Saturday, July 31, 2010

RJD and JD(U), lose national party status, many others to lose state party status: ECI

Election Commission derecognised Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal party along with five other parties. His rival party JD(U) too was derecognised. The party will lose facilities like utilising public broadcasters All India Radio and Doordarshan for poll-eve broadcasts and free copies of electoral rolls.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy


It was a shortlived status for Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal as the Election Commission on Friday derecognised it as a national party along with five other parties.

The only consolation for Lalu is that his rival party in Bihar, JD(U), has also lost the national status. Others in the list are Vaiko-led MDMK, Samajwadi Party, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Arunachal Congress.

EC officials said these parties may retain their symbol, but they would lose facilities like utilising public broadcasters All India Radio and Doordarshan for poll-eve broadcasts and free copies of electoral rolls.

RJD, a recognised party in Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur and Nagaland, lost its national party recognition following its poor showing in Jharkhand where the party has been derecognised. To get the national party status, a party should be recognised as a state party in at least four states.

The EC conditions for getting recognition include that the total number of valid votes polled by all the candidates of a party in the last Lok Sabha or assembly election should not be less than 6% of the total votes polled.

TRS wins 11 out of 12 seats in AP by-election

TRS won in the eleven of twelve assembly constituencies in Telangana, in the bye-elections. BJP retained its seat only in Nizamabad. 10 MLA's from TRS and one from TDP and BJP quit their posts in support of separate Telangana demand.This necessitated the by-elections.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy.


TRS candidates emerged victorious in eleven of the twelve assembly constituencies in Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh where the by-elections were held recently and the BJP retained the lone seat held by it.

The TRS nominees won from the five assembly constituencies whose results were announced in the early hours on Saturday.

The BJP retained the lone seat of Nizamabad it contested.

The by-elections were necessitated as the sitting MLAs —10 from TRS and one each from TDP and BJP— had quit their post in support of separate Telangana demand.

The TDP MLA has subsequently joined TRS and won from Vemulawada in the current elections.

The Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research Bill introduced in Lok Sabha

The Government introduced a Bill to establish an academy for advancement of learning and prosecution of research in the field of science and technology in association with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research on Monday.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy


The government on Friday introduced a Bill to establish an academy for advancement of learning and prosecution of research in the field of science and technology in association with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The proposed academy will be allowed to use the infrastructure and scientific manpower of the CSIR for teaching and research purposes and will award degrees or diplomas. It will design curriculum and pedagogy for award of diplomas or certificates and confer degrees and other academic distinctions as it may deem fit.

The institute will primarily focus on research and imparting instruction in areas that are not taught in regular academic universities in India, and also provide teaching and research facilities in frontline branches of learning and in emerging areas.

Importantly, according to the Bill, it can make special provision for the employment or admission of women, persons with disabilities or of persons belonging to the weaker sections and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the other socially and educationally backward classes of citizen.

To function as an autonomous institution, it would generate its own resources from funds received by way of fee, grants, gifts, donation, benefactions or transfers, income from investment made by the academy and the funds received from the CSIR by way of loan and otherwise.

It is expected that the academy would produce from the fifth year onwards 1,000 Ph.Ds in science and technology and 120 Ph.Ds in engineering every year.

The power of one: Can good men at the helm save public institutions?

Justice Verma said that an institution can rise to its strength only if it is run by who has no past and no greed for anything in the future. It is tough to find such people.We can feel proud of the Election Commission and Supreme court. Those are the two institutions which we can really be proud of, because of some remarkable people. At the same time CBI and CVC had made news through rotten controversies. This article by Shekhar Gupta was published in the Indian Express on July 31st 2010.


It was something that Justice Verma said, while explaining the challenge of institution-building, that should get us all thinking. An institution can rise to its true strength, and truly play the role the founding fathers mandated for it, only if it is led by a person “who has no past, and no expectation (of any reward) from anybody in the future”.

Someone who has no past and no greed for anything in the future? Simple enough, you might think. But it isn’t as simple as that. It is tough enough to find many people with nothing to hide in their pasts, so they are not prone to blackmail, or pressured by IOUs conceded.

How many of our institutions do we really feel proud of today? That we trust fully to protect our constitutional rights and liberty? Your count will not go beyond two, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission. In both cases, we were fortunate that just a couple of remarkable people came to lead them at some crucial junctures of our history.

Today nobody dares to mess with either the EC or the SC. One can still countermand an election in Bihar or Kashmir and the other can set the CBI on the Sohrabuddin case. Both have survived sabotage, subterfuge, allurements and vilification by the political class. All because a few, just a few, good men came to lead these at some providential moments of time.

Can you imagine how much stronger we would have felt as a nation if just two other institutions, the CBI and the CVC, had also been similarly fortunate? The sad fact is that the Supreme Court has repeatedly enhanced the powers and autonomy for both these institutions and the law places the CBI under the CVC’s superintendence, to give one autonomy and the other investigative muscle.

But neither has been blessed with a leader who would be willing to embrace this power of institutional autonomy. Instead, an entire succession of our CBI directors have only made news through rotten controversies, and have spent their tenures “fixing” cases politically, one way or the other.

