There have been only three women among the 81 senior advocates designated by the Bombay High Court from 1991 to 2010. Since 2006, no women have been designated as senior advocates; this year too, there were none among the 15 names decided by the High Court.
This year, only one woman, a senior lawyer with over 35 years’ experience, had applied, and she was not selected. Women are diffident about applying for the senior advocates’ designation and even if they do, they are not sure of getting it. And the whole process is shrouded in secrecy. S B Shukre, Registrar General, Bombay High Court, refused to give any details regarding the selection process, the number of applicants and how many women had applied for the designation of senior advocate. Saying that the information was confidential, he suggested that an application may be filed under the Right to Information Act. Rajani Iyer, who was made senior advocate in 2006 along with Ms. K.V. Sirpurkar, says: “I waited to apply till I was invited/asked to apply. I didn’t want to do so otherwise. Perhaps I got lucky when I was appointed.” In addition to a certain amount of diffidence, there is a lack of women applicants. It is a two way-street, she explains. “Why don’t senior women advocates apply for this position despite having a well-rounded practice?” she asks. To be appointed senior advocate is prestigious. “You don’t have to draft petitions and you are given sole responsibility for the case. It’s exciting and challenging,” Ms. Iyer says.
When asked if there was discrimination in the selection process, she points out that the question of discrimination can arise only if women are denied from among a large number of applicants. “The bias or inequity is in the number of women applying. How many women can get recommendations from four senior advocates for the application? That is also the question. Also there are so few women from the criminal side. Freny Ponda was the last advocate from the criminal side.” So far there have been only eight women senior advocates in Mumbai, and among them are Indira Jaising, Sujata Manohar and Phiroza Anklesaria.
To apply for the position, one must have four recommendations from senior advocates, at least 15 years standing as an advocate, reference to at least ten reported judgments in cases in which the applicant has appeared as arguing counsel and contributed to the making of law, among other things. The proposals from advocates are vetted by the Registrar General and then decided upon by the Full Court. The acceptance of the Full Court shall be accorded only if not less then two-thirds of the judges present in the meeting vote in favour of the applications from the advocates.
‘Election, not selection’
A senior lawyer who was turned away after applying for the position in 2011 says, on condition of anonymity, that the voting is done in a secret ballot and is an election, rather than a selection. And the results and number of votes each candidate gets is not made public. While a list had been put up on the high court website, the rejected candidates had not been informed. They cannot apply for two years now. The applicant must know how many votes he or she has got. The whole process, the senior lawyer says, lacks transparency and is vitiated by this secrecy.
A senior woman lawyer, who does not wish to be named, too says the process lacks transparency and that there has to be some objective criteria. If deserving people do not get elevated, then the whole systems suffers, she feels. As a woman lawyer, she herself has not experienced discrimination like many others. However, she concedes that there is a low opinion in general about women lawyers, who lack ambition, albeit that was changing now. She adds that family connections matter in the appointments to the senior counsel.
The appointment of senior counsels is one area where women find no place. Male lawyers never let you feel like an insider; women remain outsiders, according to a young lawyer. Another senior lawyer said there were fewer women lawyers out there but that they were bright. However, many drop out due to various reasons and the judiciary has its own caste system and hierarchy, which was perpetuated everywhere. Women have no place in this. “You join a particular chamber so you go ahead in your career. Women can’t even get into these places,” he says. There are few women judges and if they are appointed it’s a quota.
In addition to this, it is difficult for women, sometimes, who have families to look after, and the court offers no flexibility in terms of time and place, according to a yound woman lawyer. Once you take a break it is difficult to re-establish yourself and not many women make it through the first 20 years of their practice. Things could also be changing with more women coming into the profession determined to stick it out.
Meanwhile, when advocate M.P. Vashi filed a PIL petition in the Bombay High Court on the selection of senior advocates under section 16 of the Advocates Act, he was told to file it in the Supreme Court. Mr. Vashi said the rules setting the criteria for senior advocates went against the principles of making legal aid available cheaply. To apply for the position of senior advocate one had to have an annual income of Rs.7.5 lakh. “The idea is to make legal aid cheaper and here the rules are encouraging the lawyers to charge more fees,” he said. He said there was no clear criteria to judge the competence of those who would be selected for the position of senior advocate and the whole practice must be done away with.
Two decades ago, the Supreme Court set exacting standards for judges. In All India Judges Association case, the SC had said in 1992, “The conduct of every judicial officer should be above reproach. He should be conscientious, studious, thorough, courteous, patient, punctual, just, impartial, fearless of public clamour, regardless of public praise, and indifferent to private, political or partisan influences.”
It added, “He should administer justice according to law, and deal with his appointment as public trust, he should not allow other affairs or his private interests to interfere with the prompt and proper performance of his judicial duties, nor should he administer the office for purpose of advancing his personal ambitions or increasing his popularity.”
It is difficult to test Supreme Court judges against the 1992 norms. Most maintain a discernable degree of discipline in demeanour, dealings and decisions while deciding cases.
But Justice Markandey Katju was different. During his five-and-a-half year stint as an SC judge, he was an enigma — lovable yet distasteful, respectful yet disdainful, courteous in one moment and rough in the next. In his court room, polite conversations could suddenly turn into a vicious diatribe.
How does one describe a personality like Justice Katju? Could his judgments and observations in the court give a clue? It is said judges speak through their judgments. But did he conform to this? Difficult to say.
Coming from the renowned Katju family of Allahabad, he was a first divisioner throughout his academic career. Probably that – getting first division in every examination he appeared in — was the only thing that was constant for him. Everything else was fluid and dynamic.
Justice Katju was a staunch advocate of judicial restraint. He was against public interest litigations which invited judiciary to foray into the domains of executive and legislature. But, he did not flinch in converting innocuous petitions into PILs and kept giving directions to the chief secretaries.
To the credit of the man, he seldom hid his feelings and always wanted to do something for society that would leave a lasting impression. If he did a thorough job before rejecting a mercy killing plea advanced on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug, who had been leading a vegetative life in a Mumbai hospital for last 38 years after a violent sexual assault, then his efforts towards rehabilitation of sex workers will be remembered fondly for a long time in the red light districts across India.
When many feared to dwell openly about incidents of corruption in higher judiciary, Justice Katju jolted the judicial community by boldly recording in a judgment “something is rotten in Allahabad High Court” and referred to sons and kin of sitting judges becoming multi-millionaires in a short span of time.
He gave the impression of being a stickler for rules and laws, but went against a constitution bench judgment to advocate revival of anticipatory bail provision in Uttar Pradesh.
Justice Katju often ridiculed counsel for not reading the petition and the questions of law involved in it. But he himself was found wanting when he ruled that “mere membership of a banned organisation” was no offence though the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) clearly provided that it was a punishable offence.
English may be the language of the court but it did not prevent Justice Katju from frequently lapsing into Hindi. On social issues, his judgments began with an Urdu couplet.
No advocate dared challenge his knowledge either in law or in Urdu. Justice Katju loved engaging lawyers in light banter, but threatened to dismiss the petition if the counsel proved equal to the task in a debate that spilled off the judicial ring.
There was seldom a dull day in his court room. His retirement brought an end to a colourful tenure of an enigmatic judge. When a senior advocate’s comment was sought on Justice Katju’s retirement, he said, “Thank God, India does not follow the US Supreme Court system.”
In US Supreme Court, a person is appointed judge for life. In India, Supreme Court judges retire on attaining the age of 65 years.
Sixty years after India became a Republic, the Supreme Court posed a question on Friday on whether public servants should be entitled to red beacons, a stream of security personnel and a fleet of cars as a matter of right.Wondering what the term “public servant” actually meant, a Bench of Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhyay gave liberty to convert a matter challenging grant of Z-plus security to a Congress MLA from Uttar Pradesh into a PIL to examine whether there should be norms or guidelines governing grant of security to VIPs and citizens in general, to prevent it being misused.
The case before the court was an appeal filed by one Abhay Singh through advocate CD Singh challenging grant of high security to one Pramod Tewari, MLA from Pratapgarh. The security was provided to him in 1985 for inviting wrath of the Sikh militants over an objectionable statement made by him. The Centre placed him in its prime security zone without reviewing the threat perception for decades together. Close to 50 security personnel were posted with him along with a fleet of cars, each attached with beacon light, causing inconvenience and terror among local residents.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who questioned the entitlement of Tewari to secure Z-plus security, forced the Court to think on the larger issue involved. Since India became a Republic in January 1950, “any symbol of authority or superiority conferred by the Government or allowed by the government would fall foul of such a principle of egalitarianism.” Moreover, Article 18 abolished all titles and granting security as a matter of entitlement to public servants vitiated the very concept of the term defined under Article 309, Salve added. Conscious of the abuse of the security apparatus, the bench said, “This is a very serious issue. We will convert it into a PIL.”
