Prasanna S | New Delhi-based Lawyer
Prasanna S writes that the landmark K.S. Puttaswamy judgement passed two years ago by the Supreme Court was crucial for the constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy. It laid down privacy as a “natural” right restrictable by the State in only three instances: it needs a “legislative mandate”, “legitimate state purpose” and action being “proportionate in nature and extent”.
The judgment created a mechanism for the judiciary to overlook “surveillance requests”. By legislating a “rights-oriented data protection law”, it maintained that all data controllers would be held accountable and the state should be a ‘model’ data controller.
But the government has largely ignored the judgment. Many “mass surveillance” programmes were introduced such as the Ministry of Home Affairs’ 10 central agencies that were designated to “intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated” by all computers in the country, or the Ministry of Information Broadcasting’s “Social Media Monitoring Hub”. The government is using personal data to “use, monetise and exploit” in any way it wants, as long as it “guards against security incidents”. One can only hope that the K.S. Puttaswamy judgement will someday be used to enforce a more “rights-oriented” data approach.
Kapil Sibal | Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister
The Indian Express
Sibal mourns the loss of Arun Jaitley and recalls his long association with him. Sibal and Jaitley were part of a “formidable team” of law officers for the government under V.P. Singh. When Deputy PM Devi Lal had objected to Sibal’s appointment as additional solicitor general because of his father’s associations with the Congress, Jaitely supported him. Eventually, Sibal joined the Congress, but their friendship continued.
Jaitley, who “lived and breathed politics”, had a way of acquiring information that helped his party often. He mastered his roles as commerce and law minister. But it was during his time as the Leader of the Opposition during Congress’s rule when the country recognised him as an important political thinker. He might have privately disagreed with the government’s actions in recent times, but would never express it publicly because of his steadfast commitment to the BJP.
His brand of politics was evident when he told Sibal that Congress was needed in the Opposition. He was a true believer in a two-party democratic system, writes Sibal.
Teesta Setalvad | Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace
Setalvad writes that India’s 73rd Independence Day was marred by the injustice of the Pehlu Khan judgment by the Alwar court. The acquittal of the six accused throws up questions on shoddy investigation and prosecution in cases of public justice. As lynchings and mob violence against Dalits and Muslims have risen exponentially in the past few years, concerns arise about how “insulated our institutions of justice are from this pervasive mob psyche”.
Section 319 of The Code of Criminal Procedure used to indict the six accused, who were dropped from the CID’s investigation, was rejected. Video recordings of the lynching were not introduced in court or forensically analysed. The court did not push the crime branch to cover these lapses, nor did it punish the police for its delayed or negligent investigation.
‘Section 311 with 165 of the Indian Evidence Act, CrPC’, does give power to the judge to summon witnesses and proactively intervene in the trial, and ‘Section 173(8)’ enables the court to make sure that agencies “leave no stone unturned” in probe. The court has failed in this investigation and is “functioning merely as a silent spectator.”
Manu Joseph | The writer is a journalist, and a novelist, most recently of ‘Miss Laila, Armed And Dangerous’
Manu Joseph discusses the two biographies of Savarkar which have been published recently – The True Story of the Father of Hindutva by Vaibhav Purandare and Echoes From A Forgotten Past, 1883-1924 by Vikram Sampath.Joseph writes how Savarkar’s “insight was that Hinduism was a powerful political identity which does not require gods, or even the cow” and that “Hinduism is a fundamental genetic force in all Indians”. He adds, “in this way, he [Savarkar] invented Hindutva”.He writes that the two biographies “demolish the foolish argument that Savarkar was a coward”. He writes that Purandare’s biography discusses Savarkar’s hatred for Muslims and explains it through the connection that “several Muslims manned the Cellular Jail [where Savarkar was imprisoned], and they appeared to have harmed Savarkar”.Joseph also writes that Savarkar “can help Hindutva in its transformation into a moral force for current times”. He writes that the two biographers portray Savarkar as a “flawed man” who was also “scientific, moral, sly in a self-preservative way, and physically fit”.
Rathin Roy | The author is director of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy
Rathin Roy writes that the measures which Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced Friday address multiple concerns. He writes that “the institutional signal that rate cuts will be passed on to many borrowers in full measure, is necessary and welcome”. However, he writes that for more effective implementation, the actions of the government and RBI need to be harmonised.He also calls the additional liquidity support to housing finance corporations a welcome step. He suggests that capitalisation of the National Housing Bank can be further increased. Along with this, in the next set of announcements, steps should be taken to improve and stabilise rural incomes, he recommends. Measures to deepen the bond markets and addressal of automobile sector problems are also welcome steps, he notes.He concludes by saying that “it is now up to the private sector to respond positively so that we can, collectively, focus on medium-term structural corrections”.
Naina Lal Kidwai | Member, Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, and Chair of FICCI, Water mission
India could lead the way in “efficient and clean” cement production, writes Kidwai. India and Africa’s cement production is estimated to triple in the next 35 years. Such expansion also pressurises “global efforts” to reduce temperature rise by 1.5 degree Celsius as recommended by the Paris Climate Agreement.Cement is one of the most “carbon-intensive” industries, causing almost seven per cent of global emissions. But cement and steel can also be “decarbonised” for less than one per cent of global GDP with minimal impact on consumer prices. Heidelberg Cement and India’s Dalmia Cement are examples of companies already doing this.To achieve this, Kidwai lists three steps. First, “industry commitments” can be ensured by leading companies. For example, 29 Indian companies committed to the Paris Agreement’s goals. Secondly, public and private sectors must collaborate to create “favourable market conditions for low carbon technology”. Lastly, global innovation is key. The 2018 “Joint Declaration of Innovation Partnership” between India and Sweden will guide us to achieve a “sustainable future” for the heavy industry.
Siddarth Pai | Founding Partner, 3one4 Capital
The Financial Express
Siddarth Pai discusses the problems with angel tax. He explains that angel tax “was an insertion by the UPA regime in 2012 as a means of checking the circulation of unaccounted funds through investments into private companies”. It was targeted at high share premium. However, “simple, legitimate corporate actions like having a small initial capital base and having a low face-value (both mainstays of any technology start-up) can translate into high share premiums”. He also writes that this 2012 legislation enabled taxmen to harass startups.He writes that in February 2019 there was a breakthrough when a circular stated that startups will be exempted from tax provided “they don’t make any investments into a negative list for seven years from the date of issuing shares at a premium”.He, however, argues that this negative list includes “loans and advances, shares and securities and capital contributions” all of which are an integral part of any startup business. This causes startups a lot of hardships. He makes certain amendment recommendations in the February 2019 circular to overcome these problems.
Bibek Debroy | Chairman of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council
Bibek Debroy writes that Arun Jaitley was a multi-dimensional personality. He was a “successful lawyer, voice of the BJP when in Opposition, politician, cricket enthusiast and administrator, minister…” and much more’’. He writes that GST’s implementation was largely due to Jaitley. He also writes that to standardise and streamline direct taxes, a task force was set up when Jaitley was FM. This force recently submitted its report.He says that “when Jaitley was FM…the untied share of states in the divisible pool of taxes increased, following recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, and there was a new package of Central sector and Centrally sponsored schemes”.He also argues that “ future governments, regardless of political composition, and posterity, will remember Jaitley’s legacy of these reforms”.