THE HINDU EDITORIAL : October 10, 2017

 

  1. a) Towards transparency

The Supreme Court collegium’s decision to disclose the reasons for its recommendations marks a historic and welcome departure from the entrenched culture of secrecy surrounding judicial appointments. The collegium, comprising the Chief Justice of India and four senior judges, has said it would indicate the reasons behind decisions on the initial appointment of candidates to High Court benches, their confirmation as permanent judges and elevation as High Court Chief Justices and to the Supreme Court, and transfer of judges and Chief Justices from one High Court to another. This means there will now be some material available in the public domain to indicate why additional judges are confirmed and why judges are transferred or elevated. A certain degree of discreetness is necessary and inevitable as in many cases the reasons will pertain to sitting judges. At the same time, it would become meaningless if these disclosures fail to provide a window of understanding into the mind of the collegium. It is important to strike the right balance between full disclosure and opaqueness. The collegium has suggested as much, albeit obliquely, when it says the resolution was intended “to ensure transparency, yet maintain confidentiality in the Collegium system”. It is to be hoped that this balancing of transparency and confidentiality will augur well for the judiciary. The introduction of transparency acquires salience in the light of the resignation of Justice Jayant M. Patel of the Karnataka High Court after he was transferred to the Allahabad High Court as a puisne judge, despite his being senior enough to be a High Court Chief Justice. Going by the decisions disclosed so far with regard to the elevation of district judges, it is clear that quality of judgments, the opinion of Supreme Court judges conversant with the aaffairs of the high court concerned, and reports of the Intelligence Bureau together form the basis of an initial appointment being recommended. While district judges of sufficient seniority and in the relevant age group are readily available for consideration, there may be some unease about how certain advocates and not others come to be considered. Given the perception that family members and former colleagues of judges are more likely to be appointed high court judges, it is essential that a system to widen the zone of consideration is put in place. There are 387 vacancies in the various High Courts as on October 1. The mammoth task of filling these vacancies would be better served if a revised Memorandum of Procedure for appointments is agreed upon soon. A screening system, along with a permanent secretariat for the collegium, would be ideal for the task. The introduction of transparency should be backed by a continuous process of addressing perceived shortcomings. The present disclosure norm is a commendable beginning.

  1. b) Tail wags the dog in Kathmandu

The Dasain (Dushhera) holiday was a time of a secretive exercise in Kathmandu between the leaders of the mainstream left Communist Party of Nepal (Unified-Marxist Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) leaders on seat adjustment for the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections slated for November-December. The announcement took everyone by surprise, including the public, the ruling Nepali Congress that is actually in coalition with the Maoists, and the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, which has long been invested in Kathmandu politics. There has been every reason to look forward to the dual elections up ahead, following on local government polls already concluded, as this would mean the long-awaited ‘normalisation’ of the polity. We needed respite after the decade of conflict, the decade of Constitution-writing, and times of communal polarisation and foreign interventionism. The economic resurgence emanating from political stability would also serve the people well, as also India, especially the northern ‘peripheries’ of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. But one is confronted instead by this distasteful cohabitation between a communist party that was developing a home-grown liberal democratic ethos and the unapologetic radical force led by the opportunistic Pushpa Kamal Dahal (‘Prachanda’). The latter wants simply to keep his past from catching up — vis-à-vis conflict era accountability and financial scam on demobilisation funds — by using his party and cadre to remain personally, politically relevant. The deal provides respite for a Maoist party that has been in steady decline, and Mr. Dahal can now once again be expected to disrupt democratic evolution for sake of personal survival. Even Baburam Bhattarai, who broke from Mr. Dahal and was wandering in the political wilderness, has found refuge in the new alliance.

