New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?
Some thoughts on the historic Battle of Colachel
Supreme Court accepts idea of nഹാൽ ew Mullaperiyar tunnel


വായന

28 March, 2017

Congress still has life in it

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

While the Congress, which spearheaded India’s freedom movement, has had to yield primacy to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a Congress-free polity is, as of now, a pipe-dream.

The BJP’s spectacular success in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state, in the recent assembly elections, has somewhat clouded the fact that the party which led the country’s administration for as many as 54 of the 70 years of Independence still has life in it.

In the Sikh-majority border state of Punjab, one of the five that went to the polls, the Congress seized power from the Akali Dal-BJP combine, after a gap of 10 years. It also emerged as the largest single party in Goa and Manipur. 

With the BJP’s cyber propagandists constantly berating the grand old party and running down its leader-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi in the social media and large sections of traditional media readily eating out of the ruling establishment’s hands, a superficial reader is apt to have an unfavourable impression about their recent performance.

However, Indiaspend.org, a data-driven, public interest journalism portal, after analysing voting figures from 10 states where elections were held after Modi led the BJP to victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, reported that the Congress party has fared better since then.

“The Congress has actually improved its strike rate in terms of number of seats won per seats contested, although it has contested fewer seats,” it said. “Not only that, it has also improved its vote share.”

On the basis of its Lok Sabha poll performance the Congress could only have got 13 per cent of the votes polled and won 194 assembly seats in the 10 states. It actually secured 25 per cent of the votes and secured 258 seats.

The figures show that the Congress is down but not out. However, it has cause to worry. Fortune-seeking politicians turn to rising stars. That explains why small parties and independents in Goa and Manipur jumped into the BJP bandwagon after the assembly elections, leaving the Congress, the largest party, in the lurch.

Many party veterans, assuming that the Congress ship is sinking, are ready to jump out and the BJP is ready to pick up and rehabilitate them. Ahead of the UP elections, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, a former state party chief and daughter of a former Congress chief minister, had walked over to the BJP. She is now a minister in the Adityanath cabinet.

Last week, in Karnataka, the only southern state where the Congress now wields power, former chief minister SM Krishna, who had been a Congressman for half a century, joined the BJP and received an enthusiastic welcome.

In a television interview, Krishna said the Congress did not have a leader who was a match for Modi. That was a reflection of his assessment of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, with whom he did not enjoy as close a relationship as he had with their predecessors, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Modi, no doubt, is currently the country’s most powerful and most successful election campaigner. But he is not the kind of leader one would associate with the Congress which had at its helm charismatic personalities like Gandhi, Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

At this critical juncture in its history, the Congress needs not a politician who can hold people in thrall with slogans but a statesman with a clear vision of the country’s future as one illumined by the ideals of justice – social, economic and political – which constitutes the core of the Constitution.

Many view dynastic burden as the Congress party’s main problem. They forget that it was free from this burden in the 1990s. Sonia Gandhi accepted the party post as Congressmen implored her. She served it well by holding it together for many years. However, she proved unequal to the task of rebuilding the party organisation, which Indira Gandhi did not even take up.

Rahul Gandhi’s induction as party General Secretary in 2007 and Vice-President in 2013 were the first steps towards transfer of leadership to him. The coterie that surrounds Sonia Gandhi has sabotaged smooth transition actuated by gross self-interest. If the party wants him at the top the sooner he takes over the better. If what it wants is another leader, it should quickly find one so that he has sufficient time to prepare the party for the parliamentary elections which are just two years away. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, March 28, 2017.

21 March, 2017

Modi’s Mission 2019 on course

BRP Bhaskar

The next parliamentary elections are more than two years away, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election machinery, under Amit Shah, whom he had handpicked for the post of party president, is in an advanced stage of preparation for winning a second successive term for his Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s cadres are the BJP’s sinews. Although, like the Bharatiya Jana Sangh before it, the BJP was its creation, the RSS deployed its men for poll work most extensively only after the party fell in with its desire and named Modi as its prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2014 poll.

