Freeing the caged parrot
- Ban on Salman Rushdie's book by Rajiv Gandhi govt was wrong: Chidambaram
- Woman IPS officer transferred after spat with Haryana health minister
- Pakistan ready for talks with India without preconditions, says Nawaz Sharif: Report
- Cabinet expansion in Maharashtra sets pitch for lobbying in BJP
- Bhushans should join BJP, says AAP after criticism of Janlokpal
On CBI reform, the court stepped in where the government failed. But that cannot be the end of the story
Where does the Supreme Court get the power to oversee the Central Bureau of Investigation? Which other government will countenance the SC wanting it to bypass Parliament with an ordinance so that a "law [making India's premier anti-corruption agency independent] is put in place before the next date of hearing"? The lawyers amongst you will point to the 1997 Vineet Narain judgment and its successors, whereby the SC expanded its powers under Articles 21, 141 and 142, creatively interpreted the CBI manual and criminal procedure code, and sought to insulate sensitive investigations from political control. But that begs the same question: where did the courts get the power to make these judgments? It is not given in the Constitution, is mentioned in no statute. Yet the Congress blinked first, sacked its law minister, tasked senior ministers with drafting a law to appease their lordships, and upheld this power of the courts. What's more, the court move is popular with the public. How came we to this?
The obvious answer is the political failure to lead. Beginning in the 1980s, judicial activism has taken place in the context of Congress decline, the coalition-era and non-Congress politicians wanting a strong court to protect them. Yet, the courts have not always won. On issues where there is unanimity among them, politicians have stood up to unfavourable verdicts. Parliament, for example, has passed no fewer than six constitutional amendments nullifying judicial decisions that limited reservations. The problem is with this particular government's approach to corruption. The scale of the 2G and coal controversies have no precedent. Its unwillingness to take graft seriously has also allowed other institutions — the Comptroller and Auditor General, the army chief, the SC, even the Press Council chairman — to step in where the Centre has failed. Had the Congress passed a half-decent Lokpal bill last year, giving real autonomy to an anti-corruption body, none of this would have occurred. But the government version of the bill is weak, and has not made it past Parliament. The court stepped in where the government failed.
- True economic reform is one that makes a clean break from the past
- When Aamir chooses to talk about fears of Hindu intolerance, he does his faith a disservice
- Cricket is the only Indian religion in whose name people don’t kill each other
- There is a complaint about intolerance from those who frankly don’t like the change in govt
- Inside track: Changing tactics
- Good governance is in actions, not in 'abolishing' religious holidays of minorities