Citizens' Issues
Justice Venkatachaliah: We are losing democracy to mobocracy

The former chief justice of the Supreme Court warns that the country is headed for chaos and underlines the need for course correction in public life

Long before the demand for a judges’ accountability bill came up, MN Venkatachaliah, the 25th chief justice of the Supreme Court, had suggested that the method of appointment of Supreme Court judges should be more inclusive and transparent. Eight years on, the recommendations of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) have not been implemented. But Justice Venkatachaliah continues to campaign for reforms in the judiciary. The respected judge was in Mumbai on Saturday for the National Conference on Judicial Reforms. In an interview to Moneylife, he talked about weaknesses in the judicial process, judicial activism, corruption, and ‘the muddle called Delhi politics’. Excerpts.

Moneylife (ML): You have served as the highest judge in the country and as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. How do you rate India today?

Justice MN Venkatachaliah (MNV): If things continue the way they are today, we will have complete chaos in the next decade. This system cannot go on, it will collapse on its own, and the biggest millstone that we will have around our neck will be the administrative and judicial machinery.

ML: So reforms are necessary?

MNV: Of course. We are in a dangerous position. There are 30 million cases pending in the lower courts, half of which are in only five states. We have 35 lakh cases in the High Courts. Not only do we need better information technology for fast justice delivery, we also need very competent people to deliver effective justice. I am sorry to say, but there are many cases where the judges have proved to be incompetent.

ML: But isn’t the judiciary more active now?

MNV: Well, in some matters, yes. But in many areas, where it ought to be active, it isn’t.

ML: How about now, when the Supreme Court has rebuked the government for not publishing the names of tax-evaders and bothering about ‘diplomatic niceties’ when there has been a ‘plunder of the national exchequer’?

MNV: See, what people don’t understand is that there are treaties that bind governments. It is not so easy to publish such confidential information, because there are other complications. These are sensitive issues.

ML: But don’t you think that when there is such an amount of money involved the government should rather publish the names?

MNV: Like I said, these are complicated matters. The treaties that I referred to are not subject to ordinary law. You need to initiate complicated procedures for bringing them under the purview of common law.

ML: You have spoken against the government in quite a few cases. You had rebuked Kalyan Singh after the Babri Masjid episode, saying the Uttar Pradesh government had committed “the worst ever contempt of court’ by allowing access to the locked idols. Don’t you think such an assertive role is required now?

MNV: The issue of contempt is a completely different thing. And this is a misconception—I rebuked Mr Singh on some other issue, where the government started the work to level the ground for a cemetery, despite the court’s order to the contrary.

ML: As the head for National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) you had put forward the proposal of a more inclusive and broader collegium for appointment of judges of the Supreme Court. But like many other reports, the recommendations are yet to be implemented. Why has the government not done so?

MNV: Many years have passed since that, and times have changed. And there are many good people who want to bring about change, but they cannot, because of the muddle called Delhi politics.

ML: Do you think matters will look up in the future?

MNV: We are losing democracy to mobocracy. Germany could regain it because they were a high energy democracy. Unfortunately, in India, if the system collapses, we will not be able to rebuild it, no matter how much faith we have in our political institutions of processes.

 

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COMMENTS

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

Please read my blog at http://raviforjustice.blogspot.com/2011/...

You may just recognise some gods with feet of clay!

nagesh kini

6 years ago

Long live Justice Venkatachalliah!
I thought we are in the midst of mobocracy - what ever has happened to the review of the Constitution the Commission which the learned CJI heads? The PMO flatly denying knowledge of the pending criminal charges - the CVO says he is charged with criminal conspiracy which is a lighter cup of tea! - is the depth of immorality , three service chiefs involved in land scams and a general court marshalled, high court judge being impeached, $60,000 in a closely monitored Swiss bank account just disappears under the nose of the FM and yet he won't release the names - citing treaty obligations, industry chief can't get sleep but has no qualms of paying high profile female fixer Rs. 90 cr to jump the Q of 342 applicants to bag 18 0f the 23 telecom circles and three top media personalities involved in fixing union cabinet posts. If not mobocracy what?