What caught the imagination of the court was Salve’s insistence to remove such symbols that made public servants a crest above common man. Giving a historical context to the issue under debate, Salve maintained that public servants during British rule were foreign citizens who owed allegiance to the Crown and thus were awarded these symbols.
But it ceased after India gave itself a Constitution. Unfortunately, he remarked, “It is now a common practice amongst those who hold public office or are connected with political parties and organisations to seek security.” The Bench agreed, “public servants are actually servants of the public,” giving permission to Salve to file a fresh petition stressing this point.
NEW DELHI: The Planning Commission told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that anyone spending more than Rs 965 per month in urban India and Rs 781 in rural India will be deemed not to be poor. Updating the poverty line cut-off figures, the commission said those spending in excess of Rs 32 a day in urban areas or Rs 26 a day in villages will no longer be eligible to draw benefits of central and state government welfare schemes meant for those living below the poverty line.
According to the new criterion suggested by the planners, if a family of four in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore or Chennai is spending anything more than Rs 3,860 per month on its members, it would not be considered poor. It’s a definition that many would find ridiculously unrealistic. Not surprisingly, the new above the poverty line definition has already created outrage among activists, who feel it is just a ploy to artificially depress the number of poor in India. The plan panel said these were provisional figures based on the Tendulkar committee report updated for current prices by taking account of the Consumer Price Index for industrial and agricultural workers.
TOI broke down the overall monthly figure for urban areas and used the CPI for industrial workers along with the Tendulkar report figures to see what these numbers translate into and how much the Planning Commission believes is enough to spend on essential items so as not to be deemed poor.
The Planning Commission suggests that spending Rs 5.5 on cereals per day is good enough to keep people healthy. Similarly, a daily spend of Rs 1.02 on pulses, Rs 2.33 on milk and Rs 1.55 on edible oil should be enough to provide adequate nutrition and keep people above the poverty line without the need of subsidized rations from the government. It further suggests that just Rs 1.95 on vegetables a day would be adequate. A bit more, and one might end up outside the social security net.
People should be spending less than 44 paise on fruits, 70 paise on sugar, 78 paise on salt and spices and another Rs 1.51 on other foods per day to qualify for the BPL list and for subsidy under various government schemes. A person using more than Rs 3.75 per day on fuel to run the kitchen is doing well as per these figures. Forget about the fuel price hike and sky-rocketing rents, if anyone living in the city is spending over Rs 49.10 a month on rent and conveyance, he or she could miss out on the BPL tag.
As for healthcare, according to the Planning Commission, Rs 39.70 per month is sufficient to stay healthy. On education, the plan panel feels those spending 99 paise a day or Rs 29.60 a month in cities are doing well enough not to need any help. Similarly, one could be considered not poor if he or she spends more than Rs 61.30 a month on clothing, Rs 9.6 on footwear and another Rs 28.80 on other personal items.
The monthly cut-off given by the Planning Commission before the apex court was broken down using the Consumer Price Index of Industrial Workers for 2010-11 and the breakdown given in Annexure E of the Tendulkar report of expenditure calculated at 2004-05 prices.
The new tentative BPL criteria was worked out by the Planning Commission and approved by the Prime Minister’s office before the government’s affidavit was submitted before the Supreme Court. The plan panel said the final poverty line criteria would be available after the completion of the NSSO survey of 2011-12.
The Montek Singh Ahluwalia-headed Planning Commission had drawn flak from the apex court which, on May 14, took exception to the poverty line definition which initially said anyone spending more than Rs 20 in urban areas and Rs 15 in rural areas should not be considered poor. “The Planning Commission may revise the norms of per capita amount looking to the price index of May 2011 or any other subsequent dates,” the court had said. So, the planners have now given a revised figure of Rs 32 for urban areas and Rs 26 for poor areas.
In their affidavit, the planners have defended their definition of the poverty line and not revised the norms, but merely updated them with the CPI for the current year. The affidavit says, “The recommended poverty lines ensure the adequacy of actual private expenditure per capita near the poverty lines on food, education and health and the actual calories consumed are close to the revised calorie intake norm for urban areas and higher than the norm in rural areas.”
Ministers involved in sports bodies oppose the Sports Development Bill. Sharad Pawar sees it as an attempt to bring the BCCI under the RTI.
THE organised wails and breast-beating of members of the Union Cabinet holding high offices in sports bodies, at the Cabinet meeting on August 30, reminds one of a similar spectacle enacted by Zamindars over half a century ago, when Bills for abolition of the Zamindari system were introduced in State legislatures. This time the tamasha was over the National Sports Development Bill, 2011, which Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Ajay Maken tabled for discussion in the Cabinet.
The strongest opposition came from Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who threatened to take up the matter with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and ask her to discuss it in the UPA coordination committee: “[T]ell [ sic] her to allow me to follow my party’s decision during the voting on the Bill” ( The Times of India, August 31). The confidence with which he anticipated the decision of his party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), says a lot for that party and for him.
The shrillest of the mourners was Farooq Abdullah. As has been pointed out earlier in this journal, citing authoritative dicta by constitutional authorities, Ministers who are affected personally by a proposed measure have absolutely no right to be present at the Cabinet meeting that is to discuss the measure. The vice is not cured one bit by “disclosure of interest”, quite apart from the fact that the interest was only too well known. (“A flawed waiver”, Frontline, May 6, 2011). Rule 255 of the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha provides that if a member of a committee of Parliament has a “personal” or “direct interest” on a matter to be discussed, he shall, on the Speaker’s finding to that effect, “ cease to be member thereof forthwith”.
In 1937, Sir John Simon reiterated the rules on behalf of the Prime Minister:
“In the first place, it is plain that in no circumstances must a man who holds the position of a Minister ever allow himself to be in such a situation that his public duty will conflict with his private interests…. The second principle is that no man should allow himself to occupy any portion of the time which he is bound to devote to his public duties in a disregard of his public duties, and pursuing any private interest whatever, whether it is in playing golf or in the nature of business.
“The third principle is that inasmuch as the secrets of the government are specially in charge of Cabinet Ministers, no Minister, and particularly no Cabinet Minister, must in any circumstances put himself in a position where he is not able to be the complete guardian of those secrets in that there is any possibility of any private interests being served through a knowledge of those secrets” (324-C. Debates Ss., 1220).
What is the lure of power over sports bodies that drives politicians to seek that power while grasping simultaneously at state power? In this category fall also Praful Patel, Vilasrao Deshmukh, C.P. Joshi, Farooq Abdullah and Arun Jaitley.
Regardless of their protests, the Bill must be considered objectively. Control of sports bodies by politicians is offensive; more so is state Control. Involved are two distinct issues. One is the application of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The other comprises regulatory measures over all national sports federations, including the BCCI. They are: a 70-year age bar and a 12-year tenure limit on office-bearers of the federations and the BCCI, a 25 per cent reservation of seats on their executive boards for sportsmen of the same game, anti-doping norms, provision for “recognition” of the federations (BCCI included) by the Government of India and the publication of audited accounts. Clause 6(1) of the Bill reads thus: “Every national sports federation shall, in collaboration with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and with the approval of the Central Government, develop a long-term development plan for a period of four years.”
Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel’s objection is valid: “If such a Bill is passed, bureaucrats like a Joint Secretary will be soon running the sports federation. What is their competence in sports administration? The Sports Ministry should rather address the issue of free and fair elections in sports bodies.”
The Sports Minister replies: “Section 6(1) Clause only relates to those federations which are funded by the government. After all, the Ministry has a right to see how its funds are utilised. But the provision is not applicable for bodies like the BCCI, which does not take grant-in-aid from the government” ( Indian Express, September 1).
For all the furore, there is considerable common ground between the rival viewpoints and, therefore, ample ground for compromise. Note these pronouncements. Sports Minister Ajay Maken said: “Whichever provision that sports federations find intrusive, we are willing to look into it. Our intention is not to control the national sports federations but to regulate them. We do not intend to be intrusive.”
