Is judiciary independent enough?

January 19, 2009

Even though the Constitution of India does not accept strict separation of powers, it provides for an independent judiciary with extensive jurisdiction over the acts of the legislature and the executive. This can be very well understood without explanation that independent judiciary is the most essential attribute of rule of law and is indispensable to sustain democracy. We all know that independence and integrity of the judiciary in a democratic system of government is of the highest importance and interest not only to the judges but also to the people at large who seek judicial redress against perceived legal injury or executive excess. Without independence, law just can’t happen.

We have been repeatedly told in our schools, colleges, in newspapers, that judiciary is independent in India. However, as the child matures into adult, this realization happens that they all are crap. How many politicians have been prosecuted impartially, tell me! For normal people, ok judiciary might work but what about the affluent people. It took a hell lot of media attention to reopen the Jessica lal murder case and similar cases. This is just the tip of iceberg; everyone knows the status of cases in India and Sunny Deol has very well enacted the frustration of a common Indian in the award winning movie.

Take a living example of Gujarat riots; I’m not sure if how many accused have been prosecuted and punished till date. I can recall one case of Bilkis Bano. Even after the unfortunate tragedy with her, she wasn’t spared for even a single second. It is been told that Bilkis had to change her house 300 times due to fear of ongoing Gujarat Government. With due credit to Narendra Modi for his development-oriented policies, but should he be allowed to escape from this? Legislature didn’t have answer as they have chosen him again and again; Media didn’t have an answer because they have lost their credibility on the communal issues; Executives didn’t have an answer as they were sort-of part of all this and I’m saying this because if something has happened then the Executive shares equal responsibility because they have resources, they have skill-set to control and curb these kind of incidents. However, everyone failed in this case. So there was only one estate left – Judiciary. Hence, everyone was looking up to them but alas, the results were not much encouraging there too.

It’s true that there have been at least something done at their part but to mind, it happened only when the prosecution was shifted to some other place- Mumbai in this instance. A special court in Mumbai convicted 12 persons, including a police official, in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case, culminating a trial that was transferred out of Gujarat in the wake of intimidation of witnesses. Seven persons were acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence while one died during the course of the trial.

However, I can’t get as why so many cases are still pending; why these kinds of things with national importance and much bigger repercussions are not solved out at priority basis; and more important thing, why can’t we ensure an independent functioning of judiciary! One more example is the debate on judicial appointments based on the system of collegiums (panel of judges) which got louder during the last year with the Law Minister Sh. H R Bhardwaj favoring primacy of the CJI in such matters but former CJIs and other experts putting their weight behind the existing system. However, the government, in Parliament, maintained that there was no proposal to change the present system of appointment of judges in the higher judiciary which is guided by the apex court’s interpretation of the Constitution in the Advocates-on-Record vs Union of India matter.

There were signs of a possible confrontation between the judiciary and the government over a proposal to elevate three High Court Chief Justices to Supreme Court as the government referred back the proposal to the CJI for a re-look. The CJI, however, stuck to his ground and resent the proposal for elevation of HC Chief Justices H L Dattu, A K Ganguly and R M Lodha to the government for forwarding them to the President for appointment. The three were later appointed to the Supreme Court.

The entire episode is not new to India; there have been enormous number of such tussles. It might be said that these tussles are bound to happen when the conflict-of-interests come in the picture but my question is why there is a conflict-of-interest when the only interest behind all this exercise should be- Fair, Natural and Impartial Justice.


Is Media heading towards more politicization than ever?

January 14, 2009

I guess media is becoming my favorite pillar (pun intended). Actually I’ve thought of writing some biased news coverage in every post of mine; however last time when I attempted to prepare something than the P.S. portion becomes bigger than the post itself. So, I’ve decided to dedicate one more post for the media so that I can put forward few relevant details regarding the news coverage; as well as my complete opinion on the same.

So I’m here with another biased coverage by the colorful media of our country. I’m sorry but it’s again from IBN though it is a bit obvious to find more biased coverage in a news channel which is been headed by a person (read Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai) who has once stated in a seminar dated 26-June, 2001 that “For a long time the journalist’s role was seen to be that of an independent observer of events. But observation alone can be rather tedious and not very financially productive either. Ideological corruption is as much a part in this process as anything else. A journalist can get close to a political party, business house or an individual in a manner that compromises his independence. Having acquired that proximity, the journalist can then use his clout on a larger scale, playing kingmaker in cementing political alliances at the centre, or in providing the link between a minister in the Union cabinet and a business house in need of a favor. ” Now, what he wanted to convey- whether justifying his own biased reporting or trying to put fingers on other channels too; I don’t know. But one thing I know is- this viewpoint is not only disheartening but also very dangerous. There has always been some amount of media bias in one form or other; however this level of ideological corruption and considering it as a part of “process” is truly disappointing when we see it coming from a person like Sh. Sardesai who has been known for his erstwhile blatant and fearless journalism.

