31 Dec 2007

New Year Musings

New Year Musings

Kindling fire,
Burning desire,
A heart full of passion,
Looking up higher.

Up there my dream lies,
Pursuing which, I strive.
But then I wonder,
How would I?

Wishful thinking
Amidst a maze,
Pragmatic concerns,
Ruing the day.

Still I rise,
For rise I must,
Embracing the change,
The change after Xmas.

A full new year,
Raises the hope,
And I must,
Make it’s most.

Achieve I will,
'Coz of the fire,
In this New Year,
My heart’s desire.

27 Dec 2007

Mobs and burnt chruches: Looking back at the changing times

This Christmas would really have been awful for the Christian families in Orissa. This woeful incident of burning down churches and houses reminded me of the infamous burning of Graham Staines and his three sons in 1999 in the same state, Orissa and the person who did it, Rabindra Kumar Pal @ Dara Singh, came out of it as a national hero, a protector of Hinduism. The incident, together with the recent burnings,haunts us back with the horrors of the dark ages where religion was a reason for arson and genocide. It also raises a number of issues on the state of affairs of the 'secular' aspect of this country.

We call ourselves secular or atleast our constitution does. And then we are told that secular means a state which does sponsor or promote a religion and had equal respect for all religions. But then the state practices does not inspire confidence in this constitutionally envisaged state of affairs. Why does it happen that the culprits those who pulled down the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya are still at bay with the justice-system finding its ways and means to delay the prosecution and sentencing. Why does the state remain content with calling an curfew when a few churches are burnt down and the violators huddled to secured corners. But when it comes to moving a temple built upon an encroachment in the middle of the road, that would be violation of secular structure and fiddling with the faiths of the nation. Thinks like numbers do matter and when you are in a county dominated in numerical terms by a particular religion, then you do have a reason to find that religion being particularly promoted overtly.

We Indians seem to have come to terms with the times. Looks like a practice history made us adept to. When the aggressors came from all corners, they dominated, destroyed the original inhabitants' beliefs and practices, superimposed their own and made out a new cultural and religious entity. Then new aggressors came and did the same. Then again and again. So what came up was not anything which was remained the exclusive property of any one particular religion or cult but was indeed a mixture of various different superimposed colors on top of each other and as Nehru has put it in 'Discovery of India', 'an ancient palimpsest'.

The there was a marked moment in India's history with the arrival of Christianity on its soil. Along came Christian Missionaries, persuading the inhabitants to become followers of the path shown by their God and their religion. I had once an occasion to work on a project titled 'Christian Missionaries in India' whereupon I had the chance to examine their role and the backlash. Huge amount of scholarly writing showed empirical evidence that indeed a large number of people were converted to Christians and this was true for most of the tribal areas, it was evident in the other well to do places as well. Major reasons were assigned by scholars for this trend. Alleviation of living standards, access to outside world with English and cultural practices, etc. were the factors cited as the prompting reasons for the tribals etc. to convert themselves.

However, Mr. Arun Shourie had a different reason to put. In his book on this subject, he cited various correspondences between the religious authorities in England and the prompt dispatch of missionaries in India as a part of a strategic plan to deface the Indian religious and cultural ties and thus weaken the unity on the soil. He also seeks to expose the hideous plans where the inhabitants of this land were looked down upon as barbaric aboriginals suffering from innumerable vices. But then these are the two different versions which I came across and do not wish to offer any comment upon.

But the aspect of the matter which I really want to bring to the notice with this reference to Christianity in India is that when the Constitution treats each citizen equals, and when as all have equal rights for self-determination including the right to practice and profess the religion of our choice, why do others have to poke in their nose to show that following the minority religion is not permissible and that other religions are not permitted on land which they claim to be only for their own.

I really deject the look-down approach. After all by burning down their churches, what is this rowdy mob trying to show? Their superiority? I do not think so. In fact when they burn down other's religious symbols, they actually are confessing that they are in fact weak and unable to concentrate on their own religion and therefore they have to remove other's religious indicators in order to be able to come to their own. I am not sure when this barbarism will come to an end but sure earnestly hope that it does, before more are killed and more property vandalized.

23 Dec 2007

Angels & Demons: A good insight in the Believer-Atheist debate

Well it was really a long wait when I grabbed my hands on the last straw remaining though it should have been the first. I finally read the first book of Dan Brown, after having read all his works. I had always wondered the nexus between Angels & Demons and the Da Vinci Code but then when I was through with it, the connection was pretty obvious. I was told that Angels lays the background for the much illustrated and contagious fiction in Da Vinci Code. Pretty much true but then I have my own reflections on this one.

I find that besides the fiction, which has been added just as the cream on coffee, the perspective is more on the believer versus the atheist. Mr. Langdon (the Harvard name is just to confer the credentials) represents a sound argumentative modern rational man who has all reasons behind all things; why particulars practices came to vogue; what particular elements and spaces represent and depict; what is the source of religion and anti-religious practices and all questions which arise in a questioning mind.

Then on the other hand is the character (Ms. Vetra in Angels, Ms. Sophie in Da Vinci Code) who is a devout, finding it difficult to accept such logical reasons behind such divine practices and beliefs. And Mr. Langdon argue and puts in evidence to show that everything is for a reason, logically connected and if the reason is not too prominent, then some hidden religious motive behind it. He pulls all his cards to show that the Church, as the representative of religion in his book, has always been after and still goes on a long way against those who try to prove that all beings and actions are human and scientifically explainable and there is nothing divine in them. In two-thirds of the plot in Angels Mr. Brown has really depicted just that; how Illumunati as a scientific group was persecuted for maintaining the faiths of the unsure into religious practices.

There is no doubt interesting, in fact fascinating description, interpretation and linking of the various monuments/temples/churches and all most have seen but never bothered to find the link which Mr. Brown shows us but then the entire melodrama is just for selling the book. The heart of it lies addressing a dilemma. This dilemma is again only confined to a limited social group, which is again a practical formation.
  • For those who are truly devoted and have committed themselves in the service of the unknown who they call 'God', there is no need for finding answers. According to them all creations in this world are a part and parcel of the bigger game plan by Him, who plays for the benefit and in best interests of those of believe in Him.
  • Then there are those who don't believe in something extraordinary, something which you cannot see with mortal eyes. Makes them feel inferior and that too to an unknown, which is not acceptable to them at any term. So they don't look for the answers to the riddle that surrounds the universe, why man, why creation, what lies ahead of this life and all.
The dilemma poses only those fall mid-way, willing to believe but then no able to find the answers which will make them adopt either paths. They do not know who to believe and whom not to.
  • Science promises much but then there is no simulation of decision-making in science. No direction offered. No distinction between right and wrong. What Albert Einstein did by making the nuclear bomb may have been good for science but not necessarily good for humanity, and questions like these which science does not answer.
  • And the same for religion. Why does one need to sacrifice in order to find HIM? Why does the way to peace pass through so many dogmatic and superstitious practices? Why do we need to believe that man is internally corrupt and in order to enlighten him, strict moral control is essential? Why is everyone not God? and all.
The book goes a long way and poses many similar intriguing questions. Mr. Brown tries to answer them in his attempt to get his novel going but they may not be necessarily the best ones to the questions which he has raised. The conversations between Langdon and Vittoria offer beautifully depicted insights into some of these controversial issues but the answers are really lacking.

