APRIL 25, Thursday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

SC firm on unearthing ‘larger plot against CJI’

SC firm on unearthing ‘larger plot against CJI’

Bench requests CBI, IB, Delhi Police chiefs to seize evidence

Krishnadas Rajagopal
New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Wednesday resolved to “enquire, enquire and enquire” till it gets to the root of whether sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is part of a larger conspiracy hatched by a gang of “disgruntled employees and fixers.”

A Special Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra entertained an affidavit handed over to it in a sealed cover by a young lawyer, Utsav Singh Bains, who claimed he was enticed with money to frame the Chief Justice in a false case.

Mr. Bains said he had crucial evidence to show that a lobby was at work to bring disrepute to the Chief Justice and the judiciary.

In its four-page order, the Bench recorded that Mr. Bains named two former apex court employees, Tapan Kumar Chakraborty and Manav Sharma, who were recently dismissed from service for allegedly doctoring a judicial order in a contempt case between Ericsson and businessman Anil Ambani.

The Bench summoned the CBI Director, Director of the Intelligence Bureau and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to the judges’ chambers at half-past noon. The judges requested the three top officials to seize relevant material supporting Mr. Bains’ affidavit.

This development comes a day after the court formed a committee of three Supreme Court judges to examine the allegations of sexual harassment raised by a former woman employee against Chief Justice Gogoi.

Confined to one aspect

The Bench clarified that its proceedings on Mr. Bains’ claims would not ‘supersede’ the in-house enquiry being conducted by the judges’ panel into the woman’s allegations. Senior advocate Indira Jaising voiced apprehensions that the judicial proceedings would negate the mandate of the judges’ committee.

However, the Bench said the court proceedings had nothing to do with the woman’s claims, but was only confined to the allegations of Mr. Bains. “The two enquiries will not prejudice each other. The judges committee is also not empowered to look into a larger conspiracy,” Justice Mishra assured.

Justice Rohinton Nariman, on the Bench, addressed Ms. Jaising: “We are not hearing anything on what happened on Saturday (April 20) or allegations (by the woman)… We are constituted for a specific purpose. We are looking into only his (Bains) affidavit… So don’t back us into that corner.”

The court has been in the spotlight after the woman’s affidavit, narrating a train of events leading to her dismissal and alleged victimisation, was sent to 22 Supreme Court judges and published by several news websites on April 20.

Two IS men linked to Easter blasts

Two IS men linked to Easter blasts

They had returned from Syria and Iraq, Sri Lankan sleuths have found

Meera Srinivasan , COLOMBO

Untold grief: Relatives struggle to console Kumari Fernando, who lost her husband and two children in the blast, at the funeral in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday. REUTERS

Two suspects involved in the deadly Easter attacks in Sri Lanka are Islamic State (IS) returnees from Syria and Iraq, investigators have found.

The suspects’ exact role in planning and executing the ghastly serial bombings remains unclear, but Sri Lankan intelligence has established that the two young men were IS-trained, The Hindu learns from a Colombo-based source who was part of a recent, high-level discussion on the attacks. “Now the pieces of the puzzle should start coming together,” the source said, requesting anonymity.

Two years ago, Sri Lanka highlighted over 30 of its youth joining IS in Syria. They came from “well-educated, affluent families”, the then Justice Minister told Parliament in November 2016. But in the three years since, Sri Lankan authorities have made no public mention of any threat from radical Islamist forces in the island.

Not even when they arrested a group of Muslim youth last December for vandalising Buddha statues. They suspected that the youth had links with militant organisations abroad, but the findings since are unclear to many, the source said.

Crucial lead

However, the lead that investigators have now obtained could potentially help Sri Lanka ascertain how the local National Thowheed Jamaath may have worked with the IS, which has claimed responsibility for the eight blasts that killed over 350 people, including 45 children, on Sunday.

Further, the jackets used by the suicide bombers were ‘typically used’ by the IS, a source said.

* Nation

Court constitutes panel to set right anomalies in policing

Court constitutes panel to set right anomalies in policing

Says criminal justice delivery system in the State requires a complete overhaul

Mohamed Imranullah S.

Expressing serious concern over the “shabby, indifferent and defective” way in which a large number of criminal cases were being booked and investigated by the police, the Madras High Court on Wednesday constituted a heterogeneous committee to study the problem and suggest ways and means for a complete overhaul of the criminal justice delivery system in the State.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh appointed former Director General of Police R. Natraj, retired Superintendent of Police V. Sithanan, senior counsel N.R. Elango, Director of The Banyan K.V. Kishore Kumar and Deputy Commissioner of Police M. Sudhakar as members of the committee, and directed the government to provide them all necessary assistance, including an office.

The terms of reference of the committee is to give its recommendations on “reforms that can be brought into practice for reformation, rehabilitation and re-integration of the convict/accused persons into society and the best practices for improving the quality of investigation so that a healthy criminal justice system can be created in the State of Tamil Nadu”.

Granting eight weeks’ time for the committee to submit its report, the judge said extensive studies in neuroscience had conclusively proven that free will was an illusion. “No one is born a criminal. The men and women on death row have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad environments, and bad ideas and the innocent, of course, have supremely bad luck.

“Which of these qualities, exactly, were they responsible for? No human being is responsible for his genes or his upbringing. Yet, we have every reason to believe that these factors determine his character. Our system of justice should reflect an understanding that any of us could have been dealt a very different hand in life,” he added.

Stating that a true barometer to assess a welfare state was to watch how it deals with its criminals, the judge said he had been noticing an adverse trend of the police in the State filing multiple cases against particular individuals just for statistical purposes without realising its serious consequence of ordinary accused getting transformed into hardened criminals. “It looks like the police are caught in this vicious cycle. It also reflects on the poor record of convictions even in serious crimes. Instead of finding a complete cure for the disease, police seem to be looking for temporary solutions. Unless we agree that there is a serious problem, there is no scope for change or improvement,” the judge said and referred to disturbing statistics.

Conviction statistics

He pointed out that out of 3,35,749 convictions recorded in the State between 2013 and 2018 for offences that attract less than three years of imprisonment, as many as 2,85,646 (85%) ended up in conviction not because of the prosecution proving its case before courts of law through submission of unflinching evidence but because the accused pleaded guilty.

In so far as more serious crimes that attract higher punishment were concerned, the conviction rate was very poor. “It goes without saying that the quality of investigation has come down drastically,” the judge lamented.

Referring to National Crime Records Bureau statistics that the 1,481 preventive detention orders passed in Tamil Nadu in 2015 accounted for 47.9% of all such detentions across the country, the judge said even an insurgency-ridden State like Jammu and Kashmir reported only 432 detentions, accounting for 14% of detentions across the country.

