Thursday, 19 October 2017

SC Ban on Cracker Sale - Is it Judicial Overreach?

Diwali is the festival of lights… not the festival of sound (and pollution).

Keeping this in mind, the Honourable Supreme Court of India has issued an order on the ban on selling of fireworks in the NCR till 1st November, 2017. This means that there is no ban on bursting of fire crackers.

There are many good reasons that has been cited for this move. First and foremost being the deterioration of the air quality in and around Delhi. Secondly, this almost coincides with the season of crop burning in the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab. Lastly, the smog situation in Delhi during winters, despite having the largest fleet of CNG buses and 100% Green Metro (DMRC) and temporary closure of coal based Badarpur Thermal Power Plant. This is not a revelation. This is a constant reminder of the fact of the failure of the central and state governments to tackle this multi-directional cumbersome problem. CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) and SPCB (State Pollution Control Board) are toothless tigers that have been entrusted to monitor the air-quality. In case of Delhi, CPCB is supposed to send a daily air quality report to EPCA (Environment Pollution Control Authority) that is supposed to implement the “Graded Response Action Plan” formulated by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest in January, 2017. The State Secretaries have been designated as the Nodal Officers for the implementation.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times

Many believe, it is too little, too late – including me.

We need to have an overarching plan to combat the pollution, not just in Delhi. This is a basic governance problem that has not be effectively alleviated, resulting in the Supreme Court to step in. In this context, much has been highlighted in the media about the petition received on behalf of 3 children last year, that has resulted in passing of this order.

But will this achieve the desired results? Is it not a judicial overreach?

We need to understand that this is a temporary measure, just like the highly debated odd-even scheme. Secondly, why target just Diwali as the festival and why not also include crackers as a whole across all occasions including marriages, Christmas and New year? This shows that the issue is being addressed in a piecemeal approach. Thirdly, why not ban bursting of crackers as well? Fourthly, the livelihood, GST and various other factors have already hit the informal sector hard enough. This will also result in lower income of this population segment engaged in fireworks production. Fifthly, despite 1,200 kg of illegal fireworks seizure since SC ban on the sale, those enthusiastic enough will buy on black market or from places outside of NCR. Lastly, once the fireworks are bought, do the Indian government have actually enough manpower and effort to actually validate whether it was purchased legally?

On the aspect of Judicial overreach, while it is understood that the honourable SC was passing the judgement on the petition submitted by the children last year; should it not be the responsibility of taking the government, the CPCB, SPCB and EPA to task and grill them why the situation remains grim with respect to pollution, especially in NCR that the air is unbreathable and remains at 999 on AQI? The SC may have all the good intentions at the core, but also needs to ensure that the respective agencies entrusted to protect the environment along with the Government are doing their job. Also, just banning the sale and not the bursting of crackers is another example why this order will have limited impact on the pollution.

To conclude, Judicial Activism is good and important in the Indian democratic context. When this turns into Judicial Overreach – primarily due to the failure of Government institutions, this becomes a problem. The current SC order, in this case seems to be a classic catch 22 situation where there is a very fine line drawn between Judicial Activism vis-à-vis Judicial Overreach. As someone said, “Like beauty, Activisim lies in the eyes of beholder!” So, you the reader – be the judge of this situation…

Read More »

Sunday, 1 October 2017


A sad sad world… tripping on a landmine
Haze and hail – that won’t let through sunshine…

Was there a loss, when the lost world embraced you?
Did you win when the real world lost you?
Where is the sorrow when you smiled through those glazed eyes & blew yourself up?
Where is the happiness when the mortal fragments are scraped through & stuffed in a cup?
Where is the fulfilment when humanity rejects your ideals?
Why this emptiness when fates are sealed by a name-sake friend that closes a devilish deal?
Deals of sufferings, pain, loss and deaths
The end game is only lying of wreaths
Out of which no one comes out winning
That only inflicts more tears and suffering

A funny world we live in,
Thoughts of which are no longer considered a sin!

Where candle vigil and prayers are held dear,
It’s only a tribute that led to the cause for the depart.
Yet, none is ready to face the real fear,
As the world tears itself apart.
For those who terrorises – they reign through terror,
They are considered by many as martyr
While one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter
Words that you cannot take any longer lighter...
Because, if there is some iota of humanity left,
Then there would be less of lives theft.

Universe goes through ups and down,
Eventually there is zilch value of nickel and crown.
Earlier you understands & gain some moral uplift,
That will be the day, which can be considered a fundamental shift.
A shift so important, which be held dear in glove,
Will be spoken of only love and dove!

