Introducing the Indian Public Administration Lexicon or “iPal”*

iPal is an attempt to make comprehensible certain words that sound familiar, but mean something entirely different when used in Indian governance and politics. 1. Aam Aadmi: Rich people who dress badly. 2. Public interest: a) Interest of Aam aadmi. b) source of power to override law, constitution, logic, reason, everything. 3. Subsidy: Screw you... 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 →

India’s BigLaw: Metamorphosis from deal making to policy activism

This post was first published on http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/legalprofession/, on September 23, 2013.  As skepticism mounts over India’s economic resilience and economists rush to blame India’s policy framework for the woes of her economy, the role that India’s BigLaw plays in her law and policy making processes assumes greater significance now more than ever before. In the backdrop... 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 →

The Indian Olympic Committee follows the “law of the land”

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 Minority Vote

This post is a reaction to media reports and analyses that look at the population size of various minority groups and anticipate how it may affect the political outcome in elections. In India, the Modi-Gandhi face-off has led media to calculate Hindu-Muslim ratios in various states and accordingly predict the result of the upcoming elections... 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 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 →

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 →

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 →

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