For a long time the RSS, which professes to be a cultural organisation, had clearly demarcated those who were assigned party work from its hard-core functionaries. The dividing line between the two has now been blurred. Lately it has been allowing organisation men to become state chief ministers. The choice of Yogi Aditynath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is the latest instance of this kind.

The BJP’s victory in the last Lok Sabha elections, in which it secured 282 seats in the 543-member house with a vote share of 31.0 per cent, was made possible by its huge success in eight Hindi-speaking northern states and three western states and adjoining union territories. The two regions, which together command 303 seats, provided as many as 243 of its 282 seats. It got only 39 seats from the other states and territories which have a total of 249.

There is little room for the BJP to improve the takings from its northern and western strongholds. In fact, the chances are that it will lose seats there next time. Realising this, the party decided quite early to devote attention to the south and the east with an eye to 2019.

As early as in August 2015, addressing 600 selected party leaders from the eastern states in Kolkata, Amit Shah said he was looking up to them to make up for the expected loss in the north and the west. “You have to build the organisation in such a manner that the party’s “vijay rath” (victory chariot) starts from Bengal in 2019,” he told them.

The south, too, figures prominently in Shah’s road map for 2019. He has been pressing the party’s units in the region to finalise the list of candidates for all the Lok Sabha seats early. He has also asked them to look outside the party ranks for candidates with wide acceptability.

Karnataka is the southern state which has been most hospitable to the BJP so far. It voted the party to power in the state in 2008 and gave it 17 of its 28 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. The three chief ministers it tried were failures and the Congress made a comeback in 2013.

It is making strenuous efforts to better its prospects in next year’s assembly elections and the following year’s Lok Sabha poll by attracting disgruntled Congress leaders to its fold.

Fighting in alliance with the regional Telugu Desam party, the BJP won three of Andhra Pradesh’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. Since then the state has been bifurcated, and different regional parties are wielding power in Telangana and residuary AP. The party’s plans for the two states are unclear.

In Tamil Nadu, where two regional parties have been alternating in power since 1967, the BJP managed to win one Lok Sabha seat last time. It reckons that conditions are now favourable for it to advance as All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s death has created a leadership vacuum in the state.

In Kerala, which had continuously rebuffed it and its predecessor in national and state elections, the BJP won its first assembly seat last year, fighting in alliance with a newly formed backward class party. Enthused by this success, Amit Shah has asked the state party to make a bold bid for 12 of the state’s Lok Sabha seats.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagat’s visited Bengal and Kerala to galvanise the Parivar outfits and prepare them to play their part in Mission 2019. As these lines are written the RSS is holding its annual conference in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu for the first time in its 92-year history.
While the BJP is thus busy on the ground, the Congress, the only party equipped to mount a national challenge to it, is still to put its act together. So are the smaller national and regional parties which are locally powerful. --  Gulf Today, March 21, 2017. 

14 March, 2017

Meaning of a poll verdict

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s stunning landslide victory in the Hindu heartland state of Uttar Pradesh has boosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image, raising high hopes in the Hindutva camp and deep despair in its foes.

The BJP’s return to power in the state, home of one-sixth of all Indians, after a 15-year gap, confirms its status as the country’s largest party and sets it ahead of rivals in the run-up for the national elections due in 2019.

The BJP’s tally of 312 (not counting 13 seats won by its two small allies) in the new 403-member assembly marks electoral triumph of a magnitude witnessed only rarely – as when the Congress won 388 out of 430 seats in the first assembly elections of 1951-52 and when the people gave 352 out of 425 seats to the Janata Party in 1977 after the end of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime.

The UP verdict breaks the spell of electoral drought Modi and the BJP experienced after the sensational 2014 Lok Sabha victory. Delhi state had rebuffed them in 2015 and Bihar, the second largest heartland state, in 2016.

The hopes and fears aroused by it must be moderated with the outcome of the elections in four other states which too went to the polls. Of them, only Uttarakhand, which was part of UP until 2000, gave the BJP a resounding victory.

In Punjab, where the BJP is a junior partner of the Sikh party Akali Dal, the ruling pair lost ignominiously to the Congress, which returned to power after a decade, with 77 of the 117 assembly seats. The Akali Dal’s strength fell from 56 in the last house to 15 and the BJP’s from 12 to three.

