Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Flipkart CEO's flawed logic

Following news is interesting:

"Flipkart CEO and co-founder Sachin Bansal extended his support to Snapdeal, saying "brands don't buy into brand ambassadors personal opinions".
"This is a flawed logic. Brands don't buy into brand ambassadors personal opinions. @snapdeal shouldn't face this," he tweeted."
Aamir Khan is the brand ambassador under reference. If brands don't buy into personal opinions of brand ambassadors, why should the gullible consumers trust the personal opinion of such ambassadors that the product is worth buying? Such asymmetric logic should not fool people. If the ambassadors excel in whatever they do, the brand does benefit. If the ambassador mouths something idiotic, how can the brand be unaffected? I think that Sachin Bansal wants the association between Snapdeal and Aamir Khan to continue so that Snapdeal, a competitor, would suffer.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A noble but impractical idea

No one will question the desirability of democracy. Yet the fact remains that there are so many aspects of life which are eminently desirable, but not possible.

True democracy should satisfy two conditions: 1) Will of the people should prevail and 2) People should benefit from the system.

When the Election Commission was not robustly independent, the first condition was not satisfied because the ruling dispensation was at liberty to tinker with the ballot. Now there is unanimity that elections are conducted freely and fairly and therefore the first condition is met. If any citizen is too lazy to exercise the vote, we cannot blame the political system. So even if only X % of voters exercise their franchise, we need to accept that the final result reflects the popular will. So much, so good.

The political system will benefit the people if and only if the elected representatives are honest and the voters are really alert. Unfortunately, neither of these requirements is met in our country. Corruption is rampant among the elected. Ability of the ministers to understand their basic Constitutional obligations is suspect. A particular minister in Bihar is unable to understand a term in his mother-tongue while taking the oath of office. We cannot expect poorly educated and grossly dishonest ministers to sustain fair democracy. This does not mean education is a requirement. But, ignorance in association with deceitfulness is toxic to democracy. Politicians in India know that offer of freebies at the time of elections is an antidote to citizens' grievances.

Voters are not alert. At best, they vote for the least dishonest elements. They are reconciled that there isn't much variety of candidates to choose from. Even those who are relatively honest initially are lured by the attractions of office to opt for the easier way.

Added on Nov.22:
Unless the ruling and opposition political parties have national interests in their mind, democracy cannot succeed. Whether in power or in opposition, a political party should have the same consistent stand on any issue. Absent this, only chaos will prevail. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Backops back in the news

Subramanian Swamy has once again flagged the issue of credibility of the Gandhi-Nehru family. In several documents relating to a U.K.private firm, Rahul Gandhi who held 65% share in the company was shown as a British citizen though its Memorandum of Association named him as an Indian. Was it a mistake or did Rahul Gandhi become a British citizen for some time or was it a ruse to achieve something or get over some difficulty? Only Rahul Gandhi can clarify. But he has every right not to incriminate himself!

Following news appeared in 2012:

Janata Party President Dr. Subramanian Swamy has alleged that Rahul Gandhi owned a private firm Back-Ops Private Limited, on government property and indulged in fraudulent means to keep it afloat. Dr. Swamy said that the company had its office registered in a government bungalow in New Delhi, with the registration being in the names of Rahul’s sister Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra. There are also allegations of Rahul having given out conflicting turnover statements regarding the company’s assets declaration form before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This, said Dr Swamy, makes the company’s credibility dubious, with Rahul Gandhi holding 82% of the company’s shares. The company was closed down in a tearing hurry when Dr. Swamy raised the issue in Parliament in 2011.
Dr. Swamy said that Rahul Gandhi’s company received money from foreign sources without permission from the Reserve Bank of India. “The company itself had stated in 2005 that it received Rs 41 lakhs as foreign exchange,” he said in a written statement. ”Number one, he has earned foreign exchange, all the money that he has earned is through foreign exchange. No one is sure whether it is 41,00,000 rupees ($76,271.97) or 41,000 ($762.72) rupees. Secondly, they have shown their registered office as a government lodge. That is illegal,” said the Janata Party President, calling for a probe into the matter. He said he has already written a letter to the Minister of Corporate Affairs Veerappa Moily.
According to Dr Swamy, the setting up of a private firm in any government property is illegal. Also Rahul Gandhi had never made a mention of the company when he declared his assets before the general elections of 2004 and 2009. The company never filed for accounts in 2003 and 2004 either, which makes it a violation of the Companies Act.  ”The company was registered in 2002, but its accounts were filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) only in 2007,” he said.
“He has misused the privileges of a government residence. Secondly, he did not file the Registration Of Companies accounts. In 2011, they filed everything and also filed an application to close down the company, while making Priyanka the additional director. There are multiple frauds and we demand a probe into this. I am going to write a letter to Moily that this company is fraud. They should resign from Parliament as they have lied to it,” he said.
Swamy also added that  Rahul Gandhi managed the company’s accounts from Pictet Bank of Switzerland. However, more information on the nature of accounts could not be retrieved owing to the bank’s privacy policies. Sources have revealed that Backops Services Pvt. Ltd was registered on 22 May, 2002 for providing “back office and advisory support services to international and domestic clients”. A US citizen Ulrik R McKnight was appointed as Director. “Here again a violation of rules took place, with the Registrar of Companies not being informed about the appointment of a foreigner from 2005 onwards,” the statement from Dr. Swamy mentioned.