“Preventive detention law has become a shield for shabby and defective policing. The very fact that Tamil Nadu has retained its unenviable first place in the number of detenues in all States would clearly show that law and order in this State is clearly resting on rickety foundations…Let this State restore the old glory and become a role model for all others to follow,” the judge concluded.

HC moots extending gestation period for terminating pregnancies

HC moots extending gestation period for terminating pregnancies

Seeks response from Centre, State on raising the threshold to 24 weeks

B. Tilak Chandar


Concerned over the increase in cases of unwanted pregnancies due to rapes and forced relationships, the Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday mooted an extension of the gestation period for termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, as per a 2014 proposal. The court ordered notice to both the Centre and the State government, seeking their response.

Alarmed at the rate at which crimes were being committed against women and abortions were being carried out in homes under unsafe conditions, a Division Bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and S.S. Sundar observed that it was a matter of urgency for the Central government to come out with a time frame by which the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 could be amended by extending the permissible termination period from 20 weeks to 24 weeks.

Foetal abnormalities

The court took suo motu cognisance of a report by WHO-MOD (World Health Organisation and March of Dimes) which pointed out that 2.70 crore children were born in India every year, of which 17 lakh were born with abnormalities found in the foetus itself.

Doctors were finding it very difficult to diagnose the abnormalities in the foetus within 20 weeks, as in certain instances, the cases were reported late. The extension of the permissible period to terminate pregnancy would help in such cases, the court said.

The extension of the period from 20 weeks to 24 weeks was necessary as it would avoid unwanted pregnancies. The victims of rape and forced relationships were already traumatised by unwanted pregnancies, it said.

The case was adjourned to June 24 for the filing of counter affidavits.

New rule puts Transtan patients at a disadvantage

New rule puts Transtan patients at a disadvantage

They must register afresh under Notto to join national pool

S. Vijay Kumar

A new rule threatens to deprive patients, including foreign nationals, registered with the Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu (Transtan) of their seniority in the waiting list while seeking allocation of organs from other States or national pool.

According to sources in the health department, the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (Notto), which lays down policy guidelines and protocols for various functions relating to procurement and distribution of organs/tissues, has instructed that patients on the waiting list in States should register afresh with Notto for consideration in allocation of organs from the national pool.

In the process, the patients would have to forgo their seniority in the State and join a fresh list at the national level from the date of re-registration with Notto. Though there is no official notification yet in this regard, Transtan authorities confirmed that a message was received on WhatsApp making it mandatory for patients seeking organs from other States to re-register with Notto.

‘Unfair practice’

The practice so far has been that organs harvested from a brain dead person in a State are allocated to patients on waiting list considering their seniority and health condition. When there are no takers in the State, the organ is put on the national pool to benefit patients in other States.

“The new rule threatens the fair allocation of organs to patients who are battling for life. This is an extremely unfair situation since patients who have been waiting for a year or more for life-saving organs will have to forgo their seniority. Notto should consider maintaining the seniority of waiting list in States considering the fact that many patients die in about a year or so while waiting for organ/organs,” a senior heart transplant surgeon said on Wednesday.

He said the issue had to be dealt with urgently as it was a matter of life and death for all patients with end stage organ failure.

“This may also lead to litigation when a patient waiting for a year finds that a recipient registered only a few days ago in another State gets an organ superseding his/her seniority.”

After receiving representations from major hospitals, the Tamil Nadu Health Department has written to Notto requesting that seniority of patients on waiting list in the State be retained.

Leaders caution against bid to link Islamic outfits with SL blasts

Leaders caution against bid to link Islamic outfits with SL blasts

IUML slams misguided interpretation of Islam

Udhav Naig

Thol. Thirumavalavan


Following the suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka by suspected IS operatives, attempts have been made to link Islamic outfits in Tamil Nadu with the terror strike. However, political parties, particularly those representing the interests of Muslims, have cautioned against such a tendency.

At the same time, Indian Union Muslim League president Kader Mohideen said the attack had flagged the need to be vigilant of youth falling prey to “misguided” interpretations of Islam.

Stating that these attacks had reiterated the importance of promoting inter-faith dialogue, Mr. Mohideen said, “We need to revive the good old days where there was communal amity and harmony among various religious communities. We used to organise inter-faith religious events where people of all faiths would get together on the same stage for peace and unity. We used to have a Moulvi, a Hindu religious leader and a priest on the same stage. We need to restart such activities on the ground.”

The IUML leader added: “I have been telling people in the Jamat to be vigilant of those who promote a misguided interpretation of Islam and oppose certain Islamic traditions followed by Muslim communities. Such people should be sent away. We must first consider ourselves human beings. That’s what all the scriptures also say. People who commit such terror are committing a crime against humanity,” he said.

In a statement, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi founder Thol. Thirumavalavan on Wednesday said the after-effects of the terror attack could be felt in Tamil Nadu just as the State felt the effects of Sri Lankan civil war.

‘Don’t demonise’

Mr. Thirumavalavan said the democratic forces in the State should uproot fundamentalist forces without any compromise and defeat the plan to demonise the Muslim community as terrorists.

Prof M.H. Jawahirullah, president, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, rejected concerns that attacks in Sri Lanka would have a major spill-over effect in Tamil Nadu – within and against the Muslim community.

“No Muslim has or will recognise such an act. In Tamil Nadu, the democratic forces are strong and any such adverse effects will be prevented,” he said.

‘10 Pakistan-based terrorists had role in cross-LoC trade’

‘10 Pakistan-based terrorists had role in cross-LoC trade’

Militants exploited the channel to fund anti-national activities, say govt. sources

Special Correspondent,

A file picture of a truck from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir carrying goods at Aman Setu near the LoC.NISSAR AHMAD


Ten Pakistan-based terrorists have been found involved in funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency into the Valley after the government suspended cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) from April 19, government sources said on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had cited misuse by militants as the reason for shutting down the trade.

The sources said investigations had shown that the 10 from J&K had crossed over to Pakistan and joined terror groups. They were found to be engaged in the trade.

“Firms under the control of these militants were doing LoC trade with Indian trading firms operated by their own relatives on the Indian side. The channel of LoC trade, meant to facilitate exchange of goods of common use between local populations, was being exploited to fund illegal and anti-national activities in Jammu & Kashmir,” a source said.

According to sources, the individuals include Basharat Ahmed Bhat from Budgam currently living in Rawalpindi who operates Al Nasir Trading Company in Pakistan and was active in the LoC trade.

Shabbir Illahi from Sopore is a member of the Hizbul Mujahideen and is involved in trading through M.N. Trading Company and Sultan Traders. Another Budgam native, Showkat Ahmad Bhat lives in Rawalpindi and runs Taha Enterprises, the sources said. A resident of Ichkoot in Budgam, Mohd. Iqbal Sheikh, is associated with the company.