The BJP, which was in power in Goa, suffered a setback, its strength in the 40-member assembly falling from 21 to 13. The Congress nearly doubled its strength to 17 and emerged as the largest party.

In the northeastern state of Manipur, the Congress lost power but remained the largest party in the 60-member assembly with 27 seats, against the BJP’s 22.

Acting fast, the BJP managers secured enough support from small parties and independents in both Goa and Manipur to beat the Congress in the race to power.

A conclusion that can be drawn from the electoral verdict is that the people voted against the ruling dispensation in all the states. The BJP’s big win in UP and Uttarakhand is attributable to the communal polarisation promoted by Sangh Parivar associates and Modi’s uncanny ability to derive electoral profit from it, using binaries like graveyard-cremation and Eid-Holi.

There was not even one Muslim among the 403 candidates of the BJP and its allies although the community accounts for one-fifth of UP’s population and BJP vice-president and minority poster boy Mukthar Abbas Naqvi hails from the state. The BJP nominees included Somnath Som, a hate-speech case accused, and Suchi Chaudhury, wife of a riot case accused.

The Samajwadi Party, which draws support primarily from the backward Yadav community, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the standard bearer of the Dalits, had alternated in power in UP in the last 15 years. This time the SP fought in alliance with the Congress but a rift between party chief Mulayam Singh and his son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav botched its chances.

The decline of the SP and the BSP suggests that identity politics is losing its edge.

BSP chief Mayawati has alleged that the BJP engineered the UP victory by tampering with the electronic voting machines. The possibility of hacking of EVMs was first suggested by BJP veteran LK Advani in 2009 and a technician demonstrated how it could be done. A year later University of Michigan researchers claimed they were able to change the results on an Indian EVM by sending messages from a mobile phone.

Many countries have abandoned electronic voting in view of the potential for mischief. Given the Hindutva camp’s poor record as a respecter of laws, Mayawati’s allegation cannot be rejected outright. While not endorsing her charge, the Congress has urged the Election Commission to look into it and dispel misgivings.

Having improved its position in three of the five states which went to the polls, the BJP can now raise its strength in the Rajya Sabha by increasing its representation from these states in the next biennial elections to the house. It can also try to get one from the Sangh Parivar elected as India’s next President. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, March 14, 2017

07 March, 2017

Doubts over GDP growth claim

BRP Bhaskar

Economists and opposition politicians have voiced deep scepticism over the government’s claim that India’s gross domestic product registered seven per cent growth during the third quarter of the current financial year, as against 7.3 per cent during the previous quarter.

The figure suggests that the demonetisation of high-value currency notes, announced on November 8, did not hit the economy as badly as was anticipated. As much as 86 per cent of the currency in circulation had ceased to be legal tender on that date. This resulted in disruption of economic activity in many sectors for several weeks.

The Central Statistics Office put the GDP for the quarter ending on December 31, 2016 at Rs 30,280 billion, as against Rs 28,310 billion for the corresponding period of FY 2015-16. On the basis of these figures, it estimated that the GDP growth for the year ending on March 31, 2017 will be 7.1 per cent as against 7.9 per cent for the previous year.

The Reserve Bank of India and the International Monetary Fund had reckoned that demonetisation would reduce the current year’s GDP growth rate by one per cent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing an election meeting in Uttar Pradesh, said the CSO data proved that the people of India did not allow demonetisation to hamper the country’s development.

The opposition Congress party’s spokesman debunked the claim, citing figures of decline in bank credit to industry and contraction in industrial production.

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor of Economics Arun Kumar said CSO’s GDP calculation was invalid as it did not take into account data relating to the informal sector which bore the brunt of demonetisation. This sector, he pointed out, accounted for 45 to 50 per cent of the output of the Indian economy.

Some economists expressed doubts over CSO’s finding that private consumption had increased by 10 per cent during the quarter. They said the cash crunch in the wake of demonetisation had actually brought consumption down.

Surveys done by the State Bank of India and trade bodies had indicated that demonetisation had hit the growth of the unorganised sector to the extent of 30 to 40 per cent.

