Editorial 1 / Bombay to goa
Editorial 2 / Stood up
Watchful role
Fifth Column / What lies at the end of the tunnel
Taking the sharp turn
Document / Gujarat as part of the Hindutva project
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / BOMBAY TO GOA 
 
 
 
 
Two minuses do not add up to a plus. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s national executive evidently thinks otherwise. First, it believes that dilution of the Hindutva agenda led to electoral debacles in the Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi municipal elections. Second, it believes that reforms (especially those in the 2002-03 budget) have alienated the traditional support base among urban middle classes. Specifically, the BJP focusses on interest rate cuts on small savings, service tax on insurance, removal of tax exemptions under Section 88 and hikes in prices of LPG and kerosene. To this has been added the idea of routing fertilizer subsidies directly to farmers. One will have to await modifications to the finance bill to find out to what extent the finance minister will be pressurized to accept these suggestions. Hence the impact on budgetary figures is also impossible to calculate, but is likely to be at least Rs 5,000 crore. More important than the quantitative importance is the overall negative signal. The party president’s statement is particularly significant. Not only should there be an in-depth review of first generation reforms, second generation reforms will have to be constrained because “goodwill of the general public is crucial for its implementation”. General public is an elusive expression. Arguably, beneficiaries of the status quo are the relatively rich and urban middle classes. They are the winners of the status quo and will figure prominently in a balance sheet of reform’s winners and losers, a calculation of which Mr Jana Krishnamurthy advocates.

So, if their opposition is the touchstone and constraint, all reforms are logically impossible. The country may as well settle down to the new Hindutva rate of growth of 5.5 per cent. What is at stake is not a simple rollback, but a complete rollover. Clearly, the BJP is looking for a scapegoat to blame electoral reverses on. Other than Hindutva, Mr Yashwant Sinha is a prime candidate. Given his track record, a replacement by Mr Arun Shourie will not be for the worse.

There also remains the question of whether the BJP’s national executive is right in its diagnosis. There is no evidence that elections have been won or lost on reform issues. Rural voting patterns have little to do with economic policies. One might as well argue that Mr Jagmohan’s demolition of unauthorized constructions led to the rout in the Delhi municipal elections and unauthorized constructions should be allowed to continue. Evidence, such as it exists, is on the broader issue of governance. Improvements in governance have been voted in both in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and misgovernance has been voted out, such as in Punjab. There is the overwhelming impression that the BJP is a party not fit to govern. A limited rollback of 2002-03 budget promises will not correct this impression. Nor will it help the BJP to claw back to power, if and when general elections are held, even if the Hindutva agenda is strengthened. Given Gujarat’s traditional emphasis on trade and industry, it is also doubtful that a Hindutva wave will prevail over mis-governance. For the moment, the three Gs have killed the economy — Gujarat (for the overall negative investor sentiment), Goa (for two steps backward) and Guwahati (for the Congress inability to provide a credible alternative).

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / STOOD UP 
 
 
 
 
Not quite a whimper, at most a squeak, after initial thunder has become the hallmark of coalition politics in India. Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu has not disappointed the nation, he has loyally stuck to this new convention. By postponing an immediate decision about the withdrawal of support to the National Democratic Alliance, the Telugu Desam Party has merely shifted the issue to the floor of Parliament. The party and its leaders are making the right noises about taking a “principled stand”, without a hint as to the direction they might take after they have stood in the same place for some time. Mr Naidu has promised to keep alive the issue of Mr Narendra Modi’s resignation as well as the TDP’s opposition to early elections in Gujarat. The TDP has 27 members of parliament, a number big enough for the Bharatiya Janata Party to concede that elections will not be held in Gujarat as envisaged by its national executive.

The TDP, however, is not even sure which way it will look should a censure motion on Gujarat come up in Parliament. The stakes are very high for Mr Naidu. Although the TDP has refuted the BJP’s argument that a party-ruled state cannot allow other partners to interfere in party matters, it has not taken the argument further than stating, with admirable correctness, that secularism is not a state matter but a national issue. The most powerful factor behind Mr Naidu’s shilly-shallying is his phobia of Congress ascendancy in his state. As it is, he is not doing too well with the power tariff reforms at the moment. It is up to the nation to decide whether it will ignore the reiteration of the plea by the BJP and the TDP that destabilizing the government at the Centre would mean thrusting another untimely general election on the people. No doubt that is a serious issue. The question, however, is about the rationale of the electoral exercise. It has to be asked if the pogrom in Gujarat and its sorry aftermath can be considered sufficient reason to re-examine the people’s confidence in the parties that sit in the Centre. This is not a question that the partners in the NDA are likely to raise. Taking a principled stand used to mean acquiring moral authority through the stand. It no longer works that way.

