World
NY Attorney General retreats after pressing Red Cross on post-Sandy spending
The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sought details on how the charity spent donations after the super-storm, but the information was never released
 
Last month we explored the role of the American Red Cross after Hurricane Sandy and the lack of transparency in how the charity spent more than $300 million raised after the storm. Experts criticized the group for not offering a detailed accounting of its post-Sandy efforts.
 
It turns out New York’s attorney general had similar questions for the prominent charity, according to a previously unpublished letter the office sent to the Red Cross.
 
The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last year asked the Red Cross for much of the same detailed financial information that we sought from the group. But no such information was released.
 
And when the attorney general’s office later came to an agreement with the group about its reporting of financial information after disasters, there were no requirements for anything beyond summary data. That means that it will continue to be difficult to assess the response of the Red Cross to future disasters.
 
The attorney general's office requested information from the Red Cross starting soon after Sandy in late 2012 and managed to get some answers.
 
But in a June 2013 letter, which we obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, the head of the attorney general’s charities bureau expressed “continuing concerns about fundraising and relief efforts conducted by the American Red Cross in response to Hurricane Sandy.”
 
The letter asked the Red Cross to:
detail its post-Sandy spending including "how much was spent on personnel, supplies, transportation, fuel, rental fees, professional fees, administrative costs, and any other relevant categories." 
separate figures it commonly combines as "spent or committed," a practice that makes it impossible to determine how much aid has been distributed versus merely promised.
 
No such details have been released. The Red Cross didn’t provide the breakdowns when we asked for them either. (Neither the Red Cross nor Attorney General’s office would say whether the numbers were provided privately.) 
 
Several months later, in October, Schneiderman announced an agreement with the Red Cross covering, among other things, how the group will release information after future disasters. But the deal does not specify how much detail the Red Cross must provide in its post-disaster financial reports. Instead, it simply requires the Red Cross to regularly report summary financial information.
 
“The central question that drove the attorney general’s correspondence with the Red Cross -- what’s going on with the Sandy money? -- was thrown out the window in the final agreement,” said Doug White, a nonprofit expert who directs the fundraising management program at Columbia University.
 
The Office of the Attorney General did not respond to requests for comment. When we originally reported on the lack of transparency, the Red Cross it issues "regular reports about our spending and programs for disasters such as Sandy."
 
They declined to comment this time. 
 
While the agreement doesn’t require the Red Cross to release much in terms of financial details, the organization did agree to stop referencing a particular disaster in fundraising appeals once it determines it has raised enough money to meet the need.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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Modi govt sets up SIT to unearth black money
The SIT will be headed by Supreme Court's former judge MB Shah and will include revenue secretary, CBI and IB directors, official from ED, CBDT chairman and RBI's deputy governor
 
The first Cabinet meeting of the Narendra Modi government resolved to form a special investigation team (SIT) to unearth black money stashed abroad.
 
Newly-appointed Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the SIT will be headed by former Supreme Court judge MB Shah and will include the highest-level officials from financial and economic departments as well as law enforcement agencies.
 
The establishment of a National Judicial Commission to give Executive a say in appointment of judges and setting up an SIT on black money were the priority areas for the Modi government, Prasad said earlier on Tuesday.
 
The SIT will be headed by former Supreme Court judge MB Shah and will include Revenue Secretary, CBI and IB directors, Enforcement Directorate official, CBDT Chairman and RBI deputy governor. Former Supreme Court judge Arijit Pasayat will be the vice-chairman of the panel.
 
The Supreme Court had last week granted the government one week to constitute the SIT for monitoring of all black money cases.
 
“In the first Cabinet of the new government…in the light of the directions of the SC, we have constituted an SIT for unearthing black money… This was an important issue for us,” Prasad told reporters after a one-and-a-half-hour long Cabinet meeting.
 
According to a press release, other members of the SIT are Director General of the Narcotics Control Bureau, Director General of Revenue Intelligence, Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit and a Joint Secretary in the Central Board of Direct Taxes.
 
“The SIT has been charged with the responsibility and duties of investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution in cases of Hasan Ali and other matters involving unaccounted money,” the release said.
 
The panel will have jurisdiction in cases where investigations have commenced, are pending, are waiting to be initiated or have been completed.

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Time to get rid of absurdities in Indian laws?
Economist, columnist and author Bibek Debroy, while speaking at an event organised by Moneylife Foundation, said there is a need to remove the discrepancies in Indian laws and make the legal system robust
 
There certainly are flaws in the Indian laws that may appear stupid, dated, draconian, contradictory, open to abuse and sometimes even funny and it is high time we get rid of such absurdities to make the legal system robust, says economist, columnist and author Bibek Debroy. He was speaking at a lecture organised by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai.
 