A clean-up of the CBI is probably too much to ask for in today’s political climate. But maybe, with some luck, if only we could get a strong and wise CVC.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Press Council report on 'paid news' syndrome

The Press Council Of India recommended and amendment to election laws today, to declare any payment for publication of news as a corrupt practice.One recommendation was to make The directions of the Press Council Of India Act binding on all newspapers. The council added that self regulation is the best thing, reports Daily News And Analysis.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy.


In a bid to check the phenomenon of paid news, the Press Council of India today recommended among other things amendment to elections laws to declare any payment for publication of news as a corrupt practice.

Since the election-time paid news syndrome undermines free and fair elections, it is recommended that the Representation of the People Act, 1951be suitably amended so as to declare any payment for the publication of news as a corrupt practice or an "electoral malpractice", a special committee of the council said in its recommendations.

The Council asked the Election Commission of India to set up a special cell to receive complaints about "paid news" in the run-up to the conduct of elections and initiate a process through which expeditious action could be taken on the basis of such complaints.

One of the recommendations favoured amendment to the Press Council of India Act to make its directions to the newspapers binding.This issue has been hanging fire for long and should be taken up by the government on a priority basis, it said.

The report recommended that the electronic media be brought under the Council's purview.

The Press Council of India should also be reconstituted to include representatives from electronic and other media houses,the report said.

Self-regulation is the best option, it said adding, however, that "self-regulation only offers partial solutions to the problem since there would always be offenders who would refuse to abide by voluntary codes of conduct and ethical norms that are not legally mandated".

It suggested that efforts should be made to educate the voters and differentiate between the doctored reporting and balanced and just reporting.

Dr. S.Y. Quraishi Assumes Charge as New CEC

Dr. S.Y. Quraishi assumed the charge as the 17th Chief Election Commissioner of India. He will be succeeding Shri Navin B. Chawla. Quraishi said that he will take over the office wioth a sense of deep honour and pride. Enhancing voter-ship and bringing down the role of money power, he said, is a big problem facing Indian democracy, says a press release of Press Information Bureau.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy.


The following is the text of the statement by Dr. Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, Chief Election Commissioner:-

“I take over this office with a sense of deep honour and pride. Election Commission is one of the most valuable gifts of the Indian Constitution to the people. I had the opportunity of serving this august institution with equal pride as Election Commissioner for the last four years. While the framers of the Constitution insulated the Election Commission from all possible pressures, its the judiciary that has zealously guarded the independence of the Commission against any assault. The Supreme Court has ensured that this Commission only grows stronger.

In our multi-member Commission that has the principle of equality as its hallmark, any transition is marked by continuity. This has also contributed to the impartiality and absolute neutrality of the Commission at all times.

In great institutions, priorities do not change overnight; they do not change radically either. Our basics are perennial. We would continuously strive to deliver free and fair election wherever and whenever required. At the same time, despite the strength of the Commission’s heritage, our systems are continuously evolving. We not only deal with issues as we confront them, we try to anticipate several of them.

Enhancing Voters Participation and restricting the role of money power in elections are among the emerging challenges. These will receive due priority. We are already working systematically to achieve a perfect electoral roll at the earliest.

We plan to institutionalize electoral training and exchange of experience at an international scale and quality. This would be backed by documentation of innovative electoral practices in order to strengthen election management not only in India but also across the world.

I am encouraged by the fact that some of the overdue electoral reforms have started receiving attention of the Government and the Parliament. I have hope that other important reforms would find acceptance at an early date.

Elections in India are known not only for their scale, but also for their credibility. I realise the responsibility that the Election Commission carries towards keeping India’s democracy firmly on the rails. I have abiding faith that the Commission will continue to deliver on its mandate, in the face of all challenges old and new, as it has always done in the past. Election Commission of India is an institution in which the nation places a great trust. It would be my utmost endeavour to prove myself worthy of this trust. Let me use this occasion to seek the support of all stakeholders, especially the people of India in the discharge of my sacred duties”.

Parliament disrupted for the third day in row

The Parliament was disrupted for the third day in a row with a determined Opposition demanding a discussion on price rise under Rule 184 that entails voting. Sharad Yadav appealed that the opposition should be heard, and the Government didn't comply, reports The Hindu.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy.

Proceedings in both Houses of Parliament were disrupted for the third day on Thursday with a determined Opposition demanding a discussion on price rise under Rule 184 that entails voting.

However, the statutory resolution granting approval for imposition of President's rule in Jharkhand was passed without debate.

Raising the demand in the Lok Sabha for a discussion under Rule 184 after the demand for an adjournment motion was rejected by Speaker Meira Kumar on Wednesday, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the Opposition was “hurt and disappointed” by her ruling, and hence sought a discussion under Rule 184 — as suggested by her — which should be taken up after doing away with question hour. “The matter should be taken up immediately so that the House functions normally,” Ms. Swaraj said.

Sharad Yadav's plea

Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav also appealed to the Speaker to ensure that the Opposition was heard, as the government had refused to do so. The Opposition sought a discussion under the new rule after deliberating on the issue overnight. “Even the people were pained at your decision, but we have accepted it, and now demand that the discussion be taken up.” Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh drew the Speaker's attention to the fact that this was the first time the entire Opposition had come together on one issue. “If the House is not functioning, it is because of the government and not us.”