Seeking the rationale

The UML, together with the Nepali Congress, constituted the democratic force that chaperoned Nepal out of the decade of excruciating conflict and into the new democratic era under a new Constitution. But today, not only is the UML going for electoral adjustment with the Maoists at an unbelievable 60:40 ratio, they have also declared plans for unification after the elections. Why this desperation on the part of UML Chairman K.P. Oli, this risking of ignominy? Why has the UML seen t to endanger Nepal’s normalisation, cooperating with the unrepentant bosses of the ‘people’s war’ who have proceeded to sabotage ‘transitional justice’ and generated hopelessness among conflict era victims? To try for a rationale, one needs to go back to 2015, when Nepal was still in the middle of the second Constituent Assembly, with the NC and UML in a democratic alliance that was to remain for a year after the promulgation of the Constitution through to parliamentary elections. New Delhi made no bones about its dislike for the Constitution that was promulgated, and slapped a five-month economic blockade, which began during the prime ministership of the NC’s Sushil Koirala and continued under Mr. Oli.

Delhi in denial

As Nepal reeled under shortages, the resulting public resentment gave Mr. Oli the political leverage to reach out to Beijing to sign 10 agreements, including on trade, transit, energy, commerce, infrastructure and investment. The blockade made Kathmandu’s pivot northward possible, but New Delhi retained its ability to influence Nepal aairs, and its mandarins helped engineer the collapse of the NCUML coalition and the power-sharing arrangement between the NC’s Sher Bahadur Deuba and Mr. Dahal. The latter became prime minister in August 2016, and relinquished the post to Mr. Deuba in June 2017. With an eye to post-election government formation, Mr. Deuba picked up tiny parties into the NC-Maoist coalition, creating the largest cabinet ever in national history. Claims of Indian involvement in Nepal’s political affairs tend to be pooh-poohed by New Delhi’s phalanx of ‘Nepal experts’, many of them former diplomats or think tank-walas closely aligned to Raisina Hill. But the wearer perhaps knows better where the shoe pinches, and the first qualification of Nepal’s leaders became the ability to keep Delhi mollified but at arm’s length — which in fact is how the Constitution ultimately got promulgated. While certainly New Delhi does not spend its waking hours conspiring against the neighbour, the fact is even the modest swish of the wand at South Block creates a windstorm in Kathmandu. And the messages came loud and clear, including via a Rajya Sabha Television programme in August with heavyweight panellists speaking ‘the line’, that Mr. Oli must be prevented at all costs from becoming Prime Minister. Some Kathmandu players were pleased at the prospect, others naturally distressed. Besides annoyance with Mr. Oli, New Delhi’s concerns have been heightened by Beijing’s accelerating proactivism in Nepal, signalling a shift in the hands-off policy that had survived since the days of Zhou Enlai. Beijing has long favoured a coming together of the ‘communist’ forces, which too is a result of an under-appreciation of the democratic sophistication of Nepal and lack of understanding of the democratic chasm between the UML and Maoists. It is obviously too much to expect Beijing to respect democratic nuance, but at the same time it would be wrong to claim that the northern neighbour engineered the dramatic announcement of Dasain.

Altar of realpolitik

Mr. Oli is the political leader who has been the most clear-headed about Maoist atrocities from the conflict era. It was during his time as Prime Minister, nine months till July 2016, that Mr. Dahal was brought close to accepting the principle of accountability for (stateside and rebel) excesses committed during the conflict. Which is why it is incongruous (some would say poignant) to see the shifting political sands pushing him now into the arms of Mr. Dahal. It was hardly as if others had not collaborated with the Maoists before this, which is why the remonstrations of the NC faithful and New Delhi commentators lack credibility. Even as this is written, the NC, avowed ‘democratic’ party started by B.P. Koirala, remains in coalition government with Mr. Dahal’s Maoist party, and had an electoral alliance with him in the local government polls. The Maoists have in fact long been kosher for New Delhi, which has engaged, cajoled and intimidated Mr. Dahal for over a decade to get its way, even overlooking his ‘anti-Indianism’ on the altar of realpolitik. India has employed a carrot-and-stick approach on Mr. Dahal — even selectively making use of the platform of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva to put the fear of retribution in him — and so New Delhi may fulminate today but its options are limited. Having worked tactically with the Maoists, it does not behove the NC to decry the UML-Maoist alliance. Instead the deal must be firmly questioned on objective considerations — because it denies the Nepali public’s desires for peace and accountability, for being opportunistic and abandoning ideology and morality altogether. The alliance must be challenged because it opens the avenue for extended political instability when we thought the society was settling down at last. Directly and indirectly, the alliance will contribute to the further enfeebling of state institutions, as has been the case over the past decade of Mr. Dahal’s ascendancy. Rampant politicisation and skyrocketing corruption has already accelerated the deterioration of bureaucracy, judiciary, education (school and higher education), government services and economic activity.

