The News Editorial Analysis 13th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 13th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 13th Dec 2021

RBI and PM signal reforms in troubled urban co-op banks

Governor Shaktikanta Das warns depositors against chasing higher returns

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das on Sunday indicated that the banking regulator will ring in sweeping regulatory changes to reform urban cooperative banks that have been plagued by a spate of failures, and warned people against parking their savings in banks offering high returns.

While describing the Government’s decision to raise the insured limit for bank deposits to ₹5 lakh from ₹1 lakh with a 90-day time limit to pay out such deposits as ‘landmark’ developments, Mr. Das stressed that the payment of deposit insurance should be seen as a “measure of last resort”.

“I would like to mention in all this is that the depositors themselves must also be very discerning. It is very important to keep in mind that higher returns are usually associated with higher risks. Just because a bank is offering higher interest, the depositors should be very careful in putting their money in chasing such high returns,” the RBI Governor noted.

“I am not generalising. There are institutions that are offering higher interest rates which are viable, but depositors should always be very careful,” he reiterated at an event to mark the payment of nearly ₹1,300 crore to over 1 lakh depositors whose funds were stuck in distressed banks for years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who personally handed over deposit insurance cheques to a few bank customers whose savings with distressed banks had been out of reach for years, said that an additional three lakh depositors would get their hard-earned savings, stuck in other banks, soon.

“When the RBI will oversee cooperative banks’ functioning, this will also raise depositors’ confidence further. We have created a new Cooperatives Ministry (referring to the Co-operation Ministry). The idea is to strengthen the cooperative system and will empower cooperative banks further,” Mr. Modi said, noting that these problems afflicted co-operative banks more.

Mr. Das said the central bank keeps depositors’ interests on top while dealing with policy challenges.

“Just to give an example, we have come out with new governance guidelines for commercial banks and we have constituted a committee for bringing about reforms in the urban cooperative sector. That report has been received and we will be taking action based on it,” he said,

Recalling his time as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi said he had urged the Central Government then to raise the deposit insurance for bank account holders from ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh, but his call for protecting poor and middle-class depositors’ funds in failed banks went unheeded.

The evolution and framing of the Constitution

It does not impose, with reason, the same burden of accountability on the Judiciary as the Executive and the Legislature

Constitution Day was celebrated on November 26 this year too with the Government of India organising a grand event in the Central Hall of Parliament to remind citizens that the Indian Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly this day, 72 years ago. As usual, speeches were made about the greatness of the Constitution. But politics was not kept out entirely. In fact, there is always an unexciting predictability about these speeches. That is largely attributable to the sequacity of the political class.

It is not certain whether the various speeches made on this occasion every year have enlightened the younger generation of India about the historical background of the Constitution. It is a fair guess that the new generation in this country knows pretty little about the freedom struggle led by Gandhi and the Congress.

A refresher

For the information of this generation, let me state a few facts. The framing of the Constitution is not an isolated and accidental event in the sense that one fine morning, a few barristers and jurists got together and decided that India needed a Constitution and began writing it. It is the culmination of long years of the struggle for freedom which consumed a countless number of precious lives of ordinary Indians. The Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had demanded, in 1935, a Constituent Assembly to frame a Constitution for free India, and Nehru wanted the election to be held to the Assembly on the basis of adult franchise. As it happened, the Constituent Assembly came to be constituted 11 years later, in 1946, but the election was held on the basis of communal representation.

After almost three years of hard work, the Constitution was completed in November 1949 and was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26. Although the Constitution was adopted and signed by the President of the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, on that day, it was brought into effect only on January 26, 1950. This date was chosen because it was on this day in 1930 that the Indian National Congress under the presidentship of Nehru declared ‘Poorna Swaraj’ (complete independence) for India. Thus, the history of the Constitution is bound up with the history of the Congress and the freedom movement.

Nehru’s contribution

Any celebration of Constitution Day will remain incomplete if Nehru’s contribution to the making of the Constitution is not remembered. It was his Objectives Resolution which formed the Preamble of the Constitution. It contained the philosophy, the vision and the goal of the Constitution. The ideas thrown up by the European Renaissance, the America Independence and the French Revolution tremendously influenced him. The ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity and freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, justice-social economic and politics permeated the Indian Constitution under the influence of Nehru.

