Monday, March 25, 2013

Sanjay Dutt and Italian Marines

Having stopped watching television for a couple of weeks I found that I was not missing anything much. By and large watching the news debate is very interesting to observe people’s opinions on something they know nothing about. It is also interesting or depressing to see politicians views and outlook and the partisan attitude to anything and everything.
It was a misfortune that I got engrossed in the recent two issues of national importance viz the Sanjay Dutt sentencing and the return of the Italian marines.

1)  Sanjay Dutt had all my sympathy. There was no doubt that he had committed a crime and had suffered sufficiently and the sentence seemed a bit excessive. But I did get swayed by an argument on TV where a senior lawyer (Tulsi ?)  did open my eyes by his argument.
I     On reflecting, I think it is clear:
a.       Sanjay Dutt was guilty of a crime of possessing arms illegally. While he has explained his position, the fact remains that he knowingly did something illegal and it is assumed that he knew the consequences of what he did.
b.      He has been acquitted of the more serious charges of terrorism but has been consistently found guilty of illegal possession of arms.
c.       Our constitution is based on the premise of equality of all before law so he should be tried  as any one who does any similar act but does not bear his illustrious named, lineage or connections.
d.      Courts need to act based on law and not on public opinion. The most ridiculous argument is the amount of money locked up in films and that is mentioned as a reason to release him.

What  is  not beeing discussed is that it has taken  20 years since the offense to reach a conclusion. This is not a final conclusion since a review petition can still be filed and it is not known how long this process will take. Why does it take so long to deliver justice ? This is an area which needs urgent reform and which no one is talking about. A lawyer relative had once told me that the law is basically common sense but in India what rules is procedural law viz a viz principles of law.  That is, it is very easy to delay justice by following procedures. As a side note, a common method earlier  of protest used to be “Work to Rule”.  If everyone worked to rule, nothing could be done. When bus drivers and conductors worked to  rule, they did not allow anyone to stand, waited till all tickets been purchased before the bus moved….. So working strictly to rule can cause a near collapse of the system.
Coming back to the Sanjay Dutt case – once again my sympathies are with him. HE has committed a big crime but one can say that he has reformed and the idea of a prison sentence is after all to reform criminals and put the fear of prison as a deterrent for crime.  But to release or pardon him would mean looking at similar cases and not making any exceptions because of his public standing. 

2) Italian Marines
This is also a very strange case. The final result is a credit to firm diplomacy. The facts are clear
1)      The Italians did kill the fishermen. This is not premeditated murder but would be homicide.
2)      There is a dispute about jurisdiction and this needs to be settled fast
3)      They had got bail from the courts and hence has freedom of movement. Chandan Mitra from the BJP was accusing the government of colluding with the Italians pretending to ignore the fact that the govrnment is actually following the law.
4)      The Italians were undoubtedly planning on “pulling a fast one” but did buckle under diplomatic pressure.
5)      There is no point in ranting on intent but it is important to note that the matter is “resolved”.
6)      Credit is due to the government for handling it with the seriousness due. There is no doubt that an aggressive supreme  court did contribute to push for a solution. But for the court the government would have dawdled.
7)      The Italian government  need to keep Italian public interest in mind as much as the Indian government needs to keep Indian public interest in mind. What is said in public is not necessarily said in private. Diplomacy works differently.

What is again not being discussed is the fact that it is 1 year and 2 months since the incident and we are no where near even starting the process of trial. There are 2 straight forward points here, 1) Where is the trial to be conducted given international treaties and laws that we are signatories too  and 2) Are the marines guilty of murder and if so of what degree.  There is justifiable outrage on the part of the public on the behaviour of the Italian government and ambassador but no one seems to be talking about an immediate trial.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bandhs and L' Affair Robert Vadhra

Most of us in Bangalore have been under house arrest in view of the Bangalore Bandh. This bandh has been different from previous ones in that it seems to have a wide support. As always, I doubt anyone knows what the issues are regarding the dispute except that Karnataka should not release water to Tamil Nadu.  The cable operators have joined the strike and the only channels working are the news channels. This means one can chose between the Bandh and  L’affair Robert Vadhra. Both are equally depressing.
I don’t know anything about the water dispute and will try to educate myself before talking about it. One of the professor types on television seemed to think strongly that Karnataka had a case but I unfortunately watched it towards the end and missed the gist.
The Vadhra episode has been going on repeatedly and makes one more and more depressed. It is difficult to judge which is more ridiculous, the childish rants of Team Arvind or the  defence from the Congress.  My view is  that team Arvind is the more ridiculous and the  Congress frontguard of Salman Khurshid makes a stronger case. The self-righteousness of team Arvind  and substituting analytical thought  with innuendos makes me feel there is not much of a case. The whole affair does look a bit suspicious and might need some investigation but there is just not enough data to prove anything.  Assuming that there is a case,  Robert Vadhra should certainly face the majesty of the law and assuming there is none, so should Arvind and Prashant. However in India, “the law will take its own course” which means irrespective of either scenario it will take 25-30 years to reach a conclusion.
The media actions and inactions show a gradual collapse of one of the pillars of a democracy – the fourth estate.  Indian media seem to have got away from the traditional reporting and commentating to showmanship and pandering to ratings. (This same malaise has hit the health care but that is a different story).
The depressing part which I mentioned earlier is the complete lack of any substance in the debates on television.   Most of the political participants seem to substitute quality with volume and try to shout each other down. We are not seeing anything resembling an idealogy or position and these are substituted by mud-slinging
I keep coming back to thinking around ideology. How many of the partys have a clear ideology which they can declare and stick to if voted to power ?  Arvind Kejriwal  has announced that he would pass the Lokpal bill within 10 days of coming to power. This does indicate that law and civics is not his strong point and he possibly does not know (like most of us) how laws are passed in this country. Prashant Bhushan cannot claim the same ignorance and it is surprising that he is not correcting his political colleague.  He  goes on to assure us that  they will ensure that Petrol (or diesel?) prices will be pegged at Rs. 50 and no one will be allowed to make profits on essential commodities. That shows the same level of ignorance in economics as in civics.
On the subject of debates,  may look heavy but is very interesting  read and useful.  Unfortunately those who need to read it – don’t.