In any case the way in which the book ends, I am sure to classify Mr. Brown as one not needing an external guidance to offer answers to his soul. His bias (I say this upon reading all his books till date) towards the scientific analysis of things makes them over-weight the paths to bounded morality which has kept the society the way it is. Right or wrong I am no one to judge, everyone is entitled their beliefs and prejudices. But surely, it has influenced many of those facing the dilemma and given another reason to them to remain bewildered and crumble in the weight of their own indecisiveness.

EC on Gujarat Elections. Just as predicted

Gujarat Elections
It wasn't long back when I wrote about how sledging wars were being carried out in the run down to the Gujarat Elections [click here for the last post]. I has also predicted that there would be no major action by the Election Commission and the results of the alleged notices issued would be out only after the elections are done with.

And then rediff reports exactly the same; "Poll Violation: EC warns Modi, lets off Sonia", as if warning is of much significance in the political arena. Plus the proceedings are given way to only when the elections are over and there result declaration is not very far.

It seems Election Commission has not remained the same vigilant watch-dog of Indian democracy.

Election Commission's role

Though it has been in vogue since the conception of the democracy in India with the Constitution specifically providing for one, it was not until the appointment of Mr. T.N. Sheshan that the Election Commission got a noticeable role in the state of Indian political diaspora and regime. Appointed in 1990 as the Chief Election Commission of India, Mr. Sheshan reigned during the most vociferous times of Indian polita and perhaps that made him venture strongly against the ruling alliances.

Prior to him, the Election Commission had merely remained as a political armour in the hands of the ruling party at the Centre to use this mechanism of 'electoral mischief' against its opposition, both at the Centre and State levels. There was no independent thinking and mindset on the part of the Commission and perhaps the high number of election petitions during those times signify only that, as the candidates fearing in-action on the part of th Commission instead approached the Courts for looking into the irregularities on that court. The electoral dispute between Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mr. Raj Narain which went upto the Supreme Court is the classic illustration of this. It took a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court to decide upon the allegations, and rightly so, for it was clearly the job of the Election Commission where it was called upon to preform.

But then Mr. Sheshan was a man on a mission; mission to root corruption out of Indian politics. To quote wiki, "
As the Chief Election Commissioner of India he made history by introducing innovative electoral reforms and making the Election Commission a powerful body. He may be rightfully termed as the most visible and controversial public figure who redefined the status and visibility of a CEC in India. His name became synonymous with transparency, efficiency and forward vision during his tenure as the CEC." [read full article here]

Since then there have been many who have been appointed to dawn the role of Chief Election Commissioner [click here to see the full list] but none has been so successful like Mr. Sheshan where bachha-bachha knew his name. To recall, there was even a song on his name "... Sheshan ki sarkaar, tha mast kalandar ... "

But these present times fail to inspire confidence in this institution. There was even a PIL filed against the roles of the various functionaries of this institution in the Supreme Court (and I watched the entire proceedings myself in Court 3 with legal experts on both sides), which was taken back after a political compromise. Nonetheless the reputation of the Election Commission as an independent arbiter and watch-dog ensuring fair-play in the Indian political arena has definitely take a back seat and is dwindling with the coming times.

22 Dec 2007

Dada on the run ...

With his first double century coming on his home-ground after a decade since he made his debut on English soil in 1996, Dada has always been a hope against hope for the Indian Cricket team as well as himself. Rediff recently came out with a compilation of the stats and figures of his performances [click here for the stats] but then they don't do justice to him altogether.

During the days of his captaincy, he may no doubt have played lesser than his average but then he compensated it with his above-board tactics and the sheer aggression which he showed on an off the field. I still remember the way in which he removed his shirt after we one the series in England chasing a world-record (then) 325. It was an apt reply for Flintoff's stunt when England won the one-dayer in India. It in fact posted India's entry into the domination league, something which India had always lacked despite talent.

I have never been a die-hard Dada fan as they say, but then I really admire his courage and determination which he showed to regain his place in the team and start performing again. It really requires a lot of will-power to play against the odds of a billion-nation but he did it and did it with elegance and his bat.

It really feels good to be a part of this country with such spirit ingrained in the soil itself that every man is capable of doing wonders. Oh man, I live this country and its people. ...

Tour Down Under: Many on for the last time?

1996, Lords Cricket ground, India on tour to England. Couldn't have been a better start for India. Three promising talents were discovered. Dravid, Kumble and Ganguly. Each left a mark on the selectors and the country and have been serving the national cricket team since. In and out of the teams, all three, regular cusses and cheering from the spectators, a separate cult in themselves and now each of them have been the captain of the national team, a sure shot reward of their performances and merit. Enter another player (Tendulkar, who else) and they form the bulk of the team.

Both in terms of experience and skills, they dominate any and all forms of the game. But then age is a spoil sport. We hate to admit but we got to admit that cricket like any other game, requires agility and endeavour. Experience and ability to take things cool does count and is necessary but is not the sole criteria which can take you through the entire series unbridled.

I am expecting, though not desirous, that a few of the older pals of the Indian team will call this their last tour down under. I think this could have been sensed earlier as well, when they did the same for the fast-and-furious-20-20. It was really a wise and a well-thought decision that these seniors opted out of the T-20 version. No doubt a big loss in terms of the talent but then another opportunity for the young blood to show their worth and also for the world to find that India is not just a big-trio or a powerful-four or whatever. India is a country where surviving another day is no less than a war and so those who come out of it are really those who deserve it. And the young blood did exactly that. They just simply won the World Cup. Nothing less, and nothing more left to achieve.

I have always being a critic of the way in which BCCI has operated, whether be in terms of the allegations of corruption or power-play in its elections or even the manner of their organization of the national level cricketing events, but it has done real good for India by finding talent from every nook and corner of the country to show his merit and skill and contribute for the country on a whole.

It would be a huge loss for the country, bared substitutable but then time waits for none. So instead of being unhappy of this tour being the last for some, I will take this opportunity of watching the game's best giving their best. Way to go seniors ...

Friends: A nice poem...

The poster carrying this poem on friends has always hung on my door but I have never known who wrote it. But sure it sounds good and makes one realize what true friendship stands for. So thought would post on the blog.

A Friend

A friend is there,
When no one is around,
To give you a smile,
When non can be found

A friend you can tell,
A secret to,
And always know,
She'll keep it true.

A friend is one
Who cares how you feel,
And hopes that all
Your wounds will heal.

You can share an idea,
Big or small
Or with a friend you can sit,
And say nothing at all.

A friend is sad
When you move away,
And for your friend,
You wish you could stay.

Always have
A hand to lend,
And save some time
For a Friend.


21 Dec 2007

12 Days of Christmas

Mumu's christmas gift for the blog :)

20 Dec 2007

New blog

Well, well, well. I finally heeded to his advice; made a blog exclusively on law. Though not a full time professional blog but yes an analytical one, meant to inform and discuss the perspectives of law and issues surrounding it; therefore, Legal Perspectives.

That also means there would be no more posts on this blog related to law (which also seems to collide with the reviews I got from the poll) and the random thoughts would therefore now be random enough.

Hope you like this new one: http://legalperspectives.blogspot.com/

Magna Carta sold???

This would really have been a big moment of the gentleman who purchased the manuscript of Magna Carta. Had I such amount of money to spare, I would surely have gone ahead to buy one for myself. Its only once in a life time that you get such opportunities. Thought I did get my fair share when I found an original text copy of the ancient document in my college library. [You can see the pic on top].

