Nation
Jaishankar replaces Sujatha Singh as foreign secretary

Before his sudden appointment as foreign secretary, Jaishankar was India’s Ambassador to the US and played a key role during PM Modi’s visit to the US in September and US President Obama’s just concluded visit

 

S Jaishankar on Thursday took charge as foreign secretary, replacing Sujatha Singh whose tenure was abruptly curtailed late Wednesday night.
 
“Government’s priorities are my priorities,” said Jaishankar, a 1977-batch IFS officer, describing his new position as an “honour and a big responsibility“.
 
Singh was not present when Jaishankar took charge at the South Block office.
 
He will have a two-year tenure as per rules.
 
Before his sudden appointment as foreign secretary, the 60-year-old diplomat was India’s Ambassador to the US. He had also been posted as Ambassador to China, Singapore and Czech Republic.
 
The decision to appoint Jaishankar, who played a key role during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in September and US President Barack Obama’s just concluded visit, was taken by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Modi.
 
Singh had taken over as the third woman Foreign Secretary in August, 2013 and had eight more months to serve.
 
Jaishankar, son of late K Subrahmanyam, one of India’s leading strategic analysts, was a key member of the Indian team, which negotiated the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal.
 

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Promise, Performance and Public Policy
Buyers should take utmost care because post-contract agonising is futile
 
In a perfect world, two plus two always equals four. Yet, in everyday lives, two plus two can be three plus one, or six minus two, or any of a myriad other combinations. Some judicial decisions, besides giving finality to a dispute, often, focus attention on little-known, or variedly understood, facts. This exercise helps in demystifying and, indeed, defogging of the law. It also adds another building block to the edifice of interpretation.
 
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in an interesting case that could affect any of us. It decided in the matter of the Zoroastrian Cooperative Housing Society Ltd V/s District Registrar of Cooperative Societies (Urban). This case involved cooperative housing societies (CHS) and their members’ rights. The ever-shifting limits of ‘public policy’ also came under scrutiny. Like the never-ending debate on what constitutes ‘offensive’ material, ‘public policy’ was again under the scanner.
 
The concerned member had used the armour of ‘public interest’ to protect his contention. Wisely, the Court decided to be “… cautious in trying to ride the unruly horse of public policy.” The CHS was formed for ‘Parsis only’ and the managing committee had apprehensions that one member may alienate his share to a non-Parsi. The CHS had already litigated, to prevent such an occurrence, but had lost and appealed to the Supreme Court. Its contention was that the member had voluntarily become a member of the CHS and, therefore, he was duty-bound to follow the rules governing it.
 
Until now, the member had successfully invoked the secular provisions of the Constitution to argue his case—the ‘public policy’ gambit. He maintained that a restriction based on religious affiliation was violative of his fundamental right to do whatever he wanted to do with his property. If he could not do that, his ownership and enjoyment of the property was curtailed and his rights infringed upon.
The Supreme Court differed. It held that if a person enters into a contract, knowingly, willingly and of free choice, he must adhere to the rules of the CHS he has sought to join and which has accepted him. The Court “considered it a fallacy on the part of the member to challenge his voluntary surrender” at a later date. In other words, the member could not have the cake and eat it too.
 
The lesson here is that it becomes imperative for a prospective buyer to proceed with utmost care because post-contract agonising is futile. Study of specific bye-laws is a must. When one deals with property worth a few lakh rupees, professional advice, clear thinking and lack of haste will prove immensely valuable. To buy in haste and repent at leisure is not an option.
 
The Court has specifically held that “it is open to that community to preserve its culture and way of life” and, therefore, the issue here was neither one of Parsis nor of Bohris nor of Christians. Neither was it one of orthodoxy nor one of reformism. In the context of the judgement, the issue was simply one of the ‘law of the land’. One that would apply, notwithstanding the nature of the legal entity, be it a cooperative society or a limited company. It was purely one of a contract that had to be performed.
 
To sum up, one must understand that similar agreements and covenants imposing restrictions will stand the test. Many communities have taken advantage of concessional rates for land, to build houses and colonies for their members. The covenants between the authorities and the community members, especially the minority communities like the Parsis, Bohris and Christians, have been challenged periodically. With this judgement from the apex Court, such covenants will hold and, therefore, purchasers need to walk in with their eyes wide open.
 

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Air Kerala more keen to switch to Gulf flights at first opportunity
Air Kerala is likely to obtain all clearances and launch its operations in the middle of April 2015. The carrier will start as a regional carrier, only to switch to Gulf flights at the first opportunity, when the rules are changed!
 
Air Kerala, a proposed regional carrier, is likely to obtain the clearances and may launch operations in the middle of April.
 
The domestic air traffic is controlled upto 80% extent by IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and GoAir as members of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), with Air India have left them a couple of months ago.  FIA are lobbying against the withdrawal or amendment to the 5/20 Rule that the Civil Aviation Ministry may introduce as this will give an unfair advantage to both Vistara and Air Asia India. 
 
It is a question of time before this change is brought about.  In addition to Vistara and Air Asia India, a strong contender to support this move would come from Air Kerala when it begins its operation.  Practically, every single family in Kerala has at least one member of the family working in the Middle East and the expatriate population of Keralites is the largest segment of Indians in the region.  Air India will therefore face toughest competition from this new airline, which will start as a regional carrier, only to switch to Gulf flights at the first opportunity, when the rules are changed!
 
As was expected by the air travellers, the Tata-SIA partnered Vistara began its maiden flight on 9th January with its brand new A 320-200s with 148 passengers. It has three aircraft, which will expand to six by April.  Presently the flights are from Mumbai, Ahmedabad and New Delhi.
Because of the wintry conditions in the next few weeks Vistara has plans to start its flight schedules to cover new destinations like Goa, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune and Guwahati.  It may be remembered that Vistara is the only domestic airline that has 3 separate classes to meet the exacting needs of its customers.
 
IndiGo, India's biggest airline by market share with a 36.1% share of the domestic passenger market, plans to lease more planes to face serious competition from both Vistara and Air Asia India.  It has a current fleet of 88 airbus A 320 aircraft and is doing all it can to reach the magic figure of 100 planes by this summer! It may be remembered that Jet Airways holds the second slot with 23.3% market share.  In the meantime, despite the losses incurred and heavy in debt, other carriers like GoAir, SpiceJet, Air India and Jet Airways continue to slash down fares for 90 days advance booking due to the lean season ahead.  Not to be outsmarted, IndiGo also followed suit by cutting fares for travels between 16th January and 30th April.
 
Press reports indicate that Ajay Singh, a co-founder of Spice Jet way back in 2010, is now returning to take control of the carrier and is expected to take full ownership and management of the company, once the required formalities are completed.  It appears that the existing promoters (Marans) do hold warrants that convert into equity in April 2015 and 2016 and the full details are with the Ministry of Civil Aviation.  Further announcements in this regard are expected in due course.
 
In the long run, it would be the survival of the fittest who can serve the air traveller in the country.  It is gratifying to note that Tatas who pioneered the airline business in the country are now back in the field and it is hoped, before long, they would show the way to others.
 
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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COMMENTS

Pratibha

2 years ago

Air Kerala will be another entrant into the deadly field of Indian civil aviation which has left many bleeding. The potential is there, the profitability is missing.

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