THE HINDU EDITORIAL – May – 26, 2017

a) Bail or jail

That bail is the norm and jail the exception is a principle that is limited in its application to the affluent, the powerful and the influential. The Law Commission, in its 268th Report, highlights this problem once again by remarking that it has become the norm for the rich and powerful to get bail with ease, while others languish in prison. While making recommendations to make it easier for all those awaiting trial to obtain bail, the Commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge B.S. Chauhan, grimly observes that “the existing system of bail in India is inadequate and inefficient to accomplish its purpose.” One of the first duties of those administering criminal justice must be that bail practices are “fair and evidence-based”. “Decisions about custody or release should not be influenced to the detriment of the person accused of an offence by factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, financial conditions or social status,” the report says. The main reason that 67% of the current prison population is made up of under trials is the great inconsistency in the grant of bail. Even when given bail, most are unable to meet the onerous financial conditions to avail it. The Supreme Court had noticed this in the past, and bemoaned the fact that poverty appears to be the main reason for the incarceration of many prisoners, as they are unable to afford bail bonds or provide sureties. The Commission’s report recommending a set of significant changes to the law on bail deserves urgent attention. The Commission seeks to improve on a provision introduced in 2005 to grant relief to thousands of prisoners languishing without trial and to decongest India’s overcrowded prisons. Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that a prisoner shall be released on bail on personal bond if he or she has undergone detention of half the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence. The Law Commission recommends that those detained for an offence that would attract up to seven years’ imprisonment be released on completing one-third of that period, and those charged with offences attracting a longer jail term, after they complete half of that period. For those who had spent the whole period as under trials, the period undergone may be considered for remission. In general terms, the Commission cautions the police against needless arrests and magistrates against mechanical remand orders. It gives an illustrative list of conditions that could be imposed in lieu of sureties or financial bonds. It advocates the need to impose the “least restrictive conditions”. However, as the report warns, bail law reform is not the panacea for all problems of the criminal justice system. Be it overcrowded prisons or unjust incarceration of the poor, the solution lies in expediting the trial process. For, in our justice system, delay remains the primary source of injustice.

b) Maduro’s excesses

Even by the standards of Latin America’s relatively volatile politics, there seem to be few parallels in recent memory to the brutally authoritarian rule of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has plunged a prosperous nation into complete paralysis. But Mr. Maduro seems in no mood to mend his ways, even after the controversial move in March to nullify the popularly elected Parliament drew strong rebuke from regional allies as well as the international community. Of course, few believed then that such condemnation of the Supreme Court’s aborted dissolution of the nation’s highest democratic institution would result in a rethink on Mr. Maduro’s overall approach. In a coldly calculated move, the government in April disqualified Henrique Capriles, seen to be a key contender for the 2018 presidential election, from holding public office for 15 years. The move was reminiscent of the bar on another opposition politician by former President Hugo Chávez. The current regime, unfazed by the groundswell of resistance against its dictatorial rule, has persisted in deploying the security forces to unleash violence and terrorise protesters. Any number of broken families have been witness to the horrors of routine abduction of young activists and murder of opposition leaders in the last few years. Instances are legion of Mr. Maduro’s contempt for the rule of law and the will of the people since the victory of the Opposition-dominated National Assembly in the December 2015 general elections. In fact, a month after those polls, an economic emergency was declared, concentrating powers in the President’s office. Mr. Maduro’s policy of a ruthless clampdown touched a low when a signature campaign to exercise the citizens’ constitutionally enshrined right to recall the President was crushed. He then packed the judiciary with party loyalists, culminating in the unsavoury episode of an attempt to dismiss the legislature. A 700% rate of inflation and chronic shortages of food and medicines spotlight ruinous economic governance. But corrective measures to counteract the effects of the collapse in oil prices have been long overdue. It is ironical that the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves finds itself in deepening civil unrest, with its people struggling to get essential commodities. Amid all this turmoil, Mr. Maduro seems determined to brazen it out. Signs of further intransigence emerged when Caracas recently threatened to pull out of the Organisation of American States. The OAS, which monitors democratic and human rights standards among member-states, has been unequivocal in its criticism of Mr. Maduro’s autocratic style. Such defiance risks further global isolation and chaos at home. Venezuela needs an immediate end to its one-man rule. Only then will the nation see a semblance of normality return to the lives of its citizens.


1) Affluent

Meaning: Having a lot of money or owning a lot of things.

