Current Public Administration Magazine (NOVEMBER 2019)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1. Accountability and Control

Right to information

The relationship of the RTI with the judiciary has been fraught from the beginning. Since the RTI Act conferred powers on the chief justice of the Supreme Court of India and the chief justices of high courts of states for carrying out its provisions, all these courts framed their own rules. On November 13, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court passed its order in the Subhash Agarwal matter, bringing a closure to cases pending resolution for nearly 10 years. Has Subhash Agarwal got the information he had sought from the Supreme Court? Not yet. Will he get it soon? Not very likely, certainly not the entire information he wanted. The five-judge Supreme Court bench recently disposed of the civil appeals its own registry had filed before it. In the process, the bench, in a dissertation length order, has delved deep into the concepts of fiduciary relationship, public interest, privacy, confidentiality and independence of judiciary and, in conclusion, cast an onerous duty on its Central Public Information Officer to decide on disclosure of the information taking into account the observations of the court.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

Citizen Rights and Duties

The nation celebrated Constitution Day on November 26 to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution in 1949. Since 1979, this day was observed as National Law Day, and from 2015, it has being observed as Constitution Day. The traditions and temperament of Indian thought through the ages laid greater emphasis on duties. Swami Vivekananda even termed “devotion to duty” as the highest form of worship of God. The Constitution of India, originally, did not contain the aspect of fundamental duties for citizens. However, during discussions on the draft Constitution and fundamental rights therein, in the constituent assembly, few members had raised their voices in favour of citizens’ duties towards the nation. Prabhu Dayal Himatsingka, a member of the Constituent Assembly representing West Bengal during the discussion on the draft constitution on November 18, 1949, had said: “I wish along with fundamental rights there were certain fundamental duties also. If we think more of our duties than of our rights, a lot of our difficulties will be over and the rights will take care of themselves and there will be no occasion to feel any difficulty for want of those rights”.

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3. Significant Issues in Indian Administration

Viable Solutions to PDS

Migrants’ woes are often invoked in making a case for portability of benefits in the public distribution system (PDS). Most recently, an article (‘A hundred small steps’, IE, September 26) did just that. However, in many cases of short-term seasonal migration (a dominant form in India), only one or two of the household members migrate, leaving the ration card behind for the rest of the family to use. What proportion of migrants would prefer to draw their ration at the place of work rather than in their village is a key piece of the puzzle in understanding the extent to which portability of PDS benefits is valued by migrants. If the food security of migrants is the motivating concern, this need is probably better met by other initiatives such as Tamil Nadu’s Amma canteens or Karnataka’s Indira canteens, which provide heavily subsidised meals. Such community kitchens have quietly become popular across the country — Jharkhand’s dal-bhaat kendras, Delhi’s Jan Aahaar kiosks, and others in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh are such initiatives. Of course, protecting migrants from exploitation through stricter enforcement of their rights as labourers will go much further

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4. Administrative Ethics

Gandhian Ethics

November 17 marked the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution organised by the Czech Civic Forum and the Slovak public against one of the last Soviet-orbit regimes. The Velvet Revolution (sametová revoluce) was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia. The Czech and Polish experiences of democracy have shown that democratisation in Eastern Europe took place less within the framework of the existing state systems than at the level of civil societies. When the Czech and Polish dissidents of the 1980s were struggling against their communist authoritarian regimes, they returned to the concept of civil society. What Eastern European intellectuals and civic actors understood by civil society was not just the 18th century concept of the rule of law, but also the notion of horizontal self- organised groups and institutions in the public sphere that could limit the power of the state by constructing a democratic space separate from state and its ideological institutions.

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5. Current Topic

Ayodhya Ruling

India’s Supreme Court is acclaimed as the most powerful among its counterparts in the world. It has rewritten the Constitution of the country on several major issues. It has even become the third chamber of Parliament. Its verdict in the Ayodhya case must be evaluated in this light. The founding fathers of the Constitution gave us an enlightened, forward-looking basic law, which is not just a legal document but is aimed at bringing about socio- economic transformation in the country. Secularism is an important precept underlying the framework of fundamental rights. But, as in several other areas, there is a considerable divergence between the precept and the reality. Significantly, the Constituent Assembly failed to agree on the definition of the word “secular”. It also could not agree on calling the Constitution secular. It was only during the Emergency in 1976 that the word secular was introduced in the preamble to the Constitution by the highly controversial 42nd amendment. Secularism acquired a new status when the Supreme Court declared it as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Whenever the concept of secularism is under threat, this injunction of the Court is invoked.

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