It is an interesting thought that India’s mainstream society which is structurally incapable of internalising the ideas of equality and social justice, had to suffer terrible inconvenience from the imperatives of equality and social justice. The Constitution ushered in an era of equality, signifying a complete break with an unsavoury past.

Choice of Ambedkar

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, of course, is rightly remembered in the context of the Constitution and more frequently in political contexts. However, it is difficult to remember a single memorable speech by any politician about the contribution of Dr. Ambedkar to the building and concretising of the concept of social equality in the Constitution. Dr. Ambedkar became the Chairman of the drafting Committee perhaps incidentally.

He admits in one of his famous speeches in the Constituent Assembly that he had come there to plead for the depressed classes, but the Assembly made him the Chairman. Dr. Ambedkar was an original thinker and a very perceptive social scientist who had a keen understanding of the terrible structural inadequacies of Hindu society and its philosophical pretentions.

He radically deferred with Gandhi on many crucial issues and had serious differences with the Congress. He ridiculed civil disobedience, non-cooperation and Satyagraha and said “these methods are nothing but the grammar of anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us”. But the Constituent Assembly, which had an overwhelming majority of Congressmen, chose him as the Chairman of the drafting Committee. The great men who led the freedom movement and guided the making of the Constitution, had displayed tremendous foresight in choosing Dr. Ambedkar to draft the Constitution.

On accountability

Speeches made on Constitution Day expectedly contained references to the Judiciary. Many such references are undoubtedly about the Supreme Court. Of course, Constitution Day cannot pass without making pontifical observations about the role and the responsibility of the Judiciary, particularly the top court. Judicial accountability is an issue which the political class seems to be obsessed with.

The Preamble of the Constitution begins with “We, the People of India”. The people are the sovereign, and every organ of the state is ultimately accountable to them. But, accountability is a nuanced term which is understood or interpreted differently in different contexts. In a parliamentary system with the Cabinet form of government, the Executive is accountable to the Legislature, because the Legislature consists of representatives of the people. Therefore, if the Legislature withdraws support to the government, it does not survive.

Similarly, the legislators are accountable to the people who elect them. They have to go back to them every five years. But, how is judicial accountability dealt with by the Constitution? Recently, this interesting issue was raised by the present Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana, in one of his thought-provoking speeches, on November 26, in the context of the Constitution Day celebrations. He said, “The framers of the Constitution made accountability an integral element with respect to the Legislature and Executive. However, they consciously decided to keep the Judiciary on [a] different pedestal.” This is a lucid exposition of the constitutional position of the Judiciary vis-à-vis other organs of the state with respect to accountability

A different pedestal

Serious students of the Constitution can readily agree with the learned Chief Justice of India because the Constitution does not impose the same burden of accountability on the Judiciary as the Executive and the Legislature. The mandate given to the Judiciary is to do justice to the people, and, therefore, the Constitution made it an independent institution answerable neither to the Executive nor to the Legislature in respect of its functions. Article 142 brings in the concept of complete justice.

The top court, where all litigations terminate, is mandated to do complete justice. In order to be able to do that, the Judiciary has been placed on a different pedestal. One can unhesitatingly agree with the Chief Justice of India when he says “they (constitution makers) trusted the competence of the men and women who would adorn the Bench in upholding the Constitution”. Who can deny that the doctrine of ‘basic structure’ propounded by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case has in a way saved the Constitution from being mutilated by politicians who believe in neither democracy nor in justice? An independent judiciary which does not have to look over its shoulder is the pride of the Indian Republic. Accountability of the Judiciary in the political sense is a disaster. “We, the People of India” made it independent so that it does complete justice to us. The Chief Justice of India knew what he was saying.

SC has taken note of Section 124A misuse

‘It’s like giving a tool to a carpenter to cut wood piece and he uses it to cut forest’

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s reply in Parliament that there is no proposal to scrap sedition charge from the Indian Penal Code comes almost five months after Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana made scathing remarks in open court to the Government about the chilling effect of the “colonial law”, which suppresses the freedoms of ordinary people.

In a hearing on July 15, the CJI compared the use of sedition charge (Section 124A of the IPC) to a tool given to a carpenter “to cut a piece of wood and he uses it to cut the entire forest itself”.

The CJI wondered why a democracy needed such a law which was used by the British to imprison Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs has informed that there is no proposal under consideration to scrap Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Further, the question of law regarding Section 124A is pending for adjudication before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India,” Mr. Rijiju said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Colonial law

He said the observation that sedition was a “colonial law” misused by the Government was not part of any judgment or order of the court.

