LATE NIGHT SUPREME COURT HEARING SHOULD BE SEEN IN THIS CONTEXT

India may mean many things to many but one thing is common – it has a robustly functional democracy – a 2:30 AM hearing on Yakub Memon in the Supreme Court shows it.

Yes, Yakub Memon’s case is not going to be a beginning to undo the chasm and malaise that beset Indian democracy.

It is not going to address the problem of ‘legal remedy getting costlier’ and therefore being not available to the majority of the population.

India’s top court, in an unprecedented move, in a first, opened after midnight to hear someone who was going to die in next few hours after being given death sentence.

And the development is indeed a positive factors, is an indicator of how strong are democratic values – irrespective of the reasons working behind it.

The point is – India’s apex court worked on it – even after rejecting Yakub Memon’s last legal options just few hours earlier.

Yes, India’s democracy is ‘robustly functional’ because India is the world largest democracy and has been so for nearly 70 years in spite of multitudes of problems working overtime to drag it backward. Its future is rightly expected to keep positive promises to work for.

In fact, India is the only democracy in the world where large population groups of different religions coexist under a common Constructional administration. Yes, religion does give them some specific leverages but that is mostly individual in nature and doesn’t intervene with the nation’s governance.

Yes, it is daydreaming to expect that this unprecedented late night/early morning hearing by the Supreme Court is going to set a trend where people with such ‘extreme grievance conditions’ will be able to knock the apex court at any hour of the day.

Majority will simply not get the coordinates required – lawyers and round the clock coverage – that Yakub Memon got and that made it possible – something that made the apex court take cognizance of a late night plea to conduct a hearing.

Debates like ‘death penalty has no place in a civilized world’ have their own validity but we need to be equally sensitive to the issue that it is an endless debate between ‘being right’ in abolishing death penalty and ‘being justified’ in demanding harshest punishment to the perpetrators (including capital punishment).

And our democracy gives space to both, or even to them who are still not clear what is their viewpoint.

And the late night hearing by the Supreme Court on plea of Yakub Memon’s lawyers and by a battery of lawyers working to abolish the death penalty from Indian penal system should be seen in this context.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LIFE IMPRISONMENT SHOULD BE ‘LIFE IN JAIL TILL DEATH’

Every case coming for hearing is important in the apex court of the land in its own sense but some cases become landmark because they set a precedent that affects many lives, that touches a broad spectrum of mindsets and that brings fundamental changes.

The Supreme Court of India had such an important case listed today for hearing.

It was to decide about ‘duration of life sentence’.

Presently, in India, life sentence means life in jail till death. The Supreme Court upheld this in a judgment in November 2012. The apex court said, “It appears to us there is a misconception that a prisoner serving a life sentence has an indefeasible right to be released on completion of either fourteen years or twenty years imprisonment. The prisoner has no such right.”

And it should be the outcome, in every such case, irrespective of the petitions filed. A life sentence should mean ‘life in jail till one is alive’. That is the principle of justice.

That is ‘rightful justice’ served. ‘Awarding death sentence’ is certainly debatable and many countries have abolished capital punishment from their legal system.

And certainly, a life imprisonment with ‘life till death’ in jail a tougher punishment. Taking a life can only be compensated by making someone feel some of the pain of the victims of the ghastly crime.

Though, the Supreme Court has already upheld its decision and has expressed so in cases earlier, it was an important day because an observation/an order on the similar lines would be re-assertion of the just stand taken earlier.

There was no update today on the matter. Let’s see what happens when it comes for hearing next.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RIGHT TO REJECT – NONE OF THE ABOVE – BRAVO! CHEERS!

Right To Reject – None Of The Above – Bravo! Cheers!

It is evolutionary. It is revolutionary.

It is so soothing to the ears. It is unlike those so many competitive examinations that every Indian of this generation takes or the future generations are bound to go through where ‘none of the above’ option of the multiple choice questions are, many a time, a hard nut to crack, creating line of thoughts and thus confusion to pin-point the correct one.

Here, it is going to be the natural choice in ‘many cases (many candidates)’ – ‘none of the above’ being the correct and so the chosen answer.

It would be the beginning of such occasions, hopefully, if implemented, where we are going to have the NOTA (None Of The Above) option chosen, and chosen correctly by the majority of the Indians and there would, obviously, be no fixing allegations here.

Right to Reject in polls is a reality now after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision today. Let’s see what innovation (manipulation) is offered by the politicians of India to negate it – the way they are working overtime to shield the tainted, convicted of their lot.

Also, there will be loads of wisdom flowing on its ‘if and buts’, on its ‘theoretical and practical aspects’ and on its maintainability but it is an evolutionary decision that, if survives the fangs of political manipulation, could revolutionize the systemic change in the electoral process, as the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, P. Sathashivam, said while delivering the judgement on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) demanding the right to negative voting, and so would be a boon to cleanse the political muck in the country.

What is remarkable about this decision is it makes things easier for the voter while maintains secrecy of his decision and so makes his right more accessible to him by introducing a much needed correction.

In fact, there is a provision in the election rules in India (49-O – The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961) on electors not deciding to vote. It says: If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

So, there was already an option for an elector to reject the candidates in his constituency but the process was tedious and was open to the risk of being targeted by the supporters (including the political goons) of the candidates once the name went public.

The Supreme Court decision would make it easier by introducing the ‘None Of The Above’ button in the electronic voting machine (EVM) or option on the ballot paper. The elector can easily exercise his Right To Reject without the requirement to approach the presiding officer of the poll booth putting his decision on paper and so risking being targeted later on. The Supreme Court has also ruled the secrecy of NOTA votes ‘must’ be maintained.

Though the apex court has not set any deadline for it, we can expect it to be rolled out in the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram this November-December with a pro poll-reform guard at the Election Commission of India.

Implementation of the Right To Reject option in the electoral process cannot change the disturbing political reality of India in one go but it is potent enough to initiate a chain reaction for further demands of electoral reforms and probity in public life.

Until now, very few politically conscious people have been using this right but with increased ease and accessibility, it can be expected that there would be a ripple effect, a ‘Spiral of Silence’ pattern of outcome where a silent but increasing number of the NOTA votes would inspire others to join the voice of conscience. It would bring the voters to the polling booths who otherwise don’t vote because they don’t approve any candidate in the fray.

Okay, this individual right to reject all the contesting candidates in a constituency by voting negatively is not going to result in the rejection even if the overall NOTA votes outperform the votes received by the winning candidate. But, for how long?

Imagine the scenario where every concluded election registers an ever increasing number of constituencies opting to reject all the candidates with the NOTA votes outdoing votes received by all others.

The would be the natural ground to demand the Right To Recall the ‘wrongly’ elected candidates and the Right To Reelection to get a better people’s representative.

How long can such legitimate demands be ignored or ‘suppressed’ in the changed scenario?

Politicians! Beware!

Though rare, it’s the real democratic tango of Indian democracy!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/