"With a new Narendra Modi government, there is an expectation of overhaul of the legal system. The new prime minister has been talking about statutory reforms that he had carried out in Gujarat. There are some development on civil laws, but there is equal need of reforms in criminal laws, including police reforms," he said.
 
Sucheta Dalal, founder trustee of Moneylife Foundation and managing editor of Moneylife asked Dr Debroy reasons for his optimistic views on the new Modi government.

In his reply, Dr Debroy said, "The movement towards legal reforms intensified under the earlier union government of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The union government at that time (around 2001) brought several changes like amendments to the Civil Procedure Court (CPC). Secondly bringing legal reforms is a part of BJP's manifesto. And lastly, the current PM in his speeches had been talking about legal reforms. There are instances where these amendments have been made in Gujarat. Unlike the last ten years, people are at least talking about it now."
 
According to Mr Debroy, it is easy to find old and dysfunctional sections in several laws. "Sometimes," he said, "the entire statute is old and can be scrapped. Sometimes, the statute needs retention, but sections need to be  scrapped and or replaced. So far only Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have looked into old statues and worked upon it."
 
Laws, especially old ones, led to bribery, corruption and harassment. It hurt the poor entrepreneur relatively more. There was ample evidence to prove that street vendors and rickshaw-pullers faced harassment and had to pay bribes.
 
"We do not readily know the number of statutes in the country. There is no complete state list, and we can only guess how many state-level statutes there are for all states. Then there is the problem of counting. I mean, whether to count to the amended statute separately or not. Subject to such caveats, there are 2,500-3,000 Union statutes. The oldest are Bengal Districts Act and Bengal Indigo Contracts Act of 1836, and there are around 140 that go back to the 19th century and another 200 that predate Independence," Mr Debroy added.
 
Mr Debroy, who had authored dozens of books on trade, education, health, law and governance, said, "Why do we still have such laws on statute books? Why does it take 20 years on an average to resolve a dispute in the Indian Legal System?"
 
One of the major issues with the Indian legal system is the delay. According to reports, there are 32 million cases pending in different courts in the country. Then there is an issue of vacancies across courts. At the level of High Courts, there are about 32% fewer judges than there are posts while the same at the district level is 21%.
 
Justice delayed is justice denied, however, the flaws in Indian legal system give rise to unlimited frivolous suits, for not to seek redress but to cause harassment to the opponent. This is one of the most important causes of the accumulation of arrears, as opined by several experts time and again.
 
"The constitution itself needs reforms but it is not easy to change the constitution. If we fix or modify or bring reforms into our laws, we can achieve 1.5% more GDP every year," Mr Debroy added.

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COMMENTS

Yerram Raju Behara

3 years ago

The erudite observations of Dr Debroy add to th knowledge on the subject. The bureaucracy in our country is comfortable with a Law - they call it a simple Law - and they measure it in terms of number of pages and the sections in the Law - rather than a comprehensive Act where rules need not be framed every now and then to implement the Law. Dr Debroy knows, when I framed a comprehensive SSI Development Bill in 1999-2000 after consulting stakeholders and academicians as also legal luminaries, the Ministry of SSI and Agro Industries insisted that the Bill be redrafted to no more than ten to fifteen pages!! They were uncomfortable with according recognition to representative status of Associations with certain established criteria like annual elections, annual audits and regular interactions etc.,and a Regulatory Impact Assessment to be tabled before the Parliament on the status of impacts that the Act generated on the subjects of the Act during the course of the year that would have just ended.
When the Cooperative Act - was recently formulated, they mentioned central government in most parts of the Act whereas as per the Constituiion of India and in legal parlance it should have been mentioned as Union of India. The rigour with which Laws have to be framed and the comprehensiveness of the Act from its applicability for decades to come demands that the framers of the Laws should have vision and foresight. Most beaurocrats would like to have solutions akin to capsules and are not bothered with giving comprehensive solutions to endemic problems plaguing the subjects of such Law.

Nagesh Kini

3 years ago

The new Attorney General has made some valuable suggestions like appeals and frivilous litigations.Let us make a beginning!

KalyanBhattacharjee

3 years ago

Summer vaccations for courts.This should be th syssys
stopped.

KalyanBhattacharjee

3 years ago

Summer vaccations for courts.This should be th syssys
stopped.

KalyanBhattacharjee

3 years ago

Summer vaccations for courts.This should be th syssys
stopped.

