Premium - Gist of The Hindu: August 2013
JUDGES HAVE TO WATCH THEIR SCORECARD
The Indian Supreme Court is an extraordinarily powerful
institution in the world. It can make and unmake laws; it can keep the executive
accountable, and seek to ensure the autonomy of institutions. It can rewrite the
Constitution the way it wants, through its creative interpretation yet remain
largely unaccountable for its omissions and commissions. Its collegium has the
responsibility to choose judges to fill its own vacancies, but it sees little
merit in adopting an open and transparent process while exercising it.
As a result, very little is known about the merits of a
judge, before he or she is appointed to the Supreme Court, unless there are
serious allegations damaging to the judge’s integrity. There is a vast pool of
post-retirement jobs that awaits a retiring judge from the Supreme Court, in the
form of membership of statutory tribunals and commissions, yet there is no
mechanism to evaluate the suitability of former judges to these bodies.
The Government’s proposal to nominate the former judge of
the Supreme Court, Justice Cyriac Joseph, to the National Human Rights
Commission (NHRC), has brought into focus the issue of performance-
valuation of a judge.
While the members representing the Government on the NHRC
selection committee appear to have favoured his nomination, the two members
belonging to the Opposition, Ms Sushma Swaraj and Mr. Arun Jaitley, have
submitted dissenting notes pointing to an adverse report of an intelligence
agency about the unsuitability of the proposed nominee on the basis of his
tenure at the Supreme Court.
IS THE NEW TB DRUG ALREADY BEING MISUSED?
Bedaquiline was the first TB drug to be discovered in
more than 40 years, and the first one specifically for multi-drug resistant
TB (MDR-TB). MDR-TB arises when the M. tuberculosi s bacteria become
resistant to two commonly used first-line TB drugs — isonazid and rifampicin.
But less than six months after FDA approved the drug
under its accelerated approval programme, is the drug a potential candidate
for misuse by doctors in India? Will it in any way result in patients
developing drug resistance?
It is too early to say this with any certainty, but the
system in India appears to have the perfect conditions to make this
possible. The drug is yet to be approved for use in India, and WHO and India
have not yet drawn up guidelines to help doctors treat MDR-TB patients with
- But some private doctors here have already started prescribing this drug
to their patients by importing it.
- Though the Drug Controller General of India is responsible for issuing
permits for import, it cannot deny permits to doctors if it is to treat
Already, the prevalence of MDR-TB among new patients is
2-3 per cent. In the case of previously treated patients, the prevalence is
11-17 per cent. Incidence (number of cases detected in a year) of MDR- B is
about 99,000. But these are not a true reflection of MDR-TB
incidence/prevalence — MDR-TB patients approaching private doctors are not
“Of this, only a fraction of patients was diagnosed till
2011. From 2012 onwards it started improving,” she says. Between 2,000 and 3,000
MDRTB patients were put on treatment in 2011. In 2012, around 20,000 MDR-TB
patients were put on treatment.
AT WTO, A DEFENDER OF THE SOUTH
The World Trade Organization (WTO) received a new leader,
Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil. The election of Azevêdo is significant not because he
is the first person from the Global South to lead the WTO — that honour goes to
Thailand’s Supachai Panitchpakdi, who ran it from 2002 to 2005. But unlike
Supachai, Azevêdo comes with the backing of significant new blocs of the Global
South, notably the BRICS grouping which put its heft behind his candidacy. This
is the first time that a candidate of the Global South won against someone
backed by the European Union, which in this instance had put its support behind
Mexico’s former Trade Minister Herminio Blanco. The BRICS bloc was able to
secure sufficient investment in Azevêdo, Brazil’s representative to the WTO
Azevêdo is a veteran of Brazil’s Itamaraty, its foreign
ministry. A career diplomat, he spent the most mature part of his working life
at the WTO where he earned a reputation as being a defender of the Global South
against the North’s very focused attempt to use the WTO as an instrument of its
interests. France’s Pascal Lamy led the WTO into the doldrums, as the Doha
Development Agenda stalled because of Northern obduracy on its agricultural
subsidy regime and Southern reticence to adopt the strict intellectual property
framework favoured by the North. No wonder that Azevêdo said last week that the
WTO is a “sick patient.”
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said that Azevêdo would
work to create a “more dynamic and fair” world economic order. Azevêdo has
pledged to work for all countries, but he also said that “members in general are
more trusting of a system where they think they can be represented at the top,
in terms of geography and level of development.” In the halls of the WTO,
Azevêdo is known as a fair-minded person who has indeed played a very positive
role to defend the rights of the South against the heavy-handed positions taken
by the North. Multilateralism, he says, is in his DNA. If the backing of the
BRICS continues, and if Azevêdo is able to move in a multilateral way, a
positive agenda might finally emerge from the WTO.