EXCLUSION OF ADVOCATES FOR CONSIDERATION AS JUDICIAL MEMBERS IN TRIBUNALS CONTRARY TO SC JUDGEMENTS: TOP COURT - The Daily Guardian
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EXCLUSION OF ADVOCATES FOR CONSIDERATION AS JUDICIAL MEMBERS IN TRIBUNALS CONTRARY TO SC JUDGEMENTS: TOP COURT

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TOP COURT

It is most refreshing, most rejuvenating and most rejoicing to see that while underscoring the invaluable importance of lawyers in imparting justice, the three Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat in a latest, landmark, learned and laudable judgment titled Madras Bar Association vs Union of India & Anr. in Writ Petition (C) No. 804 of 2020 along with others delivered on November 27, 2020 minced just no words that exclusion of advocates in 10 out of 19 tribunals, for consideration as judicial members is contrary to the Supreme Court judgments in Union of India v. Madras Bar Association (2010) and Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2015). Why should advocates be excluded from it? Why can’t they become part of it?

Needless to say, it is advocates who really constitute the backbone of judicial system? How can the judicial system operate normally if the backbone itself is removed from the body? You tell me! This alone explains why the petitioner which is the Madras Bar Association has been so relentless in pursuing this matter to take it to its logical conclusion! Its fight has certainly not gone in vain as this extremely judgment itself shows!

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice L Nageswara Rao for himself, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice S Ravindra Bhat sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “This Court is once again, within the span of a year, called upon to decide the constitutionality of various provisions concerning the selection, appointment, tenure, conditions of service, and ancillary matters relating to various tribunals, 19 in number, which act in aid of the judicial branch. That the judicial system and this Court in particular has to live these déjà vu moments, time and again (exemplified by no less than four constitution bench judgments) in the last 8 years, speaks profound volumes about the constancy of other branches of governance, in their insistency regarding these issues. At the heart of this, however, are stakes far greater: the guarantee of the rule of law to each citizen of the country, with the concomitant guarantee of equal protection of the law. This judgment is to be read as a sequel, and together with the decision of the Constitution Bench in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Limited (2020) 6 SCC 1.”

To say the least, it is then mentioned in para 2 that, “The core controversy arising for this Court’s consideration is the constitutional validity of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities [Qualification, Experience and Other Conditions of Service of Members] Rules, 2020” (hereinafter referred to as “the 2020 Rules”).”

While elaborating in detail, the Bench then informs in para 3 that, “Before considering the merits of the case, it is necessary to refer to the events preceding the issuance of the 2020 Rules for a better understanding of the dispute. Like many other nations, India recognized the need for Tribunalisation of justice to provide for adjudication by persons with ability to decide disputes in specific fields as well as to provide expedited justice in certain kinds of cases. Part XIV-A was inserted in the Constitution of India by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976. Article 323-A enables the Parliament to constitute administrative tribunals for adjudication of the disputes relating to the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State or any local or other authority. According to Article 323-B, the appropriate Legislature may constitute Tribunals for adjudication of any dispute, complaints or other offences with respect to all or any of the matters specified in Clause (2) therein. The vires of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 (enacted by Parliament in furtherance of Article 323A, for setting up administrative tribunals for adjudication of service disputes of public servants) was challenged in proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. Two questions that were posed in the said Writ Petition related to the exclusion of jurisdiction of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution in service matters, the composition of the administrative Tribunal and the mode of appointment of Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Members. While holding that the bar on jurisdiction of the High Courts’ cannot be a ground of attack, this Court in S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India (1987) 1 SCC 124 held that the Tribunal “should be a real substitute of the High Courts not only in form and de jure but in content and de facto”. The Central Government was directed to make modifications to the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 pertaining to the composition of the Tribunal to ensure selection of proper and competent people to the posts of Presiding Officers of the Tribunal.”

In totality, the Bench then very rightly sums up in para 53 that, “The upshot of the above discussion leads this Court to issue the following directions:-

(i) The Union of India shall constitute a National Tribunals Commission which shall act as an independent body to supervise the appointments and functioning of Tribunals, as well as to conduct disciplinary proceedings against members of Tribunals and to take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the Tribunals, in an appropriate manner. Till the National Tribunals Commission is constituted, a separate wing in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India shall be established to cater to the requirements of the Tribunals.

