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A tough road ahead for President Joe Biden

Task of reversing Trump’s decisions begins, but is it easy to get America back on the track?

Vijay Darda

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Joe Biden took over as US President in the midst of much acrimony. Outgoing President Donald Trump was supposed to attend the ceremony but he didn’t. He disappeared like an upset and angry child. There was an atmosphere of mistrust. Fear ruled the roost to such an extent that around 36,000 security personnel were deployed for the swearing-in ceremony and out of which 25,000 were National Guards. Every attendee was being frisked and questioned whether he or she was a Trump supporter. You can gauge the gravity of the situation from the fact that 13 personnel of the National Guards were removed from duty before the oath because the Federal Bureau of Investigation suspected that they were supporters of Trump and could do something at the last minute.

America has never seen this kind of mistrust in its 250-year-old democratic history! This example is enough to understand where America stands now after Trump’s four-year term and how big the challenges are for the new President. Biden also understands this and that is why within a few hours of assuming office, he reversed several of Trump’s decisions. He also said that he has no time to waste.

Now, Biden has announced that he will adopt strict measures to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. Masks and social distancing have been made mandatory. Trump kept avoiding this which led to deaths of more than four lakh people. Trump preferred to save the economy over the lives of people. He repeatedly rejected the lockdown. However, he could not even handle the economy.

Today, there is a huge problem of unemployment in America. Government statistics show that about one crore people have become unemployed and they have also applied for unemployment allowance. Providing employment for such people will be the biggest challenge for Biden.

But there is an even greater challenge. Trump has spread the poison of fundamentalism throughout American society by raising slogans of nationalism and America First. The American society is already struggling with the evil of apartheid; this new fundamentalism has made the situation worse.

Trump supporters’ attack on the US Congress reflects the dangers of this fundamentalism. During his tenure, Trump had an antagonistic attitude towards Muslims. Biden has tried to give a message of harmony by abolishing Trump’s Muslim travel ban, but when the wounds of discrimination arise in the society, it takes time to heal them. Many countries of the world are facing similar emotional wounds at this time. The whole world is waiting to see how Biden will deal with this situation.

Even at the global level, Trump has created such a terrible mess that it will take Biden a full term to clear and fix it. The decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and rejoin the World Health Organisation is certainly a good step by Biden. Trump had left the World Health Organization and left the entire field to China. At this time, WHO is completely under Chinese control. How the US will normalise the situation, it is difficult to say because China is in an aggressive mood everywhere. To carry forward its expansionist policies, it is also continuously attacking the US in various ways. The day Joe Biden was sworn in, China banned 28 officials in key positions during Donald Trump’s tenure from entering China. These people will not be able to go to Hong Kong or Macau either. By the way, Trump also closed the doors of the US to 14 Chinese officials last year. Now, how will Biden respond to this Chinese attack?

Here, the whole world is also eyeing what Biden’s stance will be against the background of tension on the borders between India and China. We Indians are very happy with the presence of more than 20 people of Indian origin, including Vice President Kamala Harris in Biden’s team, but how much will these people of Indian origin in America support India or be in a position to do so only time will tell!

Looking at the history, India has not gained much during the regime of Democrat Presidents. India didn’t gain anything during the presidential regimes of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The nuclear treaty with America took place in 2005 at the time of George W. Bush (Jr.), who was a Republican. Then Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister of India. Trump may have antagonised the world with his antics and acts but none can deny that he strongly supported India on the issue of Chinese aggression and also tightened the screws on Pakistan to a large extent.

It is expected that Biden will support India but only the passage of time will tell that!

In fact, it is not just we who have an eye on America, but the whole world is watching it because whatever happens in America affects the whole world.

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

New US President Joe Biden has started to reverse Donald Trump’s decisions. A flurry of executive orders signed by Trump is planned to be reversed, but the biggest question is whether Biden will find it easy to bring the US out of the mess created by Trump with his antics?

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Policy & Politics

DOES INDIA NEED POPULATION CONTROL LAW?

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The biggest problem in this country right now, which is not given any attention, either very narrow political thinking and cheap prejudice is slogans that is POPULATION. Currently the population of India is approximately 1.38 billions.second largest after china.

In 2015 India’s population was a whopping 1.31 billions, Productions shows in 2022 India will over take China to become world’s most populous country.Earlier predictions cited year 2028 for this to happen but India’s Population is growing so rapidly, that mark in 6 years advance.And it is not a matter of pride, over population leads to poverty, unemployment, climate change which pressure the natural resources, like- forest and land, leads to increase in social and religious conflicts, so overpopulation is regarded as the root cause of most of the problems in this part of the world.We are told time and again that India is the country with the youngest population, but the truth is that we have not done as much actively as we should about the population.

The condition has really worsened and is visible everywhere like- markets and public places,if you want to get an idea of the situation, just have an look in your locality

HIGH TIME TO IMPLEMENT THE LAW

At this time the country has come to a situation where there is a dire need of population control law, due to the increasing population day by day, ignoring the huge shortage of resources will prove to be our biggest mistake, because in a country like India without law and order It is impossible to remove any mismanagement of the population, so in view of the current population growth, it is very important to implement a population control law, and it should be such that the public can easily accept it, that is, the law should be made in such a way that the public understands their benefits. Come in and the public does not understand the collective loss in any way, earlier also the initiative was taken by the previous governments to control the population, but there were some such discrepancies in those rules due to which the governments failed.So now there is a need for a structure of such a law, due to which there can be a positive change and the country can move towards a development, due to the implementation of the law, there will be a huge hindrance in population growth and due to the general population rate, the supply of resources. It will also be completed smoothly and will help the country to be a developed country from a developing country.

National population policy:. Needs for planning of families would improve individuals health and welfare. Government of India initiated a comprehensive family planning programme (1952) . Family welfare Programme sought to promote responsible and planned parenthood on a voluntary basis.