Praful Patel said he did not have any issue with opening the BCCI to RTI scrutiny, adding that this was his personal view. Patel, who heads the All India Football Federation (AIFF), however, said he had objections to only specific provisions and not to the entire draft Bill per se. “Personally, I don’t have any issues with RTI [for BCCI]. But I do not agree with the clauses relating to age bar, tenure limitation and control of sporting bodies by the government.”
A provision of the draft Bill says: “Every national sports federation (this includes the BCCI) shall every year before December 21 publish on its website audited annual financial statements, comprehensive report of its activities and achievements.” What objection can any sports federation possibly have to such a provision? Sports federations, the BCCI included, select national teams for participation in matches abroad.
In the very nature of things, there has to be a certain liaison between the state and the federations. The BCCI is accepted internationally only because it is seen internationally to enjoy a measure of official backing and support. Without these its clout would dissipate. We have to steer between the Scylla of politicians’ corrupting control and the Charybdis of state control, which will cripple sports.
Some legislation is overdue. One must consider first the legal status of the BCCI and, relatedly, its behaviour. There are four rulings on its status. One is by the Delhi High Court. The other three are by the Supreme Court: (1) BCCI vs Netaji Cricket Club and Ors. (2005) 4 Supreme Court Case 741 decided by Justices N. Santosh Hegde and S.B. Sinha on January 10, 2005. Only a few days later, on February 2, 2005, they split; each pronouncing for the differing judges (3-2), a narrow majority, in (2) Zee.Telefilms Ltd & Anr vs Union India & Ors. (2005) 4 SCC 649, and, lastly, (3) A.C. Muthiah vs BCCI & Anr (2011) 6 SCC 617 decided on April 28, 2011, by Justices J.M. Panchal and Gyan Sudha Misra. They differed and referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India “for being assigned to an appropriate Bench”. Thus, despite the three cases, the issue of the BCCI’s status remains to be decided finally, one hopes by a larger Bench. The final result is unlikely to please the zamindars of the BCCI, judging by the reasoning of the eminent judges who ruled on the issue. It is best to quote their words at some length.
Part III of the Constitution, embodying the Fundamental Rights, applies only to “the state”, not to private individuals or associations. Article 12 defines what “the state” means in this context. It covers the Central and State governments and legislatures and “all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India”. The Supreme Court interpreted Article 12 to cover a host of bodies so that the citizen can enforce his fundamental rights against them. Is the BCCI a state so defined? The BCCI was formed in 1928, as an unregistered association of persons. It was registered in 1940 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, a Central statute. It was later registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975, which came into effect on April 22, 1978.
The first case ( BCCI vs Netaji Cricket Club) concerned elections for the post of the BCCI’s president. Netaji Club was a member of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), which, in turn, was a member of the BCCI. The judgment was delivered by Justice S.B. Sinha of the two-judge Bench. Justice Santosh Hegde was party to it. It said:
“The Board is a society registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act. It enjoys a monopoly status as regards regulation of the sport of cricket in terms of its Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association. It controls the sport of cricket and lays down the law therefor. It inter alia enjoys benefits by way of tax exemption and right to use stadia at nominal annual rent. It earns a huge revenue not only by selling tickets to viewers but also selling right to exhibit films live on TV and broadcasting the same. Ordinarily, its full members are the State associations except Association of Indian Universities, Railway Sports Control Board and Services Sports Control Board. As a member of ICC [International Cricket Council], it represents the country in the international fora. It exercises enormous public functions. It has the authority to select players, umpires and other officers. The Rules of the Board clearly demonstrate that without its recognition no competitive cricket can be hosted either within or outside the country. Its control over the sport of competitive cricket is deeply pervasive and complete.
“In law, there cannot be any dispute that having regard to the enormity of power exercised by it the Board is bound to follow the doctrine of ‘fairness’ and ‘good faith’ in all its activities. Having regard to the fact that it has to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of millions, it has a duty to act reasonably. It cannot act arbitrarily, whimsically or capriciously. As the Board controls the profession of cricket, its actions are required to be judged and viewed by higher standards.”
Zee Telefilms Ltd vs Union of India was decided by a Bench of five judges. It squarely concerned the issue whether the BCCI fell within the definition of “the state” in Article 12. The Bench split narrowly. Justice Santosh Hegde delivered the judgment for himself and Justices B. Singh and H.K. Sema, while Justice S.B. Sinha delivered the dissent on his own behalf and on behalf of Justice S.N. Variava.
Admittedly, the BCCI is neither controlled by the government nor does it receive financial assistance from it. The majority ruled that it was not an instrumentality of the state. The government’s plea that it enjoyed it “ de facto recognition” was rejected. But the majority qualified this:
“However, it is true that the Union of India has been exercising certain control over the activities of the Board in regard to organising cricket matches and travel of the Indian team abroad as also granting of permission to allow the foreign teams to come to India. But this control over the activities of the Board cannot be construed as an administrative control. At best this is purely regulatory in nature and the same according to this court in [the] Pradeep Kumar Biswas case is not a factor indicating a pervasive state control of the Board.
“Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that the Board does discharge some duties like the selection of an Indian cricket team, controlling the activities of the players and others involved in the game of cricket. These activities can be said to be akin to public duties or state functions and if there is any violation of any constitutional or statutory obligation or rights of other citizens, the aggrieved party may not have a relief by way of a petition under Article 32. But that does not mean that the violator of such right would go scot-free merely because it or she is not a state. Under the Indian jurisprudence there is always a just remedy for the violation of a right of a citizen. Though the remedy under Article 32 is not available, an aggrieved party can always seek a remedy under the ordinary course of law or by way of a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, which is much wider than Article 32.” The gap between this view and the minority view is not wide.
Article 226 confers on High Courts power to issue “to any person or authority” and “any government” writs for the enforcement of the fundamental rights “and for any other purpose”. Article 32 empowers only the Supreme Court to issue writs for the enforcements of the fundamental rights. The majority very well knew that the Supreme Court has driven a coach-and-four through Article 32. It has issued writs for all manner of purposes. It would be unsafe for the BCCI to bank on the majority view with its explicit recognition that the BCCI does exercise “ public duties or state functions”. How then can it object to Central legislation?
Justice Sinha’s dissent focuses on this very point, the BCCI’s Achilles’ heel. He said: “Its actions of promoting the sport, making laws for cricket for the entire country, representing the country in international forums, appointing India’s representatives, and the all-pervasive control over players, managers and umpires are state actions.” He cited an English ruling that said: “The reason why a club is not subject to judicial review is not just because it is self-regulating. The panel wields enormous power. It has a giant’s strength. The fact that it is self-regulating, which means, presumably, that it is not subject to regulation by others, and in particular the Department of Trade and Industry, makes it not less but more appropriate that it should be subject to judicial review by the courts.”
Justice Sinha observed: “The Board [BCCI] while enjoying monopoly in cricket exercises enormous power, which is neither in doubt nor in dispute. Its action may disable a person from pursuing his vocation and in that process subject a citizen to hostile discrimination or impose an embargo which would make or mar a player’s career. The right to pursue an occupation or the right of equality are embedded in our Constitution, whereby citizens of India are granted much higher right as compared to the common law right in England. A body although self-regulating, if it performs a public duty by way of exercise of regulatory machinery a judicial review would lie against it. The question has since been considered from a slightly different angle, viz., when such action affects the human right of the person concerned holding that the same would be public function. If the action of the Board impinges upon the fundamental or other constitutional rights of a citizen or if the same is ultra vires or by reason thereof an injury or material prejudice is caused to its member or a person connected with cricket, judicial review would lie. Such functions on the part of the Board being public functions, any violation of or departure or deviation from abiding by the Rules and Regulations framed by it would be subject to judicial review. Time is not far off when having regard to globalisation and privatisation the rules of administrative law have to be extended to private bodies whose functions affect the fundamental rights of a citizen and who wield a great deal of influence in public life.” The logic is unanswerable.
Justice Sinha pointed out: “The traditional tests of a body controlled financially, functionally and administratively by the government as laid down in Pradeep Kumar Biswas would have application only when a body is created by the state itself for different purposes but incorporated under the Indian Companies Act or the Societies Registration Act. Those tests may not be applicable in a case where the body like the Board was established as a private body long time back. It was allowed by the state to represent the state or the country in international fora. It became a representative body of the international organisations as representing the country. The nature of function of such a body becomes such that having regard to the enormity thereof it acquires the status of monopoly for all practical purposes; regulates and controls the fundamental rights of a citizen as regards his right of speech or right of occupation, becomes representative of the country either overtly or covertly and has a final say in the matter of registration of players, umpires and others connected with a very popular sport. The organisers of competitive Test cricket between one association and another or representing different states or different organisations having the status of state are allowed to make laws on the subject, which is essentially a state function in terms of Entry 33 List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. In such a case, different tests have to be applied.”