Another Budgam native now living in Rawalpindi, according to sources, Noor Mohd. Ganai, runs Al Noor with the help of his brother Farooq Ahmad Ganai, a resident of Beerwah.

The sources said Khurshid, a Srinagar resident who lives in Islamabad now, runs Khursheed and Sons, Muzaffarabad.

Originally from Budgam and now living in Muzzafarabad, Pakistan, Imtiyaz Ahmed Khan was engaged in the trade through MIK Traders and Imtiyaz Traders Muzaffarabad, sources said.

A Pattan native living in Rawalpindi, Amir, is also among the 10, sources said. The government sources said Sayeed Ajay Ahmed Shah alias Aizaz Rehmani from Srinagar and living in Muzaffarabad is the vice-chairperson of the People’s League in PoK.

“Enquiries have revealed that Aizaz Rehmani’s brother-in-law Arshad Iqbal Shah alias Ashu is involved in cross LoC trade since 2010,” a source said.

Arshad was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in 2016 and is in the Baramulla district jail, the source said.

Justice was my aim, not revenge, says Bilkis Bano

Justice was my aim, not revenge, says Bilkis Bano

The Gujarat riot victim terms the SC ruling a clear message

, Bindu Shajan Perappadan

Brave story: A file picture of Bilkis Bano along with her daughter at a press conference in New Delhi.Sandeep Saxena


A day after the Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat government to give Bilkis Bano ₹50 lakh as compensation, a government job and a house, the 2002 communal riots victim on Friday said revenge was not her aim while fighting the case.

“Justice and not revenge was my aim. Throughout I kept my faith in the Constitution, my rights as a citizen, and the Supreme Court has stood by me,” said Ms. Bano at a press conference here.

Asked about what kept her going for the past 17 years she said: “On March 3 during the riots I saw the devastation of my family, I lost my daughter… I had nothing more to lose and that gave me the courage to struggle on.”

She added that she is happy with the order and the exemplary compensation. “Now I hope I can give my child a stable home and life. I also hope that my daughter will grow up and become a lawyer who can defend others.”

“I also want to use part of the money to help other women survivors of hate and communal violence to seek justice. We hope to help educate their children, in whose lives the spirit of my daughter Saleha (who she lost during the riots) will live on,” said an emotional Bilkis, who had her husband Yakub by her side during the press conference.

Besides the media, the conference saw the presence of citizens from all walks of life, including women’s rights and human rights activists who said they were there to salute Bilkis’ courage, and at this dark time in India, when hate crimes and hate speech were on the rise, to celebrate this historic moment of hope for equal justice for all citizens of India, and for the victory of constitutional values.

Bilkis Bano speaking about the most difficult part of her ‘journey’ said: “The fact that I was forced to live in a hostile state was the most difficult part of the struggle. Today, everyone is asking me what I will do with the money…Well I would just want my life back. The fact that the courts acknowledge my pain itself is big for me.”

‘Not about money’

“The Supreme Court’s order to me is not about the money. It is about the signal it has sent to the State and to each citizen of this country. The order’s clear message is that we have rights and that no State can be allowed to violate,” she said.

Bilkis Bano’s advocate Shobna, who represented her in Supreme Court, was also present.

The Supreme Court committee and institutional bias

The Supreme Court committee and institutional bias

Formation of the panel raises very serious and profound questions which need to be debated and addressed at the outset

Dushyant Dave

The Supreme Court on Tuesday constituted a committee comprising Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee. All three judges command universal respect on account of their competence, objectivity, experience and independence. Two of them, Justices Bobde and Ramana, will become Chief Justice of India in coming years. In normal times, this would be a dream committee.

Yet, the constitution of the committee raises very serious and profound questions that need to be debated and addressed at the outset. Any delay will result in negation of the rule of law.

The Supreme Court’s judgment in 1997 in Visakha v. State of Rajasthan is a watershed in its history. In the absence of any domestic law occupying a field providing for measures to check the evils of sexual harassment at all workplaces, the Supreme Court invoked its extraordinary powers under Article 32 to lay down a new law to fill the vacuum. In so doing, the judges laid emphasis on Fundamental Rights under Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution together with International Conventions and Article 51C and 253 of the Constitution. They emphasised guarantee of gender equality and right to work with human dignity among others. The judges relied upon the Beijing Declaration of 1995 where the Chief Justices of Asia and Pacific had inter alia declared that among the objectives and functions of the judiciary is “to ensure that all persons are able to live securely under the rule of law”. Relying upon “Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women”, the judges referred to the rights of women and in particular, the right to work, as an inalienable right of all human beings and to “the right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction”.

Accordingly they declared, “In view of the above, and the absence of enacted law to provide for the effective enforcement of the basic human right of gender equality and guarantee against sexual harassment and abuse, more particularly against sexual harassment at workplaces, we lay down the guidelines and norms specified hereinafter for due observance at all workplaces or other institutions, until a legislation is enacted for the purpose.”

Among the guidelines and norms laid down are:

“1. Duty of the employer or other responsible persons in workplaces and other institutions: It shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in workplaces or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment….

7. Complaints Committee: … The Complaints Committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of its members should be women….” Accordingly the court finally directed, “We direct that the above guidelines and norms would be strictly observed in all workplaces for the preservation and enforcement of the right to gender equality of the working women. These directions would be binding and enforceable in law until suitable legislation is enacted to occupy the field…”

Parliament enacted the law in 2013. It is “an Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace”. Section 3 expressly declares “no woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace”. The expression ‘workplace’ is defined in an inclusive manner and though it does not include court premises expressly, they are deemed to be included. Sections 4 and 7 are relevant and speak about constitution of internal complaints committee and local complaints committee categorically requiring the chairperson to be a woman employed at a senior level at the workplace or from among eminent women from the field of social work and committed to the cause of women. They also provide that “members be from among the employees, NGO espousing cause of women, etc. be women”.

The Gender Sensitisation and Sexual Harassment of Women at Supreme Court (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Guidelines, 2013, in the Preamble, have laudatory objectives, but appear to exclude the court staff from their umbrella and protection. Constitution of the committee under Regulation 4 of at least seven members is to be done in accordance with the judgment in the Visakha case and essentially requires only women to be appointed including as the chairperson from the Bench, the Bar, Registry or the non-governmental organisations involved with the cause of women. This is the safe guide to constitute a committee. The Supreme Court has failed to implement Visakha judgment in its own precincts, and Parliament has failed to apply the Act of 2013 to court premises across the country. Clearly, the judges have kept themselves out of the ambit of the Act and the regulations, at least in the Supreme Court. This raises very serious questions as to the rationale and justification of so doing.