Ms. Kumar said the notices she received for discussion under Rule 184 were being examined, and would have to be sent to the Business Advisory Committee for approval.

Intervening, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the government was not shying away from discussing any issue, but notices under Rule 193 (not entailing voting) received earlier would be taken up first.

His remarks evoked a sharp reaction from the Opposition members, who trooped into the well. The House was adjourned soon after.

The scene was no better when the House re-assembled at noon. The Opposition members, including those of the SP and the BSP, stormed into the well. But the Speaker went ahead with the laying of papers and even getting approval for the proclamation that put Jharkhand under President's rule under Article 356 (1) on June 1.

In the Rajya Sabha too, the Opposition members made the same demand, leading to two adjournments. It was adjourned for the day at noon after papers were tabled and approval was granted for President's rule in Jharkhand. Again, without any discussion.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Non-voting should be an embarrassment, says new CEC, S Y Quraishi

CE designate SY Quraishi said that non voting should be an embarrassment.He said that the health of the electoral roll shows the health of democracy. quraishi wants the work of issuing photo-ID cards to be expedited. Pappu campaign in Delhi worked well, he said.

This article titled "Non-voting should be an embarrassment, says new CEC, S Y Qureshi" was published in The Times of India on July 29th 2010.

After four years in the Election Commission, CEC-designate SY Quraishi has a clear idea of the priorities and concerns that he would like to address over the next two years.

Notwithstanding repeated attempts by various political parties and some civil society groups, Quraishi swears by Electronic Voting Machines and sees no reason why they should be done away with. But he is open to evolving additional checks to reduce chances of their abuse. He is also happy with the effectiveness of the model code of conduct and would not like it to be codified.

Quraishi is happy with the electoral reforms carried out by the government but would like that the others are also dealt with. He also thanks the Supreme Court for guarding neutrality of EC and insulating it from political pressure.

"I have no new wheel to invent," Quraishi said, speaking to TOI, a day after the formal announcement of his appointment as CEC. What tops is his list is voter education, something that he has been closely involved with in the EC for the past two years. He even got a separate division that works for larger participation of people. "I often say that the health of the electoral roll shows the health of democracy. If feasible, I would like to see the day when a citizen's charter is prepared which says that if any citizen is missing from the electoral roll we should fine ourselves Rs 100 a day for not putting someone on it," he says.

In the next few months, he plans a national consultation on voter participation.

Quraishi would also like to see that the work of issuing photo-ID cards is expedited. "There is no other service in the country that comes to your doorstep," he says.

The CEC-designate is also passionate about working to improve the voter turnout in urban areas. His intervention in Delhi and Jharkhand saw significant increase in the turnout. "People who do not vote are the biggest critics. While scheduling an election in a big city we have to see that it is not on a Monday, otherwise people take it as an extended weekend," he says.

Thankfully, he says, the `Pappu' campaign in Delhi worked well. Also, roping in cricket captain MS Dhoni in Jharkhand saw increase in voting from 51% to 58%. "We want to see that non-voting, instead of a fashion statement, becomes a source of embarrassment," he says.

The expenditure by candidates during elections is another headache and Quraishi wants to set up an expenditure monitoring division that will be manned by Indian Revenue Service officers. "We will staff it properly and give it more teeth," he says.

Another issue he is concerned about is paid news which, he says, is detrimental to democracy. "The phenomenon is not limited to elections. But we would like to appeal to media houses to be more vigilant," he says.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quraishi appointed new CEC

S Y Quraishi was appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner, succeeding Navin Chawla. Quraishi will conduct assembly elections in Bihar this year. Quraishi is a 1971-batch IAS officer. He said that Indian elections are known for its scale and credibility reports The Times of India.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy.


S Y Quraishi, Election Commissioner, was on Tuesday appointed the new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) in the place of Navin Chawla, who demits office on Thursday.

Quraishi, a thoroughbred civil servant, will conduct assembly elections in Bihar later this year and in a bunch of states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam next summer.

"I feel deeply honoured on being entrusted with this assignment. Election Commission of India is an institution in which the nation places a great trust. It would be my utmost endeavour to prove myself worthy of this trust," Quraishi told PTI reacting to his appointment.

A 1971-batch IAS officer, Quraishi entered the Commission in June 2006 after 35 years in the civil service in both the Centre and state levels. Prior to joining the Commission, he was Secretary in the Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry at the Centre.

He had held several key positions in the government and made special contribution in the area of social sector reforms covering health, education, population, drug abuse and civil society action.

Quraishi said during the last four years as Election Commissioner, he was proud to be part of one of the august institutions that the framers of the Constitution have gifted to the country while insulating it from all possible pressures.

"The judiciary, especially the Supreme Court also has zealously guarded the Election Commission against any assault on its autonomy and independence and ensured that it grows from strength to strength.

He said elections in India were known not only for their scale, but also for their credibility.

"I realise the responsibility that the Election Commission carries towards keeping India's democracy firmly on the rails. I have abiding faith that the Commission will continue to deliver on its mandate, in the face of all challenges old and new, as it has always done in the past," he added.

HC disqualifies Kerala Cong MP on caste claim

Congress MP Kodikunnil Suresh was declared not eligible to contest as an MP by the Kerala High Court.His school record showed that he belongs to an OBC community, Cheramar Christian. Suresh was unable to justify his case. Many of the documents he produced were contradictory, reports The Indian Express.

