Thursday, April 12, 2007

Post-Thakur developments and analysis

The stay order in Ashoke Kumar Thakur is generating considerable governmental activity and news-analysis.

Today's issues of The Indian Express and the Hindu carry stories about the UPA government's overall strategy for vacating the stay on OBC quotas granted by the Supreme Court, a move which the stories predict will be resorted to within the week. The latest issue of Frontline has a cover story and related features focusing on the stay order granted in Thakur, including a piece and an interview conducted by our co-blogger, V. Venkatesan, who reiterates his views expressed in posts on this blog. This issue also includes a biting analysis of the order and its sorrounding circumstances by M.P. Raju, which is both provocative and insightful by turns. He pours scorn over the motivations of, and justifications offered by, the judiciary and the executive/legislature, and argues that the entire episode casts each of the wings of government in India in poor light. He also comments insightfully about the references to U.S. constitutional law in the stay order ( a topic that merits a separate post in itself).

Adopting a different standpoint, Yogendra Yadav argues that the stay order poses a delicate issue, and should be handled carefully. In a piece available at Outlook magazine's website, Yadav, who has conducted insightful academic research on this issue, argues for sobriety, calm and a spirit of moderation in asserting:

"The questions posed by the Supreme Court in its interim order should be seen for what they are, namely questions. The stay order does not question the foundations of the settled policy on affirmative action. It simply asks some hard questions necessary for fine-tuning the affirmative policies. I think these are fairly reasonable questions that anyone would wish to ask. Therefore, instead of trying to find out how not to respond to these questions, the government would do well to think hard about how to give straight answers.

The SC order could and should be turned into an opportunity to fine-tune the reservation policy. It is a delicate moment. A hasty or knee-jerk response of the kind suggested by some champions of social justice could actually lead to a rejection of the policy itself.
... Missing this opportunity could lead to irreversible damage to the cause of social justice."

Inder Malhotra and Harish Khare have contributed op-eds in the Express and Hindu respectively, where they offer somewhat contrasting views on recent developments involving the three wings of government. Malhotra, whose biography of Indira Gandhi is considered among the best available, recalls her efforts at securing a 'committed judiciary' as a cautionary tale in analysing current developments, and argues for respecting judicial authority for both pragmatic (the judiciary commands greater respect than the other wings) and principled reasons. Khare is more critical of recent judicial developments as well as practices within the judiciary, and his piece appears to be aimed at setting out guiding principles for Chief Justice Balakrishnan to implement.
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