Mainly focused on: Provides a policy framework for imparting free and compulsory school education upto 14 years of age, Reducing infant mortality rate below 30 per 1000 live births, Achieving universal immunisation of children against all vaccine preventable disease, Promoting delayed marriage for girls, Making family welfare a people centred programme.

SOME POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS WHICH CAN BE USED TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM OF OVERPOPULATION

China’s one child policy:- Whenever we are discussing solutions for overpopulation China’s one child policy comes first mostly in our mind, they think that Indian government too should follow china and implementation this policy to restrict the birth of more than one child but most of the people don’t know that China’s one child policy was a failure thirty years later in 2015 they ended this policy. This policy lead to a huge gender imbalance and increase in female foeticide. This happened because like India, China to is traditionally a patriarchal society. Where people prefer at least one male child over a female child. So when the government restricted the number of the child to one to go for female foeticide to have a male child not girl, this led to a huge gender imbalance which made china a world’s worst sex ratio country in 2014 .that was 22 male is to 100 females.

This huge gap in made female population led to some ill practice BRIDE PRICE in which brides were bought in return of money, in few cases brides use to runaway with the money within few days of the marriage, so one child policy led to all these problems. So we can conclude the one child policy is not a good solution to fight overpopulation in case of India.

INDIA’S FORCED STERILISATION:- Forced sterilisation too was suggested as a solution to counter over population this infact had already been tried in india.

During the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1976 when her son Sanjay Gandhi lead a forceful sterilisation program, in which 10 million people were sterilised there were few of forceful sterilization people were compelled to go and get sterilised But surprisingly even after sterilisation 10 million people these was no evident of this on population growth no noticeable change was observed.

This shows forceful imposing of unplanned policies would not lead to a change and above all its very unethical to sterillise someone forcefully because reproduction is a very basic human right. No one should get to decide how many child a person can have its immoral and unethical.

So Forced sterilisation can’t be regarded as a solicitation in today’s world.

True solution to overpopulation :- So, it all melts down to this question that what can be the effective and realistic solutions against overpopulation. And answer of this is a little boring and it is the investment in education and health care and to understand this we must know,

WHAT FERTILITY RATE MEANS?

Fertility rate of a country is the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her life time, if fertility rate of a country is 2 that means every woman in that country gives birth to 2 child, which means the number of people dying are equal to the number of children born. This makes population stable, this is why 2 fertility rate is called REPLACEMENT fertility “theoratically” but in reality many children die during the birth itself so realistically the replacement fertility rate is taken as 2.2 and if any country’s population is near about this replacement fertility rate then in future it will remain stable so to end over population we must aim to maintain fertility rate of country close to 2.2 and why I am saying that education is the only solution to fight against literacy rate, both are surprisingly interdependent higher the literary rate lower the fertility rate this pattern is observed in many places of the world over as well as Indian states for instances Kerala the state with highest literacy rate in india nearly 100% literacy rate has a very low fertility rate as Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan, Uttar Pradesh literacy rate very low and evidently the fertility rate is very high, infact very few states of India have fertility rates above 2.2 in whole India those are Rajsthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and because of these states India’s population is increasing because rest of all the other states have come down below this replacement fertility rate.

Population control Bill, 2019:- In July 2019, a bill introduced in the Rajya sabha by Rakesh Sinha. The bill is to control the population growth of India. According to world Population Prospect 2019 report by the United Nations , the population of India will overtake that of china within a decade. The introduced bill was signed by 125 MP and is yet to become an act of law.

•In 1976, population control and family planning were added to the third list of the Seventh Schedule under the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. Under this, the central government and all the state governments were given the right to make laws for population control and family planning.

Conclusion:- Many myth about increasing population like- Hindu Growth Suppose there is a poor farmer and he is told that you have children and if you get yourself and your wife operated.like-Suppose there is a poor farmer and he is told that you have two childrens and if you get yourself and your wife operated.So you will be given such amount by the government.

So how many things are involved here- Awareness,and he believes that oppression will be successful, In this, they understand the economic benefits, as in many backward classes, there is an ideology that there will be as many earning hands as there are people, then something should be done for them like people who are below the poverty line, if they get an operation on a child. If so, then such amount will be given by the government and legal action will be taken if there are more than two children.

There should be a nationwide discussion on population control, obsessive ideas should be sidelined. The law should be such that it encourages the public to do so, not the law that is forced on the public.

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Policy & Politics

LIBERALISING SAUDI ARABIA’S EDUCATION BY INCREASING TOLERANCE TOWARDS OTHER RELIGIONS

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INTRODUCTION

“Saudi Arabia…(is) the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, the investment powerhouse, and the hub connecting three continents.”

~ Vision 2030

(Saudi Arabia)

Saudi Arabia being a flag-bearer of Islam, serves as a home for more than 30 million inhabitants in which the majority (about 85 to 90 percent) includes adherents of the Sunni sect of Islam. Other sects include Shias that account as minority population and face severe persecution along with other religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Saudi Arabia is known as the birthplace of Islam as it acts as a custodian for two holy cities of Islam – Mecca and Medina – that is why it has a major say and political legitimacy among other Muslim nations of the world. We can infer the same from a recent instance where under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, the OIC supported Gambia that referred genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Moreover, even the issue was referred by the Gambia to ICJ under the already provided implicit support of Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia in various instances in United Nations (UN) stated that it is committed in order to ensure the preservation of stability and the conservation of International peace and security as well as acted as a crucial partner of the US on counterterrorism. However, the progress remained slow and steady in nature, which is why various times Saudi Arabia faced international criticism stating that it supports the Islamic radicalization that leads to terrorism and impedes International stability. After the new ruler of Saudi Arabia set the stage, the country is becoming more and more liberal in nature. Recently, Saudi Arabia banned flogging as a punishment and said that convicts to be handed jail sentences and fines instead.