However, the Government, on July 15, through its topmost law officer, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, had responded to the CJI’s oral observations in court, saying there was no need to strike down Section 124A. “It is enough to see if there were any excesses in its use and limit the Section to its real purpose… That would be enough,” Mr. Venugopal said.

The CJI’s observations in court make it apparent that the highest court has taken judicial notice of the misuse of the sedition provision by the State.

The observations were made by the CJI during court proceedings of the court. Oral observations made during a court hearing, though not part of a formal order or judgment, reflect the constitutional court’s line of thinking.

It shows application of the judicial mind, and in this case, of the topmost judge of the country.

Besides, the 2015 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shreya Singhal case had called for the striking down of vague laws which choke free speech and shackle personal liberty.

Media reports

Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram, in his tweets, has pointed out that the court’s comments were reported in the media. Mr. Rijiju had retorted that media reports do not form part of official records.

However, the court has already sought a formal response from the Government by issuing notice on a petition filed by Major General S.G. Vombatkere (retd.) to quash Section 124A. It has also issued notice to the Government on a writ petition filed jointly by the Editors Guild of India and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi.

Two other petitions filed by Kishore Chandra Wangkemcha and Aamoda Broadcasting Company Private Ltd., the latter against the Andhra Pradesh Government, are pending before the court. Both cases concern sedition charges.

A Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit had issued notice in the Wangkemcha case. The Aamoda petition is before a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

A petition by senior journalist Arun Shourie and NGO Common Cause, both represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, has argued that Section 124A does not even possess a “presumption of constitutionality”.

The CJI’s Bench said all these petitions posed “similar questions of law”. The very fact that the court wants an answer from the Government shows that it senses a problem worthy of judicial intervention.

The CJI’s oral remarks in July have also opened the floor for debate and introspection on the court’s own judgment in 1962, in the Kedar Nath case, which upheld Section 124A.

Stale laws

The CJI had asked the Government why it did not throw out sedition law along with the hundreds of “stale laws” it had expunged from the statute books.

“If you look at the history of use of this Section 124A of IPC, you will find that the conviction rate is very low. There is misuse of power by executive agencies… Your Government is taking out a lot of stale laws from the law books, why have they not looked into this,” the Chief Justice asked.

Booster dose can wait, says top ICMR scientist

Current focus is to cover at least 80% of eligible adult population which is vital, says Samiran Panda

The need for a booster or additional COVID-19 vaccine dose or reduction in time gap between two doses of the available vaccines are being examined, Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said on Sunday adding that an alarmist intervention does not help.

“Vaccines are not known to prevent COVID-19 but reduces the severity. We have to understand this. Currently, the focus is to ensure at least 80% coverage in eligible adult population which is vital,” he said.

To a question on boosters for frontline workers who were among the first section of the population to be vaccinated, Dr. Panda said: “There is currently no strong evidence that those who have been vaccinated will not get the virus. Also many have been vaccinated and have got the infection later. The protection that this combination [getting infected and getting vaccinated] offers is also a matter of study.’’

There is no immediate recommendation to introduce booster or additional dose or to reduce the gap between vaccine dose, Dr. Panda said. He said from a public health point of view also more coverage is what India is looking at.

“Vaccination, use of masks and avoiding mass gathering is key. Now with Omicron also in the country, we still don’t know how the virus is going to shape up. We don’t know its effect on the elderly,” he said.

Ramped-up inoculation

India’s vaccination started on January 16 with the new phase of universalisation of vaccination commencing from June 21. “The vaccination drive has been ramped up through availability of more vaccines, advance visibility of vaccine availability to States for enabling better planning by them and streamlining the supply chain,’’ noted the Health Ministry.

It said as part of the nationwide drive, the Central Government has been supporting the States by providing them vaccines free of cost.

In the new phase of the universalisation, the Government will procure and supply (free of cost) 75% of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country to States. More than 140 crore (1,40,20,73,270) vaccine doses have been provided to States so far through the Government’s (free of cost channel) and through direct state procurement category.

