Editorial 1/ Halfway house
Editorial 2/ Speak no evil
Nobody’s toady
Fifth Column/ Bigger woes of smaller courts
Wayfarers on the road most travelled
Letters to the Editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ HALFWAY HOUSE 
 
 
 
 
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had reservations, but because the Congress behaved sensibly, the second amendment to the Patents Act has got through the Rajya Sabha. The background is the trade-related intellectual property rights agreement of the Uruguay Round and the Indian Patents Act of 1970. India’s 1970 legislation violates the TRIPS agreement on several counts — process versus product patents, compulsory licensing, duration of protection and treatment of imports as equivalent to working patents in India. But legislation need not be brought into conformity with the TRIPS agreement immediately. For most changes, a transition period till January 2005 is permitted. However, from January 1995, India was supposed to receive applications for product patents and grant exclusive marketing rights to applicants for five years. Because this was not done, India lost disputes at the World Trade Organization and the first amendment to the 1970 legislation was introduced in 1998 to incorporate these changes. This still left the 2005 modifications and some minor changes for which the deadline was 2000. Hence the proposed second amendment to the Indian Patents Act.

But what is this bill supposed to do? Is it only supposed to ensure the 2000 changes? Or, since we are already in the year 2002, is it also supposed to ensure the complete 2005 transition? The parliamentary committee studying the bill was buffeted from all sides. Multinational pharmaceutical companies pushed for immediate overhaul. The domestic lobby, such as the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association, wanted a postponement till 2005. The parliamentary committee proposed a compromise. While recognizing that the bill was violative of the TRIPS agreement, it decided to push back substantial changes till 2005. And after the report was submitted, there was the Doha ministerial declaration, which diluted the TRIPS agreement in certain areas. Hence, there is the second amendment to the Indian Patents Act of 1970. And because this is clearly WTO incompatible, there will have to be a third amendment in 2005.

This presumes that stronger intellectual property protection is against India’s interests and therefore it is advisable to postpone the inevitable. This is not necessarily a valid hypothesis and India’s interests are not the same as those of domestic pharmaceutical manufacturers. For example, the National Innovation Foundation’s database shows that small Indian farmers are capable of innovation and invention. Yet the present bill excludes traditional knowledge from being patented in India. Nothing precludes Indian traditional knowledge from being patented in the United States of America and such patenting may be done by multinational organizations. To preempt this, small Indian farmers will be expected to take out patents in the US, with high transaction costs. Neither the parliamentary committee nor the present bill appreciates which side the bread is buttered on. That will have to wait till 2005. Now there is only a statute. Other issues like ever-greening of patents will become obvious once accompanying rules are formulated. However, the message the bill conveys is one of an unhappy compromise.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ SPEAK NO EVIL 
 
 
 
 
Presumably the Telugu Desam Party wanted to make another of its telling gestures. By not claiming the speaker’s post after G.M.C. Balayogi’s death, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu probably thought his electorate would be impressed by his continuing disapproval of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s championing of Mr Narendra Modi, while the nation would applaud his consistency. Whatever his calculations, they have fallen flat. It hardly matters now what Mr Naidu might have thought. The speaker’s chair has been taken by Mr Manohar Joshi, the former chief minister of Maharashtra from the Shiv Sena. The opposition preferred to tread the path of peace — or wan acquiescence — since traditionally it is a person from the ruling combination who has the speaker’s chair while the opposition’s candidate occupies the deputy speaker’s. Prominent members from the opposition have been reminding Mr Joshi of the requirements of the speaker’s position. That he no longer belongs to the Shiv Sena alone, but to the whole house. He should not allow himself to be impelled by “remote control”. It is really very difficult to imagine Mr Bal Thackeray sitting idly at home while a member of his outfit lords it over the Lok Sabha in the speaker’s chair. The opposition’s warnings therefore are rather pointed.

At the same time, the warnings, like Mr Naidu’s gesture, are also rather pointless. What has been quietly achieved is alarming, because it is one more indication that the BJP is confident of its ability to make its partners and the opposition accede to its style of governance. The event must be seen in its proper context. Violent deaths continue to occur in Gujarat, while the sense of insecurity of the minority community is far from assuaged. The BJP’s silence on the roles of outfits such as the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in the killings as well as its determined support of Mr Modi have destroyed all its pretensions to even-handedness. The BJP does not feel it necessary to repair its image in this direction. Instead, it has brought in as speaker a member of the most chauvinistic party it has as ally, and that too to appease the Shiv Sena leader, Mr Thackeray. This shows a hardening in the BJP’s stance and the ineffectiveness of the “secular” partners of the National Democratic Alliance.