Fairness to complainant

Be that as it may, with binding Visakha judgment, the court could not have appointed the committee as it did to examine the allegations of sexual harassment against one of their own, the Chief Justice. The constitution of the committee is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Act and the guidelines. The very rationale for ensuring that the investigating committee for sexual harassment is headed by a woman and should comprise essentially women was to ensure fairness and comfort to the complainant. It would be taking away the dignity of the woman if she were to appear before a committee comprised of men even to describe in detail the sexual harassment suffered by her. The sensitivity required will be lost.

Troubling statements

To add to the woes of the complainant are extremely troubling statements issued by the Secretary-General of the Court and by the office-bearers of the Union of the Employees of the Court, both terming her allegations to be false and expressing solidarity with the Chief Justice.

Add to these the newspaper reports to the effect that the judges in a meeting held on Monday morning expressed support to the Chief Justice. Where then is the possibility for her to get fairness in the inquiry? The only witnesses who could possibly support her version are the employees of the Court. It is inconceivable that they can give independent evidence with this background and that too before a committee comprising three judges, two of whom are going to be Chief Justices in the future. The fate of the complainant stands sealed.

Natural Justice or Divine Justice is a great humanising principle intended to empower law with fairness to secure justice and prevent miscarriage of justice. Good administration would naturally require fair play in action.

As has been well said, “the history of liberty has largely been the history of the observants of procedural safeguards”. The first principle of natural justice is the rule against bias and is based on two salutary principles, “Justice should not only be done, but manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” and “Judges, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion”. Institutional bias is against natural justice. The Supreme Court itself in the case of Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1986 declared that the removal of a member of the institute on a ground of misconduct was vitiated on account of bias as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee were Ex-Officio President and Vice-President of the Council and so were other members of the committee drawn from the Council. The report will have to be placed before the Full Court, which appears to have unanimously constituted this committee and in that, the three members of the committee will also sit.

As early as 1957, the Supreme Court in Manak Lal’s Case has held “in such cases the test is not whether the bias has effected the judgment: the test always is and must be whether a litigant could reasonably apprehend that a bias attributable to a member of the Tribunal might have operated against him in the final decision of the Tribunal, it is in this sense that it is often said that justice must not only be done but must also appear to be done.”

Justices must redeem themselves. Events starting from Saturday (including those that have emerged for period prior thereto) have left citizens bewildered. Unless humane corrective measures are taken the court may lose people’s trust.

(The author is a senior advocate and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association)

* Editorial 1

Beyond the free trade idealism

Beyond the free trade idealism

An ambitious ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ must be the top priority for the next government 

Arun Maira

Getty Images/iStockphotoTukTuk Design/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The U.S. has begun trade skirmishes with India. It objects to India increasing import duties on electronic goods and wants India to reduce duties on U.S.-made motorcycles. Meanwhile the World Trade Organisation seems to be in the intensive care unit. It is time to apply fundamental principles to reshape a trade regime that is fair to all.

On free trade

The macro-economic case for free trade is that if each person would do only what he or she does better than everyone else and all would trade with each other, everyone’s welfare will increase. Also, the size of the global economic pie would be larger because there will be no inefficiencies. The problem is that, at present, many people in the world are doing what others, in other countries, can do better than them. To get to the economists’ ideal state, many people will have to stop doing what they are doing and learn to do something else.

Dani Rodrik has estimated that for every unit of overall increase in global income, six or seven units of incomes will have to be shuffled around within. Moreover, according to this theory, people should not start producing what others are already producing, because they will produce less efficiently until they learn to do it well. According to this theory of free trade, Indians should not have bothered to learn how to produce trucks, buses and two-wheelers when the country became independent. They should have continued to import them from American, European and Japanese companies.

Free trade purists say that easy import of products from other countries increases consumer welfare. Consumers everywhere welcome a lowering of import barriers because it brings products into their shops they could only dream of before. Milton Friedman had observed that, in international trade, exports help companies and imports help citizens. Therefore, resistance to free trade does not come from consumers. It generally comes from companies which cannot compete: companies in less developed countries which are not able to compete until their country’s infrastructure is improved and they have acquired sufficient capabilities, or even from companies in developed countries when producers in developing countries overtake them.

Job growth

However, to benefit from easy imports, citizens need incomes to buy the products and services available. Therefore, they need jobs that will provide them adequate incomes. Any government responsible for the welfare of its citizens has to be concerned about the growth of jobs in the country. Domestic producers can provide jobs. Ergo, a developing country needs a good ‘industrial policy’ to accelerate the growth of domestic production, by building on its competitive advantages; and by developing those capabilities, it can compete with producers in countries that ‘developed’ earlier.

When the ‘no barriers to free trade’ movement went into overdrive with the Washington Consensus in the 1990s, the concept of ‘industrial policy’, which had become associated with the idea of ‘protection’ of domestic industries, became a taboo. India liberalised imports in the 1990s and Indian consumers have benefited greatly since then from the variety of products available to them from around the world. However, by 2009, when the second United Progressive Alliance government was formed, the weakness of Indian manufacturing industries had become a great concern. The manufacturing sector in India and China had comparable capabilities in 1990. By 2009, China’s was 10 times larger than India’s, and its capital goods production sector was 50 times larger. Not only was the Indian market being flooded with Chinese hand-tools and toys, China was also selling high-tech electrical and telecommunication equipment to India (and around the world too).

Signs were already visible then that India’s impressive GDP growth was not generating enough employment for India’s large youth population. Whereas India’s economy should have been a powerful job generator, the employment elasticity of India’s growth — the numbers of jobs created per unit of GDP growth — was among the lowest in the world. Some people in government recommended the need for an ‘industrial policy’ to stimulate the growth of domestic production. However, many Indian economists, along with others from the World Bank and the U.S., pushed back. ‘Industrial policy’ was a backward idea associated with Soviet-era planning, they argued. If Indian industry was not growing, it was because India had not ‘reformed’ enough: India should reduce trade barriers further and government should get further out of the way of industry, they said.

The next step

By 2019, it has become clear that India’s policy-makers must find a way for economic growth to produce more income-generating opportunities for Indian citizens. Employment and incomes are the most pressing issues for Indian citizens according to all pre-election surveys of what citizens expect from the next government. All parties are responding in panic with schemes for showering various versions of unearned ‘universal basic incomes’ on people who are not able to earn enough. This approach is unlikely to be economically sustainable. Therefore, an ambitious ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ must be the highest priority for the next government.

While India seeks to capture larger shares of global markets, India’s own billion-plus citizens’ economy can become a stimulus for growth of millions of enterprises. If citizens earn more, they can spend more. The ‘Employment and Incomes Policy’ should guide the Industrial Policy to where investments are required, and also what is expected from those investments to produce more income-generating opportunities for young Indians.

The scope of ‘industry’ must be broadened to include all sectors that can build on India’s competitive advantages. For example, the tourism and hospitality industry, taking advantage of India’s remarkable diversity of cultures and natural beauty, has the potential to support millions of small enterprises in all parts of the country. By building on India’s competitive advantage of large numbers of trainable youth, and with digital technologies to increase the reach of small enterprises, manufacturing and services can provide many domestic and export opportunities that India has so far not seized.