The BCCI selects India’s Team, not the BCCI’s team. “As per ICC Rules and Guidelines for Classification of Official Cricket, the definition of a Test match in clause 1(a)(i) is as follows: ‘Any cricket match of not more than five days scheduled duration played between two teams selected by full members as representatives of their member countries and accorded the status of Test match by the Council.’ Indisputably, the Union of India had issued guidelines, which had been reviewed from time to time. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports issued the revised guidelines and forwarded the same to the presidents/ Secretary General, Indian Olympic Association, and presidents/ hon. general secretaries of all recognised sports federations, incorporating therein the amended provisions. Cricket is included in annexure I within the category.”
Justice Sinha proceeded to analyse the government’s guidelines. “Annexure II appended to the guidelines provides for recognition of national sports federations, inter alia, by laying down the eligibility therefor and the necessity of filling of applications in that behalf. Clause 3, 12, reads as under: ‘There would be only one recognised federation for each discipline of sport, irrespective of the fact that the particular sport caters to youngsters, men, women or veterans.
‘However, this condition shall not apply to federations already recognised by the Department.’ Clause 5 provides for grant of recognition. Annexure III appended to the said guidelines provides for the procedure for suspension/withdrawal of recognition and consequences thereof. The guidelines also prescribe forms required to be used by the federations for different purposes.
“The Board for all intent and purport was a recognised body. Probably in that view of the matter, the Board did not think it necessary to apply for grant of such recognition by the Union of India, asking it for passing a formal order. However, the Board had all along been obtaining the requisite permission for sending an Indian team abroad or for inviting a foreign team to India in the prescribed form. …a number of documents have been annexed, which clearly go to show that from the very beginning the Board had been asking for the permission of the Ministry of Human Resource Development either to go abroad or to play or participate in other countries or for inviting the others to play in India. Such permission had been sought for in the form prescribed in terms of the said Regulations. The said documents leave no manner of doubt that the Board had asked for and the Union of India had granted de facto recognition.” So much for the objection to the government’s power of “recognition”.
“It is not disputed that the Union of India has not recognised any other national sports body for regulating the game of cricket in India. It is the categorical stand of the Union of India that only by such recognition granted by the Union of India is the team selected by the Board the Indian cricket team, which it could not do in the absence thereof. We cannot accept the submission of Mr Venugopal to the effect that even while playing abroad, the Board sends its own team. It is evident from the records, which fact has also been noticed by the Delhi High Court in its judgment in Rahul Mehra, that the Board fields its team as the Indian team and not as Board Eleven, which without having any authority from the Union of India it will not be able to do. The stand that the cricket team selected by the Board only represents it and not the country is incorrect. Having regard to the Rules of the ICC, its own Rules as also various documents placed before this court by the Union of India, the conduct of both the Board and the Union of India clearly goes to show that sub silentio both the parties had been acting on the premise that the Board is recognised as the only recognised national federation for the purpose of regulating the game of cricket in India.”
Read this: “A body which carries on the monopolistic function of selecting a team to represent the nation and whose core function is to promote a sport that has become a symbol of national identity and the medium of expression of national pride, must be held to be carrying out governmental functions. A highly arbitrary or capricious action on the part of such a powerful body would attract the wrath of Article 14 of the Constitution. The Board itself acted as a representative of the Government of India before the international community. It makes representations to the effect that it was entitled to select a team which represents the nation as a cricket-playing country, and, thus, the same would, without anything more, make its action a state action. For the said purpose, actual control of the Board or issuing any direction in that behalf by the Government of India is not of much significance, but the question as to whether the government, considering the facts and circumstances, should control the actions of the Board as long as it purports to select a team to represent India would be a matter of great significance.
“The guidelines issued by the Union of India clearly demonstrate its concern with the fall in standard of Indian teams in sports in important international sports events. It would not be correct to draw a comparison between an event of international sport as significant as cricket with beauty pageants and other such events as the test necessary to be evolved in this behalf is the qualitative test and not the quantitative test. The quality and character of a sport recognised as a measure of education and nation-building (as a facet of human resource development) cannot be confused with an event that may be a form of entertainment. Cricket, as noticed hereinbefore, has a special place in the hearts of citizens of India.
“The monopoly status of the Board is undisputed. The monopoly enjoyed by the Board need not be a statutory one so as to conform to the tests contained in Clause (6) of Article 19 of the Constitution. It can be a de facto monopoly which has overtly or covertly received the blessings of the Union of India. The de facto monopoly of the Board is manifest as it, as a member of ICC (even if it is technically possible to float any other association), can send an Indian team abroad or invite a foreign team to India. In the absence of recognition from the ICC, it would not be possible for any other body, including the Union of India, to represent India in the international cricket events featuring competitive cricket….
“The Board which represents a nation with or without a statutory flavour has duties to perform towards the players, coaches, umpires, administrators and other team officials. They have a duty to create safe rules for the sport, if by reason thereof a physical injury to the player is to be avoided and to keep safety aspect under ongoing review. A body may be autonomous but with autonomy comes responsibility. Sport is a ‘good thing’ wherefor a societal end is to be provided. Sport must receive encouragement from the state and the general public or at least not be discouraged. Health, sociability and play are considered to be important values to be recognised in a human.
“Having regard to the nature of activities, viz., the Board represents a sovereign country while selecting and fielding a team for the country with another sovereign country, promoting and aiming at good relations with the said country as also peace and prosperity for the people, even at the domestic level the citizens of the said country may be held to be entitled to the right to invoke the writ jurisdiction of this court even if hereby no personal fundamental right is directly infringed.
“With the opening up of the economy and globalisation, more and more governmental functions are being performed and showed to be performed by private bodies. When the functions of a body are identifiable with the state functions, they would be state actors only in relation thereto… What is necessary is to find out as to whether by reason of its nature of activities, the functions of the Board are public functions. It regulates and controls the field of cricket to the exclusion of others; its activities impinge upon the fundamental rights of the players and other persons as also the rights, hopes and aspirations of the cricket-loving public. The right to see the game of cricket live or on television also forms an important facet of the Board. A body which makes a law for sports in India (which otherwise is the function of the state), conferring upon itself not only enormous powers but also final say in disciplinary matters and, thus, being responsible for making or marring a citizen’s sports career, would be an authority which answers the description of ‘other authorities’.”
The third case arose out of a suit filed by A.C Muthiah, a former president of the BCCI, against the BCCI. It had invited Indian Cements Ltd., based at Chennai and represented by its managing director N. Srinivasan (respondent 2), to participate in the auction conducted by the Indian Premier League (IPL). Srinivasan was also the hon. treasurer of the BCCI and president of the TNCA. He was awarded the franchised IPL rights for ownership of Chennai Super Kings team by the BCCI. Muthiah alleged conflict of interest and filed a suit in the Madras High Court for various reliefs. Srinivasan participated in the Annual General Meeting of the BCCI held in Mumbai on September 27, 2008, since the court had not granted a temporary injunction. More, he was also elected secretary of the BCCI. On the same day, Clause 6.2.4 of the Regulations for Players, Team Officials, Managers, etc., was amended with immediate effect to cover the plea of conflict of interest. It now read: “No administrator shall have directly or indirectly any commercial interest in the matches or events conducted by [the] BCCI excluding events like IPL or Champion League Twenty 20” (emphasis added, throughout).
Muthiah sued again to have the amendment declared void as being made mala fide. The matter eventually reached the Supreme Court. Justice Panchal not only held that the BCCI was not “the state” but opined in the teeth of the record that the Netaji Club case was “no longer good law” in view of the ruling in the Zee Telefilms case. There was nothing to prevent the Bench in the latter case from saying so. It had not. Indeed, Santosh Hegde’s remarks quoted above came very close to Justice Sinha’s.