But whats really the fuss about it. Whats the big deal behind it? For non-starters, it is the Bible of Law. From it stemmed the 'Bill of Rights' (US people, does it ring any bells???) and from it came the notion of rights. Magna Carta marked the transfer of power from the King to the people and thus came the notion (though not really then but gradually) of 'people sovereign' rather than a sovereign King.

In a one-man-show system of governance when the King was all powerful and mighty he could do whatever he wanted; even arbitrary and unworthy tantalizing orders could be passed in the name of the King. You all must have heard about the medieval ages or the 'Dark ages' when might was right and being poor or powerless was simply a crime to be paid for by life or years of servitude. It was at this opportune moment that Magna Carta marked the arrival of justice and being in the legal system. A strong parliament and mighty opposition from the peasantry forced a weak king to sign a document, which was to confer certain rights with the people and thus devoid the king of his all-engrossing power.

Also conferring rights to courts to issue writ of habeous corpus (which in turn allowed them to secure a person from illegal detention or otherwise being unable to exercise his freedom of life and liberty) and also other rights on the people at large and through the Parliament. In a sense the signing of Magna Carta could well be symbolized as transgression from Hobbes' model of social contract (where King was all mighty and had all the rights) to Locke's model of social contract (where King was all powerful but the people had certain rights reserved with them which could not be violated, such as the right of life etc.) and thus laid the platform for the modern democracies as we see them today.

Well most of you would be wondering what is the big deal about it. After all its all the same now. But then you must look in the context in which it was signed (or rather made to sign forcibly). It was only because of such a document that a revolution as mighty and blood-clad as the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution did not take place in England. No doubt there were small uprisings and even a king was beheaded but it was only because the King in place gradually conferred rights and privileges to the people that there was no uprising as to the scale of a Revolution.

Putting Magna Carta in perspective today, it may not be of any importance today except archaeological but surely it gives insight into the importance of adopting with times and the need to equate people with people. Certainly a dual class of citizenship does not carry the system far. I have now come across a lot of literature calling for abolition of Monarchy in UK. Perhaps in the same situation would be have been the King who signed Magna Carta, citing the need of times. It would be no big surprise if it does take place one day. That would be something similar to Magna Carta - Part II; conferment of all rights on the people. I am not sure of the timing but am sure this is bound to happen one day.

18 Dec 2007

India's national website

Well for a change the Indian government is recognizing web-based medium of communication as an official one. Really things have come in a different perspective since the Right to Information Act of 2005. In fact they just don't have a website, they are also providing links for bloggers like me and other to promote it. [Check for your self] It is a good attempt for renovating the thinking outlook, than the bureaucratic one.

But do check the national portal [click here]. It is a good reflection of the cultural and social backdrop, with a nice piece of design to being with.

17 Dec 2007

Religion: Opium of the masses???

'Do you believe in God, Mr. Langdon?'
The question startled him. The earnestness in Vittoria's voice was even more disarming than the inquiry. Do I believe in God? He had hoped for a lighter topic of conversation to pass the trip.
A Spiritual conundurm, Langdon thought. That's what my friends call me. Although he studied religion for years, Langdon was not a religious man. He respected the power of faith, the benevolence of churches, the strength religion gave to so many people ... and yet, for him, the intellectual suspension of disbelief that was imperative of one were truly going to 'believe' had always proved too big an obstacle for his academic mind. 'I want to believe,' he heard himself say.
Vittoria's reply carried no judgment or challenge. 'So why don't you?'
He chuckled. 'Well, it's not that easy. Having faith requires leaps of faith, cerebral acceptance of miracles - immaculate conceptions and divine interventions. And then there are the codes of conduct. The Bible, the Koran, Buddhist scripture ... they all carry similar requirements - and similar penalties. They claim that if I don't live by a specific code I will go to hell. I can't image a God who would rule that way.'

The above passage from Dan Brown's first work 'Angels and Demons' perhaps represents a right mix of the argument for the an atheist. Though my quoting above does imply my approval or disapproval of the statement my conformity with Mr. Brown's views either on the same or otherwise, yet I feel that this passage is a correct reflection of the fight within.

But then, as I write this and you read this, somewhere down the world someone would be ri
nging bells, be it in a Church or temple, praying, for oneself or for others, donating, for a better life in an unknown later world, recounting one's karma, to put one's deeds straight, visiting shrines, seeking the unknown almighty. Why? Not because the Bible, Kuran, Geeta, Guru Granth Sahib, or other holy scriptures say that. But because of an inner felt carving for a support. After all we all need one, no matter how strong we may appear, emotionally, physically or mentally, we all need support. It is just a question of timing. Some need it occasionally while for some an entire life of support is short.

In any case, what is the need to question this faith and why? Does it make sense? Well it does, if you follow religion because you have faith in it and someone else says that your religion is sham, corrupt and is based upon fundamentals which are not sustainable. Well, for non-starters, Mr. Brown does exactly that in his two bestselling novels. And consequently we have the enormous furore the world over that Christianity has been attacked and its base shaken and all. But surely and thoroughly I am not writing on that, it is just a passing reference to what happens when people begin questioning their faith.

As Karl Marx had put it, "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes" (German) for "religion is opium of the people or "religion is opium of the masses". I agree with it but for a qualification; the comparison that is made to a tranquillizer, which actually does not warrant comparison. So I do advance the argument that religion serves as a band-aid only till the time it is thought to be curative. The moment you think your woulds heal faster and better without those, it stops to serve any purpose, except decorative. It is ultimately a question of faith.

Religion is only a platform providing an anecdote, which seeks to serve us bound and in-tact, so that we do not feel devoid of purpose and way. All religions, seek to stand on the same footing and providing a way to achieve the inner-self, not something external. Unless there kindles an internal fire, religion fails to serve a purpose and is reduced to a dogma of superstitious practices and like. But the moment you have faith and believe that such practices are there to serve a purpose, in those same practices to being to realize lies an path todays becoming a tolerant, wiser and rational human being, looking with all its humbleness for the enlightenment of the humanity.

It is faith and faith alone, of one in oneself, that keeps this platform vital and self-preserving. The moment faith is lost in the religion, its followers convert or banish and the path to enlightenment disappears. So religion is neither a dogma or an enlightenment in itself. It is instead, a path to finding one-self, a path which no doubt goes through a web of dwindling moments which bring forth a lot of questions which one has to answer. But then it is really a test of character and faith is the weapon to win this warfare.

16 Dec 2007

A disappointing ICL

Foreign players, Foreign umpires and even Foreign cheer leaders. Still the name, Indian Cricket League. Bad pitches, poor infrastructural arrangements, unworthy team names. Really hats off to arrangement. In my earlier post I had been really optimistic that this venture would turn out to more excitement in cricket in India then ever before but I was disappointed to see the real show.

Seriously, with the huge revenue the organizers are earning, things would have been much better if some part of it was spend on ensuring that the level of cricket rose than just minting money alone. The competition factor with the rival BCCI league probably also led to the dismal performance which was prompted by an early and half-hearted start. No doubt there have been celebrities and high-profiled spectators coming in to watch the match but the game of cricket is not the right place to enjoy their presence. They could rightly have been left out of the arena and better stadiums, lightening, etc. provided for instead. The seating arrangement for the in-field spectators could have been improved as well.

What is the point of selling this half-baked cake? Is it the fear on the part of the promoters of ICL that they might not be able to capture the heart of Indian audience when the BCCI league starts its own version? Or is this the best ICL could do? I probably do not agree with either of the reasons for they are lame excuses, because of which the excitement which 20-20 version of this game offers, is suffering on all counts. I think a test match would offer more excitement and entertainment than this. Really, its all a matter of quality, something which had a glaring lack in this series. Hope the things improve with time.

