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How Supreme Court nomination is different in US and India

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courtIf you follow the global news, you would have come across two major stories this past week, Thailand Cave Rescue and US Supreme Court Justice nomination. For Indians, it is tough to comprehend the reason behind the protests and rallies in the US just for a Supreme Court Justice nomination. The system in India and the US works a lot differently. Let me explain how.

To begin with, you might recall a recent press conference by four Supreme Court justices in India against the case allotment by CJI. In my opinion, the four Justices didn’t do an outstanding job; they didn’t explain the reasons to the common public clearly if that is what they wanted to do. Most people remained confused as to what the justices were aiming to do. They were protesting against CJI for assigning cases to benches according to his preference, which I might add has been going on since inception. But it brought out the murky workings of the highest court. Please indulge me for a moment; it’s not so simple.

The constitution is a written document, which can be interpreted by different people differently. Political, religious and social beliefs of justice come into play. Most lawyers know which way a Justice has opined in the past and hence these top lawyers try to get their case heard by a particular bench, called “bench shopping.” If you are able to get your case heard by a particular bench, work is mostly done as you know that the bench leans ideologically on your side. Let me add, it’s not a question of corruption, against the common misconception. It’s about ideological, political and religious leanings of different judges. There is no limitation or penalty on justices for “interpreting the constitution” as they so, please. Also, the system that we have, these interpretations becomes written law (called precedent) for the future. Take for example article 377 (criminalizes same-sex relations), it was in the past struck down by Delhi HC and the verdict later overturned by SC (different interpretations).

In India this is not a significant issue mostly because Justices have a limited tenure; they retire at the age of 65. Any CJI does not hold office for more than 2-3 years (they reach the age of 65 and retire). So even if a CJI leans say liberal or conservative on an issue, next one might lean differently. The turnover is high. It is in stark difference to the US. Here Supreme Court justices are appointed for life; they can occupy office until their death. Hence turnover is low. Last year Justice Gorsuch was appointed because Justice Scalia died in office. And the current nomination is happening as Justice Kennedy chose to retire at the age of 80. He could have gone on as long as he wanted to.

In the US, justices hold more powers than anyone else. They are mightier than the legislature (Congress/Senate) and the executive (President). Also, the appointment process is political. President nominates a person of his choice and Senate confirms him/her. In India, since 1993, justices of Supreme Court (collegium) had taken over this duty (having learned from the dark chapter of emergency, when SC cowed down to Indira Gandhi). Thus, political interference is kept to a minimum.

Hence we see less public interest in SC appointments in India than in the US. Here it’s a matter of life and death. Given that the Constitution in the US is around 230 years old, it does not qualify the issues of the day, giving way to multiple interpretations. The political ideology of the Justices becomes all too important. A large number of cases are decided by 5-4 majority (along partisan lines). It reflects the society in most ways.

Complicated business!

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Written by arpitgarg

July 11, 2018 at 10:58 pm

Posted in Political

The real failure of Kejriwal

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kejriwal.jpegAAP rejoiced in the Supreme Court victory this week. But is it anything to cheer? I don’t think so. Agreed that BJP has not let AAP function in Delhi but what else did they expect? That BJP will lay roses? It is politics and a cut throat one at that. What BJP did was as expected.

The real failure of Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party has not been the governance in Delhi; it has been that they haven’t grown beyond Delhi in last three years. They tried in Punjab and Goa but went nowhere. They tried to punch much above their weight and hence the failure. In hindsight, they know what they should have done. There is still time to do things right. Instead of targeting state elections, which require vast sums of money and a large number of party workers, and AAP fell short on both front in Punjab and Goa.

They know the should have targeted municipal elections in metro cities where they had a good following. They forte is door-to-door campaigning, and the small electorate would have helped with that. There is still time. Target one city at a time. Build your base, build your political capital. Keep fighting in Delhi, but time is running out for you. You have to grow beyond the city.
Put your head together, start fighting municipal elections. Prove yourself with excellent results. Metros are where rich people live, and they will contribute money if you give them good infrastructure and living conditions. I am not sure what your game plan is. It looks like you will go big in 2019 general elections. I would advise against that.

