Monday, April 5, 2010

Indian judiciary is in trouble

Executive, legislature and judiciary – we have been hearing/reading these terms since our introduction to Civics in Standard IV. Hardly did we realise then that our nation, the largest democracy, thrives on these three terms. Well, now that we are aware of this fact, we have also formed certain opinion and perception about these estates of the Indian democracy.

Talking about these perceptions, executive and legislature usually lack the respect and the belief that judiciary manages to hold. I agree that judiciary also faces its share of flak, but mostly, the formers are tagged with corruption, dynasty, red tape…and the list goes on.

Judiciary is (although arguably) one of the most respected institutions in the Indian context. It is often hailed as the most independent and most learned estate of our democratic structure. But lately, it has come under strong criticism on one basic issue – appointment of judges in the higher judiciary (High Courts and Supreme Court).

Let me first mention the procedure that is followed for the appointment of High Court judges. It is primarily on the basis of seniority. Besides, there is a standing committee in each High Court, comprising the chief justice of the state and other two seniormost judges of the concerned High Court. They choose the names from amongst the District and Sessions Judges in the state. But a major cause of concern here is that they are not bound to select on the basis of seniority, and are not answerable to any authority if they choose to skip names in the list of officers.

Well, after having done the ‘selection’ (of course on the basis of their whims and fancies), they forward the names to the Supreme Court collegium, which consists of the Chief Justice of India and two senior judges of the apex court. And to understand the modus operandi of the collegium in simple terms – if one of the members says that he knows a particular officer in the list, and that he/she is not a ‘fine’ person, the name is dropped. No substantial reason is needed for selecting or rejecting an officer.

The aforesaid facts clearly depict the nature and point the discrepancy in the procedure. As is evident merit hardly plays a role in the whole system. And this perhaps explains why judges like Justice Dinakaran have managed to become the chief justice of a state. One can certainly counter me by saying that he has already been exposed, and has also been penalised by not getting elevated to the Supreme Court. But given the nature of corruption he has been involved in, we can well imagine the damage he would have done to the institution and, thereby, the Indian democracy, before being exposed.

However, Dinakaran is not the major threat. Those who have managed to shield themselves till now, and have not been exposed are the real threats, as they harm the system from within like termites.

Recently, I came across a statement from the chief justice of a western Indian state. It read: “judiciary in this state is in a very bad shape. Anyone can be bought in the judiciary of ******* (name of the state).”

I would like to share here that this Mr Chief Justice was once in the Jharkhand High Court, and had then prevented an honest and senior District and Sessions Judge from making it to the High Court, perhaps, because he knew that the officer might create problems for the corrupt lobby he had been managing there.

The real problems of the Indian judiciary, and the real threat to our democracy, are officers like this Mr Chief Justice. Such people have managed to pave their way into the top jobs in the absence of proper structure and regulations.

And those like Justice Shah, considered as one of the finest judges the Indian judiciary has ever had, never get their due. Despite being a judge of such high stature, he never got elevated to the Supreme Court of India. His recent popular judgements include the inclusion of the court of CJI in the RTI ambit, and the ruling on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The worth of this man can be judged with his, apparently, only public statement: “A judge should only speak through his judgements, and not through any other media.”

The Indian judiciary did introduce the Contempt of Court Act in 1952, which has been protecting and maintaining its secrecy, but never formulated an act which would help solve the problem of appointments.

Though the Law Ministry has raised objections on the system of collegium, it’s yet to be seen what course of action is taken on the issue.

And it’s high time something was done about it, for any delay in this regard would only supplement the disrespect of the ‘most respectable’ estate of Indian democracy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

RSS Vs Sena? I'm sure Mumbai doesn't want this

Mumbai, the city just refuses to be out of news. As a matter of fact, its ‘guardians’ don’t let it remain out of news. It was initiated by Raj Thackeray through few speeches, which were later transformed into action by his men – members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (I prefer calling it Maharashtra No-nirman Sena). When Shiv Sena, headed by Raj’s estranged and not-so-aggressive cousin Uddhav Thackeray, realized that Raj was gaining a firm ground in the state on issues that were their ‘patent’, they began resonating his voice and re-directed their energy towards ‘protection of Mumbai’.

But it’s no longer an easy task. RSS has declared that they will guard and protect the North Indians in Mumbai. They have also been backed by BJP, which is incidentally an ally of Shiv Sena.

Now this paves the path for an ugly fight, which may be violent, on the streets of Mumbai. While Senas have to their credit bashing of migrants, burning of BEST buses, and involvement in the riots post Mumbai blasts in 1993, RSS is the force behind the demolition of Babri Masjid.

But lost amidst these powerful political groups are the people of Mumbai – Maharashtrians as well as North Indians. What do they want?

I don’t have specific data to prove my point but I guess Mumbai has more migrants than Delhi or any other Metro. And if you have visited the city or happen to live there, you will agree that it’s probably one of the best examples of peaceful co-existence.

