The Hindu Editorial September  12, 2017


In the air

The Centre’s decision to put unruly air passengers on a no-fly list ranging from three months to a lifetime, depending upon the gravity of the offence, is stringent but welcome. The list will be maintained by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and be put in the public domain. The quantum of punishment is to be decided by an internal committee of the airline in question based on evidence produced by both the airline and the passenger within 30 days, during which time the passenger would not be allowed to fly. No compensation will be offered to the passenger in case the allegations of the airline are proven wrong. Aggrieved passengers can appeal within 60 days to an appellate committee. Other airlines will not, however, be bound by one airline’s no-fly ban. The no-fly list provisions look stringent, empowering airlines to impose strict penalties in case of alleged misbehaviour or graver offences by passengers. But in the case of India, these appear necessary in particular because of a widespread culture of entitlement, especially among ‘VIPs’, and growing incidents of air rage. The new rules are, specifically, a response to the recent case of unruly and violent behaviour by MP Ravindra Gaikwad on board an Air India plane six months ago. There have been other recent incidents of ‘VIP’ misbehaviour with airline staff — both in the air and on the ground. In Mr. Gaikwad’s case, Air India had imposed a temporary no-fly ban, which was subsequently withdrawn after a grudging apology from him. Existing guidelines and rules on unruly behaviour did not have provisions for a no-y ban, necessitating these rules. The no-fly list system, which has been adopted by other countries too, is a relatively new development in civil aviation. Care must be taken by the airlines to ensure that the imposition of the no-fly ban is used as the last resort; ideally, it should remain in the books as a deterrent. While incidents of egregious behaviour by VIPs and unruly passengers have not been isolated events, passenger anger has also been a consequence of airline inefficiencies. The record of some airlines in ensuring service on time and avoiding over-booking of tickets that result in last-minute cancellation of tickets is not satisfactory. Airlines must be careful not to hold out the threat of the no-fly list to keep passenger frustration in check, and thereby evade giving a full explanation for their mistakes. Thanks to lower fuel prices and profitability, the civil aviation industry in India is in a phase of recovery and stability following a shakeout. This is a good time for airlines to enhance their reach and service and keep prices competitive as more Indians take to air travel. While this is a guaranteed way to keep both passenger angst and air rage in check, preventive measures such as a no-fly list should be enforced only for the most egregious of cases.



The resilience of our liberalism

Anchored in constitutional scholarship, history and international law, the celebrated privacy judgment (K.S. Puttaswamy, 2017) attests to the resilience of our dignitarian liberalism. The unanimous judgment of nine distinguished judges, who held that privacy is integral to human dignity and not a constitutional largesse to be withdrawn at will by the state, elevates privacy to the pinnacle in the hierarchy of human rights. “Privacy”, said the court, “ensures the fulfilment of dignity and is a core value which the protection of life and liberty is intended to achieve”. The court explained that “privacy with its attendant values assures dignity to the individual, and it is only when life can be enjoyed with dignity can liberty be of true substance” (per Justice Chandrachud). In reaffirming the coalescence of fundamental rights to life and liberty guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 following the Constitution Bench judgments in Cooper (1970) and Maneka Gandhi (1978), the court echoed the philosophical wisdom of Justice Krishna Iyer articulated years ago that “cardinal rights in an organic Constitution which makes man ‘human’, have a synthesis”. While finding its earlier decision in ADM Jabalpur a constitutional aberration, the judges emphasised that “the interpretation of the Constitution cannot be frozen by its original understanding”, reminiscent of Judge Cardozo’s celebrated statement long ago that the Constitution does not embody “rules for the passing hour but principles for an expanding future”. Expounding the philosophy of constitutionalism as a bulwark against the impulses of transient majorities, the court ruled that constitutional rights owed no apology to majoritarian opinion and thus fettered the legislative and executive infraction of these rights.