   

 
 
NOBODY’S TOADY 
 
 
BY BHASKAR GHOSE
 
 
K.P.S. Gill has been appointed security adviser to the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, apparently with the “approval” of the chief minister. In other words, Modi didn’t suggest that Gill be appointed; someone else, presumably in Delhi, did, and he “approved”. What persuasion was used to get him to approve is difficult to determine, nor is it very relevant. The facts speak for themselves. Despite the brave words from the supporters of the Central government in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the powers in Delhi felt it necessary to send a man like Gill to Ahmedabad as the chief minister’s “adviser”.

From the very beginning the Central government has well and truly begrimed its image by its vacillation, the breathtakingly inappropriate observations of everyone involved in the power structure from the prime minister to the creature, Praveen Togadia, of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, its ludicrously cheerful appraisals of the situation in that state, and its unprincipled support of Modi and what he has done. Now they have abandoned even the little consistency they had left, and appointed Gill to be security adviser to Modi.

Consider what this means. Having said all is well with the government of Gujarat, that Modi was doing a good job, and all the rest, they proceed to appoint someone like Gill to “advise” Modi. Everyone knows what sort of an officer Gill is. He will not be anybody’s toady, or yes-man; he will not be content to sit in an office and put up diplomatically drafted notes to the chief minister; and if he “advises”, his advice will be forceful and blunt. However, the chances are he will not be content with anything less than total control over the law and order machinery, and that the mandate given to him must be just that. If he has settled for anything less, then he is not the K.P.S. Gill one has known and respected.

Assuming, then, that he has the mandate, which is what we think it is, where precisely does that leave the Central government? They have declared Gujarat to be well run; they have declared Modi to be a good chief minister; they have declared the situation in the state to be under control, not — in the prime minister’s view — warranting any action under Article 356 of the Constitution. If that’s true, then why are they sending Gill there? To have him file a report? Or several reports? Hardly likely; you don’t need a K.P.S. Gill to do that. Obviously he is being sent to take action. But then there isn’t any problem there, according to all those who have been frantically trying to establish that Gujarat is a haven of peace and tranquility. So what will Gill do? You see where the Central government has ended up: painting itself into a corner.

Let’s take this a little further. If indeed Gill has been given the kind of mandate he would certainly have demanded — and got, or he wouldn’t have gone there — then he’s going to take action. He’s going to get the Gujarat police, or if necessary other police forces like the central reserve police force, to use force to stop the violence that’s going on and on. And that’s going to mean that quite a few VHP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists will either end up dead or behind bars. How’s the Central government going to explain that? Not, this time, to the opposition but to their own supporters, the VHP and RSS? Whatever explanation they give will be rejected angrily by these rabid people, and the government will have gained the unique distinction of having painted itself into two corners at the same time.

We have seen in the last few weeks the very correct spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs asking different countries to mind their own business, declaring that whatever is happening in Gujarat is not their concern. This is a hypocrisy we can do without. If mass slaughter is being systematically carried out in Gujarat, as it has been and still is, then every country in the world should tell the Central government what they think of it, and demand that it puts a stop to it. It is a matter of shame that another country should tell India that; but our two-faced leaders cannot disregard all moral considerations, all considerations of humaneness, and justice, and then pull out the tattered contemptible little principle relating to non-interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. If a sovereign state has descended into barbarism, then every country can tell its government that, and that government must listen, and act, since it will not listen to its own people.

It would not be surprising if it were to emerge that the appointment of K.P. S. Gill was itself because of international pressure, pressure of a kind that the government would have been unable to resist. And the next few days may well see a shift in the rhetoric on Gujarat, to be able to explain away that appointment and yet maintain what little self-respect the government has left.

