This post was first published on http://logos.nationalinterest.in on September 15, 2013, and can be accessed here. A minimalist theory of state functions explains the main functions of the state as being (a) the function of collecting revenue, (b) the maintenance of law and order, and (c) the protection of a nation’s boundaries. State capacity is … Continue reading Can the state handle it?
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 Fatal attraction: The State’s “public purpose” in Land Acquisition
According to recent news reports the Indian Olympic Commission will continue to be disbarred from the International Olympic Association, due to its refusal to accept a "contentious" clause that prevents "charge-sheeted officials from taking part in administration or contesting elections." (read here, and here) The reason is not difficult to fathom: "Its secretary-general Lalit Bhanot faces … Continue reading The Indian Olympic Committee follows the “law of the land”
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: Legislative supremacy and judicial intervention
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 The narrative of independent regulators
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 Ordinance Route
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 Transparency and Political Parties – Finding the Right Instrument
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 The narrative of judicial appointments
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 Proposed CBI Reforms: Will the Central Bureau of Investigation remain a “caged parrot”?
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 and … Continue reading Death at Kedarnath: Mule owners and their right to strike
Firstpost reports that the Telegraph service in India will be discontinued from July 15, 2013, 160 years after the service was started in India. While telegrams have really become a relic, a service that people hardly use anymore, the growth and advent of telegraphs in India parallels the growth and spread of the British empire … Continue reading The extinction of the Telegram
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 Should political parties be subject to the Right to Information Act?
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 Defamation: who should you fear more- Big Govt. or Big Corporate
This post is part-comment, part-response to Nick Robinson's post on the Law and Other Things Blog (please do check the blog out!) regarding the NAC's proposal for having pre-legislative scrutiny of Bills to be passed by Parliament. The National Advisory Council came out with "Draft Recommendations on Pre Legislative Process" for both draft rules, and draft … Continue reading Why have pre-legislative scrutiny for Acts of Parliament?
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 also … Continue reading New uses of UID/Aadhaar operationalised
Following is the article I wrote for Seminar Magazine (May 2013 issue) as a response to a piece on obstructions in Parliament: Communication AN article in the February 2013 issue of Seminar titled ‘The Real Price of Parliamentary Obstruction’ by Tarunabh Khaitan highlights the issue of recent obstructionism in Parliament and elaborates on its attendant consequences. The piece highlights … Continue reading My article in Seminar Magazine on Parliamentary obstruction
India's civil society has by now patted itself on the back for the umpteenth time having shown the political classes its raw, real-grassroot-democratic power by having its version of the Lokpal Bill passed. Let it now look inward to examine its own internal corruption. News reports and trending blogs indicate how wide, and how deep … Continue reading “Civil society” biases: Regionalism
Some interesting comments on the Maoist movement being made by Arundhati Roy (minute 10 onwards). I generally find her a little difficult to make sense of, but she was fairly lucid during this part of the conversation.
-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 Consumer protection or curb on right to speech and expression?
-writing from Harvard Law School. Over the last few months, people have either whole-heartedly supported Ana Hazare's crusade against corruption, or have cautioned against the dangers of un-deliberated actions by civil society. Some have also taken pains to highlight how the movement is seemingly undemocratic. One of the most interesting analyses I read of … Continue reading Can “civil” society also reform the state?
I am putting up an article by Prof. Kaushik Basu (working with the Finance Ministry, and authored the Economic Survey of 2009-10) on India's foodgrain problem in Economic and Political Weekly. He summarises the point of the article as: The simultaneous occurrence of high food inflation and large foodgrain stocks in our granaries has been … Continue reading India’s Foodgrain policy
Lack of routine information available in the public domain plays a huge role in reducing the credibility of the state, and making citizens more suspicious of it than we need to. A prime example of this would be related to the appointment of Mr. Thomas as CVC chief, and the apparent changing of rules … Continue reading How lack of transparency kills the credibility of the government
The New York Times quotes Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of American democracy as having said that "he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers." If such is the exalted status which a founder of the world's oldest democracy gave to the media, it is perhaps important for the media … Continue reading How Indian media can become better
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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 the … Continue reading My article in Financial Express
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 in … Continue reading Who files the most court cases in India?
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 insertion … Continue reading Nuclear Bill – deciphering the “and” gesture
In recent years, a number of studies have been conducted on the number of poor in India. Some have estimated that 77% of India is poor, others say 37% of India is below the poverty line. The Wall Street Journal contains an article on a new poverty study which the reasons for why people are … Continue reading One-third of poor are not born poor
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 India’s intelligence Agencies – II
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
In my last blog post, I had summarised the main events in Jammu and Kashmir's past history to try and give a context to the post I am writing today. I encapsulate the main events which have taken place within Jammu and Kashmir within the last month or so. In doing this, I have also … Continue reading Kashmir II: The last Month
The recent violence in Kashmir has dealt a great deal of damage to the gains made there in recent years. In this and the next blog post (will be up soon), I encapsulate a summary of the main events concerning Kashmir, and also an attempt at making a timeline of recent events there. Main events … Continue reading Kashmir as it stands today – I
In an earlier blog post this month I had put up a summarised version of an evaluation study done by the Planning Commission of India. The Planning Commission had evaluated the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. In this blog post, I am summarising their evaluation of the Mid-day meal scheme. The Mid-day Meal Scheme was launched by … Continue reading Major Government schemes II: Mid-day meal
Noted economist Prof. Bibek Debroy has written on how to estimate how much Bandhs cost. This seems to be in response to figures given by industry associations on the cost of the recent Bandh organised by the BJP and left-parties. I am pasting the article below: Price of a bandh Bibek Debroy Posted online: Fri … Continue reading How much does a Bandh Cost
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 Who holds intelligence agencies accountable?
The background to this post comes in the realisation that though the government has launched big ticket "social-welfare" schemes in the last decade or so, the government should not merely be throwing money at problems existing in our society. Social welfare schemes should have well-designed, well-formulated structures which can maximise benefits to the poor or … Continue reading How well are major government schemes working?
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 the … Continue reading Bhopal Gas Paper Leaks: Minutes of GoM meeting leaked
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 Do strict laws really help when nobody enforces them?
Various anecdotal evidences from peers and one's own experiences reinforce impressions of Delhi's transition to a "world-class" city without the transition to world-class systems. One aspect of this is simply how extreme the difference between the purchasing power of those at the top and bottom of the economic pyramid is. However, when one hears reports … Continue reading Commonwealth Games II: Delhi’s War on Beggars
Media coverage on crime is heavily skewed in favour of reporting urban crime as opposed to rural, or caste-based crime. Though we occasionally hear reports of honour killings, or entire community households being burnt down, they are reported more as examples of a malaise afflicting society. This malaise itself is not talked about. This post … Continue reading Survey on SC/ST Atrocities: The Crimes we never talk about