BJP'S political compromise with the Gandhi family will ensure that the Backops issue will soon be forgotten. The prevailing policy is, "Your turn of looting the country is over. Now it is our turn. Mavericks like Ram Jethmalani and Subramanian Swamy will be allowed their say. But we will have our way. Who can deny us, the dog, our day? Let us not lose our venal focus by trying to prove each other's guilt." In any other country the allegations like in Backops will be investigated and truth arrived at.ill soon be forgotten. Incidents like Backops which will be investig

Monday, November 16, 2015

Political compromises

Following news report from The Hindu on November 17 exposes the gap between the talk and the walk of the NDA government.

"The government on Tuesday gave a clean chit to former Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan in a case connected to ‘benami’ property transactions involving his relatives.
Appearing in the Supreme Court, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said enquiries against former CJI sets a dangerous precedent.
The court however remained skeptical of the government’s stand. A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra said if “persons earning Rs. 100 buy properties worth Rs. 10 lakh, the source of the money should be investigated.”
Mr. Rohatgi said the brother and son in law of the former CJI are lawyers. Besides, the Income Tax investigation has turned up with nothing, he added. “We cannot do anymore,” the AG submitted.
Mr. Rohatgi said the PIL filed by NGO Common Cause was for a Presidential Reference to oust Justice (retired) Balakrishnan as NJAC chief and this has become infructuous as he has already stepped down from the post. “Nothing survives in the petition,” AG said.
"If the relatives can show they have the source..." Justice Misra persisted. But the AG said he would provide the bench with the status report of the IT probe in the case. Noting that there cannot be a further enquiry, the AG referred to how similar allegations were made in the past against another former CJI who recently passed away.
The government was granted an adjournment by the court. The case has been listed for further hearing on January 19."
NDA was voted to power with people trusting its high-decibel assurances to fight corruption and misuse of power. But, NDA in power has all along obliged the venal elements.
Justice Balakrishnan's shenanigans are widely known. But the government gives a clean chit to him because institutions or individuals, one criminal wants to help another. 
Ram Jethmalani gave evidence after evidence of black money but the government is conveniently tight-lipped. Subramanian Swamy keeps bringing out the unlawful manoeuvres of Congress leaders in many incidents including the National Herald case and now the citizenship duplicity of Rahul Gandhi. The government is determined not to upset the apple-cart.
Do we call this political compromise a pragmatic policy or subversion of national interest?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terror in Paris and triskaidekaphobia

The mindless mayhem that occurred in Paris, France on November 13 may strengthen the hold of triskaidekaphobia on the superstitious.

Jesus was betrayed by Judas who was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Therefore, if the 13th day of a month happens to be a Friday, bad omen is attributed.

Superstition or not, the terrorist spasm set off by ISIS deserves total condemnation by all. It is high time that all countries united to put an end to terror. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could be the ignoble exceptions. Obama and Putin should fight this deadly menace together, forgetting their differences and selfish ends.

Countries like China and India which are at the receiving end of terror should be more vigilant and should not mind being less politically correct to target the obvious terrorists even if they are branded Islamophobic.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What is diversity all about?