(ii) Instead of the four-member Search-cum-Selection Committees provided for in Column (4) of the Schedule to the 2020 Rules with the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, outgoing or sitting Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal and two Secretaries to the Government of India, the Search-cum-Selection Committees should comprise of the following members:

(a) The Chief Justice of India or his nominee – Chairperson (with a casting vote).

(b) The outgoing Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal in case of appointment of the Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal (or) the sitting Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal in case of appointment of other members of the Tribunal (or) a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court in case the Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal is seeking re-appointment – member;

(c) Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India – member;

(d) Secretary to the Government of India from a department other than the parent or sponsoring department, nominated by the Cabinet Secretary – member;

(e) Secretary to the sponsoring or parent Ministry or Department – Member Secretary/Convener (without a vote). Till amendments are carried out, the 2020 Rules shall be read in the manner indicated.

(iii) Rule 4(2) of the 2020 Rules shall be amended to provide that the Search-cum-Selection Committee shall recommend the name of one person for appointment to each post instead of a panel of two or three persons for appointment to each post. Another name may be recommended to be included in the waiting list.

(iv) The Chairpersons, Vice-Chairpersons and the members of the Tribunal shall hold office for a term of five years and shall be eligible for reappointment. Rule 9(2) of the 2020 Rules shall be amended to provide that the Vice-Chairman, Vice-Chairperson and other members shall hold office till they attain the age of sixty-seven years.

(v) The Union of India shall make serious efforts to the Chairman or Chairperson or President and other members of the Tribunals. If providing housing is not possible, the Union of India shall pay the Chairman or Chairperson or President and Vice-Chairman, Vice-Chairperson, Vice President of the Tribunals an amount of Rs. 1,50,000/- per month as house rent allowance and Rs. 1,25,000/- per month for other members of the Tribunals. This direction shall be effective from 01.01.2021.

(vi) The 2020 Rules shall be amended to make advocates with an experience of at least 10 years eligible for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals. While considering advocates for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals, the Search-cum-Selection Committee shall take into account the experience of the Advocate at the bar and their specialization in the relevant branches of law. They shall be entitled for reappointment for at least one term by giving preference to the service rendered by them for the Tribunals.

(vii) The members of the Indian Legal Service shall be eligible for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals, provided that they fulfil the criteria applicable to advocates subject to suitability to be assessed by the Search-cum-Selection Committee on the basis of their experience and knowledge in the specialized branch of law.

(viii) Rule 8 of the 2020 Rules shall be amended to reflect that the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committee in matters of disciplinary actions shall be final and the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committee shall be implemented by the Central Government.

(ix) The Union of India shall make appointments to Tribunals within three months from the date on which the Search-cum-Selection Committee completes the selection process and makes its recommendations.

(x) The 2020 Rules shall have prospective effect and will be applicable from 12.02.2020, as per Rule 1(2) of the 2020 Rules.

(xi) Appointments made prior to the 2017 Rules are governed by the parent Acts and Rules which established the concerned Tribunals. In view of the interim orders passed by the Court in Rojer Mathew (supra), appointments made during the pendency of Rojer Mathew (supra) were also governed by the parent Acts and Rules. Any appointments that were made after the 2020 Rules came into force i.e. on or after 12.02.2020 shall be governed by the 2020 rules subject to the modifications directed in the preceding paragraphs of this judgment.”

(xii) Appointments made under the 2020 Rules till the date of this judgment, shall not be considered invalid, insofar as they conformed to the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committees in terms of the 2020 Rules. Such appointments are upheld, and shall not be called into question on the ground that the Search-cum-Selection Committees which recommended the appointment of Chairman, Chairperson, President or other members were in terms of the 2020 Rules, as they stood before the modifications directed in this judgment. They are, in other words, saved.

(xiii) In case the Search-cum-Selection Committees have made recommendations after conducting selections in accordance with the 2020 Rules, appointments shall be made within three months from today and shall not be subject matter of challenge on the ground that they are not in accord with this judgment.

