CAO Daily Editorial analysis for UPSC IAS 15th-January, 2018

Current Affairs Only Daily Editorial Analysis for Competitive Exams


15th Jan, 2018

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Master and the roster {Social Justice}

(Indian Express)


Context

Power is increasingly being centralised with the CJI. It calls for reform that brings accountability and transparency to the office without compromising on judicial independence

Why in new?

Recently four of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference at the residence of Justice Jasti Chelameswar. In the press conference — an unprecedented event in the annals of the judiciary — they expressed concern about the manner in which the Chief Justice of India was administering the Court, and released a letter that they had written to him.

Key point

The chief justice decides when a case may be listed for hearing, and she also decides which judges will hear it.
It is followed by many constitutional courts across the world and facilitates smooth and efficient judicial functioning.

Comparison with US Courts

  • Supreme Court now consists of 26 judges, who predominantly sit in benches of two.
  • Compare this with the US Supreme Court, for example, where all its nine judges sit together (en banc) to hear cases, or the UK’s Supreme Court, where 12 judges often sit in panels of five (or more). The Chief Justice of the US Supreme
  • Court, therefore, has no choice in the question of which judges will hear a case, and in the UK, the choice is significantly constrained.
    If judges are meant to apply the law, wouldn’t the outcome of a case remain unchanged, no matter which judge hears it,

Why does it matter?

  • Legal texts are linguistic artefacts, and language is always open to interpretation. Nor can the discipline of law be segregated from the social, political and historical context in which it exists. Two judges who come from different contexts may even understand the same set of facts very differently.
  • Now, to curtail these kinds of divergences, legal systems evolve homogenising tools, such as a system of precedent, and a commonly accepted interpretive approach towards legal texts.

Another issue

Supreme Court is dealing with a massive backlog of cases. This means that “in the normal course of things”, a petition will take many years to be heard and decided. The chief justice, however, has the power to “list” cases for hearing.


An eye on the police {Governance}

(Indian Express)


Context

Delhi needs an effective police complaints authority

On December 5, 2017, Delhi High Court asked the Centre and Delhi government to finalise a scheme for a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) for the national capital by January 2018.

Why this urgency?

It is required because policymakers must be made to feel the pressure. While Delhi Police routinely tops the charts in the number of complaints against police personnel, residents have been denied an effective and independent body to respond to their complaints.

Background

  • In 2006, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered all states and Union Territories to set up PCAs as one of seven directives to usher in police accountability.
  • A PCA is intended to be a free-standing, absolutely independent adjudicator with diverse membership, intended to act as a remedy for the public and a corrective mechanism for the police. In the court’s scheme, a PCA is envisaged as a body to address complaints filed by the public against police officials in cases ranging from custodial death, torture, illegal detention, and even land grabbing
  • In 2012, the Delhi government with the approval of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), extended the mandate of the existing Public Grievances Commission (PGC) in the city to respond to complaints against the police.
    At present, there are individuals who act “as the PCA” within the PGC.
  • This is in violation of the court’s directive and led to a petition being filed in the Delhi High Court in 2015, seeking an independent specialised PCA.

    Factors to mandate and jurisdiction of a PCA for Delhi

  • There are standards in place, namely the SC’s directive on the PCAs and a memo issued by the MHA directing the setting up of PCAs in the Union Territories.
  • The MHA’s memo is in violation of the court’s directive with several gaps impeding both the independence and potential effectiveness of the agency.
  • The MHA’s memo sets up a single complaints authority for Delhi, presumably with jurisdiction over all complaints and police ranks.
  • The memo is also silent on providing independent investigators for the PCA
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