An AP report says, "In remarks Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Scalia noted that four of the high court's members are from New York City, one is from New Jersey and two are from California.
They are all either Catholic or Jewish. And all nine studied law at Harvard or Yale universities. Scalia questioned whether the court, therefore, expresses "the deeply felt principles of the country.""
There are nine judges in the US Supreme Court. Three are women. One is a black. There is an Hispanic too.Eight are physically sturdy and one (Ms.Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is puny enough not even to occupy a normal chair fully but intellectually robust!
By Justice Scalia's standard, the Indian Supreme Court is quite diverse. Its judges have studied in different law colleges. There are honest and dishonest members on the Bench. There are thinkers and non-thinkers too! But out of 28 judges, only one is a lady. The youngest judge is 58 years old. One (Anil R Dave) is a Chartered Accountant too! They have studied in different universities. Some are gold medallists (of course, many are not).

TheGuardian on Narendra Modi: Dr.Jekyll or Mr.Hyde?

Pankaj Mishra in a widely quoted article dated November 9 in TheGuardian refers to Narendra Modi as

" the divisive manipulator who charmed the world".  He also condemns him as an “…opportune manipulator of mass disaffection with uneven and unstable growth, who distracts a fearful and atomised citizenry with the demonisation of minorities, scapegoating of ostensibly liberal, cosmopolitan and ‘rootless’ people, and promises of ‘development’, while facilitating crony capitalism.”

He follows it up with a more balanced assessment. "More importantly, Modi was a symptom, easily identified through his many European and Asian predecessors, of capitalism’s periodic and inevitable dysfunction: he was plainly the opportune manipulator of mass disaffection with uneven and unstable growth, who distracts a fearful and atomised citizenry with the demonisation of minorities, scapegoating of ostensibly liberal, cosmopolitan and “rootless” people, and promises of “development”, while facilitating crony capitalism. To aspiring but thwarted young Indians Modi presented himself as a social revolutionary, the son of a humble tea-seller challenging entrenched dynasties, as well as an economic moderniser. He promised to overturn an old social and political order that they saw, correctly, as dominated by a venal and unresponsive ruling class. His self-packaging as a pious and virtuous man of the people seemed especially persuasive as corruption scandals tainted the media as well as politicians and businessmen in the years leading up to 2014."

The seemingly vitriolic article surprisingly presented in a reliable newspaper is available in the following link:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Raghuram G.Rajan

Dr.Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, has been elected as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). This is yet another indication of the respect monetary authorities all over the world have for Dr.Rajan. Winner of many international awards for his outstanding contribution to Financial Economics, he is the author of the cautionary treatise, “Fault Lines – How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy”.

His exceptional prediction of the 2008 global economic crisis (called the Great Recession) was a true feather in his cap though at that time many leading economists dubbed his views obscurantist. Lawrence Summers, a note-worthy economist cum administrator criticized  "the basic, slightly lead-eyed premise of [Mr. Rajan's] paper to be misguided." Others called him  an “antimarket Luddite, wistful for old days of regulation.”  Subsequent events proved Dr.Rajan’s clairvoyance and his detractors looked foolish.

Of late, he has been pleading for better coordination among central banks to ensure that we don’t easily slip into some unintended economic crisis. In particular, he is advocating early withdrawal from unconventional policy measures like quantitative easing. He is not against such measures per se, but he cautions that continuation of these for a longer time than necessary is fraught with grave risk to the financial system. No economist would dare to question him now.

This is the first time that an Indian is elected as either Chairman or Vice-Chairman of BIS. This is an occasion for us to get to know some details about BIS.

Chairman of the Board is Dr.Jens Weidmann who is also the President of the Deutsche Bundesbank. Interestingly, Weidmann is only 47 years old and younger than Rajan who is 52. The Board consists of 21 Directors whereas 60 central banks are members of BIS. BIS was established in the year 1930 at Basel, Switzerland under the Hague Agreement. The signatories to this Agreement were the central banks of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and a financial institution representing the United States.

There was a threat to the existence of BIS in the year 1944. The United Nations Conference in Bretton Woods which agreed to the creation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank also adopted a resolution calling for the liquidation of the BIS ! Fortunately, the resolution was put aside in 1948.

