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Leaders met on the 29th to discuss climate change and more importantly what they expect out of the upcoming Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark. Panelists included noted speakers like Al Gore and Thomas L Friedman.

(Video may not be accessible to NALSAR Students)


With the Kyoto Protocol being considered to be a failure and global warming becoming perhaps the biggest threat to planet earth, the leaders are meeting in Copenhagen end of this year to frame a binding convention on climate change. The biggest philip to this comes from the commitment of the Obama Administration to reduction of green house gases and ‘making earth a better place’. Al Gore stated;

time is running out and that a global agreement on tackling climate change is needed this year. “What we most need out of Copenhagen is a clear, shared vision of where the world is going in the future,” Gore said. He added that the new US administration is very serious about the issue and is ready to assume a leadership role. “President Obama is the greenest person [in the White House]. He is pushing hard for a dramatic and bold move in the right direction. If other governments do the same, then we can make the change to a low-carbon future.”

AF Rasmussen, the PM of Denmark stressed that targets, adequate funds and a transparent verification scheme are needed for countries to reach long-term goals. Industrialized countries should reduce their emissions by 80% in 2050, and should help developing countries adapt to climate change through technology transfer and a global fund.

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Thursday night saw an incensed debate over Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip with Israeli PM Shimon Peres defending his nation’s actions. The video for the same may be viewed below,

This open session involved UN Sec General Ban Ki Moon, Arab League Sec General Amr Moussa, Mr. Shimon Peres and Turkish PM Erdogan in what has been termed a very lively discussion. Peres came out strongly on Israel’s right to self defence and brought out the threats that the hamas posed to the jewish nation. He was however alone in his defence as the remaining leaders were vehement in their opposition to the offensive and Israel’s treatment of civilians during the attack of which Mr. Peres offered no apologies or explanation.

The Israeli president unleashed a harsh, unyielding rant that was full of strange statements, truncated arguments and meandering rhetoric. Clearly, he is feeling the effects of his age as his remarks bordered on the incoherent at times. But what was most evident was the choleric tone.

Here are a few of the stranger statements: he claimed that Israel could not accept the Saudi 2002 initiative because “there was a small problem of Iran” which wishes to rule the Middle East. Peres also claimed that Hamas did not win a democratic election. Rather Mahmoud Abbas DID win an election as president of the Palestinians. Peres also claimed there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; that Israel supplies all the water, fuel and electricity that Gaza needs; and that if there is a problem he would personally intervene to correct it.

Also, during the debate the Turkish PM was not given a chance to reply to Mr. Peres by the Moderator at which he got up and walked out of the room. News items here.

The Webcast of the whole session may be seen here.

Soli Sorabjee’s writ petition in the Supreme Court asking it to order the government to take measures to effectively deal with terrorism has created quite an interest amongst legal circles. Law and Other Things has detailed posts on it and Abhinav Chandrachud gives and interesting analysis on the ‘Right against Terror’ here.

I also have written here that the petition rests on the rationale that there is a Constitutional duty of the State to protect its citizens under Article 21; where as the Court earlier hasn’t stated any such duty.

In this post, I would like to explore another dimension to this writ. If the contentions in the writ be accepted then it is my opinion that it would have serious consequences on the way the government is run under the Constitution. My argument is that while judicial interference in legislative and executive functions already takes place, doing so in matters of policy and security of the State is warranted neither by the Constitution nor Constitutional law and doing so would belittle the idea of constitutional supremacy.

A reading of Article 355 would allow us to infer that it is the foremost duty of the central government to defend the borders of the Country. This also includes a duty to prevent any internal disturbance and maintain law and order. However, in as early as 1959, the Supreme Court in Memon Haji Ismail’s case held that declarations of war & matters concerning the defence of India are instances on which a Court cannot form any judgment. ‘defence of India’ could include both external aggression and internal disturbance. It could also be that they are to be considered as matters of policy and the Court cannot in any way tell the centre as to how the Government should be run.

Having established that the defence of the Country is exclusively in the realm of the Central Government, in State of Rajasthan v. Union of India, the Court held that it cannot assume unto itself powers the Constitution lodges elsewhere or undertake tasks entrusted to the Constitution to other departments of the State which may be better equipped to perform them.

“Questions of political wisdom or executive policy only could not be subject to judicial control. So long as such policy operates in its own sphere, its operations are immune from judicial process.”

Thus, asking the Centre by a writ to better equip the police and forces with the latest weapons would be interfering into a realm exclusive to the executive.

But in my opinion, the starkest revelation to the dangers of what may happen have been put forth by Justice BN Shrikrishna’s article titled ‘Skinning the Cat’ (2005) 8 SCC (jour) 3 where in he says;

“I wish to point to a recent and disturbing trend of using the judiciary to second guess unambiguously legislative and executive powers. Indeed, our judges have succumbed to the temptation to interfere even with well- recognized executive powers such as treaty making and foreign relations. …

One Shudders to think whither this trend could lead- whether, for example, the constitutionality of a declaration of war or peace treaty (or matter concerning the defence of the Country) could also be questioned in a Court of law? If the courts were to strike down the peace treaty as being unconstitutional, would the armed forces be compelled to pursue the war under judicial mandamus?