Justice Gyan Sudha Misra disagreed with Justice Panchal completely, observing: “Just after a few days of filling of the suit by the plaintiff-appellant herein Shri Muthiah, wherein he sought to enforce the policy in Clause 6.2.4 against the second respondent Shri N. Srinivasan, BCCI met on 27-9-2008 and introduced an amendment to Clause 6.2.4 carving out an exception therein, which reads as follows: ‘No administrator shall have directly or indirectly any commercial interest in any of the events of BCCI excluding IPL, Champions League and Twenty 20.’ Thus, by one stroke of an amendment, which was introduced with racing speed, without any deliberation by BCCI, and without notice of 21 days to the members on this agenda, which was required under the Regulation, the most commercial event of BCCI, namely, IPL, Champions League and Twenty 20 matches, were excluded from Clause 6.2.4, diluting the entire effect of Clause 6.2.4, reducing this salutary clause into a dead letter.”
Two observations by Justice Misra deserve particular attention. “I also find sufficient force and substance in the contention of the learned counsel for the appellant that as BCCI discharges important public functions such as the selection of Indian Team and the control on the players and has to discharge important public functions, it cannot be expected to act arbitrarily, whimsically and capriciously so as to hold that the two suits are not maintainable at the instance of the appellant, who, although admittedly is the past president of BCCI and hence an administrator, had no locus standi to file even a civil suit and seek order of injunction for suspending the effect of amendment on the plea that as he was not a member of the subcommittee he was not competent to challenge the amendment introduced in the BCCI Regulations.”
The judge added. “It is essential to highlight that the BCCI Regulation itself acknowledges this position when it lays down in Clause 6.2.4 that ‘no administrator shall have direct or indirect commercial interest in any events of BCCI’, but dilutes its effect by amending it and making IPL, Champions League and Twenty 20 matches as an exception which is the most lucrative and revenue generating event. If the administrator is clearly barred as per the Regulations from having any commercial interest in the events of BCCI, it is beyond my comprehension as to how only one class of matches, which was IPL, Twenty 20 and Champions League, could be treated as an exception by allowing an office-bearer to participate in the bid but preventing him from other matches including Test matches.”
More to the main point: “It would be difficult to overlook that multiple loyalties can create commercial interest with the activities of BCCI, thus resulting in conflict of interest since the financial or personal interest of the Board would clearly be inconsistent with the commercial and personal interest of the administrator of the Board. In addition, the rule of equity and fairness provides that no one who stands in a position of trust towards another can in matters affected by that position, advance his own interests, for example, by trading and making a profit at that other’s expense as the rule of legal prudence mandates that once a fiduciary is shown to be in breach of his duty of loyalty, he must disgorge any benefit gained even though he might have acted honestly and in his principal’s best interest. In the instant matter, when BCCI held auction for owning IPL team and an administrator, respondent 2, participated in the bid, variety of real and/or perceived conflict of interest cannot be ruled out. These included access to insider information, possible undue influence on the decision-makers who held the auction, and the like.” The BCCI was clearly guilty of gauche manoeuvre. This is not the conduct of one as pure as driven snow. The BCCI’s status and its conduct cry for legislation. The former’s uncertainty must be removed. Excesses like the latter must be curbed. The Jagmohan Dalmiya and Lalit Modi power struggles in the BCCI tell their own tale.
First the definition of “public authority” in Section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 must be widened to include “any body which receives aid and assistance from the government whether by user of government-owned land for services, of a government agency”. To put the matter beyond doubt, the BCCI can be mentioned explicitly in this amendment – or in the proposed Bill.
Some genius in the Sports Ministry prepared an 81-page note for the Cabinet claiming that Parliament can legislate by invoking entries 10 and 13 of the Union List ( DNA, August 31). This is utterly false. These entries relate, respectively, to “foreign affairs” and “participation in international” fora. “Sports” is a State subject exclusively under Entry 33 of the State List. Equally wrong would it be to invoke Entry 25 in the Concurrent List on “education”, stretching it to cover sports despite its explicit mention in the State List. However Entry 63 of the Union List empowers Parliament to legislate in respect of any “institution declared by Parliament by law to be an institution of national importance”. The BCCI fits the Bill even more than the Indian Council of World Affairs for which it was invoked.
Even in the U.S., the haven of private enterprise, its Supreme Court propounded the doctrine that when “one devotes his property to a use in the public interest which the public has an interest, he, in effect, grants to the public an interest in that use and must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good” ( Munn vs Illinois 94 U.S. 113, 126 (1877). This is the doctrine of private utility affected by public interest. Legislative competence is beyond challenge. It is only right that the power should be exercised in a conciliatory spirit. There is and can be no issue as to the RTI. On the other points – age bar, tenure, etc. – the government must engage in quiet and earnest talks with the BCCI, other sports bodies, sportsmen of note and, indeed, the public at large.
The Times of India of September 7 carried this report by K. Shrinivas Rao:
“BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan has admitted before Parliament’s standing committee on finance that the Indian board needed to own up for financial irregularities in the Indian Premier League. Srinivasan said the BCCI could not cleaim exoneration simply by claiming that suspendd IPL chairman Lalit Modi was running the show. The BCCI had previously put the onus on Modi when it came to explaining lapses in expenditure during the first three editions of the IPL…. Maintaining that other senior officials had no idea of wrongdoings since Modi was given a free hand. The change in the BCCI’s stance is revealed in a recent report of the standing committee.”
N. Srinivasan is quoted in direct quotes: “I know we can’t plead before you that we did not know all this was happening. Your question would be, were you not vigilant? I am sorry, sir, there is no defence for me.”
In the face of all this, it would be a betrayal of the public interest to leave this rogue elephant at large.
Recent instances of perceived overreach by Governors and judges can be fraught with grave consequences if left unchecked.
A COUNTRY committed to the rule of law and the norms of democracy is not governed by continuous litigation to set right continuous wrongs, especially if judges who are appointed to check violations of the Constitution by the legislature and the executive themselves commit excesses, testifying to a disregard of not only the established norms of judicial behaviour and the spirit of the Constitution but even the very letter of the Constitution.
For reasons not hard to understand, leading figures of the Supreme Court Bar are quiescent. They deliver the occasional mild criticism when censure is the need of the hour. We do not have a single learned journal that remotely resembles Law Quarterly Review or Harvard Law Review. Academics disappoint. What we have had is instant comment. The quality of the discourse has been lowered by TV channels and most of those who perform for the idiot box. There is another vice – political partisanship. Constitutional values suffer as constitutional excesses proceed unchecked.
Here is a shortlist of some recent ones.
1. Chief Minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat presided over a pogrom of Muslims in March 2002 and should be despised. But should that fact or the fact that he is a member of the hate-spewing BJP becloud one’s judgment on the grave wrong the Governor of Gujarat, Kamla Beniwal, perpetrated on August 25 by appointing Justice (Retd.) R.A. Mehta as the Lokayukta? She claimed to act under Section 3(1) of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986. It enjoins consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. This power is to be exercised and the consultation must be conducted by the Chief Minister, not by the Governor. She is bound to act on his advice. How on earth can she talk to the opposition leader on such a matter ignoring the Chief Minister?
The legal issues thus raised will be decided by the High Court. The Governor’s assertion, however, is fraught with grave consequences. She said: “Although generally the Governor acts as per the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, headed by the Chief Minister, there might be circumstances where the Governor cannot remain a mute spectator to the happenings in the State and is compelled to use discretion.” The emotive language reveals a lot. She herself will be the judge of those “circumstances” and will “use discretion” which does not belong to her at all under the Constitution.
Initially, the framers of the Constitution envisaged an elected Governor. Jayaprakash Narayan was among those who had made suggestions on the draft and his comment on the appointment of Governors was pointed and perceptive:
“The coexistence of a Governor elected by the people and of the Chief Minister responsible to the Legislature may lead to friction. If the Governor is appointed by the President on the advice of the Federal Government out of a panel of four persons chosen by the Provincial Legislature by means of a single transferable vote, the Federal Chief Minister is likely to choose out of the panel a man of his own party even if the latter had not secured the largest number of votes. Such a situation is not likely to promote harmony in the provincial government and may disturb the harmony which must exist between the Federal and State Authorities.”
The drafting committee’s comment on Jayaprakash Narayan’s criticism is quoted below:
“Note: The criticism that the coexistence of a Governor elected by the people and a Chief Minister responsible to the Legislature might lead to friction and consequent weakness in administration will also apply if the Governor is elected by the members of the Legislature of the State and the representatives of the State concerned in the Federal Parliament. To meet the objection to the election of a panel of candidates for appointment to the office of Governor, the Special Committee recommended that the Governors should be directly appointed by the President. It has also been proposed that the Governor should act on the advice of his Ministers in all matters. This would obviate the possibility of any friction between the Governor and his Ministers.”
