|Monday, March 6, 2000,
signals from Bihar
IDEA BEHIND CTBT
|Joys of reverse currency exchange
by Trilochan Singh Trewn
IT was my first trip abroad in a ship to the United Kingdom via Suez Canal. This was in early fifties. Our ship left Mumbai to reach Aden on a Sunday morning. Our ship waited at anchorage for the first day to berth on a jetty the next day. Most of ships officers and sailors other than those on duty were relaxing in their cabins or on the deck.
policy on wrong track
is privatisation of justice
throng book-release for the middle class
March 6, 1925
CASTE violence lurks just beneath the surface in Bihar. Now enters political violence, courtesy the hasty action of Governor Vinod Pande in allowing the National Democratic Alliance to have the first shot at government formation. The RJD and the Left parties naturally feel flustered and are drawing on their long years of experience in organising street protests and instant bandh. The idea is to shut down as much activity as possible for the next four days during the run-up to the trust vote on March 10. Ideally the angry RJD and its allies should wait for the crucial test on the floor of the Assembly and prove their strength in terms of votes. But then politics has shed ideals a long while ago and the legislature is but an extended theatre of the fight for power outside. It does not require great wisdom to predict violent scenes in the House on the day of reckoning, or even earlier during the election of the Speaker. Given the ugly mood on both sides, the side fearing defeat might try to disrupt the proceedings and re-enact the UP farce when microphones hurtled across the rows of seats and towards the treasury benches three years ago. Elsewhere in Patna, away from public gaze and media prying, hectic parleys are likely to go on non-stop to win over vacillating minds. The NDA has, by its own admission, the support of only 151 MLAs and it needs another 11 to put together a bare majority. Actually it should be 12 if it wants its man to be the Speaker. Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said that this number will come from the pool of BSP and Congress members, as it happened in neighbouring UP. (Bihar is set to emulate UP in one more way: by installing a jumbo-sized Ministry. Democrats have much to worry if UP becomes the model for politically ailing states.) The Congress is extremely vulnerable; all 11 elected men from the Jharkhand area are bitterly against the RJD for its opposition to the formation of a separate Vananchal. One Bhumihar MLA from central Bihar has announced that she will have nothing to do with Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav. The party leadership is very weak in Bihar and discipline non-existent. The NDA does not have to exert itself much. The RJD and its present allies, on their part, must be relying on the built-in instability and hope this factor will tilt the numbers game in their favour.
For the people of this
region, the Bihar Governors action is a re-run of
what Haryana Governor G.D.Tapase did in 1982. He asked Mr
Bhajan Lal to form a government after assuring Mr Devi
Lal, who had majority support, of an invitation. The
latter had sequestered his supporters in the rest house
in the picturesque Morni Hills. But then Mr Bhajan Lal
has certain expertise and he used it to ward off
instability and continue in office for a long time. A
repetition of the unhappy Haryana decision and the quirky
actions of other Governors underline the need to set
healthy precedents. Legal experts thought that the Bihar
impasse offered only two and a half options: to invite
the single largest party (the President Venkataraman
model), to assess the durability of any group (the
Narayanan model) or, the half choice of asking the
Assembly to elect its leader and swear him in as Chief
Minister. But in the event, the Governor has plumped for
the second largest group. Until now the area much
examined and commented upon is Article 356 and the
Centres use and abuse of elbow room for imposing
Presidents rule. The powers and the outer limits of
such powers of the Governor remain ill-defined and hazy.
The affected party, now the RJD, the Congress and the
Left, decry the action as the BJP did when Governor
Romesh Bhandari ignored Mr Kalyan Singhs claim to
form a government as the leader of the single largest
party. This shows how partisan is the response of
political parties even on so sensitive an issue as
honouring the popular mandate and the right of the
legitimate group to assume power. The ongoing review of
the Constitution should go deep into this grey area.
