Capital Punishment: Dying Out but Still Killing #deathpenalty


death1

Posted: 28/06/2013 , huffingtonpost
Maryland Death Penalty

It’s a loose comparison, but sometimes I think that people who get executed these days are like those killed right at the end of a war. Another day, another month … and they might survived.

I say this because when you look at the figures for capital punishment around the world, you can see there’s a strong trend toward abolition. It’s happening year by year. Fifty years ago only nine countries in the world had abolished the death penalty; by 1977 it was 16; now 140 countries have abolished judicial killing in law or stopped it in practice.

Even in “pro-death penalty” countries, the number of sentences and executions is generally falling or the scope for imposing executions being reduced. For example, in China the number of crimes which might lead to a lethal injection or death by firing squad has beenreduced from a reported 68 to 55 (still a staggeringly high number). Meanwhile, in the USA – another major user of capital punishment – individual states are peeling away from the majority on the issue, with six states scrapping the death penalty in the past six years – New Jersey and New York state (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2010), Connecticut (2012) and Maryland just last month.

Anyway, though in the last year or so there have been what Amnesty says is an “alarming” spike in executions in Iraq and a resumptions after considerable gaps in the use of the death penalty in Japan, Gambia, Pakistan and India, the underlying global trend is still clear and apparently fixed: state-sanctioned judicial killing is slowly dying out.

So to me there’s a particular tragedy to the late nature of executions in this context. Last night’s execution of Kimberly McCarthy in Texas was regrettable for many reasons (especially the apparent role of racial prejudice in her trial), but in five – ten, 20? – years’ time there’s a distinct possibility that we won’t have people in Texas being strapped down to a lethal injection gurney and killed by technicians in a disgraceful pseudo-medical “procedure”.

I know of course that of all US states Texas is a “hard case”, one that may not go the way of national and international abolition in the immediate future. It’s just reached the miserable milestone of 500 executions in 31 years, nearly five times higher than any other US state. The Lone Star State indeed. See Amnesty USA’s Brian Evans on Texas’ fatal addiction to the death penalty. However, with support for capital punishment in the USA falling, and controversy over lethal injection drugs and unfair trials growing, I think abolition even in Texas will come ….

But still, the machinery of death clanks on. Just this week, in addition to McCarthy’s execution we’ve had four men hanged in Nigeria (and another facing death by firing squad imminently) and alarming reports that 117 people in Vietnam may face execution soon because of a recent law change (we’re talking – in some cases – about death by lethal injection, using specially-produced drugs to execute prisoners for non-violent drugs offences). There’s an urgent text campaign on Vietnam being run by Amnesty – see here.

So no, if you take an abolitionist view on the death penalty, there’s no cause for complacency. According to Wikipedia, the last person to die (from the British Empire side at least) during World War One was a 25-year-old Canadian man called George Lawrence Price. He was shot by a German sniper in the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine at 10.58 on the morning of 11 November 1918. The Armistice came into force at 11am. A needless death then, just like everyone killed by the state in the cold-blooded and thoroughly repugnant business of administering capital punishment.

 ,Press Officer at Amnesty International UK

 

Why India Trails China- Amartya Sen


 

MODERN India is, in many ways, a success. Its claim to be the world’s largest democracy is not hollow. Its media is vibrant and free; Indians buy more newspapers every day than any other nation. Since independence in 1947, life expectancy at birth has more than doubled, to 66 years from 32, and per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) has grown fivefold. In recent decades, reforms pushed up the country’s once sluggish growth rate to around 8 percent per year, before it fell back a couple of percentage points over the last two years. For years, India’s economic growth rate ranked second among the world’s large economies, after China, which it has consistently trailed by at least one percentage point.

The hope that India might overtake China one day in economic growth now seems a distant one. But that comparison is not what should worry Indians most. The far greater gap between India and China is in the provision of essential public services — a failing that depresses living standards and is a persistent drag on growth.

Inequality is high in both countries, but China has done far more than India to raise life expectancy, expand general education and secure health care for its people. India has elite schools of varying degrees of excellence for the privileged, but among all Indians 7 or older, nearly one in every five males and one in every three females are illiterate. And most schools are of low quality; less than half the children can divide 20 by 5, even after four years of schooling.

India may be the world’s largest producer of generic medicine, but its health care system is an unregulated mess. The poor have to rely on low-quality — and sometimes exploitative — private medical care, because there isn’t enough decent public care. While China devotes 2.7 percent of its gross domestic product to government spending on health care, India allots 1.2 percent.

India’s underperformance can be traced to a failure to learn from the examples of so-called Asian economic development, in which rapid expansion of human capability is both a goal in itself and an integral element in achieving rapid growth. Japan pioneered that approach, starting after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when it resolved to achieve a fully literate society within a few decades. As Kido Takayoshi, a leader of that reform, explained: “Our people are no different from the Americans or Europeans of today; it is all a matter of education or lack of education.” Through investments in education and health care, Japan simultaneously enhanced living standards and labor productivity — the government collaborating with the market.

Despite the catastrophe of Japan’s war years, the lessons of its development experience remained and were followed, in the postwar period, by South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and other economies in East Asia. China, which during the Mao era made advances in land reform and basic education and health care, embarked on market reforms in the early 1980s; its huge success changed the shape of the world economy. India has paid inadequate attention to these lessons.

Is there a conundrum here that democratic India has done worse than China in educating its citizens and improving their health? Perhaps, but the puzzle need not be a brainteaser. Democratic participation, free expression and rule of law are largely realities in India, and still largely aspirations in China. India has not had a famine since independence, while China had the largest famine in recorded history, from 1958 to 1961, when Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward killed some 30 million people. Nevertheless, using democratic means to remedy endemic problems — chronic undernourishment, a disorganized medical system or dysfunctional school systems — demands sustained deliberation, political engagement, media coverage, popular pressure. In short, more democratic process, not less.

In China, decision making takes place at the top. The country’s leaders are skeptical, if not hostile, with regard to the value of multiparty democracy, but they have been strongly committed to eliminating hunger, illiteracy and medical neglect, and that is enormously to their credit.

There are inevitable fragilities in a nondemocratic system because mistakes are hard to correct. Dissent is dangerous. There is little recourse for victims of injustice. Edicts like the one-child policy can be very harsh. Still, China’s present leaders have used the basic approach of accelerating development by expanding human capability with great decisiveness and skill.