The drafting committee therefore decided: “That for Article 131, the following be substituted: Appointment of Governor: The Governor shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.”
This is the genesis for the provision as finally adopted by the Constituent Assembly. The Governor would be a constitutional head of state just like the President of India and be governed by identical conventions of the parliamentary system. This was made amply clear by B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly on December 30, 1948.
“Under a parliamentary system of government, there are only two prerogatives which the King or the Head of the State may exercise. One is the appointment of the Prime Minister and the other is the dissolution of Parliament. With regard to the Prime Minister it is not possible to avoid vesting the discretion in the President. The only other way by which we could provide for the appointment of the Prime Minister without vesting the authority or the discretion in the President is to require that it is the House which shall in the first instance choose its leader and then on the choice being made by a motion or a resolution, the President should proceed to appoint the Prime Minister.”
Mohammed Tahir asked: “On a point of order, how will it explain the position of the Governors and the Ministers of the State where discretionary powers have been allowed to be used by the Governors?
Ambedkar: “ The position of the Governor is exactly the same as the position of the President and I think I need not over-elaborate that at the present moment because we will consider the whole position when we deal with the State Legislatures and the Governors” (emphasis supplied throughout). ( Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol. VII, page 1158.)
What if the President asserted such a power since his powers are “exactly the same” as those of the Governor? The Governor of Bihar, Debanand Konwar, holds up his assent to Bills passed by the Assembly and appoints Vice-Chancellors without consulting Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. What if the President also behaves thus?
2. On August 24, leading dailies carried a full-page advertisement of the Tamil Nadu government headed by J. Jayalalithaa ostensibly to highlight the “achievements” of a government which had come to power on May 19. The photo/picture of her meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alone suffices to expose the falsity of the excuse. The whole page projected J. Jayalalithaa personally. Such a projection is a gross abuse of power and is unconstitutional. The High Court can order her personally to reimburse the treasury with the money spent on the advertisement. In fairness, she was only following the example set over decades by Chief Ministers of all political parties. As H.M. Seervai pointed out, under Article 294 of the Constitution assets and properties are vested in the Union and the State governments for the purpose respectively of the Union and the States, in short for a public purpose. ( Constitutional Law of India, Fourth Edition, Vol. I; page 933). The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany held such ads to be abuse of power, in March 1977 and more recently.
3. The Indian Express of August 24 reported: “Students of government-run primary schools in Madhya Pradesh are now compulsorily reading what their counterparts in the RSS-run Saraswati Shishu Mandirs have been doing for a long time. The first copies of Devputra, a children’s magazine published by Indore-based Saraswati Bal Kalyan Nyas, have reached over 83,400 primary schools across the State.
“The Hindi monthly, which boasts of a circulation of 1.3 lakh, has devoted a special issue to RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar in the past. Senior RSS functionary Krishna Kumar Ashthana heads the trust that brings out the magazine. The magazine will cost the exchequer Rs.1.5 crore.”
This outrage should be set at naught by the courts. In R. vs Ealing London Borough Council, ex p. Times Newspapers Ltd. (1986) 85 LGF 316, The Times had the borough council’s decision to exclude it for extraneous reasons struck down. As the venerable Halsbury’s Laws of England sums up: “A decision as to the library stock taken on purely political grounds is a decision for an ulterior motive taken into account an irrelevant consideration is therefore susceptible to judicial review” (Vol. 28, page 188, para 335). The poison spread in textbooks is a menace none should tolerate.
4. But what is the citizens’ recourse against excesses committed by judges of the highest court in the land? It is bad enough that law correspondents and the dailies meekly submitted, bar exceptions, to Justice J.S. Verma’s arbitrary edict that outbursts of individual judges should be attributed to “the Bench”, and thus perpetrate a falsehood. “The Bench” speaks only through its judgment. It is individual judges who make remarks in the course of the hearings.
Read this report in the Indian Express of August 30: “Days after MPs questioned the process of judicial appointment, the Supreme Court (sic) today hit back. ‘We have seen some enlightened people making comments that the standards of judiciary have gone down. Let those people cry from rooftops that the standards of judiciary have gone down,’ said a Bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.L. Dattu.
“ The Judges also attacked the government saying that pople would ‘teach them a lesson’ as was seen recently in the Anna Hazare campaign for the Jan Lokpal. In fact, the Bench suggested that the government could face more such protests and that things could take a ‘worse’ turn’.” By the way, which of the two judges spoke thus. They could not have spoken the same words together in chorus. Why talk of “the Bench” and why “the Supreme Court”?
These brazenly political remarks are not only grossly improper but also violative of Article 122 of the Constitution. Judges have no right to comment on debates in Parliament. Correspondingly, under Article 121 MPs may not comment on judges. Two features stand out: intemperate comments by judges on and off the Bench and aggrandisement of power. The Supreme Court by its own ipse dixit and in violation of the Constitution assumed to itself the power to appoint judges and created a bar, equally unconstitutionally, of police inquiries against a judge save with the permission of the Chief Justice of India. Five of these custodians recently came under a cloud – CJIs K.M. Singh, A.S. Anand, M.M. Punchi, Y.K. Sabharwal and their “distinguished” successor K.G. Balakrishnan. Both this bar so erected and the bogus collegium stand discredited today, but not before they had done incalculable harm (see the writer’s article “Above the law”, Frontline November 7 and November 21, 2008, and “Talking judges”, Frontline, February 25, 2011).
The remarks made recently by Justices B. Sudershan Reddy, A.K. Ganguly and Aftab Alam, in different judgments have aroused much criticism (Vide Krishnadas Rajagopal’s report, Indian Express, August 5, 2011).
5. The correspondent reported in the same paper on August 26 a set of “updated” norms issued by the Supreme Court for accreditation of journalists to the court. It “can be withdrawn, at any time, without assigning any reason” – a pathetic display of arbitrary power by a court whose duty it is to strike down arbitrary power. Judicial excess is more obnoxious than legislative or executive excess. This order is subject to judicial review and deserves to be challenged in court.
Justice Markandey Katju retired on Monday as judge of the Supreme Court on his attaining the age of superannuation. He was given a farewell by members of the Bar and the Bench at a function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association amid a standing ovation from lawyers.
Justice Katju was appointed Supreme Court judge in April 2006 and during his tenure spanning a little over 5 years, he has rendered several landmark judgments on various branches of law, in particular criminal jurisprudence, constitutional, and human rights issues. With his smiling face, he endeared himself to members of the Bar and the Bench. Justice Katju was a judge of the Allahabad High Court, the Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts, before being elevated to the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia paid encomiums to Justice Katju, saying he spoke his mind in no uncertain terms. “He is very outspoken and he stood for institutional integrity. Today we live in a world of hypocrisy and to speak the truth one needs courage.”
Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati said, “there was never a dull moment in his court.” President of SCBA P.H. Pareikh described Justice Katju as one who always encouraged young lawyers. “When young lawyers sought ‘pass over’ for seniors, Justice Katju used to ask the juniors to argue themselves.”
Justice Katju said: “I do believe that a tribute coming from the Bar is the highest reward a judge can aspire for. As regards my performance as a judge, that is for others to decide. All I can say is that I always tried to do my duty sincerely and honestly. It was a great privilege for me to serve in this august institution. I am sure that this court will continue serving the country honourably in the role assigned to it by the Constitution.”
Justice Katju was part of the Bench that gave several landmark judgments. To cite a few, he was very harsh on honour killings. To stamp out the barbaric and feudal practice of ‘honour killings,’ he directed the trial/High Courts to award death sentence to the accused who perpetrated such offences. For criminal offences relating to dowry death or bride-burning cases, he awarded death sentences unmindful of the demand for abolition of death penalty, saying that as long as the provision remained in the statute, courts would have to award death sentence in the rarest of rare cases.
In another historic judgment, he allowed passive mercy killing of a patient in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) by withdrawing the life support system with the approval of a Medical Board and on the directions of the High Court concerned.He, however, did not accept the plea of Pinky Virani of Mumbai seeking permission to withdraw the life support extended to Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug lying in a PVS at KEM hospital, Mumbai for 37 years. Though the court dismissed the petition filed by Pinky Virani on the ground that she did not have the locus standi and only the hospital could seek such a request, it allowed passive euthanasia (mercy killing) and laid down guidelines.
