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EIA Draft Notification 2020: A brief analysis

The EIA norms were accepted in India for the first time in 1994 and were thereafter succeeded by the 2006 Amendment. It has been accepted worldwide that the EIA norms differ for every country and thus, they must keep evolving with the pace of the particular nation.

Abhinav Narayan Jha & Jahnavi Taneja

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Amidst the testing times of the ongoing COVID-19, on 12th March 2020 the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) released a new Environment Impact Assessment Draft (hereinafter, EIA Draft 2020) which is set to replace the 2006 EIA Policy currently in practice.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) means a thorough evaluation of a development or industry project which in its due course is bound to make irreversible changes to the environment and the people who form direct or indirect stakeholders. The procedure of EIA is a necessary mechanism to strike the correct balance between the development (economic) needs and the conservation of environment. An EIA study guarantees the credibility of the government’s actions and makes them accountable to their people, environment and the mandatory need to maintain a balance between the two conflicting needs thereof.

The EIA norms were accepted in India for the first time in 1994 and were thereafter succeeded by the 2006 Amendment. It has been accepted worldwide that the EIA norms differ for every country and thus, they must keep evolving with the pace of the particular nation. An upgrade in the 2006 version of the EIA norms were long due but the nation was appalled that in lieu of progression, we got regression in disguise of a newly proposed EIA Draft 2020 – which if turned into the permanently accepted version of the procedure would simply act as a “rubber stamp” for the clearance of projects that are detrimental to the environment and biodiversity of India.

 To make the environmental administration matters worse in India, the new EIA Draft of 2020 has come bearing more problems and no solutions or improvements. It is fairly a good news for the big corporates, industries and factories but a death sentence for the people who will be displaced, environment that would be harmed and the setback that will follow because the Draft proposes the following alarming changes:

Diminishing the scope of EIA to support “ease of doing business”: The EIA 2020 under the garb of “aim to make norms more transparent and expedient” is the promotion of the “ease of doing business” at the cost of the environment and the stakeholders.

Exemption of projects labelled “strategic”: The most contentious new provision of all is the “strategic project” or “strategic considerations” clause as it provides no grounds or conditions to determine “strategic”, rather it gives the government an ambiguous and unchecked discretion to label any project they like as per their whims and fancies as “strategic” without ever having to justify their act or being accountable to the masses.

New system of PostFacto Approval of projects: The EIA Draft 2020 enlists Forty (40) different types of industries that shall be exempted from the requirement of prior environment clearance before they begin functioning and operating. The recent judgments of the Supreme Court in relation to the environmental matters have been reiterating the importance of the mandatory prior environment clearance before inception of the operations whereas this new shift from the prior environment clearance to allowance for a post-facto environment clearance is in violation of public trust doctrine and other well established environmental law policies and principles.

 Reduction of Public Consultation from 30 days to 20 days: Public Consultations are the heart and soul of an EIA study whereas, the EIA Draft 2020 has turned it into some namesake formality sans any effective meaning left to it. The projects under the label of “strategic” projects, the linear projects (i.e. roads, tunnels, highways, etc.), border area (i.e. as per clause 3(2) 100 kilometers aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control with bordering countries of India) projects among enlisted under specific category division are exempt from the process of public consultation altogether.

EIA Compliance Reports that were filed biannually are now supposed to be filed annually: The 2016 Audit proved that even in the EIA norms 2006, it was a recurrent challenge to get the developers or project promoters to make submissions of the EIA Compliance Report timely; the additional leniency of allowing the submissions of the said report annually rather than bi-annually does not seem promising.

EIA Draft 2020 observed criticism immediately after its release from all its stakeholders. The concern of the stakeholders is that if EIA Draft 2020 becomes the new policy that guides the EIA Procedure then the consequences are going to be grave and they would primarily be:

Corruption and Red-Tapism: Even though the EIA Draft 2020 is wholly inclined towards the developers and industry people but even project proponents and developers had a valid opposition as they believe the new system may easily lead to excessive bureaucracy (i.e. Red-Tapism) and in turn add on to corrupt processes.

 Easy escape from violations and no accountability: Going by the literal interpretation of the EIA Draft Notification 2020, all stakeholders have rightly deduced that the new notification is pro-industry and anti- environment as well as anti-people. This extreme stance gets substantiated by the new drastic shifts to post-facto environment clearance, leniency in reporting for audit, etc. – all of this proves that the new EIA notification is just the perfect nudge in the wrong direction and shall act as hand-holding technique for industries and giant businesses to breach the law and rather than making the system “more transparent” (as claimed), it will make it opaque, unjust and shall render actions not accounted for as the new norm in the environmental jurisprudence.

 Setting up legislation like “Air Act”, “Water Act” and other provisions of the EPA 1986 for failure: EIA Procedures form a part of the EPA 1986 – rather the practical and administrative part which forms the regulatory mechanism of the country to ensure the balance in this field. Altering the EIA Procedure to this extent shall harm the effect and efficiency of all other Environmental Acts and legislations as the law in theory are no good without the proper implementation of the law in theory. The EIA Draft 2020 has to power to topple all the efforts and progress made in the environmental jurisprudence so far.

India has been a founding signatory of all landmark and significant multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and treaties like Stockholm Declaration (1972) and Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) among others. Even the World Bank’s opinion on the environmental agenda was primarily “do no harm” which then molded into “promotion of environmental sustainability” which directly implies the solution i.e. “sustainable development”. The International Environmental jurisprudence has assisted India in molding its own environmental jurisprudence. India released the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 till it ultimately uncurtained the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) in 1986. Since the inception of the development in the environmental jurisprudence of India, the principles like “Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)” and significant corollary principles like “Principle of Public Participation”, “Precautionary Principle”, “Polluter Pays Principle (PPP)” and “Public Trust Doctrine” thereunder have been recognized in theory and the practicality of the environmental matters in India. Such customary international environmental law principles formed the basic structure of the Indian Environmental Jurisprudence and thus, formed the rationale that led to justice in various famous cases of the legendary Shri. M.C. Mehta and others. Specifically, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) became popular after the Rio Declaration (Principle 17) that India inculcated in its own environmental law regime the norms for EIA Policy in 1994 under the ambit of the umbrella legislation of EPA 1986. The EIA Policy of 1994 was then substituted by the EIA Policy of 2006 which is now set to be replaced by EIA Draft of 2020.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the EIA Draft Notification of 2020 came at time of Viz Gas Leak and Baghjan Oil Well Disaster – the two most recent examples that highlighted precisely everything that can go wrong without proper EIA. Thus, the people of India are more aware of the environmental implications that a poor and loose EIA process is capable of – its ramifications will spare none. EIA Draft 2020 has received humongous criticism from the masses, and rightly so there have been NGOs, civil society people, lawyers, activists and experts who have led the ‘tweetathons’ and campaigns on social media with the now infamous #WithdrawEIA2020, #SaveEIA, #EIAforGreenIndia, among other hashtags floating around to bring to light the anti-environment and anti-public welfare EIA Draft of 2020. The Union Environment Ministry has revealed that their department has received approximately 17 lakh objections to EIA Draft 2020 notification which had a deadline upto 11th August 2020 for the submission of objections by the public. The setting of such a towering level of criticism record, the Indian masses have spoken volumes of their opposition to this EIA Draft of 2020 which is now considered anti-democratic as well. The blocking of the 3 websites namely: Let India Breathe, Fridays for Future, and There is No Earth B which were blocked on 29th June 2020 – this ban on these three forerunners thereafter acted as a catalyst to the strengthening of the citizen’s or people’s movement in India. This movement saw various student unions coming forward to write to the MoEFCC, National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) condemned the newly proposed EIA policy, along with many former bureaucrats concerting to write to the Prime Minister and the Ministry concerned (i.e. the MoEFCC).