   

 
 
WATCHFUL ROLE 
 
 
BY PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
 
 
In an age when Parliament seems incapable of discharging its basic constitutional responsibilities, it will come as no surprise to be informed that Parliament has virtually abdicated its function of monitoring international treaties signed by India. If Parliament is the premier representative institution through which the sovereignty of the people is given concrete expression, nowhere has that sovereignty been more at risk in recent times than in the matter of signing international treaties and incurring international obligations. As India integrates more into the global order, by signing treaties and by joining more multi-lateral institutions with the binding power of sanctions, it is becoming increasingly clear that Parliament’s role in the incurring of these international obligations is quite minimal. This is despite the fact that the Indian Constitution expressly puts treaty-making powers within the jurisdiction of Parliament. But it has been generally assumed that while Parliament has constitutional control over the executive, it cannot be disputed that the creation of obligations undertaken in treaties are functions of the executive alone.

Leaving international treaties entirely to executive prerogative is untenable on two grounds. First, this is against the intent of the Constitution. Parliament is given power to make laws with respect to matters enumerated in list I of the seventh schedule of the Constitution. This list includes items such as “entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementation of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries”. Treaty-making is within the competence of Parliament and is not limited to the executive.

But Parliament has not enacted any laws that regulate the manner in which the executive shall sign or ratify international treaties and covenants. Nor does Parliament decide the manner in which these treaties should be implemented, except in cases where such implementation requires Parliament to enact a law.

The second reason the status quo is untenable is this. The impact of international treaties on domestic policy is vastly increasing in both scale and scope. Many of the international treaties that India has signed during the last decade have profound ramifications not only for economic policy, but for the structure of the Indian polity as well. Let us take one example. Under the Indian system of federalism, certain items are placed within the jurisdiction of the state government, some within the jurisdiction of central governments, and some are on a concurrent list. Notwithstanding this separation of jurisdictions, Parliament, under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution has “the power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any country or countries or any decision made at an international conference, associated or other body”.

This provision, if extended to all domains, has the odd effect of allowing the provisions of an international treaty trump the basic architecture of the Indian Constitution. For instance, under the allocation of subjects, under the Indian Constitution, agriculture is a state subject. There is a case to be made that India’s signing of the agriculture related provisions of the World Trade Organization not only has an impact on Indian economic policy but also transforms the nature of Indian federalism. In effect, crucial parts of agricultural policy, a matter left to the states by the Constitution, is now being determined by international agreements which have not been discussed, let alone authorized by state legislatures. The point is that the lack of parliamentary involvement in formulating, authorizing and ratifying international treaties may also diminish the Parliament’s capacity to define the terms of Indian federalism.

Most treaties signed these days obliterate the distinction between domestic and foreign policy. In an environment where international agreements determine the range of policy choices on issues from agriculture and tariffs to the structure of property rights, Parliament can maintain an important legislative role only if it is an effective part of the treaty-making process. The substantive merits or demerits of particular treaties are not under consideration here. But the process of formulating and signing international treaties is posing a significant challenge to all representative institutions. Parliaments of New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom have all democratized treaty negotiations so that they do not entirely bypass parliament. Subjecting treaties to parliamentary supervision is not an easy task. This makes international negotiations more complex and potentially endless. Parliament itself has to have institutional capacities to participate in such a process. Often parliament itself has an interest in not democratizing the treaty-making process. Treaties can, after all, give parliaments cover, to push through legislation in the face of political deadlock.

There have been intermittent attempts to formally bind the executive to a ratification procedure. In 1993, George Fernandes introduced a bill for amending Article 253 of the Indian Constitution, to provide that treaties and conventions be ratified by not less than one half the membership of each house of Parliament and by a majority of the legislatures of not less than half the states. But Fernandes’s bill, like similar ones since, was not even brought up for consideration.

It could be argued that the fact that Parliament has not taken an active role in monitoring the executive on the matter of international treaties does not imply that the executive has been given a free hand by the legislature. In a parliamentary system with party government, presumably no government will enter into treaties that do not have significant support within their own parties, and by implication amongst the legislators. In practice political parties, even of the government in power, are not very widely consulted. There is a great deal of secrecy surrounding international negotiations and members of most political parties admit that they learn of international treaties after the fact.

