Monthly Archives: December 2015

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)

The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was proposed by the Indian government to replace the existing Collegium System for Judicial Appointments. However, the Supreme Court has struck down the NJAC Bill and has called for reforms in the existing  system to usher in transparency in the existing process of judicial appointments.


Problems with existing Collegium system according to the government:

  • Process is opaque
  • Selection of judges on considerations other than merit
  • Favouritism being shown in judicial appointments and consequent inefficiency of judiciary
  • There has been evidence that current judicial appointments process has led to inefficient, incompetent, ethically compromised individuals being sworn in as judges
  • The real issue is not who appoints the judges, but how they are being appointed. Opaque system is bound to have subjectivity and personal bias
Problems with the judiciary:
  • Too many vacancies in the High Courts. 276 vacancies in June 2013, against a sanctioned strength of 904. Almost 1/3rd seats are empty
  • Slow and ailing judicial process
  • Lack of judicial auditing system
  • Article 124(3) of the constitution provides for appointment of three types of persons in the Supreme Court including judges of high courts, eminent lawyers and distinguished jurists
    • While the initial two have got representation in the SC, there has not been a single instance wherein an eminent jurist has made it to the apex court
    • Distinguished Jurists are the persons who have done commendable work in the field of law, research professors etc. who are dignified
    • Such jurists are needed in the Supreme Court to improve the canvass of thought process of the apex court and improve quality of judgements
  • The judges have been only appointed on the basis of their seniority. However, this must not be the only factor in deciding the efficiency and mental faculty of judges. Other factors such as following must be added to seniority clause
    • the number of cases judged successfully
    • number of judgements averted by higher courts
    • time taken to dispose off cases
    • Number of written judgements delivered
  • Nearly 2 crore cases are pending in all the Indian courts with 2/3rds of them being criminal cases
  • Lower level judicial proceedings are harbingers of corrupt practices
Reforms for judiciary:
  • To evolve an objective criteria for appointment of judges
  • Only few cases should be put to appeal in higher courts. Wisdom of lower court judges must be respected
  • Legal auditing of why cases took so long must be done
  • Archaic laws need to be repealed which impede the effective and speedy functioning of the courts
  • It plans to replace the collegium system with a more transparent Judicial Appointments Commission.
    • The commission would consist of 6 members including the Chief Justice, two most senior judges of Supreme Court, two eminent persons and the law minister
    • Two eminent persons would be appointed by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and the Leader of Opposition in the Parliament
    • Two eminent persons would be selected for a period of 3 years, without having an option of re appointment
  • The term eminent personalities has been left vague by the constitutional amendment and is open to the Supreme Court’s interpretation
  • The bill has been passed as a constitutional amendment bill number 99.
  • Functions of the commission:
    • Appointment of judges of SC and CJI
    • Appointment of judges of high court sand their chief justices
    • Recommending transfer of judges between high courts or from high courts to Supreme Court
    • Ensuring transparency and objectivity in judicial appointments
    • Ensuring that the judges are of merit, ability and other criteria mentioned in the regulations
  • The bill has been challenged in the Supreme Court on grounds of it bridging the independence of judiciary
Problems with NJAC (Why it was struck down?)
  • The Supreme Court considers it as a challenge to judicial independence
  • Vague statements in the bill, open to different interpretations and thus ensuring conflict
  • Concept of eminent personalities and their appointment by a political majority and their significant role in judicial appointments would compromise judicial independence
  • Two members, out of 6, if are against the appointment of a particular judge, the appointment would not take place
  • There is a prevalent trust deficit between the higher echelons of Judiciary and the government.
International Best Practices:
  • UK’s system of appointment: the JAC assesses the candidates on 5 merit criteria:
    • Intellectual capacity
    • Personal qualities like integrity, independence of mind, decisiveness, objectivity etc
    • Ability to understand and deal fairly
    • Authority and communication skills
    • Efficiency