The stakeholders, activists and the people of India have expressly shown discontent over the new EIA Draft Notification 2020 as it shall prove to be lethal for the environmental justice in India. It is cardinal for the legal and regulatory mechanisms of a successful EIA to be executed fairly, consistently and efficiently. The perception of the experts has been that EIA must deliver effectively on the promises of fair democratic political commitment (i.e. considering the interest of the tribal, environment, indigenous populations, biodiversity and other natural resources); prompt regulatory capacity (which includes institutional as well as legal regulations including the scope for advancement in technical capacity, research, data and information); and public participation (i.e. by involving the affected people’s and stakeholders genuine opinions without the malpractices of suppression of the same by muscle power or money).

Observing both sides of the coin’s debate over the EIA Draft Notification 2020, it is safe to conclude that this new notification is geared up to jeopardize the entire evolution and progression of the Indian Environmental Jurisprudence over the decades by setting it back to square one, where it all began. Hopes of all stakeholders and citizens are peaking while they await a satisfactory and progressive alteration to the EIA Draft Notification 2020 – so that, India can avoid any prospective disasters of the magnitude of “Viz Gas Leak”, “Oleum Gas Leak” or the “Bhopal Gas Tragedy” – and set a remarkable example of a smart 20th century developing country maintaining the correct balance between ecology and economy.

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Opinion

The power to levy penalty under the Code on Wages, 2019: Constitutional imperatives

Sudhanva Bedekar & Anoushka Modak

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In India, the post independence labour law regime has been influenced by the vision of the founding fathers, reflected in the Constitution, which calls for respect and recognition of the principles of dignity of labour and human rights. The expansive interpretation of the fundamental rights, more particularly, Article 21 concerning the right to life and personal liberty, have ensured that the rights of the labourers and those in the unorganized sector are protected and recognized. The directive principles of State policy also cast an obligation on the State to secure dignity of labour, equal pay for equal work, equitable distribution of resources and decent standard of living for the citizens. Labour being a concurrent subject, both Centre and States are competent to legislate on it. Thus, labour laws concerning different aspects of labour namely, occupational health, safety, employment, training of apprentices, fixation, review and revision of least wages, etc. were enacted by Parliament as also by the various State legislatures.

In 1999, the government set up the second national labour commission, headed by Ravindra Varma which recommended that all the labour laws must be compiled into four or five codes. A step towards fulfilling the recommendations of the commission, The Code on Wages was passed in August last year compiling four different labour laws namely the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; The Minimum Wages Act, 1948; The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 into one consolidated law.

Section 53 of the Code on Wages provides that an officer (not below the rank of an under-secretary) to the government will be notified with power to impose a penalty in the place of a judicial magistrate. In this article, we argue that grant of power to impose penalty on an officer of the Government is problematic and that Section 53 suffers from certain Constitutional infirmities. It is pertinent to peruse Section 53 of the Code. Section 53 reads as follows;

“53. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 52, for the purpose of imposing penalty under clauses (a) and (c) of sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) of section 54 and sub-section (7) of section 56, the appropriate Government may appoint any officer not below the rank of Under Secretary to the Government of India or an officer of equivalent rank in the State Government, as the case may be, for holding enquiry in such manner, as may be prescribed by the Central Government.

(2) While holding the enquiry, the officer referred to in sub-section (1) shall have the power to summon and enforce attendance of any person acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case to give evidence or to produce any document, which in the opinion of such officer, may be useful for or relevant to the subject matter of the enquiry and if, on such enquiry, he is satisfied that the person has committed any offence under the provisions referred to in sub-section (1), he may impose such penalty as he thinks fit in accordance with such provisions.”

It is thus clear that for contravention of clauses (a) and (c) of sub-section 1 of Section 54 or for contravention of sub-section (2) of Section 54, penalty may be imposed by the said officer appointed by the Government. Furthermore, such penalty may also be imposed for contravention of clause (7) of Section 56. A reading of these provisions reveals that the following violations are stipulated by them;

(a)- Non payment of amount due to the employee as per the provisions of the code

(b)- Contravention of any other provisions, rule, order under the Code (other than the contraventions expressly mentioned in the provisions of the Code)

(c) Non-maintenance or improper maintenance of records in the establishment.

(d) Non compliance with compounding order made by gazetted officer.

In our submission, Section 53 contravenes Article 50 of the Constitution of India. Though Article 50 forms part of the chapter containing the Directive Principles of State policy and is therefore not enforceable in a Court of law, it is clear that the principle of separation of powers has been recognised and enforced by the Courts and has also been used as a tool to strike down similar provisions.

Section 3(4) of the Code of Criminal procedure lays down clear demarcation of power between the judicial magistrate and the executive magistrate. It vests the judicial magistrate with the powers to examine the evidence, conduct trails which may expose any person to punishment or penalty or detention. Whereas the executive magistrate dispenses primarily administrative duties; it includes granting, suspension or cancellation of a licence and sanctioning or withdrawing from a prosecution. The function of the executive magistrates is administrative and limited to maintenance of law and order. Notwithstanding this, they also perform certain judicial functions such as obtaining bonds and security for maintaining good behaviour and peace under sections 107,108,109,110. They are also empowered to issue orders against any nuisance and apprehended danger and restore public tranquillity.

In the case of Mammoo vs. State Of Kerala and Anr the Kerala High Court was considering the question as to whether a District magistrate exercising functions under Section 16(1) of the Telegraph Act was an ‘inferior criminal court’. The Court took note of Section 3(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and held that the executive magistrates are to perform their functions as per the provisions mentioned in the code and if acting under any other law other than the code they must strictly adhere to the performance of executive or administrative functions. Since the enforcement of the Code of Criminal Procedure, there has been a complete separation of the judiciary and the executive. This has been done to implement the mandate of Article 50 of the constitution which contains a Directive Principle of State Policy that the State shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State.

In Hanumantsing Kubersing vs State Of Madhya Pradesh  the vires of Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 were under challenge before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The said provision empowered the revenue officers designated as executive magistrates to try offenses under the Act. The Madhya Pradesh High Court struck down the said provision as it violated Articles 14 and 21 and was contrary to the principle laid down in Article 50.

The said provision was also struck down by the Madras High Court in the case of Union of India vs Gajendran wherein the Court observed, “By merging the judicial function in the executive, the basic structure of the Constitution is affected; justice and fair trial cannot be ensured by the Executive Magistrates in as much as they are not required to be legally qualified and trained persons and in actual practice are required to perform various other functions. Their powers under the Code are limited for the purposes of maintenance of law and order…’’

Again in Aldanish Rein v Union of India, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court, observed that the executive magistrates are under complete control of the executive government. Their promotion, increments and seniority of services, etc. are all dependent on their higher officers, who belong to the Executive.

The apex court in Statesman (Private) Ltd. v. H.R. Deb &Orsheld that ‘the appointment of a person from the ranks of civil judiciary carries with it a unique assurance. The functions of a Labour Court are of great public importance and quasi civil. Men of experience on the civil side of the law are more suitable than Magistrates. Persons employed on multifarious duties and also performing some judicial functions may not truly answer the requirement and it may be open in a quo warranto proceeding to question their appointment on the ground that they do not hold essentially a judicial office because they primarily perform other functions. For it cannot be denied that the expression “holding a judicial office” signifies more than discharge of judicial functions while holding some other office.’

Section 53 of the Code on Wages, 2019 does not confer upon the members of the executive, the power to conduct trials. Hence, it is possible to distinguish with the judgements of the several High Courts which have emphasized the need of separation of the judiciary and the executive. However, a perusal of the said provision indicates that a substantive power to arrive at the decision regarding innocence or guilt has been conferred on the government official. A residuary power to impose penalties for violations of the provisions of the Act for which there is no express provision made, have also been conferred on the executive official. This, in our submission, falls foul of Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution of India. In view of the settled jurisprudence on this subject, it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that Section 53 of the Code on Wages suffers from certain Constitutional infirmities.

