1. For a clean judiciary (The Hindu)
  2. Power of a single identity (The Hindu)
  3. Testing waters (The Hindu)

 

1.For a clean judiciary  (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of CJI decision to remove the judge of Allahabad shows the importance of in-house mechanisms. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • A judge of the Allahabad High Court had committed judicial impropriety serious enough to warrant his removal, the subject of corruption in the higher judiciary is in the news. In the so called MCI bribery case, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has decided to recommend the removal of the erring judge to the President of India.

 

The misconduct

 

  • The allegations against him appear to correspond to the claims in a first information report registered by the CBI against another medical college trust and alleged middlemen, including a retired judge of the Orissa High Court, that there was a plot to influence public servants to obtain favourable orders.

 

  • The climactic event was the unprecedented press conference at which four senior-most judges alleged the CJI had departed from convention while using his power to draw up the roster. It is important for the institution that the charges against Justice Shukla are properly investigated.

 

 

  • The Supreme Court Bench had found the judge had violated a restraining order from the apex court by allowing the GCRG Memorial Trust, Lucknow, to admit students. The Supreme Court observed that the Bench headed by Justice Shukla had violated judicial propriety.

 

 

 

  • When the CJI writes to the President and Prime Minister for removal of a high court judge, the Rajya Sabha chairperson appoints a three-judge inquiry committee in consultation with the CJI under the provisions of the Judges (Enquiry) Act, 1968 to look into the allegations. The CJI formed a three-member committee, comprising Chief Justices Indira Banerjee of the Madras High Court and S.K. Agnihotri of the Sikkim High Court and Justice P.K. Jaiswal of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, to examine his conduct.

 

 

  • The committee has now found substance in the allegations and that the judge had deviated from the “values of judicial life”. It is unfortunate that Justice Shukla has not tendered his resignation or sought retirement, the options available to him to avoid the ignominy of impeachment in Parliament. His position has paved the way for the CJI to recommend his removal.

 

  • When the impeachment motion is moved in Parliament, an investigation is conducted. If the findings of guilt are confirmed, the impeachment motion will be put to vote for the removal of the judge by a majority.

 

The way of removal

 

  • The removal of a Supreme Court or High Court judge is governed by Articles 124 (4) and (5) and 217 (1) (b) and 218 of the Constitution on the ground of proven misbehaviour or incapacity. The words “misbehaviour” or “incapacity” have neither been defined nor clarified in the Constitution. The complaint about misbehaviour or incapacity against a judge has to be probed under the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.

 

Way ahead

 

 

  • The process of removing a judge is regulated by the Judges Inquiry Act 1968, by the process of impeachment. There are two grounds for removal – proved misbehaviour or incapacity. The possibility of getting a motion passed in Parliament is brighter, and the charge of the process being misused for partisan ends is reduced. The removal of a serving judge is undoubtedly a sad development, but one that the institution should not fight shy of in appropriate cases.

 

 

Question- Briefly explain the procedure to remove a Supreme Court Judge in India, and discuss why there is an urgent need for punitive correctives in the superior judiciary?

 

2.Power of a single identity (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of favouring Aadhaar for government schemes. (GS paper II and III)

Overview

 

  • A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to commence hearings on a slew of petitions that will bring the questions about Aadhaar, and how does the creation of a central identity database will affect the traditional relationship between the state and its citizen and more to the forefront of a constitutional battle for the ages.

 

  • The verdict that the court ultimately pronounces will decisively impact the future of governance in the country. At stake is the continuing legitimacy of the social contract that the Constitution embodies.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • The United States enacted the landmark Social Security Act in 1935, giving birth to the Social Security Number (SSN) and about eighty-three years later, the apocalyptic rhetoric of those opposing Aadhaar in India’s Supreme Court harkens back to the arguments made against the SSN- “that the Aadhaar tends to terrorise citizens with the country becoming a totalitarian regime” and “it is a ‘giant electronic mesh’ and will turn the country ‘into a surveillance state.’”

 

 

However, here is one important difference-

That the movement against Aadhaar is led by a small group of Left-leaning activists, who are well known for advocating more and more government in people’s lives (the public distribution system, rural employment guarantee, food security, and so on), but who are now arguing in the same breath for the citizens’ right to be left alone.

The differences

 

  • There is crucial difference between the SSN and Aadhaar- Biometrics. Unlike other personal information that one can change at will to protect one’s privacy, it is said one can’t change one’s fingerprints. Granted, but as one of the learned Supreme Court justices observed recently, Google and other social media, mobile operators, and our own voter lists have a lot more immediately damaging personal information that one has no real control over.
  • Upto now  there have not been examples of Aadhaar data breaches that have been reported which we should all be rightly concerned about involves fingerprints or iris scans. So, the argument that biometrics somehow make a more compelling case against Aadhaar simply does not hold water.
  • In the nation with the world’s largest safety net programmes, historically largest levels of leakages, and systemic fraud in every past ID programme, it is indeed the biometrics that bring credibility to Aadhaar as a national ID.
  • When the UIDAI filed a FIR in a case of alleged misuse of its grievance redress system to illegally obtain some people’s Aadhaar demographic data, it was quickly accused of muzzling the free press, when it was merely fulfilling its legal obligation to act on any reported misuse of data.

