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 demise... Continue Reading →

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 into... Continue Reading →

Protecting the Harassed and the Harasser

The Supreme Court recently passed a controversial judgment condemning ‘automatic’ arrests by police in dowry harassment cases against husbands and in-laws. The judgment has received a mixed response. While its supporters praise the Court’s strong statement against misuse of this law by women, others raise concerns over the rights and safety of victim women. While... Continue Reading →

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 governance... Continue Reading →

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 Act... Continue Reading →

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 optimism... 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 →

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 on... Continue Reading →

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 an... 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: 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 issue... 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 →

Let the public participate

This post was first published in Takshashila's Pragati - The Indian National Interest Review on May 3, 2013.  The article can be accessed here. Given the failure of many government legislations in achieving the objectives for which they were formulated, a case for institutionalising deeper public consultations in the legislative process has been made in... Continue Reading →

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 have... Continue Reading →

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 over... Continue Reading →

The DIPP and Indian FDI policy – The long road to clarity

This post was first published by Bar and Bench on July 23, 2013. The original article can be accessed here.   Recently, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) prescribed a comprehensive format allowing investors and businesses to seek formal clarifications in connection with the Indian FDI policy regime. For the vast Indian legal community having... Continue Reading →

Is the Food Security Ordinance a game-changer for India’s poor?

Citing the disruptions in Parliament, the UPA government decided to promulgate the National Food Security Ordinance on July 5. Under Article 123 of the Constitution, the President can promulgate an Ordinance when Parliament is not in session and there is need for ‘immediate action’. It is possible that the government has crossed a line of... Continue Reading →

Electoral Reforms, Vol. I: Recent developments and issues

Crime and Punishment Parliament This post is the first installment in a series on electoral reforms. Last week was a blockbuster one for election law, bringing us not one, but two Supreme Court decisions with implications for convicted criminals, political candidates, legislators, and combinations thereof. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that individuals lodged in... 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 Asylum Debate

This article written by Roshni Shanker and Vasudha Reddy originally appeared in Outlook Online, and can be accessed here.  Earlier this week, India joined the list of countries that have denied asylum to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency consultant, stating that it sees no reason to accede to the request. The decision comes only... 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 →

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 to... Continue Reading →

How safe is your personal data with your service provider?

Even as the world grapples with the idea of State surveillance, Financial Times recently carried an alarming article revealing the extent of private surveillance that we may unknowingly be subjected to. The article discloses that in the multi-million dollar consumer surveillance industry, your basic personal data such as gender, age and location is sold for... Continue Reading →

Time-bound delivery of Public Services now a reality?!

Tired of paying repeated bribes for common public services?  Tired of running around in circles to collect government documents? Tired of waiting forever for your file to move? The Right to Public Services Legislation could be the one stop solution for all your woes! My experiences with government services haven’t been the most pleasant ones.... Continue Reading →

Recent news reports provide a sneak peek into the blueprint for the National Cyber Coordination Centre in India.  According to a 2012 Report of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, India’s intelligence agencies and their policy development wings are extremely fragmented.  Thus, the decision to prefer a central authority that would coordinate between different... Continue Reading →

Should cheque-bouncing be a crime? Issues and consequences

It has been estimated that about 30% of criminal cases in Indian courts are either cheque bouncing or traffic offences. The government has now proposed to amend the Negotiable Instruments Act (N.I. Act) to decriminalise the offence of bouncing cheques (called `138 N.I.' in legal circles) (See here). This move is aimed a decongesting the... Continue Reading →

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