Saurabh Kirpal | Supreme Court advocate, part of the team for Navtej Johar vs Union of India case
On 6 September, 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench struck down Article 377 of the Indian Penal Court in its verdict for the Navtej Johar vs Union of India case. The judgement is welcome, but the “missing rights” of the LGBT community still need to be evaluated, Kirpal. After the verdict, mainstream media was positive, most political parties agreed, and there were no large scale protests. This acceptance might have come because homosexuality is not a western import, he says. Lord Macaulay initiated the enactment of Section 377 and in 1871 transgenders were declared criminals. But Indian culture is full of “stories of fluid sexuality”, Kirpal adds.
But a gay couple can still not get a joint bank account or a family insurance policy. A gay person cannot stake claim in their partner’s property or “even get access if a loved one falls ill”. The recently amended surrogacy law does not allow LGBT persons to become parents either.
The LGBT community does not want “special rights”, they just want rights straight people enjoy and hope for a time when sexuality is just “another aspect” of their personality that does not impact how society treats them.
Dr Menaka Guruswamy | Supreme Court of India lawyer
The Indian Express
As we celebrate a year of “freedom for queer India”, after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the IPC, Guruswamy says that we need to look at the values of our Constitution that enabled this victory.
For the Johar case, the court located its judgement in the “core constitutional expectations of counter-majoritarianism and constitutional morality”. Counter-majoritarianism, explains Guruswamy, is the role courts take on in order to prevent majorities from overpowering minorities who are less in number and influence. Constitutional morality refers to “morality of the Constitution” as well as of core values such as “ equality, non-discrimination and liberty for all”. Both these principles have origins in B.R. Ambedkar’s vision.
2016’s constitutional protection of inter-caste and inter-religious couples was the idea behind using “the right to a sexual partner” as a key issue for the Johar case. The Constitution’s vision gives hope to many “queer and straight, conforming and non-conforming individuals”. This vision must be celebrated, as well as defended.
Shekhar Chandra | PhD student in public policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Shekhar Chandra discusses India’s space missions. He writes that “on 7 September, when the Vikram Lander ejects the Pragyan Rover to roll out and analyse the lunar terrain, India expects to become the world’s first country to land on the moon’s highly uneven south pole”. He notes that during 1999 to 2003, India conducted a detailed study to plan its future space missions. He writes that “India’s first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1” which didn’t involve a landing was a result of this study. He mentions that “Chandrayaan-1 satisfactorily fulfilled its mission objectives” like discovering “the possible existence of water in the exosphere and on the surface as well as sub-surface of the moon” among other achievements.
He writes that while Chandrayaan-2 is a landmark feat, India’s allocation of resources to R&D as a percentage of GDP is the lowest among BRICS nations. He recommends that the government should increase it.
Krishna Kumar | Former director of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)
Teaching in schools as a profession is getting unpopular, Kumar says. The author attributes a negative perception about teachers to changes in state policy and “social ethos” in the last few decades.
In today’s “consumption-oriented environment”, school teaching is no longer considered ideal. Parents also treat their children’s school education as an “investment” from which they need to derive “value”.
Most teachers hired today have poor training from institutions. The issue of “weak professional preparation” got worse under the “license raj” of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). Post the mid-1990s, the demand for qualified teachers in primary education increased and many private training institutes and correspondence courses cropped up. The NCTE had a hard time regulating standards amid all these new commercial interests and the general privatisation of education system. Hundreds of cases against “ fraudulent institutions and practices” were taken to court.
Problems of teacher training have an adverse impact on school education. New teacher eligibility tests have made a marginal difference, while “para-professionals” like tutors grow in number. The “Indian teacher” was once considered a “foot soldier in the freedom struggle” and important to nation-building, but has now lost respect in society.
Indira Rajaraman | Author is an economist
Indira Rajaraman discusses two of the measures announced by the government to tackle economic slowdown. First, she discusses government’s promised investment of Rs 100 trillion over five years which will be “monitored by an inter-ministerial task force”. She demonstrates the inadequacy of the government’s finances to undertake such an investment. She also writes that such projects should not be assessed by an inter-ministerial task force but by “finance professionals, skilled at assessing market, credit and operational risks”.
She also discusses plans of “curbing delayed payments by the government for goods or services received”. She mentions that the Union budget speech had promised “an online payments portal for MSMEs” and writes that “if all dues could be set up on a public portal, with a guaranteed maximum time limit for payment, nothing more is needed”.
Bhagwan Chowdhry | The writer is professor of finance, Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad
The Economic Times
Bhagwan Chowdhry discusses the process of corporate bankruptcy. He writes that corporate bankruptcy means “ the ownership of a firm’s assets must be transferred from its existing equity shareholders, who can only get any assets of the firm after the creditors are paid their contractual claims in full — which can’t happen when the firm is bankrupt — to creditors who now become the residual owners of the firm’s assets”. He also writes that while the process appears simple in theory, it becomes difficult in reality because of the differences in the types of creditors and their divergent interests.
He writes that while various suggestions have been advanced on how to create a bankruptcy code, he prefers a simple approach. He suggests that in the event of a bankruptcy, “only one class of creditors — say, a bank, or particular holders of a long-term corporate bond — could be designated as contingent owners of all equity”. “All other creditors would be deemed junior and shall receive no equity in the event of bankruptcy,” he adds.
He claims that such a process will be fair as well if these other creditors know beforehand that their “claims would be worthless in bankruptcy” and can accordingly adjust the price at which they lend.
Aakar Patel | Executive Director at Amnesty India
Aakar Patel argues that India is not a “self-correcting” nation. He writes that India lacks the “element of uninterested action taken on behalf of values and humanity”. This, he says, is evident when people from other parts of India show “zero visible interest in what is being done today to Kashmiri children and women in the name of nationalism”. He also argues that the relationship between the Indian citizen and the “military arm of the state” is “that of a supplicant who must unquestioningly offer devotion and obeisance”.
He says that even India’s Supreme Court “has been co-opted into this ‘national security/national interest above all’ way of thinking”. He argues that the reason why India lacks a “self-correcting” mechanism is because, unlike the US where the Constitution “insists on absolute freedom of expression”, in India it “takes away these freedoms from the citizens and upholds the rights of the state”.