The Kerala High Court on Monday declared null and void the election of Congress MP Kodikunnil Suresh from Mavelikkara Scheduled Caste constituency on the ground that he was not eligible to contest as an SC.

Justice Sasidharan Nambair was disposing the petitions filed by Suresh’s main rival candidate, R S Anil of the CPI, and two others. In the 190-page judgment, Justice Nambair said that the five-time MP had no right to contest from the SC constituency as the documents submitted by him to prove his caste were contradictory in nature.

The court observed that “he was not a trustworthy witness,” who claimed to be a Cheramar Hindu, an SC community in Kerala, but his school records showed that he was a Cheramar Christian, an OBC community.

The petitioners had said that Suresh was born to Cheramar Christian parents and his father’s name was Joseph. After completing his 10th standard education in 1978, he got converted into Hinduism. The petitioner had produced a certificate from the Kerala Hindu Mission, Thiruvananthapuram, to attest the respondent’s shudhi ceremony held at the age of 15. The petitioner contended that just because a Cheramar Christian got converted into Hinduism did not mean that by default he had became a Cheramar Hindu.

Suresh could not produce any convincing evidence to prove that he should be treated as an SC. Besides, he was converted as a Hindu while he was minor. Although his mother was the legal guardian, it was his brother who took Suresh for conversion. There was no evidence to show that he had embraced Hinduism even after becoming an adult.

The court found that many of the documents presented by the respondent were contradictory. While his father’s name was Joseph, the Congress leader had given the same as ‘Kunjan’ in the nomination papers.

A certificate from Nedumangadu Tahasildar said Suresh was a Cheramar Hindu, while another from Kottarakkara Tahsildar said he belonged to the Hindu Pulaya community.

Suresh had been a Lok Sabha member in 1989, 91, 96 and 99. He was defeated in 1998 and 2004.

The petitioner’s advocate, S Jayasankar, said the Congress MP was exposed with the help of the Right to Information Act. After the last elections, which he won, Suresh’s rivals could not move the court for want of documentary evidences to show that an OBC Christian was ‘masquerading’ as an SC Hindu. This is also the success of the RTI, he said.

Monday, July 26, 2010

We're All (Still) Socialists in India

Though Indian politicians talk a lot about reform, they are good at spending tax payers money, mostly because they are socialists. Every political party in India should swear allegiance to socialism, according to the 42nd amendment to constitution.There are around 50 parties represented in the parliament, but people of India do not have much of a choice as there is no liberal political party. The petition filed by Sanjiv Agarwal is a case in point. The petition was withdrawn on the grounds that no political part has opposed the insertion of the word 'Socialism".Political parties should take up this cause, writes Barun Mitra in The wall Street Journal.

India's politicians love to talk about "reform," but if the recent past is any indication, most of them like spending money more. There's the $22 billion annual bill for food and fertilizer subsidies; the billions spent every year on the rural employment guarantee scheme; plentiful government-subsidized loans; and on, and on. The lack of debate over the virtues of these wasteful policies is striking in the world's most vibrant democracy. A big reason is because all Indian politicians are—officially—socialists.

That's not a typo. During the height of Indira Gandhi's Emergency Rule in 1976, policy makers passed the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution, which added the words "socialist" and "secular" to the preamble. Then in 1989, the Representation of People Act, the law which governs elections and political parties, was amended to make it mandatory for all political parties seeking registration with the Election Commission to affirm not only the general constitution but also socialism. Since then all political parties have sworn to socialism without any hesitation, without bothering to define what it means.

These are more than just semantics. Political parties are plentiful in India, with around 50 parties represented in the national parliament, and hundreds of parties operating at state and local levels. Yet, the political ideals on offer are very limited, and there are no avowedly liberal political parties. The "socialist" pledge, as it turns out, has created a serious legal anomaly and a damaging precedent.

Look no further than the recent case of Sanjiv Agarwal, the head of the Good Governance India Foundation in Calcutta. In 2007, Mr. Agarwal, whose nongovernment organization fights for property rights and the rule of law, filed a public-interest petition to the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the 42nd Amendment and the relevant section of the Representation of People Act. The petition argued both provisions violated the basic premise of democracy and political freedom enshrined in the Constitution.

Two years later, the Election Commission filed a response and acknowledged that the 1989 law required all parties to affirm their loyalty to socialism. In other words, although the word "socialism" was included in the Constitution through the political and constitutional process, it cannot be opposed and removed by the very same process. The Government of India did not file a reply.

When the petition was first heard by the Supreme Court in January 2008, Mr. Agarwal's lawyer pointed out that the anomaly in the election law had been questioned in 1995 by the Swatantra Party Maharashtra, a small political party located in Maharashtra State. Unfortunately the Mumbai High Court still has not heard the petition—even though 15 years have passed since its filing.

Mr. Agarwal couldn't legally substantiate the details of the old case, and the judges on the bench observed that while it was a valid point, it was also an "academic" one, since no political party in the country had actually opposed it. So the petition was withdrawn on July 12.

The fight isn't over, however. The Supreme Court did not reject the petition outright. Instead, the three-judge bench implied the court would prefer to deal with it when a political party actually is aggrieved, or refused registration because of its refusal to affirm socialist beliefs. The Court's statement also implies there is merit in Mr. Agarwal's arguments.