Aliya Rama Raya, a patron of art and literature

The News Editorial Analysis 13th Dec 2021

Rama Raja of the Aravidu family, also known as the Narapati dynasty, married Tirumalamba, the eldest daughter of Krishna Deva Raya (r. 1509–1529) of the Vijayanagara Empire, and hence, he came to be called as Aliya Rama Raya; for, aliya in Kannada means son-in-law. Rama Raja came to the limelight when he was in the service of Quli Qutbul-Mulk, the founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golkonda. Rama Raja brought some of the Vijayanagara territories into the fold of the Golkonda Kingdom and so, as a reward, the Shah had allotted a portion of the region to Rama Raja. Historian P Sree Rama Sharma had mentioned that he ruled the jagir of Mast-Sonti, though I have not been able to trace its present location. Three years later, Rama Raja was defeated by the Bijapur army and hence, was terminated from the service of Golkonda. Later, he became a loyal subordinate of his father-in-law. Rama Raja’s younger brother, Tirumala Raya, who became the first king of the Vijayanagara Empire from the Aravidu dynasty, married Vengalamba, the second daughter of Krishna Deva Raya.

A copper-plate grant of Tirumala Raya (r. 1565–72) says that Krishna Raya had reinstalled the moola-murti (chief sacred image) of God Krishna in a temple at Holalkere in what is now Chitradurga district, Karnataka. The image was earlier concealed in the earth when the Delhi Sultan’s army had invaded the region. After the restoration, according to the grant, Aliya Rama Raja had constructed a mantapa (pillared pavilion) in the temple. Incidentally, the sacred image in the sanctum sanctorum is in the typical Hoysala style of carving of the earlier period, whereas the pillared hall in front of the temple reflects all the characteristic features of Vijayanagara architecture and sculpture. The pillars contain many panels that show various divinities including Rama, Siva, Hanuman, Padma Nidhi, Sankha Nidhi and so on. A pair of panels on two adjacent pillars show two individuals, a male and a female, facing each other and clad in the typical Vijayanagara royal dress. Since the pavilion was built by Aliya Rama Raja, in my opinion, the two figures might indeed be that of him and his wife, Tirumalamba.

Many Vijayanagara kings of the Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu dynasties had patronised poets and also built notable edifices in and around the capital and elsewhere in the vast empire. Aliya Rama Raja’s wife, Tirumalamba, also known as Mohanangi, wrote the Mareechi Parinayamu, a long poem in Telugu, though only parts of the work were published. Her father, Krishna Raya, is still remembered as a great patron of the Astha-diggajas, the eight earth-bearing elephant-like poets. Following the same tradition, Aliya Rama Raja had also patronised many poets, including Bhattu Murti, who became famous by name Rama Raja Bhushanudu, after his patron. He wrote the Kaavya-alankaara Sangrahamu and dedicated it to Rama Raja’s nephew, Narasa Raja, who was the chief of Peddamudiyam, an ancient historic village in what is now Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh. Later, the poet wrote a long poem in Telugu, the Vasu Charitra, and dedicated it to Tirumala Raya. 

The Rama-raajiyamu or Narapati-vijayamu (c. 1560), a poem in Telugu by Andugula Venkayya, was written at the behest of Aliya Rama Raja.The poem narrates the ancestral history of Rama Raja, starting from (God) Narayana. The earliest known historical ancestor of Rama Raja was Bijjala II (r. 1130–67), the king of Kalyana (Basavakalyan) in Bidar district, Karnataka. It seems likely that Rama Raya’s desire to gain control over his ancestral hometown, Kalyana, had brought forth his fatal end. 

The Sultans of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Bidar and Golkonda of the Deccan were fighting among themselves to gain control over Kalyana, most likely because of its past historical importance. In 1562–63, Hussain Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar had offered to give his daughter, Bibi Jamali, in marriage to Ibrahim Qutb Shah of Golkonda. It was agreed by both that the marriage should be held at Kalyana, which was then under the control of Adil Shah of Bijapur, who took it earlier from the Sultan of Bidar. There were a series of battles, and eventually, in c. 1564, the four Sultans of Deccan joined hands and fought against the Vijayanagara army led by Rama Raya. On 23 January 1565, Rama Raya was beheaded in the battle of Talikota, which is about 85 kilometres from Bijapur, Karnataka. A double-page painting of the Tarif-i Husain Shahi of Aftabi shows the battle and the beheading of Rama Raya. The head of Rama Raya in stone, in the Bijapur Museum, contains all the characteristic features of the way he was viewed by his enemies.


The News Editorial Analysis 12th Dec 2021

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