THE stopping and stoning of the Lahore-bound Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation bus at Chachrari village near Phagwara is regrettable. The more important factor in it is not what happened to a symbol of India's desire to continue a process which can be seen as a step towards strengthening people-to-people relationship. The regret lies in the action of an outfit which is an ally of the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led government. The Delhi-Lahore bus service was started with much fanfare about a year ago. Its purpose was said to be the achievement of at least some cohesion in the vital area of bilateral relations. While politicians and bureaucrats talked and agreed to differ on various issues, diplomacy and goodwill moved on the wheels between the two countries. It was poetically stated at the time of the dry run of the model bus that if one kept on knocking on a dividing wall, which had no openings, doors would be opened by the impact of one's persistence. There was much "teething trouble" even before the bus service was born. In Pakistan, hardliners belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami and persons of their ilk demonstrated against the move to have a regular road transport service between the two countries. The now deposed Prime Minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif, was accused of selling out Muslim interests and degrading the "sacred mission" of letting militancy succeed in Kashmir. Mian Liaqat Baluch had then to say this on behalf of those who were against any normalisation move: "It is part of the American agenda. It will send a message to the Kashmiri freedom fighters that Islamabad will not support them. Force will be used to stop all incoming and outgoing buses." However, on January 8, 1999, for the first time since Independence, an Indian bus carrying officials moved into Pakistan. It was announced that on January 20, a regular service would start. In India, the dry run was vociferously opposed by the Shiv Sena. It threatened to disrupt the service. The president of the Delhi unit of the Sena, Mr Jai Bhagwan Goyal, told The Tribune: "We will not allow a bus service between India and Pakistan till the latter stops aiding and abetting terrorism in the country."
Prime Minister Vajpayee
visited Pakistan, travelling partly by bus, on February
20 and 21. He said he had formally inaugurated the
Delhi-Lahore bus service. His counterpart, Mr Nawaz
Sharif, received him at the Wagah border. In what is now
known as the Lahore Declaration, both Prime Ministers
expressed "satisfaction" at the commencement of
the service. Passengers were interviewed on the two sides
of the international border and asked such questions as
would get laudatory replies. Then came the Kargil
intrusion, followed by the Kandahar episode. The
Declaration and the bus service were described as
"evil fruits of illegitimate ideas". There was
disenchantment in both countries. Symbolically speaking,
on our side of Wagah were the representatives of the Shiv
Sena and on the other side were those of the
Jamaat-e-Islami. The service never became smooth. The
Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister have
disapproved of the act of the Shiv Sainiks in Punjab.
Official statements have been issued for official
consumption. But the fact remains that the embarrassment
caused by the Shiv Sainiks to Mr Vajpayee is too deep to
be dismissed in a few polite words.
IDEA BEHIND CTBT
AS President Bill Clintons much-awaited visit to India is drawing closer, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) debate in the country is set to pick up both in terms of tempto and decibels. On February 9, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the issues which would be high on the list of priorities in the discussions between the US President and the Indian leaders would be Kashmir and CTBT. No wonder, the pressures on India to sign the treaty are already increasing. The US interlocutors and those of major aid givers like Japan are asking India to join the treaty if the sanctions imposed after the 1998 nuclear tests are to be removed. The latest round of talks between Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott seems to have made little headway.
The Indian side claims the talks have significantly added to the US understanding of Indias security concerns. That is, however, not borne out by the strident comments of either Mr Talbott or Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth, or for that matter of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). There is much uncertainty on the question of a quid pro quo for India signing the CTBT, let alone the USA in any way recognising Indias self-proclaimed nuclear weapon status. As the Indian government seeks to put into place the visit of the US President, it will have to grasp the CTBT nettle.
It is necessary to emphasise here that India has a strong stake in non-proliferation although there is a fundamental difference in the approach of the Western countries, particularly the USA, and that of India which has seen total elimination of nuclear weapons as the only durable, non-discriminatory and comprehensive order. India was in the forefront of sponsoring the resolution passed unanimously by the UN General Assembly on November 19, 1965, that finally led to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The treaty, however, violated the General Assembly resolution which had sought the principle of a balance of obligations. What little balance did exist during the Cold War, completely tilted towards non-proliferation (and even counter-proliferation) at the cost of disarmament in the 1990s.
More importantly, India did not violate any treaty or political obligation when it crossed the threshold. In fact, its unwillingness to sign the NPT for three decades in spite of immense pressure brought to bear on it and a declared policy of keeping the nuclear option open was a clear indication that it had reserved the right to acquire nuclear weapons if its security interests required it. The statement of the Indian representative at the time of disassociating from the CTBT at the Complete Disarmament (CD) conference in Geneva in 1996 had clearly cited national security as the essential reason for not acceding to the treaty.