Example: With their natural resources they are potentially a very affluent country.

Synonym: Rich, Wealthy.

Antonym: Poor, Impoverished.

2) Languish

Meaning: To exist in an unpleasant or unwanted situation, often for a long time.

Example: He has been languishing in jail for the past 20 years.

Synonym: Existing and being.

Antonym: Thrive, Flourish.

3) Onerous

Meaning: Difficult to do or needing a lot of effort.

Example: She found the duties of motherhood onerous.

Synonym: Burdensome, Inconvenient.

Antonym: Easy, Effortless.

4) Bemoaned

Meaning: To complain or express sadness about something.

Example: Researchers at universities are always bemoaning their lack of funds.

Synonym: Complaining.

Antonym: Applaud.

5) Incarceration

Meaning: To keep someone in a closed place and prevent them from leaving it.

Example: We were incarcerated in that broken elevator for four hours.

Synonym: Confinement, Imprisonment.

Antonym: Freedom.

6) Remand

Meaning: To send someone accused of committing a crime away from court until their trial begins.

Example: He was remanded on theft charges.

Synonym: Putting people in prison.

Antonym: Abandon, Allow.

7) Panacea

Meaning: Something that will solve all problems.

Example: Technology is not a panacea for all our problems.

Synonym: Solving and solutions.

Antonym: Pain, Disease.

8) Plunged

Meaning: to (cause someone or something to) move or fall suddenly and often a long way forward, down, or into something.

Example: The car went out of control and plunged over the cliff.

Synonym: Descent, Enthusiastic attempt.

Antonym: Ascent, Increase.

9) Rebuke

Meaning: To speak angrily to someone because you disapprove of what they have said or done.

Example: I was rebuked by my manager for being late.

Synonym: Reprimand, Reproach.

Antonym: Praise, Compliment.

10) Condemnation

Meaning: The act of condemning something or someone.

Example: The shooting of the police officer has received universal condemnation.

Synonym: Blaming & accusing.

Antonym: Approval, Release.

11) Contender

Meaning: Someone who competes with other people to try to win something.

Example: Now aged 42, he is no longer considered a serious contender for the title.

Synonym: Competing and contending (non-sporting).

Antonym: Associate.

12) Reminiscent

Meaning: Making you remember a particular person, event, or thing.

Example: That song is so reminiscent of my adolescence.

Synonym: Similar to, Suggested to.

Antonym: Forgetful, Oblivious.

13) Unfazed

Meaning: Not surprised or worried.

Example: She seems unfazed by her sudden success and fame.

Synonym: Calm and relaxed.

Antonym: Anxious, Upset.

14) Unleash

Meaning: To suddenly release a violent force that cannot be controlled.

Example: At worst, nuclear war could be unleashed.

Synonym: Creating and producing.

Antonym: Restrain.

15) Contempt

Meaning: A strong feeling of disliking and having no respect for someone or something.

Example: At school she had complete contempt for all her teachers.

Synonym: Disrespect, Neglect.

Antonym: Respect.

16) Clampdown

Meaning: A sudden action taken by a government or people in authority to stop or limit a particular activity.

Example: Following the military coup, there has been a clampdown on press reporting in the capital.

Synonym: Limiting and restricting.

Antonym: Freedom.

17) Unsavoury

Meaning: Unpleasant, or morally offensive.

Example: An unsavoury reputation.

Synonym: Morally wrong and evil.

Antonym: Tasty, Reputable.

18) Brazen

Meaning: Obvious, without any attempt to be hidden.

Example: He told me a brazen lie.

Synonym: Shamelessness.

Antonym: Humble.

19) Intransigence

Meaning : ​Refusing to change your opinions or behaviour.

Example: Unions claim that the management continues to maintain an intransigent position.

Synonym: Strong-willed.

20) Unequivocal

Meaning: Total, or expressed in a clear and certain way.

Example: The prime minister, he said, had the party’s unequivocal support.

Synonym: Complete and whole.

Antonym: Doubtful, Unsure.

21) Defiance

Meaning: Behaviour in which you refuse to obey someone or something.

Example: In defiance of the ceasefire, rebel troops are again firing on the capital.

Synonym: Opposing & against.

Antonym: Submission, Obedience.

22) Semblance

Meaning: A situation or condition that is similar to what is wanted or expected, but is not exactly as hoped for.

Example: He was executed without even the semblance of a fair trial.

Synonym: Seeming and purporting to be.

Antonym: Reality, Unexpected.