Time to realize that BJP has not been your biggest enemy, your vision has been. The real failure of Kejriwal lies in not being able to show the right direction to the party and hence not able to grow beyond Delhi.

Written by arpitgarg

July 6, 2018 at 2:34 am

Posted in Political

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BJP-PDP alliance: What did it accomplish?

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picbjppdp.jpgMuch awaited break-up between BJP and PDP finally happened, albeit oh! so abruptly. Skeptics doubted the longevity of the tie up at the time. Honestly, I am surprised it lasted this long. The political ethos of two parties are so far apart.

The question is, what did the alliance accomplish? I don’t see the situation in J&K any better than it was 3 years ago, security or otherwise. Are there more jobs? Are there less terror activities? I really don’t understand what happened these past 3 years.

An honest assessment would be, the experiment was a monumental failure. But I don’t see supporters of either party ready to admit this. Ok, I might be too naive to ask this. Still it calls into question the intent of BJP and PDP. What was it they wanted to accomplish of the alliance? Other than the power of course.

Funny thing, the reasons behind the breakup are also unclear. BJP did it coz PDP was about to it. But why? Ever since the partnership began, both parties have been accused of selling themselves out. How could BJP tie up with Afzal sympathetic PDP whom they have accused in the past of being anti-national? How could PDP tie up with BJP whom they have accused of being the communal outfit working against Muslims? At least such questions would be posed no more.

Maybe that’s the intent behind the sudden breakup. For BJP it’s the start of 2019 election campaign. They are trying to minimize the stigma. Either that or the party has failed completely to convey it’s accomplishments in J&K. Many have already predicted and I agree to a large extent that 2019 will not be an easy task for BJP.

Opposition parties are coming together with nothing in common other than the desire to beat BJP. Grand opposition alliance, if it happens, would be as fragile and void of ideology as the BJP-PDP’s.

I am not one of those who dance at the failure of Modi Govt. I am just sad at the lost opportunity in J&K and losing opportunities nationwide.

Written by arpitgarg

June 21, 2018 at 3:51 am

Posted in Political

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Are elections a myth? Curious case of Modi and Obama

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vote-1024x683.jpgIf you look back last 10 years, politicians across the globe have risen to power on the promise of change. Let’s take for example Obama in US and Modi in India. They both come from different ideologies (Left vs Right) but both won historic elections. While Obama became first African-American president of USA, Modi came to power with absolute majority after 30 years. Their elections were fueled by hope.

However much we admire the leaders, one cannot but feel a sense of underwhelm in their performances. Obama’s first term was hampered by the financial crises that was in the making from Clinton and Bush era. He never recovered from that. Most of the issues he ran for, he never got support from moderate democrats (even though his party was in majority in Congress as well as Senate), hence never able to implement his agenda completely. Not until late in his 2nd term when he started using Executive powers. Still he came to power with so much promise but left with little accomplishments.

Same goes for Modi. Although he has stemmed the flow of corruption in the Government. But there has been no substantive change in jobs, security and growth. People have gone scot free in 2G scam, which has put a big question mark on the Govt’s integrity. Call it political compulsions of continuous election cycle in India, he has but remain a pale shadow of himself. Demonetization failed to fulfill the political motives when 99% currency was returned to the banks. New financial scams and lack of improvement in law/order and judiciary has been a dampener for people who rid the Modi wave. With an year left in his term, he can no longer call himself a beacon of change.

Ever wondered why is this the case? Has our system become so rigid and pervasive that elections and regime change can’t make much difference? If we believe that intentions of Obama and Modi were good, it can be the only reasonable explanation. They both were the victim of the system that they intend to work with. Whatever change they promised was under duress to win the election, knowing fully well that they won’t be able to deliver on the tall promises.

I hope my depressing hypothesis is proven wrong. For it defeats the purpose of hope.

