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NJAC has component of hit and trial experiment, says Central government

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) for appointments to higher judiciary had a component of a “hit and trial” experiment for finding the best people for the posts.

Contending that there was an element of uncertainty in every new experiment, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the constitution bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel that similarly there was “hit and trial” component in the NJAC.

Urging the court that the NJAC should be given a chance to have its run before being subjected to any critical evaluation, Rohatgi said “God knows” what would eventually emerge from it in terms of selection of judges.

But the court was not convinced.

“Only problem is that we can’t leave it to God. It is not a hit and trial business,” the court told Rohatgi reminding him that it was too serious an issue to be left to “hit and trial” or “God”.

At this, Rohatgi said: “If there could be hit and trial for democracy, hit and trial for secularism, hit and trial for federalism, then why not judiciary. Hit and trial is a part of democracy.”

Attacking the collegium system of appointment as being devoid of “transparency, rules and guidelines and something happening in a closed room away from sunlight”, he however said the blame for the system’s failure lay at the doorsteps of the government, but sought to know if this still prevented the parliament from putting in place a “broad-based, healthier, transparent” NJAC.

At this, the court asked him to give it the names of the people who were “good” and were recommended for appointment to higher judiciary by the government but were not accepted by the collegium.

“Show us one incident, where there was a good material (name recommended). You (government) projected that material and sent it to collegium and it was returned,” it said.

Justice Kurian once again asked Rohatgi to furnish the list of the people recommended by the collegium for appointment but returned by the government for reconsideration and the collegium again reiterated the names.

Its query came while addressing the contention that under the collegium system – also known as judges appointing judges – the government has no voice and there was give and take amongst the judges involving “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours” in a closed room without sunlight.

Referring to an instance where after receiving a positive report on the credentials of a person recommended for appointment as judge by the collegium, the government sought another report from the Intelligence Bureau, the court asked: “What is the question or the occasion (for the government) to ask for the second opinion (of the IB)… we want to know the working of the system.”

“It is a question of the working of a system,” the court told the Attorney General as he reiterated his submission that “once a new system (for judges’ appointment) comes, it is not in the provinces of the judiciary to decide on its validity on the basis of comparison with other models (collegium system)”.

The court is hearing a batch of petitions including one by the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) along with the Bar Association of India, NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation and others challenging the constitutional validity of the constitution’s Ninety Nine Amendment Act, 2014 and NJAC Act, 2014.

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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India
Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

India
The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)