Privacy, Aadhaar, Data Protection: Statist Liberalism and the Danger to Liberty

I have a new essay on the privacy discourse in India up at the LEAP Blog. I am reproducing the essay below:   Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from principle. – Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France Edmund Burke wrote these lines in a scathing critique of the demiseContinue reading “Privacy, Aadhaar, Data Protection: Statist Liberalism and the Danger to Liberty”

Capital controls against FDI in aviation: An example of bad governance in India

When the coercive power of the State is wielded by the executive, this should be accompanied by appropriate checks and balances. Good practice in regulatory governance requires that when regulators wish to make changes to regulations, and thus affect the rights of private parties, the regulators must furnish reasons for making those changes. This increases transparency, predictability, and accountability.

Sex Work and the Law: A Case for Nuanced Debate

The debate over legalization vs decriminalization of prostitution is in the public domain with reports that the National Commission for Women has recommended legalization to the Supreme Court appointed panel for rehabilitation of sex workers. The panel, formed in 2011 when the Supreme Court suo motu converted a criminal appeal relating to a murder of a sex worker intoContinue reading “Sex Work and the Law: A Case for Nuanced Debate”

Post on revising the regulatory framework for FDI and capital controls

I have a co-authored post on the reforming the FDI regulatory framework in India on Ajay Shah’s blog here. The post was published on April 21, 2014, and has been co-authored by me, Ajay Shah, and Arjun Rajagopal. The post is being reproduced below.    Capital controls against FDI in aviation: An example of bad governanceContinue reading “Post on revising the regulatory framework for FDI and capital controls”

Putting Carts Before Horses. And How?

This post was first published by Humorlessindianlawyer.blogspot.in 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 ActContinue reading “Putting Carts Before Horses. And How?”

Foreign direct investment in railways: Does national security matter?

This post has been written by Mr. Pratik Datta. Background Present Indian laws ’prohibit’ foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways (other than mass rapid transport system). Of late there has been growing expectation that the Indian Government might allow 100% FDI in construction and maintenance of railway projects (but not in operations). Suddenly the optimismContinue reading “Foreign direct investment in railways: Does national security matter?”

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 overchargingContinue reading “AAP Governance:The dangerous and regressive fight over Electricity pricing”

Interesting reads: Media, merit vs. communism, and elections 2013

Some good stuff to read this week: Vinod K. Jose in Caravan on the lack of a larger philosophical framework for the Indian media to operate within: “Habits of Mind” Nobel Laureate physicist Walter Kohn remembers one-time partner, Indian physicist Chanchal Kumar Majumdar in “A master and his protege“. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s engaging piece onContinue reading “Interesting reads: Media, merit vs. communism, and elections 2013”

Bangalore ATM Attack and police abdication

A woman bank manager was brutally attacked yesterday while inside an ATM in Bangalore yesterday. Apart from the gruesome attack on the lady, what has been bizarrely shocking has been the response of the police to the same. Facts: On Nov. 20, a woman, who is also a bank manager (not clear if she wasContinue reading “Bangalore ATM Attack and police abdication”

What entities are public authorities under the RTI Act?

The text below is from my brief titled “Who is a Public Authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005?” as published on the website of Accountability Initiative, published in September 2013. The brief can be accessed here.   The definition of ‘public authorities’ under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (“RTI Act”) has been anContinue reading “What entities are public authorities under the RTI Act?”

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

RTI Amendment: Legislative supremacy and judicial intervention

Bhargavi wrote a great piece yesterday on the tendency of legislatures to nullify judicial pronouncements by passing laws which overturn judgements/orders. She rightly pointed out this practice as a major issue which needs greater deliberation. There is however, one other issue which needs to be considered while thinking of possible solutions. This is the issueContinue reading “RTI Amendment: Legislative supremacy and judicial intervention”

The narrative of independent regulators

This post first appeared as an article on Bar and Bench on July 31, 2013. The original can be accessed here.   Those following important policy developments recently will notice numerous announcements proposing new “independent” regulators. Beginning with SEBI in the early 1990s, and TRAI in the late 90s, a number of independent regulators haveContinue reading “The narrative of independent regulators”