In another major step, recently, Saudi Arabia will introduce a new education curriculum, including textbooks of other religions, including ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ of Hinduism, to expand the cultural knowledge and exposure of Saudi youth and prevent them from going on the path of radicalization. The article elucidating the importance of Saudi in the International arena, attempts to delve into the fact why this step is a crucial one that would increase tolerance among Saudi youth and encourage other orthodox Islamic nations in the world in becoming liberal. Further, it also talks about what still needs to be done so that it might not hamper international peace and stability in the future.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN SAUDI ARABIA

The policies and laws of Saudi restrict religious freedom and prohibit any other religious practice in public except Islam. ‘Sunni Islam’ is the official religion, and the constitution of the country is the Quran and Sunnah (traditions and sayings of Prophet). Moreover, the Saudi government does not respect religious freedom. However, it allows Shia religious gatherings and other non-Muslim private religious practices sometimes.

Furthermore, the reports state that the Muslims that are liberal in their mindset and do not comply with the conservative rules of the Saudi government face significant political, social, legal, economic, and religious discrimination. Conservative vigilantes sometimes even harass and assault citizens and foreigners who follow other religions. Several times various human rights groups, activists, including the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) have raised concerns about the same. The USCIRF has even included Saudi Arabia in the list of ‘countries of particular concern.’

Several human rights watchdogs have already severely criticized Saudi Arabia concerning the education imparted to Saudi children and youth. As per the Human Rights Watch, the [Saudi Arabia religious] texts disparage Sufi and Shia religious practices and label Jews and Christians as ‘unbelievers’ with whom Muslims should not associate themselves. Thus, in alleviating such aggravating situation, this step will play a major role not only in liberalizing the mindset of the citizens of the country but would also lead to the unleashing of the restrictions that residents of other religions as well as Islamic religions face. However, this plan is still, in theory, we have to see in the future how Saudi Arabia implements it or whether it implements the same or retracts it.

WHY THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL

As a part of Vision 2030, the introduction of significant elements of Indian cultures such as Yoga, Dharma, Karma, Ayurveda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, along with elements of Buddhism and other religions in the school curriculum, is a first step from the side of Saudi Arabia’s government to increase tolerance for other religions. Various other Islamic nations, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have a few Hindu Temples allowing Hindus to profess their religion freely within the country, and further, a new Hindu temple is also constructing in Abu Dhabi. Similarly, Oman also has a few Hindu temples allowing Hindus to profess their religion. However, Saudi Arabia since time immemorial remained parochial towards other sects of Islam as well as other religions. After this step, the tolerance for other sects of Islam and religions will increase in Saudi Arabia. This step would also give a message to other nations that restrict the freedom of religion and might pave a way for them to liberalize in their mindset as well.

Moreover, this step might help Saudi Arabia in the future in enjoying more closed ties with India. Saudi Arabia is the fourth-largest partner of India in terms of economic relations. The ties with other nations such as EU countries would also get strengthened as Human Rights NGOs and watchdogs would enhance the ranking of Saudi Arabia in Religious tolerance. It will also help in boosting the tourism sector of Saudi Arabia as the individual following other religions will not fear traveling to Saudi Arabia. Foreign investment might also get increased as companies might get a conducive work environment. Further, it might also be possible that Saudi Arabia request Indian professors having good knowledge in the field of customs and traditions to train the Saudi teachers, or it might also recruit Indian professors to teach in Saudi schools. Thus, it shows that not only Saudi Arabia but various other nations of the world also get benefitted from this step.

WAY FORWARD AND CONCLUSION

Since September 11 attacks, Saudi Arabia has faced pressure from the side of the US and other western nations to reform its education curriculum after it was found that 15 out of 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens in the attacks. Thus, the major plans laid down in ‘Vision 2030’ of Saudi Arabia, including education reforms, might play an important role in transforming the country and making it to lead a new path of development. The document primarily aims to culturally as well as economically alter the problems intrinsic in the political, economic, and social system of Saudi Arabia. This step will also act as a beacon of hope for ostracized and persecuted minorities living in Saudi Arabia.

However, only this step will not uproot all the problems prevalent in Saudi Arabia, still, it has a lot to do in the realm of religious freedom. Saudi Arabia should allow the citizens of other religions residing as minorities to profess their religion publicly without any discrimination. Article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest his religion or relief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.” Saudi Arabia being a signatory of this covenant, should adhere to its principles and provide the freedoms.

Thus, this is a much appreciated and welcome step, which will help in maintaining peace and stability in international atmosphere in the near future, but there is still more to do on the part of Saudi Arabia as well as other Islamic nations. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates being two major powers of the Islamic sphere, would play a crucial role in leading this movement.

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Policy & Politics

Central Vista Project case: Is PIL about public or publicity?

Dr Vijay Kumar Singh

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Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project referred to as the Central Vista Project (CVP) has attracted a lot of eyeballs in the recent past due to the PILs filed in Supreme Court and then Delhi High Court and the political statements issued by opposition in this context. A set of media articles has also spent bottles of ink highlighting the problems with this project. Delhi High Court while judicially reviewing a case against CVP (PIL: Anya Malhotra vs. Union of India), declared the CVP as “an essential project of National Importance”, and went ahead to mention in the order that “this is a motivated petition preferred by the petitioners and not a genuine public interest litigation” with imposing a cost of Rs. 100,000/- (one lakh). Pradeep Kumar Yadav has now challenged the May 31st decision of the High Court in an appeal before the Supreme Court. Interestingly, Supreme Court has already in a 611 page order (2:1) in the case of Rajeev Suri vs. Delhi Development Authority & Ors (decided on 5th January 2021) has given a green signal to the project. Hon’ble Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissented from the majority on the issues of “public participation on interpretation of the statutory provisions, failure to take prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) and the environmental clearance order passed by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)”; however, concurring with the majority on “the aspects of Notice inviting Bid, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban Arts Commission”.