Java

6 years ago

The biggest problem facing India is incompetence and the failure to recognise that, thanks to poor governance, we do not have enough good, well trained people in all fields of life. We have further aggravated this by ill considered social engineering that has promoted the concept of reservations and permanently vested interest groups. Posterity will wonder how an entire nation could have committed itself to mediocrity as public policy, and the answer will regrettably be India's convoluted, Democracy where there was no honesty in public life and no justice!

Roopsingh

6 years ago

I agree to a large extent that we are not a democratic country-we are a mobocracy or anarchy,and we will not be able to remain united once the whole system collapses-and the responsibility lies in dirty nexus of corporates plus politicians plus beurocrats who are bent on turning the situation to worse.

Tuesday’s Market Preview: Cautious opening indicated; RBI policy review eyed

The local market is likely to open on a cautious note, ahead of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy review. Volatility would also be a part of the trading session, as seen in the futures and options expiry week. Heavy-weights like HUL, Sterlite Industries, Dr Reddy’s Labs, Indiabulls Securities and UltraTech Cement, among others will announce their quarterly numbers today.

On the global front, Wall Street continued its winning spree with the key indices closing with modest gains on Monday. The upmove was supported by merger and acquisition announcements, buyback plans and dividend prospects. Tracking the US markets, the Asian pack was mostly in the green in early trade today. The SGX Nifty was up 22 points at 5,763 compared to its Monday’s close of 5,741.

The Indian market opened on a positive note yesterday, boosted by good quarterly numbers announced by State Bank of India and Reliance Industries over the weekend. Overcoming initial hiccups, the indices touched their day's highs around noon. Choppiness was evident, ahead of the RBI monetary policy review, to be announced tomorrow. Analysts opine that the central bank might succumb to economic pressures and resort to a rate hike in a bid to bring down spending and curb price rise. The market pared some of the gains and stayed in a narrow range in post-noon trade till the end of the session.

As expected, the market moved in the positive direction today. It traded above Friday's closing for the entire day. The Sensex ended 144 points higher at 19,151 and Nifty ended 47 points higher close at 5,743. The market has stopped falling and is making a basing action. The RBI will conduct a review of its monetary policy tomorrow. The market direction will be clear only thereafter. Our sense is that the stock prices have factored in a 50 basis point hike. The market may decline following the monetary policy but that may set the stage for a rally.

Markets in the US closed with modest overnight, boosted by corporate announcements. Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation vaulted 27% as Rock-Tenn Company agreed to buy the packaging company for $3.5 billion. Intel Corporation gained 2%, boosting the technology sector after the world’s largest chipmaker added $10 billion to its buyback plan. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Incorporated rose 3.2%, the most since June, amid speculation the company may start paying a dividend this year.

Meanwhile, president Barack Obama’s State of the Union address later today will focus on reducing deficit, providing additional jobs and putting the economy back on track.

The Dow extended rose 108.68 points (0.92%) to end at 11,980.52. The index hit a fresh 52-week high intra-day at 11,982.94, within kissing distance of the 12,000 mark The S&P 500 added 7.49 points (0.58%) to close at 1,290.84, while the Nasdaq gained 28.01 points (1.04%) to 2,717.55.

Markets in Asia were mostly in the green in early trade on Tuesday, boosted by positive cues from the US overnight. Material stocks received a boost with the London Metal Exchange’s base metal index rising 0.4% on Monday, gaining for the second day in a row.

The Hang Seng gained 0.44%, the Jakarta Composite advanced 0.87%, the Nikkei 225 surged 0.94%, the Straits Times rose 0.24% and the Seoul Composite was 0.85% higher. On the other hand, the Shanghai Composite declined 0.55% and the Taiwan Weighted lost 0.06%.

Back home, the RBI on Monday said the government should start spending to ease the liquidity situation that has significantly tightened towards the end of 2010.

“It is expected that the government would spend in order to meet its committed expenditure for the year during the ongoing quarter, which is the last quarter of the financial year,” the apex bank said in its macroeconomic review released yesterday.

The liquidity conditions tightened significantly to the point of imposing constraints on growth in the last few months of 2010, it said.