The case for combating debilitating inequality in India is not only a matter of social justice. Unlike India, China did not miss the huge lesson of Asian economic development, about the economic returns that come from bettering human lives, especially at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. India’s growth and its earnings from exports have tended to depend narrowly on a few sectors, like information technology, pharmaceuticals and specialized auto parts, many of which rely on the role of highly trained personnel from the well-educated classes. For India to match China in its range of manufacturing capacity — its ability to produce gadgets of almost every kind, with increasing use of technology and better quality control — it needs a better-educated and healthier labor force at all levels of society. What it needs most is more knowledge and public discussion about the nature and the huge extent of inequality and its damaging consequences, including for economic growth.

 

#India – The Neglect of Health, Women and Justice #Vaw #Womenrights


A basket weaver at work with her baby at her side, in Tamil Nadu. The infant mortality rate is very high for working women, particularly those in the primary sector, a large proportion of whom are labourers.

A basket weaver at work with her baby at her side, in Tamil Nadu. The infant mortality rate is very high for working women, particularly those in the primary sector, a large proportion of whom are labourers.

Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013 | A K Shiva Kumar , EPW
A report on the 2013 deliberation of the Kolkata Group at its 10th workshop which focused on healthcare, the status of women and social justice in India.
A K Shiva Kumar (akshivakumar@gmail.com) is convener of the Kolkata Group workshops which are organised by Pratichi (India) Trust, the Harvard Global Equity Initiative and UNICEF India.
At the 10th annual Kolkata Group workshop in February this year, 40 policymakers, development practitioners, non-governmental organisation (NGO) representatives, scholars, activists, journalists, politicians and development experts convened to take stock of the state of women, health equity and social justice in India. The group focused on two major areas of concern. First is the abysmal state of healthcare in India driven by the lack of strong governmental policies, investments and direct operations, and the growing size and exploitive practices of commercial providers. And second is the limited progress in women’s rights, indeed sometimes retrogression, that is reflected by a host of inequities, insecurities and injustices.
The Kolkata Group is an annual forum that deliberates on ways of advancing social justice, human development and human security in India. The group examines available information, seeks positive solutions, and shares its recommendations with wide audiences – government, civil society, the media, and the public. The group believes that bringing together outstanding people from different walks of life to discuss “good practices” and “lessons learned” can blend values, knowledge and discourse as part of a process of public reasoning for social action. Every year the group discussions have a particular focus. Themes in the past have included equity, security and basic education, rights and resources, child rights and development, economic progress and social values, and eliminating injustices in India. The theme in 2013 was “Public Action and Its Future”. The main focus was on health and nutrition as well as the alarming status of women in Indian society.
Balancing Economic Growth
Amartya Sen opened the workshop by underscoring that economic growth in India is good and necessary, because average incomes must be raised to achieve reasonable living standards and extensive income redistribution alone would not be sufficient for shared well-being. Growth generates private income, and even more importantly, it generates public resources which can be spent on the provision of a host of essential goods and services that contribute to decent living standards. Having noted this, Sen argued that it would be a mistake to “sit back” and rely on economic growth alone to transform the living conditions of the unprivileged. While India has much to learn from growth-mediated development elsewhere in the world, it must avoid unaimed opulence – an undependable, wasteful way of improving the living standards of the poor. Even today, after 20 years of rapid growth, India is still one of the poorest countries in the world, something that is often lost sight of, especially by those who enjoy world-class living standards thanks to the inequalities in the income distribution.
On several health indicators, India has fallen behind many of its neighbours. Overall in 1990, India had the best social indicators in south Asia, next to Sri Lanka. But now India ranks second-worst, ahead of only Pakistan. This is despite the fact that during the last 20 years, India has grown richer much faster than its neighbours. Take for instance Bangladesh. India’s per capita income was estimated to be 60% higher than Bangladesh in 1990. By 2010, India’s was 98% higher (about double). However, during the same period, Bangladesh overtook India in terms of a wide range of basic social indicators: life expectancy, child survival, fertility rates, immunisation rates, and even some (not all) schooling indicators such as estimated “mean years of schooling”. Bangladesh’s relatively rapid transformation of social indicators seems to relate closely to the much greater participation and agency of women in the social services as well as in private economic activities, compared with India.
Equally intriguing is that Nepal is also catching up rapidly with India, even overtaking India in some respects. Around 1990, Nepal was way behind India in terms of almost every development indicator. Today, social indicators for both countries are much the same (sometimes a little better in India still, sometimes the reverse), in spite of per capita income in India being about three times higher than in Nepal. Looking at their south Asian neighbours, the Indian poor are entitled to wonder what they have gained – at least so far – from the acceleration of economic growth.
Even though India is still managing to achieve comparatively high growth rates, despite its very insufficient public provision of basic services, this is undoubtedly a source of future concern, and may already be playing a part in India’s contemporary slowdown. High growth in east Asia has been led by, and reinforced by, rapid formation of human capabilities, and this is the shared experience of Japan, China, South Korea and other fast moving economies and societies in Asia. The contrast with India cannot be sharper. Apart from the very limited reach of good quality healthcare and basic education, even today 48% of the population do not even have toilets in their homes. India suffers a chronic power shortage as the breakdown of the grid in north India last year highlighted, but it is also worth bearing in mind that a third of the population in the “black out” area did not ever have any electricity connection anyway. But Sen said you would not think that power supply was a problem in India if you visited government offices where the air-conditioning is kept at a bone-chilling 16 degrees celsius in the summer. This was quite unlike government offices in other Asian countries, which keep the temperature around 23 degrees, which is comfortable enough. It is hard to detect any sign of power supply being a problem if one visits over-chilled offices, restaurants, or hotels, patronised by the comparatively rich, and it would be hard to guess that a third of the Indian population is without electricity altogether. Is it also not ironical – or worse – that political parties support, rather than object to, subsidising electricity for the “middle class” in the name of the aam aadmi? This goes along with support for other middle-class consumptions, such as diesel, cooking gas, and other ingredients of a lifestyle from which the poor are excluded.
Health Inequities
Discussions drew attention to the Asian experience, beginning with Japan in 1860 after the Meiji Restoration, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and China, where economic progress was driven by rapid human capabilities formation. We, in India, are trying to target a high growth rate without investing adequately in basic health, nutrition and education. In this connection, several participants pointed to the appalling state of India’s health system. Public healthcare has been relegated to low priority by the government, given that public spending on health in India is around 1.2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) – and has remained so for the past five years – whereas it is 2.7% of GDP in China.
