Rekindling our institutions

(The Indian Express)

 

Data drive

(The Financial Express)

 

Rekindling our institutions

(The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of reform of the judicial system will have to come from within the court.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • Recently a senior advocate to the apex court, Justice Kurian Joseph has written to Chief Justice of India that the “very life and existence” of the Supreme Court is under threat and “history will not pardon us,” if the court doesn’t respond to the government’s unprecedented act of sitting on the collegiums’ recommendation to elevate a judge.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • The letter was referring to the collegiums’ decision in February to recommend the names of senior advocate Indu Malhotra and Justice K M Joseph, Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court.

 

 

  • In a strongly worded appeal, Justice Kurian Joseph said that “it is the first time in the history of this court where nothing is known as to what has happened to a recommendation after three months.” He urged the CJI to establish a bench of seven senior most judges to ‘suo motu’ take up the matter of the government sitting on the two names.

 

  • The first constitutional amendment under the present regime enacted the National Judicial Commission with a facilitating Act; Both the constitutional amendment and the Act were struck down by a five-judge bench with a 4:1 decision (with Justice J. Chelameswar dissenting) on the ground that while the amendment affected judicial review as an aspect of the “basic structure” of the Constitution, the Act, in effect, diminished the “primacy” of the CJI and the collegium.

 

  • The court indicated its grounds for doing so; it preserved the plenary powers to amend the Constitution and the law. But the executive did not propose a lawful amendment, and neither did Parliament. The court went an extra mile to ask the executive to propose a Memorandum of Procedure; more than a year has gone by, but the executive has not yet finalised it, despite reminders by the court.

 

  • Instead, the executive seems to claim a power of veto over the names proposed; in doing so, it seeks to do indirectly what it could not directly -thus violating a foundational axiom of the rule of law.

 

  • Indeed, the executive seems to claim powers it does not have regarding the elevation of High Court and Supreme Court justices and transfers of High Court justices at least since the 1998 Advisory Opinion. Significantly, the judicial collegium was not questioned, only the composition and the procedure of functioning were sought to be clarified.

 

  • Contrary to the heavy propaganda now of judges appointing judges, the Union government had itself accepted the new collegium system of five senior-most justices. It was also accepted that the executive will convey its concerns to the CJI if a security issue was involved; if the collegium reiterated them, the names will become final. Despite occasional grapevine criticism of the collegium, the system continued in place.

 

  • Not merely is the lack of response to the CJI an affront to the dignity of a high constitutional office, but it may also entail the offence of contempt, scandalising the court. Also there are prescribed or ordained ways of handling constitutional disagreements. Sheer assertion of the power of not responding is not one of them.

 

  • The executive clearly holds a different view than the justices on the powers of elevation and transfer; the way ahead, as already discussed, is to have a new and creative National Judicial Commission Act, which is acceptable to both the high organs of governance. The option of “committed judiciary” is not historically open; it is also undesirable and undemocratic.

 

Way forward

 

  • Any reform of the system will have to come from within the court itself. It has made a welcome beginning by posting some details on the website; but it must do more, for there is no more demanding virtue than transparency.

 

  • There are known ways of managing creative discretion but none to eliminate it altogether from the appointments process when highly qualified justices and lawyers seek a few exalted constitutional positions.

 

  • Constitutional democracy is not imperilled by dissent and disagreement but by an overweening sense of power in one person or institution. The Fundamental Duties of all citizens (under Part IV-A of the Constitution) require us to interrupt power from dreams of limitless sovereignty.

 

Question

Data drive

(The Financial Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of trade war issue.

(GS paper III)

Overview

  • According to WTO, the world needs to unite and revive global economic cooperation, liberalisation and growth to defeat trade protectionism and the rising threat of a trade war.

 

  • The trade war between the US and China is escalating, protectionism has been rising across the world since the 2008 global financial crisis. Taking the lead are the G20 countries, which together account for 84% of world GDP and 79% of world trade. India, too, ranks high on protectionism. 

 

Assessment of figures

 

 

  • The number of anti-dumping initiations increased to a high of 360 in 2017, nearly twice of what was seen in 2011. The number of regional trade agreements, which saw a continuous rise after the Asian financial crisis in 1997-89 to a peak of 34 in 2008, declined sharply to 8-9 in 2017.

 

 

 

  • Most of the protectionist measures are not tariff-related like the US imposing higher tariffs on steel and aluminium imports last month. Over 60% of the G20’s restrictive measures are in the form of export measures, mostly tax-based, followed by trade finance and subsidies.

 

 

 

  • According to a report by Emkay Global – “A high frequency in protectionist action is seen in sectors such as basic metals, organic chemicals, machinery, transport equipment and made-up textiles. Increase in protectionism stems from the fact that there is a disproportionate shift in economic gains because of trade liberalisation in favour of developing Asian economies.” The report says, the US may be ring-fencing its recovery amid elevated public debt, further fiscal expansion and normalisation by the Federal Reserve.

 

 

  • India has raised some of the barriers itself. For example the government increased tariffs on imported smartphones to 20%, prompting Apple (AAPL) to raise the price of an iPhone X in India to $1,700. More such tariffs could be in the offing.

 

Way forward

 

  • The signs of “rising trade tensions” are not only a cause but a symptom of a global economy that has “largely stopped opening and integrating” in recent years, holding back growth when it is “most needed” to secure a prosperous and peaceful world.

Question Protectionism will not solve the problems of Indian manufacturers. Analyse.