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

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Questioning Citizenship-based Taxation in Budget 2020

The proposal in the Finance Bill, 2020 to introduce taxation on the basis of citizenship for those non-resident Indians who do not pay tax in their countries of residence has proven to be controversial. It creates an altogether new basis for taxation of income under Indian laws. While criticisms related to its (unintended) impact are justified, there is also a need to examine the constitutional validity of this move given the extraterritorial nature and impact of the tax.

A Decade of Decay

Between 2010 and 2019, the Supreme Court of India has suffered a credibility crisis not seen since the 1970s, with its reputation for independence and institutional strength lying in tatters. Deep systemic failings have come to the fore as the Court enters a new decade in the midst of an existential battle for relevance.

A Shoddy Judgment

In holding that state governments could not pass laws to allow for direct appeals to the Supreme Court, the constitution bench of the Supreme Court in Rajendra Diwan v Pradeep Kumar Ranibala in 2019 was concerned less about upholding constitutional provisions and more by a disagreement over policy. In as much as states allowing for appeals directly to the Supreme Court is bad policy, it is not necessarily unconstitutional and is entirely within the framework of federalism under India’s Constitution.

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.

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