Use of single identity

  • The power of a single national ID can be effectively administering welfare schemes; and which has been much more internally unified than the previous government in its determination to make the best use of Aadhaar.
  • And th UIDAI, which has consistently shown its seriousness in addressing data security and privacy issues; is poised to add more layers of security, such as virtual Aadhaar ids; is taking an active part in crafting a national data privacy law; but which, unfortunately, has been unable to match the nimbleness of the opposition in its public messaging.
  • The proponent views that by mandating Aadhaar for all government schemes and subsidies, and allowing it as a tool to prevent money laundering and terrorism are the most logical places to draw that line.

 

Way ahead

  • There is need for the government to quickly enact a comprehensive national data privacy law, which enshrines internationally accepted principles of privacy, must be the citizens’ insurance policy to prevent mass surveillance and other excessive use of Aadhaar, like in the case of the SSN.

 

Question Critical analyse the statement “Aadhaar project falls short in limiting biometrics collection to voluntary choice and in guaranteeing data protection.”

 

3.Testing waters (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of the Mahanadi river dispute. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India has a long list of inter-state river water conflicts. The recent conflict between the Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments over the water of the Mahanadi river is the latest addition.
  • The Supreme Court has recently directed the Centre to set up a tribunal within a month to resolve the long-standing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the sharing of Mahanadi water.

The Mahanadi river issue

 

  • The Mahanadi is a major river in East Central India.  Odisha’s largest river, the Mahanadi, originates in the Sihawa Mountain in the Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh. It flows through Chhattisgarh and then Odisha, along its 851 km-long course, before joining the Bay of Bengal at Odisha’s coast.
  • The Mahanadi, which has been a serious bone of contention between the two states, the conflict between the states started in July last year, when the Odisha government objected to the construction of some barrages upstream Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh.
  • The Odisha government accused the Chhattisgarh government of depriving Odisha’s farmers of water from the Mahanadi by constructing the barrages. The Chhattisgarh government responded saying that it was well within its right to build the barrages to expand irrigation facilities for the farmers in the state. Since then the issue has snowballed into a major political fight between the governments.
  • Though, Odisha and Chhattisgarh fight it out on the pretext of guarding “farmers’ interest”, experts say that the problems lies elsewhere. The Mahanadi is a water-stressed river and rampant industrialisation in both states has made matters worse.

 

Assessment

  • A Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao asked the Centre to constitute the tribunal and said that all pending issues can be raised before it. The court, however, refused to grant any stay as sought by Odisha government on the seven pick up weirs across the Mahanadi River, which flows through Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, before pouring into the Bay of Bengal.
  • The Centre had resisted constituting a tribunal, instead advocating a political resolution through talks. There are the underlying political rationalities of actors, which presents a typical paradox of multi-party federal democracies that produce the stalemate. This is for two reasons- The first is the political opportunism in federal democracies and the second is the political subjectivity of the contemporary Indian state.
  • Odisha’s unwillingness to engage in talks might not necessarily be for political reasons. It can be for the uncertainties associated with the apparent ad hoc framing of the practice of mediation by the Centre. Much of the failure of Mr. Gadkari’s efforts may be attributed to this. Inter-State river waters governance is a classic case of collision between Central and State powers. This conundrum of federal governance is not new.
  • The inter-State cooperation has always been approached from the direction by resolving disputes, however more credible forms of inter-State engagement required.  Though, the Act of 1956 for resolving disputes has been amended at least a dozen times since its inception. But the River Boards Act, 1956, drafted simultaneously for inter-State collaboration, has not been amended even once since then.
  • The mediation practices may be structured under the Inter-State Council, provided by the Constitution for the exclusive purpose of inter-State coordination. This has to be, however, part of a larger ecosystem for enabling and nurturing inter-State cooperation, which will involve policy reforms (such as revisiting River Boards Act).

Way ahead

  • It is time to invest in right, credible and institutionalised practices for enabling inter-State mediation, coordination and cooperation. To chalk out the future course of action in view of the disputes regarding the use of Mahanadi river water, a well-rounded strategy that includes both the people and policymakers is needed. The strategy must allow for dialogue by rebuilding rust and should look at arbitration and negotiation as methods of conflict resolution.

 

Question“Inter-State river waters governance is a classic case of collision between Central and State powers. This conundrum of federal governance is not new.” Analyse in the context of Mahanadi river dispute.