ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Alok Prasanna KumarSubscribe to Alok Prasanna Kumar

Four Transfers and One Saving Grace

The controversies over the transfers of judges have brought the collegium’s credibility to a nadir in recent times. The absence of proper justification for its decisions, especially given the allegations of government interference, have only served to show why lack of transparency is harmful. In this context, the decision to discuss and debate allegations against nominee judges is a small but welcome step.

On Ethics of Legal Representation

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Ram Jethmalani was a hugely controversial figure, liked or disliked based on who he represented in court. This, however, is the wrong way to frame an understanding of his work as a lawyer. In focusing on “who” he represented, there is a risk that the fundamental right of representation for the accused is undermined, and it prevents us from also critiquing the “how” of representation.

Code on Wages and the Gig Economy

The Code on Wages, 2019 ostensibly seeks to harmonise four different laws governing the payment of wages and minimum wages in India, and “simplify and rationalise” the law. However, it is a missed opportunity to update the definition of “employee” in the context of the rise of the “gig economy,” a source of livelihood for a large number of workers who do not enjoy formal protection under the labour laws.

The True Dangers of the RTI (Amendment) Bill

The proposed amendment to the Right to Information Act, 2005 has caused controversy around the institution of the Central Information Commission being weakened and undermined by the proposed changes. While there is reason for the anxiety, it arises not purely because of the text of the law, but the absence of proper justification for the amendments.

Hollowing Out the Right to Education

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 aims to ensure inclusive education by requiring private educational institutions to admit students of economically weaker sections as part of the fundamental right to education. However, the existence of the act has never been free of state government and judicial attempts to dilute its beneficial provisions. The latest attempt by the Karnataka state government, upheld by the state high court, threatens to nullify the provision completely.

Madhava Menon and Legal Education

The most fitting tribute to N R Madhava Menon would be to pose critical questions on the status of legal education in India and to strive for its transformation along with the reform of the legal system as a whole.

Supreme Court on Rafale Papers and Electoral Bonds

The Supreme Court’s judgments in the Rafale Papers and the Electoral Bonds cases suggest that it is alive to the need for upholding transparency when it comes to the freedoms of the press and the funding of political parties. This is, however, not a consistent position and, in the Electoral Bonds case, the Supreme Court has hedged its bets to some extent. It remains to be seen, however, if the Court will extend this demand for transparency to its own functioning.

Breaking up Tech Giants

The economic power wielded by tech giants has been aided and abetted by the lax enforcement of antitrust regulations by the United States. It has allowed them to create an almost impassable moat around their businesses, while being able to bully, browbeat, and buy out any competitors who look remotely threatening. Calls by politicians to break up these tech giants are more than timely and need to be taken seriously by regulators across the world.

Taxation and the Rule of Law

As necessary as the power of taxation is to the functioning of a proper government, constitutionalism and the rule of law require that the government’s powers to levy and collect tax should be governed by the letter of the law. Judicial oversight is supposed to ensure that the government follows the mandate of the law in revenue collection. However, the Supreme Court’s record on this matter has been less than salutary, its problematic approach, perhaps, reflected best in Mafatlal Industries Ltd v Union of India .

The City in the Constitution

The Constitution of India considers states to be the smallest unit of governance, leaving further devolution of powers at their discretion. Even the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments do not sufficiently empower the panchayati raj institutions or urban local bodies to respond to the needs of citizens in a democratic manner. With growing urbanisation, the problem of democratic deficit in the cities is going to become even more acute.

War on Air Pollution Will Not Be Won in the Courts

Despite certain measures adopted in the last 12 months, the air pollution problem across northern India has re-emerged this winter, and only worsened after the Diwali festival. The conversations, however, continue to be dominated by Delhi, and revolve around finding quick fixes, mostly pushed by courts, without looking at the deeper, underlying problems or addressing state capacity to deal with air pollution.

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