Earlier, during the World War II, BIS  temporarily moved from Basel to Chateau-d’Oex following the outbreak of hostilities between Germany and France.

What does BIS do?
BIS undertakes research and analysis of policy issues for central banks and renders consultancy services to central banks in management of foreign exchange and gold reserves.

It played a dominant role in formulation of Basel documents II and III which seek to regulate the risk appetite of commercial banks through capital requirements, liquidity and leverage guidelines.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Lessons from Bihar

Like any election result, the Bihar outcome also is not monochromatic in what it conveys. Nitish Kumar conducted himself decently as a chief minister without presiding over any loot. This was appreciated atleast by some people. Laloo Prasad had been out in the lurch long enough to make some people yearn for his comeback. His rustic humour appealed to some others. Though there was no inherent attraction between the supporters of Nitish and Laloo, there was no repulsion either as BJP had wished for. BJP did not field the few local leaders it has, with due importance. Modi and Amit Shah allowed themselves to be consumed by their arrogance and self-delusion, the inevitable by-product of power.

Exit-pollsters, post poll pollsters and even vote counting lead-readers exhibited their immense capacity to be ignorant of what was happening. "Indianomix: Making sense of modern India" authors Vivek Dehejia (Economics Professor in Canada) and Rupa Subramanya (Economic journalist) now have more grist to their mill and we can look forward to an expanded edition of their entertaining and educative book.

Where do we go from here? If Modi realises that Indians' proverbial patience is not that long-lasting, action is more important than words and there is no place for hate-speeches, people of Bihar will feel satisfied.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Meat eaters, beware!

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is a highly respected institution for its research on carcinogens. It is a subsidiary of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is headquartered in Lyon, France. It employs about 300 scientists from more than 50 countries. IARC has 25 countries including India as its members.

 IARC’s Director, Dr.Christopher P.Wild is an eminent cancer epidemiologist who pioneered the concept of “exposome”. Exposome encapsulates the totality of human environmental (that is, non-genetic) exposures from conception onwards. It complements the Genome for an integrated understanding of various diseases.
IARC has classified carcinogens (substances causing cancer) into five groups. The following table represents the classification:

Group identification
Number of substances identified
Carcinogenic to humans
Probably carcinogenic to humans
Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans
Probably not carcinogenic to humans

For example, Ethanol in alcoholic beverages is classified under group 1, Vinyl bromide and the poisonous pesticide DDT under 2A, Naphthalene under 2B, Ampicillin and Saccharin under 3. Caprolactam is the only substance placed under group 4.

On 26 October, IARC created a sensation by releasing their findings on carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat. The press release, inter alia, noted:

Red meat
After thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect.

 This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

 Processed meat

Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

Red meat refers to all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.

 Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood.

 Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.

This definitive identification of causal relationship between meat and cancer has naturally scared the meat industry out of its wits. (Association of meat consumption with obesity and cardiovascular ailments has been recognized for long.) The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) has furiously reacted saying that “the report defies both common sense and numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer. Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods.” But, IARC has stood its ground.

Processed meat contains sodium nitrate which on entering the human body gets converted into nitrosamine. Nitrosamine is a known carcinogenic. Some bacteria hosted in the human alimentary canal modify some components of even unprocessed red meat into nitrosamine.

It may be noted that like processed meat, tobacco smoking and asbestos are also classified as Group 1 carcinogen. This does not, however, mean that all these pose the same quantum of cancer risk. IARC has clarified that its classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.

IARC has cautioned that processed meat may cause stomach cancer also though the evidence for this is not deemed conclusive as yet.

IARC is a research organization whose Mission Statement declares that its objective  is to promote international collaboration in cancer research. The Agency is inter-disciplinary, bringing together skills in epidemiology, laboratory sciences and biostatistics to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures may be adopted and the burden of disease and associated suffering reduced.  IARC does not, however, issue any do’s and don’ts regarding consumption of food items.

Governments are expected to educate the public regarding the risk and benefits in consuming different food items. One hopes that our government will study IARC’s recent findings and make use of them while formulating its policies and advisories. Of course, there is no need to panic. It is not that every meat-eater contracts cancer. But it is better to be well-informed about the risks.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Economics of intolerance

“I have seen great intolerance shown in support of tolerance”. This is a cynical but wise statement made by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and a friend of William Wordsworth. This oxymoronic observation   only highlights the importance of tolerance. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding”.