As it should: India's founders debated the question of socialism at length in 1949. The chairman of the constitutional drafting committee, B.R. Ambedkar, said: "What should be the policy of the state, how society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether."

Fixing India's foray into socialism will take time. None of the serious political parties engaged in the electoral fray in the past 20 years has objected to the socialism clause, including nominally conservative parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena. All see great political benefits from large public-spending programs that cement political patronage, even if those policies ultimately create more dependence, higher unemployment and lower future economic growth.

Yet India is changing slowly but surely since the "big bang" economic reform of the early 1990s. Today, the economy is poised to enter into a 10% annual GDP growth phase. Foreign multinationals have purchased two of the biggest Indian pharmaceutical companies at record prices, and rather than raising fear, many Indians feel proud that Indian assets could fetch such high values in the global marketplace. The recent auction of third-generation telecommunication spectrum raised a phenomenal $20 billion.

All political parties need to take up this cause. If the political space is legitimately opened up, then the political agenda would have to change too—and then the electorate may inevitably follow. India's free-market liberals then might find their rightful place in the political mosaic of the country. Just as India's diversity has sustained her democracy, political diversity will only strengthen the foundation of the republic.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Keeping up the acts

The Monsoon session of the parliament will be held from July26th to August 27th. The Government failed to meet its legislative targets in the last sessions. The UPA Government intended to introduce several bills, including the ones on Judicial accountability, four bills on university education, women's reservation and biotechnology regulator.UPA failed to fully utilize these sessions, writes MR Madhavan in The Indian Express.


"The monsoon session of Parliament will be held from July 26 to August 27. The UPA government has not been able to meet its legislative targets in the last couple of sessions. The government had planned to pass 27 bills and introduce 64 bills in the budget session; it managed only to pass six and to introduce 28 bills."

"A few months after the UPA government was formed, the law minister stated his intention to introduce the Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill. During the last year, issues related to the appointment and conduct of judges have cropped up. "

"If this committee submits the report soon and finds cause for removal of the judge, we may witness the rare case of the removal motion being debated in Parliament. "

"The education minister had introduced four bills related to university education, which addressed the entry of foreign universities, prohibition of capitation fees, establishment of education tribunals and setting up a system of agencies that would provide quality ratings to all courses and institutions. These bills are being examined by the standing committee. Other possible bills include those recognising new IITs, IISERs, and recasting the Distance Education Council. The ministry has also planned a new law that combines into a new regulator the regulatory powers of bodies such as UGC, AICTE, and the Bar Council."

"The trajectory of the Women’s Reservation Bill is difficult to guess. The nuclear liability bill is being examined by the standing committee, which is scheduled to submit its report on the second day of the session. If the committee submits the report in time — reports indicate otherwise — the bill may be taken up for discussion. It would be interesting to see the committee’s recommendations on the contentious issues."

" the last session, the government had planned to introduce the Biotechnology Regulator Bill. Given the fracas over permitting Bt brinjal, it is important to institutionalise mechanisms for permitting and regulating biotechnology including genetically modified organisms."

"Three ordinances have been issued since the last session, and these need to be ratified. The first ordinance replaces the Medical Council of India with a board of directors for one year. This step followed the arrest of the MCI president on corruption charges. The second ordinance followed the row between SEBI and IRDA over the regulation of unit linked insurance products. A new mechanism has been set up to resolve inter-regulator issues. The third ordinance declares that any enemy property will remain with the custodian even if the status of the original owner changes or the legal heir is an Indian citizen."

Every Parliament session is an opportunity for the government to further its legislative agenda. The UPA has not fully utilised earlier sessions. We hope this session is used fruitfully by both treasury and opposition members to fulfil their parliamentary responsibilities.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Supreme Injustice!

The judges of the Indian Supreme court felt that the insertion of socialism in the constitution, though important is only an academic issue,and the petition challenging it, should be withdrawn. Only socialist parties can be registered with India's Election Commission.The Swatantra party of S V Raju failed to swear by Socialism they had no option but to take the issue to the court, writes Manuwant Choudhary in Indiavikalp.

India’s Supreme Court falters once again….this time on a petition challenging the oath of allegiance by political parties to the word `socialism’…recently the petition had to be withdrawn as the judges felt that while it was an important issue it was only of `academic’ interest presently and that they would hear the case as and when the time came.

In effect what this means is that the world’s largest democracy is not a democracy…since only socialist political parties can be registered with India’s Election Commission and hence only they can contest elections. A liberal cannot have a political party.

The petition was filed by Good Governance Foundation India and individually by Mr. Sanjiv Agarwal and their lawyer was constitutional expert Fali Nariman.

So I called up Mr. Sanjiv Agarwal to find out his understanding of the Supreme Court view and he said, “There are two aspects. One is that our case was not thrown out at the first instance and we were heard. The Supreme Court also recognized that the issue we were raising was an important one but that it was only of `academic’ interest right now. I am happy with this part of the view but the Supreme Court goes on to say that we will hear it when the time comes. God forbid but I fear that when the time comes it may be too late…a despot will do what he wants in such a scenario…”

There are again two interpretations to this court view …one is that the judges want liberals to first form a political party and seek registration and when they are denied registration they can come back to it and file a fresh appeal. The second part is more serious in that the present view means that citizens and NGOs who file public interest petitions have no bona-fide to do so vis-à-vis democracy and that only a political party who has been denied registration has a cause of action.

