Thursday, March 15, 2012

Indian Legal System-root of all political and economic evils

In an era where the Supreme Court is the 'last man standing' when it comes to institutional integrity, this post may seem weird. But the Supreme Court does not reflect system at large. There are other reasons for the evils like police being under State control etc but this post focusses on the legal reasons.
  1. Law is too complex for laypersons to understand. While one cannot simplify the law beyond a point and that is why we need experts, there is a case for legal inclusion(demystifying the law) similar to financial inclusions
  2. Too many procedures make subordinate courts hot bed of corruption-this is true for getting certified copies, hearing dates and other small things. 
  3. Criminals are our elected legislators and pending cases take time-this is a root cause for criminalization of politics. While one must admit that people are presumed innocent unless proven guilty, there should be a self censorship for serial offenders. 
  4. Senior Advocates rarely take probono cases/PILs and milk the title for charging higher fees. Nothing wrong with that from business standpoint, but why should someone use a public office(like Senior Advocate) for private benefit in terms of fees? But if someone uses a lesser known advocate, judicial officers may not give them a fair hearing in the era of uncle judges.
  5. Our worst functioning and scam ridden markets like real estate, mining are because of legal imperfections in land registry, government regulation etc.
  6. Our judges work quite hard(in any terms, hours worked/judgements passed etc) compared to international standards and for much lower pay, but this is not showing up in the backlog. 
  7. Thanks to multiple adjournments and other dilatory tactics causing the backlog to pile up even more,  lawyers can rack up their per hearing fee(since the Bar Council does not permit contingency fees that would give incentive to finish the case fast). While tax laws have the 3 adjournment limit, this is yet to be applied for other laws. Sunny Deol's famous 3min monologue in the film Damini 'Tareekh pe Tareekh' is still relevant today.
  8. Courts still interpret laws assuming that the legislature knows the law/acts in the interest of the public etc, but in an era where laws are passed without debate and with little scrutiny even by House Committees, where Opposition views are steamrollered, should not the principles of interpretation be thought over again?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Call yourself an involved citizen? Try this before posting on Facebook

Facebook and other social networks are an excellent way to spread awareness about an issue
  1. Register yourself as a voter so that you can cast your vote in the next civic/state/national elections. Often, the victory margins(especially in Mumbai civic elections) are wafer thin, and with elections increasingly becoming free of fear(even if not 'fair' due to monetary power..), individual votes do matter now. 
  2. Register yourself to vote in the nearest graduate's constituency, for electing a person to the legislative council(if any)-these exist in Maharashtra and Karnataka besides others states. This registration is in addition to the above voter's registration, and needs filling out a simple Form18, besides submitting attested copies of your ID/residence and graduation proof. 
  3. Be financially literate when it comes to public budgets of Centre and State, instead of just looking for revision in income tax slabs! Publications of the ICAI like that on state deficits( and that on the oil subsidy( are eye openers for those who take the time to read them in detail
  4. Join a political party and reward transparency/clean politics with your funding/support whether you like it or not, you participate in politics and your not casting a vote means interests opposed to yours win because in a democracy, only the 'crying baby'(those casting votes) 'gets milk'(government handouts etc). Therefore, join a party whose interests are most closely aligned to yours(there is NO shame in participating in the system) and the national interest. Parties like Loksatta are a good example, as while their electoral successes are limited, they are quite vociferous in Parliament and contribute constructively to political debate like that on the Lokpal Bill.
  5. Subscribe to good quality critical media:-The Hindu-TOI ad-war in Chennai amused the whole nation but should have got us thinking. Should we pay more to read a Mint/Tehelka/Money Life/Hindu or read a TOI/ET/India Today just because it is 'inexpensive'? Why don't we read good book like Do we value our time/knowledge gained so little?
  6. Know your duties:- The Constitution lists fundamental duties, but since they are non mandatory, they are glossed over in favour of 'mandatory' fundamental rights. Things like scientific temper(how many of us still go to astrologers..), respect for heritage/nature etc are listed in the fundamental duties list, but are rarely practiced. So next time, before demanding fundamental rights expansion like 'right to work' etc, think whether you practice the fundamental duties or not. 
  7. Ignorance of rights is no excuse to pay a bribe:-With tools like RTI forcing governments to put out information on the web/public domain, and with a multitude of websites out there explaining the rights in plain english, there is little excuse for stuff like paying a bribe/'middleman fee' to claim a tax refund when that would come automatically in this online processing era. For more complicated issues, a RTI application does help as press reports show. 
  8. Civic sense is essential, stuff like not breaking Q system, not causing trouble to your co passengers, avoiding speed money/bribes. Doing that weakens social capital, gives public servants a chance to ask for bribes.
  9. And lastly, read/understand before you share:-I've lost count of the factually incorrect Facebook shares I've seen like the 'bring back XXbn blackmoney to India', 'Sonia Gandhi citizenship theory','Singapore public services being cheaper than India' etc. Do a basic Google if something is too good to be true, else you are equally responsible for perpetuating a lie. And even if we all support the Lokpal Bill, that is no excuse for avoiding reading the pros and cons of the debate instead of being seduced by the pros only.