Tuesday, March 11, 2008

To be in Government should not be the only objective of Political Parties

Tridip Suhrud a Social Scientist from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India is a columnist with the Inidian Express. Today's column (http://www.indianexpress.com/story/282683.html) is a criticism of the way the Congress party works in India. A criticism that doing politics is not just about being in the government. The criticism is valid for all parties in India and Sri Lanka which are caught up in an era where colaition governments have become the norm - an era where dubious, 'unholy' alliances are forged to be able to 'govern'. I have found it disgusting when our parliamentarians cross over and provide justification that they are doing it so that they can serve the people. Meaning that is the be all and end all of doing politics and 'serving the people'. Looking at the present Mahinda Government it is a soup of political parties and it would be futile for anyone to figure out a government position on any social issue. Though there is seldom anything new in this article I like the way he theortises his take on the subject with which i agree in its entirety.

On the need for differentiating the goals of a political party as opposed to the functions of a Government
"The government.. (has its)..unique ways of solving issues, it also ha(s) its limits and restraints. He [Nehru] warned that mere power of the government was not enough. The government cannot, by its very nature, raise fundamental issues facing a society and a nation. The role of the Congress was, he said, to remain within politics — not necessarily within government — and raise and confront fundamental issues. Because, in politics one looks to the advantage of the moment. But an action that was informed by deeper understanding of the political realm would be framed differently. The action must be right in itself, whether it leads to an immediate advantage or not".

"The ability of the Congress to discern the difference between forms of governance, political action and the larger role of occupying the political space has frayed. It sees itself as a body whose role should be to occupy the position of governance. It is true that one of the moving forces for a political party is the will to power. But to consider governmental power as an end in itself can be dangerous for a political organisation. It gives primacy to governance over the political thereby restricting the role of the political organisation. The party thus becomes an instrument of governance and not of confronting fundamental issues and setting the terms of political debate".

Critiquing the tendency to look at politics as something that has to be 'managed'
"The party is seen as a bureaucratic organisation. It sees politics and even elections essentially as a managerial problem, or worse a technocratic problem. Politics as a management exercise gives centrality to the ‘expert’ and not to the polis. It, in fact, shuts out the voice of the people or the ordinary, primary member of the party as ‘noise’ in the system. A managerial exercise is also an affirmation of the hierarchy. It also validates back-room politics as real politics. It thinks of acquisitions and mergers as robust forms of political alignment. Gujarat is a classic case in point. The Congress believed that by aligning itself with the rebels within the BJP it could defeat Modi. It surrendered to the new allies, allowing them to dictate even the choice of party candidates".

Friday, March 07, 2008

Our CJ's blabbering!!

There are many reasons to dislike our Chief Justice: For example his disconnected jurisprudence intervening in cases where he thinks fit without giving us reasons why he did it in this case and not the other one. His judgment finding the need for removal of permanent check points which is no lesser a national security issue than the Muttur High Security Zone case wherein he warned the petitioners not to bring politically charged matters of that nature to court is a classic example. Wasn't the issue of permanent check point also a politically charged case involving an issue of National Security? He has converted the court to a mediation board or a Panchayat sort of where he tries to bring cases that come to him to a 'settlement'. In the interests of speedier justice we are told.

But what propelled me to write this post is the speech that he delivered at the opening of the Consumer Court. The Chief Justice is quoted to have made the following 'observation':

“Now teachers are on sick leave. During our school days we were given six cuts for malingering. Now I am waiting for those teachers to come before me. I will give them a suitable punishment”

While it is wrong i believe for a Chief Justice to comment out of court in such a degrading manner the action being taken by the Teacher's union (The merits or demerits of the teachers action is irrelevant here) what is worrying is the Chief Justice's comment that he is 'waiting fr the matter to come to court'. Now a judge is supposed to hear a case and based on the arguments placed before him arrive at a judgment taking into consideration the interests of the parties and the society as a whole. Here is a Chief Justice (not some low court judge) who has already formed an opinion and is waiting to deliver that opinion on the parties involved in the case. What kind of justice is this? He has to the teachers effectively shut the doors of the supreme court not only on this issue but possible on any other issue they might bring. In legal academic jargon this is known as 'ex post facto rationalisation'.

As far as i know Judges of Superior courts all around the world usually tend to have a prepared speech (This is to avoid any 'slip of the tongue' mistakes) when they accept invitations to speak out of court. They go for selected occasions usually to deliver memorial orations. This is i would argue in the interests of the impartiality of the position they hold and a matter of public confidence in the duties that they carry out. Our Chief Justice like a politician is known to go for all sorts of functions for the stage and the garland. (there are those who seriously think that he might run for public office after he steps down :-). He is known to make very populist speeches. In this speech he condemns the privatisation of gas, argues for protectionism (wants to stop foreign imports. He's worried about tinned fish) all populist matters that you will expect politicians and not a Chief Justice to take on. (I am also a critique of him appearing on Buddhist TV. Agreed this is not a secular country. But shouldn't we expect that the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice at least be secular as a matter of tradition.)