The Kolkata Group reiterated that the most urgent need in healthcare in India today is for an affirmative approach that advances universal health coverage through reversing the financial neglect of public healthcare and the removal of debilitating illusions about what private healthcare and commercial insurance can achieve without firm and active public policies. Influential policymakers in India seem to be attracted by the idea that private healthcare, properly subsidised, or private health insurance, subsidised by the state, can meet the challenge. However, there are good analytical reasons why this is unlikely to happen because of informational asymmetry (the patient can be easily fooled by profit-seeking providers on what exactly is being provided) and because of the “public goods” character of healthcare thanks to the interdependences involved. There are also major decisional problems that lead to the gross neglect of the interests of women and children in family decisions. Nearly every country in the world which has achieved anything like universal health coverage has done it through the public assurance of primary healthcare (whether in Europe, Canada, or much of east Asia).
India’s leaders ought to recognise the necessity for the state to ensure comprehensive quality primary healthcare for all. Related to the main focus of the recommendations, the Kolkata Group urged the government to increase public spending on healthcare to achieve its well-considered pledge of devoting at least 3% of GDP to healthcare. It is particularly important to recognise that there are good reasons for demanding universal entitlements to primary healthcare for all. Effective regulations and ethical professionalism are also essential. The steady increase in public revenues generated by economic growth can and should be fruitfully committed to this extremely important cause.
Child Nutrition
Related to health is India’s worrisome record in reducing child malnutrition. Noting the unusually high levels of under-nutrition in India, the Kolkata Group argued for a firm recognition of the Right to Food in general and legislation to guarantee the entitlements to food for all. Recent experience (including Supreme Court orders on the right to food as well as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) shows the value of putting economic and social rights in relation to a legal framework. Legislation should recognise that food and nutritional security depends not just on food but on a set of related interventions that promote women’s health and nutrition, safe drinking water, proper sanitation and healthcare.
The Kolkata Group had earlier endorsed the proposal for creating durable legal entitlements that guarantee the right to food in India. A Right to Food Act covering justiciable food entitlements should be non-discriminatory and universal. Entitlements guaranteed by the Act should include foodgrains from the public distribution system (PDS), school meals, nutrition services for children below the age of six years, social security provision and allied programmes. Ensuring non-discriminatory access and universal entitlements requires special initiatives that focus on the discriminated, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society. Last but not least, design and implementation should include effective public participation, grievance redress provisions and independent oversight.
Women’s Rights
The Kolkata Group also drew attention to the limited progress in women’s rights that continues to be plagued by a host of inequities, insecurities and injustices. Discussions were grounded in the developments following the incident of gang rape on 16 December 2012. Nirbhaya’s statement, “I want to live”, provided a very strong emotional impetus to the protests by large numbers of women and men from different sections of society. The fact that many people went past without helping when Nirbhaya was lying there with her friend wounded reveals something awfully callous about us. Similarly, it is not to our glory that dalit women have been violated and raped again and again. And there has been relatively little noise or protest. Underlying causes for the neglect and abuse of women include patriarchy as well as deep cultural factors.
Increasing the enormity of punishment in cases involving crimes against women does not necessarily solve the issue of rising crime against women. Awarding the death penalty, for example, can serve the purpose of revenge but it does not help in social reform. Society needs to ensure that the police are serious about such crimes, there is a system that will punish those responsible for the crime, and that such matters are tried expeditiously in a court. Indian women experience much greater difficulties in getting help from the police, and consequently do not trust the police to work in a professional manner. Protocols should be adopted to protect female complainers and in moving the court swiftly enough to get a judgment quickly.
The Kolkata Group noted that the violations of women’s rights are related to the continuation of early child marriage, violence against women, discriminatory practices, the impunity and bias that permeate the functioning of the legal and police systems, malnutrition of women and children, increasing prevalence of sex selection at birth as well as inadequate women’s autonomy, health, education, and freedoms. The steps ahead must recognise the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma Committee report promoting women’s bodily integrity, dignity and sexual autonomy. Serious attention should be paid to health, education, nutrition as well as the lack of adequate recognition of women’s well-being and agency. The group also underscored the importance of public protests and the need to keep raising the demand for a police and legal system that protects the rights of women. Women’s needs have to be more centrally recognised as a political priority for their voices to be heard.
[Chaired by Amartya Sen, Kolkata Group attendees this year were Sabina Alkire, Louis-Georges Arsenault, Shabana Azmi, Abhay Bang, Countess Albina du Boisrouvray, Lori Calvo, Achin Chakraborty, Gregory Chen, Lincoln Chen, Abhijit Chowdhury, Asim Dasgupta, Keshav Desiraju, Antara Dev Sen, Jean Dreze, Shiban Ganju, Dilip Ghosh, Joaquin Gonzalez-Aleman, R Govinda, Shaibal Gupta, Pratik Kanjilal, Manabi Mazumdar, Surjya Kanta Misra, Nachiket Mor, Poonam Muttreja, Sridhar Rajagopalan, Kumar Rana, Sujatha Rao, Srinath Reddy, Nidhi Sabharwal, Abhijit Sen, Amartya Sen, Nandana Sen, A K Shiva Kumar, Amarjeet Sinha, Shantha Sinha, Sukhadeo Thorat and Sitaram Yechury.]

 

US eyes Port Blair as new drone base #WTFnews


 

A US report suggests that the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands could be ideally suited as a base for American drones in the event of an offensive against China.

Mail Today – 1

 

NEW DELHI: Port Blair might not be anything more than a vacation spot for most Indians, but a new Pentagon- commissioned report seeks to turn it into something radically different: a base for American drones.

In possibly the first reference to the use of Indian territory for the US military in recent times, the paper, put together by the RAND Corporation, suggests that the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands could be ideally suited as a base for American drones in the event of an offensive against China.

The paper, titled ‘Overseas Basing of US Military Forces‘, was commissioned by the Pentagon on the instructions of the US Congress and looks into the presence of the American military at various bases and locations across the globe.

As part of this assessment, the researchers at RAND looked into large- scale operations against potential adversaries, including Iran, North Korea and China.

Under this scenario, the paper suggests significant changes in the Indo-Pacific region. “The Navy and the Marine Corps would also increase the number of combat forces that are stationed on US territories in the Pacific, in particular in Hawaii and Guam, while seeking to retain more marines in Okinawa than currently agreed,” the paper says.