But Alas! It’s all a haze and hail,
I can still hear those loud and silent wails…

Read More »

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Curious Case of Kulbhushan Jadhav

India and Pakistan’s diplomatic row has reached to another level. After 46 years, since 1971, India for the first time has approached the International Court of Justice, Hague, in the hope of resolving an issue that could have been possibly solved through bilateral negotiations and backdoor diplomacy. While mentioning this, the author acknowledges the fact that there is every possible chance that backdoor diplomacy might have been tried but failed to yield any results – unfortunately, such actions cannot be brought to public light... just yet.

The issue in question is the Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence row by Pakistan’s military tribunal. While Pakistan claims that he is a RAW agent, sent by India to create unrest in Balochistan; India maintains that he is an ex-Naval officer who owned legitimate business in Iran and was abducted by ISI near Pakistan border. There is contention on both sides – whether he was illegally in Pakistan at the time of his capture or snatch – terminology depending on the intent.

*Courtesy DG ISPR website

The Indian passport in question mentions his name as Hussein Mubarak Patel. This raises more question than it answers. Also, there has been no open decry (that the author is aware of at the time of penning this article) from Indian side against denying the fact that Hussain Mubarak Patel and Kulbhushan Jadhav are two different persons. Here lies a fundamental question on which Pakistani arguments and allegations lie – Why the same person has 2 different names or rather an alias? What was he doing near Pakistani border in Iran? Also his past as an ex-Naval officer doesn’t help much to save him, but raises more suspicion in the mind of the Pakistani establishment.

Even though a lot of reasoning can be provided around his legitimate presence including business that he owns near Indian developed Chabahar Port in Iran (strategically to counter China’s involvement in Pakistan’s Gwadar Port some 50 km away), it still becomes a point of contention – why was the person travelling under the Indian passport that bears his name as Hussain Mubarak Patel instead of Kulbhushan Jadhav? Is it a Pakistani ploy to mislead India? Was there any maleficent intent on the part of the person in question? Did he really pose any legitimate threat to the sovereignty of Pakistan? Well, it will be folly to speculate or answer the question – as whatever possible logical conclusion that might be construed will be without facts to support in the public domain. It will be the only select few at the top echelons at both sides of the government who are fully aware of the truth at this stage.

*Courtesy Asian Age

Now, for the sake of argument – there are four possible theories:
  1. Kulbhushan is innocent and no agent of RAW
  2. Kulbhushan is innocent at the time of capture but might have different objective
  3. Kulbhushan is a legitimate entity, assisting Indian foreign policy, but was in Iranian soil at the time of capture
  4. Kulbhushan is guilty as charged by Pakistan

Irrespective of the whether Kulbhushan is guilty or not, he should have been provided Consular Access by Pakistan under Vienna Convention that was denied. It no doubt is a violation of Human Rights. Hence, this calls for review of the legitimacy of the verdict passed by the Pakistani Military Tribunal – which is nothing but a sham (compare this with the open trial of Kasab). This is the cornerstone on which esteemed lawyer Harish Salve has set across his argument that has been hailed as an initial victory for India; which led to the denial of Pakistan playing the supposed confession tape (in all probability obtained under duress) in front of the judges.

But it is not the time to celebrate for India yet, unfortunately. There are dangerous precedents that can be set in motion (you can read it here). There is a pretty good chance that India might lose this case. In all probability, Pakistan might still go ahead and execute Mr. Jadhav disregarding the ICJ ruling even if it’s in India’s favour, or might decide to use him as a bargaining chip in the long run. Kulbhushan Jadhav’s future doesn’t look bright right now, but it is still heartening to see that he is garnering the attention he deserves as an Indian national under foreign imprisonment unlike Sarabjeet Singh or so many umpteen fishermen who are often caught straying into Pakistani waters unknowingly.

Every covert operative is aware of the dangers of operating in the shadowy circumstances and the disavowing protocol of plausible deniability if caught, but that should not lead to any action at all – which has been the Indian stance so far in the last 70 years of independence. There has been the famous case of the American spy Gary Powers who was caught by USSR flying a U2 Recon plane over Russia at the heights of Cold War in 1960-62.  He was eventually swapped with a Russian spy in 1962 after spending almost 1yr 9 months in captivity. Here lies some hope.

If all else fails, there should be an ace up the sleeve that India should be able to utilise effectively and efficiently to ensure that Kulbhushan Jadhav is returned unharmed back to India. Hoping, Lt Col (retd) Mohammed Habib Zahir working for Pakistan’s ISI and supposedly part of the team that captured Kulbhushan Jadhav is possibly that ace – whom Pakistan claims to have been abducted by India from Nepal in a bid to arm-twist Pakistan into submission. Let’s hope it’s true; but hope against all hope – let’s hope it will not come to that. If it does, then let’s be hopeful of an Indian version of Gary Powers. Finally, let’s pray that Kulbhushan, the son of India returns unharmed. All’s well that ends well!

N.B. A detailed transcript of the application submitted by India before the ICJ can be found here.

Additional References:

Read More »