1. “The right to reputation is a constituent of Article 21 of the Constitution. It is an individual’s fundamental right”. Do you agree? Examine in light of the recent verdict of the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutional validity of the Criminal Defamation law.
Supreme court in one of its recent judgement- Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India case upheld the constitutionality of criminal defamation (IPC 499 and 500) and extended Article21 (Right to life) to include right to reputation as well.
Arguments for right to reputation as a fundamental right vis-a-vis criminal defamation can be:
Reputation of a person is built over years, can be tarnished with a single utterance or stroke of a pen.
Technology has been misused to manufacture baseless, outrageous lies which can significantly damage the public image of a person even before the validity of the accusation is verified by the legal system. E.g. doctored videos, mala fide political speeches etc.
19(2) does provide that Freedom of Speech and expression is not absolute and there may be reasonable restrictions placed upon it.
Criminalization of defamation to protect individual dignity and reputation is a “reasonable restriction” as termed by Supreme Court
Right to free expression does not allow unfettered right to malign the dignity of a person on baseless allegations.
However, right to reputation might not hold much value as an individual’s right against the right of freedom of speech and expression (Article 21) as:
Freedom of speech is important for a vibrant democracy and criminal defmation can have a chilling effect on free speech.
Often Criminal defamation Law is abused by the high and the mighty to intimidate, harass and stifle honest and genuine criticism.
Reputation can be exploited to silence civil society.
Right to reputation cannot be extended to collective such as government which has the resources to set right damage to their reputation.
Given that a civil remedy to defamation already exist, there seems to be no purpose for retaining the criminal remedies for denigrating reputation.
Human Rights committee of the international Covenant on civil and political rights too has called upon States to abolish criminal defamation
In the light of above arguments, the Supreme court’s decision to uphold the validity of criminal defamation law doesn’t seems to be a progressive step when there is already civil defamation law to protect one’s reputation.
2. In addition to its present role of representation and accountability, the Rajya Sabha could be the House that represents difference in our polity, difference marked not merely by its culture but its diversity. Elucidate.
Rajya Sabha is the ‘Council of states’ as it aims to represents the interest of the states being elected by the elected representatives from diverse political background. Rajya Sabha presents role of accountability and representation as follows,
It is constituted through proportional representation system by means of single transferable vote hence represent every political faction.
Arena for debate over hasty legislations.
Checking majoritarianism in Lok Sabha.
Maintains continuum as the house can never be dissolved, etc
Along with these objectives, Rajya Sabha can be an institution to represent difference and diversity in Indian polity as:
As 12 members are nominated by President from diverse background including arts, literature, social service etc., they can be a repository of diverse intellect.
Due to diversity in background Different opinions over any subject can be explored in the house.
Representation can be ensured to sections not represented adequately via electoral route eg-Muslims, women, people from linguistic, religious and ethnic diversity, etc
Member of Parliaments having different economic viewpoints and ideologies enrich the overall legislative process. For eg.Socialist and Liberal.
Rajya Sabha MPs collectively represents the diversity in different part of the states as they do not belong to a particular constituency but represents whole of the state.
However in recent times the diversity and representative characteristics of Rajya sabha is facing following challenges,
With single party rule in centre and states Rajya sabha can become superfluous.
Domicile requirement has been done away with diluting the spirit of federalism.
Instead of inculcating diversity, it has become a safe haven for defeated politicians and retired bureaucrats.
Hence, real role of Rajya Sabha can only be realised if it becomes a truly representative body of diverse political as well as socio-cultural sections of the country
3. Over the years, Article 21 has become the foundation stone of part III of the Indian Constitution. Elucidate.
Article 21 reads as: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.”
This right has been held to be the heart of the Constitution, the most organic and progressive provision in our living constitution, the foundation of our laws. Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right.
Earlier Views of Supreme Court:
When our constitutional history started, SC refused to give Article 21 a liberal interpretation (A K Gopalan case) and held that the expression “procedure established by law” meant any law made by Parliament/legislature and refused to invoke the principles of natural justice. It meant that the Article 21 gave protection only from arbitrary action of Executive and not Legislature.
But in Menaka Gandhi case, SC said that the procedure contemplated by Article 21 must be right, just and fair and invoked the principles of natural justice. From now on Article 21 gave protection to an individual from the arbitrary action of both executive and legislature.
Broad interpretation of the art 21:
Undertrials – Right to speedy trial was made part of Article 21 (Hussainara Khatoon case)
Free legal services to poor was made part of Article 21 (Madhav Khosla case)
Most significant case was Francis Coralie case in which the SC said the term “life” doesn’t mean animal existence. It said that Right to life meant right to live with dignity and with it goes the bare necessities like shelter, food, clothing etc.
Right to Livelihood (Olga Tellis Case), Right to clean environment,
Right to Food (PUCL Vs UoI case)
Right to sleep (Baba Ramdev’s rally at Ramlila Maidan)
4. Why does India want the membership of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG)? What benefits will accrue if India gets the membership of NSG? What are the hurdles? Discuss.
Nuclear supplier group is a group of 48 nuclear supplier countries that seeks to prevent the nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials,equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. NSG was formed with the objective of averting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and preventing acts of nuclear terrorism.