Chief Statistician TCA Anant, while releasing the CSO data, had admitted that in the absence of sufficient data it was difficult to assess the impact of demonetisation. “Policies such as demonetisation are difficult to assess without a lot of data, which is still to come in,” he said.

India calculates GDP primarily on the basis of activity in the formal sector which accounts for only about 15 per cent of the economy. The CSO surveys the grey areas of the economy periodically. Often it interpolates data from old surveys into the GDP calculation.

India has attracted the charge of fudging GDP figures from time to time. In 2015, the government modified the way GDP is counted. As a result that year the GDP growth shot up to 7.3 per cent from 5.5 per cent, and the government declared the economy had turned the corner.

The then RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan, likened the new methodology to two mothers babysitting each other’s child and paying for the service. “There is a rise in economic activity as each pays the other, but the net effect on the economy is questionable,” he said.

The US State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs said that while India’s economy was one of the fastest growing the depressed investor sentiment suggested that the approximately 7.5 per cent growth rate might be an overstatement.

Since the new methodology for calculating GDP was adopted India had appeared to be the world’s fastest growing big economy, outpacing China, “but scepticism about the data is growing even faster,” the Economist wrote. It added, “A cottage industry has sprung up to cater to the sceptics, bending various indicators of economic activity to produce new gauges of growth.”

Reliability of GDP data is a global issue. Two years ago, World Economics, a research firm in London, developed a data quality index to make people aware that GDP means different things in different countries. In its 2016 index, two Asian countries, Hong Kong and Singapore, figure among the 10 countries with the most reliable GDP figures. India is at the 53rd place and China at the 63rd.

Many observers are inclined to wait for the revised GDP estimates, which may come in about six months, to get a correct picture of the state of the economy. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, March 7, 2017.

28 February, 2017

A push to Africa outreach

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s visits to Rwanda and Uganda last week marked another step forward in India’s Africa Outreach initiative, designed to place its ties with the countries of the continent on a firm footing after two decades of neglect.

The third India-Africa Summit, held in New Delhi in 2015, was attended by a record number of heads of states and governments, and convinced Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the need to revitalise ties with the continent which is a vast treasure-house of natural resources and is set to emerge as a big market. With its numbers in the United Nations it also has the potential to provide many valuable allies in global affairs.

In the 16 months since the summit, President Pranab Mukherjee, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister have visited more than a dozen countries in the continent. Many Central ministers have also undertaken missions to the continent.

On emerging as a free country, India, under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had taken a keen interest in the liberation movements of Africa and vigorously supported them in international forums. Africa had a special place in the minds of India’s freedom-fighters as it was there that Mahatma Gandhi had evolved his unconventional political strategies. Many African leaders who participated in the New Delhi summit acknowledged their debt of gratitude to Gandhi and Nehru.

After Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s time, ties with Africa became a lower priority in foreign policy. But China, as the world’s fastest-growing economy, made much headway in the continent. In 2009 it displaced the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner. India’s current trade turnover of $70 billion is way below China’s $220 billion.

Since 2000 China has provided more than $30 billion in aid to African countries. Its state-owned companies have invested in the energy, mining and infrastructure sectors.

A 745-kilometre-long electric railway line connecting the capitals of Djibouti and Ethiopia, built by Chinese engineers, was opened to traffic earlier this month. It cost $4 billion, and half the money was put up by Chinese banks. “This line will change the social and economic landscape of the two countries,” Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn said.

People-to-people contacts have played a big part in Indo-African relations. During the colonial period, Britain had taken Indians to the continent to work. Today there are about 2.5 million people of Indian origin in 46 of the 54 countries of the continent.

Barring the expulsion of Indians by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, there was no major hostile action against Indian immigrants. That phase is now forgotten and Uganda’s Indian community, which numbers about 30,000, has invested more than $1 billion in its economy.

A scholarship programme for African students, initiated by Nehru, helped the continent’s newly independent countries to find personnel to run the administration. Two years ago 25,000 young Africans were studying in Indian universities, and India decided to push the number up to 50,000. Stray racial attacks in some Indian cities damaged the goodwill generated by this decision. Narendra Modi disappointed the Africans by failing to condemn the attacks.

