Thursday, January 01, 2009

India in 2009

We wish our readers a very happy new year. The onset of a new year inevitably brings with it thoughts on how the new year would be like, with the continuing legacies of previous years staring at us. I wish to draw your attention to a couple of articles, which point to the issues which will dominate in the coming days and set the agenda in the new year. Our response to terrorism is one such issue which will continue to engage us on this blog. Today's Hindu carries Prashant Bhushan's article suggesting that strong laws are not the answer. Among other things, Prashant deplores the fact that our State and Central Governments are not keen on introducing the much needed reforms to make the police force autonomous. As the counsel for the petitioner in the ongoing Prakash Singh case in the Supreme Court, Prashant expresses his anguish that none of the major political parties is prepared to relinquish political control over the police.

Although Prashant does not go into the reasons for the same, it needs to be asked if the reforms are carried out, will our police force be truly accountable to the law, as he hopes. Already one could see a certain degree of divergence of views between Prakash Singh and Prashant Bhushan on the question of admissibility of confessions as evidence. While Prashant is relieved that the recent anti-terror laws have not borrowed this draconian feature from their predecessors, Prakash Singh in this article carried yesterday in Times of India, argues exactly the opposite, and laments the omission of this provision. This is not to suggest that in a reformed set-up, the police will have the powers to insist on laws it wanted, but it certainly points to the existence of certain degree of mistrust among the police, the political executive, and the civil society. We could not have seen the back of POTA and TADA, but for the support of the political class, which included Governments led by diverse parties. Surely, the Governments can exercise some degree of checks on the abuse of powers by the police. One wishes Prashant Bhushan addressed this issue as well in his article.
In an earlier post, I have referred to Vrinda Grover's concerns on this issue. Hopefully, the ensuing LASSNET conference
panel on terrorism will address some of these concerns. (Session II on January 9 at 3.45 p.m.).
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