We as a nation are passing through a phase of aggravated intolerance, aggravated by many politicians, right and left. (Bihar elections have brought it to a boil.) This has necessitated the resort to moral suasion by our President. Pranab Mukherjee has pointed out that we are a country of 1.3 billion people speaking 122 languages and 1,600 dialects and professing seven faiths. He has exhorted that multiplicity is India’s collective strength which must be preserved at all costs. Politicians on both sides of the political divide need to remember this.

Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, a former President, has philosophically defined tolerance as the homage paid by the finite mind to the inexhaustibility of the Infinite. Swami Vivekananda explained the essence of India’s heritage in the Parliament of World Religions at Chicago thus: We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.”

We are used to statesmen, philosophers and monks emphasizing the need for tolerance. But when even central bankers, industrialists and research arms of credit rating institutions speak out on this theme, it means that the society is on razor edge and it is time to wake up. This is what happened on October 31st when the RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan delivered the Convocation Address at his alma mater, IIT Delhi.

Choosing to speak on “Tolerance and Respect for Economic Progress”, he explained why India’s tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry is critical for its economic progress. Economic growth will flourish only in the presence of innovative rebellion against fossilized thoughts and practices and absence of prejudice or intolerance towards alternative viewpoints. “So what does an educational institution or a nation need to do to keep the idea factory open? The first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas. This means encouraging challenge to all authority and tradition, even while acknowledging that the only way of dismissing any view is through empirical tests. What this rules out is anyone imposing a particular view or ideology because of their power. Instead, all ideas should be scrutinised critically, no matter whether they originate domestically or abroad, whether they have matured over thousands of years or a few minutes, whether they come from an untutored student or a world-famous professor.”
 Does this not remind us of what Sage Thiruvalluvar said a couple of millennia ago? “From whomsoever one hears an idea, it is wisdom to understand the true import of it.” (Thirukkural 43:3)
Raghuram Rajan pointed out that ideas start with questioning and alternative viewpoints, sometimes seemingly silly ones and that without this competition for ideas, we have stagnation. To drive home the importance of accommodating alternative approaches, he gave instances like Raja Raja Chola, in building the magnificent Brihadeeswara Shaivite temple at Thanjavur, also incorporating sculptures of Vishnu as well as the meditating Buddha thus admitting to alternative viewpoints. When Shahenshah Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar invited scholars of all manner of persuasion to debate the eternal verities at his court, he was only following older traditions of our Hindu and Buddhist kings, who encouraged and protected the spirit of enquiry.
Both intolerance and licentiousness are equally bad because as Rajan clarified, excessive political correctness stifles progress as much as excessive license and disrespect. Therefore, there is an economic price to be paid if we entertain either dogmatism or disorderliness.  
Rajan gave a robust definition of tolerance saying it means not being so insecure about one’s ideas that one cannot subject them to challenge – it implies a degree of detachment that is absolutely necessary for mature debate. In the process, he quoted Mahatma Gandhi who had said, “The golden rule of conduct is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragments and from different points of vision.” (This Gandhian rule is analogous to the concept of ‘multiple equilibria’ in Economics.)
Industrialists like N.R.Narayanamurthy and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw have also voiced concern over the spread of strife and intolerance in the country. The Infosys founder has remarked that that no country can make economic progress unless it removes strife and reassures its minorities, religious and others. Moody’s Analytics has also signaled the urgent need for reining in the fringe elements engaging in the cacophony of intemperate messages and eroding government’s credibility. Intolerance is not unknown to other countries. Racial hatred is a defining characteristic of America. Many Islamic countries barring exceptions like Indonesia do not know what tolerance is. Communist countries like Russia and China were never paragons of tolerance. But let us not compare ourselves with these notorious examples.
To conclude, bigotry is poor politics and poorer economics. Promoting tolerance will pep up our GDP growth. Hopefully, the conclusion of elections in Bihar will cool the social temperature in India.