(xiv) The terms and conditions relating to salary, benefits, allowances, house rent allowance etc. shall be in accordance with the terms indicated in, and directed by this judgment.

(xv) The Chairpersons, Vice Chairpersons and members of the Tribunals appointed prior to 12.02.2020 shall be governed by the parent statutes and Rules as per which they were appointed. The 2020 Rules shall be applicable with the modifications directed in the preceding paragraphs to those who were appointed after 12.02.2020. While reserving the matter for judgment on 09.10.2020, we extended the term of the Chairpersons, Vice Chairpersons and the members of the Tribunals shall be in accordance with the applicable Rules as mentioned above.”

Most significantly, it is worth paying attention that it is then observed in the epilogue that, “Dispensation of justice by the Tribunals can be effective only when they function independent of any executive control: this renders them credible and generates public confidence. We have noticed a disturbing trend of the Government not implementing the directions issued by this Court. To ensure that the Tribunals should not function as another department under the control of the executive, repeated directions have been issued which have gone unheeded forcing the Petitioner to approach this Court time and again. It is high time that we put an end to this practice. Rules are framed which are completely contrary to the directions issued by this Court. Upon the tribunals has devolved the task of marking boundaries of what is legally permissible and feasible (as opposed to what is not lawful and is indefensible) conduct, in a normative sense guiding future behavior of those subject to the jurisdictions of such tribunals. This task is rendered even more crucial, given that appeals against their decisions lie directly to the Supreme Court and public law intervention on the merits of such decisions is all but excluded. Also, these tribunals are expected to be consistent, and therefore, adhere to their precedents, inasmuch as they oversee regulatory behavior in several key areas of the economy. Therefore, it is crucial that these tribunals are run by a robust mix of experts, i.e. those with experience in policy in the relevant field, and those with judicial or legal experience and competence in such fields. The functioning or non-functioning of any of these tribunals due to lack of competence or understanding has a direct adverse impact on those who expect effective and swift justice from them. The resultant fallout is invariably an increased docket load, especially by recourse to Article 226 of the Constitution of India. These aspects are highlighted once again to stress that these tribunals do not function in isolation, but are a part of the larger scheme of justice dispensation envisioned by the Constitution and have to function independently, and effectively, to live up to their mandate. The involvement of this Court, in the series of decisions, rendered by no less than six Constitution Benches, underscores the importance of this aspect. The role of both the courts as upholders of judicial independence, and the executive as the policy making and implementing limb of governance, is to be concordant and collaborative. This Court expects that the present directions are adhere to and implemented, so that future litigation is avoided. The Government is, accordingly, directed to strictly adhere to the directions given above and not force the Petitioner – Madras Bar Association, which has been relentless in its efforts to ensure judicial independence of the Tribunals, to knock the doors of this Court again.”

To summarise, the Centre must pay heed to what the Apex Court has said and comply with accordingly. Advocates should not be excluded from consideration and those advocates who are eligible to become a High Court Judge with an experience of 10 years in the High Court should be rendered eligible for appointment as a judicial member of the Tribunal. However, it is left open to the Search-cum-Selection Committee to take into account in the experience of the Advocates at the Bar and the specialization of the advocates in the relevant branch of law while considering them for appointment as judicial members. The Apex Court also said that it sees no harm in members of the Indian Legal Service being considered as judicial members, provided they satisfy the criteria relating to the standing at the bar and specialization required. The court also added that appointment of competent lawyers and technical members is in furtherance of judicial independence. These Tribunals are expected to be independent, vibrant and efficient in their functioning. So Centre must get down promptly to its job of appointing competent lawyers as laid down by the Apex Court in this latest, landmark, learned and laudable judgment so elegantly, effectively and eloquently!

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Policy & Politics

India attracts $67 billion FDI in Apr-Dec 2020

Tarun Nangia

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India attracted total FDI inflow of US$ 67.54 billion during April to December 2020;

FDI equity inflow grew by 40% in the first 9 months of F.Y. 2020-21 (US$ 51.47 billion . Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a major driver of economic growth and an important source of non-debt finance for the economic development of India. It has been the endeavor of the Government to put in place an enabling and investor friendly FDI policy. The intent all this while has been to make the FDI policy more investor friendly and remove the policy bottlenecks that have been hindering the investment inflows into the country. The steps taken in this direction during the last six and a half years have borne fruit, as is evident from the ever-increasing volumes of FDI inflows being received into the country. Continuing on the path of FDI liberalization and simplification, Government has carried out FDI reforms across various sectors.

