The Hindu Editorial with Vocabulary – May 2018
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The Hindu Editorial with Vocabulary – “Looking For a New Clarity”
Protecting constitutional values requires an independent judiciary. For this, three issues need attention. The Supreme Court, this past month, provided us with a useful reminder about its worth to our constitutional democracy. Its intervention in the imbroglio over government formation in Karnataka was flawless. The hearings conducted in the early hours of the morning may have been theatrical, but the court’s ultimate decision certainly helped avert a subversion of the Constitution. Yet, much as its decision here deserves appreciation, we must be careful not to allow any ascription of credit to veil the deeper wounds that afflict it, for a litany of problems continues to strike at the court’s independence.
Three of these are especially salient. The first involves the rejection by the government of the collegium’s recommendation of K.M. Joseph, currently Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, for elevation to the Supreme Court. The second concerns the need for a systemic mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption in the higher judiciary. The third area of worry concerns the embroiled state of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, his position as the master of the roster, and the critical question of whether such powers ought to be vested in the hands of one individual.
At first glance, these issues might strike us as unique to the times that we live in, as examples of crises that will eventually pass. But, on closer examination, it becomes clearer that these are, in fact, recurring problems left unaddressed for decades. In trying to resolve the issues, therefore, we must ask ourselves how we got here. As A.G. Noorani recently wrote in Frontline magazine (“Crisis in Judiciary,” May 11, 2018): “We have not reached the nadir all of a sudden. The decline was long in process.”
In his seminal book, America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By, Akhil Reed Amar points to how the written constitution often invites us to heed what’s unwritten, which in turn, he writes, “refers us back in various ways to its written counterpart. Like the Chinese symbols yin and yang, America’s written Constitution and America’s unwritten Constitution form two halves of one whole, with each half gesturing toward the other.”
India’s Constitution is possibly the longest written constitution in the world, but it too leaves much unsaid. Take, for example, Article 124. It states that judges of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President, after consultation with certain authorities, including the CJI. But it does not tell us how these consultations are to be made, or what criteria ought to be applied in deciding who becomes a judge.
Filling the voids
Filling these voids, therefore, requires the building of conventions that nonetheless maintain a fidelity to the written word. In 1977, in Union of India v. Sankalchand Sheth, the Supreme Court sought to do precisely this, when it ruled that the word “consultation” can never mean “concurrence”. But yet it held in the same case that the President can depart from the CJI’s opinion, in making a transfer or an appointment, as the case may be, only in exceptional circumstances. And when the government does so, it must, wrote Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, in his concurring opinion, be prepared to establish in court that it possessed “cogent and convincing reasons” for rejecting the CJI’s advice. As a result, in a bid to secure judicial independence, the court, as H.M. Seervai wrote, had read into the Constitution “a requirement which is not there, but which is implicit in the whole object of providing for consultation with the Chief Justice of India.”
Unfortunately, though, the court has in a series of cases rendered the verdict in Sheth nugatory. The informed wisdom of Justice Krishna Iyer has been replaced by the undemocratic excesses of the “collegium system”. This method grants primacy to the judiciary (specifically to the CJI and his four most senior colleagues) in choosing its own members but allows government the power to reject recommendations on any ground whatsoever, with only one caveat: if the collegium were to re-recommend the same name, the government is obligated to accept the proposition.
Now, in the present environment, for the immediate purposes, there is no doubt that the collegium must re-recommend Justice Joseph’s name, to protect at least a veneer of the court’s independence. But this still begs the question, what happens if the government vacillates in conforming Justice Joseph’s elevation even after such a re-recommendation?
In all of this, therefore, one thing has become abundantly clear: the collegium system is simply unworkable. Its ills are plain to see. It’s not only opaque and inequitable, containing not a single constitutionally provided check or balance, but it has done nothing to either improve the judiciary’s independence or provide a seamless system of elevating well-qualified persons to the bench.
Efforts to introduce a judicial appointments commission have already been scuttled, after the court struck down the 99th constitutional amendment. But the trend across liberal, constitutional democracies is towards such a commission. Hence, what we need now is a renewed debate on how to reshape the composition of a potential judicial appointments panel, which will preserve, in some regards, the judiciary’s primacy (which the Supreme Court now enjoins us to do), while also divorcing its membership completely from the executive.
Simultaneously, as we make an endeavour to be rid of the collegium system, we must also work towards putting in place an independent mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption in the judiciary. The quandary on how to guard the autonomy of the court while ensuring judges remain accountable is age-old. The Roman satirist Juvenal famously asked, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guardians themselves?) Impeachment, as Ronald Dworkin wrote in the context of American Presidents, is a “constitutional nuclear weapon”. It ought to be restricted only to the grimmest of emergencies. But, in India, absent any other apparatus to inquire into a charge of judicial corruption, it becomes the only viable option. We must, therefore, strive to find a device that will straddle our concerns for the judiciary’s autonomy with a necessity for greater fairness and transparency. Any claim made against a judge of dishonesty, howsoever trivial, must be investigated by a properly constituted panel, which ought to be granted a status separate from all three established wings of government.
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Issue of the roster
Finally, the CJI’s position as the “master of the roster” requires serious rethinking. The Constitution is silent on the administrative role that the CJI performs. The central authority that he now enjoys, in deciding which cases get to be heard by which benches, is essentially a product of custom (since codified into the Supreme Court Rules of 2013). But the framers could not have possibly envisaged the Supreme Court sitting in a multitude of panels of two and three judges. The court’s poly-vocal character has been built over a period of time and has now resulted in the CJI wielding enormous power over what might have been originally thought of as a simple managerial task.