Onion problem in India

The Onion problem in India has affected the people in each and every lean season. Sky rocketing prices have kept them out of the reach of common man. The detailed analysis of the Onion Problem has been done below, with some suggestions for the government.
Inside An Onion Storehouse As India Prepares To Import Onions As Prices Surge
Major producing states:
  • Maharashtra
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Karnataka
  • Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
  • Bihar and Gujarat
  • Nashik district in Maharashtra accounts for nearly 15% of the total onion production in India
Why onion shortage?
  • Indian cuisine has a widespread usage of onion
  • Demand supply mismatch
  • Truant monsoons
  • Rabi onion crop, down in December and marketed in April, is the best of the three onion crops of the year.
    • It forms nearly half of the total onion production in the country
    • Is of best quality
    • Can be stored for up to 6 months
    • It was this crop which was destroyed by untimely hailstorms in March, which has led to this supply shortage
What is being done?
  • The government increased Minimum Export Price (MEP) of onions by 2.5 times to put a virtual ban on exports, so that the supplies can be channelised into the domestic market
  • Government has set up the Price Stabilization Fund
    • Initial corpus of ₹500 crore
    • Would cover fluctuations in prices of Agro horticultural perishable goods
    • Cover only potato and onion currently
    • Losses would be shared by centre and states equally
What are the problem areas?
  • Government is following knee jerk reactions and interfering in market forces, which might have short term gains, but is harmful in the long term
  • Hoarding by large scale traders and speculative trading
  • Lack of storage facilities and perishability of onions
  • Problems in supply chain
  • Indians do not prefer ready made alternatives for cooking in place of onions like onion pastes etc. These can help reduce the demand during peak periods
What needs to be done?
  • Production and productivity of onion needs to increase
  • Hoarding needs to be checked. Market speculations need to be reduced
  • The crop needs to be made immune from vagaries of monsoon and the onion intensive areas should be brought under predictable and efficient irrigation
  • Inventory can be managed so that it can be used to stabilise prices in case of glut and in case of scarcity
  • Dehydration of onions can be done to improve their shelf life
  • The reaction time of the government is very long. Observing the looming crisis period, the government should act swiftly to import onions or use Price Stabilisation Fund to procure during supply gluts

Bureaucracy: Bedrock to Democracy

Bureaucracy is a set of written rules and regulations. It involves a hierarchical setup wherein there is a separation of work at each level. It is a contractual service extended by the government to the civil servants to serve the general public on their behalf. The entire governance, administrative and executive structure of the government is dependent upon the bureaucracy. It has often been charged with being antithetical to democracy, as bureaucrats are the not the representatives of people.


Bureaucracy has often been accused of being rigid, full of inertia, unwilling to change and acts as power concentrator. It has been inward looking and has been found guilty of being more concerned about internal procedures and processes rather than developmental works. A large number of veto points in a vertical hierarchical structure often stymies the decision making process.

Power concentration in bureaucratic structures are often in contradiction to the developmental stage of a nation. More developed the nation, the more down sized is its bureaucracy. Civil services in India have been practicing New Despotism since independence. They acted as British in disguise, so unapproachable, so elitist, socially aloof.

However, it was described as the steel frame of Indian government by Sardar Patel.

Bureaucracy acts as an effective bridge between the government and citizens. It provides continuity to the government policies. Democratic governments may come and go but bureaucrats ensure the continuity of policies from one government to another.

Bureaucracy imparts stability to the nation. It always controls any acts of violence, protests etc against the government. All the government goods and services meant for the public are extended by the civil servants.

Civil servants help in policy formulation and policy execution. Policy formulations as delegated legislations are the prerogative of these bureaucrats. They employ their vast experience in policy formulations, use all facts and data they have access to and come up with effective policy frameworks. These policies are then implemented structurally through well formed organizations. Bureaucracy acts as a facilitator to democracy and acts as a bedrock to a democratically elected government.

But there is an urgent need to upgrade the bureaucracy to reflect the aims and ambitions of today’s tech savvy and ultra fast citizens. There needs to be a paradigm shift from process accountability to productivity accountability. End results should be the sole thing which should matter. The bureaucracy has to look beyond transactional governance towards a more holistic transformational governance. It needs to be down sized and right sized to reflect modern day realities.

Though there are few contradictions and paradoxes, but still democracy cannot work without bureaucracy. These two complement each other. Though to ensure good governance, the government and the bureaucracy must tread the path of reforms to be relevant today.

Combating Corruption: Is the Jan Lokpal (Ombudsman) Enough?

