Current Public Administration Magazine (DECEMBER 2018)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1. Accountability and Control

The Panacea That Isn’t IT

The CBI’s image has taken a severe battering. The inglorious public washing of dirty linen by the CBI top brass has not only dented its reputation but also eroded the public faith in our premier investigating agency. But though its aura may have dimmed, the CBI’s professionalism should see it weather this crisis and regain credibility. At this critical juncture, it is crucial that the governing class avoids knee-jerk reactions that could irretrievably damage an organisation that has, despite misadventures, been reasonably effective in its ordained task of combating corruption and malfeasance in high places. The CBI, as structured today, has served the nation well over the decades. But it is now evident that the days of the CBI as we know it are numbered. The present imbroglio has already spurred the Supreme Court to fast-track the setting up of the Lokpal.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

The Court’s Voice

It is not often that India hears the Attorney General (AG) speak outside the courtroom, although he (there has been no woman AG so far) has the constitutional right to address Parliament. It is, therefore, refreshing to listen to what he said at the Second J Dadachanji Memorial Debate and that too on a recent decision of the Supreme Court in the Sabarimala case, a case subject to explosive protests by the devotees and activists, two major political parties, and now scheduled for review.

The AG articulates alarm at the invocation of the concept of constitutional morality and expresses a hope that it “dies with its birth”. The observation that “if (the court) still persists with it… Pandit Nehru’s belief that it would result in the Supreme Court of India becoming the third chamber will come true” (IE, December 10) should cause concern to us all.

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3. Indian Administration

Democracy’s Demons

The extent of polarisation under democratic governments across the world seems extreme. Look at the US, Brazil, many parts of Europe and Asia and the same holds true. In fact, authoritarian regimes can justifiably claim to house less internal polarisation than democracies. Why is this so? Is there something in the nature of democracies that leads to a polarisation of the populace? Have the recent developments in technology and social media accentuated such tendencies?

If we go back in time, thinkers and politicians alike asserted the complexities in making a democracy work. Winston Churchill had famously remarked that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all others tried from time to time”. He went on to add, though, “that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”. Much before him, Aristotle, had averred that “democracies degenerate into despotism”. Many politicians and thinkers, including John Kennedy, said that a well-functioning democracy puts high expectations on the average voter to engage and participate.

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4. Ethics and Administration

Lessons Bigotry

The Supreme Court of India in P N Kumar (1987) paid rich tributes to our high courts. It observed: “Our High Courts are High Courts. Each High Court has its own high traditions. They have judges of eminence who have initiative, necessary skills and enthusiasm.” By 2010, the apex court itself changed its position: In Raja Khan, it said: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, said Shakespeare in Hamlet, and it can similarly be said that something is rotten in the Allahabad High Court.” The 37-page judgment of Justice S R Sen of th Meghalaya High Court, and the clarification issued by him on December 14, have not enhanced the reputation of our high courts. Though, in the clarification, he does acknowledge secularism as part of the basic structure of the Constitution, he has not clarified his statement that India is a Hindu country or the exclusion of Muslims from the citizenship law he has proposed.

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5. Current Topic

In Good Faith : The Rights Side of 70

In his famous book, Man and the State, the French philosopher Jacques Maritain draws attention to the universal essence of human rights above ideologies. He says, “The recognition of a particular category of rights is not the privilege of one school of thought at the expense of the others; it is no more necessary to be a follower of Rousseau to recognise the rights of the individual man than it is to be a Marxist to recognise the economic and social rights.” At the time Maritain was writing these lines, he was deeply concerned with the political and philosophical situations of Europe and the world post World War II and during the Cold War. The practical challenge for a philosopher like Maritain was to formulate the means which could help people around the world to discuss their differences while respecting and assuring human dignity for everyone on the planet. Maritain was right to underline that a dignified life was based on the establishment of the basic needs and rights of every individual independent of his or her race, language, culture, religion or nationality. The core idea of this optimistic philosophy — that states and peoples can discuss practical issues and arrive at mutual agreements despite ideological differences — probably had an effect on René Cassin, the French legal scholar, who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in drafting the final version
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

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