And what of that creature, Narendra Modi, and his familiar, Gordhanbhai Zadaphiya, the VHP office- bearer-turned-home-minister of Gujarat? How are they going to reconcile themselves to Gill’s presence? And not just to his, but to what he will now proceed to do, going by his past record in Punjab? They must know that the very fact of his appointment means that in effect the Central government is saying they have no faith in either of them. They have the invidious choice of staying on, and becoming objects of contempt as they have already successfully become objects of anger and revulsion, or they can go. They will obviously not go, not until they are seized by the scruff of their necks and thrown out. But we will see in the next few weeks what happens to them. Once Gill initiates action, then they will have to take shelter in some sort of hole to escape the venomous hatred of the murderous thugs who were operating for so long with their encouragement and protection. Whom will they blame then? The media, once again?

All this is, of course, dependent on something that is being taking for granted. That Gill will act in the way he did in Punjab, once he has taken stock of the situation. That he has the mandate we think he has, from the Central government. It may just be that he has neither the mandate nor the power to act; in which case he will have given up the peerless reputation he has earned for himself as a ruthless enforcer of order, for something less admirable. There are those who have earned some kind of reputation and who would not need much persuasion to go to Ahmedabad as servitors of the Central government, there to serve its purposes.

But somehow one doesn’t think that Gill is one of those; he has always been one who has not minced his words when it came to pointing out where the state has been spineless and prevaricating when faced with a challenge to law and order. It is very unlikely that he is in Gujarat merely to give Modi a clean chit; and if that assumption is correct, Modi had better begin to count his days, because he will then find the state politically too hot, as the VHP and RSS will turn on him and rend him limb from limb. The next few days will tell us which of all these assumptions is correct.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ BIGGER WOES OF SMALLER COURTS 
 
 
BY R.D. SHARMA
 
 
The Supreme Court has recently given a series of directions aimed at strengthening the functioning of the subordinate judiciary in India. These include an increase in the judge-population ratio, revision of pay scales, changes in the methods of recruitment, promotional avenues to judicial officers, filling of vacancies in subordinate courts, free official recommendation or suitable house rent allowance and so on. The court has also accepted the recommendations of the K.J. Shetty commission and ordered that the entire expenditure for these changes will have to be borne by the respective states. They must approach the finance commission or the Centre for additional funds for this purpose.

Any effort to make the judiciary an effective instrument of justice is no doubt commendable. However, the judiciary comprises of not only the Supreme Court and the high courts but also the lower courts. In fact, it is the lower courts that handle the bulk of the cases, leaving only a fraction for the higher courts.

The Centre has already taken steps to improve the working conditions of the Supreme Court and high court judges by enhancing their salaries, perks and allowances, while the lower courts have been kept out of the ambit of these reforms.

Low life

The subordinate judiciary, which is the foundation of the judicial system, continues to be neglected in matters of judicial reform. The All India Judges Association had to petition the apex court for a fair deal to its members in terms of just wages and suitable working conditions.

The lower judiciary consists of trial courts and the appellate courts of district and sessions judges. Even though these have limited jurisdiction, they represent the first tier of the judicial system. Given that the vast majority of the litigants are poor, these courts are usually their last and only resort to justice. It is therefore imperative that efforts are made to make these courts more effective and responsive to the needs of the people.

The working conditions of the subordinate judiciary continue to be appalling. Owing to the lack of proper space, the presiding judges, magistrates and munsifs are forced to hold their courts in crowded rooms of ramshackle buildings without even basic infrastructure like lights and fans. Added to this is the lack of modern gadgets like electronic typewriters, tape-recorders, photocopiers and computers. Promotions are rare in these courts; most incumbents remain in the same position for many years. Some of them retire as magistrates or sub-judges after many years of service.

Justice denied

Further, the salaries and allowances of subordinate judicial officials are way below those of the judges of the higher courts. Their salaries are four to eight times less than that of their counterparts in other third world countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Mauritius.

While the workload of these judges has doubled with the increase in population, the number of lower courts and subordinate judges remains inadequate. Although the country requires approximately 75,000 judges, there are only 13,000. The long gap between the institution of a case and its disposal leads to a huge backlog. Right now, over 2.04 crore cases await disposal.

Appeals to higher courts by affluent litigants, the police’s failure to produce witnesses on time, unavailability of lawyers and widespread corruption come in the way of proper dispensation of justice. Most litigants end up losing a great deal of money and time without getting the desired results. Losing faith in the judiciary, they try to resolve their disputes through threats, coercion, bribery and other illegal means.