There are lessons India can learn from its own history. With the government’s insistence in the pre-liberalisation era that production and technology must be indigenised in phased manufacturing programmes, India’s automobile sector was able to provide Indian consumers with good products. It now provides millions of people with employment and incomes in widespread domestic supply chains. Moreover, Indian auto-component producers and commercial vehicle producers export to the world’s most competitive markets.

In contrast, the Indian electronics sector has languished, while China’s has flourished. India signed the Information Technology Agreement of WTO in 1996 and reduced import duties on IT-related manufactured products to zero. China withheld for some time until its electronic sector was stronger. Now the U.S. and Europe are trying to prevent China’s telecom and electronic goods in their markets.

To conclude, the WTO’s governance needs to be overhauled to promote the welfare of citizens in all countries, especially poorer ones, rather than lowering barriers to exports of companies in rich countries in the guise of free trade idealism. And Indian economists, distracted by the mathematics of universal basic incomes, should return to the fundamentals of economic growth — more opportunities to earn incomes from productive work with development of new capabilities. A robust ‘Incomes and Employment Policy’, supported by an imaginative Industrial Policy, must guide India’s trade policy.

Arun Maira was a member of the Planning Commission

Political careerism is fine but sad

Political careerism is fine but sad

Why a party spokesperson’s defection to another group is especially unsettling

G. Sampath

Getty Imagesiconeer/Getty Images

Last week, Priyanka Chaturvedi, till then national spokesperson of the Congress and convener of its communications cell, quit the party. She claimed her decision was triggered by the party’s move to reinstate some Congress workers who had been suspended for misbehaving with her. Had this been the only reason, her exit would have been truly unfortunate, both for her and the party. But the story did not end there. Within 48 hours of leaving the Congress, Ms. Chaturvedi joined the Shiv Sena.

The surprise factor

It is not unusual for politicians to switch parties. But there is something about this episode that makes it less palatable than the humdrum defections of Indian politics. It is not comparable to, say, a Shatrughan Sinha joining the Congress before the 2019 general election. On the face of it, Mr. Sinha’s defection is far more serious: he was a sitting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and a former Union minister. Ms. Chaturvedi, on the other hand, has never contested a national election. But Mr. Sinha’s defection barely raised an eyebrow, while Ms. Chaturvedi’s came as a big surprise to many.

She has been a prominent face of the Congress. Over the past few years, she quickly climbed the party ranks on the back of high-voltage visibility afforded by her prime time television appearances. Her identity was that of a forceful defender of the Congress and an articulate votary of the party’s ascribed values. Of course, these values have always been rather nebulous. But that doesn’t mean nothing can be affirmed about them, even if only in the negative.

If there is one thing that can be said about the Congress’s ascribed values — as opposed to the ones on display — it is that they are adversarial to those of the Shiv Sena, the BJP, and the extended Sangh Parivar. To be sure, this hasn’t deterred a regular osmosis of politicians between the two camps. In the moral desert of Indian politics, and the even more barren discourse that dominates its coverage in the media, such behaviour is more likely to be commended as a sign of political ambition than censured as opportunism. There is a strong element of this worldview in the responses that have greeted Ms. Chaturvedi’s switch, not least among other Congresspersons, who seem to harbour no sense of betrayal or resentment. On the contrary, her ex-colleagues have wished her well for her new gig in the Shiv Sena from where, presumably, she will now attack with zeal the very party she used to defend with conviction. Yet her case is different: she was a spokesperson.

There is a difference between an MP, MLA or a senior leader switching parties, and a spokesperson doing the same. A ‘plain’ party leader’s primary audience is her own constituency, and her party’s supporters. But a party spokesperson’s primary audience is the world at large, not merely her own or her party’s followers. She represents the party to the world. When she addresses the public, she is the voice of her party, not — and never — speaking for herself. In other words, a spokesperson is not like any other party member. A national spokesperson, by the very nature of the role, works closely with the top leadership. She has a deep understanding of, and affinity with, her party’s avowed ideology and the leadership’s vision. Typically, only a person whose loyalty is beyond question should get such a role.

At any rate, from a ‘civilian’ perspective, it is difficult to say which is more disturbing: the casual break with old-fashioned loyalty, or the cynical acceptance, and even admiration, of what, in plain sight, is a display of naked careerism.

Such careerism is par for the course in the corporate world, where you can be a spokesperson for Pepsodent one day and Colgate the next. God — and Mammon — forbid, it’s no one’s case that politicians cannot be careerists. Indeed, it would be difficult to pinpoint a politician today who isn’t one. The dominant register of political discourse today is so quick to justify a politician’s right to trample ideology and ethics in her fervid commitment to serving her own self that questions about public service are seldom asked. But asked they must be.

Commitment issues

In Ms. Chaturvedi’s case, the questions are obvious. Was she ever committed to the values of liberty, equality (especially gender equity) and fraternity that she upheld as a Congress spokesperson? If yes, what does one make of her commitment to these values now that she has joined a party whose political capital is rooted in the wilful desecration of those very values? If her espousal of those values was mere posturing, was she then making a fool of all those who took her seriously? Or is this question silly because no one took her seriously in the first place and everyone had known all along that one day she would join a party with a legacy of hate?

Perhaps Ms. Chaturvedi’s defection rankles because she doesn’t come from typical political stock. It rankles for the same reason that the kind of doublespeak seen as commonplace coming from other parties is suddenly outrageous when it comes from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Perhaps it’s because one has — or had, in the case of the AAP — higher expectations. There was something AAP-like about Ms. Chaturvedi. Not anymore. She was a political outsider who led us to believe that she joined politics for much the same reasons that many joined the AAP — to serve society, to do some good, ridiculous as this sounds. We know not to believe such posturing. But sometimes, one does so anyway. And when disappointment comes, as it invariably must, it carries a whiff of sadness.


Just recompense

Just recompense

Compensation for Bilkis Bano underlines the state’s obligation for horrific crimes

Compensation to victims is a relatively less recognised component of criminal justice. In a system that focusses mainly on the accused, an order of compensation is a recognition of the state’s obligation to victims of crime, especially horrific acts. In ordering the Gujarat government to pay ₹50 lakh to Bilkis Yakoob Rasool Bano, a gang-rape survivor of the 2002 communal pogrom in the State who has bravely fought her case, the Supreme Court has endeavoured to achieve restitutive justice. Handing over the fine amounts paid by the accused as part of their sentence is one aspect of such justice; another aspect is for the court to ask the government to compensate the victim from its own coffers. A group of rioters had raped her as well as two other women, and killed seven members of her family at Randhikpur village on March 3, 2002. The court noted that she had the misfortune of witnessing her daughter being smashed against a wall, as well as the devastation suffered by her family. She was also pregnant at the time of the incident. Further, the court was told that she was leading an itinerant, hand-to-mouth existence. It is in these circumstances that the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi awarded her ₹50 lakh, besides asking the State government to provide her with a government job and a house.