Measures taken by the Government on the fronts of FDI policy reforms, investment facilitation and ease of doing business have resulted in increased FDI inflows into the country. The following trends in India’s Foreign Direct Investment are an endorsement of its status as a preferred investment destination amongst global investors:

• India has attracted total FDI inflow of US$ 67.54 billion during April to December 2020. It is the highest ever for the first ninth months of a financial year and 22% higher as compared to the first ninth months of 2019-20 (US$ 55.14 billion).

• FDI equity inflow grew by 40% in the first 9 months of F.Y. 2020-21 (US$ 51.47 billion) compared to the year ago period (US$ 36.77 billion).

• FDI inflow increased by 37% in 3rd Quarter of 2020-21 (US$ 26.16 billion) compared to 3rd quarter of 2019-20 (US$ 19.09 billion).

• FDI inflow showed positive growth of 24% in the month of December, 2020 (US$ 9.22 billion) compared to December, 2019 (US$ 7.46 billion)

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Policy & Politics

FIRST EXPORT CONSIGNMENTS OF ‘RED RICE’ FROM ASSAM TO UNITED STATES FLAGGED OFF

Tarun Nangia

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In a major boost to India’s rice exports potential, the first consignment of ‘red rice’ was flagged off today to the USA. Iron rich ‘red rice’ is grown in Brahmaputra valley of Assam, without the use of any chemical fertilizer. The rice variety is referred as ‘Bao-dhaan’, which is an integral part of the Assamese food.

The red rice is being sourced by leading rice exporter – LT Foods. The flagging off ceremony of the export consignments was carried out by APEDA Chairman Dr M. Angamuthu at Sonepat, Haryana. As the exports of ‘red rice’ grow, it would bring enhance incomes of farming families of the Brahmaputra flood plains.

APEDA has promoting rice exports through collaborations with various stakeholders in the value chains. The government had set up the Rice Export Promotion Forum (REPF), under the aegis of the APEDA. REPF has representations from rice industry, exporters, officials from APEDA, ministry of commerce and directors of agriculture from major rice producing states including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

During the April – January period of 2020-21, the shipment of non-Basmati rice witnessed an impressive spike. The non-basmati rice exports was Rs 26,058 crore (3506 US$ Million) during April-January, 2021 against Rs 11,543 crore (1627 US$ Million) reported during April-January, 2020 period. The exports of non-Basmati witnessed a growth of 125 % in Rupee term and 115 % Dollar terms.

The sharp spike in rice exports especially during a phase where globally the COVID19 pandemic has disrupted supply changes many commodities, has been attributed to the government taking prompt measures to ensure exports of rice while taking all the COVID19 related safety precautions. “We took several measures in terms of ensuring safety and hygiene because of the operational and health challenges posed by COVID19, while ensuring that rice exports continue uninterrupted,” M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA has said.

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CONSULTATIVE APPROACH OF THE GOVERNMENT IN FORMING POLICY FOR CHEMICALS AND PETROCHEMICALS SECTOR: SADANANDA GOWDA

Tarun Nangia

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Mr DV Sadananda Gowda, Minister of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Govt of India today emphasized that the government is working on a consultative approach in forming the policies for India chemicals and petrochemicals sector.

Addressing a webinar on ‘Implementation Strategy of Budget Announcement 2021-22’, organised by the Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals, Govt of India and FICCI, Mr Gowda said that the Prime Minister’s intention is to see that the implementations of the Budget announcements be given more importance. “Implementations of the Budget announcements cannot be done only by the government. We should take our industry in confidence so that implementations can start from first week of April. The challenge for the govt is to now match the suggestions of the industry with the implementation part,” he added.

Gowda further said that Budget 21-22 has provided a nearly 200 per cent boost to the Indian pharmaceutical sector as the government sets around INR 124.42 cr for initiatives aimed at the development of the industry. “The big push for the pharma sector is being seen as an attempt to discourage the imports of raw materials that are widely used in local manufacturing,” he emphasized.

