Current Public Administration Magazine (SEPTEMBER 2018)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1.  Accountability and Control

Out of my mind: The Sole Reformer

Every week from Tuesday to Saturday, newspaper headlines are dominated by decisions of the Supreme Court. The pace and scale of its activities are more hectic than any time in the decades since Independence. Just this year, same-sex relationships have been decriminalised. Adultery is no longer a crime. Gender-based restrictions have been removed for temple entry (women catching up with Dalits). Sexual harassment, especially rape, is to be punished severely and by death penalty if the victim is a minor. Triple talaq is against the Constitution.
It is as if the only branch of government functioning to change society for better is the Judiciary. The Legislature at the Centre and state levels is frequently disrupted and barren of any new decisions. The Executive at the Centre, especially the Prime Minister, is consumed by electioneering and, after the torrent of activity in the first half of its tenure, is now bogged down in firefighting. Even in something as vital as triple talaq, despite the invitation of the Judiciary, the best the Executive has been able to do in face of a fractious Parliament is to resort to an ordinance.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

Know Thy Judge

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed as a judge of the US Supreme Court but the process allowed Christine Blasey Ford to publicly recount her trauma of sexual abuse in exercise of what she considered her “civic duty”. We are enriched in our understanding of the people who eventually hold high positions of authority. This is how a democracy functions.

India has no similar process for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court or any other court. We have what we call a “collegium” of the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court considering names primarily from among chief justices of the high courts and occasionally from the bar for appointment to the Supreme Court. The future chief justices of India will be chosen from a pool of judges in the high courts, who have today put in more than 14 years of service. Those who have or have had a relative in the judiciary have a better chance of making it compared to others. An aspiring law researcher with a little help from Google Analytics will be able to predict who will be the CJI of India in 2039.

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3. Indian Administration

More Teeth for NHRC

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Commission, which draws its mandate from the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993, has been mired in controversies since its formation. As the government seeks to introduce amendments to the Act in Parliament’s Winter Session, it is important to understand this piece of legislation in the context of its history. The Amendment Bill intends to strengthen human rights institutions in this country. But it falls short of this objective by some distance. Is the reform, then, merely an attempt to save the country’s reputation in international human rights fora?

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4. Governance

Innovation, not eminence is Key

Higher education in India is in need of reform. In fact, higher education across the globe is failing to keep up with the changing demands of an unpredictable world. For Indian higher education, the moment presents a rare opportunity — inspiring and daunting in equal parts — to forsake efforts at incremental improvement, and instead leapfrog its global counterparts with learning that can keep pace with the evolving balance between humans, machines and the environment.

Humans and machines have co-existed at the physical level for millennia, dating back to the invention of the potter’s wheel in ancient Mesopotamia. Now, humans and machines are coming together at a cognitive level. The boundaries between the two are getting blurred. Our progress over the centuries has been driven by the human desire to conquer the environment, but we may now have gone too far. Indeed, more people are living in the world today than have lived and died since the dawn of humanity until well into the 20th century.

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5. Current Topic

Defining Dignity

With decisions on Aadhaar, IPC 377, and the right to privacy, the Supreme Court (SC) has reaffirmed the centrality of human dignity to the Constitution. The concept was invoked 120 times in the privacy decision, and 128 times in Navtej Johar. Despite the enthusiasm of the courts, there is growing scepticism about the application of dignity.

The SC’s application of dignity perhaps reflects the commitment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The value of dignity, however, is contestable. The concept has been characterised as “culture-relative”, a “smokescreen” for the subjective preferences of judges, and famously by Schopenhauer, as “the shibboleth of all empty-headed moralists”. Dignity sceptics particularly highlight two grounds that deserve attention: The liberty restricting potential of dignity, and its indeterminacy.

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