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24 Sept 2019: The Hindu Editorial Summary

1) On Collegium recommendation of Justice Kureshi

  • In modifying its recommendation concerning Justice A.A. Kureshi, the Supreme Court Collegium appears to have succumbed to pressure from the Union government.
  • Modifying its resolution of May 10 that the senior judge be appointed Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the Collegium has now decided to send him to the Tripura High Court.
  • It was quite apparent that the Centre was averse to the elevation of Justice Kureshi, who is from the Gujarat High Court, but serving in the Bombay High Court on transfer.
  • The government did not act on the recommendation for months, raising the suspicion that it was blocking his appointment. The Collegium modified its decision after considering letters from the Department of Justice on August 23 and 27, and “accompanying material”.
  • It is not known if the controversy has ended. It is possible that the Collegium and the Centre have arrived at a compromise under which the government drops its opposition to his appointment as Chief Justice on the condition that he is sent to a smaller high court.

  • However, until his appointment as head of the Tripura High Court is notified, there will be a lurking doubt on whether the latest resolution is in line with the Centre’s approval. Under the current procedure, the Collegium may reconsider a recommendation, but the government is bound to implement a decision that is reiterated.
  • It is quite acceptable if the Collegium and the government resolve their differences through consultation and correspondence, but the final decision should not be opaque, mysterious and indicative of executive pressure.
  • It is common to charge the Collegium with lack of transparency, but in this case, the government is equally blameable. If the Law Ministry had a bona-fide objection to Justice Kureshi, it could have disclosed its opinion on his suitability.
  • The failure to do so has the inevitable consequence of the public imagination concluding that the ruling party is blocking his elevation because of judicial orders he had passed while serving in Gujarat.
  • As for the Collegium, it is unclear why it could not have disclosed what the government had wanted in its communications. This episode makes a dent in the prevailing narrative that the Collegium system is a shield against executive interference in judicial appointments.
  • The time may have come for the two sides to come up with fresh clauses in the existing procedure of appointments under which the Collegium’s decisions are implemented within a time-frame, and the government’s objections and reservations, if any, are made public.
  • Only then can the credibility deficit be bridged. But, even so, what is indisputable is that the Collegium system is deeply flawed, and is in need of urgent remedy.

2) On Howdy Modi event in Houston

  • The Houston gathering of the Indian diaspora in the U.S. on Sunday addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump was a resounding success in meeting its stated and implied objectives.
  • Mr. Modi has drafted Indian diaspora communities in several countries for advancing his strategic objectives. The diaspora in the U.S. is of pre-eminent significance given its increasing political heft and the centrality of the U.S. in India’s strategic architecture.
  • Mr. Trump’s appearance at the rally and his effusive support for India were a reflection of the community’s influence in U.S. politics. He named fighting “radical Islamic terrorism” as a key common interest of the two countries, spurring a standing ovation by the audience, including Mr. Modi.
  • Mr. Trump also emphasised border security, a controversial topic in both democracies. Mr. Modi presented the ending of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir to the cheering crowd as a significant achievement of this government.
  • The rally galvanised the diaspora in support for Mr. Modi’s politics in India, and enticed Mr. Trump. The rally’s unintended outcomes could be more complex.
  • The massive movement of people across national borders has created diasporas that, in turn, have created new political forces. This is a particularly sensitive component of global politics.
  • Its enthusiasm for India notwithstanding, aspirations of the diaspora and the priorities of India don’t necessarily converge. Drawing its members too deep into India’s domestic politics, and India’s involvement in their politics, are both fraught with risks.
  • Mr. Modi nearly endorsed Mr. Trump’s re-election bid, and the celebration was unprecedented for the divisions it created among the diaspora. Civil rights groups and groups of Kashmiris, Dalits and Muslims, who have been critical of Mr. Trump, also called out the Modi government for its policies.
  • Democrats by and large took a dim view of the event, and the audience and Mr. Modi greeted Majority Leader in the House of Representatives Steny Hoyer’s reminder that India drew on its strength of Nehruvian secularism with stony silence.
  • Mr. Trump’s implied endorsement of Mr. Modi’s Kashmir policy was music to the ears of those in the audience, but the underlying principle of his America First nationalism that it has no role to play globally other than protecting its own interests could lead to outcomes not to India’s liking.
  • The absence of four of the five Indian-American members of the U.S. Congress - all Democrats - at the gathering was also noteworthy. The transposition of India-Pakistan rivalry into a contest between the two diasporas is also unpleasant.
  • Though both leaders gained from the Houston rally, it was not diplomacy at its best. Despite what Houston achieved for the two leaders, a line may have been crossed in the mixing of partisan national politics with international diplomacy.