Mumbai has often been praised for its zeal to fight back and return to normalcy after every attack or calamity. When people came on the streets after the train blasts to help those in trouble, or when rain played a monster, they never asked if a person was a Mumbaikar of hailed from Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. They just extended a helping hand to everyone in distress. I’m sure there were several people from Bihar or Uttar Pradesh who provided water bottles and snacks to the Marathis who were helpless when trouble struck, and vice versa.

The so called custodians of Mumbai also attacked Sachin Tendulkar, Mukesh Ambani and Amitabh Bachchan when they said Mumbai is for all. But why didn’t they have a problem when Amitabh made the Mumbai Film Industry earn wealth out of his blockbusters? When Ambanis, who are originally from Gujarat, set up some of India’s biggest industries in the state? And coming to Sachin – how can they even think of attacking a Maharashtrian who has put their city on the global map in his own ways?

Well, the aforesaid points are not meant to back RSS. In fact, RSS is probably worsening things for the North Indians. It’s good that they have raised their voice for the migrants but I fear they also would resort to violent means. They would do nothing but send their goons to clash with those of MNS or Shiv Sena. And I believe people in Mumbai are rather busy making and shaping up their lives, arranging means of livelihood, than face a bandh due to violence at Worli or Vashi or Thane or Panvel or Andheri.

Mumbai is the city of dreams; a city that has the power to fulfill dreams; a city that makes lives; a city that India is proud of. And there must be something very special about the people of such a city. They would certainly disapprove of anything that in any possible way harms their structure of peaceful co-existence.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kya mila sur mera tumhara?

January 26 is a national holiday in India...and a national holiday means no school, no college and no office...but pause - it's applicable only if you are not a journalist. And it gets even worse when you have a night shift. Okay enough of cribbing (as it is we do that on a daily basis without fail), on to the point now.

This 26th I had a night shift. And as I reached office, I saw the television to find Deepika Padukone standing on a rock near a pond, in some weird dress (apologies: I've no clue what that dress is called) moving her hands in air, and suddenly it began to rain on her face. I couldn't hear the sound as the TV was muted...but then I discovered a slug at the bottom of the screen - Phir Mile Sur, just when a colleague told me it was a new version of Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, a song that once evoked the feel of national integration in our hearts even as children.

So now I had the urge to watch the whole song. I chose not to watch it from middle so logged on to the Mecca of videos, YouTube. Searched the video there and began watching it.

It was a pleasure to watch it begin with the musical genius, A R 'Oscar' Rehman, followed by the legend, Amitabh Bachchan.

Well, the song continued and it was nearing 8 minutes. I thought it was approaching its end, just when I found that it ended abruptly and YouTube suggested me to watch the second part. And then I found that the second part as well was 8-minute long. I must admit that the length was a disappointment for me.

However, I managed to watch the whole video.

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara – the older version – has been very close to our hearts. The video was successful in portraying a picture of almost all the cultures and languages in India. It depicted the real India. But the new version, simply, fails to do that.

The new version, like the older one, thrives on celebrities, on some of the most popular faces of the nation, but unlike the older version, it depicts them as mere celebrities and not Indians. There were more number of celebrities – big and small – in the older version, but they were portrayed as one amongst many Indians.

The new Mile Sur is an attempt to present a glorified picture of India, which is larger than life, which is rich, developing and prosperous. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to go deeper into the Indian scenario. This video doesn’t show a poor ‘Mahawat’ on his elephant, sporting a smile and singing Mile Sur Mera Tumhara in his mother tongue; it doesn’t show an Om Puri as a member of a middle class farmer family of Punjab; it doesn’t show a Kamal Hasan sitting as a music lover among others listening to Balamuralikrishnan. It rather shows Amitabh Bachchan walking near Hotel Taj; it shows Yesudas singing the song in a hi-tech music studio; it shows Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Amjad Ali Khan playing instruments along with their children at a royal palace; it shows Shah Rukh Khan in his famous since-DDLJ-act with a backdrop of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

I really don’t intend to say that it’s fake. Certainly it’s not, but actually it is not a representation of the real India. Scenes as seen in the older version are still in plenty in our country and I don’t believe it to be a matter of shame to showcase the factual picture of it.

The song also has some glaring misses. And the most glaring of them is Sachin Tendulkar, the man who has done our country proud at not one but innumerable instance. How can we talk of Indian heroes and not include him? One may cite availability issue at the time of the shoot but it must be realized that the video has certainly not been shot in a short span of time. If the makers can make Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, A R Rehman, Abhinav Bindra, Saina Nehwal be a part of it, then there’s no possible reason why Sachin could not be accommodated.

Others missing in the video are the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni – who has captained the Indian Cricket (called a religion in India) team to gain the number 1 spot, APJ Abdul Kalam – the man behind making India a nuclear power, Gulzar – man who made us proud at the Oscars.

And another major disappointing factor of the new version is the music. The original tune of the song was composed by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and was then improvised upon by other music directors, majorly by Louis Bank, who can be seen in the new version playing an instrument. But Louis fails to recreate the magic, and so do Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.

Probably, some things must better be left untouched and cherished in their basic original form, rather than making them samples for experiment. Probably, kuch sur hamesha nahi milte