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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | PDF Download

Date: 02 April 2019
  • The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. A country scores a higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, and the GNI (PPP) per capita is higher.
  • It was developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, with help from Gustav Ranis of Yale University and Meghnad Desai of the London School of Economics, and was further used to measure a country's development by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)'s Human Development Report Office.
  • The 2010 Human Development Report introduced an Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). While the simple HDI remains useful, it stated that "the IHDI is the actual level of human development (accounting for inequality)", and "the HDI can be viewed as an index of 'potential' human development (or the maximum IHDI that could be achieved if there were no inequality)".
  • The index does not take into account several factors, such as the net wealth per capita or the relative quality of goods in a country. This situation tends to lower the ranking for some of the most advanced countries, such as the G7 members and others.
  • The index is based on the human development approach, developed by ul Haq, often framed in terms of whether people are able to "be" and "do" desirable things in life. Examples include—Being: well fed, sheltered, healthy; Doings: work, education, voting, participating in community life. The freedom of choice is central—someone choosing to be hungry (as during a religious fast) is quite different from someone who is hungry because they cannot afford to buy food, or because the country is in a famine.

  • The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2018 to
  • William D. Nordhaus - Yale University, New Haven, USA
  • “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”
  • and
  • Paul M. Romer - NYU Stern School of Business, New York, USA
  • “for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis”
  • Integrating innovation and climate with economic growth
  • William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer have designed methods for addressing some of our time’s most basic and pressing questions about how we create long-term sustained and sustainable economic growth.

Ensuring access to justice

  • The Supreme Court must set up more Benches, and disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers must go back to the judiciary
  • The justice system in any democracy is set up, under the Constitution to serve the public without “fear or favour, affection or illwill” as far as judges are concerned. Yet the protagonists, as far as India is concerned, in operating the system have stopped that very access — judges through lack of prescience, and many lawyers through their dishonesty in many forms.

Revisiting Judges’ Advice

  • At an informal meeting, all of the then sitting judges of the Supreme Court (including myself) advised the then Chief Justice of India to decide against the request of the then Central government to sit in other places in the country under Article 130 of the Constitution. The reason we (judges) decided against it was because we felt that the authority of the Supreme Court would get diluted. The reasoning, in retrospect, was fallacious. Many High Courts in this country have different Benches for meting out justice without ‘justice’ being ‘diluted’. For example, the Bombay High Court has four Benches — in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji (Goa) — and the quality of its decisions or status have certainly not been diluted thereby.
  • The number of Benches depends on the size of the State, the idea being to facilitate easier access to justice. The direct consequence of the wrong decision has been three-fold.
  • First, the Supreme Court sitting only in Delhi has resulted in excellent lawyers from other High Courts not appearing before the Supreme Court, possibly because it casts too large a monetary burden on their clients, many of whom are impoverished.
  • Second, all lawyers, whatever their calibre or competence, who happen to be in Delhi now appear in the Supreme Court. Some of the good lawyers who were able to leave lucrative practices in the High Courts have settled down in Delhi, but they have established a monopoly, and, as a result, charge unconscionable fees even from charitable concerns — sometimes even when they do not appear at the hearing. This is also true of litigating lawyers at all levels of the judicial system.
  • The third fallout of the failure to act under Article 130 is that the Supreme Court in Delhi has been flooded with work and been reduced to a District Court instead of a Court of Final Appeal and Constitutional Court as envisaged under the Constitution.

Unethical Lawyers

  • But the fault in actually denying access to justice to citizens is the fault of unethical lawyers alone. That lawyers are generally dishonest is a well-known fact. Lawyers are (frequently) humorously called liars, and because they are the middle-men between judges and the litigating public, they act like dishonest brokers. That is why William Shakespeare said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” (Henry VI). This is a somewhat unfair condemnation of those lawyers who are persons of high principles.
  • Some of the lawyers specializing in VICTIM COMPENSATION CASES do not charge any fees for their services and render services free of cost. They generally obtain a blank cheque from the victim which is filled in after credit of the compensation to the bank account of the victim. Victims who open bank accounts for the purpose of victim compensation are being duped by some of the lawyers who link their or their assistant’s mobile number to the account so that they can have access to all the information of the transactions in the bank account. Some of the lawyers specializing in victim compensation cases thus take huge money as a percentage of compensation amount awarded towards victim compensation. Such a practice is frustrating the whole purpose of victim compensation. The procedure is similar to that adopted by some advocates dealing with Motor Accident Claim Cases under Section 166 (application for compensation) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. They agree to conduct the cases without a fee, but in the event of compensation being granted by the court, the advocates get a certain percentage. This is illegal, being a champertous agreement
  • In some cases, as soon as an award of victim compensation is made by any Legal Services Authority (LSA), a statutory body to render free legal services to the impoverished all over India, the lawyer gets in touch with the victim and somehow convinces him/her to file a writ petition before the High Court to show that without such writ petition the compensation will not be disbursed by the State LSA (SLSA). Ultimately when the amount of compensation is finally disbursed by the SLSA, the lawyer takes credit and shows that it was because of his noble initiative that the victim got the relief, and in exchange claims a hefty share in the compensation. Such lawyers effectively create a perception of rendering a benevolent service by not charging any fees so the victim could never suspect him/her of any malpractice. Incidentally, according to a study carried out by a research organisation, Vidhi, in the Delhi High Court, more than 70% of the delays in the disposal of cases are attributable to lawyers, a major reason being sometimes unjust pleas for adjournments.
  • The litigating public and lawyers (including women and students) — either because they do not trust the judicial system or they distrust lawyers in particular, or for whatever reason — write hundreds of letters to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justices and Justices of each High Court for relief. Some issues raised in these letters are administrative or statutory in nature. Apart from these letters, hundreds of letters are written to Chief Justices for relief on the judicial side. Given the huge workload before all judges, it is not possible to deal with all letter-appeals simultaneously on the statutory, administrative or judicial side, unless they are drawn specifically to the Justices’ attention. Unfortunately the disciplinary powers available to Bar Councils both in Delhi and in States are more often than not ineffective. Some are politically motivated and some States do not have disciplinary committees at all. The disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers was originally with the courts. As far as the older High Courts are concerned, this is clear from the respective Letters Patents under which the courts were set up. This continued till the power was taken away by the Advocates Act, 1961. Significantly, the Law Minister at that time was Ashoke Sen, a well-known lawyer. The solution to the present situation is to give the disciplinary jurisdiction back to the courts and to repeal the Advocates Act, 1961.