The interesting analytical puzzle is this: would a formal ratification procedure strengthen India’s hand in international negotiations? Would it be the case that in international negotiations India could use the fact that treaties it signs will have to be ratified, to put pressure on those with whom it is negotiating to change the terms of the agreement? Certainly, the American government uses the argument that a treaty will have to be ratified by congress as a bargaining tool. In the Indian case it is difficult to imagine what the counterfactual would look like, but there is very little evidence that Parliament and the executive could have strategically joined hands to strengthen India’s bargaining position.

The second reason why one might not be quite alarmed at the lack of parliamentary oversight of treaties is this. Most treaties require incorporation into the national legal system via legislation approved by Parliament. Such is, for instance, the case with many of the provisions that accrue from joining the WTO. It could be argued that even if Parliament did not have a role in signing a treaty, Parliament will exercise its sovereign authority to decide whether or not an obligation stemming from an international agreement will become Indian law. Theoretically speaking, Parliament can, at that stage, refuse to incorporate the provisions of a treaty into domestic law and render the treaty ineffective.

In principle this argument has merits. But in practice, a treaty already signed, is something of a fait accompli, since non-compliance results in sanctions. If Parliament is to survive as an authoritative legislative body, it will have to think about addressing the following questions. How does Parliament make treaty making subject to accountability? How does Parliament create clear norms that require prior consultation with Parliament on particular classes of treaties? Should Parliament legislate something of a formal ratification proposal? Parliament’s viability as a key decision-making body will depend upon finding some procedures that address these concerns.

The author is professor of philosophy, law and governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University,New Delhi

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / WHAT LIES AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL 
 
 
BY AVIJIT PATHAK
 
 
Much has been said about the Ayodhya dispute —its legal standing, its technicality and the problems of maintaining law and order. One has also seen how the political community has tried to escape its responsibility by refusing to negotiate the cultural or civilizational issues and by dragging the Supreme Court into the dispute. Rather than solving the problem, the political parties seem to be more interested in using it for their own narrow objectives.

However, the spectre of communalism has made it necessary to re-examine the significance of secularism, multiculturalism and the meaning of being a Hindu in the present times.

Majoritarianism breeds insecurity and leads to the marginalization of the minority community in society. It is therefore important for us to resist the tyranny of the majority. But it is also important to be cautious and to ensure that one does not encourage the growth of communal feelings among the minority. The anxiety of the minority is both genuine and understandable and therefore, must be distinguished from the sectarian politics of those who claim to be its protectors.

Come together

The growth of communalism in the majority community is dangerous given that it seeks to legitimize itself under the garb of cultural nationalism. But this is equally true of minority communalism. Moreover, minority communalism reinforces the marginalization of minorities in society. Minorities in India should be encouraged to overcome their inhibitions and to become willing participants in the democratic processes in the country. Indians have no choice but to embrace the ideals of secularism.

Multiculturalism forms the cornerstone of modern India. It is the willingness to accept the co-existence of multiple cultural and religious traditions without attaching greater importance to any one. In a diverse society like India’s, both Hindus and Muslims can maintain their separate identities. Living in a culturally diverse society also teaches us to strike a balance between the specificity of culture and the universality of human existence. One learns to see unity in heterogeneity, harmony in difference and spirituality in secularism.

It is in this context that we need to examine what it means to be a Hindu in these tumultuous times. There are two reasons why this question assumes a great deal of importance. First, the Hindus of India must take it upon themselves to play a key role in maintaining communal harmony. Second, Hinduism needs to be rescued from its self-proclaimed protectors, who have reduced it to a series of fundamentalist policies.

Let it be

It is therefore time to renew the liberal tradition within Hinduism itself so that we can strive towards the establishment of a society which is based on the principle of equality. Inspiration could be sought in the Upanishads or the bhakti traditions of Chaitanya which broke all hierarchies.

By imbibing the ideals of secularism and adopting a more liberal outlook, Indians would be able to arrive at a solution to the Ayodhya dispute. But before that, we must be able to free ourselves from the burden of the past and construct a new future.

It would be difficult to find a solution by examining historical facts, because they are diverse and complex and can be used selectively by zealots and fundamentalists for promoting sectarianism. It is immaterial whether Ram was actually a historical figure or whether there was a temple at the disputed site. It is more important to work towards the establishment of an egalitarian society.

Cynics will argue for the existence of a “racial memory” and say that violence is inevitable whenever the traumatic memories of Partition and the subsequent communal riots are evoked.