During the COVID-19 slowdown there has been noticeable production and consumption shift towards Asian and South Asian countries. The Speciality Chemical sector in India has been one of the few sectors that has remained largely unfazed by the ongoing slowdown, he added.

Highlighting the importance of R&D in the sector, Gowda said that a balanced approach through resource mobilization, key government initiatives in the sector and developing technological capabilities shall spur growth. This will also enable us to overcome the pandemic situation and make the sector stronger and more competitive.

Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State (IC) for Ports, Shipping and Waterways & Minister of State for Chemicals & Fertilizers, Govt of India said that the government is working to introduce PLI scheme for the Chemicals sector to increase domestic production. There are immense opportunities for the industry and the government is working to ensure to provide all necessary support. “The government decides on policies after a thorough research on ground and wants to make the industry competitive. We have to encash the opportunity,” he added.

Mandaviya further said that India has both the potential and the manpower to deal with the pandemic. The result of medicine diplomacy has been such that the entire world now wants to procure vaccines from India. After supplying medicines to 120 countries, no country has complained of inferior quality medicine. The Indian industry, its entrepreneurs and the Made in India stamp have set a benchmark globally, he noted.

Yogendra Tripathi, Secretary, Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Govt of India said that the global petrochemical market is estimated to be $ 453 bn in 2020 and in the current decade is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 6 per cent. “In the Indian context, the growth of petrochemicals and chemicals is going to beat the global trends,” he added.

Deepak C Mehta, Chairman, FICCI Chemicals Committee and CMD, Deepak Nitrate said that the budget did give some corrective measures for the duty structures particularly in places where there was inverse duty. The budget has given us many newer signals that are more on macro level but are very particular to the chemical industry, he added.

Kamal Nanavaty, President, CPMA said that as the world moves from conventional mobility of internal combustion engines to electric and hybrid vehicles, we will have the refining assets really become available to build new petrochemical base.

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Policy & Politics

A lurking air pollution emergency amidst farmers’ agitation

It is surprising that dispensing with the fine on stubble burning is turning negotiable for the government and the farmers at the cost of the health of millions of people in northern India who choke whenever the farm fires are lit.

Sudhir Mishra

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By imposing fines that were as high as Rs 2000 for not wearing masks, the Government of the NCT of Delhi demonstrated that when words do not work, restrictions become necessary. One cannot help but wonder where are these restrictions when it comes to protecting the air in and around Delhi.

The Central Government promulgated new farm laws/ ordinances in India during 2020 to protect the interests of farmers and also, to save the environment. Over the last few months Indian farmers have put up a strong resistance to the farm laws introduced by the Central Government in more ways than one. Since the highlight of their protest is their non-negotiable demand to repeal the three farm laws and a legal guarantee of MSP, some other demands of the farmers have gone unnoticed by the national media and especially the people of Delhi. 

A crucial part of their demand, apart from rolling back the three farm laws has been dispensing with the fine imposed on stubble burning. It is surprising that such a discussion on dispensing with the fine on stubble burning is turning negotiable for the Government and the farmers at the cost of the health of millions of people in northern India who choke whenever the farm fires are lit. The air pollution in Delhi has been the focus of the entire world for the last one decade with Delhi topping the list of the most polluted cities around the world. Needless to say, little has been done to address the issue effectively. On the contrary, conflicting stands have been taken by governments for the ‘state’ of Delhi.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for example, openly supports the agitation against the farm laws, while he had previously been very critical of the farmers in Punjab and Haryana for stubble burning. All his Press campaigns on the issue of air pollution in Delhi during 2019 had centred squarely on stubble burning, which he had blamed for the foul air in Delhi. Sadly, not even once did the Delhi Government suggested the stakeholders during the farmers’ crisis that stubble burning needs to be regulated and discouraged. In fact, during the ongoing farm agitation, stubble burning increased many folds and the capital city choked yet again, in the absence of any state protection whatsoever.

