Monday, February 25, 2013

Jinxed Benedict

Departures from papacy except by death are rare. It is therefore interesting to note that of these rare exits by resignation, three were by Popes named Benedict.

Even more odd is the fatal combination of Benedict and the Roman numerals I,V and X.

The three Popes are Benedict V  (22.5.964 to 23.6.964), Benedict IX (1032 to 1044, April to May 1045 and 1047 to 1048) and now Benedict XVI.

Benedict IX was the only one to head the Catholic Church more than once, was one of the youngest and sadly one of the most immoral.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Importance of Experience

IiAS (Institutional Investor Advisory Services) has advised institutional investors to vote against the special resolution to elect Sudarshan Venu, son of Venu Srinivasan to the Board of TVS Motor Company Ltd. The reason advanced is his lack of experience though it is accepted that he is educationally well qualified. IiAS has done a commendable job in highlighting one's need for experience to qualify as a director.

The company should accept the spirit behind the recommendation of IiAS and withdraw the resolution. It is a test for the company's commitment to principles of corporate governance which necessarily include the grace not to nominate the promoter family member ipso facto to the Board.

Experience is even more necessary to run a nation as its prime minister. Being a member of a particular family does not automatically entitle anyone to become a country's leader. It is strange that standards required to become a company's director are stricter than those for becoming a country's leader.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tit for Tat?

Justice Katju wrote an article in The Hindu on Narendra Modi's lack of fitness to become our prime minister. Well, that is his opinion and he is entitled to it.

Arun Jaitley questioned the propriety of a quasi-judicial authority (Chairman, Press Council of India) actively participating in the political process. He also asked if this was the retired judge's way of expressing thanks to the Congress party as the government nominated him for the post.

Katju responded by asking Jaitley if he was not trying to convey his gratitude to Modi for nominating him to the Rajya Sabha. Tit for tat.

Jaitley demanded that Katju should resign for violating the propriety of his office. Katju's tit was that Jaitley should take sanyas from politics inasmuch as he was twisting facts. Isn't the learned judge aware that the more one twists facts, the more one is fit to be in politics?

Jaitley says judges may not be given post-retirement jobs by the government. Katju replies why Jaitley did not follow this principle while he was the law minister. Score: even.

Katju also quotes the names of other retired judges who have accepted post-retirement jobs. He also assures that he will continue to voice his political views because it is his duty! How blessed we are!

As the war of words hopefully escalates, it is worth pondering whether The Hindu did well in publishing Katju's political article. The newspaper had earlier claimed that it was not publishing the name of the girl who succumbed to the gruesome tragedy in Delhi because it was a principled newspaper. Many other newspapers which also abstained from reporting the name did not make any such self-righteous front-page declaration. By publishing Katju's article, does the newspaper think it is proper to encourage a retired judge who is holding a quasi-judicial post to publicise his political views including a tendentious comment on the judiciary?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Katju's inappropriate remarks.

“The Chairman of the Press Council discharges a statutory job. His job requires fairness, impartiality and political neutrality. Additionally a Judge, whether sitting or retired, is expected to conduct himself with sobriety, dignity and grace. He cannot be loud, crude, out-landish or behave like a megalomaniac."

Arun Jaitley has commented as above. It is unfortunate that Justice Katju persists in his boorish behaviour. Katju is pathologically incapable of appreciating any view other than his own. Such a person is least qualified to be Chairman of Press Council. He looks at men and matters in black and white terms whereas preponderance of grey is the law of nature.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Government Business Practices Act

All of us know that our parliamentarians have totally devoted their lives to the welfare of all Indians. MPs cannot afford to let the Parliament function and thereby get their attention diverted. It is therefore not surprising that we do not expect any new laws to be enacted by the Lok and Rajya Sabhas.

This is the reason why we have overlooked the swift passage of a momentous legislation by the worthy MPs. This new law was passed as "Government Business Practices Bill" by both Houses unanimously. In our illustrious legislative history, no other bill has received such an enviable bipartisan support. The bill is brief and is worthy of our reading in full.

The preamble is precise and absolutely transparent. "Whereas GOI is keen to sustain the nation's reputation as one of the most corrupt in the world and with a view to educating the corporates, both domestic and foreign, how to conduct their business with government institutions strictly in accordance with law, be it enacted in the 63rd year of the Republic as follows"

"Section 1: This bill is called 'Government Business Practices Bill' and is applicable to any transaction by whatever name called with any part of the Government of India.

Section 2: Corporates, domestic and foreign, are hereby put on notice that breach of any section of this bill will ab initio render the relative transaction null and void.

Section 3: While participating in any government tender, corporates must have their Board-approved inviolable policy of offering bribe to parties mentioned in Section 4 hereunder to a minimum extent of 10% of contract amount. This is without prejudice to the sovereign right of GOI to prescribe a higher minimum in appropriate cases.