On 15th August’ 1947, India woke up independent from British rule. India inherited a lot of legacies from the British from Communal violence to railways to airways. One thing India was not able to inherit were the work ethics of British. The dilution of these work ethics in due course made India fall into the clutches of corruption, a disease which has eaten into most of its systems.


Corruption simply means using a public office for private purposes. There can be innumerable ways in which corruption can be done. Nepotism, Red Tapism, taking Speed Money, Favouritism, embezzlement of funds, using public employees for private work etc. are only a few of them.

The extent up to which it has bothered the common people is evident in the mass protests spearheaded by Anna Hazare for a strong Lokpal Bill. The bill envisaged a separate watchdog to look into the allegations of corruption against government office bearers. However, only forming a strong Jan Lokpal can’t simply curb this menace. There is something more fundamental to it, which needs to be understood and acted against.

Traditional Indian society was known for its ethics and morality around the globe. So what has changed now? India retired religion in the garb of secularism too early after independence. Religion is one of the strongest factors in building an ethical and moral character. There has been an increased acceptance of corrupt practices in our everyday lives. It is a matter of fact that the societies which left religion in their nascent stages have been the worst affected by it. China can be cited as another befitting example. This perception needs to change. Indian society has to go through an ethical makeover.

Gandhiji was a follower of religion. He believed that religion had the ability to instill a feeling of ethical and moral behavior in people who follow it. Most of his ethical and moral principles of non violence, truth and the strength to follow them, were all derived from religion.

Although a strong ombudsman (Jan Lokpal) is a step in the right direction, laying back only on it would not suffice. What is needed is an ethical cleansing of the society, mostly civil servants, that too the cutting edge bureaucracy. The government needs to impart moral and ethical training to its personnel. As a long term solution, the students must be taught ethics and morality in schools. They should be sensitized about the menace of corruption, the benefits of an ethical character. Thus, the setting up of an institution of Ombudsman though necessary, is not sufficient.

Good Governance: Some pre requisites

Good governance refers to governance that it accountable, democratic, accessible, transparent, responsive, ethical, modern and accountable along with being citizen centric. Public systems have earned the epithet of being voluminous, full of inertia, change averse and have strict procedures. With the modernizing world, the administrative setups had to keep pace with new societal demands. Hence, the concept of good governance was propounded by the World Bank in 1992, to reform the bureaucratic administration all over the world.

Good governance

India’s bureaucratic hurdles are famous all around the globe. From the days of license raj and inspector raj, it is the bureaucracy which has ruled the roost in India. Often, the Indian bureaucracy is accused of its social aloofness and its relative inability to act as an effective bridge between the citizens and the government. It has, since independence, worked under shrouds, unknowing of the plight of common man, for whom they had been employed for.
However, with the he turn of the century and the Indian elephant pacing with overwhelming economic growth, India has acknowledged the importance of good governance. The Administrative Reforms Commission, in its series of reports, has recommended paradigm shifts in the way public services are perceived. However, to ensure good governance, the Indian government needs to tread a long hurdled path.
India is suffering from archaic laws, which have lost relevance in today’s modern world. There is a lack of clarity and burgeoning complexity. Sometimes a single issue is being governed by various laws, often paradoxical to one another. India needs a sound, modern, effective and efficient legal framework to ensure good governance. Archaic laws need to be repealed or amended to reflect modern realities. The Official Secrets Act’ 1923 is antithetical to the Right to Information Act’ 2005. Laws governing the police have long outlived themselves and need to be reformed.
After a sound legal framework, to ensure good governance, a robust institutional mechanism is required. India has provided many successful institutions in the form of SEBI, RBI, TRAI etc. but a vast number of institutions lack effective powers and modern technologies. They are being governed by ineffective laws, which need to be updated. Funds need to be infused to ensure effective capacity buildup and trainings in modern technologies must be imparted.
Competent, well equipped, trained, ethical, well paid personnel must be recruited who have a fervour for public services. The vacant government posts must be filled with new recruits to reduce work loads and improve consumer satisfactions. Already employed personnel must be imparted with training facilities in modern ways of exercising their duties. Ethical and moral behavior must be made legally binding upon the personnel. There have to be sound human resource management techniques and appraisals must consider employee’s quality of work as a criteria.
Indian administration is accused of being vertically structured with various levels of bureaucracy, causing effective delays. There had been a tendency of adopting a top down approach in which plans and policies were framed at top levels without involving the cutting edge bureaucracy, the civil society and citizens. For effective administration, there has to be a bottoms up approach. There has to be an effective devolution, decentralization, delegation of powers to local bodies, civil societies etc. which are accustomed to local needs and have a better connect with the problems.
Apart from all these, tools such as the Lokpal, RTI, Citizen’s Charter, E-Governance, grievance redressal mechanisms etc. can act as potential game changers and provide a paradigm shift towards good governance. Hence, India needs to tread a long hurdled path to roll out a red carpet for its citizens and local & global investors instead of greeting them with red tape.
Know the various components of Good Governance. Click here