The Delhi Government has time and again identified stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana as the main contributor to air pollution in Delhi. The Central Government recently passed the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR Ordinance, 2020 to tackle this issue. Through this ordinance, stubble burning was to be penalised which was hopefully an effective step towards curbing the menace. However, the farm protests may even compel the Central Government to concede to the demand to exclude the penalty clause for stubble burning from the laws. In this sticky situation of blame-game, concessions and vested interests, the Delhi’s air emergency is once again pushed to the backburner. 

Personally, my fight for clean air in Delhi is on since 2015 before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter titled as ‘Sudhir Mishra vs Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ors.’ in W.P. (C) 2115/2015 tagged with a suo-moto matter of the High Court. Unfortunately, I suffer serious demotivation when I see professed global climate change crusader activists like Greta Thunberg supporting farm laws and not the right of the children of Delhi to breath in clean air. At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, I had again moved to the High Court of Delhi to somehow control air pollution in Delhi, which was being adversely affected by stubble burning. However, the court was advised by the Central Government that it would soon bring a law to penalise stubble burning. And now here we are, back to square one, with the likelihood of the law or ordinance that could have penalised farmers for stubble burning being sacrificed, while climate change activists protest in favour of the farmers and their historical ways. In fact, we also know the deplorable condition of ground water and that it›s brazen extraction for water intensive farming in Punjab and Haryana is detrimental to our hopeful climate goals. 

In October, 2020, the Supreme Court of India had indicated that it would study the stubble burning ordinance and pass orders, if necessary. However, in spite of the absence of any opinion of the Supreme Court on the said ordinance, the Government may concede to the demand of farmers and agree to remove the provision for imposing a fine on stubble burning and hence, wreak havoc with the health of millions of people. Moreover, Nobel Prize winners and other luminaries in the public eye internationally have come out in support of the farmers, turning a blind eye simultaneously to the consequences of stubble burning affecting the air pollution and smog in the national capital of Delhi. While climate change activists share toolkits and enhance international camaraderie around the laws, they fail to raise a climate change question supporting clean air for Delhi. 

Arguments have also been made by many distinguished environmentalists that the farmers’ protests for repealing the three farm laws are a smokescreen to arm-twist the Government into allowing the other demands made by the farmers, and here we see that the environmental concerns have gone for a toss in this tug-of-war between the farmers and the Government. To top it, the opposition is fighting tooth and nail to maybe gain political advantage, which is a point of concern for actual climate change warriors. The massive vote bank in areas of Punjab and Haryana have probably motivated political parties to single-handedly parrot the farmers at the cost of middle-class taxpayers of the National Capital of Delhi, who inhale smoke-filled foul air. 

In the entire maze of confusing discussions over the new farm laws controversy, somewhere the taxpaying middleclass of the capital city of Delhi have been the most neglected. Not only are the state borders closed and movements of Delhi residents restricted, but their lungs too are choking on account of the air quality in Delhi. The entire city is in a hostage situation and we are going to see sustained stubble burning in future as well, as farmers continue to be instigated to persist with their stir.  What is even more uninspiring is that while Delhi bears the brunt of this farm law crisis, there is no encouraging talk or message for Delhi citizens to build their faith in improved air quality in Delhi. Instead, people governing them have abandoned their responsibility and are looking the other way for a considerable period of time now. Global Climate Change Activists like Greta Thunberg’s support towards the farmers agitation against the farm laws, ostensibly for the climate has raised many eyebrows. If one considers the ground issues concerning environment, then Thunberg may not be an inspiration to many young children, especially of Delhi.

While it is desirable that the farmers concerns are resolved soon, but does it have to be at the cost of health of so many owing to the Air Emergency?

The author is Founder and Managing Partner, Trust Legal, Door Tenant at  No5 Barristers’ Chambers, United Kingdom and Climate Change Lawyer. 

In October 2020, the Supreme Court had indicated that it would study the stubble burning Ordinance and pass orders, if necessary. However, in spite of the absence of any opinion of the Supreme Court on the said Ordinance, the government may concede to the demand of farmers and agree to remove the provision for imposing a fine on stubble burning and hence, wreak havoc with the health of millions of people. Moreover, Nobel Prize winners and other luminaries in the public eye internationally have come out in support of the farmers, turning a blind eye simultaneously to the consequences of stubble burning affecting the air pollution and smog in the national capital of Delhi.

