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Since 1st March, 1999
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Polite exchange

Sir — I was saddened by K.P. Nayar’s commentary on the Louisiana governor-elect, Bobby Jindal (“Silent Jindal jolts university”, Dec 17). Without presenting Jindal’s side of the story, by citing his quotes or attributions Nayar criticizes the governor-elect for his tepid response to the murder of the Indian students. Indian-Americans, and indeed an overwhelming majority of Louisianians, support Jindal because of his leadership skills, intelligence, and sense of integrity. While our hearts go out to the families of the two victims, we are disappointed with Nayar’s pathetic attempt to exploit the death of two innocent students for political purposes.

Yours faithfully,
Suhail A. Khan,Washington DC, US

K.P. Nayar replies: I am puzzled by Mr Khan’s requirement of that malaise of American journalism — “attribution”. Did he want someone to tell me on behalf of the governor-elect that Bobby Jindal did not, for three-and-a-half days, condole a twin murder in his backyard? I did not ask anyone in Jindal’s camp for a quote precisely because Jindal, being a politician who knows his way to success, would have issued a statement of sympathy for the victims’ families the moment I drew attention to his silence on the crime. I have no “political purpose” vis-á-vis Jindal. I am not even an Indian American. For me, as a reporter, the story was that Indian-American Bobby Jindal was deliberately and callously indifferent to the murder of two Indians in Louisiana.

Act in faith

Sir — The furore in the Supreme Court over the issue of judicial overreach is beginning to get more confusing (“SC moves to clear overreach fog”, Dec 15). While one apex court bench slams the judiciary for its activism and excessive enthusiasm over public interest litigations, other judicial benches are too afraid to hear crucial PILs now. Then again, the chief justice had declared that the observation of the senior judges, A. Mathur and M. Katju, was not binding. There is yet to be a bench that fixes guidelines for dealing with PILs. The differences in opinion among the judges is not a healthy sign for a democracy. It is hardly a surprise that judges who are willing to give rulings against the government in order to protect the interests of ordinary people will come in for criticism.

Judicial appointments are not entirely free of political influence. As a result, it is not uncommon for some rulings to be perceived as being politically motivated. Ordinary citizens are seldom in a position to seek redress, which makes PILs filed by non-profit organizations the only source of respite for them. The large number of PILs in the court may pose problems for the judiciary, but there is little doubt that restricting PILs would encourage corruption. Therefore, the judiciary should never try to curtail the little power that millions of Indians still enjoy through the filing of PILs. After all, nothing could be more important for the judicial system than ensuring that all men remain equal in the eyes of the law.

Yours faithfully,
Kunal Saha, Ohio, US

Sir — The entire debate on judicial activism is based on the premise that justice is ‘blind’, that is, the courts are impartial. Traditionally, the court passes judgments on the basis of evidence that is presented to it. However, it is often the case that the judiciary is presented with faulty evidence. For instance, witnesses are bought over or threatened in order to ensure that the wrongdoer is protected. Recently, some judges have taken the lead to nail corrupt elements in the government. Such activism is necessary in a corrupt country such as ours, as are most of the PILs filed in the courts to seek justice.These PILs must be treated respectfully by the law. However, if the court feels that any PIL is invalid or would amount to a waste of time, such PILs should be rejected. Judicial activism is a necessity in India where the rule of law is applied selectively.

Yours faithfully,
Danendra Jain, Ranchi

Sir — A lot has been said and written about public interest litigations. But whether PILs serve the purpose of providing justice to those who require it needs to be probed. The truth is that the principles of natural justice are not always followed in the case of PILs.

The concept of such justice encompasses two rules. First, the authority deciding on the matter should not be biased. Second, no one should be punished without being given a fair hearing. Since a PIL often involves judgment on fundamental rights of citizens, a waiver of the rules of natural justice cannot be justified.

Several PIL judgments, however, have not followed these cardinal clauses. The question that arises is that if the court fails to observe the requirements of natural justice, should the order be regarded as void or voidable? A voidable order is legally valid at its inception, till it is quashed by the courts. A void order, on the other hand, is a nullity.

In cases where the principles of natural justice are violated by the lower adjudicating authorities, the affected have the recourse of appealing to the higher courts. But if the highest court of the land violates these principles, who would the people turn to?

Yours faithfully,
Shobha Aggarwal, New Delhi

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