Back to ideology

If one were to desperately search for a silver lining, it would be the hope that the Nepali Congress will take advantage of being let off the Maoist hook, with new leaders to bring some civility back into the politics. The smaller, newer or regional parties may be attracted to work by the principles abandoned by the seniors, or there may be a useful consolidation of heretofore fragmented forces including the Madhes-centric parties of the plains. And, who knows, the UML’s Mr. Oli may have something up his sleeve to bring the Maoists to the point of apologia and accountability. New Delhi diplomats, meanwhile, will hopefully try and understand how meddling can lead to unexpected results that spiral beyond one’s control. Certainly, they should desist the urge to rope in some Western powers and try to influence Kathmandu players for a postponement of upcoming elections. Such an effort to buy time would surely boomerang, as the Nepali public is primed and ready for the polls. As the Maoist tail wags the UML dog, as it did wag the NC dog before this, it is important for the two large democratic parties to get back to ideology and come to a minimum understanding on democratic values and accountability. Elections have shown the commitment of the citizens of mountain, mid-hill and plain to representative democracy based on ideological differentiations. If only the parties showed the same commitment, resilience and acuity.

 

 

 

WORDS/VOCABULARY

1) Entrenched

Meaning: Establish (an attitude, habit, or belief) so firmly that change is very difficult or unlikely.

Example: “ageism is entrenched in our society”

Synonyms: Establish, Settle

Antonyms: Dislodge, Superficial

2) Comprising

Meaning: Consist of; be made up of.

Example: “the country comprises twenty states”

Synonyms: Contain, Embrace

3) Discreetness (Discreet)

Meaning: careful and prudent in one’s speech or actions, especially in order to keep something confidential or to avoid embarrassment.

Example: “we made some discreet inquiries”

Synonyms: Careful, Cautious

Antonyms: Indiscreet, Rash

4) Albeit

Meaning: Though.

Example: “he was making progress, albeit rather slowly”

5) Obliquely

Meaning: Not in a direct way; indirectly.

Example: “he referred only obliquely to current events”

Synonyms: Diagonally, Indirectly

Antonyms: Directly

6) Salience

Meaning: The quality of being particularly noticeable or important; prominence.

Example: “the political salience of religion has a considerable impact”

7) Puisne

Meaning: (in the UK and some other countries) denoting a judge of a superior court inferior in rank to chief justices.

8) Conversant

Meaning: Familiar with or knowledgeable about something.

Example: “you need someone who is conversant with the new technology”

Synonyms: familiar with, Acquainted with

Antonyms: Unfamiliar with

9) Perception

Meaning: Awareness of something through the senses.

Example: “the perception of pain”

Synonyms: Discernment, Appreciation

10) Perceived

Meaning: Become aware or conscious of (something); come to realize or understand.

Example: “his mouth fell open as he perceived the truth”

Synonyms: Recognize, Understand

11) Provincial

Meaning: Of or concerning a province of a country or empire.

Example: “provincial elections”

Synonyms: Country, Rural

Antonyms: National, Cosmopolitan

12) Coalition

Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.

Example: “a coalition between Liberals and Conservatives”

Synonyms: Alliance, Partnership

13) Polarisation

Meaning: Division into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.

Example: “the polarization of society between rich and poor”

14) Resurgence

Meaning: An increase or revival after a period of little activity, popularity, or occurrence.

Example: “a resurgence of interest in religion”

Synonyms: Renewal, Recovery

15) Emanating

Meaning: (of a feeling, quality, or sensation) issue or spread out from (a source); originate from; be produced by.

Example: “warmth emanated from the fireplace”

Synonyms: Emerge, Proceed

16) Confronted

Meaning: Come face to face with (someone) with hostile or argumentative intent.