The non-proliferation regime cannot be considered to have been challenged by Indias actions simply because India was not a part of that regime. India did not sign the NPT. It was not a member of the other ad hoc groupings like the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Wassenaar Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), etc. For the same reasons, non-proliferation cannot be claimed to have been damaged by Indias actions. Except for India, Pakistan, Cuba and Israel, all other 187 countries are members of the NPT, which was extended for an indefinite period into the future in 1995. There is a fundamental fragility in the NPT regime because of the lack of balance of obligations, especially in the implementation of the disarmament provisions of the treaty. It has been further weakened by member-states who have either violated their treaty obligations by pursuit of clandestine weapons programme or by transferring nuclear weapons technology forbidden by the treaty.
From Indias stand on disarmament it is clear that there has been a huge gap between what India wanted in the CTBT and what the major nuclear powers were willing to accommodate. This difference is in respect of certain vital points. The first is the linkage between the CTBT and nuclear disarmament. India wants the CTBT to include a time-bound disarmament plan with commitments from all nuclear-weapon states. Second, it wants the CTBT to be a true test ban, including all laboratory tests and experiments on the release of nuclear energy. On both these issues, particularly the former, there is a deep chasm between what India wants and what the others, particularly the USA, are willing to concede.
Moreover, it is agreed by all that the CTBT makes no difference to the 180-odd non-nuclear-weapon states that have already signed the NPT. Since they have all agreed not to acquire any nuclear weapons or explosive devices, there is no need for them to have another agreement requiring them not to test non-existent nuclear devices. That left only the nuclear weapons states and the threshold states not parties to the NPT. When the draft CTBT was being debated in Geneva, the latter group comprised India, Pakistan and Israel. Pakistan made it clear that it would only sign if India did. That left India and Israel. Israels close ties with the USA made its agreement quite possible since it could get weapons design, etc, from America. Here it should be borne in mind that there is no international agreement which can monitor or control transfers, especially of technologies from nuclear-weapon states to states not a party to the NPT. The CTBT itself is only concerned with tests and does not concern itself, anywhere in the text, with technology cooperation and transfer from nuclear-weapon states to others, especially the states not a party to the NPT. And that left only India.
Now the question is: what does the USA expect from the CTBT? In other words, what are the basic tenets of US nuclear policy? The Jason Committee made no bones about the fact that the USA does not see the CTBT as an instrument of nuclear disarmament. Nuclear deterrence being the integral and very vital component of US strategic doctrine, the USA intends to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent. Nor has it been particularly concerned about the morality of the treaty or use of nuclear weapons. At the International Court of Justice the USA has argued that nuclear weapons are legal. More recently, former US Defence Secretary William Perry testified before the US Congress that the USA would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against suspected use of chemical weapons.
Even the US acceptance of the CTBT is not an unconditional one. In announcing the US position on the CTBT, President Clinton clearly stated that the CTBT is conditioned on the understanding that if the President is informed by the Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of Energy (DoE)... advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the Directors of the DoEs nuclear weapon laboratories and the Commander of the US Strategic Command that a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of a nuclear weapon type which the two Secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with the Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard supreme national interests clause in order to conduct whatever testing is required. Under this interpretation, the USA would be free to resume testing not only when its security interests are threatened but also whenever it feels that its ability and capacity to threaten others is diminished.
The USA does not expect the CTBT to ban or stop the developments of newer types of nuclear weapons, as has been made clear by Mr John Holum, Director of the ACDA. If the CTBT is not signed by all countries, he has warned the world community, the US would not be stopping work on such weapons. Indeed, one of the crucial elements of the Core Research and Advanced Technology (R&AT) programme of the US DoE is the concept design studies, arising out of the experience during and after the Gulf War that indicated potential military utility of the types of nuclear weapons not currently in the stockpile. According to Mr Holum, while todays knowledge requires a test to validate new weapons, advances in computing, simulation and systems design will make many of the current testing requirements redundant in future. Therefore, since the CTBT does not ban development activities in the laboratories, the USA cannot guarantee that such weapons will not be developed and be included in the stockpile.
Since the USA is no longer in a position, for a number of reasons, to unilaterally impose its military will on a wide front, it is seeking to establish international regimes which it can influence to carry out its supreme national objective, namely control. Thus, for the USA, the CTBT is just another instrument of control, which will have to be followed by other controls, possibly through the veto power in the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The CTBT is not the end of the road for the USA. However, the USA has little to crow over because the Senate has resoundingly rejected the Presidential proposal to ratify the treaty. In the run up to elect a candidate for the US presidential campaign, the Republican aspirants have categorically stated their determination to dump the CTBT if they come to power. Indian leaders would do well to keep all this in mind while discussing the CTBT issue with President Clinton.
