Category Archives: Social Issues

Tolerance and Intolerance – Lack of Sense of Justice

People keep saying that Aamir Khan is defaming the country. Really? Is speaking out ones mind means defaming the country? No. Not at all.
No one is defaming the country. He is just speaking his mind out and questioning the reason for despondency which you might have not felt and he may have felt.
Why anyone speaking his mind out, in case that opinion is not in favor of the government, is defaming the country?
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of United States, said,
 It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.
Authority can be described in many forms and even includes the government. If you don’t question the government, it soon becomes despotic. We questioned the Congress government when they did wrong. You can see where they are now – nowhere. Let us keep that power with us. And not give away that power to the government.
Government is doing many things right but can it do everything right, 100% of time, I doubt. And that is when you need to question the government. Last six-seven months, though I have not stayed in India, but have got my dose of news from my parents, friends and relatives – there is a little uncertainty about how the government and the ruling party is going to handle the fascist elements in its being. Likes of Adityanath, Sadhavi, Sharma should have been nipped in the bud. But it was never done and we keep hearing leaders asking everyone who speaks out to go to the Pakistan implying that person is not a patriot and is a Pakistani agent. That is not right way to handle things. Modi needs to talk about it and reassure that sense of justice still prevails.

Reforms Phase I

politics - Clint's Nolan Chart - 20020718 - sl...
politics – Clint’s Nolan Chart – 20020718 – slightly inaccurate but good (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

#I wrote this on PG on 13th Oct 2010. And posted on FB Notes on 30th Jan 2011. 

We have been for long talking about changing the role of the government from being the regulator to that of a facilitator. It is impossible for the government and its administrators to handle the role of a regulator successfully. Therefore, Indian bureaucracy, which have people selected through one of the toughest exams and who boast of great knowledge and ability, are overburdened. This burden can be reduced if we make them the facilitators and not the regulators. Thus, they will be able to use their knowledge and ability in the right direction.

There is a scheme suggested by Finance Ministry of the alternative solution to PDS system. I would like to implement that. It is based on practical thought and behavioral economics. If you want details then read Chapter 2 of Economic Survey 2009-2010.

In India, we discuss about the bad situation of sports other than Cricket. I would like to implement the strategy used by administrators of cricket to bring it to the fore for other sports as well. A private club consortium structure for all the sports body will be the first step towards that goal and the government will provide tax benefits to the body. The government will act as a facilitator by running stadiums and giving them to these bodies on annual rent.

The foremost reform that I would like to see would be in the working of political parties. I would like to bring in the regulation/law for the internal functioning of the political parties. Members of a political party will follow career service, i.e., they will join at the lowest rung and will have to make their way to the top by working effectively. Pre-independence democratic structure of Indian National Congress will be the basis of any such regulation or law.

Should Capital Punishment be Abolished?

The question of abolition of capital punishment has been the most debatable question and brings lots of emotion and sentiments. There are people who are in favour of abolition and there are others who try to defend capital punishment or death-penalty. As far as India is concerned, the Honourable Supreme Court of India in its 1980 judgement in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab has given a Talisman that the death penalty should only be given in the “rarest of rare cases”. But judging the case as rarest of rare is in itself subjective and the Indian courts have had varied interpretations in various cases. There is ambiguity in the judgement from the beginning. Hence, this defence in favour of death penalty is really very poor.

Secondly, India is a party of International Convention on Civil and Political Rights that requires countries to move towards the abolition of capital punishment. However, much remains to be done as India has not yet ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the Convention and in Nov 2010, it even voted along with Saudi Arab and China in opposition to the UN resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty.

In this context, Report of Law Commission India setup in 1967, said that

Having regard… to the conditions in India, to the variety of the social upbringing of its inhabitants, to the disparity in the level of morality and education in the country, to the vastness of its area, to the diversity of its population and to the paramount need for maintaining law and order in the country at the present juncture, India cannot risk the experiment of abolition of capital punishment.

So, the general intellectual thought in this regard is against the abolition as they consider it a risk to the National Security.

However, we should also not forget that 139 countries world-wide have taken this risk and abolished capital punishment altogether.

Another reason for continuation of death penalty is the concept known as “public opinion”. However, irrational it may sound but it is the fact that cannot be ignored. In a judgment, Dhananjoy Chatterjee v State of West Bengal, that had led in 2004 to the last public hanging India has witnessed so far, the Supreme Court stated:

Imposition of appropriate punishment is the manner in which the courts respond to society’s cry for justice against the criminals. Justice demands that courts should impose punishment befitting the crime so that the courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime.

But as Arthur Chaskalson, former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of S.Africa reiterated,

If public opinion were to be decisive there would be no need for constitutional adjudication.

Now, coming to my opinion on abolition of Capital Punishment from India is concerned, I am in favour of abolition. Not because we have any legacy of non-violence, but just because we have moved much ahead of the period of renaissance and enlightenment, and we must show that not only time has passed but the ancient and medieval approach to deal with punishments has also been left behind. As Pamela Philipose has said in her essay titled Is this real justice?,

The imminent extinction of a sentient life endowed with thought and memory, linked intimately to the lives of others, is a fearsome thing.