Public Interest Litigation: PIL is basically a relaxation in the rule of ‘locus standi’ (the right or capacity to bring an action or to appear in a court). The traditional rule is that a person who brings the action must have the cause of action/ locus standi. In cases of fundamental rights, it is the person whose rights have been infringed brings this locus. However, there are situations in which the aggrieved person may not be able to reach Supreme Court or High Courts for vindication of his/her rights, in such situations Supreme Court has allowed any ‘public spirited citizen’ to bring a case on behalf of the aggrieved person. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer observed in Akhil Bhartiya Soshit Karmachari Sangh Case (1981) that “access to justice through ‘class actions’, ‘public interest litigation’ and ‘representative proceedings’ is the present constitutional jurisprudence”. The concept of class action comes from the American jurisprudence.

Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar (1979) became the first reported case of PIL which focused on the inhuman conditions of prisons and under trial prisoners that led to the release of more than 40,000 under trial prisoners (petition filed by Kapila Hingorani). Justice P.N. Bhagwati in SP Gupta case (1982) laid down the foundation of modern PIL in India by stating “any member of the public having sufficient interest can maintain an action for judicial redress for public inquiry arising from breach of public duty or from violation of some provisions of the Constitution or the law and seek enforcement of such public duty and observance of such constitutional or legal provisions.”

A PIL may be filed against ‘State’ both under Article 32 before Supreme Court (only for breach of fundamental rights) and under Article 226 before High Court. The Court can itself take cognizance of the matter and proceed suo motu as well on the basis of public information received by it through newspapers or any other source. Supreme Court has entertained even letters as petitions in some cases (epistolary jurisdiction). Evolution of PIL as a mode of helping people became the purpose/objective for many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like Peoples Union for Democratic Reforms, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, etc.

There are hundreds of PIL decided by Supreme Court and High courts. These PILs have ushered in the era of judicial activism. Supreme Court has used its jurisdiction under Article 32 in a creative manner, also referred to as Judicial Activism, giving new dimensions, meaning, scope and purpose to many fundamental right, especially Article 21 – the Right to Life and Personal Liberty.

Publicity Interest Litigations: While elaborating the concept of locus standi, Justice PN Bhagwati had also cautioned, “but we must be careful to see that the member of the public, who approaches the court in case of this kind, is acting bona fide and not for personal gain or private profit or political motivation or other oblique consideration. The courts must not allow its process to be abused by politicians and others….” Supreme Court in several cases has deprecated the practice of PILs turning into ‘Private Interest Litigation’ or ‘Political Interest Litigation’ by imposing heavy costs on the petitioner.

Supreme Court Guidelines on PIL excludes the following cases from being entertained as PIL: (1) Landlord-Tenant matters. (2) Service matter and those pertaining to Pension and Gratuity. (3) Complaints against Central/ State Government Departments and Local Bodies except those relating to the listed matters to be entertained as PIL (4) Admission to medical and other educational institution. (5) Petitions for early hearing of cases pending in High Courts and Subordinate Courts.

In the Central Vista Case, while disposing of a bunch of petitions on this subject, the Supreme Court has observed, “The tool of public interest litigation or “social interest litigation”, as it is more appropriately called, was devised to open the doors of the constitutional Courts for remedying glaring injustices against humans, that is, for securing constitutional rights. It was never meant to transform the constitutional Court as a superlative authority over day-to-day governance.”

Delhi High Court rejected the argument of petitioners being ‘public spirited citizens’ in Central Vista PIL on the ground of being selective of one construction project when similar constructions at other places were not challenged. The court said “It was vehemently argued that the fact that the petitioners have chosen to be ‘public spirited citizens’ only with regard to one project, speaks volumes of their ill-intent behind filing the present petition as well as lack of bonafides, which is the foremost issue that the Court has to consider while entertaining a public interest litigation. The ‘public spirit’ and ‘public interest’ of the petitioners is evidently selective and the present petition being completely motivated must be dismissed on this ground alone.”

The Central Vista Project

In the heart of the national capital, and within the “Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone” (LBZ), lies the Central Vista – the centrepiece and living heritage of Delhi. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) describes Central Vista as the “ensemble with main axis Rajpath…the Rashtrapati Bhawan at Raisina Hills, flanked by the Secretariat (North and South Blocks)…the Parliament House…the hexagonal round-about that has the India Gate and the Canopy…” (Supreme Court). The present Central Vista has emerged out of the urban architectural design of Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker when British Raj decided to move the capital city from Calcutta to Delhi on December 12, 1911. It all began with the construction of the palatial residence for the Viceroy of India at Raisina Hills. About 300 families were displaced by the application of Land Acquisition Act, 1894. When we got independence and Dr. Rajendra Prasad became the first president of independent India, it was named as Rashtrapati Bhawan. The other buildings which came up surrounding this were the Sansad Bhawan, North and South Blocks and first building of the National Archives. The Rajpath

The policy on the re-development of the Central Vista Avenue emerged out of the need to have larger working space and efficient functioning of the legislature and integrated administrative blocks presently spread in different locations. The first building requiring attention was the Parliament House, a Grade I heritage structure which has been transformed several times during the past 74 years of independence. The population has significantly grown from about 55 crore to 130 crore and the next delimitation exercise to be done in 2026 would require an increase in the number of Lok Sabha seats from the current 545. The new Parliament shall symbolize the 75th Independence Day of the country in 2022. The initiative of redevelopment got a shot in the arm with a letter written by the OSD of Lok Sabha speaker to Secretary, Urban Development Ministry highlighting the stress on the present infrastructure and the need for large space (July 13, 2012).