IT was my first trip abroad in a ship to the United Kingdom via Suez Canal. This was in early fifties. Our ship left Mumbai to reach Aden on a Sunday morning. Our ship waited at anchorage for the first day to berth on a jetty the next day. Most of ships officers and sailors other than those on duty were relaxing in their cabins or on the deck.
Soon I noticed some crew members negotiating loudly with a man in a rowing boat which had come alongside the ship suddenly.
Curiously I enquired from the Sarang (Senior Crew Member) as to what was the matter. He informed me that the boatman was quoting a price of Rs 10 per British pound sterling currency note against the official bank rate of Rs 13 and 10 annas in India. I moved closer to the ships gangway and saw that the boatman was throwing a hook with a half-inch rope, which got stuck on the top of the ships large gangway. The rope also had two small straw baskets, one at the top where the ships crew was negotiating from, and the other close to the boatmans right hand below. The deal appeared to have been finally struck for the purchase of 400 pounds in exchange for equivalent Indian currency. Both top and the bottom parties were now ready for the deal. The distance between the boat and the shipside was only six metres and the currency notes could be visually counted from this distance. As the boatman shouted ready from below he placed the wad of 400 pounds in the lower straw bag after showing these to all those watching from shipside. Almost simultaneously the Sarang counted currency notes of Rs 4000 while facing the boatman and placed the wad inside the upper straw bag. On a single go the boatman started pulling the control string tied to the rope in such a way that both the lower and the upper baskets containing the two types of currencies started moving simultaneously. It was an exciting moment when the lower basket moved one yard up and the upper one moved one yard down simultaneously with no risk to any of the parties. Thus when the British currency reached the hands of the Sarang the Indian currency notes were in the hands of the boatman below.
While this operation pertaining to physical exchange of currency notes was in progress and I noticed that thousands of bundles of currencies of the USA, France and Britain in different denominations were lying neatly stacked in the boats small hold. All transactions with the crews of visiting ships were irregular but were carried out with utmost business honesty and trust. I spent the rest of the day in calculating that the Sarang had made a neat profit of Rs 1450 in just five minutes by buying the 400 British pounds.
Next day our ship entered harbour during early morning. Newly marketed hawai chappals and nylon saris on duty free prices being sold in the open market fascinated us. We could not decide what to buy and what to leave as our funds were limited. Towards the end of the main market we noticed several Arabs sitting with heaps of British and French currency notes, and doing business like hawkers selling groundnuts in an Indian market. I enquired from the young Arab as to the price of each pound. He quoted 10 rupees for each pound. But if we could accept British money in small coins he would give us one British pound for Rs 9 only.
In the market place I
saw some old hands buying a lot of British pounds. After
a 24-hour stay at Aden the ship sailed for Suez Canal.
Our ship fuelled at Port Said where many picked up
beautiful wall carpets and leather goods. On the third
day after leaving Port Said we reached Gibralter. While
many went to witness bullfighting across the border in
Spain, about 10 among the crew proceeded ashore to
re-exchange their currency notes. Being a new seafarer I
had little spare money with me for such errands. But I
accompanied the Sarang. He handed over to a tobacconist
the wad of 400 pounds publicly, asking for Indian
currency in exchange. The Sarang was asked to pick up 80
100-rupee notes from the second drawer across the
counter. This was an open and public deal before dozens
of customers. The Sarang thus doubled his money in three
days in a sure and certain manner. Such transactions were
open and considered part of normal business in ports. On
the other hand some used to buy a new typewriter or a new
three piece gents suit just for one US dollar in Poland,
East Germany or Romania during 1976-1982. Such were
clandestine deals arising out of the acute shortage of US
dollars in East Europe and were not strictly as per
Population policy on wrong track
AFTER a great deal of dithering and great, inexplicable delay, a new population policy has been announced by the Indian government. Before analysing it let us examine its salient features. The policy is prefaced by the mention that on May 11 this year India will reach the one billion, or 100 crore, mark (never mind that by the United Nations count, we reached that mark some months back). It then goes on to say that the long-term objective of the policy is to achieve a stable population by the year 2045, which means, in effect, that our numbers will continue to grow for almost the next half a century. By that time, India will long have overtaken China as the worlds most populous country.