It adds that the US should seek to increase the presence of troops at bases in Australia. It then goes on to refers to the use of Indian territory to look over the strategically important Straits of Malacca, which carries about a quarter of all oil that is transported.

“The Navy would strive to station a detachment of broad area maritime surveillance UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones) at Port Blair airport in the Andaman Islands, to increase surveillance over the Strait of Malacca,” the paper said.

James Brown, a Military Fellow at the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program and Project Coordinator of the MacArthur Foundation Asia Security Project, points out that this is a possibly unprecedented suggestion – particularly because of its China focus.

“While there is no doubt that the Andaman Islands are strategic real estate, this is the first time I have seen anyone float the thought bubble that the US might be able to operate maritime surveillance assets from Indian territory,” Brown wrote in a post examining the paper.

“At first glance it seems incredibly unlikely, but the US and Indian navies have been steadily increasing their cooperation since 2006… In the event of Chinese aggression, it is not inconceivable that India might permit the US to operate maritime surveillance platforms from its Andaman Islands territory.”

AN IDEAL HUB FOR DRONES
A new Pentagon- commissioned report, put together by the RAND Corporation, suggests that Port Blair could be ideally suited as a base for American drones in the event of an offensive against China

The paper was commissioned by the Pentagon on the instructions of the US Congress and looks into the presence of the American military at various bases and locations across the globe

As part of this assessment, the researchers at RAND looked into large- scale operations against potential adversaries, including Iran, North Korea and China

The paper said the Navy would strive to station a detachment of broad area maritime surveillance UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones) at Port Blair airport to increase surveillance over the Strait of Malacca, which carries about a quarter of all oil that is transported.

 

China’s ‘Leftover Women’ fight bullshit with humor #Vaw #Womenrights


By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW
Published: April 23, 2013, NYT

BEIJING — For years, single Chinese women in their mid- to late-20s have endured being called “shengnu,” or “leftover women,” by relatives, by the state-run media and by society. The message is : Marry, ideally by 25, or you’re on the shelf.

Some are starting to push back.

“I don’t accept that definition,” said Li Yue, 34, who works at a nongovernmental organization in Beijing. “It’s really ridiculous. Who says I’m leftover, and by whom? I don’t feel I’m leftover, I feel I’m living the life I want.”

“It’s really annoying,” said Wang Man, 31, an employee of a poverty relief N.G.O. in Beijing. “By now though, I don’t care, as I think there’s a plot behind it. It’s an admonishment to women, it’s telling us what to do, where and when. Everyone is trying to get us to sacrifice ourselves, to look after children, husbands, old people.”

China has about 20 million more men under 30 years of age than women, according to official news reports — largely the result of gender selective abortion, with many parents preferring a son to a daughter. So why is the phenomenon of “leftover women” apparently so widespread? Aren’t desperate men snapping up available women?

Not exactly. Traditional attitudes demand that a man earn more than a woman, meaning that as women earn increasingly more they are pricing themselves out of the marriage market.

But as a result, partly, of the increasingly defiant attitudes of women like Ms. Liu and Ms. Wang toward a term that many still find terribly hurtful, a riposte to “leftover women” has been born — and it’s a clever one. Yes, they’re saying, we’re “shengnu.” But that’s “sheng” as in “victorious,” not “leftover.”

The pun that turns the tables on the prejudicial description is made possible by the fact that “sheng” has different meanings in Chinese depending on the written character: either “leftover” or “victorious” (or “successful,” as some prefer). Chinese is filled with homonyms, making punning a popular pastime.

The redefining of shengnu has been abetted by a television series, started last July, that translates as “The Price of Being a Victorious Woman.” It’s an exploration of the romantic life and career of the fictitious, unmarried Lin Xiaojie, played by the Taiwanese actress Chen Qiao En. In the series, the quirky, pretty Ms. Lin has troubled romantic encounters with attractive men. But along the way she builds a successful career.

While some consider the series overly sappy, it has had the effect of spreading the concept of “victorious women” as a morale-boosting alternative to “leftover women,” and delivering unmarried Chinese women more self-respect.

“In the series, the perfect metamorphosis of Lin Xiaojie from a ‘leftover woman’ to a ‘victorious woman’ shows you that in the working world too, it’s better to be strong and in charge of your destiny than to let other people control your future,” runs a summary of the series on the Web site of iQiyi.com, a major Chinese film and TV portal. It offers 10 pieces of practical advice to young women, including: Don’t be bad but don’t be too good, either. Learn not to be influenced by your colleagues. Don’t fall in love with your boss.

Even the state-run media, which have long issued lugubrious warnings to young women on the perils of becoming a “leftover woman,” are — slowly — joining in.

The official microblog site of People’s Daily recently displayed a post suggesting that “leftover women” needn’t despair.

“Leftover women, don’t be tragic,” it said. “There are 20 million more men under 30 than women in China. So how can there be so many ‘leftover women?”’ It provided a common explanation: “Isn’t it because they’re not ‘leftover’ but ‘victorious’, and their requirements for partners are very high?”

But it continued, in a less judgmental vein: “They’re free, and can stand on their own feet. As China modernizes fast, ‘leftover women’ may turn into a positive term.”

It’s better to be “victorious” than “leftover,” said Ms. Liu, the N.G.O. worker. But overall, she’d rather not have to choose.

“I think it’s a very positive word,” she said. “But it’s also kind of odd because I never thought of this as a victory or some kind of a struggle.”

“We should have the right to choose what we want to do. So do we really need such a power-filled word as ‘victorious’ to describe something so normal?”

Ms. Wang agreed. “I’ve heard of it and I think it’s O.K., but I don’t think it’s a question of victory or defeat,” she said. “It’s just a way of life. If I had to choose, though, I’d tend toward ‘victorious’ for sure. Still, it all feels a bit tiring.”

Meanwhile, there are still many over-25-year-olds, fretting under strong societal pressure to marry, who have internalized the cultural and social values that they are “on the shelf.” China’s minimum marriage age for women is 20, so the window of opportunity for those who want to escape labeling is small.

For them, “shengnu,” with its double meaning, is, at best, neutral.

“I’m not completely proud of it,” said Zhou Wen, 27 and unmarried, a secretary at an American marketing company in Beijing, “but it is at least a neutral word. Not bad at all.”