Instead of allowing the past to dictate the present, Indians must look beyond Ayodhya and let the events of the past few days help them make a new beginning. Instead of rebuilding the mosque or constructing a new temple, the government of India could build a complex that would host a university, a vocational training centre and a hospital. This would help us create something more meaningful and modern at the same time.

   

 
 
TAKING THE SHARP TURN 
 
 
 
 
The Meghalaya government has to convince militants and the people that its nod to the church’s peace initiative is not an electoral gimmick, writes By Bidhayak Das Khonglam with P.A. Sangma and Arvind Dave: smart move Meghalaya’s tryst with militancy is delicately poised. The government’s decision to open the doors to the militants for talks has raised hopes of ending militancy once and for all, but it has also set the intelligentsia thinking. The decision of the People’s Forum of Meghalaya government, led by the Nationalist Congress Party, to involve the church to buy peace with militant outfits in the state is undoubtedly a historic one and would even go down in the annals of history as a bold move. However, the decision is not free of contradictions and has come at a time when renewed operations have started to flush out militants from their hideouts in the state.

The government did a complete turnaround last week after initially refusing to accept the proposal of the church to negotiate with the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, a banned outfit. In less than half a day, it had decided to allow the Shillong Khasi Jaintia Church Leaders’ Forum to be the official negotiator with HNLC and also gave in to proposals like a cease-fire and safe passage to militant outfits for talks. Going a step further, the state government requested the church leaders’ forum to negotiate with the Achik National Volunteers Council, the banned outfit from Meghalaya’s Garo hills.

The government decision is healthy, but it has come as a surprise to many, even to the church, since even a couple of hours before it was taken the chief minister and deputy chief minister had been singing a different tune. The chief minister, F.A. Khonglam, and the Congress deputy chief minister, D.D. Lapang, had categorically stated that negotiating peace was welcome, but conditions like a cease-fire and safe passage were not acceptable, at least not in their present forms. The leaders were of the opinion that a cease-fire had to be bilateral and till that time counter-insurgency operations would go on.

The sudden reversal of policy after the initial indecisiveness has triggered off more speculation than joy. There are now questions about the grounds on which the proposal of the church leaders was accepted. Further, the government’s decision to hold talks with the militant outfits in a foreign country on all issues, “even sovereignty and something less than sovereignty”, has made everyone sit up and wonder if the government is “serious” on this sensitive issue or is it all just the usual run of the mill exercise to gain electoral mileage? One cannot forget that the assembly elections is round the corner.

Political observers and social organizations appear not too convinced with the decision which, according to them, is not concrete. The government, by contradicting itself, has not only opened room for doubts, the decision has also raised questions about the possible division in the ruling coalition over the church proposal. This so-called “landmark” decision would perhaps not have materialized had not the intervention of the state finance minister, A.H. Scott Lyngdoh, moulded and changed the earlier regimented approach. What Scott Lyngdoh, a former chief secretary of Nagaland who has been part of the peace process there, preached was, “where is the harm in being a little flexible?”

Scott Lyngdoh’s intervention may not have pleased many senior legislators of the coalition, but it made little difference to the chief minister who presided over the meeting. His deputy, Lapang, was conspicuous by his absence, but Khonglam chose to listen intently to what the highly experienced Scott Lyngdoh had to say.

The finance minister admitted that the government was “overwhelmed” by the initiative of the church leaders’ forum, but his contention was that the government had not contradicted itself. “We have asked the church leaders to work out the modalities on the cease-fire as we understand that counter-insurgency operations have to be stopped in case of talks, but we will examine the suggestions first and then approve the cease-fire,” he said.

For the church leaders’ forum, which has been attempting to play mediator since December 2000, the change in the government position was news. Its president, Purely Lyngdoh, and its secretary, R.J. Skinner, were somewhat dumbfounded and admitted to the media that “it was a surprise after reports of rejection by the political affairs committee”. But the church is in no mood to speculate and waste time.

However, what would ultimately turn out to be crucial in shaping the church’s efforts are the outfits themselves. So far there has been an uncomfortable silence on their side. There is, of course, ample time to react. But past experience has not been too pleasant as similar efforts by the church have proved unsuccessful for one reason or the other. During the latter part of 2000 the church was making some headway and had even sent out feelers to the HNLC to come for talks. But the only response the church leaders’ forum has had so far is acknowledgement of the letters sent to the outfit.

