My paper on parliamentary oversight in India

My paper proposing a framework for Parliamentary Oversight in India has been published in the NUJS Law Review (link). A brief description of the paper: "The need for a strong monitoring mechanism of the Executive in India has been made clearer by recent allegations of corruption against high-ranking officials of the central government. The Indian Parliament... Continue Reading →

Putting Carts Before Horses. And How?

This post was first published by on April 8, 2014. Imagine, living in India with a Parliament that makes laws, an executive that implements these laws and a court system that interprets these laws. Now, imagine Parliament making the following law: Right to regulate all Economic Activities Completely Act, 2014 Section 1. This Act... Continue Reading →

Constituency-wise Manifestoes, their regulation and consequences

1 Introduction Today's Mint carries an article on how political parties have increasingly moved to a system of "localised" manifestoes for the 2014 general election. This is a significant trend that began with Aam Aadmi Party's Delhi election campaign where it released local manifestoes for each assembly constituency (link). The BJP followed suit in Delhi, and according to... Continue Reading →

AAP Governance:The dangerous and regressive fight over Electricity pricing

1 Introduction The Aam Aadmi Party led Delhi Government has (link) slashed power tariffs in Delhi, and is in the midst of an ongoing tussle (link) with Reliance owned discom BSES over the supply of electricity in certain parts of Delhi. The AAP, even before taking the reins of the Delhi Government had long accused the Delhi discoms of overcharging... Continue Reading →

Fatal attraction: The State’s “public purpose” in Land Acquisition

This post was first published in The Broad Mind, on September 12, 2013.    Both houses of Parliament recently passed The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (“2013 Act”), repealing the century-old Land Acquisition Act, 1894. For years, the new law was touted as the panacea to the... Continue Reading →

RTI Amendment: Questioning the largesse of retrospective laws.

On June 3, 2013, a full bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC) passed an order declaring six political parties to be public authorities[i], and consequently bringing them under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI/ Act). Not unexpectedly, the Centre was quick to react. The UPA and the opposition were quicker... Continue Reading →

Transparency and Political Parties – Finding the Right Instrument

In a recent post, I had written on why I think bringing political parties under the Right to Information Act is a bad idea. Economic and Political Weekly recently published my article on the same topic, where I critique the judgement of the Central Information Commission in detail, and argue that transparency in incomes and... Continue Reading →

US v. Windsor: A Case for Same-Sex Marriages?

The US Supreme Court recently gave a landmark decision in US v. Windsor holding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1996 (DOMA), which defines “marriage” as excluding same-sex unions, unconstitutional. Here’s a quick summary of the judgment. The full 77-page judgment is available here. The decision also contains some lessons for the treatment... Continue Reading →

The narrative of judicial appointments

This post first appeared as an article on Bar and Bench on July 2, 2013, and can be accessed at their website here.  News reports have indicated the government’s plan to establish a judicial appointments commission (“JAC”) for the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges. If established, the body would not only mark a sharp change... Continue Reading →

Welcome to the surveillance state

Last week brought us explosive revelations from the The Guardian that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is conducting extensive surveillance on internet traffic patterns, email, and telecommunications. While perhaps not surprising, the news was shocking on at least three levels – (1) the program’s extensive reach, (2) its corporate participation from the likes of... Continue Reading →

Should political parties be subject to the Right to Information Act?

The Central Information Commission (CIC), on June 3, 2013, stated that political parties are "public authorities" under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Public authorities under the RTI Act are required to make pro active disclosures regarding their organization and its functioning. In addition, they have to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs). Members... Continue Reading →

Consumer protection or curb on right to speech and expression?

-writing from Harvard Law School   There have been recent news reports (though surprisingly few - here and here) on new government regulations that ostensibly seek to protect cell phone users from unwanted marketing calls, but may actually amount to restrictions on individual rights to free speech and expression. The telecom regulator TRAI introduced regulations... Continue Reading →

Who holds intelligence agencies accountable?

I have put up a blog post on my organisation's blog on the issue of Parliament's oversight of intelligence agencies such as RAW and IB.  In India, there is absolutely no scrutiny by our popularly elected Parliament of the intelligence agencies in the country.  The blog post "Parliamentary Oversight of Intelligence Agencies" cites examples from... Continue Reading →

India’s Constitution that Gandhi (never) wrote

India has developed a rich tradition of Parliamentary democracy over the past sixty years or so.  However, time and again we face major disruptions and challenges to the form of government that our founding fathers established.  It might therefore be worthwhile to examine whether there was any alternative form of democracy we could have adopted... Continue Reading →

Local Government IV: India’s municipal bodies

Municipal Corporations Municipal corporations are formed in large urban areas, and usually have one head appointed by the government who is the ‘Commissioner’.  The other head of the municipal corporation is the Mayor, who is elected either directly by the people, or indirectly from among the elected members of the municipal corporation.[i] Though the Mayor... Continue Reading →

Local Government III: States – Culprits or bystanders?

The Constitution gives the state governments the power to make laws on all matters relating to the local government, the composition and powers of municipal bodies, and other local bodies for the purpose of self-government.[i] All states therefore have legislations setting out in detail the powers and functions of municipal bodies, and other local bodies.... Continue Reading →

Local Government II: Central government and local bodies

The central government does not have a direct role to play in the functioning of municipal bodies.  It however releases funds to state governments annually for urban development.  These funds are released based on the recommendations of the Central Finance Commission’s report. The central government also has a role in municipal administration by promoting urban... Continue Reading →

How bodies such as the MCD, BMC, KMC function

India likes to tout the fact that its experiments with local self-government and decentralisation have worked wonders over the years.  Starting today, I will be putting out a series of posts on how precisely these Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) function. Part I: Background Since independence, the urban population of India has grown nearly five times. ... Continue Reading →

Govt. Preparing to influence media perception??

While doing some work-related research, I found an interesting sub-heading under the Ministry of Home Affairs' Action Plan document for October, 09 - March, 10.  Page 44 of this document (Under the sub-heading Naxal Management Division) mentions a heading called the "Media / Perception Management Plan".  The activities planned under it pertain mainly to inane... Continue Reading →

Update on reservation for Minorities: Ranganath Mishra Committee Report

The government has asked ministries for feedback on the implementation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission Reforms (Govt eliciting views of ministries on Ranganath Misra report).  The ministries have been asked to report whether there are 'insurmountable difficulties' in giving identified minorities adequate reservation.  I had posted a piece on the subject some time earlier.  Please read... Continue Reading →

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