Amnesty International Reports on Death Penalty Trends


death-penalty

By 
Published: April 9, 2013

At least four countries that had not used the death penalty in some time — India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia — resumed doing so last year, the rights organization Amnesty International says in its annual compilation of capital punishment trends.

Amnesty, the London-based group that has made abolition of the death penalty one of its signature causes, also says the number of executions in Iraq nearly doubled in 2012 compared with a year earlier, which it characterized as “an alarming escalation.”

Nonetheless, its yearly review, released early Wednesday in London, said the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012.

“In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past, ” Salil Shetty, secretary general of the organization, said in a statement. Amnesty said only 21 countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the same as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier.

It said at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide in 2012, two more than 2011, and at least 1,722 death sentences were imposed in 58 countries, compared with 1,923 imposed in 63 countries the year before.

“Only one in 10 countries in the world carries out executions,” Mr. Shetty said. “Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind.”

Amnesty also pointed out that its compilation excluded what it said were the thousands of executions it believes were carried out in China, where the number of capital punishment cases is kept secret. The organization said it still believed China remained the world’s top executioner.

Besides China, the top executors in 2012, Amnesty said, were Iran with 314, Iraq with 129, Saudi Arabia with 79 and the United States with 43. The report also noted that only nine American states executed prisoners in 2012, compared with 13 the year before, and that in April, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.

 

International Women’s Day Past and Present- Anuradha Ghandy #mustead #mustshare


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8 March 2001 is the 91st anniversary of the International Women’s Day (IWD), which was first declared in 1910. In that year, Clara Zetkin, inspired by the working class women’s movement in America, proposed to the Second International Conference of the Socialist Working Women that an annual celebration of women’s day be held. The Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s right and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries. No fixed date was selected for the observance.

 

As a result of this decision, the first International Women’s Day was held on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and an end to discrimination on the job. The date was chosen by Germany women as 19 March, because, on that date in 1848, the Prussian king, faced with an armed uprising, had promised many reforms, including an unfulfilled one of votes for women.

 

In 1913, the date for the IWD was changed to 8 March. This was to commemorate tow important events which occurred on that day. On 8 March 1857, women garment and textile workers in New York City had staged, for the first time, a protest against in-human working conditions, the 12-hour work day and low wages. The marchers were attacked and dispersed by the police. Two years later, again in March, these women formed their first union. Again on 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. They adopted the slogan‘Bread and Roses’; with bread symbolizing economic security and roses, a better quality of life. In May of that year, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday in February for the observance of the National Women’s Day.

 

The first National Women’s Day was observed across the USA on 28 February 1909. Soon, women in Europe began celebrating Women’s Day on the last Sunday of February. It was in this background that Clara Zetkin put forward the proposal for an International Women’s Day at the 1910 Conference of the Women’s Socialist International. Within a week of the first celebrations in 1911, on 25 March 1911, over 140 working girls were killed in the tragic Triangle Fire in the USA. This event had a far reaching effect on labour legislation in the USA and gave the IWD a further impetus.

 

On the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day in 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest against the war or to express solidarity with oppressed women. The most famous International Working Women’s Day was the 8 March 1917 (24 February in the Russian style calendar) strike for ‘bread and peace’ led by the Russian women of St. Petersburg. Both Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai took part in this event. The IWD strike merges with the riots that had spread throughout the city between 8-12 March. The February Revolution, as it came to be known, forced the Czar to abdicate.

In the Soviet Union, 8 March was declared a national holiday and accompanied by a celebration of ‘the heroic women workers’.Since then, 8 March has grown in significance, and its celebrations throughout the world have marked a growing awareness of women’s rights. The great advances achieved in women’s rights in the Soviet Union, after the socialist revolution, were an inspiration to women throughout the world. The Chinese revolution in 1949 showed how, even in one of the most backward countries of the world, seeped in feudal values and patriarchal thinking, women can be aroused for change. The gigantic strides made by women in socialist China were a living example for women throughout the Third World. Particularly, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and its consistent attack on feudal Confucian thinking, acted as a great source for the further emancipation of women in China. Comrade Chiang Chiang was its living symbol.

 

The 1960s and early 1970s, which saw a strong democratic upsurge in the capitalist countries and powerful national liberation movements in the Third World, also witnessed a rejuvenation of the women’s liberation movement. The movement had such an enormous impact throughout the world that the imperialists sought to destroy it through co-option and diversion into acceptable channels. This resulted in large, corporate or state-funded NGOs vehemently attacking socialism, and putting for-ward a bourgeois form of feminism. The process of co-option culminated in the United Nations officially recognizing 8 March as the International Women’s Day in 1977. Since then, the most bourgeois and reactionary organizations have also come to ‘celebrate’ 8 March, depriving it of its revolutionary content and great history of struggle, through which it originated. This process was further catalysed with the reversal of socialism, first in the Soviet Union, and, later, in China. The first casualty of these reversals was the denial of some of the rights achieved by women under socialism.

Yet, the International Women’s Day continues to live on amongst the oppressed women of the world. The temporary setback of the communist movement and socialism, and the re-assertion of capitalism/imperialism, has hit women hard. Globalizations, and the crass consumerism associated with it, have witnessed the mass commodification of women, on a scale unheard of before. The cosmetic industry, tourism and bourgeois media have degraded the women’s body as never before, without any respect for their individuality. This, coupled with mass poverty, has led to entire populations turning to prostitution as witnessed in East Europe, East Asia, Nepal, etc. Coupled with this, the rise of religious fundamentalism and various sects throughout the world is pushing another section of women back to a status of the Dark Ages. Squeezed between these two extremes, women, today, more than ever before, feel the need for assertion, for self-respect and equality with their male counterparts. 8 March has, therefore, an even greater significance today.

 

The revisionists and bourgeois liberals seek to dampen the women’s spirit of freedom, displaying mock ‘concern,’ acting as condescending saviors, confining women to their home. They compromise with patriarchal values, feudal traditions and fear women’s emancipation and assertion. They, of course, also ‘celebrate’ women’s day, as a routine, issuing out the regular hypocritical statements.

 

It is the revolutionary forces throughout the world, and, more particularly, the Maoists, who have brought back a living vibrancy to the IWD, making it, once again, a day symbolizing the struggle of women for freedom, self-respect, equality and emancipation from all patriarchal values and exploitative practices. It is this revolutionary spirit that kindles a new hope in the future for the oppressed women of India, and the world.