Under such circumstances, the obvious question is, how sure is the church leaders’ forum of succeeding in its attempts if it has nothing concrete to prove that the HNLC is serious about negotiating with the government and coming out in the open?

The outfit has been under tremendous pressure of late with counter-insurgency operations against it being intensified by the police and the Central Reserve Police Force. Over the last few months it has lost more than eight of its men, besides the arrest of many others in encounters with the police. The offensive against the outfit is still on and Khonglam says that it would continue till the cease-fire is declared.

The state government has left it to the church leaders’ forum to give direction to its cease-fire proposal. Intelligence agencies say this would be possible only if the outfit responds positively to the church’s call for talks with the government. More importantly, the outfit has to be fully satisfied that the state government is genuinely interested in discussions and that its decision to allow church intervention is not the usual eyewash resorted to before elections in order to win over people and votes.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / GUJARAT AS PART OF THE HINDUTVA PROJECT 
 
 
 
 
As this report shows this was possible because everywhere the police accompanied the VHP-led mob. There is also enough prima facie evidence, some of which is available in this report, to show the complicity of the top leaders of the ruling party, elected members and even ministers in the attacks... The government claims ... that it controlled the violence within 72 hours. Seventy-two hours of freedom to loot, kill and plunder is long enough to destroy a whole community. Moreover, the violence is not yet over. Even the governor in our talks with him admitted that the attacks went on for longer, although according to him “there were no killings.” At present the army is on standby to leave the state. Senior administrative officials were apprehensive given the coincidence of Muharram and Holi at the end of the month. The delegation had demanded that the army not only remain in Gujarat... till the end of the month, but that it increases its presence in some of the affected rural areas. Even today, there are reports that fresh violence has occurred in some districts.

The pattern of violence and targeting of Muslim- owned properties ... show careful planning. We were told that house checks in the guise of census data collection had been done only recently. The use of cranes, shovels and even trucks to demolish walls were not by any definition “spontaneous”. The most shameful as also blatant example of state complicity is the demolition, levelling and then tarring over of the mazhar of a most revered Sufi poet, Wali Gujarati. The delegation could not make out where it had stood so complete is its destruction. The destruction of masjids, 44 in Ahmedabad according to one estimate, were done with the help of trucks and perhaps bulldozers. Clearly, the symbols of religious identity were to be destroyed. Analysts have compared the events in Gujarat to those following the assassination of Indira Gandhi when thousands of members of the Sikh community were killed and property destroyed in several parts of the country under the leadership of the then ruling party. However, as clear from this report, the comparisons are limited. In Gujarat the events are the bloody harvest of years of the systematic spread of communal poison and hatred against minority communities both Muslim and Christian by the ... sangh parivar in the implementation of the political slogan of Hindu rashtra. The report contains a young woman B’s story. The area in Randhikpur village where this atrocity occurred is the same area where the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had attacked a whole village in early 1999 because they suspected that the village was sheltering intercommunity couples (two Hindu girls and two Muslim boys) who had got married. Three hundred and fifty Muslims...had been forced to leave the village...There was a vicious campaign against them. A few months later the next target was the Christian community which was attacked in August 1999.It was reported at that time that 5,000 VHP and Bajrang Dal members had attacked Christian houses for ten hours while the police took no action. The main areas affected in the current round of violence outside Ahmedabad have even earlier witnessed mob violence organized by the VHP against minorities in the last few years. The delegation was given copies of inflammatory leaflets brought out over the years by the sangh parivar that in any secular state would have put the publishers behind bars. These leaflets were widely used by the kar sevaks in the current mobilizations on the Ayodhya issue. The delegation found one such leaflet dated August 18, 2001 from the burnt carriage of the Sabarmati Express. It is for these reasons that the violence in Gujarat is not a 72 hour aberration as made out by the government but an ongoing project of the Hindutva forces.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Long arm of the law

The peacemaker Sir — Although it took 50-odd years to set up the world’s first permanent international criminal court to try those guilty of atrocities ranging from genocide to war crimes, it seems as if the outcome has been worth the wait (“Global court breakthrough”, April 12). Strangely, it was Bosnia and Cambodia, two countries devastated by a protracted war and whose populace have suffered some of the most barbaric crimes against humanity, which took the initiative to ratify the Rome treaty. On the other hand, it is the Unites States of America — the so-called policeman of the world — which was fiercely opposed to the treaty. The US’s stance is another pointer to how grossly unfair the present unipolar world order has turned out to be and how it is the powerful nations that misuse power the most. The US’s stance should be denounced in the strongest possible terms, especially by the third world. But will countries like Iraq and Afghanistan now get a chance to take the US to court? Only time will tell.