This latter view worries me ….but Mr. Agarwal says, “Its one interpretation but who can question the highest court in the land? The Supreme Court in India is not as great as western courts but its still better than Africa or many Asian courts. Although I do not agree with their view that a citizen cannot question the preamble.”

Mr. Agarwal has challenged both the 42nd and 44th amendments to India’s constitution. “By introducing the word socialism to the constitution and then by quietly removing private property from a citizens fundamental rights our politicians have destroyed the very constitution we gave ourselves at independence. You see whats happening in Bengal it is the small farmers who are suffering because their land is being taken over by the State and given to private industry.”

He said, “At least I have succeeded in raising the issue.”

My own association with this campaign goes longer…as a student at St. Paul’s School Darjeeling I came across an interview of Mr. Minoo Masani in Imprint magazine. A photograph of Mr. Masani sitting on Marine Drive looking at the sea and a para saying…`I have always swum against the tide…’ caught my attention. I said to myself if I ever go to Bombay I would like to meet this man…

Living away from the heat and dust of the plains amidst the majestic Himalayas with the sun rise and sunset over Kanchenjunga one would normally forget the mess India was in…but coming from backward Bihar I always felt education is worthless if one cannot bring about any change.

So while most of my colleagues aimed to go to America I had a different dream…my dream was to find a link to India’s its greatness…to Mahatma Gandhi.

Chance took me to Bombay and as a student of history at St. Xavier’s College I was assigned a history project. I picked up a telephone directory and searched for Mr. Minoo Masani, found a number and called. The voice at the other end said, “Yes, this is Masani speaking”. I introduced myself and asked for an appointment as I wanted to interview him.

Mr. Masani, “Whats the issue?”

I replied, “Economic Policies of Jawahar Lal Nehru.”

Mr. Masani, “Disastrous. Come and see me tomorrow at 10 a.m..”

I recall three of going to the Army & Navy Building 15 minutes before 10 and Mr. Masani spoke extempore for more than an hour and it was an education that one cannot get at India’s best educational institutions.

My association with liberals begins and my years in Bombay working with a youth association and then accidently walking up a rickety stairs at Kala Ghoda and discovering a Swatantra Party office…

Its only later that I met Mr.S.V. Raju and 15 years ago when Mr. Raju and others tried to register the Swatantra Party Maharashtra they were faced with a roadblock…they were asked to swear by socialism and which Mr. Raju rightly refused. So going to court was the only option which the party did.

I remember in those early days calling oneself a liberal was not yet fashionable and in fact there were very few liberal NGOs although we believed that India’s people are by and large liberal and if a credible liberal party is offered to the Indian people..Indians would vote for it.

But as things stand the Bombay High Court has not heard the case even once in 15 years! The Swatantra Party lawyer is now a judge of the Bombay High Court!

Another brave attempt was made by the veteran Shetkari Sangathana leader Mr. Sharad Joshi who appealed to Mr.T.N. Seshan, the then Election Commissioner of India, to at least give him a common symbol to contest but Mr. Seshan refused and said he would only get that if he swore allegiance to a socialist constitution.

Mr. Joshi refused and fielded some 180 or more candidates all contesting as independents with different symbols. Two won the elections.

Mr. Joshi is now a Rajya Sabha member and he has placed a private member bill challenging this very clause that makes it mandatory for political parties to swear by the socialist constitution.

This Supreme Court view in effect means, `Where is the party?"

For the past five years I have been speaking to liberals individually to form a party but the response has been poor. There are many many more liberals in India today than there were 15 years ago..most run successful NGOs...but at best they are competitive and at worst self-centred ..happy to run NGOs instead of running India. Liberals lack unity.

If India fails I would blame us liberals.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

67 Bihar opposition MLAs suspended, slipper flung at speaker

67 MLA's in Bihar were suspended for unruly behaviour. Even a slipper was flung at the speaker. A woman member, Jyoti Kumari threw flower pots around.Several RJD MLA's were
marshalled out of the Assembly, reports DNA.

Sixty seven opposition MLAs in Bihar were suspended for unruly behaviour and marshalled out as utter chaos prevailed inside and outside the Assembly today during which a slipper was flung at the speaker and a woman member threw several flower pots around.

The slogan-shouting members who included 42 RJD MLAs were suspended by Assembly speaker Udai Narain Choudhry for the rest of the monsoon session with both the Assembly and the legislative council in the poll-bound state witnessing turmoil for the second straight day. They were marshalled out one by one by the watch and ward staff.

More drama prevailed outside the legislative council when a suspended Congress MLC Jyoti Kumari animatedly threw flower pots and created a ruckus when the watch and ward staff tried to prevent her from entering the house. A hysterical Kumari was dragged a few feet by three women watch and ward staff from the council premises.

The scene inside was no better when RJD MLC Sanjay Prasad removed a microphone and hurled it triggering angry responses from the treasury benches.

RJD MLA RC Paswan, who was marshalled out of the Assembly, reportedly fainted at the gate of the house. He was taken in an ambulance to a government hospital.