 

From: Scripting the Change- Selected writings of Anuradha Ghandy- DAANISH BOOKS

 

International Women’s day- We are One Woman: A Song #Video #Womensday


From China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia, acclaimed singers and musicians, women and men, have come together to spread a message of unity and solidarity: We are “One Woman“.

Launching on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world.

This year, International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women — a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women and a top priority for UN Women. As commemorations are underway in all corners of the globe, “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.

 

Nuclear weapons must be eradicated for all our sakes- Desmond Tutu


No nation should own nuclear arms – not Iran, not North Korea, and not their critics who take the moral high ground

(FILES) This file picture taken by North

As an Oslo conference on nuclear weapons starts, we should not accept that a ‘select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.’ Photograph: Kns/AFP/Getty Images

We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran’s pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.

 

Until we overcome this double standard – until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants – we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.

 

Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces? What standing has Israel to urge Iran not to acquire the bomb when it harbours its own atomic arsenal?

 

Nuclear weapons do not discriminate; nor should our leaders. The nuclear powers must apply the same standard to themselves as to others: zero nuclear weapons. Whereas the international community has imposed blanket bans on other weapons with horrendous effects – from biological and chemical agents to landmines and cluster munitions – it has not yet done so for the very worst weapons of all. Nuclear weapons are still seen as legitimate in the hands of some. This must change.

 

Around 130 governments, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons are gathering in Oslo this week to examine the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and the inability of relief agencies to provide an effective response in the event of a nuclear attack. For too long, debates about nuclear arms have been divorced from such realities, focusing instead on geopolitics and narrow concepts of national security.

 

With enough public pressure, I believe that governments can move beyond the hypocrisy that has stymied multilateral disarmament discussions for decades, and be inspired and persuaded to embark on negotiations for a treaty to outlaw and eradicate these ultimate weapons of terror. Achieving such a ban would require somewhat of a revolution in our thinking, but it is not out of the question. Entrenched systems can be turned on their head almost overnight if there’s the will.

 

Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when those who spoke about green energy and climate change were considered peculiar. Now it is widely accepted that an environmental disaster is upon us. There was once a time when people bought and sold other human beings as if they were mere chattels, things. But people eventually came to their senses. So it will be the case for nuclear arms, sooner or later.

 

Indeed, 184 nations have already made a legal undertaking never to obtain nuclear weapons, and three in four support a universal ban. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of apartheid nigh, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear stockpile, becoming the first nation to do so. This was an essential part of its transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. Around the same time, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine also relinquished their Soviet-era atomic arsenals.

 

But today nine nations still consider it their prerogative to possess these ghastly bombs, each capable of obliterating many thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in a flash. They appear to think that nuclear weapons afford them prestige in the international arena. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any nuclear-armed state, big or small, whatever its stripes, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms for possessing these indiscriminate, immoral weapons.

 

‘I would have lodged an FIR against Narendra Modi on charges of genocide and manslaughter’ #JusticeKatju


Editor’s Note: Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge in the Supreme Court, is not really off the mark on Narendra Modi, especially on his role in the Gujarat carnage of 2002. We reproduce an interview with former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, VN Khare who makes equally scathing observations. This interview was carried in print edition of Hardnews, March 2012.

Sadiq Naqvi Delhi 

More and more issues are going to the courts. Is it a failure of the other institutions of our system? 

No, it will be wrong to say that. With economic progress and development, all these things are bound to come. It is human nature and there will be disputes. It is part of the system. You can’t visualize a society without the judiciary. You can’t imagine a democracy minus the judiciary. You can as well go to China then. Once I was in Beijing and I happened to meet the Chief Justice of China. I asked him, “What do you do if your prime minister or other top officials don’t follow your order?” He said nothing. He asked me, instead, so what would you do? I told him that I can send them to jail for six months if they don’t follow the court verdict. He was surprised. So, if you have a democracy, you have to have a judiciary.

Do you see any flaws in the current judicial set-up? 

You can’t say that any institution is flawless. There is a difference between the judges and the judiciary. Some judges may be proper, some may be corrupt. Judges come from the same society from where you come. He must be having someone in the family who is a politician or a bureaucrat. We don’t import judges. So the aberrations we are seeing are a reflection of the society. It’s not a failure of the institution. If you compare the judiciary with other institutions, then I can very proudly say that it is much better. People still have confidence and faith in the judiciary. They have not started saying that going to the court is going to be useless. So, till the time people have this confidence, I feel we need not worry much. The only thing we should be worried about is this: whatever corruption has seeped into the judiciary, as a reflection of the degeneration of the society, the judiciary as an institution should try to rectify it.

          ‘I would have lodged an FIR against Narendra Modi on charges of genocide and manslaughter. I said it in the open court’

 

What are your observations on recent judgements on PILs, like the one on 2G? 

I have entertained so many PILs during my tenure. I started doing it after the Gujarat riots in 2002. A State-sponsored genocide was on, and nobody had the courage to speak against it. The prime minister was quiet, the deputy prime minister did not utter a word, the president also did not say a thing even after so many people had been killed. All the accused were being let off. It was then that I took it up. There were 400 cases and I read the FIR. I am amazed that even after carrying out such a big investigation, they did not find anything. I just read the FIR and concluded that it was a State-sponsored genocide.

I will tell you two cases. Best Bakery was set on fire at 6:45pm. There was a thousand-strong mob which had surrounded Best Bakery and set it on fire. Understand the topography and you can easily conclude that it is a State-sponsored genocide. At a furlong a police patrol van is stationed, it is also mentioned in the FIR. One-and-a-half-kilometre away is the police station. An ACP is sitting there, according to the FIR. Then it goes on to say that at 11:45pm the fire recedes on its own. These are the broad facts. Now, tell me, a fire brigade could have gone and doused the fire? Some lives could have been saved. Why didn’t that patrol police van go and intervene? I read the FIR and concluded that it is a State-sponsored genocide. I said, had I been in a position, I would have lodged an FIR against Narendra Modi on charges of genocide and manslaughter. I said it in the open court. So, in such circumstances, what inquiry do you need – when even one fire extinguisher couldn’t come, nobody could even throw a bucket of water!