A dollar at 35 Rupees !!!

"The rupee is testing 38, we are playing in the 38-40 band. It has so far been a two-rupee band and the rupee could come to 35 vis a vis the dollar in some years," says K V Kamath, CEO of ICICI Bank as rediff reports. Indeed, if it would be, a proud moment for India. A sure and potent sign of a strong economy. Its not that this would be the first time though, it was pretty much the same before the Rupee was devalued during the last emergency of 1975, but now the appreciation is on account of the strength of the economic value that Rupee carries, therefore exhilaration is due indeed.

Of late there was much hype and euphoria when the Chinese Yuan was appreciated. However the situation was different there. No doubt the Yuan was becoming strong but the appreciation was on account of change in peg to basket of currencies rather than on account of the intrinsic worth of Yuan itself. I am pretty sure by now most of the readers without a background in monetary economics would be at bay with what I have written here. So its time for simplification.

Currencies the world over were initially valued in terms of their convertibility with gold, i.e. the 'Gold Standard'. This meant that the value of the currency was how much gold it could purchase with one unit of its currency. This also meant that the holder of the currency was entitled to get gold equivalent to the currency which he held, i.e. the 'Gold Convertibility' and the national governments or their central banks (like Federal Reserve for US, Bank of England for UK, Reserve Bank for India, etc.) were obliged to give equivalent amounts of gold to the currency that was presented to them for conversion. This however meant that the Banks could issue currency only equivalent to the amount of gold they carried.

This restriction on ability to issue currency severely impacted the roles national governments and their central banks could play in the regulation and management of their economies. Further, with the Great Depression proving a disaster for macro-economic management, countries the world over shifted to 'partial convertibility' i.e. gold would be given in exchange of the currency but not to the full extent of the value depicted on the currency but only partly. So for example when earlier for presenting $500 you would get gold worth $500, now for presenting $500 you could get gold worth only $50 and so on and so forth.

Then came the World Wars and the countries were in need of money more than ever. Simultaneously the IMF was also established. This led to the rejection of the gold standard altogether. Countries across the world agreed to covert their currencies now in only different variants and not in gold. So earlier when you could get gold worth $50 for submitting $500, now you could only get other dollar bills. So for 5 $100 notes you could get 100 $5 notes and so on. But the IMF held in more than this. It determined at that point the value of each currency on the basis of gold it could purchase and then calculated the value of each currency vis-a-vis each other, i.e. 'exchange rate'. The countries which came later on were given option to determine the value of their currency on the basis of an existing currency value or a mixture of them.

So India adopted a 'basket of currencies', currently 12 but unknown, where upon a formula developed by it the value of Indian rupee would be determined. China, prior to the appreciation I talked about above, was pegged to US dollar. So whatever the value of US dollar, the value of Chinese Yuan would be xUS$ where x was what China would decide.

Naturally Chinese products were always cheaper in US than US goods. And consequently the trade advantage China got allowed itself to occupy a huge market share (we all know how huge) not only in US but all over the globe. And so economically US was always constrained and this led it to raise a political agenda to get Yuan change from pegged to a basket, which China in fact did.

Now there is a concept of fixed, floating and dirty exchange rate as well. But I think this would get this post will get too heavy. Will write somewhere else. In any case, coming back to our originally discussion, since it has not been the influence of RBI or any external agency that Rupee has been appreciating, it is surely the outcome of economic growth and relative stability that India has been facing on the monetary front, which is good news indeed for the county as a whole but with the exception of exporters which have been having a good time with a weak rupee. Let us hope they can continue to make the best of their business by entrepreneurial initiative instead of looking for a fiscal relief from the Finance Minister.

15 Dec 2007

Prescribing a code for PILs

' The Supreme Court on Friday said it will consider laying down the guidelines for judiciary to entertain public interest litigations (PILs). A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan said, “it is better to have some guidelines whether these types of PILs can be entertained”. ' A nice observation indeed. But then the legal experts would agree that this was coming, sooner or later. After all the law-spearheading institution cannot remain law-less. And why do I say so? Because the concept of Public-Interest-Litigation is like that only.

Developed in 1980s by Justice P.N. Bhagwati in the famous case of S.P. Gupta (for law buffs, S.P. Gupta - I) wherein lawyers asked the judges to give an end to the glaring interferences of executive in judicial appointments, and it was so done, only by developing a new medium of locus standi to give those lawyers a right to be heard. And since then this new medium, which has been re-christened as 'public-interest-litigation' has come a long way. Traditionally employed as a tool to deal with ill treated under-trail offenders, mental patients, rights of children, governmental policies and then boiling down to filing for entertain petitions on anything and everything under the sun, PILs have indeed come a long way.

Some time ago I had the occasion to edit an article which made a comprehensive analysis on the manner in which the Supreme Court started taking a tough view (notably since 2001 with the BALCO disinvestment case) on the genuineness of these petitions and also on the grounds of judicial encroachment on executive domain. And then today we have this concern to develop a code of conduct and lay down guidelines on the subject-matter concerning these PILs and manner for dealing with them.

But then, judicially laid down guidelines again??? Though since 1980s the Courts have been laying down guidelines but it again it sounds to be an executive function. But still the Courts have been very liberal in their approach towards framing these guidelines, the most prominent being the the guidelines against sexual harassment at work places (Vishakha Case) and the guidelines for Police to ensure against mis-treatment at times of arrest (D.D. Basu Case). There have been others as well like the inter-country child adoption (Lakshmikant Pandey Case) and all but then all boast of erudite law-making and arousing suspicion on the capabilities of the law-makers.

Then truly and fully, I appreciate that there is a need to bring to law this extra-constitutional self-proclaimed jurisdictional and give legal certainty to the system. It would no doubt reduce the scope for abuse but may as well carry the potential to make the stringent and closed in a manner that genuine cases may be shunted out without giving a hearing. But then again, everything has pros and cons and the benefits of regulating this system may as well outweigh the costs.

Emergency lifted: good news indeed...

The protests and oppositions and the hue-and-cry finally gave way and emergency was lifted in Pakistan today. Good news indeed for the supporters of democracy and all. As the news-editors would put it in tomorrows newspapers (this in fact the first time I am writing prior to the newspapers writing on the news) this would be linked as the outcome of constant international pressure and internal turmoil boiling down in the streets of Pakistan. But I would disagree. Disagree only to agree that this is not all. Events have to take a long course till democracy can be realized in long sense.

Pakistan has now been under a semi-dictatorship for long and have been kept devoid of democracy since they have had a military President, rightly or wrongly. I have chosen the state-of-affairs as semi-dictatorship for various reasons. First and foremost, democracy requires the people themselves to formate the rules of the game and fair-play and govern accordingly. It does not contemplate pre-conceived rules being placed by someone who is not governed by the system completely and who determined and can quash the coming into power of those whom he does not like or support.

Secondly, national policies necessarily contemplate subsidiarity for a democracy to operate. However, devoid of subsidiarity, national policy necessarily tend to get modified and tempered with when flowing from a top-to-bottom model of national governance instead of being the reverse bottom-to-top model.

Thirdly, international rules of recognition reflect a fair bit on the qualitative aspects of governance in the national context. The reguar in-and-out (mostly out) of Pakistan from various international leagues such as SAARC, commonwealth, ASEAN etc. on the grounds of mis-handling of national affairs and suspension of international recognized principles of good governance etc. has also indicated the extent to which the quality of democracy values have taken a back-lash in Pakistan.