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Opinion

Agriculture Ordinances: HC directs Haryana DGP to implement police guidelines in D.K. Basu case during farmers’ protests

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In a latest, landmark and laudable judgement titled Haryana Progressive Farmers Union — Sabka Mangal Ho Vs State of Haryana and another in CWP No. 14874 of 2020 delivered just recently on September 18, 2020, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the DGP Haryana to ‘sensitise’ police officials performing duties during these farmers protests against the three Ordinances regulating farming and agricultural sectors about the guidelines for police laid down by the Supreme Court in the famous DK Basu case. A plea was filed by the Haryana Progressive Farmers Union alleging that during the farmers protest against the Agricultural Ordinances on September 10, 2020, few unknown persons, some in police uniform and others without resorted to lathi charge to dispel the crowd. It is a sad commentary that even after 23 years of the famous DK Basu’s ruling, we still see that its guidelines are still not being implemented by the police in our country.

To start with, this noteworthy judgment authored by Justice Arun Moga of Punjab and Haryana High Court in oral first and foremost sets the ball rolling in para 1 wherein it is observed that, “Petitioner, a farmers Union, inter alia, seeks issuance of a writ in the nature of mandamus, directing the respondents, to ensure that police officers of all ranks while on law and order duty, particularly, during the mass protests/agitations, shall wear proper uniform with visible clear identification, their name tags with designations. Further prayer has been made that all the protestors detained or arrested, ought to be given immediate medical treatment.”

To say the least, para 2 then reveals that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner contends that, on 10.09.2020, when the farmers in Haryana, owing allegiance to the petitioner union, were on a protest rally, few unknown persons, some in police uniform and others without, resorted to lathi charge to dispel the crowd. He relies on the photographs appended with the petition, purported to be of the scene of occurrence. The farmers were protesting against three agriculture ordinances issued by the Government of India. In the said incident, numerous farmers, including many old aged, were allegedly injured by unknown police officials but even the basic medical care was not provided.”

Be it noted, para 3 then further reveals that, “Learned counsel relies on guidelines/safeguards laid down by Apex Court way back in year 1997 in “D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal” 1997 (1) SCC 416. He contends we are in year 2020 and yet, 23 years later, the said safeguards are not being implemented in State of Haryana. Seeking compliance thereof, petitioner-Union submitted Legal Notice/Representation dated 12.09.2020 (Annexure P-5) but the same has not been adverted till date. Hence, the petition.”

Furthermore, while para 4 mentions “Notice of motion”, we then see how para 5 then discloses that, “Ms. Mamta Talwar, DAG, Haryana, who has joined proceedings on service of advance copy of the petition, appears and accepts notice on behalf of State of Haryana.”

For the sake of clarity, it is then mentioned in para 6 that, “Given the nature of order being passed, there is no necessity to seek any return and/or conduct further proceedings.”

Most significantly, it is then envisaged in para 7 that, “Directions issued by Apex Court and the envisaged procedural safeguards to be observed by police administration per D.K. Basu’s case (supra) are no doubt to be followed/implemented in strict letter and spirit. For ready reference, the relevant is reproduced here under:

“We therefore, consider it appropriate to issue the following requirements to be followed in all cases of arrest or detention till legal provisions are made in that behalf as preventive measures:

(1) The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. The particulars of all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register.

(2) That the police officer carrying out the arrest of the arrestee shall prepare a memo of arrest, at the time of arrest such memo shall be attested by at least one witness, who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. It shall also be counter signed by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.

(3) A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or interrogation centre or other lock up, shall be entitled to have one friend or relative or other person known to him or having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular place, unless the attesting witness of the memo of arrest is himself such a friend or a relative of the arrestee.

(4) The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the next friend or relative of the arrestee lives outside the district or town through the Legal Aid Organization in the District and the police station of the area concerned telegraphically within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.

(5) The person arrested must be made aware of this right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon he is put under arrest or is detained.

(6) An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest of the person which shall also disclose the name of the next friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the names and particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.

(7) The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his/her body, must be recorded at that time. The “Inspection Memo” must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer effecting the arrest and its copy provided to the arrestee.

(8) The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctors appointed by Director, Health Services of the concerned State or Union Territory. Director, Health Services should prepare such a panel for all Tehsils and Districts as well.

(9) Copies of all the documents including the memo of arrest referred to above, should be sent to the Illaqa Magistrate for his record.

(10) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation.

(11) A police control room should be provided at all district and state headquarters, where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by the officer causing the arrest, within 12 hours of effecting the arrest and at the police control room it should be displayed on a conspicuous notice board.

Failure to comply with the requirements hereinabove mentioned shall apart from rendering the concerned official liable for departmental action, also render him liable to be punished for contempt of court and the proceedings for contempt of court may be instituted in any High Court of the country, having territorial jurisdiction over the matter.

The requirements referred to above flow from Articles 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution and need to be strictly followed. These would apply with equal force to the other governmental agencies also to which a reference has been made earlier. These requirements are in addition to the constitutional and statutory safeguards and do not detract from various other directions given by the courts from time to time in connection with the safeguarding of the rights and dignity of the arrestee.”

In tune with the intent/ratio of the Supreme Court judgment, some of the above said preventive protections/directions, later on, by way of appropriate amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, have also been given legislative mandate.”

While disposing the writ petition, the Punjab and Haryana High Court then observes in para 8 that, “In the premise, without commenting on the merits of allegations/averments contained in the writ petition, the same is disposed of with a request to the Director General of Police, State of Haryana, to once again sensitize police officials of the state, on regular intervals, qua the aforesaid safeguards/parameters, to be followed by police officials while on duty. Regarding other allegations containing in the petitioner herein, the petitioner is at liberty to follow up its representation/legal notice, Annexure P-5, with the competent authority. Disposal of the present writ petition shall not be construed to mean that, if any genuine grievance is made out, the competent authority shall not look into the same. It is expected of the competent authority to pass appropriate orders qua Annexure P-5, in accordance with law, as expeditiously as possible.”

On a final note, it is then held in para 9 that, “In the parting, this court would also like to observe that the Director General of Police, State of Haryana, would do well by directing all the district police heads to ensure that a print out of all the 11 directions, per DK Basu, supra, are prominently displayed in a minimum font of 20 or 22, on a conspicuous notice board at the entrance of every police station in the State. Similar exercise, in fact, ought to be carried out in the State of Punjab as well. Registry is, therefore, directed to convey copy of this order to the Director General of Police, State of Punjab, who is also requested to do the needful, as aforesaid.”

All said and done, it is a no-brainer that the Haryana DGP must implement what the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held so clearly, cogently and convincingly on implementing police guidelines in DK Basu’s case and even the Punjab DGP is urged to do the needful just like Haryana. This will certainly ensure that the old and the weak are not unnecessarily lathicharged by the police which is the crying need of the hour also! No society and no country can ever progress where human rights are not respected in totality and so the human rights have to be accorded the highest priority always in our country. Even the Supreme Court will hear on October 7, 2020 the plea to revive DK Basu’s case to issue fresh guidelines to curb custodial torture. This is a very hot button issue and cannot be kept in cold storage any longer as it directly affects the people and agitates them when they see that the police beats them mercilessly without any strong reason! There can certainly be no denying it!

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Opinion

Poverty not a curse, sterling efforts needed to be wealthy

Mukesh Ambani has added a feather to India’s cap by figuring among the richest in the world.

Vijay Darda

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Let me tell you a story of Mukesh Ambani’s vision. Reliance Group has a huge petroleum refinery in Jamnagar, Gujarat. A large area was lying barren around it. Mukesh Ambani felt that if trees and plants are planted on this land, the pollution of the refinery can be absorbed. When Mukesh Ambani decided to plant mango orchard on 600 acres of barren land, people harboured serious reservations about the success of his project.

The soil of Jamnagar and the moisture there has salinity and the winds blow at a high velocity too. In such a situation, would it be right to plant a mango orchard? This was the question in everyone’s mind, but Mukesh Ambani had decided and insisted that only mango orchard would be planted there. That was in 1997. Today, after 23 years, the salinity of the soil has been controlled, the winds have been taken care of and there are more than 1.5 lakh mango trees of about 200 species. Mangoes from this orchard are being exported all over the world because of its unmatched quality. The name of this mango orchard in Jamnagar is ‘Dhirubhai Ambani Lakhibag Amrayee’. For your information, let me tell you that the word ‘Lakhibag’ was the name of a mango grove developed by Mughal Emperor Akbar near Darbhanga in Bihar.