Anyways, the biased coverage which I’m talking about was regarding the “money-in-the-house scam”. This matter is not that relevant anymore as house has given clean chit to the members alleged in this scam however my concern is regarding the coverage by the news channel which has had some critical footages. IBN aired the news that they had some critical evidences in this regard and created buzz saying that they would broadcast them soon. However, later on with the day proceeding, they kept on delaying footage until they finally cancelled its broadcast citing the reasons that they weren’t “so sure” about it. The media website Hoot speculates that IBN did not air the story either because its contents did not pass muster with Editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai or because Anil Ambani, a shareholder in Network 18 which owns the channel, leaned on boss-man Raghav Bahl not to air the footage meant to discredit Amar Singh, a politician close to Ambani. Well, I don’t know if this website is right or wrong but I’ve sufficient reasons to suspect the intention of IBN after all it is the same channel which didn’t even think twice before airing the “sensational” news like firing on the CST station on 27^th of November, 2008 or news like George Bush washing hands after shaking hands with Barack Obama flashed all over the channel and portal; without even thinking about the “responsibility” and “not so sure” aspect.

Does a national party need to compromise this much?

January 11, 2009

One fine day, I was reading an article of Sh. T V R Shenoy. I was pretty much impressed of his opinion on why our minority affairs minister never expressed any kind of apology on his controversial statement. I would like readers to know about his views, along with few of my opinions on this issue.

No doubt that one would love to believe that Antulay’s statement was simply the view of a single individual, and not that of the Union Cabinet; and of course not that of the Congress. But the studied silence of the Treasury front benches and the evasions of the party spokesmen make one wonder whether this belief is correct. I grant you that poor Dr Manmohan Singh dare not drop a minister, or even criticize him without Sonia Gandhi’s approval. I completely agree to Sh. Shenoy when he puts forward his opinion that as long as the minority affairs minister sits at the Cabinet table doesn’t it indicate that the Congress boss takes him seriously?

And if the Congress takes Antulay seriously, so should we. In that spirit, let us examine his allegations. The thrust of his charge was that Karkare was too good an officer to rush to the Cama Hospital when the Taj hotel appeared to be the main target of the terrorist strikes. There is a simple explanation. “The records indicate that the attack on the Taj hotel was reported to the Police Control Room a full 13 minutes after Karkare was killed.” But this was too small an aspect to be noted by our esteemed minister. But even more important point which Antulay missed was the need of the circumstances prevailing thence. I can for once, accept that he said all that as just another viewpoint however I can’t understand why he didn’t apologize even after being told about all these things surrounding that fateful incident. This remind me of the similar kind of allegations by few more politicians up north, on the batla house encounter; where they raised objections even over the death of martyr Inspector M C Sharma.

However, it wasn’t as bad because what has happened now has happened in a party with widest presence in the country, with a party which boasts of those historical figures which put the foundation of secularism in this country, which were anything but the pseudo-secular, anti-nationalist leaders proposing M-Y (Muslim Yadav) equation; this is more disappointing because it has to much to do with the ruling party. How can we feel safe when the ruling party couldn’t even shut the mouth of somebody like Antulay?

Journalism – yellow and other colors

January 8, 2009

I was going through the middle pages of Hindustan Times yesterday; there was one interesting article about the role of media in India. The tone of the article was pretty affirmative and I don’t completely disagree with them. It’s true that there have been many instances like Jessica Lal case, Tehelka revelations, etc. where the proper action was been taken by the authorities only after a media probe into the matter. However with the growing yellow journalism, it is becoming difficult for people to distinguish between the sincere and not-so-sincere issues. The real message is getting suppressed by the loud voices and gestures of show anchors, by breathtaking pictures/photographs, and by amazing bond-movie-like soundtrack.

One example can be seen in the day-to-day language. I observed that two metaphors have been unanimously accepted throughout India in recent times: Siddhu and India TV. I’ve heard people commenting like “Arey yaar tu to Siddhu hai” on people who laugh hysterically on sad jokes; and also like “Kya India TV types baatein bata raha” for the people describing some incident so dramatically that it starts appearing like impossible. Arguably, or rather not-so-arguably, India TV emerges as the winner in this rat race of news sensationalization. One good dialogue which I can remember from a recent flick is being said by a news reporter –“Yaar aajkal biwi ghar pe poochti hai ki khaana kya banaoon to mere mooh se nikalta hai- sensational”.