But even to obtain this long-term objective, the policy states that 14 goals will need to be reached within the next decade. The most important of these goals are to make primary education up to the age of 14 free and compulsory, drastically reduce infant mortality rates (which are presently among the highest in the world), address the unmet needs for basic reproductive and child health services (which really means providing a variety of modern contraceptives and health services to those who want them) and immunise all children against diseases which can be prevented by the administration of vaccines.
There are some other goals, like promoting delayed marriages and making sure that all deliveries of children are either in hospitals, clinics or by trained persons. But the major ones relate to health and literacy.
So far, so good. Fortunately, the insane proposal to ban anybody who has more than two children from standing for political office has been dropped (though some states like Madhya Pradesh are continuing with it).
Population stabilisation (the phrase population control is out of favour, because it has connotations of compulsion) is perhaps the countrys most urgent priority. Since Independence, right till about 1990, Indias economic growth rate averaged 3 to 4 per cent. Of this, over 2 per cent was wiped out by the annual population increase, leaving a pitiable 1 to 2 per cent economic growth a year.
No wonder, we remain backward and poor. We have lamentably failed to adequately address our exploding population, still rising at about 18 million a year. Compulsion is not the answer.
Sanjay Gandhi proved this conclusively with his disastrous compulsory sterilisation drive during his mothers notorious Emergency rule from 1975 to 1977. He set the country back by at least two decades, because after that no government dared tackle the population problem with the urgency that it required.
Compulsion may work in a country like China, because the people are much more regimented there and used to obeying the dictates of the government, however, draconian. In any case, even in China, there is much better health care and a far higher rate of literacy than in India.
When the Chinese government enforces a one-child family norm, it also ensures that the one child will get such excellent health care that the childs survival to a ripe old age is almost guaranteed. Not in India, however.
Poor people in India have more than two children for various reasons. One is that they need more hands, especially in the countryside, for earning a livelihood for the family. But the more important reason is that they do not know how many of their children will survive and how many will be felled by disease or illness. Not without reason has it been said that the survival of children is one of the answers to the population problem.
Indira Gandhi was content to parrot the phrase, development is the best contraceptive. The truth of the matter is that the country got neither development, nor contraceptives, only slogans.
Let us now deal with the second part of the population policy. This relates to certain incentives and also to the setting up of various commissions on population at the central and state levels. Panchayats and zila parishads are to be rewarded for exemplary performance in family planning; poor couples who undergo sterilisation after two or less children will get free health insurance, and so on.
Regarding commissions, they are usually a waste of time, effort and money. They only employ more bureaucrats and provide sinecures for others. Incentives, or disincentives for that matter, are also ineffective. They are open to abuse, as figures can be fudged, records changed.
I have a news clipping before me about how in Uttar Pradesh hundreds of couples who had been promised priority in the allotment of flats and land if the male partner got himself sterilised have not received their allotment letter. The authorities concerned said that they knew nothing about the scheme!
These are gimmicks that really do not work in the long run. The only factors that work are raising the level of literacy, particularly of girls, providing both good health care and a variety of contraceptive facilities. That has been the experience of virtually every country successful in its family planning programme.
Population stabilisation has nothing to do with religion, as quite a few communally prejudiced Hindus imagine. Indonesia and Tunisia are predominantly Muslim countries. Yet, they have been phenomenally successful in their family planning programmes. Significantly, both Indonesia and Tunisia have high rates of literacy 80 to 90 per cent, compared to our 60 per cent and good health care. Muslim couples in Kerala, a highly educated state, have fewer children than Hindu couples in eastern UP.
We need to concentrate on the four states that are holding up progress in this field: Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and UP. These have been given the apt acronym of BIMARU by demographer Prof Ashish Bose. They are truly bimar (sick) in more ways than one, and the sooner we get them well, the better it will be for the entire country.
privatisation of justice
IS it not remarkable, asked the novelist, Anthony Trollope, himself the son of a failed Chancery barrister turned farmer, that the common repute which we all give to attorneys in the general is exactly opposite to that which every man gives to his own attorney in particular? Whom does anybody (he asked) trust so implicitly as he trusts his own attorney? And yet is it not the case that the body of attorneys is supposed to be the most roguish body in existence?