I told you this story so that you can understand how important it is to have vision, devotion and dedication to your work to become rich. After all, Dhirubhai Ambani started his journey from zero and built a big empire on his own. After that, one of his two sons raised his empire and the other collapsed on the ground. It is clear from this that even if you get a huge wealth by luck, you do not necessarily climb the stairs of success. It takes strength, concentration and balance to climb. Just one mistake is enough to fall! Let’s just think of Tata-Birla, Ambani-Adani, Hinduja, L N Mittal or Sajjan Jindal, Singhania, Anand Mahindra, you will find that their family started from zero. Infosys is an excellent example of our times. Narayan Murthy had laid the foundation of Infosys with a capital of only Rs 10,000. Adani started from the very bottom. Today, their success stories are for all to see. It is obvious that all this does not happen by sheer luck. For this, action and vision are required.

Many people continue to criticise industrial and business groups indiscriminately. Be it Ambani group or Adani group or someone else. People do not miss any chance to say that the government has always been ‘favourable’ to them. To me, these are all stupid and meaningless outpouring. No one can become ‘Kuber’ only with ‘favours’. For that, capacity needs to be increased manifold. Do not discuss what kind of house Ambani lives in, by which aircraft he travels, how many vehicles he has and how the wedding took place in his house. If at all, discuss that Ambani has given work to millions of hands. India has advanced in the world of technology. Do you know that while some people swindled Rs 15 lakh crore of the banks, Mukesh Ambani does not owe a single rupee to any bank! Consider why Mukesh Ambani flourishes in every sector he enters? Be thankful to all these industrialists that they have played and are playing an important role in the country’s progress. When I see the tricolour waving at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York, my chest swells with pride. Isn’t it a matter of pride that Tata bought a global brand like Land Rover?

I have close proximity to almost all the industrialists I am referring to here and I know their lifestyle very closely. Humility, spontaneity and focus are their greatest assets. They have not become rich in a day. They have achieved this position through hard work. Therefore, do not curse poverty. Poverty is not a curse at all. Poverty can be transformed into prosperity by sterling actions and efforts. I know hundreds of such administrative officers who were born in a poor family but are occupying high posts today. Babasaheb Ambedkar was also poor but due to his talent, he is remembered with reverence all over the world today. Our former President APJ Abdul Kalam is the biggest example of this. His father was a fisherman and Kalam used to sell ‘beedis’ as a child. He became the best scientist in the world and also adorned the country’s highest position. Lal Bahadur Shastri rose from poverty to become the Prime Minister of the country. M S Kannamwar who once sold newspapers, became the chief minister of Maharashtra. People like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg have also risen from the state of extreme poverty to reach the summit. Former presidents of America, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, hailed from very humble origins. Elsewhere across the world, there have been many prime ministers, presidents, industrialists, great writers and scientists who were born poor, but they overcame their poverty through their ability and reached the top. So don’t accept poverty as a curse, take your steps, develop your potential. Success is waiting for you! The need of the hour is dedication, out-of-the-box thinking and perseverance… So what are you waiting for!

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

I congratulate Mukesh Bhai that he has not only joined the select list of wealthiest persons in the world with his devotion, dedication and vision but also made the country proud. True, if the capabilities are utilised to the full, one can scale the summit. Mukesh Bhai has proved his mettle and ability in every field.

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Opinion

Making it happen: Mission Kayakalp

Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers in UP’s Barabanki district revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income.

Anil Swarup

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Illicit liquor is a massive social, economic and law enforcement nightmare across India. It has been known to destroy innumerable lives by death, criminal conviction, disability and addiction apart from ruining livelihoods, families and health. The brunt of this evil is most intensely felt by the poor and illiterate classes.

In January this year Dr Aravind Chaturvedi was posted as the Superintendent of Police of Barabanki, a district of UP adjoining its capital city Lucknow. Barabanki is a prosperous district but it has some great challenges. It is notorious for narcotics and illicit liquor. Hence, the first priority for Aravind on being posted there was to curb these criminal activities. 

Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers across the district, revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income. Ironically, a few villages had almost all residents involved in illicit liquor making. The issues were discussed were discussed at length with colleagues. On ascertaining the details, they were able to spot a few villages which were worst affected. One of the places with highest concentration of such cases was a small village of Chaynpurwa in Ramnagar tehsil of the district. This became the centre of the initiative.

Chaynpurwa is a remote village, cut-off from the nearby suburbs on account of being surrounded by the expansive Bhagahar Lake on three sides. The people here had lost a lot to the illicit liquor trade. Out of the 94 families of this village, 32 women were widows. Only 6 men in the entire village were in a condition to work. The others were in jail, handicapped or heavily addicted. Most children didn’t go to school and those who did, faced economic hurdles and social stigmas. It was a painful sight.

Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of Police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.

The first step was to organise a “Police Chaupal”, a gathering of all residents of Chaynpurwa and nearby villages, hosted by the local Police and attended by Aravind himself and Circle Officer, Ramnagar along with Inspector, Ramnagar. Villagers were given opportunity to speak about their problems, compulsion towards illicit liquor trade and socio-economic challenges. The stories that came out of the meeting were painful and heart-wrenching. “Mission Kayakalp” started taking shape consequent to this meeting

A survey of the village was conducted in Chaynpurwa village to obtain basic data about the village and its residents. This survey provided critical insights into the state of the village and its people. With the exception of 4 families which had at least one employed member, 90 of the village’s 94 families needed immediate assistance if they were to be emancipated from illicit liquor trade.

Priority now was to come up with a suitable, sustainable and circumstantially practical occupation alternative. A series of discussions with District Magistrate of Barabanki Dr Adarsh Singh, a passionate leader and Chief development Officer Medha Roopam, a bright officer brought forth a few options. Out of these, beekeeping seemed an appropriate and practicable choice. The villagers were briefed about this. A training session was arranged for them. Support also came from bank authorities who promised to provide loans. 

Dr Adarsh Singh’s support for Mission Kayakalp and his personal interest and backing to the initiative gave Chaynpurwa Village the attention and resources of 26 Government departments under the district administration. Medha Roopam herself went to the village with officials from various departments to make the residents of Chaynpurwa aware about Government schemes and programmes and provided eligible persons all the benefits.

The above events took place during the period between mid-August and mid-October this year. Bee farming in North India starts only after mid-November. Hence, an idea was mooted to help them generate some interim income through making and selling candles for the upcoming Diwali festival. This initiative was started and sponsored by Barabanki Police but Nimit Singh, an empathetic entrepreneur who owned bee farms, honey processing units and honey export played an important role

Nimit provided the women of Chaynpurwa training and raw-materials to make various types of diyas from bee-wax. The sale of these Diyas soared beyond expectations and close to 5 lakh diyas were sold in the weeks leading to Diwali. With a total amount over Rs 6 lakh earned by the village from these diyas in one month, an average income of Rs 7,000 was received by almost every household in the village. A grand “Deepotsav” was organised in collaboration with Umeed Foundation of Lucknow to honour and recognise the self-awareness and inspirational hard work done by the people of Chaynpurwa. For them it was an ecstatic moment to be the centre of focus of a program at such a scale and in the presence of top authorities.

The plan, alongside setting up bee-farming infrastructure, is to get a Community Hall built in the village so that a common space may be available for conducting training programs and provide an organised working area. Another plan on the anvil is to try and direct the energy of young children of this village in a positive, productive direction by arranging holistic orientations, building an open gym or recreation centre and motivate them to be diligent towards education. On the economic front with a long-term horizon, efforts are being made to attract the schemes of UP Government’s Khadi and Village Industries Board to provide a stable source of income to the village. These will include training them on electric pottery machines known as “Electric Chaak”, developing a stitching unit or a Agarbatti and candle making unit.