Sunday, November 01, 2015


Irfan Habib, a historian and supposedly a public intellectual, has claimed, "There is not much difference between Islamic State  (IS) and the RSS as far as intellect goes." (The Hindu, November 2, 2015.) He must have said 'as far as my intellect goes.'

The Hindu has cleverly or inadvertently omitted the intellect part in its front page coverage. To say that there is no difference between IS and RSS is like saying that there is no difference between history and geography.

IS is a violent organisation with its core competence in killing people and destroying archaeological treasures. IS is an anti-cultural and anti-civilizational movement. Inability to see the difference between IS and RSS is a symptom of incurable insanity and pathological psychosis.

Is Irfan Habib turning philosophical in claiming that ultimately everything is the same?

Judicial paranoia or political overreach?

The Supreme Court has proved that it does not fear asserting its views candidly even if it means wading into a raging controversy through its judgment in what is called “Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association and another vs Union of India”. The 4 to 1 landmark decision has invalidated the Constitution 99th Amendment and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act thereby ruffling many political feathers.

The significance of this watershed judgment lies in the fact that, in the words of Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the five judges who heard the case,
“If the alignment of tectonic plates on distribution of powers is disturbed, it will quake the Constitution and once the constitutional structure is shaken, democracy collapses.”

Separation of powers among the three wings of our Constitutional democracy, namely judiciary, legislature and executive is sacrosanct. Equally sacred is the independence of judiciary. The Supreme Court is jealously guarding its exclusive right to appoint and transfer judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court through the ‘Collegium System’ which was created in the year 1993. Parliament’s attempt to replace the Collegium consisting of three senior-most judges of the Supreme Court by NJAC has now come to nought.

NJAC was supposed to consist of six members
(a) the Chief Justice of India, Chairperson, ex officio;
(b) two other senior Judges of Supreme Court, next to the Chief Justice of India – Members, ex officio;
(c) the Union Minister in charge of Law and Justice – Member, ex officio;
(d) two eminent persons, to be nominated – Members.

The Court found that involving the Law Minister and two eminent persons in NJAC to select judges amounted to dilution of judiciary’s independence.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons for the NJAC Bill, inter- alia, stated, “ The proposed Bill seeks to broad base the method of appointment of Judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts, enables participation of judiciary, executive and eminent persons and ensures greater transparency, accountability and objectivity in the appointment of the Judges in the Supreme Court and High Court. "

There is clearly a world of difference in perceptions of the legislature and the judiciary. It is argued by some that the NJAC Bill was passed unanimously by both Houses of Parliament and so judiciary cannot overrule it. This is at best an overly enthusiastic argument by ardent devotees of democracy.

Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, has faulted the judgment on three counts. In his view, the Court has looked at only one Basic Structure of the Constitution (apropos His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors. v. State of Kerala and Anr.)  namely independence of the judiciary while ignoring five other basic structures namely parliamentary democracy, elected government, council of ministers, elected prime minister and elected leader of opposition.

He has criticized the decision as tyranny of the unelected over the elected. This is a very strong statement that is normally not made by a senior minister and that too by one who is a lawyer himself. The judgment has really spawned an ideological warfare between judges and politicians. (It is a bit surprising when the Chief Justice of India claims, “I have not come across a single word written against the judgment”.)

The third reason given by the minister is that the government appointees like CAG and Election Commissioners are credible and therefore the Court need not have any apprehension about the two eminent persons who would be members of NJAC. (However, there are instances of controversial appointments by the government.)

Intense passions generated by this judgment will keep the controversy alive for a long time. The government is likely to seek review of the judgment. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has started reviving the Collegium system which was allowed to hibernate during the pendency of the case. During the case hearings, the Attorney General had opined that the Collegium system was dead as a dodo with the passage of NJAC Bill. This view is a harbinger of another hiccup.

In the U.S., judges of the Supreme Court are nominated by the President subject to confirmation by the Congress. This arrangement is working reasonably well despite the President and Congressional majority frequently being of rival political parties. Though the views of judges are generally predictable depending on which President nominated them, there have been illustrious exceptions when some judges took unexpected positions to render fair justice. It is a pity that India is not so lucky.

As an aside, there is some comic relief in noting that page 8 of the Recusal Order accompanying the judgment refers to 120 billion ordinary citizens of this country. Our population is thankfully only one-hundredth of this figure.