Yours faithfully,
Rajat Saxena, Calcutta

Peace gets a foothold

Sir — After decades of fierce fighting and ethnic strife, in which over 64,000 have died in Sri Lanka, V. Prabhakaran, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam chief, seems to have finally realized that his dream of eelam, a separate homeland for the Tamils, is unlikely to be fulfilled (“Tiger out of den with peace purr”, April 11). He has thus opted for a solution to the dispute by means of peaceful negotiations with the Sri Lankan government. No doubt, post-September 11 developments and the global war against terrorism have also prodded Prabhakaran to talk of peace.

Prabhakaran’s press conference at Killinochhi on April 10 reveals how tired the Tigers are now of the mindless violence. Due credit should also be given to the Sri Lankan prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the first Sri Lankan leader in 20 years to visit Jaffna, an LTTE stronghold. By re-opening the strategically important A-9 highway linking Jaffna and Colombo, he has demonstrated his commitment to bringing peace to the island nation.

On the other hand, A.B. Vajpayee was right in refusing to interfere in the negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan goverment. India’s decision to allow the treatment of Anton Balasingham, the LTTE spokesman, in India, was a humanatarian gesture. Now that the road to negotiations has been cleared, the Sri Lankan government must trust Prabhakaran, since backtracking by either party will lead to disastrous results.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — The Indian government has done the right thing by refusing to interfere in the LTTE’s negotiations with the Sri Lankan government (“Loud on Tiger ban, mum on extradition”, April 12). For India, it is a case of once bitten twice shy. Rajiv Gandhi had earlier facilitated the Sri Lankan peace accord between the two warring parties, a gesture that resulted in his assassination.

The need to keep a safe distance from the LTTE cannot be overstated. The Tigers must not be allowed to enter India or have any links with Indians even on humanitarian grounds. India has plenty of problems of its own —it does not need to waste precious time and money on the LTTE. This is Sri Lanka’s internal problem and there are plenty of nations besides India to mediate between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan authorities.

Yours faithfully,
P.V. Madhu, Secunderabad

Review lessons

Sir — While some of the recommendations of the Constitution review panel — like the one on the creation of a national judicial commission to appoint judges and changes in laws governing legislative practices to eliminate horse-trading — are welcome, it is sad that the panel did not recommend the scrapping of Article 370 or the adoption of a common civil code (“House to elect PM or CM: statute panel”, April 1). Also, the panel should have pressed for the creation of an all-India judicial service, as envisaged in Article 312, to streamline the judiciary.

There should also have been specific recommendations to ensure that two offices essential to maintain the right checks and balances in the Indian democracy function independently. The powers of the chief election commissioner have been steadily curtailed following T.N. Seshan’s controversial tenure. The office of the comptroller and auditor general of India has been denigrated by the recent controversies surrounding it. Increasingly, it seems as if the CAG is being used only to unearth financial wrong-doings by state governments headed by rival political parties or to legitimize questionable financial deals, as in the BALCO sell-off deal in Madhya Pradesh.

The panel should also have looked into the anomalies in the provisions of the Constitution.

Yours faithfully,
I. Banerjee, Calcutta

Sir — The editorial, “Errors of commission” (April 7), rightly calls the Constitution a “scissors and paste tome”. The most obvious deficiency in the Constitution is its apparent failure to stop the criminalization of politics. The two guardians of the “letter and spirit” of the Constitution, the president and the chief election commissioner, have also failed to do anything about it.

Instead of a review, what was needed was a complete overhaul. Here are a few suggestions. The Rajya Sabha and the posts of the president and governor should be abolished. An age limit for politicians should be fixed. There should be a four-year term for legislatures in place of the present five-year one. A legislator should be allowed a maximum of two terms; those with even the faintest of criminal connections should be banned. Also, a two party political system is much better than the multi-party one we have now.

Yours faithfully,
J. Kumar Dutt, Calcutta

Sir — It is sad that the Constitution review panel did not say anything definite on the issue of foreign-born persons being elected to high office. Although P.A. Sangma had raised the issue and even pressed a division, abstention by the head of the commission left the issue unresolved.

The commission also did not comment on Articles 29 and 30, which delineate the special rights of minorities. Neither did it resolve the controversy over revenue-sharing between the Centre and states. Instead of wasting more time on the report, the government should simply shelve it.

Yours faithfully,
P. Lakshman Yadav, Hyderabad

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