The second sub-project is the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue which is basically the public space on both sides of the Rajpath starting from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan where the Republic Day Celebrations are held on 26th January every year. It is proposed to hold the Republic Day parade of 2022 in the new re-developed Rajpath. Solicitor General in his submissions before the Supreme Court had stated that it is very important public place and most widely visited by common public and tourists and hence the scope of the work includes “(i.) Providing public amenities like toilet blocks, paths, parking space, vendor zone; (ii.) Making four pedestrian underpasses below Janpath and C-Hexagon Road. (iii.) Improvement of canals, bridges, lawns, lights etc.”

The Politics of Central Vista: Of late, it has been very difficult for the citizens to differentiate between the issues which has pure political angle versus the legal issues concerning the larger public interest. Unfortunately, the politics have driven itself away from larger public interest towards the short-term election goals. The jibe ‘Modi Mahal’ terming CVP as the project to provide a house for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is nothing but a gimmick, as any infrastructure created by the Government of India belongs to the public and is to be utilized for the public for the times to come. For example the ‘Nehru Memorial Museum & Library’ (NMML), housed within the Teen Murti complex, cannot at any stretch of imagination be called the “Nehru Mahal”, or for that matter, the large Samadhi sthals created for our beloved leaders. These are all public places and have its own social, cultural and historical importance. Another major political question has also been about the timing of the CPV. Whether it was right to invest in such infrastructure project when the country is fighting with COVID? The logic is indeed emotional and touches our heart, but the question is do we stall all our activities because of the pandemic? Is there a Financial Emergency declared under the Constitution? Interestingly, a bit of a research shows that a Times print in 1964 (when NMML was founded) reported “Hunger grows in India: major crisis in the nation is feared as population growth outpaces that of food production”. Do we say the investment in NMML was not right at that time? If yes, probably we could not have an institution to foster academic research on modern and contemporary history. Any infrastructure developed under this project will be utilized by the successive generations to come, however, yes in the history, the credit of doing the work will go to the political party in power at that point in time. However, as a researcher in law one has to stay away from these logics and political hullaballoo. The harmful effect of muddling the legal and political issues is that the genuine legal issues get subsumed into the chatter and noise around the gimmicks and sloganeering. A series of decisions/ oral remarks in past couple of years by the various courts in India have shown that judiciary cannot remain completely uninfluenced by what is happening around, including the perceptions created by the media reporting. This would require another study.

Another interesting angle of political criticism arose due to the decision of Prime Minister doing Bhumipujan by the Prime Minister. A group of former secretaries raised this issue in an open letter stating “We wonder what locus standi the Prime Minister has to lay the foundation stone of the Parliament building. The Prime Minister is the head of the executive, not of the legislature. For a building that will accommodate the two Houses of Parliament, the appropriate protocol would have been for the President of India to lay the foundation stone. This was a clear instance of breach of Constitutional propriety”. Well, this brings us to an interesting perspective of ‘propriety and law’, which is indeed a grey area. All faith prayer marked the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the new parliament building with Bhumipujan being performed as per Hindu rites. Some may initiative arguments of ‘secularism’ on this, but again not a point to discuss for this article.

There is always a logic given that why do we need such infrastructure development, we could have had hospitals and schools instead. My take is that country requires everything including hospitals and schools, at the same time also a world class infrastructure which we could be proud of. It is about balancing the interests keeping in view the needs of future generation.

Challenge before the Supreme Court: Legal scholars would be looking at the outcome of the appeal against the decision of Delhi High Court, however, keeping in view that Supreme Court’s three judge bench has already decided 2:1 in favour of the project, a different outcome is very unlikely, and moreover when Delhi is unlocking from the pandemic. Supreme Court in its January 5th decision had already said, “No doubt, the Courts are repositories of immense public trust and the fact that some public interest actions have generated commendable results is noteworthy, but it is equally important to realise that Courts operate within the boundaries defined by the Constitution. We cannot be called upon to govern. For, we have no wherewithal or prowess and expertise in that regard.”

Still, if there is a chance that matter is entertained, what could be legal issues before the court? One of the preliminary issue in the appeal against the decision would come on the ground of locus of the appellant as it appears that original petitioners before Delhi High Court have not yet preferred the appeal. Some of the other issues could be:

A. Public Health Issues – violation of Disaster Management Act (DMA) – The main ground of challenge before Delhi High court was violation of DMA in continuing with the construction of CVP and causing thread to public health. Court noted that “the construction activity is not prohibited under paragraph-8 of the order of the DDMA dated 19th April, 2021 issued under Section 22 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, where workers are residing on-site, contrary to the stand of the petitioners.” It is argued that there were construction workers coming from another site of the vendor. I doubt, there emerges any ‘question of law’ to be entertained in appeal.

B. Welfare of Labour – The PIL espouses the cause of the safety of the labour working at the construction site. Stalling the project in fact affects the labour more, as most of these labour are migrant laborers. In the past, Supreme Court has been called upon by several quarters to order Central and State Government to ameliorate the plight of these migrant workers. A view contrary to this is very unlikely.

C. Breach of ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ – One of the major challenges is about breach of ‘public trust’ doctrine by the Government. It is argued that stakeholders who would be affected by the project have not been consulted while sanctioning the change in land use under the Delhi Development Act, 1957. Supreme Court rejected the argument on sustainable development stating “In the present case, the subject project is an independent building and construction project wherein one-time construction activity is to be carried out. It is not a perpetual or continuous activity like a running industry. It is absolutely incomprehensible to accept that a project of this nature would be unsustainable with the needs and aspirations of future generations.” Supreme Court in its order has already held otherwise, except the dissenting opinion, which provides some hope to the potential appellant. However, this would require a constitution bench of minimum 5 judges to take a contrary view.

D. Heritage Clearances – Supreme Court has already stated that the requisite heritage clearances shall be obtained before proceeding with any alteration to the heritage sites. In this case 7 out of 141 listed heritage sites are of relevance and these are parliament house and campus, central vista precincts (Rajpath), National Archives and campus, grave platform, and vice-president’s house. A clearance made by HCC not in conformity of the laws, may be challenged at appropriate forum. So is the case with environmental clearance, however, Supreme Court did not find any merit for ‘Merits Review’ by National Green Tribunal (NGT). The questions raised in the petition have been termed as ‘mere suspicions’ not meriting any in-depth technical analysis.