Global climate change activists like Greta Thunberg’s support towards the farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws, ostensibly for the climate, has raised many eyebrows. If one considers the ground issues concerning environment, then Thunberg may not be an inspiration to many young children, especially of Delhi. 

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Entire rail network to be fully electrified by December 2023, says Piyush Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Railways, Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Govt of India today said that the government is working to ensure that the entire rail network will be fully electrified by December 2023 and the entire rail network will run on renewable energy by 2030. Addressing the virtual session ‘Investment Opportunities in Andhra Pradesh’, during the‘Maritime India Summit 2021’, organized by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, jointly with FICCI, Goyal said that India has had a glorious maritime history and we are on the path to build an even greater maritime future. “In the last 6 years, the capacity of our major ports has almost doubled. We have developed smart cities and industrial parks and integrated ports with the coastal economic zones. Integration of Road, Rail & Waterways can truly make India ‘One Nation, One Market, One Supply’,” he added. Mr Goyal further said that we need to reduce our logistics cost so that the international and domestic freight costs will reduce from 13-14% cost of goods to a more acceptable international benchmark of 8%. “Bringing down the logistics cost is the need of the hour today. India cannot be competitive as long as our logistics cost remains so high. We are working on multi-modal logistics solutions to bring down the cost of transportation & increase supply chain efficiency. It’s time that we plan our port sector in such a manner that we can have modern and efficient ports, the turnaround time of ships can be brought down significantly. A more competitive spirit will help to keep the cost in freight and at port low,” he said. Maritime India summit 2021, he said will be the beginning of our victory against high freight costs, our victory to be an international player in maritime sector, our victory in ensuring jobs. “Under PM’s leadership, the country has had a very rapid V-shaped recovery. This Maritime India Summit 2021 will be the beginning of our victory to be an international player in the sector,” he added. Highlighting the potential in Andhra Pradesh, Goyal said that the government is working closely with the Govt of Andhra Pradesh to further develop road, rail and port infrastructure and promote dedicated freight corridor as both for encouraging economic activities and bring manufacturing activity & promote industrial parks in the State. “I would urge industry captains to let us build industry at sea. We on our part will ensure ease of doing business. We will work in partnership with States for enhancing ease of doing business at state and local level. He further stated that the maritime sector is a very critical sector for Atmanirbhar Bharat. We are working to turn our coastal region into a role model for ease of living and ease of doing business. He added that the government is working on 3 mantras for the infrastructure sector in the country – Upgrade, Create, Dedicate. “If we re-invent with technology driven solutions like robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, our sector is SAFE- Sustainable, Agile, Futuristic, Efficient. I appeal to all stakeholders to utilize this opportunity to transform from being ‘service provider’ to ‘knowledge provider’,”Mr Goyal asserted. Mr R Karikal Valaven, Special Chief Secretary Industries, Investment & Commerce, Govt of Andhra Pradesh said that the state of Andhra Pradesh is a natural choice for any investor to come and invest because of a very vibrant coastline. He further said that it is the endeavour of the state government to reduce the cost of doing business. “The state has a very good network of roads and railways and now with port infrastructure, the maritime economy is going to thrive. We are developing multimodal logistics parks to facilitate transportation,” he added. Highlighting the State’s industrial policy, YSR AP1,Mr Valaven, said that it is a one stop shop for investors providing all solutions, handholding, facilitation, market support and all support required for doing business. He further stated that the state government is also planning to promote maritime tourism. “Tourism is an area of our interest. All sea ports and fishing harbors will be connected through cruise tourism. We are aiming at inclusive growth for the state,” added Mr Valaven. MrK. Rama Mohana Rao, Chairman, Visakhapatnam Port Trust MrNP Ramakrishna Reddy, CEO, AP Maritime Board;Lt Cdr Ravindra Reddy, Dy. CEO, AP Maritime Board and Mr Durgesh Dubey, Deputy Chairman, Visakhapatnam Port Trust also shared their perspective during the session.

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Policy & Politics

Despite umpteen ceasefire agreements, Pakistan continues to provoke us

Another chance for Pakistan to mend fences with India.