The suspension of the MLAs came shortly after around 80 opposition members taking a cue from their opposition counterparts in Karnataka spent the night in the well of the two houses of the state legislature.

The opposition who are on a dharna is demanding the resignation of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar over a CAG report which alleged financial irregularities in the state.

As the watch and ward staff lifted RJD MLA Bablu Dev, his colleagues rushed to his rescue. In the melee, a slipper was thrown towards the speaker's podium. It was not immediately known who had flung the footwear which, however, did not hit the speaker.

State RJD president Abdul Bari Siddiqui and RJD deputy leader in the Assembly Shakeel Ahmed Khan were among those suspended.

Besides the 42 RJD MLAs who were suspended from the Assembly, the other members who faced action included 11 from LJP.

Opposition members yesterday overturned desks and chairs, broke microphones and virtually came to blows with ruling BJP-JD(U) alliance MLAs on the floor of the houses.

Today's action against the MLAs came after they disobeyed the directive of the Speaker to let the House function.

A resolution for the suspension of the MLAs was brought in the House by state parliamentary affairs in-charge Brijendra Prasad Yadav, which was passed by voice vote amid protests by opposition members.

Later, the speaker ordered that all MLAs protesting in the well of the House be marshalled out of the House.

The opposition MLAs and MLCs said they would continue their dharna in both the Houses till their demand is met.

"We will not lift the agitation till this corrupt government resigns", RJD deputy leader in the Assembly Shakeel Ahmad Khan told PTI.

Council chairman TK Jha had yesterday suspended 14 opposition MLCs for the day. following unruly scenes in the House.

Monday, July 19, 2010

We, of the Preamble

No one objects to socialism if it is about equity concerns. But, it makes sense to oppose it if it means public ownership of means of production. State and the public are not synonymous. Amending the constituion makes sense in certain circumstances, but not always. The insertion of the worsd Socialist is not an acasdemic question. Sharasd Joshi refused to register his political party as of the clause, writes Bibek Debroy in The Indian Express.


"If socialism is about equity concerns, no one will object, though there can be debates about whether that equity should be on inputs (access to health, education, credit and so on) or outcomes (incomes). But if socialism is interpreted as public ownership of means of production, as it often is, there is every reason to object. Economists typically classify means of production as land (natural resources is a broader concept), labour, capital and entrepreneurship. While there is no reason to equate public ownership with state ownership, de facto, that equation is the norm. Both theoretically and empirically, public ownership of means of production like land, labour and capital is inefficient, especially if combined with monopoly. And no one has yet figured out how the state can be entrepreneurial. "

"Today’s Constitution is not the one we inherited in 1950. The Constitution is a living document, there is no reason for it to be cast in stone. There is a process for amending the Constitution. But that doesn’t necessarily mean every amendment to the Constitution has been desirable. "

"The Preamble to the Constitution now makes India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. That wasn’t the original Preamble. Socialist and secular were added through the 42nd Amendment in 1976. Let’s focus on the socialist part. First, every constitutional expert says since 1973 (Kesavananda Bharati case) the basic structure can’t be changed. But isn’t this a change in basic structure? Second, one might argue the Preamble isn’t really law, it isn’t enforceable in a court. Therefore, it doesn’t change the basic structure. However, that’s only half true. In that same case (Kesavananda Bharati), the Supreme Court held the Preamble is important in interpreting law. Third, if the Preamble was unimportant, what was the need to amend it? There are several other provisions in the Constitution (including Directive Principles) to drive goals of equity. "

"Fourth, it is not that framers of the Constitution were unfamiliar with the concept of “socialism”. It was consciously kept out, for very cogent reasons. In Constituent Assembly debates, Dr Ambedkar was prescient in opposing such an amendment (to the draft)"

"Fifth, from late-’60s to mid-’70s, several undesirable changes were introduced in economic policy and laws. The 42nd Amendment is part of that. If we are changing other elements, why not the Preamble?"

"But for the Preamble, we wouldn’t have had Section 29-A of Representation of the People Act, 1951, inserted in 1989, specifically Clause (5), requiring the political party to abide by “principles of socialism”. This would have been understandable in 1976. In 1989, the year in which the Berlin Wall collapsed (effectively, so did the Soviet system), this socialism bit in Clause (5) probably got inserted without a great deal of thought, because of the other elements of Section 29-A. Hence, a political party has to be “socialist” for it to be registered."

"The NGO Good Governance Foundation rightly challenged this — that is, challenged both amended Preamble and Section 29-A(5). In 2008, the Supreme Court ducked. It allowed the challenge to Section 29-A(5), but not the Preamble. Now, on the challenge to Section 29-A(5), the Supreme Court has ducked again, calling the issue “academic and hypothetical”. Why is it academic and hypothetical? Because no registered political party has refused to swear allegiance to socialism? And because the Election Commission (EC) hasn’t so far refused registration to a proposed political party on grounds of non-adherence to socialism. Let that situation crop up, and then we (the Supreme Court) shall see. "

"Sharad Joshi (Shetkari Sangathana) once told me he refused to register a proper political party because of this offensive clause. Therefore, we do have a problem."