As a result of the loopholes in the system, those with the best legal brains in the country choose to practise law rather than sit on the bench. In the face of these hurdles, the Supreme Court’s directives have come at the right time. This will prompt more individuals with a sound legal background to join the judicial services. The fact that the states have been asked to file compliance reports by September 30 will now make it impossible for them to evade responsibility.

   

 
 
WAYFARERS ON THE ROAD MOST TRAVELLED 
 
 
BY MONOBINA GUPTA
 
 
Whatever you accuse Kanshi Ram of, there is one charge you can not stick on him. And that is of a lack of forthrightness. If he wants a deal, however unsavoury it may look to the public, the Bahujan Samaj Party leader will lay it squarely on the table without hedging. The Dalit leader clearly does not care for any niceties or nuances of political deals — he comes straight to the point.

This is what he did during the recent political crisis at the Centre when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was fumbling for numbers to ward off a possible threat to its survival. Without losing any time, the BSP chief came to Vajpayee’s rescue — a deal was struck swiftly — a quid pro quo for sharing power — mutually beneficial for both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the BSP.

On the face of it the deal looked simple and uncomplicated: the BSP will support the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre by putting its 13 members of parliament into the NDA’s kitty. In return the BJP will install the BSP leader, Mayavati, as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. After initially agreeing to give the BJP the post of deputy chief minister, the BSP has now reneged. It wants all the powerful administrative and political posts for itself. An emboldened Vajpayee government flung the deal in the face of its tormentors in the NDA and dared them to pull the rug from under its feet.

Kanshi Ram’s and his party’s political philosophy, essentially cynical, revolves round the axis of a basic principle — the end justifies the means. The BSP, its leadership is clear, is not going to baulk at using political parties, right, left or centre, to empower its constituency of Dalits. It therefore has no compunction in allying itself with a party that is quite open in its patronage of the upper castes — the traditional “enemies” of the BSP — nor in keeping the same BJP government going at the Centre.

What about the sentiments of a large number of Muslims who supported the BSP in the recent elections? The party had put up a large number of Muslim candidates. Will they forgive the BSP for bailing out a government which has come out vocally in favour of an overt Hindutva ideology? After all, the Vajpayee government slid into a crisis because it was unabashedly supporting a chief minister who had the blood of thousands of innocent Muslims on his hands.

But for the BSP leadership every political and electoral strategy is a conduit for power. In politics, it is said, there are no permanent enemies and live-in partnerships, however bizzare things may look in the light of past experiences and the ideologies mouthed by different parties at different times.

Neither the BJP nor the BSP therefore have any time to ponder over their bitter memories of the past when similar working relationships ended in nasty stand-offs. Not so long ago both were involved in a game of political musical chairs for the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh on a six-month rotational basis. The arrangement never worked — as chief minister, Mayavati complained that the manuvadi BJP was gunning for the Dalits — the upper castes in the BJP, in turn, accused the BSP of extending administrative patronage at random to the Dalits.

The Dalit leadership, either in or out of power, does not take up basic issues like education that could pull its people from a morass. Instead, it sticks to popular and convenient slogans like reservation and power. But it is not just the Dalit leadership which is going for short-cuts, the entire political leadership, of every ideology, caste and class, is engaged in this brinkmanship. So why blame Kanshi Ram ?

Till the Mandal movement galvanized and transformed Hindi heartland politics, the Congress, for years, worked on an electoral formula hinging on the votes of upper castes, Muslims and Dalits. It paid off till V.P. Singh played his Mandal card and switched power equations ---- the backward castes and their leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Prasad Yadav became the heroes. It also empowered Dalits, and the BSP, rapidly capitalizing on this new ground, became a force that every political party — from the Congress, the BJP to the Samajwadi Party — wanted to woo.

The backward classes had always had a fractious relationship with the Dalits. The resourceful Yadavs were known for leading attacks on vulnerable Dalits, who were their easiest prey. In 1993, this tide turned when Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Kanshi Ram’s BSP forged an alliance that catapulted them to power in Uttar Pradesh — the powerhouse of Indian politics. But the contradictions, intrinsic to this alliance, dogged the arrangement, and the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, after throwing enough mud at each other, parted ways. Till today, they remain sworn enemies.