Now, see the Gulbarga society case. Ehsan Jafri calls the police and an ACP comes. Jafri is not the only one there; there are many more people in his house. The ACP tells Jafri, I can take you from here. He refused and said, how can I go alone when there are so many others? He said, I will go only if you take the others. The ACP just refused. The moment this ACP leaves, Jafri’s house is set on fire. Why didn’t any fire extinguisher come to this society which is in the heart of Ahmedabad? Scores of people were charred to death.

So, at this stage, I took the PILs. If democracy has to function, then it is the duty of the majority to protect the minority. Who constitutes the government? It is the majority. And when they failed in this duty, that is when I took up theGujaratcase. So, when you see the system has failed, then you have to take up such causes.

Some recent judgements have faced a lot of criticism. Top legal luminaries have termed as ‘hyper-activism’ the way in which the judiciary is intervening in policy-making. What do you think? 

I, too, believe that in a couple of cases they went too far. They should not push their ideology in deciding cases. They should not colour the judgements with their ideology. It is going too far. It may sometimes rebound. But in their wisdom they have done it.

What about the 2G case, the way licences have been cancelled? 

In the 2G case, you can’t say that all the private firms bribed their way in. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the trust of investors, that their investments are safe. But when you engage in misappropriation, then it reflects on other clean deals as well. This has very bad implications on investments coming into the country. Firms from Norway and other countries have started to show their apprehensions already.

How does one maintain checks and balances? 

Everyone has to work on his own turf. There should be no intrusion. Only in cases where there is inaction, if the executive is not enforcing law, or not fulfilling its duty, then the judiciary can step in and direct it to enforce the law.

The way they have done in the black money case, by laying down a policy… 

Black money and all, you can’t lay down a policy. You can direct them to change the policy. But even that is going too far, stretching it too far. Judiciary is not supposed to run the government. They could have checked whether the government is acting upon it, they could have asked them to submit progress reports to the court. But what manner it is to be done, the policy matters, are to be decided by the government.

Again, in the 2G case, the court said only auction should be done… 

It is all right, when there is so much corruption, then auction seems to be the only viable option. In the auction system, it is to be seen whether it (auction) is for everything, and then, how will the poor cope up with it in front of the moneybags…

Don’t you think that instead of directing for an auction, in this case where a national resource is involved, the court could have left the decision to the government? 

Yes, I too feel it should have been a little flexible. Suppose you want to part with government resources to develop weaker sections of the people, the minorities etc, there you can’t impose this system, this won’t work. Suppose you have to give houses to the poor, you can’t auction them.

In the 2G case, one of the defences was that this has made mobile telephony cheaper for the masses… 

There, you see, the corruption is so apparent. Some hundreds of crores have been transferred in the accounts. Had all this not happened, then I think the court would have been lenient. The court, perhaps, took all that into consideration. And it is not final, it can be reviewed sometime later.

You think it should be reviewed? 

I wouldn’t say it should be. A case can be reviewed on the basis of the circumstances prevailing in that particular period of time.

There is a larger belief that the powerful get away easily even in the judicial system. However, we saw in recent cases that many powerful people were kept in pre-trial detention for a long period. Do you agree that the courts got influenced by public pressure?

(Laughs) You must never say that. I think they act on the content of law rather than public pressure. I never got swayed by public pressure. You have to give justice based on the law.

Do you think they should have got bail? 

Yes, because, normally, in economic offences people get bail. But, as I told you, the reflection of society can be seen on the courts as well. There was a wave against corruption, this scam, that scam, and then, as you said, the feeling that the powerful get away easily. Sometimes the powerful don’t get bail, like in this case. All these contradictions are there. These are all opinions of society. The best way is to act according to the law.

Do you feel that many of the judgements are politically coloured? 

I wouldn’t call it political. They are perhaps coloured by public opinion.

What about the Ayodhya judgement? 

(Laughs) The original suit was a civil suit and they partitioned it. Partition suit is different. Where did the question of partition arise? But, then, as I said, they must have, perhaps, acted as per public opinion and gave something to all the aggrieved parties. Legally, it is not correct.

Then there is this whole debate on frivolous PILs… 

Yes, it is very rampant. During my tenure, I even constituted a committee to scrutinize and look into the merits of a PIL, and whether it is fit for consideration. We made some norms. The committee of judges was to decide if the PIL has merits for the benefit of society, for people of the country. Otherwise, it was rejected.

There are allegations that some lawyers act at the behest of corporates… We have seen allegations against people like Subramanian Swamy that they are targeting one political party. Does any such thing exist? 

It may be. Because even I used to get a lot of complaints that there are certain lawyers who are sponsored by corporate houses. Some corporate house gets a licence, and then the other party takes recourse to PIL. And the lawyers make a lot of money. I got many such complaints. But I did not have the power to investigate lawyers on any such complaint. I could have investigated the judges, but I could not investigate the lawyers.

How does one deal with this menace? 

Actually, it is because the Bar Council is weak. The disciplinary authority in this case is the Bar Council, and it doesn’t do anything. What does a judge know if the lawyer has taken money? And then, even the media highlights (some cases).

What about the 2G case, the way licences have been cancelled? 

In the 2G case, you can’t say that all the private firms bribed their way in. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the trust of investors, that their investments are safe. But when you engage in misappropriation, then it reflects on other clean deals as well. This has very bad implications on investments coming into the country. Firms from Norway and other countries have started to show their apprehensions already.

How does one maintain checks and balances? 

Everyone has to work on his own turf. There should be no intrusion. Only in cases where there is inaction, if the executive is not enforcing law, or not fulfilling its duty, then the judiciary can step in and direct it to enforce the law.

The way they have done in the black money case, by laying down a policy… 

Black money and all, you can’t lay down a policy. You can direct them to change the policy. But even that is going too far, stretching it too far. Judiciary is not supposed to run the government. They could have checked whether the government is acting upon it, they could have asked them to submit progress reports to the court. But what manner it is to be done, the policy matters, are to be decided by the government.

Again, in the 2G case, the court said only auction should be done… 

It is all right, when there is so much corruption, then auction seems to be the only viable option. In the auction system, it is to be seen whether it (auction) is for everything, and then, how will the poor cope up with it in front of the moneybags…

Don’t you think that instead of directing for an auction, in this case where a national resource is involved, the court could have left the decision to the government? 

Yes, I too feel it should have been a little flexible. Suppose you want to part with government resources to develop weaker sections of the people, the minorities etc, there you can’t impose this system, this won’t work. Suppose you have to give houses to the poor, you can’t auction them.