End To Regression

India is experiencing a sudden mushrooming of self-styled keepers of public morality and traditions. They usually target the weaker sections of the society.The Government ignores such atrocities and anti-democratic procedures. Semu Bhatt writes on the atrocious diktats of traditional torch bearers – Khap Panchayats – in the latest issue of SouthAsia Magazine.


"Khap is a geographical entity comprising a cluster of villages, prevalent in parts of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Khap Panchayat – a distinct entity from the Gram Panchayat (elected village council) – is an age-old caste council for upholding caste norms. While these Panchayats do play a role in settling the community disputes, they are more known, rather feared, for forceful imposition of their diktats in the name of preserving community honor and traditions. The Khaps are synonymous to rich Jat landowners, who use these bodies as instruments to perpetuate their hold on land, women and customs. People from the marginalized sections and women have no place in the Khap bodies. It is no coincidence then that most of the Khap atrocities are committed against the weaker sex and sections of the society. "

"Sa-gotra marriages, intra-village marriages, marriages in bordering villages, or those where one’s village enjoys relation of brotherhood – are all prohibited as incestuous. Inter-caste marriages are also a taboo to maintain caste purities. The couples who violate these norms are forced to annul their marriage and accept the spouse as a sibling. Those who do not comply are expelled from the village, their families are publicly humiliated, heavily fined and economically and socially ostracized. In many instances, Khap Panchayats even order rapes and executions."

"The state establishment and police ignore such criminal diktats and undemocratic ways of functioning, as Khaps represent the collective strength of nearly 30% of the electorate. The promptness with which prominent politicians from across the spectrum jumped in to take up the case of sa-gotra marriage ban, shows their readiness to appease communities for votes, even if such communities are regressive and act contrary to the laws and ethos of our nation."
"The real reason behind the recent surge in Khap activities is to arrest the decline in their power and relevance, and to prove that they can still flex political muscle. This massive consolidation of Khap Panchayats is to reassert their authority as the torch-bearers of the Jat customs – a position that is being challenged in the current socio-economic scenario by educated youth and political ascension of Dalits and women in gram panchayats thanks to reservations. The neofeudal, patriarchal mindset of the Khap leaders makes it impossible for them to accept Dalits and women as having any rights or standing, let alone being their equals or superiors. Khap Panchayats have always been severe on Dalits and have meted out barbaric punishments – including lynching, public gang rape and naked parading of women, burning of their houses, etc. – in cases where they were found to have violated the Khap norms."

"Agreed that it is imperative that the State respects the traditions of various communities – and the Indian Constitution and laws do have extensive provisions to take care of the heterogeneity of Indian cultures and customs – but no traditional institute has the right to assume extra-Constitutional powers and defy the rule of law. "

"Even the Naxalites, who see things mainly from economics purview, agree that caste inequalities have caused massive subjugation and injustice to the ribals, Dalits and deprived of the nation – many of whom now are Naxalite cadres or supporters. For these socially discriminated classes of people, Naxalism brings hope – which government fails to, and also a shred of dignity – which is otherwise denied to them by the upper castes and classes. No wonder, India is finding it hard to quell this menace that has spread to 40% of India’s geographical area; after all, there is no dearth of oppressed poor in this vast country."

"India is witnessing a lot of political mobilization on the basis of limited identity. There has been a sudden mushrooming of self-styled keepers of public morality and traditions in India. They tell what to wear, watch, celebrate; what language to communicate and do business in; where to live; whom to marry. In a time and age where multiculturalism is under tremendous strain worldwide, a heterogeneous country like India can ill afford to let such divisive politics and narrow chauvinism erode the composite social, religious and cultural fabric of the nation. Good governance, inclusive development and democracy and effective rule of law are required to win back the confidence of the people in the Indian national identity. In the past, India has successfully withstood many challenges to her pluralistic ideals. It is time to extend this inclusive ethos of the nation beyond the constitutional realm and into social, political and economic spheres with full effect, if India is to become a truly glorious example of “unity in diversity” to the whole world."

Friday, July 16, 2010

A democracy can’t have a fixed ideology

Sanjiv Agarwal's article titled "A democracy can’t have a fixed ideology" was published in The Economic Times on 16th July 2010.


The largest multi-party democracy in the world cannot have a fixed ideology of the state. That is the view taken by founding fathers of the Indian Constitution. There were debates in the constituent assembly on whether the word ‘socialist’ should be included in the preamble.


Our founding fathers were great social democrats. They could not bind future generations to one ideology even if it was their own. What went wrong then? What was the need to put the socialist tag on India by later politicians? The question is open. How does it matter? Well, it does, because it is about our Constitution. We may become an Orwellian Animal Farm if we don’t care about it. The 42nd amendment provision that inserted the word socialist in the Preamble of the Constitution in 1976 was challenged in the Supreme Court. The court ruled that though it was an important question, it would be looked into as and when the situation demanded.

As the situation stands today, talking against socialism could be high treason and it takes only a despotic ruler to do the rest. History is proof of that. The present situation is that every political party in India swears by socialism before being allowed to register. That takes away space for ideas and opinions. Worst of all, it legitimises curbs on essential freedoms. For example, the fundamental right to property was eliminated in the 44th amendment of 1978. No one noticed because we were already a socialist country! The safety belt that saved us from being taken over by the state was lost. That is why it should matter.