Setting up of a ‘trust’ by the name of “Chaynpurwa Kayakalp Foundation”, consisting of motivated private individuals for the welfare of villages like Chaynpurwa is also being planned. The objective is to provide sustainability to the project. Chaynpurwa village is on a path to turn its life around, look to a bright future and produce good law-respecting citizens. 

The initiatives taken by Aravind clearly demonstrate that despite enormous hurdles, if an officer so desires, she/he can make-it-happen.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.

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NCLT has no jurisdiction to examine legality of action taken under MPID Act: Bombay HC

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In a fresh and significant development, the Bombay High Court in a latest, landmark and laudable judgment titled The State of Maharashtra Through the Deputy Collector & Competent Authority (NSEL) V/s Anil Kohil in Writ Petition No. 3396 of 2019 With Civil Application No. 29 of 2020 delivered recently on 9 November 2020 has pronounced in most certain terms that the National Company Law Tribunal has no jurisdiction to examine the legality or validity of action taken under Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (In Financial Establishments) Act, 1999 (MPID Act) and it is only the designated Court constituted under Section 6 of the said Act that will have exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the same. The Division Bench of Justice SC Gupte and Justice Madhav Tamdar quashed and set aside the order dated January 28, 2019 passed by the Member (Judicial), National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai Bench directing the de-freezing of bank account in the name of Dunar Foods Ltd, which was freezed in relation to the National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) payment default crisis. This certainly has to be complied with now.

To start with, it is first and foremost enunciated in para 1 that, “In the present case a very interesting question arises as to whether action taken under the provisions of the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (In Financial Establishments) Act, 1999 (hereinafter referred to as “MPID Act”) against a “Financial Establishment”, as contemplated under the MPID Act, can be challenged not before the Designated Court under the MPID Act but before the National Company Law Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as “NCLT”) by resorting to the remedy provided under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (hereinafter referred to as “I.B. Code”). On the application of a “Financial Creditor” as contemplated under I.B. Code, an Interim Resolution Professional (hereinafter referred as “IRP”) is appointed by NCLT by exercising power under section 7 of the I.B. Code against the Corporate Debtor as contemplated under I.B. Code, which is also the Financial Establishment under the MPID Act and de-freezing of the corporate Debtor’s account attached in MPID proceedings is ordered. This order is the subject matter of challenge in this petition.”

While setting the background, it is then put forth in para 4 that, “The State of Maharashtra through the Deputy Collector and Competent Authority (NSEL), by the present Writ Petition filed under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India , has approached this Court challenging the legality and validity of the order dated 28/01/2019 passed by the Member (Judicial), National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai Bench in M.A.No.1372/2018 in CP(IB)-1138(MB)/2017. By the said order, National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) directed de-freezing of bank account No.1952320006245 in HDFC Bank, Karnal, Haryana, (hereinafter referred to as “said account”) in the name of Dunar Foods Ltd.”

While dealing with factual aspects, it is then laid down in para 5 that, “Some of the factual aspects set out in the petition are as follows :

(i) An FIR being C.R.No.216/2013 was registered against Financial Technologies (India) Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “FTIL”) now known as “63 Moons Technologies Ltd.”, the National Spot Exchange Ltd. (hereinafter referred as “NSEL”), the Directors and key management persons of FTIL and NSEL, 25 borrowers/trading members of NSEL, some brokers of NSEL, and others, under sections 120B, 409, 465, 467, 468, 471, 474, 477(A) of the Indian Penal Code, by the M.R.A. Marg police station on 30/09/2013. In the said FIR, the first informant had alleged that NSEL had caused wrongful loss of about Rs.2.2 crores to himself, and wrongful loss of approximately Rs.5600 crores to more than 13000 investors. On the same day, i.e. on 30/09/2013, the investigation into the said case was transferred to Economic Offence Wing, Mumbai (hereinafter referred to as “EOW”), who registered EOW C.R. No.89 of 2013. The EOW applied the provisions of the MPID Act to the said C.R. in October 2013.

(ii) NSEL is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 having its registered office at Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The NSEL provided an electronic platform for spot trading in commodities, and used to operate from 16 States across the country. The NSEL was promoted by FTIL, now known as “63 Moons Technologies Pvt. Ltd.”, which holds 99.99% of the share capital of NSEL. The balance 0.01% of the share capital of the NSEL is held by the National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (hereinafter referred as “NAFED”).

(iii) In the petition, a reference has been made to notification dated 05/06/2007 and further notification dated 06/02/2012 issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India (hereinafter referred as “DCA”) by which exemption was granted to NSEL from the operation of the Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1952 (hereinafter referred as “FCRA”) for all forward contracts of one day duration for sale and purchase of commodities traded on its platform subject to certain conditions.

(iv) In the Writ Petition, the manner in which NSEL was working has been set out in detail.

(v) As per the FIR, during the initial contracts, member companies squared off the contracts on the dates of maturity. However, later on, these companies did not honour their commitments and caused wrongful loss of about Rs.5600 crores to about 13000 investors. The members of the NSEL fraudulently obtained huge funds from the NSEL against non-existent stocks of commodities. There was a semblance of trading, which was actually being done in non-existent goods, by issuing forged warehouse receipts. Further, the warehouses, which were an integral part of the NSEL as the commodities were required to be deposited in the exchange designated and certified warehouses as part of the pay-in obligations, lacked capacity and some of them had no stocks.

(vi) The NSEL vide their circular dated 14/8/2013 announced a settlement schedule. According to this schedule, NSEL had to make payouts of Rs.5,574.31 crores to its members. The settlement calendar announced by NSEL was spread over 30 weeks for pay-out on pro-rata basis to 148 members. The NSEL subsequently defaulted in all the payouts since the announcement of the settlement plan.

(vii) The investigation revealed that the mode of transaction that the NSEL was allowed by the Government of India was not followed by the NSEL, and that the NSEL had promised attractive returns to persons who had traded on the NSEL platform. The NSEL had assured them that if they entered into a contract on T+2, they would get an attractive return of 14% to 16% on the completion of the contract on T+25.”

While elaborating further, it is then set out in para 6 that, “As set out hereinabove, the FIR was registered on 30/09/2013, and after investigation, the EOW filed charge-sheet on 06/01/2014 in EOW. C.R. No.89/2013 in MPID Court, Mumbai. EOW thereafter filed supplementary charge-sheets from time to time including on 04/06/2014, 04/08/2014 and 27/12/2018. It is set out in the petition that as provisions of MPID Act were made applicable, the Government of Maharashtra vide notification dated 28/08/2014 issued under section 4 of the MPID Act attached several properties of several companies including Lotus Refineries Pvt. Ltd., White Walter Foods Pvt. Ltd., Shree Radhey Trading Co., Vimladevi Agrotech Ltd., Mohan India Pvt. Ltd., Tavishi Enterprises Ltd., Brinda Commodity Pvt. Ltd., Ark Import Pvt. Ltd., P..D.Agroprocessors Pvt. Ltd., Aastha Minmet India Pvt and Juggernaut Projects Ltd., White Water Foods Pvt. Ltd., Swastik Overseas, MSR Foods, Loil Continental, Loil Health Foods Ltd., Loil Overseas Foods Ltd., Spin Cot Textiles Pvt. Ltd., NCS Sugars Ltd., Metkore Alloys and Industries Ltd., Yathuri Associates, Namdhari Food Internation Pvt. Ltd., Amdhari Rice and General Mills and of Dunar Foods Ltd. It appears that during investigation, as and when the Investigating Agency got knowledge about properties of various companies/persons to which the provisions of MPID Act in relation to said FIR could be applied, necessary notifications under section 4 were issued by Government of Maharashtra attaching immovable and movable properties. By the notification dated 19/10/2018 various properties belonging to various parties were attached including of M/s.E.D. Agro Procedures Pvt. Ltd. and Dunar Foods Pvt. Ltd. including the said account. In this petition, we are concerned with defreezing of the said account which is subject matter of the impugned order dated 28/01/2019.”