Why to become NSG member?
Integrate India in the Global Non-Proliferation regime and reiterate its non-proliferation credentials.
NSG is the rule making body for Global Nuclear Order – by becoming a member India could influence the rules made by it – as happened in between 2010 and 2013 when certain restrictions were imposed on Non-NPT countries.
Membership of NSG helps india in the following manner,
1.Membership to the NSG will essentially increase India’s access to state-of-the-art technology from the other members of the Group.
2.Access to technology and being allowed to produce nuclear equipment will give a boost to the Make in India program. That will, in turn, boost the economic growth of our country.
3.As per India’s INDC under the Paris Climate agreement, we have committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources. In order to achieve this target, we need to scale up nuclear power production. This can only happen if India gains access to the NSG.
4.Namibia is the fourth-largest producer of uranium and it agreed to sell the nuclear fuel to India in 2009. However, that hasn’t happened, as Namibia has signed Pelindaba Treaty, which essentially controls the supply of uranium from Africa to the rest of the world. If India joins the NSG, such reservations from Namibia are expected to melt away.
5.This would boost India’s efforts to demand and get access to the membership of permanent security council of UNO.
Some of the hurdles being faced by India,
India is not a member of nuclear non proliferation treaty which is pre requisite to join NSG.
Despite being supported by most of the countries including US, Russia, UK and France but it lacks support from countries like China.
Demand from other non NPT countries like Israel and Pakistan as well to access to NSG membership.
Some non-proliferation hardliners (some EU countries) – NSG was actually brought after India’s Pokran-I and some countries see it against the spirit of NSG.
Factors in favor of India’s membership,
France got membership in the elite group without signing the NPT.
Commitment to nonproliferation: India’s commitment to bifurcate its civilian and military nuclear programs along with its nonproliferation record ensured indigenously developed technology is not shared with other countries.
Transparency: India has also ratified an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which means that its civilian reactors are under IAEA safeguards and open for inspections.
The recently framed draft proposal for accepting new members into the Nuclear Suppliers Group increases India’s chances of entry into NSG. It’s a welcome development for India as NSG membership would definitely boost the economic and strategic development in the future. It will also pave the way for clean energy initiatives and continued focus to achieve our commitments to reduce the carbon footprint pledged during the climate summit.
5. Last year, the RTI law completed 11 years of its enactment. What is your assessment of the performance of the RTI law in these years? What are the concerns? Discuss.
RTI, 2005 has brought a paradigm shift in the transparency and accountability in India. Enacted with much fanfare and hope RTI act 2005 turned out to be the most widely discussed legislation by the citizenry of India.
Assessment of RTI act:
In over one decade of being it’s in force, ordinary citizens have used this law to question various acts of commission and omission on part of government. It played big role in exposing the Adarsh scam, irregularity in MGNREGA and other schemes. The largest role played by RTI has been in institutionalising social audits as an implicit part of governance. Indeed, RTI has been the weapon of the weak and set India’s accountability landscape in a ground-up manner.
What the RTI Act has managed to achieve in the last decade is to unleash a silent citizen’s movement for government accountability across the country. The RAAG report found that on an average, 4-5 million applications are filed under the Act every year. But this has not been without its negative consequences.
Areas of concern:
Inefficient implementation has delayed the settlement of information appeals. An October 2014 report brought out by the RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RAAG) showed a waiting period of up to 60 years in Madhya Pradesh and up to 18 years in West Bengal, calculated on the basis of current rates of pendency in Information Commissions
Forty activists who had demanded crucial information, with the potential to expose corruption within the government, had been killed. This has necessitated supplementary laws such as whistleblower protection laws to ensure protection for information activists. Which has been further diluted by the 2015 amendments leading to victimisation.
Over a period, the enthusiasm over RTI has waned. Political parties have resisted all efforts to bring them in RTI ambit which is a huge roadblock for true effectiveness despite a 2013 order of CIC citing them as “publicauthorities.”
Appointments to several posts in Information Commissions have been delayed. In fact the post of CIC was vacant for a period of 18 months between 2014 and 2016 when the new government took over despite numerous representations.
This apart, RTI has been blatantly misused also. In the initial years, the act was used by the bureaucrats to know about transfers and postings. The government also started putting out less information on a suo motu
In current times, the RTI Act, media and judicial activism etc. are proving helpful in bringing about greater transparency and accountability in the functioning of the government. But at the same time, it is also observed that these mechanisms are misused. Further, the officers are now afraid of taking prompt and speedy decisions. Thus, this dichotomy between the need for transparency and accountability and protecting honest civil servants from undue harassment needs to be resolved.
Many RTI applications are blocked under section8(2) of the act citing the reason of National security the ambit of which remains unclear.
The judiciary which is a front runner in implementing RTI via various laws and interpretations and also has urged Political parties and RBI to come under it has itself insulated itself from the ambit of RBI which makes the entire judicial appointments process more opaque.
RTI act is one of the landmark legislations in India which has brewed a social revolution and has played a vital role in the governance with a few structural changes in legislation, robust grievance redressal mechanism and with political and judicial will can usher in an era of transparent, accountable and participatory governance.