Shaping privacy rights

Will the compelling logic of the judgment spur meaningful executive and legislative action to redeem its promise, is the question. In particular, the state’s response to queer rights, the right of choice in matters relating to food, health, reproduction and data disclosure, etc. will define the contours of privacy rights. Hopefully, citizens will not be driven to fight endless judicial battles to take what is inherently theirs. As part of meaningful follow-up measures, the government should move forward on the report of the Group of Experts under the chairmanship of Justice A.P. Shah (2012) suggesting a model privacy law referred to by Justice S.K. Kaul in his concurring judgment. The report, which recommended nine fundamental principles as the basis of the proposed privacy law, could be reviewed in the framework of the Puttaswamy decision and can provide credible basis for a comprehensive legal architecture to secure privacy rights. The unsung hero in the battle for privacy is the late Rama Jois, a former judge of Karnataka High Court and member of Rajya Sabha who persistently raised the issue of privacy in relation to Aadhaar. As the then Minister of State for Planning, this writer had to deal with the issue. A resultant oshoot was the constitution by the Planning Commission of an expert group headed by Justice Shah to propose a model privacy law. In the context of privacy debate, it is necessary to ask whether it was at all necessary to convert the legal challenge to Aadhaar into a privacy or an Aadhaar debate when post Cooper (1970), Maneka Gandhi (1978) and a series of subsequent Supreme Court judgments, the right to privacy stood entrenched in our constitutional jurisprudence as part of the fundamental right to dignity. What is disappointing is that even after the judgment, the Union Law Minister, himself a distinguished lawyer, has chosen to argue in public rather inelegantly that the judgment does not reject the government’s argument on privacy, even as the then Attorney General, who originally argued on behalf of the government that privacy was not a fundamental right, has rightly conceded that the government lost its case in court.

On the court’s role

A less noticed but significant feature of the privacy ruling is a disclaimer of judicial power to introduce new constitutional rights in the exercise of the court’s judicial review jurisdiction. Some constitutional scholars have hastened to view the verdict as making the Supreme Court a “co-governor” of the nation (Upendra Baxi, Indian Express, August 30). Unambiguously dispelling such a notion, the court held that “the exercise has been one of interpreting existing rights guaranteed by the Constitution” and “while understanding the core of those rights to determine the ambit of what the right comprehends”. It has thus adopted a vocabulary of constitutional discourse that navigates the extremes through self-restraint and has earned a general acceptance of its role as an independent custodian of the constitutional principle. In choosing to remain “within the banks”, judges, wiser by experience and disciplined by law, have guarded against encroaching beyond judicial bounds, thereby ensuring a diffusion of constitutional power “in a system of inter-branch equality”. The historic verdict which affirms that the idea of human dignity includes the right to be let alone, the equality of human beings and the freedom to will is a sublime oration on human dignity and a vindication of the nation’s liberal conscience. It is up to us to live the judgment, to keep faith with the spirit of our age in which the idea of human rights and their preservation as the raison d’etre of the state has received universal acceptance.



1) Offence: A breach of a law or rule; an illegal act.

Example: the new offence of obtaining property by deception.

Synonyms: Crime

2) Stringent: (of regulations, requirements, or conditions) strict, precise, and exacting.

Example: Stringent guidelines on air pollution.

Synonyms: Strict, firm, rigid

Antonyms: Lenient, flexible

3) Quantum

  1. I) A discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents.
  2. II) A share or portion.

4) Allegations: A claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically one made without proof.

Example:  He made allegations of corruption against the administration

Synonyms: Claim, assertion.

5) Aggrieved: Feeling resentment at having been unfairly treated.

Example: They were aggrieved at the outcome.

Synonyms: Resentful, affronted.

Antonyms: Pleased

6) Appellate: (especially of a court) concerned with or dealing with applications for decisions to be reversed.

Example: Courts of appellate jurisdiction.

7) Graver: A burin or other engraving tool.

Example: An engraver.

8) Entitlement: The fact of having a right to something.

Example: Full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered

Synonyms: Right, prerogative

9) Unruly: Disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control.

Example: A group of unruly children.

Synonyms: disorderly, rowdy

Antonyms: disciplined, obedient

10) Subsequently: After a particular thing has happened; afterwards.

Example: The officer decided to stop and subsequently made an arrest.

Synonyms: later

Antonyms: previously

11) Imposition: the action or process of imposing something or of being imposed.

Example: The imposition of martial law.