E. Cost of the Project – There have been a lot of discussions around the cost of the project pipped at Rs. 20,000 crores, justification is that the project is spread over several years in different phases. The current projects are New Parliament Building and rejuvenation of Central Vista at an estimated cost of Rs. 862 crores and Rs. 477 crores respectively. In Tata Cellular case and subsequent cases, Supreme Court has already been established that it will normally not go into the strategic/policy wisdom of the government. In fact, the courts shall hesitate to stall the projects temporarily, as it would escalate the cost of the project and ultimately a burden on public exchequer. Ultimately, it is the tax payer’s money.

F. Timing of the Project – The project has been caught amidst the storm of COVID pandemic and thus so much of public attention and purported bad publicity. However, there is no legal issue to challenge this unless there is a declared financial emergency. At the most, it is a question to be discussed by the parliamentarians in the parliament. Ironically, will this be discussed in the parliament for not having a parliament building which provides with modern amenities and more space is doubtful.

I leave it to the readers to decide for themselves whether it is a “Public”, “Publicity” or “Political” interest litigation. However, looking at the PILs filed to challenge Central Vista project and the logic advanced reminds me of Delhi High Court’s observation while dismissing a PIL – “Chai peete peete idea aaya toh socha file karo PIL (while having tea you had an idea and decided to file a PIL). That is not how it is done. You may have an idea while walking on the road. “You have to do some homework and then file the petition.” (Economic Times – May 2, 2021). Why these cases can’t be brought before a mock moot court or youth parliament wherein the young generation discuss this at length and if a sound case emerges on legal point, courts may be approached. Country has a large pool of young legal professionals who needs to be nurtured and interest needs to be generated on these issues of public importance.

The Publicity Interest Litigations are doing a lot of harm to the genuine causes which are taken up by the courts through various PILs. It casts a shadow of doubt on the legitimate petitions and also eats away into the precious time of the courts, amidst the rising pendency of cases on a daily basis.

Dr Vijay Kumar Singh is Dean, School of Law at UPES Dehradun. Views are personal.

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Analysing the importance of online dispute resolution during the coronavirus pandemic

International arbitration has used technology for as long as we know it. That technology may have been from very rudimentary concept such as email, just sending a document by email is the form of technological embrace in ADR.

Abhinit Verma

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ADR is something which is worldwide acknowledged and perceived and this is the most financially savvy and productive method of dealing with and taking into account disputes when contrasted with the traditional court framework and prosecution technique. Disputants or the parties these days lean towards ADR over the customary court framework due to several pros of the alternative dispute resolution mechanism. It’s not only because it is cost effective but it is also efficient. Parties have the right to choose their forum & choose the way they want their dispute to be settled. So, we can also say that ADR is Appropriate Dispute Resolution Mechanism, since this freedom of choice can only be available over here and not under the conventional court system.

ADR has not only been given global recognition and acceptance but in Indian law as well, U/S 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, it has been stated, that the court repowers to settle matter outside the court & officially got it notified in the year 2002. So, we can understand the strength of ADR under the Indian legal system through these acceptance and recognition.

Since the whole concept of ADR is to reduce burden of the courts where the litigation is so expensive, tedious and time-taking & at times litigants get frustrated, ADR provides a better opportunity where it ensures that there is more fluency, cost effectiveness and smooth proceedings where you have the right to choose your own forum and get your dispute resolved.

ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

Online dispute resolution is an arbitration institution or in addition to that it is a technology platform which people can use based on what it is, that they want to do out of that technology. For instance, if a person only wants to use the technology offerings and don’t want to use the institutional rules it is possible. On the other hand it is also a full institution which helps in appointing arbitrator which helps you resolve the dispute through amicable means.

International arbitration has used technology for as long as we know it. That technology may have been from very rudimentary concept such as email, just sending a document by email is the form of technological embrace in ADR. Using video conferencing is another aspect of technology. Online Dispute Resolution is a spectrum which does not fix a particular definition. So, as it is a whole spectrum of it, we need to know where it is on the spectrum we want to be and what the benefits are that being on that part of spectrum wins. The way traditional arbitration has used it, which is for instance only using email as a mode of communication or only using the video conferencing on the adhoc places and limited ability. For realizing the full ability of online dispute resolution we must try and explore a much wider spectrum of where it can be used.

With the following three principles in mind let’s try and analyze if that can be achieved:

• Can we make things faster?

• Can we make things fairer?

• Can we make things more effective?

And those of the three things we need to look at, while considering and analyzing whether online dispute resolution is good, bad, ugly or whether you want to use it or not. For making things faster using technology, the obvious ways can be just the ways you can communicate instantaneously over technology. That’s why when we compare existing court systems to arbitration or at least some arbitration where technology is used in these elements we can see the time advantages.

In real life about 25% of the life cycle of any case is spend just notifying the other party dispatching documents to the other party. If we look at the civil trial in a civil court its 5 yrs. on an average is spending one and a half year just communicating with the other party and sending the other party documents. Now that is the very crucial element where technology can play a huge role.

Firstly on the notification of the parties- when we are notifying the parties we can use technological means of notifications such as emails, messages, WhatsApp chats. In addition to it physical means of delivery can also be used, but not with the same limitations that are there presently. For example using courier with an automated tracking system makes the process of notifying the other party much faster. So this is another aspect where Online Dispute Resolution bodies can go on to resolve the dispute. The next cycle of the case is- after the other party has been notified of the case, he has to make filings. This is another stage where online dispute resolution can make a huge difference and there is the advantage of both the fast element of it and accessible element of it. If there is a situation where the parties are very distantly located, then if the person has to file a petition in the Supreme court then first they have to find a local advocate of that jurisdiction who will further connect with An Advocate on record at the Supreme Court who will further take over the matter at the apex court. So, in spite of all these difficulties the easiest ways could have been the Online Dispute Resolution that would be technology based. Further, the technology over here would have helped in making the things much faster and easier as compared to the conventional court system procedure.