Vijay Darda

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This is not the first time that India and Pakistan have signed a ceasefire agreement on their borders to give peace a chance. After the fierce Kargil War of 1999, there was peace on the border for sometime, but it was short-lived. By 2003, when the situation went from bad to worse, a ceasefire agreement was reached between the two countries. Now, India and Pakistan’s Director Generals of Military Operations have agreed to fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit and to ensure that the ceasefire agreement will not be violated by both the sides and peace will be restored along the border from Rajasthan to Kashmir! Will it really happen?

The world rests on hope and it reinforces trust. Therefore, the supporters of peace should hope for peace and efforts should be continued for achieving this objective. However, the 2003 ceasefire agreement also did not last long and in 2018 a similar agreement had to be reached once again. Interestingly, within the next three years, a ceasefire agreement has had to be signed again. The question is, once the agreement is reached why is it violated? Blame lies at the door of Pakistan. Our army does not fire needlessly. Our army responds when Pakistani army fires bullets and lobs mortars at innocent villagers or its snipers fire at our jawans.

This is indeed an act of noble-mindedness on the part of India that it has agreed for the latest ceasefire with its recalcitrant neighbour. Pakistan always tries to spoil the relationship. When India responds, it starts propaganda about the Kashmir issue around the world. Right now that its condition is bad, it wants to get some relief at the border because our army has kept a tight vigil over the region. Seeing the retreat of the Chinese army, the Pakistani establishment is feeling demoralised. Since India has always been in favour of peace, it is giving one more chance to Pakistan to mend its ways.

I also want to mention that the people of Pakistan also want good relations with India. The problem is their army. Enmity with India is its staple diet. Given that relations between India and Pakistan have reached such a nadir, the question in everyone’s mind is what drove Pakistan to opt for this ceasefire agreement?

In a significant shift of tone, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa seemed to have softened his approach towards India on February 2 when he announced that, “The time has come to extend a hand of peace and friendship in all directions.”

Consequent upon this statement, the firings from across the border have started to decrease. India replied in the affirmative to this gesture. Even Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aircraft on the way to Sri Lanka was allowed to pass through the Indian airspace, whereas Pakistan’s attitude has always been negative. Even our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aircraft was not allowed to pass through Pakistani airspace. India would have given a befitting reply but it was not done because India wants to improve relations with its neighbouring country.

An effort to restore peace was also made by the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee but Pakistan responded with the Kargil War. By the way, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been in favour of the fact that relations with Pakistan should be normal. After the 2008 Mumbai bomb blasts, all relations were frozen but in 2015, Narendra Modi broke the ice by paying a surprise visit to Pakistan and meeting the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his residence. Perhaps Nawaz Sharif also wanted to normalise relations, but a few days later there was a terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base. Pakistani terrorists were involved in it, which the army there had trained and radicalised them for this terror attack. When Imran Khan became the Prime Minister, he also tried to thaw the frozen relationship, but the army took him under its wings. Pakistan keeps sending consignments of arms and ammunition for terrorists in the Kashmir Valley. It should be kept in mind that those who play the game of blood are the enemies of democracy and the misfortune is that many invisible hands are always active to aid and abet those who do so.

Whatever may be the reason for the ceasefire agreement, it cannot be denied that peace on the border is very vital for both the countries. If the daily skirmishes on the borders cease and the relationship between the two nations becomes normal, then peace and harmony will prevail which will be beneficial for both of them. If there is peace and mutual understanding, it will surely be good for the people on both the sides. Both the countries are spending crores of rupees on war preparations. The amount of expenditure incurred by Pakistan is not known, but India spends about Rs 7 crores every day to maintain its troops on the peaks of Siachen Glacier. Pakistan is on the lower peaks there, so it may be spending less but that amount will also run into crores.

Apart from this, huge expenditure is also incurred in guarding the borderline of about 2900 km. Just think how good it will be if this money is spent on basic needs like health services and education for the common people! If that country gives up the path of terrorism, it will stand to gain immensely. We are a strong country, we are eliminating terrorists and we will destroy them root and branch. Pakistan should not even try to dream of snatching Kashmir. It has got an opportunity now to mend its ways and improve relations with India. The ball is in Pakistan’s court now.

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

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