Some Africa watchers have noted that while China is involved in huge, high-profile projects, India is pursuing a soft-power approach. It is providing essential medicines to African countries by selling generic drugs, ignoring US assertion that such action violates its intellectual property laws.

The India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Programme launched during Ansari’s visit exemplifies the soft-power approach. It envisages the adoption of 20 Indian technologies and innovation in the next two years by joint ventures set up with Rwandan partners.

Ansari said it was a pilot project and would be extended later to seven countries of East Africa and still later to seven other economic zones across the continent.

Talking to Indian correspondents who accompanied him on the African tour, Ansari discounted suggestions by the western media that India and China are involved in a scramble in the continent.
The continent is so big and the current Indian and Chinese engagement so diverse that there is no need for them to step on each other’s toes. India’s main concern is to ensure that China’s pet projects like the “One Belt One Road” initiative do not hurt its interests. -- Gulf Today, February 28, 2017.

21 February, 2017

Twists and turns of blast probes

BRP BHASKAR

A Delhi court’s acquittal of two men who spent more than 11 years in jail, implicated in terror cases, has revealed how shoddy investigation and prosecution are ruining the lives of young people.

Mohammed Rafiq Shah, a MA final year student, was attending classes at the Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies in Srinagar when a series of bombs exploded in Delhi on October 29, 2005, killing 67 persons. Members of a special cell of the Delhi police and a task force of the Kashmir police picked him up from his home some days later. The Delhi cops said he had planted a bomb in a bus.

The police had two eyewitnesses who gave differing descriptions of the man who planted the bomb. Neither account matched Rafiq Shah’s appearance. The cops got a barber to trim his beard to correspond to one of the accounts.

Three of Shah’s teachers testified before the Delhi court that he had attended classes in the Srinagar campus on the day of the blast.

The judge found several infirmities in the police version and acquitted him and the other two accused, Mohammed Hussain Fazli and Tariq Ahmed Dar, of charges related to the blasts.

Dar was found guilty of having links with a Pakistan-based terrorist group and sentenced to 10 years in jail. But all three had been in prison for a longer period already. Their repeated attempts to secure bail had failed as courts labour under pressure from the state and presumed public opinion in cases linked to terrorism.

In sending Afzal Guru to the gallows in the Parliament attack case, the Supreme Court had famously said, “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to this offender.”

The Chhattisgarh police had accused Binayak Sen, reputed paediatric surgeon and human rights defender, only of maintaining contacts with leaders of the banned Maoist party and not of any act of crime. Yet even the apex court refused him bail when he was facing trial. After his conviction, it granted him bail, pending disposal of bail. Its approach changed presumably because a different kind of pressure worked on it with more than 30 Nobel laureates from different lands deploring the action against Sen.

“It seems I am being victimised only because I am a Kashmiri Muslim,” Rafiq Shah had told the court when charges were being framed against him. But, then, young men in other states, too, have been through such bizarre experience. Nine persons implicated in the Malegaon blast case in Maharashtra and five in the Mecca Masjid blast case were acquitted by courts after trials that went on for several years.

Muthiyur Rahman Siddiqui, a Bangalore journalist, who was picked up with 10 others for plotting terror, was lucky to regain freedom in a few months as the investigating agency admitted it had found no evidence against him. He said later media reports of the arrest had denied him the presumption of innocence and many had assumed he was guilty.

The most famous victim of vexatious prosecution is Abdul Naser Mahdani, founder of the People’s Democratic Party in Kerala, who was acquitted after he had spent nearly 10 years in a Tamil Nadu jail as an accused in the Coimbatore blast case. Later the Karnataka police arrested him in connection with a blast in Bangalore. Police in Gujarat and Rajasthan are ready with reports implicating him in blasts in those states.

Muslims are not the only victims, as Binayak Sen’s experience shows. Kobad Ghandy, a 68-year-old Parsi, whom the police describe as a Maoist ideologue, was acquitted by a Delhi court last year in a case under the dreaded Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. He is still behind bars as 14 cases against him are pending in different states.