However, yellow journalism is a smaller problem in comparison to the one which is slowly making its path into Indian scenario. This is about the “availability of impartial information”. It’s true that all aspects of news can’t be covered in one go due to the factors like limited availability of time, space, information resources, etc. and this point is acceptable to almost everyone. But the problem begins when a particular media network starts going for selective journalism. This can though never be proved with facts because they will always go away with the lame excuses like limitations, and all. However, if someone notices and observes deeply, he would be able to locate these aspects.

One such example is of CNN-IBN. This is one of the most talked-about news channel as well as news portal in recent times for both good and not-so-good reasons. It’s true that they have been more concerned with the layouts, designs and news presentation, due credit goes to Sh. Rajdeep Sardesai. He is undoubtedly THE person behind this work. Besides, they have also tried to cut down on advertisements and ‘sensational news’ though nobody can avoid them completely for business reasons. But the biggest problem with this network is their BIAS. They have constantly been biased against or for something and have been defending it for unnecessary reasons. This is a problem associated with them since quite sometime now.

I still remember a 2-year old news coverage by them (I remember precisely because it was hugely biased and twisted). Sardesai first pointed a few JNU types, got approving answers from them and then turned to Dr Safal Singh for the kill and asked the question that set the tempo for the rest of the debate. Where the doctors who went on strike out of touch with India’s reality? Because according to the survey (which he had conducted) “most” of the Indians(read survey sample) support reservations?

Now Dr Singh a smart guy realised what was happening and he tried to give a background instead of answering a very trick question. He tried to recount the list of demands laid out by YFE but he could at that moment recall only two, one was of a apolitical commission to study the effect of quotas and another to include socio-economic criterion instead of only caste for Reservation purposes. This must be a good lesson to atleast carry a copy of the list next time around.

Dr Singh was ably supported by Gurcharan das who argued that caste was not the only criterion today. It is a kind of a moral dilemma that someone on the admissions board of IIT would face if he has to choose between the son of a Rich OBC bussinessman from Kanpur who has scored only 40% and the son of a Poor Brahmin schoolteacher from Gorakhpur who has scored 80% (interestingly, those who have supported reservation for poor were included as pro-reservation though the whole debate took place for caste-based reservation). He also spoke about the need for taking both talent and equity hand in hand and also spoke about the opportunities presented by India’s current economic boom.

However, these all things were intentionally and cleverly subdued by the CNN IBN. If people remember, the verdict (Yes the programme title was indeed “The Reservation Verdict”) was announced as – Caste-based Reservation has got HUGE support amongst country’s youth. Anyways, this is just one of the many instances. I would keep updating at least one instance of biased reporting across news channels in every post of mine as this might help in creating awareness across the audience. If we go by media history, the CNN (one of the parent company in this venture) itself has had great bias in other countries like USA though as the audience intelligence increased, those kinds of coverages have come down. I hope the same would happen in India and IBN would have to reconsider their strategy of manipulating minds in the direction of their philosophy.

Who will watch the watchmen?

January 1, 2009

Deciding the opening lines for this blog was even more difficult than deciding about the blog title. Surprisingly, deciding about the blog-intent and matter didn’t seem so difficult to me in the beginning. However I know that as the time will progress, it would become more challenging and interesting on that front too.

Anyways, as the name suggests, this blog is all about watchmen- basically the four pillars of our democracy- Legislature, Judiciary, Executive, and Media. I would try to address as many proceedings as possible though inputs from others would always be welcomed. Never mind posting your comments in any case, whether you agree or disagree. I would specially want indifferent people to read my posts and either agree or disagree because the posts would concern those issues which may appear not-so-relevant but are loaded issues of the hour.

Finally, regarding my identity: I’ve been inspired by the film “A Wednesday” though thankfully not violently inspired. So, I decided to keep this an anonymous user’s blog or rather a blog of anyone and everyone. This is not just my voice; but of thousands (if not millions) of common Indians. Hence, I decided to go this way. I hope, people would enjoy my posts and those who are interested to post on the similar lines may ask me to add them as a co-author. Although this blog would also deal with prevalent biases in the functioning of these fours pillars, yet I’m a human being myself and can have certain prejudices, and biases. Adding more authors in this journey would thereby help in making the message of blog clearer and cleaner.