In the 2G case, one of the defences was that this has made mobile telephony cheaper for the masses… 

There, you see, the corruption is so apparent. Some hundreds of crores have been transferred in the accounts. Had all this not happened, then I think the court would have been lenient. The court, perhaps, took all that into consideration. And it is not final, it can be reviewed sometime later.

You think it should be reviewed? 

I wouldn’t say it should be. A case can be reviewed on the basis of the circumstances prevailing in that particular period of time.

There is a larger belief that the powerful get away easily even in the judicial system. However, we saw in recent cases that many powerful people were kept in pre-trial detention for a long period. Do you agree that the courts got influenced by public pressure?

(Laughs) You must never say that. I think they act on the content of law rather than public pressure. I never got swayed by public pressure. You have to give justice based on the law.

Do you think they should have got bail? 

Yes, because, normally, in economic offences people get bail. But, as I told you, the reflection of society can be seen on the courts as well. There was a wave against corruption, this scam, that scam, and then, as you said, the feeling that the powerful get away easily. Sometimes the powerful don’t get bail, like in this case. All these contradictions are there. These are all opinions of society. The best way is to act according to the law.

Do you feel that many of the judgements are politically coloured? 

I wouldn’t call it political. They are perhaps coloured by public opinion.

What about the Ayodhya judgement? 

(Laughs) The original suit was a civil suit and they partitioned it. Partition suit is different. Where did the question of partition arise? But, then, as I said, they must have, perhaps, acted as per public opinion and gave something to all the aggrieved parties. Legally, it is not correct.

Then there is this whole debate on frivolous PILs… 

Yes, it is very rampant. During my tenure, I even constituted a committee to scrutinize and look into the merits of a PIL, and whether it is fit for consideration. We made some norms. The committee of judges was to decide if the PIL has merits for the benefit of society, for people of the country. Otherwise, it was rejected.

There are allegations that some lawyers act at the behest of corporates… We have seen allegations against people like Subramanian Swamy that they are targeting one political party. Does any such thing exist? 

It may be. Because even I used to get a lot of complaints that there are certain lawyers who are sponsored by corporate houses. Some corporate house gets a licence, and then the other party takes recourse to PIL. And the lawyers make a lot of money. I got many such complaints. But I did not have the power to investigate lawyers on any such complaint. I could have investigated the judges, but I could not investigate the lawyers.

How does one deal with this menace? 

Actually, it is because the Bar Council is weak. The disciplinary authority in this case is the Bar Council, and it doesn’t do anything. What does a judge know if the lawyer has taken money? And then, even the media highlights (some cases).

What about the long list of pending cases? Even in the riots cases, the victims still await justice. Be it the 1984 riots, the 1992 riots in Mumbai, or even theGujaratgenocide of 2002… 

This is a blot on the judiciary. But what can the judiciary do? In our country, the ratio is 13.5 judges for one million people. In the developed countries, we have 130-135 judges for every one million people. A judge has to go into the facts, the evidence, the law, before deciding a case. I even put this question to the then president, APJ Abdul Kalam. I asked him, “People say that there has been so much modernization and computerization, but can the computer decide a case on the merits of it?” No! Each fact in each case differs from the others. So, if in our country the ratio is increased to even 40 judges per million people, then things can improve a lot.

We have no infrastructure. You go to a court, you have all kinds of people roaming freely. From booksellers to the ones selling tea. Some lawyer is sitting under a tree, some others in a tea shop. You have dogs and stray cows roaming freely. Have you ever gone to the Tees Hazari Court (in Delhi) and seen how hundreds of people pile up in the court room?

I did talk to many former prime ministers, including Mrs Indira Gandhi, in this regard. But they don’t have the finances to do it. Every year there are as many as 30 lakh cases of bouncing cheques. Every year 10 lakh people die in road accidents. Each accident makes two cases. One civil and one criminal. Then, you have dacoity, murder and rape cases. And you know the kind of police we have in this country.

What are your views on the reported corruption in sections of the lower judiciary, the high courts and the Supreme Court? We have seen affidavits filed in court which accused even some former Chief Justices ofIndiaof corruption. 

There is corruption. But judges come from the same society which is corrupt. It is not institutionalized. Some judges may be engaging in corrupt practices. But it is very less in high courts, and I did not see any corruption in the Supreme Court. At least till the time I was there, I did not see any case. What happened after that, I do not know. They may be giving judgements according to their ideological beliefs, some judge may be pro-tenant, some may be pro-labour, but I don’t think they are involved in any monetary corruption. After I retired, there were all these cases of corruption on Justice YK Sabharwal, Justice RC Lahoti.

Coming to the subordinate courts, it is the Chief Justice of the state’s high court who has been delegated with powers to deal with corruption. If you see states like UP, it is so big, how much work can one Chief Justice do? The moment you enter a subordinate court, you have the clerk asking for money. I have information that even some judges are corrupt. To deal with it, the institution has to come up with some mechanism. A Chief Justice can’t deal with so much work.

We have judges who suffer from all kinds of weaknesses. You give them any power and they start feeling as if they are king. And it is the subordinate courts where a common man goes. How many people are able to come to the Supreme Court or high court? A mechanism to deal with corruption in the lower judiciary is very important.

Judicial Accountability Bill also doesn’t address it… 

There is no provision for the lower judiciary since it is a state subject. If you bring it under this, then the states will say it is an attack on the federal structure.

Coming back to the Supreme Court, there are allegations on former Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan? Do you think he should have resigned? 

I have not seen the facts, so I can’t say much. If there is any substance in the allegations, then he should have resigned.

Now we see that even petitions are loaded with the opinions of former judges. Don’t you feel that judges, once they retire, should not give such opinions? 

What will the judge do then, once he retires? The retirement age is 65. What does he do after that? He can’t practise. How can you stop him from giving opinions? It is for the courts to tell the petitioner to not get such opinions. Yes, a judge should not take up any government assignment post-retirement.

Any concluding remarks… 

There is need for a code of conduct for judges. There should be an element of restraint. They should exhibit honesty, impartiality and fairness, and should strive for the promotion of the weaker sections of society.

The way the situation is currently unfolding inPakistan, with the Supreme Court indicting the democratically elected prime minister – will it have any repercussions here?

No, I don’t think so. The courts here debarred Indira Gandhi from contesting elections. It is not bigger than that.

From the print issue of Hardnews :

MARCH 2012