In an unusual step, Justice Katju went out of the way and appealed to the Pakistan government to consider granting remission of sentence to Gopal Dass, an Indian detained in the Lahore Central Jail for about 27 years, on humanitarian grounds and to release him. Acting on the appeal, the Pakistan government released him.
In a controversial judgment, Justice Katju said: “If a man has a ‘keep’ whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and/or as a servant it would not, in our opinion, be a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ for her to claim the benefit of live-in to get maintenance under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.” He rejected the plea for review of this judgment.
Justice Katju, who had granted bail to Binayak Sen, arrested on sedition charges, while dealing with an ULFA case held that mere membership of a banned organisation would not make a person criminal under the TADA unless he resorted to violence or incited people to violence or created public disorder by violence or incitement to violence.
In a strong indictment of a judge of the Allahabad High Court for passing orders for extraneous considerations, Justice Katju asked the Chief Justice of the High Court to take appropriate action against the judge and against certain other judges facing complaints.
He said: “Something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court, as this case illustrates.” Recently, he passed orders for rehabilitation of sex workers and asked the Centre and the States to formulate schemes to provide them employment.
An attempt by Parliament to restrain judges from speaking against constitutional and statutory authorities in open court has provoked legal experts to question the legislature’s power to frame such a law.
Former judges and legal luminaries feel that the proposed move by a Parliamentary Standing Committee will violate the Constitution itself that bars Parliamentarians from deciding standards on judicial conduct, much less to even discuss about it. According to Article 121 in the Constitution, “No discussion shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties.” Such power is available only at the time when the Parliament discusses a motion for removal of a judge as in the present case of Justice Soumitra Sen. Similar restriction applies to state legislatures under Article 211.
A similar bar prevails on Courts to inquire into proceedings inside the Parliament. It was a result of this bar, a five-judge bench of Supreme Court in 1998 granted exemption to the MPs involved in the JMM bribery case by considering the act of voting in Parliament to be part of proceedings in the House. In 2007, the question came up again in the cash-for-query case where the SC clarified that “irregularity of procedure” followed by Parliament cannot be questioned by Courts, except on the question of illegality or unconstitutionality of the action in question.
Former Chief Justice of India Justice VN Khare said, “There is a Code of Conduct for judges restraining them from speaking out their emotions or personal views in open court. It is not possible to regulate judges’ conduct by the legislature.” This is contained in the Full Court Resolution of May 7, 1997 titled Restatement of Judicial Values.
The report of the Parliamentary panel, while discussing the broad contours of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill 2010, said, “The Committee feels that there is a need to bring such behaviour of judges within the purview of the judicial standards. The Committee feels that Clause 3(2)(f) of the Bill should be expanded by specifically mentioning that judges should restrain themselves from making unwarranted comments against other constitutional or statutory bodies/institutions in open court while hearing cases.”
Clause 3(2)(f) of the Bill states: “a judge shall not enter into public debate or express his views in public on political matters or on matters which are pending or are likely to arise for judicial determination by him.” This is reproduction of the 1997 Resolution. Another former Chief Justice of India Justice JS Verma felt that there should be no fetters on judges making “fair comment”. Not talking in the context of the Parliamentary panel’s report alone, he said, “In a democracy everyone has a right to voice opinion. I do not know why there should be objection to any fair comment.” Again the use of the word “unwarranted” by the Parliamentary panel has a broad sweep which could be dangerous.
As a test, the former CJI suggested, “the judge must decide am I saying something that will help decide the merits of a case. Anything outside it should best be avoided.” He further said that judges in their judgments do pass observations that have no binding effect. “Every observation or comment is not to be seriously taken. The restraint in this regard should also be of the media against highlighting every such comment.”
Agreeing to the fact that of late some comments by judges was unfortunate and out of context, Justice Khare suggested that the way out is not the legislature setting terms for the judiciary. “Our sentiments cannot be regulated by legislation. There are times when the comments are made by judges in a lighter vein having no binding force. At best the restraint must be voluntary or any legislation may delegate this power to Chief Justice of India to regulate judges’ conduct.” To this view, senior advocate Jayant Bhushan added, “Hearing of a case involved arriving at a decision which involves debating and expressing tentative views. Such observations cannot be shut out as it amounts to gagging the judges.”
Anna Hazare’s success reminded the political class about the magnetic effect a fast has on the common man, who suffers hunger on a daily basis and is hungry for good governance that could ensure some sort of social and economic equality in his poverty stricken and discrimination filled life.
Two politicians in Gujarat have gone on fast. If Narendra Modi is using the communal harmony-coated fast for a boisterous projection of US-certified development in the state to exorcise the ghost of post-Godhra riots, then Shankersinh Vaghela is fasting to scratch the still fresh wounds to widen the chasm between communities for electoral gains.
But no politician seems inclined to go on fast for the 40 crore Indians who even after 64 years of independence live below the poverty line. Recently, for the benefit of the Supreme Court, the Planning Commission said a person is below the poverty line if he is unable to buy food worth Rs 20 a day at a time when almost every essential commodity is out of his reach.
And if he did not live below the poverty line, that is if he is able to spend Rs 21 a day on himself and his family, then he would have to buy ration from the market as he would be disentitled to get it from PDS shops.
Faced with an absurd definition of poverty, fast has become a common man’s constant companion. Political inaction to streamline supply of subsidised foodgrain to the poor forced Supreme Court to intervene decisively. When Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma said “not a single person should die of starvation”, it would have sounded like a poll-eve political slogan had it not been accompanied by stern directions for distribution of additional grains in 150 poorest districts.
It is the faceless common man — farmer, cobbler, iron-smith, washerman, landless labourer, daily wager, painter, plumber, sewage worker, sweeper — who sustains the wheels of the economy, yet faces the brunt of the economic policies of the government.
Would politicians take turns to live for a few days in the households of the poor and try to understand the hunger, anger and anguish that is stripping the common man of the right to live with dignity? Have they tried to understand the root cause behind the suicide of over 1.40 lakh farmers who left behind tales of debt, poverty and sorrow? Is waiver of loans the answer?
Poverty and hunger have drawn the Supreme Court’s attention periodically. In People’s Union for Democratic Rights vs Union of India [1982 SCC (3) 235], it said utter, grinding poverty had broken the backs and sapped the moral fibre of a majority of the population. “They have no faith in the existing social and economic system. What civil and political rights are these poor and deprived sections of humanity going to enforce,” it had asked.
Three years later, in the case K C Vasantha Kumar vs Karnataka, the SC said, “Chronic poverty is the bane of Indian society. Market economy and money spinning culture has transformed the general behaviour of society towards its members. Bank balance, property holdings and money power determine the social status of the individual and guarantee the opportunities to rise to the top echelon. How the wealth is acquired has lost significance. Purity in means disappeared with Mahatma Gandhi and we have reached a stage where ends determine the means.”
Even when poverty still ruled society, the apex court in the year 2000 in Islamic Academy case said right to development was also part of human rights. “Economic prosperity or elimination of poverty is not the only goal to be achieved but along with it allow individuals to lead a life with dignity with a view to (make them) participate in the governmental process, so as to enable them to preserve their identity and culture,” it said.
Sadly, we are very far from eradicating poverty, which was the poll slogan of the Congress party in the 1970s. Politicians still do not understand that hunger and poverty afflict the soul of a person and drive him to do things which are strange to his social and moral DNA.
Fasting may have brought Hazare support for a campaign against corruption. But fasting surely will not get politicians the votes. What voters need is development in the true sense and this alone can ensure prosperity and help eradicate poverty.
The rhetoric on remedies of rape moves in circles – from capital punishment for rape to financial compensation to the victims to out of court ‘settlements’ to getting the victim married with the culprit. The woman’s need for dignity of course takes the back seat.
Despite an uninterrupted discourse on the subject over the past several decades, governments and society are yet to evolve a cast-iron system to deal with the crime and the criminals.
From the year (1971) the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) began collecting data on rape cases, it has shown an eight-fold increase. In 2008 over 21 thousand complaints were recorded in the country with various agencies conceding that over 80 per cent of the cases never get reported. Incest has shown a 30 per cent increase— these are disturbing social trends, which need to be researched and addressed. This stands in marked contrast to the other serious and violent crimes like murder, robbery, dacoity, kidnapping and rioting.
The NCRB has also concluded that only one in 69 rape cases get reported and only 20 per cent of the reported cases result in convictions.