Vaibhav Dhoka

3 years ago

The answer to judicial delay is not just increasing number of judges or manpower it is the will of judges to hear and dispose matter properly and in time bound period.As said delay has increased frivilous cases both civil and criminal which further burdon overloaded judiciary and there is unending delay.Then there is most important to note that there is rampant corruption in judiciary,as direct complaint from litigant is rare and if one complaints that is not scrutinesed and it is litigant who has bear cost,time to go in appeal,therefore corruption play biggest role in DELAYED DISPENSATION of justice.During Vajpayees tenure NDA changed many legal procedures to improve faster justice,but courts don't take changes seriously.And higher courts fail to pass strictures where lot many adjournments are given at trial stage.In trial court litigant is harrassed due to such adjournments.

Abhijit Gosavi

3 years ago

The legal system needs many more judges! It is too slow! Court cases can take more than two decades --- especially if they go to the Supreme Court.

I know of one specific property dispute case involving my grandfather. He won in the lowest court (early 60s) and then in the high court, but did not live to see the final verdict delivered by the Supreme Court in 1985. He went twice to Delhi for the hearings and suffered a serious stroke (in his second visit) in the heat of Delhi --- which left him paralyzed and eventually caused his death in 1982.

That case (Sulakhe, 1985, when the Chief Justice was P.N. Bhagwati) is now used as a benchmark for making decisions related to other property disputes. What an irony!

http://indiankanoon.org/doc/1424462/

REPLY

Dev

In Reply to Abhijit Gosavi 3 years ago

I knew one man who lost his prime youth fighting for a land dispute case. The case would have ended in 15 years. But the High court remanded the case to the lower court for fresh disposal. He fought the case for 30 long years. It started from Munsiff Court and ended in Supreme Court. The case began when he was 30 and it finished when he was 60. He is no more.

Ameet Patel

3 years ago

The speaker was a brilliant orator. He combined his immense knowledge and experience with a terrific delivery. The time spent in attending the event was worth it!

REPLY

Nagesh Kini

In Reply to Ameet Patel 3 years ago

Though I had registered, due to certain unavoidable reasons couldn't make it, I'd have loved to hear the learned speaker.

MOHAN

3 years ago

November 1978
77th Law Commission Report

DELAY AND ARREARS IN TRIAL COURTS


http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/51-10...

MOHAN

3 years ago

The biggest problems in the trail courts are unexplained adjournments.

Frequent adjournments must be discouraged. Whenever a case is adjourned, the judicial officer must state the reason for adjournment in the records.
Al our law courts must be computerized and linked to the internet. Whenever a case is adjourned the litigant must know why it was adjourned through the click of a mouse.

Computerization is a panacea for delays in trial courts.

V Rajendran

3 years ago

Sounds very interesting. Certainly the Indian Legal System needs lot of revamp and re-look. What else is a better forum than Moneylife to trigger the debate? V Rajendran, Advocate and Cyber Law Consultant

REPLY

Nagesh Kini

In Reply to V Rajendran 3 years ago

I entirely agree with Mr. Rajendran. The legal fraternity needs to come out first with the laws that need to be scrapped in toto and other laws that need to be rewritten.

Suiketu Shah

3 years ago

Firstly there shd be made a rule that every court case in this country on any matter ends in 1 yr max.This wl drastically reduce by atleast 80% the court cases as most of them are to tire out the victim by dragging it on for yrs together.See how soon and fast the legal system turned on its head.Ofcourse you need enough judges to back this assurance.

Dev

3 years ago

I had filed a case in a Munsiff Court. After many year the judgment came out. I asked my lawyer to get me a copy of the judgement immediately for appeal. He told me that I have to file a petition for Carbon copy instead of Certified Copy since it is urgent. He himself filed a petition under civil rules of practice. I was also told that I may get it within one or two months !!!

Why can't the copy of judgement be made available to the litigant/ lawyer immediately after the pronouncement of order/ judgement?

This is the age of computer. then why the Carbon Copy?

Why should a litigant or lawyer file a petition for getting a copy of the order/judgment, since it is a public document?

Hope Team Modi will bring in Judicial administrative reforms

Nagesh Kini

3 years ago

Yes, in deed, there are many, many enactments in our statues that need to be scrapped in toto. Sometime back the magazine "Outlook" had come out with an ancient act that mandates that all hotels serve free water on demand imagine our starred hotels doing this. some of our present laws go back into the 1800s. Can this mass scrapping not been brought about by an omnibus bill moved in the Parliament.
The demand from a MOS from the PMO for scrapping Article 370 for J&K is fully justified too.

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