Going forward, it is then put forth in para 7 that, “When the said investigation by EOW was going on and when the authorities were taking action under MPID Act, simultaneously on 27/06/2017, the State Bank of India, a Financial Creditor of M/s. Dunar Foods Ltd., invoked the jurisdiction under section 7 of the I.B. Code for the defaulted financial debt of Rs.758,73,62,546/- outstanding against the Corporate Debtor M/s.Dunar Foods Ltd. In the said proceedings, by the order dated 22/12/2017, the said petition was admitted by the NCLT and Mr. Anil Kohli was appointed as IRP and directed to comply with provisions of sections 13 and 15 onwards of the I.B. Code. It was further directed that as the petition was held fit for “admission”, hence as a consequence Moratorium as prescribed under section 14 of the I.B.Code would commence. It was further directed that on enforcement of Moratorium, certain prohibitions were applicable, such as institution of any Suit before a Court of Law, transferring of any Asset of the Debtor, encumbering any rights over the assets of the Debtor. However, it was also clarified that the supply of essential goods of services to the Corporate Debtor shall not be terminated during Moratorium period. It shall be effective till completion of the Insolvency Resolution Process or until the approval of the Resolution Plan as prescribed under section 31 of the I.B. Code. Accordingly, the said petition stood admitted. The Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process commenced from the date of the order.”

In hindsight, it is then mentioned in para 8 that, “It is significant to note that on 20/02/2018, M.A.No.237/2018 was filed by Dunar Foods Ltd. through IRP under section 9 of MPID Act before the Designated Court under MPID Act, seeking direction to defreeze the bank accounts of Dunar Foods Ltd. attached pursuant to the notifications issued by the Home Department of Government of Maharashtra under the MPID Act from time to time and seeking further direction to the Competent Authority designated under MPID Act to forthwith handover all assets of Dunar Foods Ltd. to the Applicant. By the order dated 28th December, 2018, passed by the learned Special Judge (MPID Act) City Civil and Sessions Court for Greater Bombay passed below Exhibit-1 in Miscellaneous Application No.237 of 2018, the said application was rejected, however, it was clarified that IRP was at liberty to raise objections before the Court under section 7 of the MPID Act.”

Of course, what cannot be ignored is then stated in para 9 that, “In the meanwhile, on 12/11/2018, M.A.No.1372 of 2018 in C.P.No.1138/I & BC/NCLT/MB/MAH/2017 was filed by IRP for Dunar Foods Ltd. under section 60(5), 14(1a) and 74(2) of I.B. Code before the NCLT, seeking direction to de-freeze the said account of the corporate debtor attached pursuant to the notifications issued by the Home Department, Government of Maharashtra under MPID Act from time to time and consequential directions to the Respondent, being the Competent Authority designated under MPID Act, to forthwith handover all assets of Dunar Foods Ltd. to the Applicant. It is further prayed that action be directed to be initiated under section 74(2) of the Code against the concerned officers of the corporate debtor for deliberate and willful violation of section 14 of the Code. A detailed reply dated 15/01/2019 was filed by the Deputy Collector and Competent Authority (NSEL) to M.A.No.1372/2018. By the impugned order dated 28/01/2019, passed by the learned Member (Judicial) NCLT, Mumbai Bench, M.A.No.1372/2018 was partly allowed by directing defreezing of the said account. The said order is challenged by the State of Maharashtra through Deputy Collector and Competent Authority, (NSEL) in the present writ petition.”

To put it succinctly, it is then pointed out in para 28 that, “The Respondents have also relied on the judgment of the Designated Court under the MPID Act at Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court, Mumbai in Roofit Industries Limited Vs. The State of Maharashtra in MPID Special Case No. 34 of 2004. A perusal of said order dated 18.08.2017 passed by the Special Judge, MPID Act clearly shows that provisions of I.B. Code were pointed out to the Court and after giving hearing to Competent Authority, depositors, objectors and others, Competent Authority and EOW were directed to hand over certain properties to the Applicant in the said case who claims to be an Interim Resolution Professional appointed by the NCLT for Roofit Industries Ltd. The operative portion of said order dated 18.08.2017 is reproduced herein below:-

“ORDER

1. Application is allowed.

2. Competent Authority and EOW is directed to hand over to applicant/intervener the custody and charge of the immovable properties mentioned at Sr. No. 8,10, 12,16,17,18,19, 20 and 23 of the notification dtd. 06.05.2016 alongwith all documents, record etc., within two weeks from today. They are further directed to handover to applicant office equipment, computers, furnitures and fixture in premises at Sr.5 and 24 of the notification.

3. The Competent Authority and EOW are directed to hand over amount of Rs.40 Lakhs alongwith accrued interest, if any to the applicant, within two weeks from today.

4. The Competent Authority is directed to the represent all depositors/investors before the applicant/intervener and to file the claims on their behalf. CA shall do all acts necessary for safeguarding and protecting the interest of depositors in Roofit Industries.

Date: 18.08.2017 A. S. Kaloti

Special Judge, M.P.I.D. Act & Addl. Sessions Judge,

City Civil & Sessions

Judge At Bombay.

Thus, even the said order, on which reliance is placed by the Respondents, shows that the IRP in that case approached the Designated Court under the MPID Act and after hearing all the parties, an order was passed and certain directions in the interest of depositors as contemplated under the MPID Act were also issued.”

For the sake of clarity, it is then clarified in para 29 that, “The learned counsel for the Petitioner has also relied on the judgment of NCLAT in the case of JSW Steel Ltd.(supra) wherein it has been held that the action of Directorate of Enforcement did not meet the criteria under Section 32-A (1) (b) of I.B. Code. However, in the present case, the Designated Court under MPID Act will examine the said aspect and therefore, the said judgment is not applicable to the present case.”

In the ultimate analysis, the Bench then holds in para 30 that, “Thus, in view of the above discussion, we hold that the NCLT has no jurisdiction to examine legality or validity of action taken under MPID Act and it is only the Designated Court constituted under Section 6 of the MPID Act that will have exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the same. Therefore, the impugned order passed by the NCLT is without jurisdiction and therefore, amenable to a challenge in our writ jurisdiction.”

Quite significantly, it is then held in para 31 that, “Thus, it is clear that the only remedy for Respondent-IRP is to approach the Designated Court under Section 7 of the MPID Act. Therefore, the impugned order passed by NCLT by which the said account was directed to be de-freezed, is without jurisdiction. The learned AGP has rightly relied on the judgments in Whirlpool Corporation (supra), Harbanslal Sahnia (supra), Committee of Management(supra) and Godrej Sara Lee Ltd. (supra) wherein it is consistently held that the power to issue prerogative writs under Article 226 of the Constitution is plenary in nature and is not limited by any other provision of the Constitution. This power can be exercised by the High Court not only for issuing writs in the nature of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari for the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights contained in Part III of the Constitution but also for “any other purpose”. Under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Court, having regard to the facts of the case, has a discretion to entertain or not to entertain a writ petition. But the High Court has imposed upon itself certain restrictions, one of which is that if an effective and efficacious remedy is available, the High Court would not normally exercise its jurisdiction. But the alternative remedy has been consistently held by this Court not to operate as a bar in at least three contingencies, namely, where the writ petition has been filed for the enforcement of any fundamental right or where there has been a violation of the principle of natural justice or where the order or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or the vires of an Act is challenged.”

Now coming to the concluding paras. Para 32 states that, “In view of above discussion, we quash and set aside the order dated 28/01/2019 passed by the NCLT in M.A.No.1372/2018 in C.P.No.1138/I & BC/NCLT/MB/MAH/2017 by which the said account was directed to be de-freezed. The Respondents can approach the Designated Court under section 7 of the M.P.I.D. Act seeking appropriate reliefs. We have not dealt with the merits of the case and the contentions in that behalf are expressly kept open. Rule is made absolute in above terms with no order as to costs.” Finally, it is then held in the last para 33 that, “In view of disposal of the Writ Petition, Civil Application No.29 of 2020 does not survive and is disposed of as such.”