Written a century and 35 years ago in the social setting of mid-Victorian England, these words ring familiar even today and in a totally different clime. The common repute of lawyers chases them wherever they go and discredits all their actions and utterances. Lawyers, it is believed, must always act out of selfish motives as if the rest of the world (politicians and businessmen included) act always out of altruistic ones.
Nothing symbolises this general prejudice more than the popular response to the lawyers agitation against the amendments in the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). It is sufficient for the government to raise the spectre of lawyers seeking adjournments for the amendments to be passed by Parliament in the interest of speedy justice, regardless of the obvious impracticability of many of the changes made and the sheer senselessness of some of them.
And it is sufficient for lawyers to demand that the changes be re-examined for newspapers and TV channels to go hunting for litigants, and public-spirited citizens, fed up with the laws delays and splash them all over their columns and screens as proof of societys insistence that the changes be notified here and now.
Very few of these litigants or citizens would understand the intricacies of civil procedure. Indeed, there would be no need for lawyers if they did. And still fewer would have cared to actually read the amendments made in the CPC. That is a task better left to lawyers!
And yet, such is the prejudice against them that of all the opinions on procedural legal reform aired in public, the opinion of lawyers is taken the least seriously. Even by judges, who ought to know better for they all were lawyers once.
Foremost, in fact, amongst the amendments to the CPC is an amendment that destroys the very essence of the judicial function at the trial level and leaves nothing much for judges to try and decide. The amendment in Order 18, Rule 4, CPC, replacing in every case the examination of witnesses in open court with recording of evidence by commissioners.
This, its power and function of examining witnesses, is precisely what makes the trial court a court of trial and distinguishes it from all appellate courts.
Delegation of this power in exceptional cases where a witness is unable to attend court due to illness or otherwise, permissible under Order 26, CPC, is one thing. Its delegation, or abdication, in every case quite another.
A subordinate judge guilty of such abdication before the amendment is brought into force, a judge who examines no witnesses in any of the cases required to be tried by him, or even in a majority of them, and appoints commissioners for the purpose to ease his burden, would without doubt invite immediate suspension by the High Court in exercise of its constitutional power of control under Article 235. And, his concern for speedy justice notwithstanding, would before long be booted out of the judicial service for wholesale dereliction of duty.
How, then, can lawyers be blamed for opposing an amendment that converts such dereliction into a duty?
Laymen, even enlightened (though legally uneducated) citizens like H.D. Shourie of Common Cause fame, may be forgiven for believing that the recording of evidence is a ministerial or near-ministerial task entailing no legal discernment or application of the judicial mind. But the new Rule 4 of Order 18 is by no means ignorant of the true nature of the task, as sub-rule (7) would show.
Where any question put to a witness is objected to by a party or his pleader, it says, and the commissioner appointed in place of the court for recording evidence allows the same to be put, the commissioner shall take down the question together with his decision.
There is a vital distinction between this new sub-rule and Rule 16A of Order 26, existing in the CPC since 1977, though both deal with examination of witnesses upon commission.
A commissioner under Order 26, Rule 16A has no power to disallow questions or decide objections turning on the admissibility or relevancy of evidence. A commissioner under Order 18, Rule 4, sub-rule (7) quite clearly has this power.
Unbelievable though it is, there is nothing in the amended Order 18 to show that the decision of a commissioner disposing of an objection and disallowing, or allowing, a question is subject to confirmation (or rejection) by the court. The annihilation of judicial power, starting with its delegation, is complete.
Strange indeed are the priorities of Parliament. As before the consumer courts and some other tribunals, the examination-in-chief of every witness in a civil suit shall now be by way of affidavit. The ministerial task of receiving such affidavits shall, under the new dispensation, be performed by the trial judge. The substantive task of recording the cross-examination, coupled with the discretion to allow or disallow questions, has been entrusted to the commissioner, a private individual.
Whoever the commissioner might be a retired judicial officer, a practising lawyer, or anyone else, for the amendment identifies no one on whom the burden will fall this privatisation of justice is a measure fraught with great danger of abuse.
book-release for the middle class
WHILST the political battle continues in Bihar (rather would continue for months to come, irrespective of the fact who becomes the Chief Minister and for how long) we, in Delhi, seem engrossed in a whirl of hectic social activity. Last weekend saw the release of Pavan K. Varma and Renuka Khandekars book How To Maximise Life an Action Plan for the Indian Middle Class (Penguin). This is Varmas fifth book and one marvels at the sheer writing prowess of this Indian Foreign Service officer, at present posted as JS, Africa Desk. Not to overlook the fact that he also manages a wife, three children, an apparently well adjusted marriage and a hectic social life.