Clearly and perfectly I welcome this lifting of emergecy, something which had been acting as a scar on the national but then I feel the nation itself, along with the people it supports, has to go a long way to establish a self-regulating system which takes it away from being susceptible to dictators or semi-dictators and guarantees a constitutionally regulated state of affairs which not only ensures political maturity and independence but also validates and takes ahead the case for economic growth and prosperity not only in the region but also along its northern and eastern neighbors, which tend to have a high degree of influence on its national and local governance mechanisms. The question of when and how if what I cannot answer, though. It is only for the people of Pakistan to determine and lead on these ends. But surely and quickly is but I can hope for.

London - Delhi: Visualizations

Christmas break and rush on air-ports are complimentary. So was the case this time as well. Even though the Christmas break has still technically not started, the rush has crippled the air port service. Heathrow being the busiest (though it does not have any bearing on the quality of service offered) was no different. This Virgin Atlantic plane is just waiting its turn at one of the 55 gates at Terminal 3 of the Heathrow, of course all flooded and occupied by a sea of humanity, waiting for their turns to fly back home in the company of their near and dear ones. [And as for a photograph, I could not take one because of the 'privacy' issues.]

But then this is just the tip of the ice-burg. The real rush was at the check-in counters where the queues were huge, man-power insufficient and perspiration levels running high (even with temperatures as low as 2 degrees), personal space decreasing (with people crumbling and huddling to make space for more people) and what not.

Having underwent the shady part, it was time for some relaxation and energy-boosting. Nothing better than a hazelnut hot chocolate at Star Bucks. Tasty and refreshing. Worth the 3.25 pounds spent. Free for two hours (thought better to reach early than miss the flight), it was time for a fun ride at the tax free shops. Starting from (couldn't have been better) the Victoria's Secret perfume collection (really I don't recall what they call it as) was like a trip to paradise. One (or may be two) of my senses were having a good time to pass though the display racks and sales representatives.

Then through the chocolate store, thinking if people ever wondered how many brands were there really, leading to the London toy and gift shop. Beautiful collector's editions up for sale but with exorbitant price tags. Could have bought them cheaper on Oxford Street (am really addicted to that place now). And then the homely Boots, leading to the CD shop. Displaying the latest DVDs, Bourne Ultimatum (I think only because it was shot at the Waterloo Station, UK) and cosmic gadgets, really a paradise for a geek.

Walking amidst the European fantasy and treats; wines and spirits were the special-of-the-day. Offering amazing Christmas discount (really just a reason to buy, not the cause) and glittering gift-wrappers, promising another festive season ahead. But in all, a nice lights-and-sounds show.

And then finally the boarding call and ahead to my flight. Two hours walking already, it took another half an hour to gate 42 (woefully at the rear end of my terminal but unfortunately the one where my flight was scheduled for). Another sea of humanity; all boarding at the same time for Toronto, Abu Dhabi, New Delhi and Auckland at parallel gates.

Ten hours of continuous flight (thanks to the Air India flight ahead whose pilot could not trace the run-way and delayed us by an hour) led us to the 'under renovation' IG Airport; seriously, a domestic one could have looked better. No ceilings, bare walls, stinking walk-aways, and seriously dis-proportionate allocation of man-power. More people at work then work and passengers combined. And then the conveyor-belts not running or running without informing the 'May I help you desk'. A chaotic landing indeed. Thanks to the green channel, didn't take long to come out. But overall a forgettable experience.

Finally, back to the same old dust-covered roads, honking cars (cannot recall when was the last time I heard a horn in London) erratic drivers and the same wonder-that-works environment. Really I love my country.

13 Dec 2007

Cricket down under, sledging wars up ahead

First test on Boxing Day marks the start of another promising series up ahead Down-under. With the Kangaroos committed to equal the scores of their last visit two months back on Indian turf, the Indian tigers would be looking for carrying where they left in the last tour in 2004 where they drawed the test series but were looking good for a win. With the Little-master showing back that he has another full life of cricket left in him (so stop thinking about his retirement), the Prince of Kolkata emerging as the Man of the Series in the recently concluded Test series against Pakistan, Sehwag getting a chance (incidentally though because Gambhir was down with injury) and looking forward to encash it fully, Zaffar in fine tone with a good test series, Dohni roaring as usual, Yuvi looking to make the most of the test series and boy-o-boy, the man the who likes playing and hitting against Australia, the man with two Vs, Mr. Lakman, the Indian batting line up looks solid and better as ever. Then we have a promising and responsible capital who would be spearheading the spin department himself.

But then the Aussies are playing on their home soil. Though it doesn't make any difference as they like winning anywhere, but then the home advantage would be there. Even though Symonds has publicly asked to forget the 'monkey incident', the taunts and sledging would surely add colour to the game. Really you cannot separate cricket, Australia and sledging. Looks like made for each other type. A typical fixture in every series against Australia, and as they put it, a test of character. But then its a part of the game and you gotta face it in order to play the game. Can't run from it or deny its existence. After all, its only when the going gets tough that the tough gets going; the cream rises and men are separated from the boys.

And as always one could predict, the series start with a test on Boxing day. Sometimes makes me wonder whether Aussies ever celebrate Christmas with ease or have a net practice on that day also !!! But then you got to learn from them the true meaning of professionalism and competitive playing. Starting with a well designed strategy, doing thorough research before the start of the game, making an exhaustive analysis after it ends, rigorous training, disciplined performance and what not. They have really raised the game to a new unknown league of character-requiring-professional series. But then it also gives an opportunities for the other teams to improve their mindsets and performances. After all, "you can only improve by playing a better opponent", as a lead character finds out the hard way in Revolver.

Looking forward to an exciting series up ahead. All the best India. ...

12 Dec 2007

Arrest me if you have the guts, Modi tells PM !!!

"Arrest me if you have the guts, Modi tells PM". A really sensitive heading posted by rediff. The count-down to the recent Gujarat polls is really going past in an interesting and curious manner. With the centre poking its nose in the state, trying to ensure that the existing government is not returned back to power; with a vehement Chief Minister (whom a Gujarati tells me, runs the state like a corporate undertaking with video conferencing on updates from district administration everyday) who is not afraid to speak his heart-out; and with an eager and closely monitoring Election Commission, this tripartite affair is really getting interesting.

For long now the Congress has been accused or having a puppet time in the Indian Government with the show being essentially run by just one (though I do not agree with it, especially as far as the financial and taxation sector is concerned) and no wonder majority of Modi's comments have come against that one person (no marks for guessing whom, ok ???) But this is probably the first time that he has spoken against the PM himself. Mostly soft-spoken but a genius, Dr. Singh has never been a political person throughout. He has been serving the country with the very best of himself and the best of his legions against all odds but then the thing is that politics is not all about efficiency (though I would seriously love that too be) and there is a bit of politics in politics (for the rest bit of it, I decline to recognize it for it is essentially the manifestation of corruption and vagaries of power). And therefore more needs to be done in order to take care of purely political issues, atleast I think, on Dr. PM's part.

I would surely not be surprised if there are no reactions or comments either from Dr. Singh or the PMO on this challenging remark by Mr. Modi but then surely there would be one from the Election Commission, which is poorly placed in between the centre and the state. Notices would be issued and proceedings initiated, the results would be withheld till the line-up for the elections is complete and new government comes to power. A typical Indian case. So much from the politically sensitive country. But as for Gujarat, the state is really progressive and that there is no second thoughts on that.

