Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Are Moot Courts Affecting Judicial Independence

Nitayanand Jayaraman writes about the impact of the new Company Act requiring disclosures of corporate funding to political parties. The article draws upon the excellent reporting by V.Venkatesan to show how the CII is attempting to escape scrutiny. Readers of the blog might be particularly interested in his arguments addressing ways in which corporations could be lobbying the judiciary through rather innocuous forums such as conferences and moot courts.

"Earlier this year,..– a sitting judge of the Bombay High Court – chaired a session on ‘Regulatory and stakeholder engagement’ at the Nuclear Law Association’s second annual conference. .....During the program, speakers were to talk about lessons for public engagement post-Koodankulam. His participation at this meeting raises important questions. Would a sitting judge be allowed to participate in a seminar, organized by fishermen protesting against the Koodankulam plant, to discuss ways of preventing the NPCIL from expanding the nuclear park?
Curiously, while persistent agitations by fisherfolk and Adivasis against corporate exploitation are baselessly branded as foreign-funded, Maoist-infiltrated and anti-national, actual foreign-funded corporate events that exert an illegitimate influence on democracy are endorsed by all of its four pillars."

Relatively innocuous exercises such as moot courts and law conferences can become complicit.  Recent stories have also reported on how banks host events and training sessions for the lower judiciary as a way to ensure compliance with the Negotiable Instruments Act. 
"The NGO letter to the Minister of Commerce notes that “the moot court problem placed before the judges related to enforcement of intellectual property rights. This is an area of growing controversy as developed countries like the US and EU and their multinational pharmaceutical companies are pushing for greater enforcement – these issues are before the courts in many cases (sub-judice) and it is of great concern that judges of the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court were presented with similar problems at a summit funded by multinational pharmaceutical companies. It is evident that the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry were not fully informed of who was funding/co-organizing this summit.”
I’m not so sure that those in positions of power were not fully informed of who was organizing the summit. The reason: Rather than distancing themselves from the lobby group, the Indian government had permitted GWU to cement stronger ties with the state-supported Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur. The two institutes collaborated to open an elite law institute in 2006 that “[uses] modern classroom technology and dynamic teaching methods to produce lawyers equipped with the knowledge and skills to handle sophisticated legal matters, including complex commercial transactions and cases.” The institute is called the Rajiv Gandhi Scholl of Intellectual Property Law
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