Since I have not read the book so will not be able to comment on its contents, but I am told it lays stress on what an average citizen can do to improve the conditions around. Ironically there were very few from the middleclass present that evening yes, the capitals glitterati ad the litterati moved around IICs Central Court as batteries and shutterbugs flashed on Varma and Khandekar. Present that evening were Penguins David Davidar, Haper Collins Renuka Chatterjee, India Inks Tarun Tejpal, Rolis commissioning editor Namita Gokhale, Raja and Kaushalaya Reddy, Sudhir Tailang, JN Dixit, Suhel Seth, Rajiv and Geeta Chandran and many others. Surprisingly not to be spotted were any of our politicians and civil servants.
Vienna symphony orchestra
I think it was an honour for Delhiites that the Vienna Symphony orchestra was in New Delhi. In the sense they performed one single concert in India and it was performed here, in the Capital. And that evening the Austrian Ambassador to India, Mr Herbert Traxl, and his dancer-bureaucrat spouse Shovana Narayan hosted a dinner on the lawns of their residence, in honour of the members of this orchestra.
In fact the members came in two busloads directly from the Siri Fort auditorium, right after that superb concert that left the audience asking for more and still some more. A pity they could give only one concert in India! I suppose lack of sponsors came in the way and as, at this dinner, Gautam Kaul kept stressing, Even this one concert was possible because of SP Godrej the Godrej man who sponsored it. The aged and ailing SP Godrej was present that evening (in fact most of the time kept sitting by himself) and then there were others too. Besides the 104 orchestra members, the others included Alka Raghuvanshi and husband Ratan Jha, Uma Gajapathy Raju and spouse Ramesh Sharma, Aruna Vasudev, Anjali Sen and her better half Pradipto Sen (better half because he has the sheer confidence to call himself Mr Anjali Sen!), Himachal and Reba Som, Naresh Kapuria, Rama Pandey and sister Tripati Pandey, Suhail Chawla, Shovanas lawyer sister Ranjana, Vasant Sathe, Nalini Singh, Aradhana Seth, and the ambassadors of Somalia, UAE, Poland and of several other diplomatic missions.
Tailangs 4 cartoonists
Cartoonist Sudhir Tailang has a certain innocence about him, about his attitude to life. You can gauge this by the opening lines he uttered as he rushed in late, for the screening of his film on 50 years of lampooning in India (characters of this film being Abu Abraham, Mario, Miranda, Thomas Samuel and the late Shankar Pillai): I am sorry I am late, as usual I am late....actually this film starts with the late Shankar Pillai and soon people will call me the late Sudhir Tailang! Those words made up for his arriving late and the packed hall seemed to nod in sympathy as Tailang added that he became a victim of the Capitals traffic chaos which is definitely at its worst during the peak traffic hours.
Anyway let me bail you
out from the traffic chaos towards this film and towards
the sheer effort that Tailang has put in its making. He
has brought out cartooning from the drawing board or from
the sketch pad folds, into the open. In fact, extensive
interviews with the cartoonists not only made you feel
closer to this art form but even gave an insight into the
making of a cartoonist and together with that his
cartoons. Tailangs lovely looking wife Vibha and
brother Rajesh assisted in the making of this film and
those of you who missed seeing it that evening can see
its unabridged version, which will be telecast on DD.
IT is gratifying to find that the reports of the inauguration of the Punjab Health Week from various centres in the Punjab indicate that the movement has generated considerable public enthusiasm.
The health of the people, particularly that of the infants, should be the first concern of every civilised community; and all attempts at the popularisation of knowledge about the elementary laws of public health must be welcomed by all patriotic citizens alike regardless of their political or communal differences.
The lectures, demonstrations, exhibitions and other functions connected with the Health Week will no doubt do much good in the way of spreading knowledge as to public health and the prevention of infant mortality. But it would be more useful if out of these a permanent agency could be evolved whose business it would be to carry on this beneficent and essential work throughout the year on organised and systematic lines.
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