Ms. Bano’s case is indeed a rare one: criminal prosecution resulted in conviction and life sentences to 11 persons. The sentences were upheld by the Bombay High Court. Further, the court found deliberate inaction on the part of some police officers and that the autopsies were perfunctory and manipulated. The Supreme Court has asked for the pension benefits of three police officers to be withdrawn. In short, this is a concrete instance of state inaction and negligence that would normally justify the payment of a hefty compensation. Not every crime would have a similar set of circumstances. While convictions are not easy to come by in cases of mob violence, victim compensation may often be the only way to ensure some justice. The Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2008 to insert Section 357A under which every State government has to prepare a scheme to set up a fund from which compensation can be paid to victims of crime and their dependants who have suffered loss and injury and who may require rehabilitation. The Centre has a Central Victim Compensation Fund. On Supreme Court directions, the National Legal Services Authority has prepared a compensation scheme for women victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes. Many States have notified schemes on these lines. While on paper there is a mechanism to assess rehabilitation needs and pay compensation, there is a need to streamline the schemes and ensure that the compensation process is not done in an ad hoc manner, but is based on sound principles.

Comedian’s triumph

Comedian’s triumph

Ukraine’s new President must quickly take on the geopolitical and governance challenges

What is extraordinary about Sunday’s Ukrainian presidential runoff is that it turned out to be so predictable. The comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, a rank political outsider until he announced his candidacy over New Year’s Eve, recorded the expected landslide victory. He had consistently led in the opinion polls, way ahead of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko and a former Prime Minister. The political neophyte’s prospects were enhanced by a sequence of events. In February, Ukraine’s top court struck down an anti-corruption law in a setback for several prosecutions and jeopardising aid flows to Kiev. Soon, Mr. Poroshenko was forced to ease out an ally in an arms trade scandal. The developments dented the government’s image ahead of the elections in a country where the drive against graft has been a live issue for years. And a landslide became a probability with every passing day after Mr. Zelensky beat Mr. Poroshenko by a hefty margin in the first round of polling on March 31. Since Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels in November, Mr. Poroshenko had pitched his campaign merely on the need to bolster national unity against the threat from Moscow, and assert Ukraine’s unique national identity. But the final battle turned brutal and bitter, even if the rival candidates’ campaigns were woefully short on substance. Mr. Poroshenko, an ex-oligarch in confectionaries, attacked his opponent as a puppet of another oligarch. The reference was to Igor Kolomoisky, whose TV channel ran Mr. Zelensky’s popular show, and has business interests spanning finance and media. The commercial bank he owned was nationalised by the outgoing dispensation as part of an economic clean-up, and Mr. Kolomoisky may have sensed an opportunity in the election to settle scores.

For his part, Mr. Zelensky used a final pre-election debate in Kiev to argue that his candidacy was a judgment on the incumbent, and that his bid was the result of Mr. Poroshenko’s mistakes. As President, Mr. Zelensky enters uncharted territory. The first challenge before him is the parliamentary election later this year, in which he will have to work with established institutions and parties he had railed against during the campaign. There is also the continuing conflict with Russia in the rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine, where his political inexperience might be a serious handicap. Finally, Mr. Zelensky will be expected to deliver results in the country’s crusade against corruption. Progress in each of these areas will be crucial determinants in Ukraine’s bid for European Union membership. The television star will soon discover that while theatre might be a good launchpad for the start of a political career, it is no preparatory ground for the real tasks of governance.

* Editorial 2

The days after in Sri Lanka

The days after in Sri Lanka

It is important to focus on popular solidarities and commonalities, instead of yielding to insecurity

Devastated, confused: A mourner at a mass funeral at St. Sebastian’s Church, Negombo, on Tuesday.Getty ImagesCarl Court

The first reaction of disbelief after receiving news of the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, with more than 350 now confirmed dead, has not dissipated. The emotions are reminiscent to what most of us felt when we first heard news of the 2004 tsunami. Sri Lankans are not unused to tragedy or shocks — we, after all, have lived with an ethnic conflict, two insurrections, riots, assassinations and constitutional coups.

Nor is the disbelief simply because the war had ended 10 years ago and we were somehow lulled into a state of peace and non-violence. Rather, like when the tsunami happened, it is simply impossible to make sense of what is happening. This is unprecedented, nothing like this has happened before and nothing that has happened before has prepared us for this.

As I obsessively search for and read the numerous live updates, reports, op-ed pieces and media analyses on the attack and talk to friends and colleagues, I am no closer to understanding what happened than I was on Sunday morning. And in this age of the 24-hour news cycle, status updates and instant sharing of feelings, information and thoughts, I long for the time to pause, to reflect, and to grieve, without interruption.

The IS hand

On the day after the blasts, we were told that an organisation known as the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) was responsible for the attack and that several individuals have been arrested. All arrested so far have been Sri Lankan. On Tuesday, the Amaq news agency of the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks, and then a video was released of alleged bombers pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Disturbingly, various members of the government have intimated that intelligence information had been available, but had not been communicated to those responsible for decision-making, including the Prime Minister. That this is an obvious carry-over from the rift between the executive and legislative branches of government since the incidents of October 2018 is evident. The insouciance with which this is being discussed by government Ministers and officials shows an unbelievable lack of awareness, that far from making any party look good, this revelation reflects the sheer incompetence, inadequacy and arrogance of the government.

The immediate feelings of incoherent rage that many of us are feeling in response to this spectacular lack of leadership and statesmanship in the country are easier to understand and analyse. The pettiness and immaturity of the leadership are all too clear. In this, what is going to be, an election year in Sri Lanka, perhaps we can even do something about it. But the rest is far more incomprehensible and harder to deal with.

Who are the NTJ? What are their local and global networks? How could they have found the resources and expertise to carry out such a well-coordinated attack of this magnitude? As evidenced by the remarkable promptness with which arrests have been made and locations of suspects and explosives found, the military and security apparatus that defeated the LTTE is still functioning.

To my knowledge, researchers who have worked on radical Islamist groups in Sri Lanka have not to date found any with the strength to carry out an operation of this scale on its own.

Certainly, small groups, espousing various causes, some highly inflammatory, have been noted, and in fact, the NTJ had been reported for activities such as defacing Buddhist statutes. But these were mainly seen as linked to local politics and the religious tensions that have been seen recently. There are many gaps in the story so far.