Example: “300 policemen confronted an equal number of union supporters”

Synonyms: Challenge, Oppose

Antonyms: Avoid

17) Cohabitation

Meaning: The state or fact of living or existing at the same time or in the same place.

Example: “a harmonious cohabitation with other living creatures”

18) Unapologetic

Meaning: Not acknowledging or expressing regret.

Example: “he remained unapologetic about his decision”

19) Opportunistic

Meaning: exploiting immediate opportunities, especially regardless of planning or principle.

Example: “an opportunistic political lightweight”

20) Vis-à-vis

Meaning: In relation to; with regard to.

Example: “many agencies now have a unit to deal with women’s needs vis-à-vis employment”

21) Respite

Meaning: A short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

Example: “the refugee encampments will provide some respite from the suffering”

Synonyms: Break, Intermission

22) Wandering

Meaning: Walk or move in a leisurely or aimless way.

Example: “I wandered through the narrow streets”

Synonyms: Amble, Ramble

23) Chaperoned

Meaning: Accompany and look after or supervise.

Example: “she chaperoned the children at all times”

Synonyms: Accompany, Escort

24) Ignominy

Meaning: Public shame or disgrace.

Example: “the ignominy of being imprisoned”

Synonyms: Shame, Embarrassment

Antonyms: Honour

25) Unrepentant

Meaning: Showing no regret for one’s wrongdoings.

Example: “he was unrepentant and said that his comments were completely accurate”

Synonyms: Impenitent, Remorseful

Antonyms: Repentant, Regretful

26) Sabotage

Meaning: Deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage.

Example: “power lines from South Africa were sabotaged by rebel forces”

Synonyms: Wreck, Destroy

27) Promulgation

Meaning: To announce something publicly, especially a new law.

Example: The new law was finally promulgated in the autumn of last year.

Synonyms: Announcement

28) Resentment

Meaning: Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

Example: “his resentment at being demoted”

Synonyms: Bitterness, Indignation

Antonyms: Contentment, Happiness

29) Phalanx

Meaning: A body of troops or police officers standing or moving in close formation.

Example: “six hundred marchers set off, led by a phalanx of police”

30) Conspiring

Meaning: Make secret plans jointly to commit an unlawful or harmful act.

Example: “they conspired against him”

Synonyms: Scheme, Plan

31) Incongruous

Meaning: not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something.

Example: “the duffel coat looked incongruous with the black dress she wore underneath”

Synonyms: Inappropriate, Unsuitable

Antonyms: Appropriate, Harmonious

32) Remonstrations (remonstrate)

Meaning:  To complain to someone or about something

Example: I went to the boss to remonstrate against the new rules.

Synonyms: Compliant

33) Ascendancy

Meaning: Occupation of a position of dominant power or influence.

Example: “the ascendancy of good over evil”

Synonyms: Dominance, Superiority

Antonyms: Subordination

34) Rampant

Meaning: (especially of something unwelcome) flourishing or spreading unchecked.

Example: “political violence was rampant”

Synonyms: Uncontrolled, Epidemic

Antonyms: Controlled

35) Deterioration

Meaning: The process of becoming progressively worse.

Example: “a deterioration in the condition of the patient”

Synonyms: Decline, Failure

Antonyms: Improvement

36) Desperately

Meaning: used to emphasize the extreme degree of something.

Example: “he desperately needed a drink”

Synonyms: Seriously, Severely

Antonyms: Slightly

37) Consolidation

Meaning: The action or process of combining a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole.

Example: “a consolidation of data within an enterprise”

Synonyms: Integrate, Combine

38) Meddling

Meaning: Interfere in something that is not one’s concern.

Example: “I don’t want him meddling in our affairs”

Synonyms: Interfere, Intervene

Antonyms: Leave alone

39) Desist

Meaning: Stop doing something; cease or abstain.

Example: “each pledged to desist from acts of sabotage”

Synonyms: Abstain, Refrain

Antonyms: Continue

40) Boomerang

Meaning: (of a plan or action) recoil on the originator.

Example: “misleading consumers about quality will eventually boomerang on a car-maker”

Synonyms: Recoil, Rebound

 

 

 

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