Online dispute resolution has embellished a very positive impact to corporate, legal professionals (Lawyers) dealing in dispute resolution, ombudsmen and regulators, and the court of law. Corporates have to deal with a lot of disputes arising out from the customers, business partners, competitors, as well as from other business entities & corporate personalities.

Corporates have to deal with problems arising from various geographical areas and dealing with them involves a lot of time, money, support and manpower, and many a times, their image is also at stake. Online Dispute Resolution enables the corporates to resolve these disputes and the problems at a faster speed and helps them with out-of-court settlement. Corporates are thus getting benefitted by avoiding expensive litigation and reputation loss by using Online Dispute Resolution.

Legal professionals handling in dispute resolution are getting reap benefits by online dispute resolution techniques as it ameliorate their effectiveness in resolving the cases, and this makes their clients happy and satisfied.

BENEFITS OF ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

• Cost effective

• Convenient and quick dispute resolution

• Removes unconscious bias

• Increased access to justice

Online Dispute Resolution holds a lot of word of honor in addressing longstanding difficulty of justice delivery. Fortunately, the realization of this honor is not a farfetched one. As has become obvious during the current COVID-19 induced crises, people are very prepared and welcoming of technology to ease their daily lives. In turn, technology has shown to be accessible and adaptive to the demands of its users. The synergy of these occurrences, in the dispute resolution ecosystem, takes the form of Online Dispute Resolution. It would therefore only follow that there has never been a better time to harness Online Dispute Resolution’s potential than now. It will now depend on the various factors and stakeholders to determine the extent to which they are willing for their lives to be truly altered.

PERSONAL VIEWS

With reference to ODR & COVID-19, the mechanism of ODR proves to be a viable situation during the said time. Already courts are over burdened with matters and disputes. Due to the COVID-19 & lockdown the burden has doubled & if the statistics has to be preferred, then during this period at times courts were closed & now each court hear on an average 60-100 matters a day only. So the matter pending can be reflected by the statistics provided.

So, the pendency was already too much & with the COVID-19 they have added to the misery of the courts. So, ODR as a dispute mechanism process would really help in lowering the burden of the court during these times. Parties should go for Arbitration, mediation or any other ODR methods that fits for their dispute resolving process, getting amicable results without having the interference of the conventional court system coming into picture.

The blessing that has come in the period of COVID-19 is the digitalization of the courts and functioning of Judiciary. At the present time, courts are functional, but they are only hearing urgent matters. Therefore, to ease the burden of Courts disputants may prefer ODR over the Conventional Court System.

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A scrutiny of sedition law with reference to the recent judgement in Vinod Dua case in relation to Kedar Nath Singh case of 1962

The Supreme Court shielded the well-known journalist from arrest earlier, the case was quashed on 2 June 2021 by a two-judge bench comprising of Justice U.U. Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran.

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SEDITION

As per section 124A of the Indian Penal Code 1860, any written or spoken word or any visible representation which intends to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite discontentment towards the concerned Government is subject to penalization.

Sedition is the most contentious and intense topic of the political and constitutional history, invoked to abstain political criticism and tranquil the vernacular press of the British India.

The independent India as well exercises the law of sedition in the most tendentious and vexed way and the law remains open for wide interpretations. Coming across powerful and influential politicians charge vociferous political critics and journalists with Sedition and then it is annexed to be the predominant piece in the news, critically challenging and disputing with the reputation of the emphatic speaker is the commonest of things in the daily mail.

The recent case of Vinod Dua that has been quashed by the Supreme Court and has laid down principles from the Landmark Sedition judgment of the Kedar Nath case of 1962 that should be contemplated and analyzed rationally by every citizen to judiciously differentiate between portrayal of discontent in the form of an opinion which comes under the ambit of free speech and expression under Article 19 of the Constitution and the actual act of sedition that excites masses to violently spread any kind of distress and lawlessness and spreads hatred against the Government disturbing the harmony of the state that is covered under section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code,1860.

BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST VINOD DUA

In a video released, Vinod Dua had criticized and denounced the Prime Minister and the Central Government for maladministration of the migrant crisis in 2020 with regard to the first wave that broke out.

BJP Leader Ajay Shyam filed Sedition case against the journalist and commented that his act and portrayal of opinion was intended to “instigate violence against the government and the prime minister by spreading fabricated information and malicious news.”

Section 124A that defines the act of Sedition punishes the act with imprisonment ranging from 3 years to a lifetime, a fine or both once proved.

With the Seditious charges being imposed on the Journalist by the BJP leader, the Himachal Pradesh Government was therein represented by Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta. The grounds of his argument in the Supreme Court were the journalist’s attempt to advance false information intending to spread panic and resentment against the government among the masses. He emphasized on his statements which mentioned ‘food riots post lockdown’ which had the potential of transmitting unprecedented panic and agitation.

THE COURT RULING ON THE SEDITION MATTER OF VINOD DUA

The Supreme court shielded the well-known journalist from arrest earlier, the case was quashed on 2nd of June 2021 by a two-judge bench comprising of Justice UU Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran.

The Supreme Court explicitly held that the remarks in the video made by Dua were a piece of opinion which were practiced under the Constitutional right ambit of right to free speech and expression, the comments were genuine and were constructive criticism and did not amount to Sedition.

Prayer of the Journalist

Vinod Dua in his prayer to the Apex Court appealed to the Hon’ble court to constitute a committee of Chief Justice of High Court or a Judge he deems fit be the most appropriate in his recommendation, the leader of the Opposition and the Home Minister of the state to examine and analyze the FIRs lodged under Section 124A, furthermore to prevent the misuse of the Sedition Law. He in addition added to his prayer that the persons associated with the media with a minimum of 10 years of standing should not be charged with Seditious offences unless the approval of the committee so constituted assents for the same.