State Building in India II: Indian Constitution and new states

I had written this post in 2009 when Telengana first became a major political issue. I am re-posting it since major decisions about the creation of Telengana are underway. Minor edits and updates have been made and are provided in italics.  In my earlier post on the issue of Telengana’s statehood, I tried to provideContinue reading “State Building in India II: Indian Constitution and new states”

Ordinance Route

This article first appeared in Frontline on July 24, 2013, and can be accessed here.    In my article, I examine the true intent behind giving the executive the power to promulgate ordinances, and how the use of this power has been at complete variance from such original intent. The misuse of this power overContinue reading “Ordinance Route”

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 andContinue reading “Transparency and Political Parties – Finding the Right Instrument”

Dams and disasters in the Himalayas

This post was first published as an op-ed by Mint on July 9, 2013. The original article can be accessed here.    Relief operations in disaster-ravaged Uttarakhand have ended and the time seems ripe to take account of the institutional frailties that have contributed to the ongoing human disaster in the state. Chief minister VijayContinue reading “Dams and disasters in the Himalayas”

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 changeContinue reading “The narrative of judicial appointments”

Proposed CBI Reforms: Will the Central Bureau of Investigation remain a “caged parrot”?

The Central government recently set up a Group of Ministers to propose reforms and ensure the functional independence of the CBI. This came in the wake of the Supreme Court criticizing the government for its interference in the Coal blocks allocation scam. The Court had asked the government to “come out with a law toContinue reading “Proposed CBI Reforms: Will the Central Bureau of Investigation remain a “caged parrot”?”

Death at Kedarnath: Mule owners and their right to strike

Little noticed news reports in a couple of papers (here and here) indicate that the death of many pilgrims in Kedarnath may have been exacerbated by the actions of local mule owners and contractors for car parking lots in the days leading up to the heavy rains and clash floods. The local mule owners andContinue reading “Death at Kedarnath: Mule owners and their right to strike”

Defamation: who should you fear more- Big Govt. or Big Corporate

Unlike many other countries, India has both civil defamation (if you defame someone, you have to pay compensation), and criminal defamation (you defame someone, you go to jail). Most other countries have removed criminal defamation as a crime from their law books. The result is that in India, not only does a publisher face theContinue reading “Defamation: who should you fear more- Big Govt. or Big Corporate”

New uses of UID/Aadhaar operationalised

According to a NY Times blog post today, 3 different uses of UID numbers, or Aadhaar were operationalised recently: “Those in the Aadhaar system will now be able to identify themselves by using an eye scanner, which checks the unique patterns in their irises, and providing their ID number. Those with mobile phones can alsoContinue reading “New uses of UID/Aadhaar operationalised”

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 regulationsContinue reading “Consumer protection or curb on right to speech and expression?”

My article in Financial Express

I co-wrote an article for Financial Express along-with my colleague Mr. Madhukar.  The following in the text: The recent order of the ministry of environment and forests (MoE&F) rejecting the application for grant of forest clearance to the Orissa Mining Company (the Vedanta project) has raised a number of important questions. The order cited theContinue reading “My article in Financial Express”

Who files the most court cases in India?

One of the major concerns for those seeking to improve our democracy is improving “access to justice”.  Simply put, “access to justice” implies a number of things such as getting larger people to resolve disputes through courts, disposing of cases speedily, ensuring judges give quality time to every dispute, etc.  One of the problems inContinue reading “Who files the most court cases in India?”

Nuclear Bill – deciphering the “and” gesture

A number of newspapers have carried stories on the presence of a mysterious “and” in one of the provisions in the Nuclear Liability Bill.  I have put up a post on my office blog – Parliament’s Recommendations on the Nuclear Liability Bill – Why the “and”? The blog discusses the implications of what the insertionContinue reading “Nuclear Bill – deciphering the “and” gesture”

India’s intelligence Agencies – II

In yesterday’s post, I had mentioned in passing the lack of any law, legal framework or accountability with regard to intelligence agencies being a major issue.  I elaborate on the subject here. “Parliamentary approval of the creation, mandate and powers of security agencies is a necessary but not sufficient condition for upholding the rule ofContinue reading “India’s intelligence Agencies – II”

India’s intelligence agencies

India has a variety of intelligence agencies.  Though not in the same league as the USA which has hundreds of agencies, there were many I had never heard of until I made a concerted effort to check for them.  What is more disturbing is that none of these have been set up by any law.Continue reading “India’s intelligence agencies”

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 fromContinue reading “Who holds intelligence agencies accountable?”