The post-war fallout

But more devastating are the implications of this attack for Sri Lanka’s post-war society. If international experiences are anything to go by, the response to such attacks has been increased levels of securitisation, surveillance and legal reforms aimed at strengthening the state and military apparatus. Sri Lanka has had a bitter experience of this in the past and what it has meant for ordinary people. Last year, a controversial Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) was placed before Parliament to replace the existing, draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Prior to this attack, many were working desperately for a simple repeal of the PTA, without it being replaced by the proposed CTA. This attack will make this effort very much harder.

Globally, there is plenty of evidence to show that widening socio-economic inequalities, increasing economic precariousness and the concentration of power within a closed circle of global (and local) economic and political elites can sow the seeds of discontent, intolerance and terrorism. We also know well that no longer are incidents simply ‘local’ — already, the narrative of what has happened in Sri Lanka has been globalised and there are many agendas which are riding on it. As one anguished post on Facebook noted, “we are no longer even allowed to name and interpret our own tragedies.”

In Sri Lanka, we have been struggling, especially since the end of the war, but also from long before, to combat ethno-religious nationalisms, entrenched social injustice and a political establishment that is increasingly out of touch with the people. We have been struggling to find a language and political strategies that can offer an alternative vision for the people, to find leaders who can inspire hope rather than contempt and cynicism. This attack is a huge setback for all those efforts. It has unleashed the kind of fears and insecurities that are demanding shrill rather than measured responses. And waiting in the wings are those who are harking back to the myth of a more ‘secure’ past and offering a return to a ‘strong’ leader. So when we try to make sense of these events, it is also important to consider which groups will seek to gain political advantage in the days to come.

Difficult as it is, we must continue to be sceptical of the narratives of terror and counter-terror as the only explanations and responses to what is happening. The conditions for extremism are within our own homes and communities. It must be countered not by suspicion and hate but by securing our relationships and challenging extremism in all its forms. Fear and insecurity are producing panic-stricken responses and a strengthening of anti-Muslim sentiments rather than a focus on our solidarities and commonalities.

It is important, therefore, to hold on, with all our hearts, to images and news of the winding lines of people wanting to donate blood at the National Blood Transfusion Service, the groups of people who are organising vigils in their homes and communities, visiting the bereaved and the injured, offering whatever comfort and support they can. The coming together of strangers in the most unexpected of ways to help each other and the grief (not anger) on the faces of people are indications that neither the attacks nor the dominant narrative being offered reflect the ‘true’ character, resilience and ethos of Sri Lanka and its people.

Harini Amarasuriya is a senior lecturer

at the Open University of Sri Lanka

Taking advantage of BRI

Taking advantage of BRI

The China-led initiative’s global reach signals the advent of a new order led by Asia, which cannot exclude India

There are at least five reasons why India should have sent an observer to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum that begins in Beijing on April 25.

First, the defining feature of the 21st century is that Asia, not China, is at the centre of the world. The BRI is part of a transformation triggered by colonialism and industrial capitalism from the 1840s and influenced by the UN institutions and global rules from the 1950s. Of the estimated $30 trillion increase in middle-class consumption growth estimated by 2030, only $1 trillion is expected to come from Western economies and most of the rest from Asia. China’s population is nearly one-third of the total population of Asia but by 2050 its population of working age will shrink by 200 million people while in India the working-age population will increase by 200 million. Asians are not subscribing to a “China-led Asia”, which would imply returning to the colonial order.

Second, the global spread of the BRI signals the political end of the old order where the G7 shaped the economic agenda. Italy, a member of the G7, is joining the BRI, despite the publicly voiced objection of the U.S., just as Britain joined the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015. Asians are gravitating to the new as it better meets their needs, not because the old is crumbling.

Meeting infrastructure needs

Third, the Asian Development Bank, not China, drew global attention to infrastructure as the key driver of economic growth in Asia and the financing gap of $26 trillion. The most visible feature of the BRI is the network of physical and digital infrastructure for transport, energy transmission and communications, harmonised with markets for advanced manufacturing and innovation-based companies.

Two-thirds of the countries funded by the initiative have sovereign debt ratings below investment grade, and their being part of supply chains is a catalyst for growth. A recent analysis identified only eight out of 68 countries at risk of debt default, which does not affect the overall viability of the $3 trillion reserves of China for potential investment. There are cases of excess debt, political corruption and policy shifts following change in governments but overall the BRI remains popular. For example, Nepal has just chosen the Chinese gauge over the Indian one for its rail network.

Fourth, the BRI, faced with criticism over lack of transparency and insensitivity to national concerns, is evolving towards standards of multilateralism, including through linkages with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The International Monetary Fund describes it as a “very important contribution” to the global economy and is “in very close collaboration with the Chinese authorities on sharing the best international practices, especially regarding fiscal sustainability and capacity building”. China is now also seeking co-financing with multilateral institutions as well as private capital for a Silk Road Bond.

Fifth, for the BRI to have strategic objectives is not unusual. The Marshall Plan in the 1950s also required recipients to accept certain rules for deepening trade and investment ties with the U.S. Chinese control over supply-chain assets like ports provides the ability to project naval power, which will however remain minuscule compared to that of the U.S. — comprising 800 overseas bases. The BRI’s commercial advantage has certainly increased China’s international weight and India needs to shape the new standards to benefit Indian technology companies .

India’s China dilemma, as it ends its ambivalence towards China, revolves around assessment of the extent the Asian giants need each other for the Asian century. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared a cooperative vision of the ‘Indo-Pacific’, contrary to the containment-based view of the United States. China also recognises the difficulties inherent in the interlinked international and domestic agenda of the BRI, and needs India’s support for reform of global governance, which was an important part of last year’s discussion at Wuhan.

India should respond to the strategic complexity arising from the BRI, a key part of which cuts through Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, through three related but distinct diplomatic initiatives.

First, India needs to highlight that a British-led coup by the Gilgit Scouts led to Pakistani occupation of this territory and seek appropriate text recognising India’s sovereignty — a drafting challenge but not an insurmountable one.

Second, New Delhi should give a South Asian character to the two BRI corridors on India’s western and eastern flanks, by linking them with plans for connectivity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. Third, India needs work towards ‘multilateralising’ the BRI with a set of rules.

Mukul Sanwal is a former civil servant and UN diplomat

Revisiting the Emergency

Revisiting the Emergency

Gyan Prakash’s book on the turbulent period comes at an opportune moment

Mohammed Ayoob

The BJP election theme slogans phir ek baar Modi sarkar and Modi hai to mumkin hai have echoes of “Indira is India” — the slogan raised by acolytes of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in the 1970s. That catchphrase encapsulated the spirit of the Emergency that she imposed in 1975.

It is commonly assumed that the Emergency was “a momentary distortion in India’s proud record of democracy,” to quote historian Gyan Prakash from his recently-published book, Emergency Chronicles.