Cash compensation ?
Compensation for rape is not a new idea. Courts have ordered for compensation to be paid under provisions contained in the statutes. Several state governments too have found it convenient to pay sums depending upon the extent of the public outrage and media exposure. But this is the first time the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has launched a country-wide scheme and has offered to reimburse the state governments the cost they incur in its implementation.
But compensation — call it restorative justice or whatever —is tricky.
It is instructive to recall the experience with Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 ( for SC and ST). Tribal and dalit victims of rape, were required to produce a certificate of their tribal/dalit status for receiving a compensation of Rs 25,000.
Getting the certificate in itself became a profit making proposition for brokers. Poverty also induced many to file false cases, thus defeating the well-meaning provision, points out Pratiksha Baxi from JNU.
The law also appears to assume unfortunately that standards of dignity are different for a woman from a well- off family and for a dalit woman. So, a dalit woman’s compensation money for rape can be shared by the rapist under the Act.
The compensation is paid if the victim belongs to either a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and the rapist does not. The law does not specify what happens if the woman is from a Scheduled Tribe and the man is from a Scheduled Caste or vice versa. Even before the Act was passed in 1989, since 1978 in UP women from SC and ST were paid compensation of Rs 5000 for rape.
The website of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt of Gujarat, lays down that for outraging the modesty of a woman under section 3(1) (11) the Government pays a compensation of Rs 50,000, but in case the accused marries the rape victim, the ‘assistance’ ( here it is not termed as compensation) of Rs 50,000 is disbursed in the joint names of the couple.
It does not require great imagination to understand how these laws end up as bait for attracting more abuse for women. The website does not offer any data on how many women actually received the compensation or assistance!
Compensation, obviously, can be paid only after the charge is established in court, which is a tall order in itself. Strangely, the scheme is sought to be justified by the need to help the victim financially so that she can fight it out in court. How this contradiction gets resolved , remains to be seen.
A study conducted by MARG in Uttar Pradesh throws up more questions.
Of the 33 registered victims or their family members the researchers spoke to, they found 13 victims were minors, 2 were six years old, one was between four and five years of age. One was 12 years old, others less than 14 years of age.
But in only four cases did the medical report confirm rape. Of the 13 minor victims, only one minor’s rape was confirmed. Two girls had the noting ‘no opinion’ and of the rest there was no medical record with the police. Yet, the compensation was ‘liberally’ sanctioned.
Although the police had no ‘medical examination report’ in their record, compensation was still sanctioned in as many as 28 cases, including nine in which there was no finding of rape. In one case the rapist and victim belonged to the same caste, hence the case was withdrawn!
The money, in case of minor victims, was received by the parents. Only two women spent Rs 2000 out of the received money to hire a lawyer.
Of the 13 minors, only four could attend school while most victims relocated to escape the stigma attached to rape. Their humiliation was compounded by the CM of U P, Mayawati , who had ordered the money to be delivered by the Director General of Police in person. He was also asked to take a helicopter and fly to various places for the purpose.
On the one hand rape cases are held in camera, on the other hand this display of ‘help’ discourages victims to report rape. The compensation, as and when paid, is often grabbed by the rest of the family, and makes the police indifferent and even more reluctant to pursue the cases. The attitude is, since the money has already been paid, why fuss over prosecution ?
In most countries, policies and laws are framed based on research based findings. But there are very few studies on the subject funded by the Government.
A few studies, mostly done by individuals who feel strongly about the issue, are however eye openers. Social activist Flavia Agnes’ study was based on observations drawn from her own legal practice and judgements involving rape cases; while Pratiksha Baxi’s ( Assistant Professor, Centre for Law and Governance, JNU, Delhi) study was based on what goes on inside the court rooms, where a 12- year- old is also asked sexually explicit questions a lawyer may hesitate putting to a 30- year-old.
Even after the much talked about Mathura case, which led to the amendment of Evidence Act in 1983, which allowed the woman’s word to be trusted for her non-consent, there has been no monitoring of judgements.
From 1860 to 2002, the colonial law based on the moral history of the woman was in application while looking at a rape victim, which meant that a woman’s sexual history would have a say on the writing of the verdict. Despite deletion of this clause, not much has changed in courtrooms.
A Google search for kanoon.com and rape cases will throw up several judgements, which are deeply patriarchal and explain why conviction rates are so abysmally low.
Doctors are surprised if the victim cooperates with them on examination (a victim is supposed to go stone-silent, weep and should have injury marks), policemen’s wives cannot complain of being raped by husbands ( because it is a husband’s right) and while the defence tries to prove that the victim is a consenting adult because anyone over 16 is thought to have given consent, judges worry about marital prospects of victims ( many rapists thus get lighter sentences when
they agree to marry their victims). Incest of course hardly ever gets reported because of the family’s insistence on silence.
Marry the rapist
Sakshi, an NGO, had released a study called ‘Gender and Judges’, in which it analysed the views of 119 judges from all over India, along with experiences of female lawyers, complainants and observations on court room trials.
Most judges found it impossible to believe that men could perpetrate the crime without any element of consent or provocation. ‘Judges were of the view that penetration of a woman is physically impossible without her ‘consent’ and that in any case women are ‘partially to blame for such abuse.’
Another ludicrous idea often encouraged by the judiciary is that of compromise. Whenever witnesses turn hostile, victims are advised to accept a compromise, which the court witnesses, but is unable and unwilling to act upon.
The court thus ‘restores’ her chastity in the public eye. Fortunately, the courts are prohibited from compounding a rape case. Being a non-compoundable offence, compromise in rape cases has been confined to the bargains between community elders, victims’ kin, local authorities and the police, with judges looking the other way for the most part.
Women are often subjugated by men in power. In the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case, the protector, an IG, Haryana Police, S P Rathore became the tormentor. After 19 years, 40 adjournments, and more than 400 hearings, the court finally pronounced him guilty under Section 354 and gave him six months imprisonment.
In case of Anjana Mishra, it was the Advocate General of Orissa, Indrajit Roy, who attempted to rape her when she went to seek his help for getting custody of her children in 1998. Since she dared to report the case, she was gang-raped by three men, to teach her a ‘lesson.’ Roy was given anticipatory bail but was never arrested due to his political clout. Under public pressure when he finally resigned, his junior was made AG, putting Anjana in her place.
It is reminiscent of Bhanwri Devi’s case, a Sathin volunteer in Rajasthan, when she tried to stop a child marriage in 1992, she was gang raped by five men, including Ramkaran Gujjar, whose daughter’s marriage she had tried to stop. The male doctor at the primary health centre refused to conduct medical examination and at a Jaipur hospital the doctor certified only her age. Subjected to sustained humiliation, she was asked by the policemen to leave her lehenga as an evidence of rape. Bhanwri’s case inspired Visakha case, which brought about legislation against sexual exploitation of women at work place but Bhanwri could not get justice in a caste -ridden system.
Society must change first
I enacted the role of a rape victim in three films; Bawandar, Pitah and Laal Salaam. So, I can claim to have some idea of what a woman goes through in a situation like gang- rape. While shooting the gang-rape scene for Bawandar, I saw some members of the crew nudging each other with suppressed and suggestive giggles, and I screamed. It was something I never do. But I felt violated. This was just an enactment, after all. I could immediately empathise with what an actual victim has to go through.
It is sad the way we treat this kind of abuse of women—with total disregard for the feelings of a woman. The society has to change—this is not something outside us, they come from within us. We need to shame the perpetrators, we need to talk more and more—in the open about these issues because, as we know, a rapist gets caught usually after a number of successful or unsuccessful attempts. What makes the rapist so daring is the silence of the women.
As far as monetary compensation is concerned, it finds justification in offering help to the victim to fight her case legally, which is often long-drawn. Otherwise it becomes like the flesh-trade. One must understand that the person is scarred for the rest of her life, simply because we have shrouded a crime under such weight of shame for so long that we do not want to deal with it.
What’s wrong if state takes responsibility?
There was a time when, after the Bhawnri Devi case, women’s groups demanded compensation, because Bhawnri was raped in the course of carrying out her duties as a government functionary, albeit an informal one (she was paid not as an employee but as a volunteer, something that enables the govt. to pay less than the minimum wage); therefore she was entitled to compensation. She was eventually given compensation but she did not use it, it created more problems for her— the community started saying rape was an excuse for taking money… so there is that element also. But if the state takes responsibility, then that can’t be altogether a bad thing