For Kanshi Ram it has been one electoral experiment after another of using all shades of political parties for empowering his constituency. It is a matter of debate whether such cynical bargains have actually improved the general lot of impoverished Dalits. There is no doubt that the blue BSP flag with its elephant symbol is more ubiquitous than ever — Dalits are asserting themselves more and more if not for jobs and education — when it comes to partnership in political power, whether in the states or at the Centre.

It may not be out of place here to go back to the icon of Dalit politics, B.R. Ambedkar. The cynicism of the Dalit leadership in the face of a highly fractured, caste-ridden society has roots moving back to the era of freedom struggle. Ambedkar had his own theory about India’s colonial masters, a theory that clearly stood apart from that of the Congress. The founder of the Indian constitution believed that the British were the saviours of the Dalits, who shared very little with the middle-class nationalist leadership of the Congress.

The Congress, a party dominated by the upper castes, had not cared to break the walls of caste apartheid. It made no attempts to remove the blot of “untouchability” that confined the Dalits to their ghettos , keeping them instead at a safe distance from the upper castes. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s was the first powerful voice that spoke out against this social prejudice. For Ambedkar, the British, even though they held the country in a colonial yoke, were a better bet than the Indian political class which had no empathy for Dalits. Ambedkar’s stand did not endear him to the swadeshis, who accused him of being a lackey of the British.

A look at the politics practised by the BSP and its leadership shows that it is in keeping with Ambedkar’s philosophy. It would be easy to describe Kanshi Ram as an evil wheeler-dealer, but it would be difficult to ignore the social realities. The Dalits, even today, are whiplashed if they try to enter a temple, their women still get raped frequently by men of higher castes. inter-caste marriages, especially between higher castes and Dalits, provoke primitive anger that could lead to punishment as horrifying as death by stoning or hanging.

The cynicism on the part of the BSP or even others, like Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti, however unfortunate, cannot be dismissed by delivering a moralistic sermon.That the BSP has succeeded in getting a highly Sanskritized, Brahminical party like the BJP to petition them for support speaks for the BSP leadership’s skill in mobilizing its constituency and then using it to strike deals. But Kanshi Ram’s voice, even though it is the loudest on behalf of the Dalits, is not the only voice. There are leaders like Paswan who have their own support base, even though just a fragment of the BSP’s. Dalit intellectuals, outside the ambit of power politics, are trying to find their own answers. There are many strands of thought, many voices are raised, often in conflict with each other.

Whether one agrees with Kanshi Ram’s methods or not, there is no doubt caste-prejudices in the Indian psyche run deep enough even today to evoke as much a sense of outrage as Kanshi Ram’s unscrupulous deals.The middle class shudders at the sight of Mayavati — her short hair provokes contemptuous jitters : “A chamarni trying to be hip”. The babus in government offices ruefully predict times when the neo-literate lower castes would rule us because of reservations in jobs.

Regardless of such social prejudices, Kanshi Ram is still managing to have the last laugh by getting a manuvadi party like the BJP down to its knees. He is calling the shots in the most powerful state in the country and the BJP has no choice but to accept his fiat.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

A force to reckon with

Sir — No bandh in India is ever forcible in theory. At the same time, coercion and force are almost always used to make a bandh “total”. Given this, the Supreme Court’s recent directive to disallow the use of force during bandhs is unlikely to achieve much (“Forcible bandh declared illegal”, May 11). In states like West Bengal, coercion and force are made redundant by a surfeit of enthusiasm among working people to make the most of a bonus holiday. In cases like this, the Supreme Court will probably find that force is necessary to make people go to work on a bandh day, rather than to confine them to their homes. The culture of bandhs has become too deeply entrenched in the Indian political psyche. Excuses are easily found — unavailability of transport is the most common. Add to this the fact that the organizers of the bandh make sure that the bandh-day precedes or follows a weekend, and you have enough reasons to be sceptical about the Supreme Court ruling.
Yours faithfully,
Subrata Ganguly, Calcutta