APEX COURT’S SUBSTANTIVE REPLY TO THE PRAYER OF THE JOURNALIST

The Hon’ble court refused to give assent to the committee constitution as it shall amount to encroachment of the legislature’s domain. The Supreme Court further elaborated that every journalist shall be entitled to protection as stated in the Kedar Nath Judgment of 1962.

As every prosecution under Section 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal code must be in strict conformity with the with the scope and ambit of the sections mentioned above and completely in tune with the law laid down in the Kedar Nath Singh case.

PRINCIPLES STATED IN THE KEDAR NATH SINGH JUDGEMENT, 1962

The Constitutional validity of Sedition was upheld by the Apex court in the landmark judgment of 1962 in the Kedar Nath Singh case. The judgment furthermore strived to restrict its scope so as to curtail the possibility of misuse

The court explicitly held that criticism of the Government policies or the administration body if not accompanied by violence and public unrest cannot be labelled under the ambit of sedition.

Seven guidelines ruled out in the Kedar Nath Singh Judgment where sedition cannot be charged are detailed below:

BIFURCATION BETWEEN ‘THE GOVERNMENT ESTABLISHED BY LAW’ AND ‘THE PERSONS FOR THE TIME BEING HANDLING THE ADMINISTRATION’

There has to be a clear bifurcation between the Government established by law and the persons in charge of the administration for the current tenure as the Government established by law is an explicit representation of the state. The existence of the state will be in jeopardy if the Government established by law is destabilized.

Acts included under the ambit of Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

The acts that can be included under the ambit of Section 124-A and contain the effect of destabilizing a Government by bringing it into contempt and originating disaffection against it would be within the penal statute as it imports the concept of public unrest by the employment of lawlessness and violent activities.

The paramount criteria highlight the presence of violence and public disorder

The paramount criteria mentioned in the judgment is the presence of violence and public unrest which has been incited by the offender against whom sedition has been charged

RIGHT OF THE CITIZEN TO CONSTRUCTIVELY CRITICISE THE GOVERNMENT

A citizen has a right to criticize the government and its measures, by way of criticism or comment so long as he does not incite the feeling of public disorder and violence

AIM OF SECTION IS TO RENDER VIOLENT ACTIVITIES

The section and judgment mentioned makes it is reasonably explicit that sedition aims at rendering penal only such activities as would be intended or have a tendency to originate disorder or unrest of public peace or harmony by resort to violence pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder

It is only when the words written or spoken etc. which have the pernicious tendency of creating public unrest or disturbance of law and order that the law has to step in to prevent such activities in the interest of public disorder “we propose to limit its operation only to such activities as come within the ambit of the observations of the Federal Court, that is to say, activities involving incitement or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace.”

CONCLUSION

The objective of the judicial system has always been to educate the citizens between the act of Sedition involving penalization, reputation exterminating and the freedom and right of very citizen to manifest his critical opinion without instigating and spreading hatred that could result into public distress and lawlessness.

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Air Pollution : India has 22 of 30 most polluted cities in the world

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At daybreak, we started driving to my grandmother’s house in Mussoorie. The foul-smelling fog made it strenuous to reach our destination. I could also see homeless people on the road. Many were kids my age. Immediately, I acknowledged how privileged we are to sit at home with air purifiers, while this hazardous air quality affects those on the streets every day. 

According to research by IQ AirVisual, a Swiss-based group that gathers air-quality data globally, and Greenpeace, India has 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world. In 2015, out of the 10.3 million deaths in the country due to non-communicable diseases, 2.5 million were linked to pollution. The stakes are high and we should use our privilege to inspect what causes this issue, and how we may eradicate it.

Vehicle exhaust is one of the main sources contributing to air pollution in the country, making it dangerous to step outside of homes. Different vehicles on the road at the same time produce toxic gases. Another source contributing to the declining air quality is the generation of dust–particularly from construction sites. For example, in Delhi, a major fraction of the pollution load comes from the brick manufacturing industries, which are situated at the outskirts of the city. Moreover, in India, about 80% of municipal solid waste is still discarded into open dumping yards and landfills which apart from foul odor and poor water quality lead to various emissions. 

Along with health, air pollution also impedes cultural inheritance. Ours is a diverse country, whose rich culture is overlooked due to the contaminants in the environment. New Delhi, the capital city that has so many historic monuments and landmarks, is often hidden in a haze of smog blanketing the city. The city’s situation is made worse by the colder winter air which is more stagnant, trapping the pollutants in place. 

In addition to the underprivileged humans, air pollution also disproportionally risks non-human life. Even in animals, ozone affects the lung tissues causing respiratory conditions, such as asthma. Acid rain, which is a result of air pollution is harmful to the environment. It affects marine diversity as well. Ozone is another pollutant that is toxic to both plants and animals. It results in reduced photosynthesis and slower growth in plants.

The way we are going right now, the world will come to an end pretty soon. How can you all behave so carelessly and irresponsibly? What planet are you leaving behind for your children? What’s the point of holding elections and arguing about new policies when we won’t be able to survive only? We really need to wake up and see the damage that has been created due to us. It is now or never!

We can eradicate air pollution and minimise its adverse impact by moving away from fossil fuels that lead to vehicle exhaust, and from our unhealthy waste disposal habits.  We can replace the former with alternative energies like solar, wind, and geothermal, and use them judicially. 

Currently, due to the pandemic since everyone has been at home, the pollution levels have come down. We don’t use cars as much. The brick factories are not operational. You can see the graciously clear blue sky and huge fluffy white clouds. It clearly is a miracle, a good thing that has come out of the lockdown, and we should continue and sustain the same practices even after it is over. This is all in our hands now, no one is too small to make a difference.

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