Update: 9-Oct Corrected link to logical fallicies

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Judical Activism - Part 1

The  news channel between 8:00 PM and 9:00 PM seems to be the few watch-worthy channels  surpassed only by National Geographic and The Discovery families. During this time all channels seem to have debates between various panellists most of whom are familiar faces akin to the Page 3 mugshots  one sees in the daily rags.
The low quality of debate never ceases to appal me.  After all most of the panellists are supposed to be “experts” in some fields  and I guess the  low quality come from low quality of thought process and not one of communication, . One  subject which seems to hog the limelight nowdays is that of “Judicial Activism”. This is a subject which has interested me since some time and hence maybe debates around this subject are all the more engaging to me.
What stands out in these discussions is the poor or rather lack of knowledge of elementary civics by participants and panellists.  I have never validated this, but I feel that in a reasonable sample size, 50% of the sample would not know the difference between the roles and responsibilities of the different organs of the government.
What I find surprising is the universal accolade by common citizens to the judicial system in trying to “clean up” administration. In the short term it is no doubt true that the quality of life has increased because of this activism, however if one sees this in the larger perspective  it is a complete break down of constitutional institutes and fraught with danger for the republic.
Let us start by getting a clearer view of the law and the organs. However complex the constitution and the language in it, one must keep in mind that law is basically common sense based around a few principles and  there has hardly  been any  radical innovations in the last many decades.
To give a dummys views,  the laws are based on the constitution which Has created three organs. One to create new laws (Legislate) one to implement the laws (Govern) and one to  interpret the laws,safeguard the constitution  and ensure that justice prevails(Judiciary). The roles of each organ is cleary defined and if any of these organs over step their roles, it is imperative to rectify this immediately. At the end of the day, the people are the ultimate rules and have the power to change anything by their power to vote. This brings a system of checks and balances.
Let us now get into the phenomenon of  judicial activism which seems to be more pronounced in India.
Wikipedia is the first choice of  research and though it can be hardly called an authority has this to say about Judicial Activism . "Judicial activism describes judicial rulings suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law. It is sometimes used as an antonym of judicial restraint"
I would not subscribe to the above view and would define Judicial Activism as a state where the judiciary takes a much broader view of their powers and tries to reach out justice to the people.
Let us try and understand a bit deeper on what is the role of the judiciary as  a prelude to the rest of the article. To put it very simply the judiciary has to:
  1. Ensure justice (both in criminal and civil matters) is done according to law
  2. Interpret the existing laws when there is a doubt therof
  3. Safeguard the structure of the constitution and ensure that the citizens’ rights are protected.

What the judiciary is not supposed to do and would be overstepping their role  if they do is:

  1. Create laws or judgements that are perceived as laws
  2. Make decisions outside laws
  3. Get into policy and administration
  4. Be the prosecutor, investigator and judge

A democracy as we were taught in school had 3 pillars as mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article. There is of course the  4th pillar which is the press. An objective assessment of these pillars would  undoubtedly indicate that all pillars are tottering if not already fallen.
The fact that the legislature has stopped legislating and the  government has stopped governing is well known.  We could argue that the press has played an important role in exposing many institutional misdeeds to the citizens and I will defer my perceptions on breakdown on this front. What is not well known is the breakdown in the judiciary which  will be explained in more detail in the next part of this post.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Software Process Improvement - An old post I found

Found this old post I made on Software Process Improvement alomost 10 years back.

I think it is still applicable


After a few months of lurking finally decided to de-lurk and contribute my 2

Some more guiding principles I would like to add (or duplicate in some cases)

1) The CMM is not a substitute for common sense. This should be repeated over
and over again. If something doesn't make sense in your context, don't do it
even if the CMM says so. However be very clear on why it does not make sense.

2) Concentrate on the goals of the different KPA's and use the "activities
performed" as guiding principles to achieve the goals. Don't get hung up on the
activities outlined in the CMM. The important thing is the goal.

3) Start a measurement program right from the beginning, keep it as simple as
possible but ensure that you will be able to measure progress. for the long
term it may be a good idea to try and calculate the return on investment of PI

4) Don't bother too early about how you are going to prove compliance. PI
activities are for internal improvement and not to prove to some 3rd party that
they are being done. Once activities are institutionalized it not a big problem
to demonstrate compliance. ( i have seen in many cases the focus on how to
proove something is being done rather on concentrating how to do it).

5) Get buy in from everyone. Never Never mandate some activity because "CMM
requires" it.

6) Never Never make a CMM level a business goal. A business goal should be a
quantitative goal like "cut rework costs by xxxx" or "reduce org. wide effort
slippage by xx%".

7) Remember that processes can only help people, they cannot substitute them.
the CMM is only a model and not a silver bullet, so a level 1 org with great
people can consistently produce better s/w then a l5 org.

An excellent book on s/w pi is by kim caputo, I have forgotten the exact title.
This is one of the few books, which talks of the implementation in a practical
way without too much theoretical issues.