Synonyms: imposing, foisting.

12) Deterrent: A thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something.

Example: Cameras are a major deterrent to crime.

Synonyms: disincentive, discouragement

Antonyms: incentive, encouragement

13) Evade: Escape or avoid (someone or something), especially by guile or trickery.

Example: Friends helped him to evade capture for a time.

Synonyms: elude, avoid

Antonyms: confront, run into

14) Shakeout: An upheaval in or radical reorganization of a business, market, or organization, typically involving streamlining and redundancies.

Example: The current shake-out in the computer industry.

15) Egregious: Outstandingly bad; shocking.

Example: Egregious abuses of copyright.

16) Anchored: Moor (a ship) to the sea bottom with an anchor.

Example: The ship was anchored in the lee of the island.

Synonyms: Moor, berth

17) Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Example: The often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions.

Synonyms: Flexibility

Antonyms: Rigidity

18) Largesse: generosity in bestowing money or gifts upon others.

Example: Presumably public money is not dispensed with such largesse to anyone else.

Synonyms: generosity, liberality

Antonyms: Meanness, miserliness

19) Pinnacle: The most successful point; the culmination.

Example: He had reached the pinnacle of his career.

Synonyms: highest level, peak

Antonyms: nadir, trough

20) Intended: Planned or meant.

Example: The intended victim escaped.

Synonyms: deliberate, intentional

Antonyms: accidental

21) Reaffirming: State again strongly.

Example: The prime minister reaffirmed his commitment to the agreement.

22) Coalescence: The process of coming or growing together to form one thing or system.

23) Echoed: (of a sound) be repeated or reverberate after the original sound has stopped.

Example: Their footsteps echoed on the metal catwalks.

Synonyms: The house echoed with shouts.

Antonyms: reverberate

24) Aberration: A departure from what is normal, usual, or expected, typically an unwelcome one.

Example: They described the outbreak of violence in the area as an aberration.

Synonyms: anomaly, deviation

25) Embody: be an expression of or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling).

Example: A national team that embodies competitive spirit and skill.

Synonyms: personify, incorporate

26) Bulwark: A defensive wall.

Synonyms: Wall, rampart.

27) Fettered: Restrain with chains or manacles, typically around the ankles.

Example: A ragged and fettered prisoner.

Synonyms: Shackle, manacle

28) Infraction: A violation or infringement of a law or agreement.

Example: infringement, contravention

29) Spur: a thing that prompts or encourages someone; an incentive

Example: Wars act as a spur to practical invention.

Synonyms: stimulus, incentive

Antonyms: disincentive, discouragement

30) Redeem: Compensate for the faults or bad aspects of.

Example: A disappointing debate redeemed only by an outstanding speech.

Synonyms: save

31) Queer: strange; odd.

Example: She had a queer feeling that they were being watched.

Synonyms: odd, strange

Antonyms: ordinary, conventional

32) Concurring: Be of the same opinion; agree.

Example: The authors concurred with the majority.

Synonyms: agree, be in agreement

Antonyms: disagree

33) Entrenched:  (of an attitude, habit, or belief) firmly established and difficult or unlikely to change; ingrained.

Example: An entrenched resistance to change.

34) Jurisprudence: A legal system.

Example: American jurisprudence.

35) Conceded: Admit or agree that something is true after first denying or resisting it.

Example: I had to concede that I’d overreacted.

Synonyms: Admit, acknowledge

Antonyms: Deny

36) Unambiguously: In a manner that is not open to more than one interpretation.

Example: She answered questions clearly and unambiguously.

37) Encroaching: Intrude on (a person’s territory, rights, personal life, etc.).

Example: rather than encroach on his privacy she might have kept to her room

Synonyms: Intrude, trespass

38) Sublime: of very great excellence or beauty.

Example: Mozart’s sublime piano concertos.

Synonyms: exalted, elevated

39) Vindication: The action of clearing someone of blame or suspicion.

Example: I intend to work to ensure my full vindication.

40) Conscience: A person’s moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one’s behaviour.

Example: He had a guilty conscience about his desires.

Synonyms: sense of right and wrong, sense of right, moral sense.