Fallen idol

Sir — Mamata Banerjee’s support of the Bharatiya Janata Party during the Gujarat debate in the Lok Sabha, and the later voting, has proved once and for all how hollow and unprincipled her brand of politics is (“Mamata becomes parivar’s Bengal’s face”, May 3). It is a shame that Banerjee — the only semblance of opposition to the unhindered rule of the left in West Bengal — has abdicated her role for shallow political gains. Her many resignation dramas in the past have made her the general laughing stock. By siding with the sangh parivar she has ensured a berth in the Union cabinet but her unprincipled stance has spelt her political death in the eyes of the Bengali intelligentsia. When the entire world is crying foul over the genocide in Gujarat, how can a political party seek narrow political gains from it? It was clear to everyone that her demand outside Parliament for Narendra Modi’s ouster was only an eyewash. She has no real issues to fight for, only petty ones like opposing the eviction of unauthorized settlers on railway land. Yours faithfully, Ranjan Chowdhury, Edmonton, Canada n Sir — Mamata Banerjee’s ingenuity is truly dazzling. Looking back, when she started out she seemed to have a genuine concern for the man on the street, rather Calcutta’s streets. But having been a minister in the Union cabinet once, resigning and regretting her decision immediately after, her only preoccupation now seems to be to get back the gaddi. Her recent statement that she would support the government in the interests of “stability” is nothing but a blatant admission of this fact. What else could explain her statement when the secular identity of the nation is at stake? Yours faithfully, Mrinmoy Goswami, Nagaon n Sir — One can’t help feeling sorry for Mamata Banerjee (“In desperation”, May 5). She has rightly assessed that she needs the powers and privileges of a Central minister to keep her flock intact as well as to maintain her position in West Bengal. In retrospect, Banerjee’s slide has been quite spectacular. And it’s all her own fault. The general citizen perceives the present Left Front government to be a vast improvement on the earlier one. But that doesn’t mean that there is no need for a credible opposition. Banerjee’s nemesis have been her vacillations and her inability to offer a concrete and credible alternative. It is sad that Banerjee has been reduced to all but begging for a ministership, ignoring her conscience, all her instincts and even her vanity.
Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Sir — The Lok Sabha debate on Gujarat has exposed Mamata Banerjee’s double standards. She was the first of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s allies to raise a hue and cry over Gujarat and to demand Narendra Modi’s resignation. But she soon realized that her party’s support, opposition or abstention would make no difference to the government’s survival. So she quickly back-tracked. Her justification that she desired stability for the country sounds hollow when one considers her behaviour as the railways minister. Her inconsistency has deprived her of the image of a sincere and honest politician.

But if the saffron brigade feels it can run a government effectively with someone as unreliable and unpredictable as Banerjee, they are mistaken. By worrying more about the “country’s stability”, Banerjee has put a big question mark on her own credibility.

Yours faithfully,
Meenakshi Sharma, Calcutta

Case laws

Sir — Mira Kakkar suggests (“Against all odds”, May 7) that battered wives should first remove all their valuables from the matrimonial home before filing a case under Section 498A for torture and another under Section 406 for recovery of her belongings. But how can she file for recovery when she has already removed her belongings? Of late, one hears of many such malafide cases of dowry torture and harassment in the lower courts filed under these two sections, as also under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Since the lower courts are already overburdened, this leads to gross abuses of justice. There should also be articles by legal experts on such false complaints and the punitive action to be taken against such complainants.
Yours faithfully,
Rahul Bose, Calcutta

Sir — A recent suggestion that only qualified lawyers can represent a complainant in consumer courts has far-reaching ramifications on the very purpose for which these consumer courts were set up. While it takes nine to 10 years for a case to be heard in a civil court, a consumer court must give a ruling within 90 days. To implement this, it was necessary that these courts have a minimum of litigatory culture, that is in 90 per cent of the cases it should be possible to reach a settlement which has the right balance of law and common sense, without the help of a lawyer. However, a complainant might seek the help of a “friend” from a consumer organization, who might not possess a legal degree. Consumer courts might follow the example of the military which uses this method to conduct court martials.

Yours faithfully,
N.B. Grant, Pune

For adults only

Sir — I was horrified to see the picture captioned, “A charred body of a riot victim in Ahmedabad on Sunday” (May 7), on the front page of The Telegraph. The front page is extremely visible and could well be seen by young children with tender and impressionable minds. One can understand the need to show readers the true picture, but surely it can be done in the inside pages.
Yours faithfully,
Panchali Singh Anand, Calcutta

Sir — The picture of the charred body of a riot victim in Gujarat sent shudders down my spine. Pictures do relate more than words ever can the condition of the state. But seen in the morning, such pictures can prove disturbing throughout the day. They are best not published on the front page.

Yours faithfully,
Abhijaan Datta, Calcutta

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