Judicial activism at stake???

Recently a division bench of the Supreme Court reversed a decision of Haryana High Court. No big issue really, happens every day at the apex institution. But it created a furore and debate amongst the Constitutional experts of India. Why? Well because the Haryana High Court in its decision was dealing with temporary & casual gardeners which had been working for long and due to the inaction of the government, in regularizing their posts, were suffering for long. The High Court, in that situation, directed the government to regularize them, thereby giving them parity with the regular employees doing the same work. But then when the Government of Haryana appealed against this decision, the division bench, comprising of Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice M. Katju hailed it as an enrochment of legislative power and overturned the decision.

Why? Because according to them the function of the courts is to enforce a law and not to make it; judges cannot create a right where none exists; it is the duty of the law-makers to ensure that proper governance takes place; etc. But I do not understand that the same Supreme Court, and that to a Constitutional Bench of it, lays down the law of the land in an eleborate judgment the guidelines to be followed by executive governments while dealing with regularization of casual employees, what is wrong by the High Court following the decision and deciding accordingly, when it is bound to decide the cases in terms of the law laid down by the Supreme Court? So its just like, we tell you to do 'xyz' when but we do not want you to do 'xyz'. The issue it raises about judicial certainty etc. no one has bothered to deal with but then a furore had created that judicial credibility is at stake.

And this comes from no less terms but from a very senior and respected lawyer in the Supreme Court, Ms. Indira Jaising. She has raised important (but unconnected to this recent judgment) issues and identified a few items which according to her should be on the priority list of the judiciary. So let us start by what judicial activism per se means and then move on to whats wrong with the approach of the highest court of India.

Judicial Activism is really a big word now in India. A random search at google on it brings 103,000 results. But what is it? And why at all is it so big? Well it evidences a pro-active judiciary i.e. one which goes beyond the Austinian exposition of law. The traditional notion of the law has been that the legislature creates/makes the law, executive enforces the law and the function of the judiciary is merely to interpret laws and clarify the legal meanings they carry. Doesn't sound too big right? This is exactly why the judiciary at times has tended to go beyond. Citing the reasons of executive in-action or absence of a law altogether to deal with a particular glaring issue, the judges have gone beyond their originally prescribed function of interpreting laws and have made laws themselves. This progressive march as an institution has been tentatively described as judicial activism.

Why I say tentative because it has various fall-outs. Firstly all agree (whether constitutional experts or otherwise) that the laws enacted by the legislature are not sufficient to deal with all cases which come across the societal interactions and therefore there must be a sufficient degree of leverage available with the judges, at all times, to make an exposition of law which may not exactly be as the legislature contemplated or could not contemplate (being too busy I suppose) and therefore advance the understand and application of law further. So there is no question of judicial activism when it is always an acknowledged fact that the judiciary has to remain active beyond the confines of a statutory law in order to function effectively.

Second comes the question of drawing the line. Where and when do we say that a particular instance of decision-making is pro-active or in line with Austinian understanding? Typically when now the Constitutions across the world confer these roles upon the courts. The Supreme Court of the United States, under Chief Justice Marshall,declared two hundred years back in Marbury versus Madison that the law of the United States is what the Supreme Court says it is. Courts, internationally, have taken clue from that and have been plugging the gaps which have arisen in the absence of laws. Then the Constitution of India gives wide and sweeping powers to the Supreme Court of India in terms of Article 142 and otherwise. It provides that the Supreme Court can "make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it". Now given the fact that justice is a very wide and relative term, capable of justifying almost any proposition, it is imminent that the Court can go way ahead to perform its role as the Custodian of the Constitution.

So when the Court does go beyond, why do we cry foul? When the entire country is divided in brick-bats about an issue which not only divides the country on Marxist lines of haves and have-not and provides for reservation, which is wrong with the Court contemplating the pros and cons of the matter which carries huge ramifications and puts at stake the future of the country as a whole, especially when the government is paying a deaf ear to it; yes I am referring to reservation. After all the Constitutional itself recognizes 'social justice' as an essential goal to the attained by the State.

This is just one example of course. There are so many other important matters pending before the Court at all times. As my friend as a Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of India puts it, the Court is having a busy time now, having so many sensitive and important cases pending before it that he and the judges would be working even during the vacations. This definitely is an indication that law does originate from critical thinking and awareness to the sensitivity of the problem. So if we are not sensitive to the problem, why should others not be as well.

At this point I am reminded of the selling of the Parliamentarian's votes, an incident that took place at the times Late Mr. Rao was the Prime Minister. At that time the Supreme Court refused to look at the matter, being an internal matter of an august institution of India, the Parliament. But then when the matter came up again and that was as regards the internal functioning of the Parliament, expulsion of members and other grounds, the Court was obliged to interfere to the extent of pointing out the rules of fair play and then departing with grace by leaving the matter to the wisdom of the legislature to deal with it. I do not think this is an encroachment on any one's power or domain.

Way back in 1973 when the Court laid down the 'basic structure doctrine', many experts objected to it on the grounds of legitimacy i.e. who gave the Supreme Court the power to declare that there is such thing as a basic structure in the Constitution, where there is no mention of such either in the Constitution or in the Constitutional Assembly Debates, which record the deliberations of the members of the Assembly which framed the Constitution.

But then, why do people not understand that there is a need to change with the times. Animals adopt and humans change. Then why should the law not follow the course? The Constitution is not meant to be a book which will contain the same text and same meaning even after decades and centuries. In order to make it meaning either it has to be revised or given life to by meaningful interpretation which is adaptive to life's sensitivities and the changes in human outlook and behaviour and also to conform to the aspirations that a nation carries, not to mention the national goals of growth and development.

Here I conclude, perfectly in favour of judicial activism, which in turn is cross-regulated by the legislative interventions in the form of enactments which keep coming from time to time and adapt, modify or over-rule the law laid down by the judges. Unless a path of active involvement in the national interests; unless issues plaguing huge cross-sections across the country are timely addressed (which perhaps a busy executive finds hard to keep pace with), growth and justice in the real sense of the terms cannot be achieved.

11 Dec 2007

Branches of LAW (Law Series - 4)

If you have a tree, it will have branches (unless you cut them ofcourse). Law is just like a tree. A look at sociological explanation is really helpful. It beautifully illustrates the process which culminates into law. It starts with the actions of Ego (individual), turns to an habit, then to folkways, mores, customs and finally laws. [click here for wiki says about this.]

But then it does not stop at that. It moves on to develop and grow into a full fledged system of its own. And this is where the tree analogy comes to play. It develops into a discipline with specialized fields and thus its branches. Another process of evolution and we have sub-sets and super-sub-sets and so we have super-specialized disciplines. And so has law witnessed the huge architectural build-up that it has gone too heavy and vast to know it full. So let us start with the ground basics

I hope I don't need to explain what law is or why law is. So let us start straight with its branches. The most prominent of them are; criminal law; commercial law; contractual law; property law; constitutional law; taxation (how could I miss that???) and tort law. Then there are the less prominent ones; armed-forces law; administrative law (generally seen as a part of constitutional law itself); cyber law; space law; intellectual property law; immigration law; child law; juvenile law; family law; disabilities law; racialism law; and what not ...

Many of these are specialized disciples already while some are toddlers, yet to find a proper space for themselves.