Indeed my mind boggles at such eventualities, however improbable they may appear, given the new found enthusiasm for judicial activism in areas that are inarguable no pasaran (they shall not pass) for the judges”

Perhaps Justice Shrikrishna’s fears may just come true with this case.

 


Sarabnanda Sonowal v. Union of India, (2005) 5 SCC 665.

(1977) 3 SCC 592

 

 

Amidst all the hype and hoopla that surrounds Obama’s first days in Office, it maybe worthwhile to take a step back and evaluate the implications of the Bush Presidency. Seldom has the post-Cold War world seen such tectonic shifts in many matters of global concern. These eight years, starting right from the doorstep of the new millennium, have dictated our thought, outlook and course of action. From January 20, 2000 to 2009, the most powerful political position of responsibility today was held by a mercurial personality, who managed to emerge both as the most and least popular President of the United States of America. Whether you adored him (like the corporate and industrial lobbies of the US) or loathed him (pretty much like the rest of the World), you just could not ignore George Walker Bush Jr. Here’s our take on what the Bush Era has meant for tomorrow.

1. Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and the War on Terror.

Within one year of his taking over the US Presidency, George Bush witnessed the first major terrorist attack on an American metropolis in decades. 9/11, hence immortalized through its suffering and consequence, was pivotal in influencing the Bush administration’s foreign policy outlook towards West Asia and the Middle East. Following the launch of a global ‘War on Terror’, a belligerent Bush pursued the Al-Qaeda to the footsteps of the Taleban. Months later, Afghanistan was left in tatters, besieged by the armies of the West in a futile attempt to capture the masterminds behind the WTO strikes.

The President then trained his guns further East, onto Iraq, where the ‘outrageous’ and ‘tyrannical’ regime of Saddam Hussein had allegedly held Weapons of Mass Destruction. Portraying Iraq to be a threat to the precarious stability of the Middle East, the US assumed the patriarchal role of a superpower to chastise the rogue nation. The extant situation in Iraq is left for everyone to see; while the US is fighting a trillion-dollar war, Iraqis are struggling to find a foothold on the world map.

As the Bush Presidency is all set to be a bygone era, the world has been left reeling from an increased spate of terrorist attacks, raising incisive questions of the efficacy of a costly ‘War’.

2. The Environment and Climate Change

As a presidential candidate, Bush began his campaign with a pledge to clean up power plants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. During the initial months of his first Presidency, he even sought to commit billions of dollars to fund ‘clean-energy’ technology. The President also assured the Congress, environmental groups and the energy industry of his full co-operation to secure a reduction in emission rates within a reasonable period of time. However, his subsequent volte-face on the matter, terming greenhouse gas reduction to be adversely affecting energy prices, shocked the environment-conscious community.

The Bush Administration also refused to implement the substantive content of the Kyoto Protocol, stating that “ratifying the treaty would create economic setbacks in the U.S. and does not put enough pressure to limit emissions from developing nations”. After years of subservience to the powerful oil and energy lobbies, environmental surveys at the end of Bush’s tenure indicated a marked increase in the US’ contribution to global warming and sustained ecological recklessness.

3. Human Rights and Guantanamo.

Guantanamo merits a separate post. The connecting link will be uploaded in a day’s time.

4. The State of the Economy.

The fag end of George Bush’s stint as the President witnessed the implosion of the mighty US financial sector, triggering a global economic meltdown. A consequence of hasty and often unmonitored actions of the corporate lobby, the financial downturn meant a loss of jobs for millions of people around the world in professional services. The chain-reaction of such a collapse is yet to cease, and major banks and industries continue to be bailed out by the day.

While we may have to dig deep to find positive lessons from the Bush regime, it is suffice to say that the period is dead and gone. May the Bush Presidency rest in peace.

This comes as news to all the politicos in Andhra Pradesh wanting to form Telangana.

The AP High Court has now reserved its order on a PIL on whether the government has the power to divide a state into smaller states.

The petition is based on the contention that a state cannot be bifurcated without the consent of its people and going by this; Amendments 5 and 7 to Article 3 of the Constitution should be declared unconstitutional.

“Article 3 of the Constitution gives the power to the Parliament to form a new state or alter areas or boundaries. Under the Constitution, the State legislature has no role to play in this act. Though the President is bound to refer the Bill to the state legislature; in Babulal v. State of Bombay, AIR 1960 SC 51, it was held that the Parliament is not bound to accept or act upon the views of the State Legislature.”

 

On a political front, this case may have a huge impact on the upcoming AP state elections where Telangana can now again become an issue.

On a legal front, the consequences are much greater. It was after IR Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu that amendments to the Constitution were open to challenge to the basic structure and the rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21. However, it was held that only those amendments after 1973 would be open to challenge.

Challenging the 3rd and 5th Amendments now would be against the ruling in Coelho’s case and it would interesting to see how the Court goes about to answer this question. 

PS: The Article was in the TOI issue dated 24th Jan 2009 in the HYD “times city” section. I cannot get the link and shall upload it as soon as i get hold of it.