Quite rightly, the two Judge Bench of the Bombay High Court comprising of Justice SC Gupte and Justice Madhav Tamdar have substantiated this notable judgment with logical and learned reasons rightly while also noting that the only remedy for the IRP now is to approach the designated court under Section 7 of the MPID Act and set aside the NCLT’s order. It has rightly held that NCLT has no jurisdiction to examine the legality or validity of action taken under MPID Act. It has to be now complied with. There can certainly be no ever denying or disputing it!

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India’s European dilemma as a ‘Vishwa Shishya’: Strategic delusions & idea-centrism issues

Abhivardhan

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The year 2020 marks the shedding of ideological obscuration amidst democracies. Geopolitics and the face of ‘realpolitik’ is undoubtedly at the centre of many problems and avenues that the world accordingly faces. India’s dilemma therefore – is different. In many aspects, India has a fortunate position, unlike EU and the US, which we must never ignore. In terms of constitutionalism, India can learn the social coherency and the urge of credibility towards its institutions from Europe, while in terms of the of the dynamic nature of a democracy and its three sections, it can certainly learn from the US. In terms of strategy and information warfare, India needs to learn from Israel and Russia. In addition, in terms of harnessing the global supply chain and enabling the middle class in India to grow, it can learn, if not inspire from China, Bangladesh and Japan. However, to learn is different from the art, handiness and clarity to adopt or implement. For years, India has been a different ‘Vishwa Shishya’ (term coined by Harsh Gupta, one of the authors of ‘A New Idea of India’), where even the understanding of the term is not as literal as the term even depicts. Vishwa Shishya means someone who can be a ‘disciple’ of the world, in a rigorous, focused and devoted manner. For a constitutional cum civilizational state like India, the internal and exterior annals of learning and relationship towards the world itself have been crispy, confusing and improving. No disciple is perfect, and it is certain that there are strategic, constitutional and economic backlashes that are faced in general. Therefore, even if Europeans or Americans see India differently in a technocratic or Newtonian manner, the depiction itself is not complete, neither absolute.

Even if you see the 6 stages of Indian Foreign Policy as beautifully explained by India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar in the 4th Ramnath Goenka Lecture, 2019 – then you will find that the 2nd and 3rd phases of vulnerability, recovery and regional assertion flipped India’s earlier ideological connectivity with Nehruvian Socialism (political and economic). The social faction of Nehruvian Socialism met its gradual end in the 4th and 5th phases, when economic growth and balancing ties with the US, China and Russia was important. Despite the fact that in the matters of politics, society and economics, there are still some percolations or strands of degeneracy of India’s civilizational ethos, there is no doubt that a sense of revival is imminent, which will be more or less a struggle, for not a long time. The current stage of energy diplomacy, which India stepped in since 2014, has been adventurous – and is reaching the logical conclusion of its beginning in 2020, which was fast because of the expose of the global conditions due to one pandemic. However, the impact is still not much significant, because rebounding and strategic protectionism will drive countries to become competitive. India and ASEAN countries are at the verge of the same. In fact, towards the likelihood or non-likelihood of Joe Biden winning the US Presidency, India is seeking an outreach towards the Democratic Party with the hope that the US is still bipartisan. Under Joe Biden, this would seem calculatedly true (if he wins), and this therefore must not be ignored. Considering the mess that the US Presidential Elections 2020 have become, and the Democratic Party’s deep divisions within, it is clear that the benefit of doubt over the transformation of the realpolitik conditions of the international community will be now central to two important regions – the Indo-Pacific up to the Far East & continental Europe. The article attempts to declutter India’s dilemma towards Europe over two important issues – strategic delusions and idea-centrism.

India and Europe – Moderate & Natural Partners

There is no doubt in asserting that India and Europe are moderate natural partners, in areas such as trade and environment. A report from the European Parliament also suggests that the potential impact of an EU-India trade agreement at between €8 billion and €8.5 billion gains from increased trade for both sides, with a more noteworthy upsurge of trade gains likely towards the Indian side. The study also refers to additional potential gains from enhanced coordination on the provision of global public goods, such as environmental standards. Even in culture, Europe and India are not far, but closer in a reasonable manner. The EU in India organizes cultural fests with the Indian Government and participates in the dialogues and consultations openly. Even Ambassadors from European countries are open to participate with India reasonably. However, the real issue begins when India and Europe, at social levels, clash. This clash is not civilizational, but has both ideological and cultural aspects, which exists, and is not affably even noticed properly by the European community, if is done by the Indian community. The problems, which affect the coherence of cultural-personal relationships between India and Europe are ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism.

There is no doubt to expect that Europe and India do share some common worldviews, which in general is not so close, if can be near to coherency. Whenever we estimate the US’s views on India, we often jump on Hinduphobia and the Kashmir question/affinity towards Pakistan or kindness towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which is merely a limited angle to see the trajectory of Indo-US relations. Similarly, the argument kept that ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism exists as a problem is not merely a monolith of differences over religion and human rights, because the issue of Hinduphobia, like in the US, is more related to the lack of awareness and consciousness in culture policy and diplomacy, which very few Non-Resident Indians reflect in the Americas and Europe, unfortunately. The problems that India as a civilizational state faces, are definitely real, but cannot be overestimated, nor exaggerated. Same applies to those people, who exaggerate Eurocentric world views and act ethnocentric over India and its internal political and social problems – like they intend to do in the case of Africa as well. This exaggeration, has been at peak in the US for long, if not is so much in Europe, where a set of people taint the Indian worldview unreasonably. India’s communication and counter-information strategy has been weak and unfit, which is not completely owed to the Indian Government’s mistakes in dealing with information warfare from the West. In fact, the burden must be shared by the Eurocentric and ethnocentric Western media, which has not been non-partisan for a long time, despite the fact that colonialism and cold war mentality are over. Ideological obscuration, therefore is not the basis of European worldview, in completion, but it also does not mean that Europe cannot suffer from the lasting effects of lack of cultural sensitivity and mobility. The mobile and supportive behaviour of the Central and Eastern European bloc towards India has been a positive act, and will help foster better Indo-EU relations. Inviting center-right and few far-right MEPs to visit the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir in 2019 is not an ideological move, because Eurocentrism is not just the disease of those leaders, who are socialists (even libertarians and conservatives have a lack of awareness of India’s cultural sensitivity and mobility) & so, even Christian conservatives, and libertarians could have made mistakes in understanding the Indian state. Fortunately, the feedback was positive enough, which is a significant win for India. Even the uproar over the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 was unfounded – because the classification of a particular set of people given for the purpose of citizenship into India, does not bar people from earning citizenship into India through legal means, which is naturalization (for outsiders). Unless the Citizenship Amendment Rules of 2020 or 2021 come, no absoluteness over the same matter can be reckoned by the European side over the constitutionality of the Act, and thus, even this claim is unfounded.

Strategic Delusions and its Percolation

Now, why ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism is not myopic to the Indian Government, but to Europeans? Is awareness the only reason? Perhaps not. Europe is very much open in terms of engagement and diversification, and blaming a set of Far-Left/Far-Right political leaders is just an unreasonable method to deal with the problems India and Europe have had for some time. In this century, the European Union needs a defence arrangement (to end the over-reliance on NATO for good), to reckon a non-defeatist and science-security-centric technology leadership (which is being fought among China, the US, India and ASEAN, to name some) and finally, a relevant global competition policy (which is urgent considering the expansionist designs of China in Eastern Europe and the Scandinavian region). In all 3, the situation is quite not much grown, and the migration crisis has already caused some Central and European States to ignore the EU over migration. Although migration is an issue of zero concern to India, there is no doubt that India is eager enough to be patient to seek a revitalized and transformed Europe, which can balance populism and political correctness, like Emmanuel Macron over Islamist extremism, which Angela Merkel could never be able to do so. India’s arduous support of Macron and his diplomatic and personal dignity is not a populist anti-Muslim move, but a clear indication of what reformed multilateralism looks like.