At this point I thought I would elaborate the areas I have enumerated above but then if would have been too boring to browse through (though I would have been even more bored writing it up). So I dropped the idea. Any ways, the thing is that this is just an area for specialization and super-specialization. Does not much has to do with a lay-man understanding of the law, for the principles and structures behind each significantly remain the same, except where the special needs and complexities dominate to make specific rules dealing with specific situations. For example, the concept lies writ large at the heart of family law that individuals are free in the decision of their life-partners. But the certain societies wonder that it would be in their better interests (I fail to see how) if only the heterosexuals are permitted to form a union.

So this is how law structures itself. At the centre lies a tree, marking the evolution of law from mother nature (and therefore the intrinsic and constant connection with society) which is the source of all principles and aspirations for growth and then we have specific branches, which deal with different areas of law; More complex the society, more specialized the law, like cyber law, space law etc.

But then this categorization into branches is artificial as in any given situation there can be a cross-section of various issues that may apply. They inter-mingle and apply as a host of problems (so you hire a lawyer) which are to be addressed simultaneously (so the lawyer makes a team of lawyers for the problem) and then convince the judge (both legally as well as extra-legally) that your side is the best one and justice (if at all it exists in this world) can only be served by ruling in your favour ...

Perspectives at Thames

A random stroll across the embankment, gust of chilly wind, freezing waters, steaming ferries, faces representing various races, a culmination of world cultures really. Thames really has a lot to provide in terms of ideas and inspirations. No wonder these people (ofcourse its only the British who claim such) claim that London is THE center-point, the place marking the start of world civilization. They have gone so much so that they have got this claim included in United Nations Charter and [Article 38] of the Statute of the International Court of Justice enunciates this claim of 'civilized nations'.

So much for the claim-blame part. What I really bring to you is Thames. Not a very clean river (even at times Ganga may be cleaner), nor a huge one. Flows steady and calm, never uprising or tidal. River-Waters-trade perhaps seem to have started from here. But gives you a good background material to work on, no matter which stream of art you represent. As a painter, you have countless opportunities to take your call of the subject-matter you want to cover; As a dramatist you have the world at your disposal, you thing of a country and you will find a representative sample of inhabitants from there (no wonder Shakespeare go so much success here).

And then comes the lesser-mortals like me, who just go for a walk along-side the Thames. Neither to draw any inspiration nor for any soul searching. Killing time probably (who so ever invented that phrase, really required appreciation for the good words), or may be even to see the fairer skin (someone will kill me for that), may be to qualify as an adventurer (not being much of a bungee jumper) or just for the hake of telling people back home that I am standing in the heart of London, the heart of British empire, if empire it is.

The river-cruises would hurt your pockets and so would London-eye. So a walk down the Westminster Bridge or the Waterloo would remind you which strata of income you belong to (ya with Porsche, Ferrari etc. passing by, not to mention the lower segment Mercedes, Audi, Renault passing by, though sometimes I really wonder are they really in lower segment???). They would also remind you of the old times and memories these bridges share. After standing for three hundred years is really an achievement by itself.

Then if you want to explore modern London but are still fascinated by Thames, try the Blackfriar, or the London Bridge. You will find the same water underneath but in between the modern-architecture-designed-steel-bridge will fill in some reflections of the changing times and cultures. A further trip down east leads you to Dock-land-yards, really an nice place for curious onlookers and those interested in examining geological changes.

Then you start getting tired and so head to a coffeehouse (and remember not a 'cafe') where a sip of hot chocolate or the stronger hot-shot refreshes you to carry on the adventure again, but this time returning back, looking back at the Tower bridge and remembering of Queen's jewels and the Kohinoor.

The sun has suddenly hidden himself amongst the passing clouds and you find another chilly gust whistling past your over-coat, which is suddenly insufficient to cover you all up against the pressing winter. But then your adventure spirit challenges you and you pace ever faster against the cold wind, hands freezing and teeth chattering, eyes watering and body shivering. ...

Intermingling cultures: Heights of emulation !!!

It is sometimes good to copy. It brings the copier closer to the originator. But then it can lead the originator crazy as well. [Ever wondered why someone who took the exam looking into your notebook got more marks than you??? Happens all the time]

But then there are limits. Ya, copyright laws and all. I sometimes don't really understand (on a lighter note) that who care when we copy. Do we think some one is actually gonna verify and compare the stuff you wrote and test it IPR liability? Come on, if someone does check, then hell with him. He must be really having an awfully free time.

And there is copying in a different sense. Emulating types. UN copies the US style of working, UK copies the US style of tax assessment (even heard pay-as-you-go) and what not. But these are not called copying. Why? Because you copy an idea and not an expression. Sounds silly, but thats how the law is. So people copy what they feel good in others.

But then the good is again relative. Its good for me, not for you. I don't care what others would feel like if I copy. I will do what I feel like. So people dress like Captain Jack Sparrow and feel about it. But no one cares, really, when they are not disturbed by it.

And when they get disturbed, they cry foul. Like Shiv Sena says, go hell with your Valentine Day. UK cribs that they gave world civilization and what they got in return was McDees. (some one was actually distributing pamphlets on that in London). WTO cribs that developing countries do not understand the meaning of development and act as ameturs. All of us crib at some point or other. And its perfectly fine. If we don't crib, we aren't humans.

But then there should be limits of emulating. Killing in real life (don't read reel !!!) for the sake of emulating is not really worth it. But the nature has its ways of overcoming human pshychology. The recent US style shoot at a school in India reflects only that. This 'Shootout in Gurgaon school' really carries more than it meets the eye. I came, I saw, I shot, I conquered types...
Shows really how closely cultures are intermingled. The United States has a law (I hope even India has one) which says those below 18 cannot be sold firearms. Does it help, not really if these incidents are any guide. Even the famous anger-control therapies are no use.

I do not have an answer to these problems and issues in life, for these depend really on each individuals assessment of right and wrong, dos and donts, and I am not an expert on pshychology. But certainly I am sure there will be always be optimists and what I call as rational-optimists, who will argue; he killed only, right? so what. A good way really to stop worrying about the growing population problem. He should have killed more. Right?

10 Dec 2007

Law follows society ???

"The theme of his book is that law follows social and economic changes. It responds to the needs that people in society assert. At the beginning of the 21st Century, we live in a large, pluralistic, technologically complex, impersonal and interdependent country." writes Robin Friedman, reviewing 'Law in America: A Short History'.

I couldn't have agreed more. "Law follows the society". I am firm believe of this fact and principle. [Perhaps my earlier posts will also testify that, where I invariably link the origin and growth of law as a need to regulate human behaviour.] Other reasons might be advanced to support this proposition and I am open to that.

Want to verify this assertion? Take any law. Start reading it. Most of the times the statute will carry a Preamble which will discuss the need and background for its enactment. Always a safe guide of interpreting statutes. This will reveal an urgently (or may be not so urgent later on when you are reading) felt need to define a particular behaviour and regulate or mould it. Thus any enactment presupposes the existence of a particular behavioural trait and the enactment is a reflection of the manner the legislature conceives the best way to regulate it.

Still not convinced? Let us take illustrations and to start with, easier ones. Laws which we all know what their purpose are, from the name of the enactment itself, say Sarbanes Oxley Act. Why was it enacted? What purpose does it serve? Well, it was enacted as an aftermath of the Enron debacle and the need felt by the US Congress to prevent re-happening of such incidents.

Similarly, why criminal laws? Who is State to tell another that something is a crime and punish for it? They say law agrees by consent of the citizens and a law without citizen backing is a bad law. The Constitution says that the citizens are sovereign and law emanates from them. I did not consent to criminal law and therefore its a bad law and I am not bound by it!!!