Capital punishment should be really the fearsome thing. It is like tit-for-tat, an eye-for-an-eye and as Gandhiji said it will make the whole world blind.

P.S.:- I was having discussion elsewhere and I put forward to one of the replies:-

You will be shocked to know that as per the report of Amnesty International that more than two-thirds of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The numbers are as follows:

Abolitionist for all crimes: 97
Abolitionist for ordinary crimes only: 8
Abolitionist in practice: 35

Total abolitionist in law or practice: 140
Retentionist: 58

So, updating my stat, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty and this number is not declining. It is increasing year after year since 1976, when Portugal abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

It is true that India had not abolished capital punishment and retained the 1861 Indian Penal Code providing for the death penalty. But it was not that this idea was not given any thought. If you must know, I would like to quote during Constituent Assembly debates, a member of Constituent Assembly while opposing an amendment demanding partial ban on capital punishment, said,

I think that with the growth of consciousness, with the development of society, the State should revise a punishment of this nature…

So, at that point we had thought that with the passage of time, we will be making changes to the nature of punishment. Why we still continue with same punishment which we do abhor? We hate the British Raj for hanging Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru and we hate the Raj for the hanging of Surya Sen and many such martyrs. Most of you will agree that they should not have been hanged. But if that is the case, then why we still continue with capital punishment?

P.P.S.:- This is in reply to the following:-

No I don’t agree with this. Supreme Court has already told that capital punishment should be given in the cases involving when a person encourage a child or mentally ill person to commit suicide , or when a army person wage war against own country , or when a person is found guilty of terrorist activities.
As you can see the offenses under consideration are very serious and deserve nothing but capital punishment..
It is very easy to say that capital punishment is inhumane but ask from the families of 166 people who were killed by Kasab and each and every of them will say yes to his hanging.
Who can forget kandhar hijack had we killed maulana Masood Azharpreviously it would never had occurred because hijackers demanded the release of him and when he was set free he stung us again and again in the form of Indian parliament attack and numerous killings in Kashmir.So it becomes very important that what we want : death of hundred of Innocent people or death of one person who is responsible for killing so many innocent people ??

Moreover Supreme Court has already stated that capital punishment will be given only in rarest of rare cases so if we have trust in out judiciary then we should give them the power to decide what offenses deserve capital punishment for the betterment of this society..

It is true that Gandhiji said that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind but sometimes when a single person is taking out eyes of many innocent people it is advisable to take his eyes so that he may not turn the whole world blind !

Why are you considering capital punishment as co-terminus with the scale of justice? When we talk about our Heroes like Bhagat Singh, Surya Sen, etc. we call that hanging was the wrong thing to do, but in the view of “Imperialist” Raj, they were terrorist and murderers. Why cannot we have the same scale? Why cannot we hold ourselves to higher standards of justice than those followed by our Imperial masters? Why cannot we move towards the idea of restorative justice rather than retributive justice?

P.P.P.S:- To the above post, I got the following reply:-

do u think the consciousness has really grown?? the society has really developed??. The consciousness has to grow among the people. I never said that the countries which have not abolished death sentence have not given a thought about it. I never said that the nature of punishment need not change. I was indeed saying that death penalty should not be abolished in certain cases where the crimes tend to be very brutal. Adding to the fact that we condemn the British for hanging Bhagat singh, Raj guru etc.. will u really oppose if India decides to hang Ajmal Kasab today?? or will awarding a life imprisonment to Kasab really help in reducing the terrorism?
And also, while many countries are abolishing death sentence, India, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, has not yet abolished it. Is it because we don’t know the meaning of humanity??

I would like to say what Justice A K Ganguly, Honourable member of Supreme Court of India said. He termed the award of death sentence as “barbaric, anti-life, undemocratic and irresponsible” which is “legal” in the prevailing judicial system. He further said that the Constitutional guarantee of right to life cannot be subjected to “vague premises”. The vague premise in question is doctrine of the crime falling in the’rarest of rare’ category in awarding the death penalty.

The issue is not whether we know the meaning of humanity or not. The issue is whether we practice humanity or not.

For the case of Kasab, I would like to quote what Bhagat Singh said in his last petition to the Governor of Punjab,
As to the question of our fates, please allow us to say that when you have decided to put us to death, you will certainly do it. You have got the power in your hands and the power is the greatest justification in this world. We know that the maxim ‘Might is right’ serves as your guiding motto. The whole of our trial was just a proof of that. We wanted to point out that according to the verdict of your court we had waged war and were therefore war prisoners. And we claim to be treated as such, i.e., we claim to be shot dead instead of to be hanged.

The doctrine of the crime falling in the’rarest of rare’ category in awarding the death penalty is a “grey” area as its interpretation depended on individual judges. It is just another version of Might is right!