The way forward

  • Therefore, to hound out the corrupt lawyers from the system at all levels so that justice may be truly rendered to the public, I have a few suggestions.
  1. First, the Supreme Court should reconsider setting up Benches in different States in keeping with the recommendations of the Law Commissions (125th Report and 229th Report).
  2. Second, the Bar Council of India should exercise its powers under the Advocates Act, 1961 more effectively. If not, the disciplinary jurisdiction must be returned to the judiciary as was the position prior to the Advocates Act, 1961 by repealing the 1961 Act.
  3. Third, lawyers should be made irrelevant by referring more cases to trained mediators, as the Supreme Court has done in the Ayodhya dispute.

Deepening insecurity

  • The buzz around ‘Mission Shakti’ should be an opportunity to review India’s defence strategy
  • After ‘Mission Shakti’ — India’s anti-satellite test — there is a feeling that India needs this form of deterrence for its security. To be visibly strong in order to deter any enemy from attacking is a concern that goes back to pre-historic times. But when this ancient urge is exerted by nations with nuclear weapons, it must be an occasion to revisit the arms race, the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine and their long-term implications.
  • The doctrine emerged during the Cold War in the mid-20th century when the U.S. and the erstwhile U.S.S.R. had stockpiled so many nuclear weapons that if launched, the weapons could destroy both nations many times over.
  • Since there was eventually a ‘détente’, or a relaxation of hostilities between the two, it is tempting to think that MAD is a valid doctrine that should continue to be applied by all countries with nuclear weapons capability. What is the basis of this belief? And does it actually work?
  • For more than 100 years now, scientists and writers of science fiction alike have fostered the illusion that some day humankind will have a weapon so terrible that the fear of its impact will end war for all times.
  • Deterrence and violence
  • Having invented dynamite and unleashed it upon the world in 1867, Alfred Nobel believed that “the day when two army corps can annihilate each other in one second, all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war and discharge their troops”.
  • Since then incalculably more destructive weapons, including nuclear bombs and chemical weapons, have been deployed but this has not ended war. On the contrary, the invention of increasingly deadly weapons has fuelled a global arms race.
  • Globally, the annual spend on armaments is now estimated to stand at about $1.7 trillion. Estimates of the total number of nuclear weapons in the world range from 15,000 to 20,000, with each one of these weapons being far more powerful than the bombs dropped by the U.S. on Japan in 1945. The U.S. and Russia still maintain about 1,800 nuclear weapons in a state of high alert, ready for launch within minutes.
  • According to the Global Peace Index, in 2017, the economic impact of violence globally was estimated at about $14.76 trillion, which was 12.4% of global GDP. Since 2012, there has been a 16% increase in the economic impact of violence largely due to the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • It is vital to note that having competing weapons, in terms of quality and quantity, has not acted as a deterrent either in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict or in the Syrian war or the prolonged conflict in Colombia. What did finally end the conflict in Colombia, after almost 50 years, was a protracted process of negotiation between all parties of the conflict.
  • The Global Peace Index also shows that over the last 70 years the per capita GDP growth has been three times higher in more peaceful countries. This is partly why, compared to 10 years ago, 102 nations are spending less on military as a percentage of their GDP.
  • But that is a thin silver lining to a grim reality. Ban Ki-moon, while he was UN Secretary General, said, in 2009, “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded …. The end of the Cold War has led the world to expect a massive peace dividend. Yet, there are over 20,000 nuclear weapons around the world. Many of them are still on hair-trigger alert, threatening our own survival.”
  • According to the website of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons. In 2017, the ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Double-edged sword
  • Theoretically, MAD is supposed to eliminate the incentive for starting a conflict but it also makes disarming almost impossible. This is partly why, long after the Cold War ended, the U.S. is poised to spend enormous amounts of money over the next 10 years in updating and modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
  • The tragic irony of this trend is that nuclear defence, particularly with warheads riding on rockets of supersonic speed, actually deepens insecurity in both countries by causing millions of lives to perpetually be at the risk of instantaneous annihilation.
  • All through the Cold War and even now, the MAD doctrine has been opposed on both moral and practical grounds by a variety of disarmament and peace groups. The most prominent of these, War Resisters’ International (WRI), which will turn 100 in 2021, has 90 affiliated groups in 40 countries. Such groups ceaselessly serve as a counter to all those who glamorize or justify war or an arms race. Above all, they constantly draw attention to the fact that the only true security lies in dissolving enmity by going to the roots of any conflict.
  • Once the joy about India’s technological achievements, in the realm of missiles, has settled down, perhaps attention can shift to the much bigger challenge of seeking answers to a key question: what really makes us, the world a whole, more secure?