Some bomb blasts in which Muslim youths were implicated were later found to be the work of Hindu extremists. Thereafter investigation slowed down, indicating political considerations are at play.
The twists and turns of the blast probes have damaged the credibility of the investigating agencies. The government needs to initiate measures to strengthen them professionally to ensure that they do not target innocent people. It must also take steps to rehabilitate the young people whose lives have been wrecked by wrongful prosecution on terror charges and consequent stigmatisation. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, February 21, 2017.

14 February, 2017

A chilling message to litigants

BRP Bhaskar

The Supreme Court sent a chilling message to public interest litigants last week by imposing fines on two persons for filing frivolous petitions and asking a third one to establish his bona fides or face similar action.

Ravindra Singh, a member of the Bihar Assembly, had approached the apex court with a petition questioning the veracity of an article published in a Hindi publication in the 1990’s after being turned down by the Patna High Court. It threw out the petition and asked him to pay a fine of Rs 1 million.

Chief Justice JS Khehar who pronounced the judgment apparently took into account the fact that Ravindra Singh had declared assets of more than Rs 9.34 million when he filed nomination papers in the 2015 Assembly election.

Justice Khehar imposed a smaller fine on a retired teacher from Maharashtra who had challenged a Gujarat government circular on reservation in school jobs. A car mechanic of Madurai, who filed a petition about a hospital in Thanjavur building an additional floor, was told to establish his locus standi in the matter at the next hearing to avoid penal costs.

“Every day we waste precious judicial time by going through voluminous frivolous petitions. These busybodies must be stopped,” the Chef Justice said.

The Supreme Court has on its roster about 61,000 pending cases and Justice Khehar is keen to bring the number down. Elimination of frivolous petitions will surely help to achieve the goal. But the court must take care not to scare away those who approach it genuinely concerned about a bad situation.

Under the system left behind by the British, only an aggrieved person had the right to approach the courts for a legal remedy. This limitation was overcome four decades ago when the Supreme Court allowed Kapila Hingorani, a lawyer, to take up the case of Hussaianara Khatoon and other undertrial prisoners rotting in jails in Bihar. Her effort resulted in the release of not only Hussaianara Khatoon but about 40,000 undertrial prisoners across the country, and a grateful society hailed her as the Mother of Public Interest Litigation.

The Supreme Court witnessed a phase of judicial activism when VR Krishna Iyer, who was a judge in the 1970s, and PN Bhagwati, who was the Chief Justice in the 1980’s, widened the scope of PIL to render justice to the poor who lacked the resources to approach the court directly.

There were occasions when courts treated complaints received on postcards as writ petitions or took suo motu action on the basis of newspaper reports.

Over a period a large body of non-governmental organisations and individuals specialising in PILs arose all over the country. Not all of them were actuated by considerations of public good. Some were seeking personal glory through the publicity they could attract. This prompted some judges to argue that judicial activism had gone too far.

The Supreme Court should take care to avoid throwing the baby with the bathwater. A fair assessment of the working of PIL will show that it has had a salubrious effect on the working of the democratic system.

A PIL by Sheela Barse, a freelance journalist, who took up the issue of custodial violence against women in prisons led to a court order for setting up of separate lock-ups for women. The first court directive on cleaning up of the Ganga came on a PIL filed by MC Mehta, a lawyer, who raised the issue of contamination of the river by tanneries located on its banks in Kanpur. The 2G scam cases in which politicians and bureaucrats figure as accused were also the result of a PIL.

When the court fines a petitioner for wasting its time it may actually be punishing him for its own failing. Take, for instance, the case of the MLA who has been slapped with the fine of Rs1 million. He had approached the Supreme Court after losing in the high court. Why was his petition entertained when its frivolous character was so evident?

Under the Constitution the Supreme Court need entertain an appeal only if the case involves a substantial question of law relating to interpretation of its provisions. The court can reduce its burden by strictly applying this criterion instead of entertaining every matter brought before it in the form of an appeal or special leave application.
In this matter, it can profit from the example of the US Supreme Court which only takes up as much as it can handle. That court receives each year 7,000 to 8,000 petitions. It grants and hears oral arguments only in about 80 of them. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, February 14, 2017