Section 4: It is the patriotic duty of the following entities to receive without demur the bribe amount specified in Section 3 supra:
a) Cabinet ministers, ministers of state including those holding independent charge and any other person occupying the rank of a minister, cabinet or otherwise. For removal of any mischievous doubt, it is hereby clarified that chairpersons of councils like National Advisory Council are covered in this sub-section. It is also clarified that ministers may or maynot hold any portfolio.
b) Any executive in any government department of the rank of under-secretary and above.
c) Chiefs of the army, navy and the air-force, serving or retired (it is clarified that 'retired' also includes sacked, dismissed, terminated or in whatever manner his or her service had come to an end.)
d) Leaders of any political party recognised by the Election Commission of India.
e) Any other entity notified by GOI either ahead of a tendering process or with retrospective effect.

Section 5: Any corporate supplying any material to any institution of GOI is obligated to cooperate fully with GOI in any matter resulting from any transaction. This obligation includes consistent refusal to provide any information, relevant or otherwise, relating to any business with GOI to any investigator by whatever name called and more particularly CAG.

Section 6: Non-observance of obligation mentioned in Section 5 and refusal to offer the stipulated bribe (refer Section 3) will automatically result in blacklisting of the corporate for any further dealings with GOI and make assets of such corporates liable for confiscation by GOI.

Section 7: Notwithstanding anything contained herein or any other law, present or future, the provisions of this bill are non-justiciable and any attempt by any person to approach any court of law against the provisions contained herein will be deemed as breach of parliamentary privilege and as an act against national security and honour and will attract punishment including levy of fines, imprisonment and capital punishment."

The Honourable President who is no more His Excellency was pleased to sign this Bill as soon as it was delivered to him and thus the bill became an Act.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pope's leadership

Pope Benedict XVI has proved that he is a very good leader. He knows when to quit. His advice that when one is physically, psychologically or spiritually unequal to the task ahead, it is time to call it a day is a valuable lesson in leadership.

Critics may argue that there have been too many distasteful happenings under his watch. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II carried on till the end unmindful of his Parkinson's disability and consequent embarrassment in the Vatican. Cardinal Ratzinger as the present Pope was called then, learnt a lesson from this. Ability to learn from others' mistakes is another great quality of leaders.

Pope Benedict XVI is happier in the company of books rather than humanbeings. We may hopefully expect a few more books from him.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Afzal Guru

We have now done with one long-standing national obsession. Afzal Guru has been hanged, albeit in total secrecy and without giving opportunity to his close relatives to meet him one last time. Government may have its own reasons for being economical with legal requirements which may or may not be acceptable depending on one's view about the whole development.

Our country prides itself, and justifiably so, as a lawful nation where 'law takes its own (meandering) course'. Attack on parliament is a grievous act that calls for most stringent punishment including death as long as capital punishment is deemed legitimate.

The essential legal contretemps that needs to be addressed in this issue is whether Afzal Guru was found to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Even habitual critics like Arundathi Roy do not seem to question the gravity of offence but what almost everyone seems to wonder is whether the judicial authorities had ever clearly explained that their judgement indeed met this requirement.

It may be too much to expect the Supreme Court to revisit suo moto this limited part when the accused / guilty is no more and the damage, if any, cannot be undone, but it will be an exemplary precedent if the highest court of the land issues a 'white paper' justifying its judgement or regretting if and where it had gone wrong.

Monday, February 04, 2013

How to measure government's performance?

Manish Tewari, the honourable minister says in an interview to The Economic Times: "There are five parameters to measure a government's performance: Political stability, social cohesion, internal security, economic development and foreign policy". Governance does not matter!

The minister adds, "On each of these parameters, nine years of UPA have given substantive direction to this country". Apparently the means do not matter. Purchase MPs and ensure political stability. Play one group of people against another and provide social cohesion. Irrespective of internal insecurity and slackening economic development, make contrary claims . Make foreign policy as confusing as possible and try to claim the moral highground.

Lawyers are at times professionally required to defend the indefensible. Lawyer-politicians are always under this compulsion.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Are human beings becoming less intelligent?

Dr Gerald Crabtree, a professor of pathology and developmental biology in Stanford University School of Medicine argues that human beings are becoming less endowed with intellectual and emotional capacity on account of lessening pressures on survival and consequent lack of necessity to thwart adverse genetic mutations. His hypothesis is at once provocative and humbling. Says he:

“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues”.

Crabtree surmises that our intelligence and emotional capacity peaked 50,000 to 500,000 years ago (the temporal range is certainly very wide, but in evolutionary terms unavoidable).

Are stories about extraordinary achievements of our early ancestors becoming more credible now? Or should we wait till the next researcher demolishes this theory?