In a few sentences which form the kernel of his argument, Mr. Prakash refutes this simplistic notion. He argues that, “The battle was not new; the blows were not the first. Critics in the Constituent Assembly had repeatedly raised voices against emergency powers and the elimination of due process. But the constitution drafters working amid the turmoil of Partition had successfully argued that the fledgling state’s executive needed extraordinary powers without judicial interference to deal with exceptional circumstances.”

The roots of the Emergency, Mr. Prakash argues, can be traced to these “extraordinary powers”. He locates the origins of the Emergency especially in the decision of the Constituent Assembly, despite vigorous opposition, to replace the phrase “due process” with “procedure established by law” in Article 21 of the Constitution, which in its final form read: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” This left it to the whims of lawmakers to decide the procedure to be followed.

The imposition of the Emergency was related not only to the existence of extraordinary powers provided in the Constitution but also to the failure of Mrs. Gandhi’s populist rhetoric, including the garibi hatao slogan, to buy her rule legitimacy. A groundswell of opposition led by Jayaprakash Narayan to her increasingly arbitrary governance threatened to upend her rule. The Allahabad High Court judgment merely acted as the proverbial last straw.

There are important lessons that can be drawn from the experience of the Emergency that are applicable to the current situation in India. Draconian laws curbing Fundamental Rights, including the provision for preventive detention and the colonial-era sedition law, continue to remain on the books. Additionally, populist rhetoric, including the dubbing of Opposition politicians as “anti-national” and the use of national security issues for electoral gain, reminds one of the 1970s. In Emergency Chronicles, the analysis of the roots of a turbulent period in Indian post-colonial history comes at an opportune moment to help us understand the constitutional and historical background of that episode. More important, it acts as a warning against the danger of arbitrary rule that the country faces at a time of excessive polarisation not witnessed since the 1970s.

The writer is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Center for Global Policy, Washington, DC

* Foreign

Radical cleric Hashim linked to blasts

Radical cleric Hashim linked to blasts

Leader of the NTJ was seen in a video taking a pledge of allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Agence France Presse

The departed: Relatives carry a coffin of a victim at a cemetery in Colombo on Wednesday. AFPISHARA S. KODIKARA


For years, Sri Lanka’s Muslim community warned authorities about a firebrand cleric. Now it seems Zahran Hashim may have played a key role in one of the worst attacks in the country’s history.

A video released by the Islamic State group after it claimed responsibility for bombs that killed 359 people, appears to prominently feature Hashim.

The round-faced cleric is the only one of the eight figures whose face is uncovered. Dressed in a black tunic and headscarf, and carrying a rifle, Hashim is seen in the IS video leading seven people in a pledge of allegiance to the group’s chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The other seven all wear the same black tunics but their faces are obscured by black-and-white chequered scarves.

Sri Lanka’s government has accused Hashim indirectly, saying the Islamist group he was believed to lead — the National Thowheeth Jamaath — carried out the attacks. Hashim was identified, albeit with his name misspelled as Hashmi, by police as heading NTJ.

‘A loner’

Hashim was a virtual unknown before the onslaught. He had attracted several thousand followers on social media sites, including YouTube and Facebook, where he posted incendiary sermons.

Hilmy Ahamed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, said he had gone to local authorities with concerns about Hashim three years ago. “This person was a loner and he had radicalised young people in the guise of conducting Quran classes,” he said. “But nobody thought these people were capable of carrying out an attack of such magnitude.”

Ahamed said Hashim, who has also gone by the names Mohamed Zahran and Moulavi Hashim, was around 40 years old and from the east coast region of Batticaloa.

“Zahran belonged to an average Muslim middle-class family. He was a drop-out,” said Ahamed, adding that the cleric had studied at an Islamic college in Kattankudy, a Muslim-majority city in eastern Sri Lanka.

He was considered a menace by the local Muslim community and caused trouble at Kattankudy’s Thowheeth mosque.

Local media said Hashim formed the NTJ in Kattankudy in 2014. There was still confusion Wednesday about whether that group, or a splinter organisation, carried out the Easter attack.

“There has been a group that has split from the main body of the NTJ,” Deputy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said. “We believe that the leader of this group has also committed suicide in one of the attacks,” he added, refusing to confirm if he was referring to Hashim or someone else.

Hong Kong leaders jailed over pro-democracy protests

Hong Kong leaders jailed over pro-democracy protests

Umbrella Movement had called for free elections

Agence France Presse

One voice: Pro-democracy supporters at a candlelight vigil in support of jailed leaders in Hong Kong on Wednesday.TYRONE SIU

Hong Kong

Four prominent leaders of ‘s democracy movement were jailed on Wednesday for their role in organising mass protests in 2014 that paralysed the city for months and infuriated Beijing.

Body blow

The prison terms are the latest hammer blow to the city’s beleaguered democracy movement which has seen key figures jailed or banned from standing as legislators since their demonstrations shook the city but failed to win any concessions.

Nine activists were convicted earlier in April of at least one charge in a prosecution that deployed rarely used colonial-era public nuisance laws over their participation in the Umbrella Movement protests, which called for free elections to appoint the city’s leader.

Their trial renewed alarm over shrinking freedoms under an assertive China which has rejected demands by Hong Kong protesters for a greater say in how the financial hub is run.

Two key leaders of the mass protests — sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 60, and law professor Benny Tai, 54 — received the longest sentences of 16 months in jail, sparking angry chants from supporters outside.

The jail terms are the steepest yet for anyone involved in the 79-day protest which vividly illustrated the huge anger — particularly among Hong Kong’s youth — over the city’s leadership.

‘U.S. sanctions won’t go without response’

‘U.S. sanctions won’t go without response’

Iran’s leader Khamenei castigates American move, says it will continue to export oil

Press Trust of India

Standing firm: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that Iranians will not give in to U.S. pressure.AFPHO


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called the end of oil sanction waivers by the United States a “hostile measure” that “won’t be left without a response“.

“U.S. efforts to boycott the sale of Iran’s oil won’t get them anywhere. We will export our oil as much as we need and we intend,” his official English-language Twitter account said, quoting from a speech he delivered to workers in Tehran.

The United States announced on Monday it would halt the practice of exempting countries including India, China and Turkey from sanctions on purchase of Iranian oil.

In May last year, U.S .President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers, which had given the Islamic republic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Washington reimposed oil sanctions on Iran in November, but initially gave eight countries, including several U.S. allies, six-month reprieves.

Five of the countries – Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – have already heavily reduced their purchases from Iran.

Iran has said the sanctions are “illegal”.

“They (the U.S.) wishfully think they have blocked Iran oil sales, but our vigorous nation and vigilant officials, if they work hard, will open many blockades,” Mr. Khamenei said.

Mr. Khamenei repeated his stance that Iran should move towards the sale of oil derivatives such as refined oil and petrochemical products instead of crude.