Bhopal Gas Paper Leaks: Minutes of GoM meeting leaked

The minutes of the meeting of the government GoM constituted to look into the Bhopal Gas Claims and the recent Court judgement were put up on the website of The Hindu.  I had saved a copy of the minutes: Full_Text__Minutes__133855a.  Though there is nothing very sensational in the minutes, what it does reveal is that theContinue reading “Bhopal Gas Paper Leaks: Minutes of GoM meeting leaked”

Do strict laws really help when nobody enforces them?

In another move by the government to show its doing something about the pressing inequities in society, the Home Ministry has proposed framing stricter laws to rein in Khap Panchayats and their extra-constitutional activities.  The issue simply put, is: will stricter laws help in ensuring that the laws of the state are applicable to KhapContinue reading “Do strict laws really help when nobody enforces them?”

SLPs and Supreme Court: Honest activism causing delays in justice

The recent judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Mathai @ Joby v. George and Anr. ( highlights how (probably) well-meaning activism can in the larger scheme of things, cause greater harm to the system if not backed by well thought out systemic changes. The judgement concerned the frivolous filing of Special LeaveContinue reading “SLPs and Supreme Court: Honest activism causing delays in justice”

Spectrum Scam: Confidential transcripts summarised

Some official and confidential documents relating to the 2G-Spectrum allocation scam were put up by the Hindu on its website for a while yesterday.  A read through the 2gspectrumscam document reveals a disturbing network of politicians, businessmen, PR firms and journalists.  What follows is a small summary. The CBI is investigating a criminal case under the IndianContinue reading “Spectrum Scam: Confidential transcripts summarised”

CAT thinks RAW ‘secrecy’ is a joke!!

Nisha Priya Bhatia, a senior RAW officer had in 2008 filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment by A.K. Chaturvedi , was arrested, compulsorily retired, and put in a hospital for ‘medical illness’.  The Central Administrative Tribunal (‘CAT’) today ordered the central government to re-instate her with immediate effect. She had accused A K Chaturvedi, ofContinue reading “CAT thinks RAW ‘secrecy’ is a joke!!”

Size of the State

One of the points made repeatedly by those in different fields of policy-making is to invest enough to make the Indian state more capable of governing the country properly.  This debate also finds some co-relation in the continuous debate in the USA where Democrats make the case for a larger government which regulates greater areasContinue reading “Size of the State”

Bestseller III: Update on Bestseller spewing anti-Muslim Propaganda

I had written a couple of posts (Bestseller I and Bestseller II) on a High Court judgement banning a book spewing anti-muslim propaganda.  In today’s Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta discusses the judgement in a larger piece on religious freedom and freedom of expression: “…courts have been unduly squeamish about protecting free expression. This squeamishnessContinue reading “Bestseller III: Update on Bestseller spewing anti-Muslim Propaganda”

Should MPs have the job of developing their local area?

Since 1993, Members of Parliament have been given a certain amount of money they can use to recommend works of a developmental nature in their constituency.  The scheme is known as the MP Local Area Development Scheme, or MPLADS. This scheme has become the subject matter of a crucial debate recently. Initially, all MPs wereContinue reading “Should MPs have the job of developing their local area?”

How much does a Supreme Court judgement cost?

“What kind of impact do some judgements have on the finances of the government?”  In this post, I propose to look at this question using a judgement delivered in April 2009.  In the course of this post, I also argue that judges should refrain from delivering judgements which have huge financial and policy implications, asContinue reading “How much does a Supreme Court judgement cost?”

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 inaneContinue reading “Govt. Preparing to influence media perception??”

Indian Supreme Court: When Distance affects Visibility

Taking a break from my posts on China, I am summarising a fantastic article by Mr. Nick Robinson (Yale Law School South Asia Teaching and Research Fellow and a visiting fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi) which appeared recently in Frontline magazine.  The article argues that the Supreme Court is not as populistContinue reading “Indian Supreme Court: When Distance affects Visibility”

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