Judicial Reforms – My Take

I was going through a post of my friend Shailendra. And I tried to put few suggestions. While commenting there, I realized that I wrote enough that it can be transformed into a post. So here are my suggestions:-

1. Judiciary takes lot of holidays. For eg Jabalpur High Court will take 88 holidays in 2011. 52 Sundays, 12 Saturdays, summer holidays from May 23 to June 17, winter holidays from 26 December to 31 December and other festival holidays. Sometimes I think is our Judiciary running a school? When there are so many pending cases, I do not find any justification for so many holidays. These should be curtailed. If you want to know holidays that Supreme Court of India takes click here.

2. Many a times it has been observed that judges are not punctual and sometimes lawyers come late. This should be strictly handled and stringent action should be taken against the erring judges and/or lawyers. This will help in ensuring that court’s time is utilized well.

3. The time required to complete a particular kind of case should be pre-defined and it should only be extended on reasonable reasons. Judges must ensure that trial follows the time limits. Also, there should be time limit for a particular hearing of a case, say 1 hour in each hearing.

4. There are many cases which have a similar point or are of similar nature. They should be clubbed and a single judgement can be used for them. Similar recommendations as far as I remember was made by some Law Commission also.

5. Old cases like the one you mentioned should be separated from the rest of the cases and should get prioritized handling or could be assigned to special tribunal to decide the matter without any in-court hearing unless absolutely necessary.

6. Since judiciary doesn’t have much time arguments in courts should not be prolonged and until and unless absolutely necessary oral argument should not happen. In place of that written legal notes and arguments can be submitted to the court. The judge should be empowered to decide which cases are of absolute importance and should then allow the oral arguments. Cases like interpretation of Constitution can be regarded in this category.

7. Laws should written in very clear and specific manner. “Notwithstanding anything detailed herein and blah blah…” only adds to confusion and creates loop-holes. The existing laws should be written so that a lay man could interpret it. It will reduce the number of cases that reach the court and get involved in the cycle of interpretations and counter-interpretations.

8. Most of the cases filed under civil code can be transferred to tribunals and should reach courts in case of question of interpretation or as appeals.

9. Similarly, judgements should also be clear and should not leave any questions of interpretations.

10. Bars should be severely warned against going on strikes during the working hours and days of the courts.

11. Latest technology can be of great help for the courts. Use of video conferencing, etc can help the time of court while waiting for government officials, MPs, MLAs, ministers and others to come and give witness which most of the time leads to adjournments. This way even if they are ill they can take time out to be present for an hour for the hearing as I above mentioned time of a hearing should also be reduced to say 1 hour in my point 3 above.

12. Information Technology can be used to prepare a database to store cases, judgements, etc and can be used for immediate help in cases which look similar to a previous case which was solved. A good reporting tool can immensely help in this. IT if used intelligently can create wonders for the improving the productivity and efficiency of the cases.

[Guest Post] Views on Terrorism by Padmaja

Trying to understand Terrorism, Padmaja tries to explore whether one can really go so far for the sake of just a belief and raises few questions on the world leadership. Read it.

One more terrorist attack & we are all forced to either think for the cause or the solution.The Attack on Delhi high court has set in the state of panic in the air once again.

In India we have the naxalites, the communist group which believes they are causing a revolution but we call them terrorists. Then there are the Tamil Tigers in Srilanka and the IRA group all of whom believe they are freedom fighters. And there are the religious terrorists who believe they are fighting for their religion.

I feel any man who is willing to die for what he believes in is a wonderful man. The problem is that there is a huge volume of anger and hatred behind it and so the end result is ugly. Otherwise a man who is willing to die for what he believes in has a wonderful quality. Isn’t it so? How many of us are really courageous to die for what we believe?

It’s just that this is happening with enormous anger and hatred against some body and that is the problem.

Continue reading [Guest Post] Views on Terrorism by Padmaja

Right to Property Debate

A representation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka...
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In recent times, there have been multiple incidents where farmers were protesting against the Government as it took away the land from them without paying the adequate compensation and against the wishes of many farmers. The whole debate about Right to Property needs to be re-initiated under this background. The Right to Property, which was enshrined in the original Constitution of India, as Fundamental Right should be re-instated by voiding the changes made by 44th Amendment Act of 1978 in this respect.

Continue reading Right to Property Debate

Need for Sex Education in Schools

I was not shying away from this topic. Yes, it is late, but better late then never. I was going through my notes on the subject when I realized that I have not posted anything on this topic. I talked about Social stigma of an unwed mother, but this topic should have come somewhere at that time only. I wrote that post in May 2009 and at that time only in April, a parliamentary committee had put forward his stand on the issue.

The committee recommended that there should be no sex education in schools. The committee itself refused a power point presentation on the question “after going through the hard copy because of its explicit contents.  The Committee felt that it was not comfortable with it and could be embarrassing especially to the lady Members and other lady staff present.”

Continue reading Need for Sex Education in Schools