Also, the US is more damaged as an institutional democracy, which is owed to the 12 years of over-personalization of the sanguine nature of the Presidency it relies on. Frankly, it is a bipartisan failure, of both the Democrats and the Republicans, but considering that the Republican party intends to move forward and not endorse Donald J Trump’s rants, they will never ignore the achievements of the 45th President – but rather capitalize on the same reasonably. The Democrats however, have some really bad years ahead due to their stance over the Critical Race Theory, and the Black Lives Matter campaigning, which in no way helps the minorities. In fact, as per the AP VoteCast survey on the US Presidential Elections 2020, around 35% Muslims voted for Donald J Trump, including a more diverse coalition of women, Latino and black voters. The white vote has plummeted, which is insanely interesting. Also, the House Republicans have gained amassed benefits in their numbers, even if they cannot grab the majority this year, which shows that the end of a Trump Presidency, will undeniably lead to a degeneracy and decay of the democratic socialists and cultural Marxists, who dominated the image of the Democratic Party for long, and destroyed their credibility around the world. The relationship between democratic socialists and cultural Marxists in the US & Europe is also not unfounded. However, considering France and Germany’s unison over resisting political Islam and China, which will be significant in Europe in the coming years, the political disease of eurocentrism is set to be cured better, thus making the European political faction cautious about their worldviews. A reasonable definition of anti-Semitism also has been adopted by the Global Imams Council, which is a reasonable move, not only in the eyes of UAE and Saudi Arabia, but also the European right, which has to stand up reasonably. European secularism will also take a dramatic turn. France’ Macron is a perfect balance between the Far-Left and the Far-Right in Europe, and before Chancellor Merkel leaves world politics, she will never be intending to taint the Christian Democratic Union in Germany, and therefore empowering the Far-Right Alternative for Germany. Thus, the four years of Trump Presidency, even if have been turbulent for Europe and its institutional cum ideological values, have given a sense of learning to Europe to expose itself to a stronger and resilient worldview, which is coherent.

Additionally, Europeans are now realizing that they need to bridge and change their policies over three significant countries – India, Russia and China. With India, Europe is set for a trade deal any year soon, in clear opposition to the treachery of the values of European liberalism (or libertarianism) committed by the Chinese Communist Party led by Xi Jinping. Taiwan cannot be ignored anymore, as not only the US, but some EU member-states are leaning to endorse the leadership there in a moderate and transforming resistance against the Chinese wolf-warrior diplomacy. With Russia, the range of complexity depends on the state of Central Asia, where if Europe and NATO do not control Turkey (supported by Pakistan), then the US might step in assertively. However, it is in the best interest of Europe to sanction and take action against Reccip Tayyip Erdogan. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the umbilical cords to the geopolitical transformation of defence partnerships between India and EU member-states. India already is in course for defence partnerships with Kazakhstan under the nose of China, as Eurasian Times reported. Thus, a better vision of multiculturalism – which started from Europe (not the US) in the 1990s can be presented to the international community, which will be welcomed heartily by the Indian Government.

IDEA-CENTRISM AND ITS DIMENSIONS

India shares the values of multiculturalism that Europe concedes to. Secularism and multiculturalism, despite being amazingly different, are essential to India and Europe in general. Indian secularism is not based on Semitic faiths such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism (although several attempts were made in India to impose the same, unfortunately by the Indian National Congress and the Nehruvian socialists for years). Instead, India’s vision of secularism, in full agreement with Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta’s A New Idea of India – is composed of respect and devotion towards the civilizational heritage and diversity of India’s geography and cultures, which cannot be limited to the term called ‘Hindu Nationalism’ & the idea of coherence instead of artificial tolerance towards different Semitic and non-Semitic faiths, frankly. India has always welcomed people of different faiths, and will do, whenever it feels reasonable enough. Also, the dimension of sovereignty in India, is not ideological, but pragmatic, based on (1) a feudal governance model, which is often misinterpreted as ‘quasi-federalism’ under Indian Constitutional Law (since the Government of India Act of 1935 and other colonial adoptions from the British is still present in India) and (2) central to the concept of competence, and not power (which the Western and Indian media represents worse on unfounded claims). Kautilya, the architect of the Mauryan empire always embraced the idea of competence over a micro-managed servility towards power as a corrupt concept. It was Ashoka who destroyed this empire, because of his micro-management of governance and the eulogization of his identity as a King equivalent to that of a God, which never happens commonly in the history of Indic kings. Celebrating the cult and its diversity is not unfounded, neither unreasonable for the Indian people, because of years of mistreatment of the Indian state and the judiciary of the religious, social and cultural institutions of the Indic community. For example, the word Dharma is not equivalent to the word ‘religion’ and ‘Jati’ is not the English word ‘caste’, which unfortunately, has been a colonial misrepresentation of the Indic culture. Thus, the feudal system of constitutionalism from the British had its own reasonability in India, which now can be effectively transformed to a federal but responsible and accountable system of governance. India knows it very well that dominance in the information age is based on decentralization, not over-centralization of the state machinery. This inspiration is not directly American, but European – because if we see the laws (passed and in process to be proposed or passed in the Indian Parliament), many of them on information technology, AI and fintech are directly inspired from Europe. The Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 is definitely inspired from the General Protection Data Regulation with some Indian modification of course, for example. Therefore, there is no doubt that India is eager to learn from Europe, its old friend. What Europe should do to express gratitude is to transform and revitalize its approach to strategize some limited identitarian European values, which are universal yet pragmatic, which starts with the European Parliament and the European Commission’s leaderships. Center-right, libertarian and Center-left politicians are better than Far-Right and Far-Left parties, and even when we see the current state of the COVID19 pandemic, we will find surveys proving that the Far-Right, for example, is suffering pretty well, especially in Germany and Austria. Center-right parties will have a better stronghold, but if their public health policies are not reasonable, then mere populism or assurance will not help the people. On the other hand, in India, the Culture-conservative and governance-libertarian governments in India (state-level) are doing significantly well in their efforts to curb the COVID-19 virus and its spread. Some socialist governments in India are not doing well, like West Bengal and Kerala, while the Central Government in India is well-prepared in contact tracing, decreasing the number of deaths and even handling the quarantine zones, which no one would have ever expected from a country like India, whose health infrastructure is a serious mess. India has been cooperative and helpful towards ASEAN countries, like what European Union tries to do with the Middle East and even some non-EU member-states as well as the Commission did since March 2020.

Thus, it is clear that the pair of India and Europe can certainly do better in terms of cooperation and transformation of the global economy, global health and environment system & the world of multilateralism, instead of the pair of India and the US. No one should ignore the potential of an Indo-US cooperation – but over relying on a skewed democracy like the US is often risky for the resilience of the Indian democracy. India can adopt and maintain the transformation of QUAD to its logical beginning as of now, as it presides the UN Security Council, the Shanghai Cooperation, G20 and other significant forums along with the Executive Bodies of the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization. It is however also in the best interest of Europe, like India to have a meaningful and not over-reliant relationship with the US. Instead, Europe can look towards the global south and transform a resilient and meaningful network of partnerships swiftly, in the interest of peace and security, and so, a reasonable model of economic development. The US will be significant in the coming years to combat ideological obscuration and culture wars, which India and Europe would never to intrude much. Thus, one US election cannot decide in absolutism, as to how the state of the world will be – as the impact of the changes made by President Trump will help more, and damage less, the global order. This is therefore the best moment of a charted territory in the relationship between India and Europe to revitalize and protect the liberalism that the rules-based international order is fond of, which is not misused by anyone, whether it is the US, or China or Russia.

About the author: Abhivardhan is the Chief Executive Officer of Internationalism and the Chairperson & Managing Trustee of the Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law.

In terms of strategy and information warfare, India needs to learn from Israel and Russia. In addition, in terms of harnessing the global supply chain and enabling the middle class in India to grow, it can learn from China, Bangladesh and Japan. However, to learn is different from the art, handiness and clarity to adopt or implement. For years, India has been a different ‘Vishwa Shishya’ (term coined by Harsh Gupta, one of the authors of ‘A New Idea of India’), where even the understanding of the term is not as literal as the term even depicts.

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