Any doctrine that looks to fill the gaps in the Constitution must conform to its basic idea of fairness; seeing the CJI as the master of the roster sans any concomitant accountability simply doesn’t fit with a proper constitutional imagination. Thus, there’s a burning need to define with greater clarity the precise role of the CJI, and to amend the existing framework of rules and regulations on how benches are to be created, and on how work ought to be divided between the different panels.
The Constitution embodies a rousing vision. But it stands on brittle foundations. Protecting its text and its values requires an independent judiciary that is not only committed to constitutionalism but that is also democratically accountable. We cannot rely simply on good fortune to see us through today’s crises. To do so would amount to inviting an annihilation of our republican ethos.
Vocabulary Words from The Hindu Editorial
1. Caveat(noun) चेतावनी/ सावधान-पत्र/ विरोध : A warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations.
Synonyms: Admonition, Proviso, Condition, Stipulation, Provision, Clause
Antonyms: Heedlessness, Negligence, Ignorance, Indiscretion
Example: According to the next sentence, the wife could have registered what we would call a caveat and she could only do that if she had a proprietary interest.
2. Veneer(noun) दिखावा/ व्यक्तित्व का झूठा आवरण : Something that hides something unpleasant or unwanted:/ a deceptively attractive external appearance.
Synonym: Gloss, Mask, Disguise, Façade, Cover
Antonym: Reveal, Expose, Interior, Uncover
Example: The U.S. will undoubtedly engineer a process to create a veneer of democratic legitimacy.
3. Inequitable(Adjective) अन्यायी/ बेइंसाफ/ न्यायविरूद्ध/ अनुचित : Not Fair: (If you say that something is inequitable, you are criticizing it because it is unfair or unjust.)
Synonyms: Biased, Partial, Prejudiced, Discriminatory, Unjust
Antonyms: Even, Fair, Balanced, Honest
Example: The current rating system and its computation is both cumbersome and inequitable and we need to lobby for a change
4. Grim(adjective) विकट/ भयंकर/ मनहूस: Very serious or gloomy. (A situation or piece of information that is grim is unpleasant, depressing, and difficult to accept.
Synonyms: Stern, Gloomy. Grisly, Severe, Ghastly
Antonyms: Pleasant, Gentle, Cheerful, Benign
Example: The headmaster and priest was there, a grim expression on his face.
5. Concomitant(adjective) सहगामी/ सहवर्ती : Something that happens with something else and is connected with it: (naturally accompanying or associated.)
Synonyms: Collateral, Coincident, Connected, Contemporaneous, Accompanying
Antonyms: Unrelated, Independent, Unassociated, Unconneccted
Example: It has been argued that sputum eosinophilia is related to concomitant features of asthma.
6. Litany(noun) एक साधारण प्रार्थना की रीति/(एक लंबी और दोहराव सूची : A tedious recital or repetitive series. / a long record.)
Synonyms: Recitation, Repetition, List, Catalogue, Inventory
Example: The book concludes with some litanies in honor of Mary.
7. Subversion(noun) विनाश/ भ्रष्टकारिता/ राजद्रोह/ तख़्ता पलट : The act of trying to destroy or damage an established system or government. (It is the attempt to weaken or destroy a political system or a government.)
Synonyms: Insurrection, Sedition, Sabotage, Overthrow, Rebellion
Antonyms: Compliance, Conformity, Submission, Obedience
Example: Mostly internal subversion, infiltration of the local Communist Party, and the trades unions.
8. Fidelity(noun) सत्य के प्रति निष्ठा/ वफादारी/ क्षणिक/शीघ्र व्यतीत होनेवाला: Loyalty to a person, organization, or set of beliefs. (faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.)
Synonyms: Allegiance, Steadfastness, Fealty, Faithfulness
Antonyms: Disloyalty, Infidelity, Perfidiousness, Treachery, Unfaithfulness
Example: I suppose my own lingering belief in some fidelity to the subject at hand as a mandate for teachers has always caused me to worry about overpersonalizing what I teach.
9. Cogent(adjective) निश्चयात्मक/ ज़ोरदार/ प्रभावशाली : Persuasive and well expressed: ((of an argument or case) clear, logical, and convincing.)
Synonyms: Convincing, Weighty, Compelling, Potent, Effective
Antonyms: Uncompelling, Unconvincing, Unpersuasive, Inconclusive, Indecisive
Example: He said local officers have not been able to obtain cogent evidence to pin suspects to the four offences.
10. Nugatory(adjective) साधारण/ व्यर्थ का/ निकम्मा: Worth nothing or of little value:
Synonyms: Trifling, Trivial, Insignificant, Worthless, Frivolous, Useless
Antonym: Substantial, Meaningful, Momentous, Important, Significant
Example: The amount of paperwork changes that would have to be effected are nugatory.
Word of the Day – “Pretentious”
- Pretentious (adjective) आडम्बरयुक्त, कपटी, छली, धूर्त, धृष्ठ, ढीठ, मिथ्याभिमानी
- Meaning:- The people who are attending a church service or who regularly attend a church service are referred to as the congregation..
- Synonyms: Sffected, ostentatious, showy, overambitious, pompous, artificial, inflated, overblown,
- Antonym: Genuine, unconceited, simple, moderate, honest.
- Example: “The dialogues are poor and the whole movie just seems far too pretentious for me”, said the reviewer.
- उदाहरण: समालोचक ने कहा, “संवाद खराब हैं और पूरी फिल्म मुझे कुछ अधिक ही आडम्बरयुक्त दिखाई देती है”।
Quote of the Day
“So many of our dreams seen impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.” Christopher Reeve
“हमारे अनेक सपने असंभव दिखाई देते हैं, फिर वह असंभाव्य और अंतत वह अपरिहार्य हो जाते हैं।” क्रिस्टोफर रीव
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