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Hindutva seems to have got new vigour now. The Advisory Board constituted to examine Varun Gandhi’s hate speech and booking under the National Security Act has recommended the withdrawal of the said Act against Vaun Gandhi. (news item here)

The three member panel comprising two retired HC judges Justices S N Sahai and P K Sareen, was understood to have stated in no uncertain terms that the inflammatory speeches made by Varun were not enough to attract the deterrent provisions of the NSA and the action takes was disproportionate to the nature of the alleged crime committed by Varun Gandhi.

But what exactly is this Advisory Board? Who constitutes it ?

Under the National Security Act, Sections 9, 10 and 11 govern the formation of the Advisory Board. Once a person is booked under the NSA, the appropriate government forms the Advisory Board and transfers the case to it. The main function of the Board is to look into the alleged acts and opine if there was sufficient cause for the person to be detained and booked under the NSA. If the Advisory Board opines that there wasn’t any sufficient cause for the detention of such person, the Appropriate government must revoke the order of detention.

The National Security Act governs the arrest and detention of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.In Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, the phrase ‘defence of India’ was construed to mean not only external sovereignty but also internal sovereignty. This, added to the phrase ‘security of India’ might have seemed appropriate to book Varun Gandhi to say that his hate speech might have instigated a riot or harmed the security of the state. The hate speech of Varun can be viewed below,

 

Well, he might want to cut the hands of people from another religion, But surely Varun Gandhi has had the laugh now. The question remained as to whether this speech was sufficient to harm the security of the state or ‘defence of India’. The Advisory Board found otherwise and thus the booking against him under the Act has been revoked against him. He may however, still be booked under the Indian Penal Code for incitement to violence and religious hatred. 

Readers might also want to read earlier news items and posts on this here;

– Varun Gandhi’s Hate Speech and the Law 

– Frame by Frame

– V is for Varun Gandhi…

– Beyond the Law 

 

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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. 

Arun and I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with Mr. JM Lyngdoh (Former Election Commissioner) after his lecture. Below is the transcript of the interview. The issues covered in this interview were;

– Private Funding of Elections

– Student Elections

– The 49-O debate

– Voting solutions and accommodations for the Middle Class

– Elections in Chattisgarh

The podcast of the interview may be downloaded here.

Arun : My first question is with regard to the issue of private funding that you raised. Sir you had drawn a comparison with the United States perspective where in there would be private funding in election campaigns. Can you think of any particular evil of introducing it in India ?

Mr. Lyngdoh : Let me make it quite clear. It is not private funding that is the greatest problem in the tracking of funding in India. The main source of funding in election campaigns is government funding and the stemming of it should be the main focus. This source of funding is highly objectionable; whether from a literal point of view or from a normal point of view.

Arun : Would you then perhaps encourage corporate entities or industrialists in funding and having their say in financing election campaigns ?

Mr. Lyngdoh : Believe me, the corporate sector is even more unreliable than the government when it comes to election campaigns. I don’t want them to be a part of it.

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Below are my notes of Mr Lyngdoh’s lecture on ‘Electoral Reforms in India’. Mr Lyngdoh gives a good insight into the working system and most of his recommendations are noteworthy and would do a great good if implemented. Please watch out for the one- on- one interview of The Social Blog with Mr. Lyngdoh coming soon on the Blog.

Sixth Shri Gutta Rama Rao Lecture

10th Jan 2009

JM Lyngdoh on ‘Electoral Reforms in India’

We are a nation of sorts; created out of the fundamentalist and acrimonious partition of the   continent’ Against this backdrop, India chose a democracy and have everyone participate in governance.

In the last 60 years, the constitution has had remarkable success. Significant is the involvement of the underprivileged in politics.

Off late, the middle class that won India’s independence has abdicated electoral politics considering it rough and dirty. It is not the politics of the upper class but the middle class that has to participate. Too much education weakens a stomach for politics and legislatice business.

We need reforms that would secure socially responsible and ethical parties. Electoral reforms normally refer to the laws made by the EC such as the Goswami and Inderjit Gupta committees. The recommendations and reforms that I propose to address are;

–          Debarring until cleared by the court, persons charge sheeted for offences of 5 years or more

–          Restronign sec 77 of the rep of people act, 1971 so as to disallow the extent of the expenditure spent by the candidate

–          – auditing of accounts of political parties

–          Defections

–          Regulating by law the process of democratization in the internal working of political parites

–          Surrogate advertisements after elections have been announced

–          Restrictions on opinion polls so as to prevent an influence in voting

–          50% of votes + 1 to be made a requirement to declare a candidate a winner

a) In 2004 elections, 18% of the winners to the lok sabha carried a criminal law. In the 2006 bihar and 2007 UP elections the figures go upwards of 39%. To disqualify a person, he or she has to be convicted which is very rare. The disqualification does not apply to anyone who is already a sitting MP and allows him to file an appeal or a revision petition and will not apply unless it has travelled through all the levels of the courts and all remedies are exhausted. This is wrong as the MO then gets a life time of reprieve. The mockery of the law by the politicians has been expressed by the media by people like Pappu Yadav running campaigns from Jail and then winning the elections.

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