Euthanasia: An ethical debate in India

Euthanasia is an assisted death. It is administered by doctors to the patients who they consider as almost dead and have a right to a dignified death. There have been wide ranging debates on it in the world and India has also witnessed it in recent times. The Supreme Court ruling in Aruna Shanbaug case reflects India’s position on the matter.
Case of Aruna Shanbaug
  • India’s debate on the legality of the use of euthanasia was pioneered by the case of Aruna Shanbaug, who was molested and raped by a ward boy in a Mumbai hospital.
  • From the past 42 years, she had been in a vegetative state living on various life support systems.
  • She was diagnosed with pneumonia and was put on ventilator system and the she suffered a cardiac arrest on 18th May finally leading to her death.


Role of the Honorable Supreme Court
  • This case had sparked a debate on the legality of passive euthanasia in India when the case was filed in the Supreme Court by petitioner Vinki Virani, who had applied for a permission from the Supreme Court to grant passive euthanasia to Shanbaug.
  • Justice Markande Katju and Justice Gyansudha Misra delivered a landmark judgement in 2011, allowing passive euthanasia in certain special cases where the family members of the victim apply for a passive euthanasia.
  • The Attorney General GE Vahanvati was against the grant of such an unnatural death depicting the government stand.
  • India needs a strong legislation on this part to define the applicability of passive euthanasia and apply stringent checks and balances.
Active vs Passive Euthanasia
  • Active euthanasia is a type in which a doctor deliberately causes a patient to die by administrating a lethal drug. The doctor acts with an intention that it would cause death, when he is assured that the person is beyond cure and is suffering unbearable pain.
  • In case of passive euthanasia, the doctor lets the patient die by either turning off the life support machines, disconnecting the feeding tube or not giving a life extending drug. This is once again done only when the patient is incurable or is suffering from unbearable pain.
  • Many feel that active euthanasia is immoral and passive is more moral. They feel that it is immoral to inject lethal drugs to kill someone.
  • Many consider passive euthanasia to be immoral due to the fact that it would lead to a gradual and more painful death to the patient as compared to active euthanasia.
  • The action should be based on the principle that which action would cause the least affliction of pain on the patient.
Arguments in favor
  • Pain inflicted upon the patient
  • Medical expenses
  • Lack of medical facilities in a country like India
  • Death is not always bad
  • Cruel and in humane to refuse someone the right to die if he/she is under unbearable pain
  • It just reinforces the inevitability of an imminent death

Arguments against

  • Right to life
  • No one can be authorized to inflict death upon a patient
  • Judgement of patients may be impaired by the pain and suffering they see ahead, even if they seem curable
  • It undermines concept of medical excellence and medical miracles. It is probably a retrograde step for medical innovations
  • It violates the codes of medical ethics
  • Voluntary euthanasia can become involuntary due to flouting of rules
  • Grey population could be thought of being a burden on the family and hence their progeny may opt for euthanasia
International practices
  • Netherlands became the First Nation to legalize assisted suicide in 2002 in case a patient is suffering from unbearable pain and the illness must be incurable. Such an activity can be carried out in case a demand is raised by the patient in a fully conscious state.
  • In France, the concept of right to be left to die was introduced in 2005. It allowed the doctors to decide to limit or stop any treatment that was not useful and has no object but to artificially prolong life.
  • Euthanasia has been legalized in a few states of the U.S.

The Indian Parliament must enact a law to legalise euthanasia, but in a very restricted and controlled environment, so that the practise is not misused and doesn’t lead to indiscriminate deaths.