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 →

In the upcoming issue of the Economic and Political Weekly, I critically analyse the draft Disclosure of Lobbying Activities Bill, 2013 recently introduced in the Parliament. The article recognizes that the Bill is perhaps the first official recognition of the fact that lobbying practices are omnipresent. However, it questions the seriousness of political leaders in... Continue Reading →

Anti-corruption clauses in international trade agreements: Should the Indo-EU Agreement have one?

  India and the European Union are closer, now more than ever before, to finalizing the Trade and Investment Agreement (Indo-EU TIA/ Agreement), which they have been negotiating since 2007.[1] This is perhaps the perfect time for India to press for ‘anti-corruption’ provisions to be included in the still-being negotiated Agreement. Taking cue from its... Continue Reading →

Can’t bank on it

This article was co-authored by me, and appeared in the Indian Express on June 4, 2013. The original may be found here. According to a recent press release by the Reserve Bank of India, its board met in early May. This was the first board meeting after the Cobrapost exposé, revealing widespread failure by banks... Continue Reading →

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 the... Continue Reading →

Law to regulate lobbying in India

Recent news reports suggest that the committee investigating the case of Walmart lobbying the Indian government to allow FDI in the retail sector is going to submit its report shortly.  It is reported that the committee could not find evidence of Walmart bribing any government official or indulging in any unlawful activity.  However, the committee may... 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 →

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 of... 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 →

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 Khap... Continue Reading →

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 Leave... Continue Reading →

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 Indian... Continue Reading →

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, of... Continue Reading →

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 areas... Continue Reading →

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 squeamishness... 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 →

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 populist... Continue Reading →

Courts, Judges and RTI

A brief glance at the assets of Supreme Court judges on-http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/assets.htm highlights two important points: 1. There is no mention of the value of the assets of judges on a specific date.  Information concerning assets is only useful if we are able to keep track of the increase/decrease in personal incomes over a period of... Continue Reading →

Judging our judges

Today's post is an article appearing in the Indian Express, concerning the condition of judges in our country: In defence of their lordships (Indian Express) GOPAL SANKARANARAYANAN Posted online: Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010 at 0250 hrs On September 1 2009, Neeraj Kishan Kaul stepped down as a judge of the Delhi High Court — a... 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 →

A Unique Identity

Today I had the opportunity of listening to Nandan Nilekani talk about the Unique Identification (UID) project.  He also referred us to the UIDAI website which has an approach paper to creating the UID database.  The points he mentioned are the same as those contained in the approach paper, and I am summarising them below... Continue Reading →

Ranganath Mishra: Mandal II? Not Really

Recently, The Ranganath Mishra Commission (National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities) Report (RMC) was tabled in Parliament.  One of the most talked about issues discussed in the report was that of reservation for minorities.  That is neither the majority, nor the substance of the Report, as an op-ed in Indian Express also points out.... Continue Reading →

The Top-Down

The new government promised us governance for the aam-aadmi.  Those of us who think this in any way means governance by the aam-aadmi are increasingly being proved to be fools.  In incdent after incident, hopes of reform towards decentralisation have been thwarted by the high-handedness of the central government.  Consider: (1) Visa restrictions. - The... Continue Reading →

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