Written by arpitgarg

April 5, 2018 at 11:56 pm

Posted in Political

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Modi and Kejriwal: A fresh perspective

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kej_modi.jpegGiven that Kejriwal’s image has taken a beating over last few months, not many people would like to take his name in the same vein as Modi’s. This is a far cry from couple of years back. Kejriwal’s supporters have struggled to understand why he is hounded if AAP cozies up with SP and RJD, while Modi is given a free pass when he closes up with same SP and RJD.

Here is where a fresh perspective is required. Modi was chosen to govern by people fed up of policy paralysis. Nothing was moving and Modi promised governance. He never was a messiah of propriety. Unlike Kejriwal who fought on probity and anti-corruption. It was always about governance for one and corruption for the other.

Governance can’t be judged short term and is hard to quantify. Corruption on the other hand is nakedly visible. Hence Kejriwal’s infractions are amplified compared to Modi’s. Modi is not judged if he hugs Lalu or attends marriage at Mulayam’s. But if Kejriwal does the same he is rightly hounded. Similarly, Kejriwal would be given a free pass on governance if only if it were that simple to measure.

Five years of Modi will be up soon and people will start judging governance. Kejriwal can hope for a redemption if Modi slips on that front.

Written by arpitgarg

March 15, 2018 at 9:27 am

Posted in Political

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Why so much attrition in the White House?

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AR-170729920.jpgI am not writing this from a partisan point of view and must be read in that spirit. There have been too many resignations and replacements in current White House administration. Lot has been attributed to President Trump and his reality show mindset. I beg to differ.

In light of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson getting replaced today, let’s try and assess the situation. As per reports Tillerson and Trump didn’t agree on Iran deal. While Trumps’ position on the deal is well known, Tillerson had an opposite view. Similar was the case with handling North Korea. And herein lies the real reason.

Most of the people who have left the White House or have been let go, they differed with President on matters about which Presidents position was widely known. And these people while accepting the job very well knew the policies that Trump campaigned for. Either they misled the President when they accepted the job on their own position or they remained quiet. Or President never asked them clearly.

Maybe they thought Trump will be a typical politician who will throw the campaign promises under the bus once elected.

Maybe it’s the President’s credibility issue. His appointees see him as an opportunist who didn’t mean what he campaigned for. And that they can impose their own ideologies.

With time President Trump will get smart and will appoint people who believe in him and his agenda (Good/Bad/Ugly). Sooner done the better. For so much upheaval does not augur well for the leader of the First World.

Written by arpitgarg

March 14, 2018 at 4:25 am

Posted in Political

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Why Pakoda failed while Chai won

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pakoda_chaiRecent remarks by BJP leaders that Pakoda seller be considered employed caused a stir in political circles. Opposition thought it found its Chaiwallah moment. Ever since Mani Shanker Iyer made the infamous remarks against Modi and his chai seller origins, BJP has been milking the issue (no pun intended) to its maximum. Rather than a CM aspiring to be PM, Modi used the chaiwallah barb and turned into a tea-seller aspiring to be PM. Rest is history.

Opposition latched onto Pakoda remark and thought to stick it to the leading party. But they have failed miserably and how. The sad part is they are still trying pakoda politics, not realizing the failure of the issue. This brings me to the question, Why Pakoda politics failed but Chai politics won?

Well, the answer is very simple. Chaiwallah barb denigrated tea sellers. It meant that chaiwallas can just sell tea and can’t become PM. While with Pakoda remark, leading party in a bid to justify low employment numbers said pakoda sellers should also be considered employed. Opposition retorted by saying BJP is creating pakoda selling jobs. Hence in turn ended up denigrating Pakoda sellers.

Chai wallah remarks hurt the aspirations of tea sellers. Pakoda remarks gave respect to the Pakoda sellers. While the agitation against Pakoda remarks ended up insulting pakoda sellers with modest earnings.
Not every issue is milkable.

Written by arpitgarg

March 7, 2018 at 8:47 am

Posted in Political

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