it matter?. The question here is not which system is better but which is legal.  Parliament’s job is to make laws and judicial scrutiny is to check whether the laws passed are against the constitution. This is the major point which is getting diluted with the question of which is a better system. The case should just dwell on the aspect of who makes laws and not get into how to improve the current system. It makes absolutely no difference as to which is the better system from a constitutional point of view. Parliament is elected by the people and is finally accountable to them. If parliament does not reflect the will of the people, the voice of the people will be heard during elections. We deserve the government we vote !!! I am not sure why this line of reasioning is followed by so many luminaries participating in this discussion.

3)      A unwise choice by the NJAC would have far reaching conseqeunces and the damage from such an act cannot be easily undone.
-          This is a risk and hence there should be enough checks  and balances. A  law cannot be struck down because there is a fear that it will not work. There have been stalwarts appointed under the old system who had the courage to take on the establishment on occasions. There have been mediocre and bad  appointments under the collegium system so it is childish to assume that a collegium would make a better choice than a diverse body. The collegium system is shrouded in secrecy with no accountability to anyone. Food for thought: Todays times of India reports that 99 judges of the high court and Supreme court are related to other judges.
4)      The government is the biggest litigant in the country and hence having the law minister as part of the NJAC would compromise its integrity
-          This is debatable and I am not sure of the answer. However by this same logic, the NJAC case is being heard by a bench of the supreme court who are also stakeholders and hence the quality of judgement could be compromised. Also by the same logic a frivolous view could be that  judges should not be allowed to vote since they are indirectly involved in the selection of legislative members.


So to summarize, my opinion is  this is a very unbalanced judgement and is more about distrust between a strong institution and an emergent one.  My fear is thar the democratic process will be the casualty. There might be short term benefits in terms of holding in a non working legislature but the long term damage is too large to ignore.

Remember the three legged table.