As of December, the government surplus increased at Rs1,44,437 crore compared to Rs93,425 crore in November, 2010. With government cash surplus beginning to flow back into the system, the liquidity position would improve, it added.

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Monday Market Report: Will the Sensex head higher?

RBI policy may lead to a knee-jerk reaction and a subsequent rally

The market opened on a positive note, boosted by good quarterly numbers announced by State Bank of India and Reliance Industries over the weekend. Overcoming initial hiccups, the indices touched their day's highs around noon. Choppiness was evident, ahead of the Reserve Bank of India's monetary policy review, to be announced tomorrow. Analysts opine that the central bank might succumb to economic pressures and resort to a rate hike in a bid to bring down spending and curb price rise.

The market pared some of the gains and stayed in a narrow range in post-noon trade till the end of the session.

As expected, the market moved in the positive direction today. It traded above Friday's closing for the entire day. The Sensex ended 144 points higher at 19,151 and Nifty ended 47 points higher close at 5,743. The market has stopped falling and is making a basing action. The RBI will conduct a review of its monetary policy tomorrow. The market direction will be clear only thereafter. Our sense is that the stock prices have factored in a 50 basis point hike. The market may decline following the monetary policy but that may set the stage for a rally.

The market breadth on the key benchmarks was tilted in favour of the advancing stocks today. The Sensex closed with 17 gainers and 12 losers while 29 stocks on the Nifty closed in the green and 21 closed lower. The broader indices closed a tad higher with the BSE Mid-cap index gaining 0.84% and the BSE Small-cap index rising 0.79%.

BSE Bankex (up 2.40%), BSE Consumer Durables (up 1.93%) and BSE PSU (up 1.20%) were the top gainers in the sectoral space. BSE Oil & Gas (down 0.21%) and BSE Healthcare (down 0.03%) were the sectoral losers.

The top Sensex gainers were State Bank of India (up 3.66%), Tata Steel (up 3.06%), ONGC (up 3.05%), Maruti Suzuki (up 2.96%) and HDFC (up 2.53%). The major losers were Wipro (down 2.57%), Reliance Industries (down 1.57%), Cipla (down 1.49%), Hindalco Industries (down 1.11%) and Reliance Communications (down 1.07%).

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the Centre is working at a "political level" with states for countrywide rollout of Goods and Services Tax (GST), but it may take some time to arrive at a consensus on the new indirect tax regime. Once implemented, GST will subsume indirect taxes like excise duty and service tax at the central level and VAT at the state level, besides other local levies.

Markets in Asia settled mixed on optimism exhibited by corporates in their quarterly numbers, a sign that the economic recovery is on track. However, cautiousness prevailed in China over possible rate-tightening moves.

The Nikkei 225 gained 0.69%, the Straits Times added 0.04% and the Seoul Composite gained 0.59%. On the other hand, the Shanghai Composite declined 0.68%, the Hang Seng fell 0.31%, the Jakarta Composite tanked 0.99%, the KLSE Composite fell 0.29% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 0.26% lower today.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of stocks worth Rs368 crore on Friday. On the other side, domestic institutional investors were net buyers of equities worth Rs223.14 crore.

Bharti Airtel launched its third generation (3G) services in Karnataka today. It aims to cover 40 cities by March and expand the services to 1,500 cities and towns in a year's time. Similarly, Reliance Communications is set to launch the services in 12 cities of Rajasthan in a month. Bharti Airtel was down 0.82% while Reliance Communications fell 1.07% today.

Hero Honda Motors (down 0.33%) today said it has executed a final binding licensing agreement with Japan's Honda Motor Company. The agreement paves the way for the Japanese company to exit Hero Honda Motors, its joint venture with the Munjals-promoted Hero Group. The agreement pertains to the existing and new products that Hero Honda Motors will offer in the Indian market once the sale of the Japanese firm's stake to Hero Group is concluded.

McNally Bharat Engineering Company (up 3.88%) has informed the BSE that the company has received an order from BHEL for design, engineering, manufacture, supply and erection, testing & commissioning of stacker cum reclaimer and wagon tippler for the 2x520MW TPP for Hinduja National Power Corporation at Vizag for a value of around Rs33.45 crore.

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