Nice argument really but workable? I do not think so. If the majority would have agreed with this argument, there would not have been such law. But the fact that such law exists, means the majority wants such law to exist. And since such law exists, it means that the majority (as represented by the legislature) does not want certain conducts to take place in the society and therefore banishes them or prohibits them by providing legal sanctions against them. Therefore we have criminal law. This relates us back to our premises that certain behaviour is identified as non-desirable and therefore provided against, describing exactly the factum that law follows the society.

Then we can take another illustration, say contractual laws. Why was the Contract laws enacted when it is widely acknowledged that it rests on the premises of 'party sovereign' i.e. parties are free to define the manner in which they want themselves to be governed. If thats the case, why a law at all??? Because, all the parties, at all the times, are not in a position to determine and protect their best interests. So the law needs to intervene and define the rules of fair-play, in-conformity to which the transactions shall take place.

There may be an argument that certain laws are prospective i.e. there is no such comparable human behaviour existing, as contemplated in the law but still provided for by the law. So law always does not follow the society. Right? Wrong. Wrong because the very fact that the law is providing for such a behaviour is indication sufficient enough that it conceives certain behaviour and wants to either promote it or denounce it from ever happening. To give a technical example, this often happens in case of financial laws. The law gives opportunities and incentives to trade in particular sectors (heard of tax holidays? special economic zones?). Now that would be an illustration of such a law. Like not much trade takes place in a particular backward area so the law provides tax relief for those trading in such area. So the law is prospective. Right?

Wrong again. Wrong because this is not a prospective event. This is also based on the human behavioural traits acting in financial streams which seek to achieve monetary gains. So the law-makers are relying on an existing behavioural trait to make a law to influence a future occurance of events. Thus law is in fact following the social mores (making monetary gains in this case) and thus follows society.

India rising and beyond

More than 8% GDP growth rate, a bulging working class, heightened attention from the developed nations and keen interests of economists as to how things work despite such high levels of corruption, un-systematic patterns and all, curious BBC people, lots of you tube videos [1, 2, 3, 4, etc.], bullish sensex. Is this all? Does this translate into India rising?

Huge section of people still below poverty line, more people on less than 1 dollars are day than the entire population of many countries, large-scale illiteracy, massive income divide, little and practically no infrastructure to connect the rural with the urban and share the benefits, the same rudimentary and dogmatic vastness covering the mental psyche of the rural India (which deprives that section for sharing the same development rate, who do not understand what does an appreciating Rupee against dollar mean) and all.

But why am I saying this, is it a criticism of the structure and more like saying "things will not change ever" or "come on, you gotta be kidding" types. I am a hard-core supporter of the vision that Indians carry and India is striving for. And I am equally sure that we will be able to achieve those desired results. But my only concern is the timing. In my opinion not much emphasis is being given on these underlying issues, which are vicious circles really, and without tackle which successfully, the dream will continue to evade us and become a long realized one.

The policy makers should lend their eyes to that. To illustrate, take the case of Education Cess, which is charged as a surcharge (i.e. tax on tax) @ 3% now (earlier 2%). The collections on this count have been huge and are piling up as we speak and Indians spend. But where are they being used? This reply in Lok Sabha does not tell us much. The attitude of the Government did not change even an year later [click here to see]. Shouldn't there have been a professional approach towards handling this fund, which has been earmarked for a special and important purpose?

Same is the case with handling of foreign exchanges. No doubt the Reserve Bank is doing a wonderful job keep the Rupee stable and fighting inflation. But shouldn't we stop compiling dollars? I am sure, with the given rise in exports and (but for oil), matches with imports, there would be no foreign exchange crisis in the short and medium run. Then why not invest these reserves in infrastructure development. Mumbai and Delhi are like saturated in terms of the available space. Why not make smaller cities around these and other metros as hubs for investment to supply and cater to the needs of these metros, which are like economies in themselves.

India is rising because it is bulging with talent. But what is the point if the talent cannot be utilized? I would propose that incentive schemes be made such that non-office jobs be situated in sites which do not crumple space in cities. Like what about BPO, call-centres etc. being situated in outskirts of cities. This will not harm anyone and more space in the interiors of the city can be devoted to jobs which require more skills and add more value. Certainly I do not wish to demean the wonderful service these sectors provide but it is just that a proper city planning itself can do wonders.

Then we have such a huge IAS personnel, all full of talent and merit (come on, its really hard to pass through that UPSC exams and if you are through, you got to have something in you). Why not assign independent charges and pool ideas from amongst them. But always keep them making meaningful things out of what Ministers say. The country will grow more if independent charge is given to each IAS (sitting in North or South block) to take care of a particular sector/industry/area/city (or whatever wise criteria one can evolve) and then give them the resources and time with a regular stock-taking. I am sure they would come out with wonderful results. We just got to trust our brother-hood and be patient with the results.

These are just few suggestions which my brain can think of. Think the wonders that will be caused if the progress is seen as the target and more people start thinking in this novel and broad way. I would really love to see the country prosper and advance in more qualitative terms than just in terms of GDP.

Vande Materam ...

Ragging !!! Why are we so obsessed with it???

A: "I got through Class XII Board!!! I am going to college!!! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!!"
B: "But aren't you afraid?" "You know the seniors are really rough." "The ragging and all ..."
A. "Oh ya. I didn't think about it" "Its good you told me." "I will ask big bro if he has a friend at my college who could help."

Welcome to a typical Indian college-starting one's psyche and visions about college. Each year so many pass schools and move to college, only to find a rigged-world, even violent at times, not so friendly, and absurd really. "How does all this help me in making a better individual, if college life is meant to be that???" and other similar questions floating in the sky for these young-college-goers.

But then its the same every year. New platoons coming in and old ones trying to establish their dominance. I saw 'Jar head' the other day and found that this was even in Army. That may even be tolerable with Army people the so-called tough guys. But those who barely know what is ego-clash, dominance, fight-club et. al., being always in a small-compact school, ragging them is really being tough (if not brutal) on them.

The Supreme Court says the institution will be liable if they don't stop that, there is an expert (Raghvan) Committee Report on the subject matter and repeated references to the guidelines but no, the things do not fall in place. The things go on as ever; if not overtly than covertly.

But why are we so obsessed with it? Why do the seniors feel happy to have meted out their juniors with brutality and misdemeanor (ofcourse you would have made out by now that I am not against a healthy introduction and all, but yes when things start to get violent and against the notions of dignity, that is where I say one has to say 'stop')? Why? Why? and Why?

Is it reciprocity? One of my friends had put it that its because we got that, so we are giving that back. I keeps on flowing like from generation-to-generation. But then I ask, is it something worth handing down? It is on the same footing as one from a father to a son? I don't think so and think that no reasonable minded person would agree to that. Then why? why do we keep this practice intact, as if it is a heritage.

I understand that law-enforcement is really a problem and having a law against something does not translate automatically as meaning that end of problem (ya, the evidence on the effectiveness of child-marriage prohibition laws, anti-dowry laws, anti-sati laws, etc. all same thats) but that doesn't mean we do not take an occasion to look in our souls and ask "are we doing the right thing? "is it something I will want my child to face? "do i really resound as being a dominant personality when I rag someone?" et. al, which make you realize the worth and effect of the things we happily indulge ourselves in.

The answer will definitely be "no", I am sure of that. But if it is "no", what do we do to translate that "no" into action. Thats a big question and there is a lot of soul searching to be done. But surely and certainly, its not a good practice that we carry or take for granted.