Right to Privacy – Now Public!

Alan Westin who defined privacy as “the claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others” explained that “just as a social balance favoring disclosure and surveillance over privacy is a functional necessity for totalitarian systems, so a balance that ensures strong citadels of individual and group privacy and limits both disclosure and surveillance is a prerequisite for liberal democratic societies. The democratic society relies on publicity as a control over government, and on privacy as a shield for group and individual life.”

It was, therefore, surprising to have the former Attorney General assert that privacy is not a Fundamental Right. Privacy is a guarantee of due process providing an assurance that the government operates within the law and guarantees a fair procedure.

In fact whether the Constitution was read as a textualist would (Justice Scalia defined textulaism as an interpretation “guided by the text and not by intentions or ideals external to it, and by the original meaning of the text, not by its evolving meaning over time”) or whether it was construed as a Living Constitution that favours a broad not a conservative or mechanical approach “not condemning civilized society to remain under the regimen of its barbarous ancestors” the conclusion is inescapable that privacy is in fact guaranteed by the Constitution.

Privacy can be best understood by identifying an “intruder”. N A Moreham,Senior Lecturer in Law, Victoria University of Wellington in a scholarly article on privacy quoted Stanley Ben who described an intruder as one who “fails to show a proper respect for persons; he is treating people as objects or specimens — like “dirt” — and not as subjects with sensibilities, ends, and aspirations of their own, morally responsible for their own decisions, and capable, as mere specimens are not, of reciprocal relations with the observer. These resentments suggest a possible ground for a prima facie claim not to be watched, at any rate in the same manner as one watches a thing or an animal. For this is to “take liberties”, to act impudently, to show less than a proper regard for human dignity.”

Denial of privacy thus robs one of dignity. But the right to live with dignity has been held to be a core constitutional value by our Supreme Court and guaranteed by Article 21. And as privacy is an assurance of dignity the guarantee of privacy cannot but be implicit in the Constitution.

Even otherwise as Edward Bloustein says: “The man who is compelled to live every minute of his life among others and whose every need, thought, desire, fancy or gratification is subject to public scrutiny, has been deprived of his individuality …. Such an individual merges with the mass. His opinions, being public, tend never to be different; his aspirations, being known, tend always to be conventionally accepted ones” Visibility itself provides a powerful method of enforcing norms and as Westin tellingly puts it “naked to ridicule and shame they will be put in control of those who know their secrets.” As Moreham said freedom of expression – again guaranteed by the Constitution – would lose much of its value if people do not have the chance to learn to think for themselves and have anything unique, creative and controversial to express. Similarly freedom of action and belief – also guaranteed by the Constitution – will be lost where one is kept under the spotlight and on the stage in perpetuity robbing life of its spontaneity sparkle and exuberance, pillaging imagination of its resourcefulness, curbing individual genius and even idiosyncrasies, and enforcing conformity.

The right to privacy though unspecified is yet clearly reflected in the language of the Constitution and the existing state of law also clearly showed that the society believed that such a right existed. Merely being alive and alert to this fact even without being activist was sufficient to acknowledge the same.

The utter incongruity of the exercise of constituting a Bench of Nine Judges to decide if Privacy was a Fundamental Right at the instance of the Government which denied the proposition is apparent in the wholehearted endorsement of the decision as a vindication of its stance. What then was the need to rely upon the judgments on M.P.Sharma and Kharak Singh to insist that larger benches of the Supreme Court had held privacy not to be Fundamental Right, insisting that the framers of the Constitution had expressly excluded the right from the list of Fundamental Rights and asserting that the right was merely a common law right – an argument of the Attorney General which sat rather uncomfortably with that of the Additional Solicitor General that the right was recognized in different statutes? It could have been conceded that Sharma and Kharak Singh did not lay down the law correctly, that on a contemporaneous not historical exposition of law the want of explicit inclusion of privacy as a Fundamental Right could not be considered decisive and that a common law right was elevated to the status of a Fundamental Right and clearly emerged from the guarantee of Article 21 and other facets of freedom guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

Split verdicts often create doubts about verdicts and are open to criticism of policy and expediency trumping law. The Supreme Court spoke in one voice in recognizing the right to privacy. The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court is a momentous moment in India’s legal history decisively showing that existence of the right to privacy as an undisputed reality and vindicating India’s position as a confident, mature and vibrant liberal democratic state.

Media,Law & the case of Roys

The editorial “The Morning Knock”  in The Indian Express (June 7, 2017) on the CBI raid NDTV founders Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy was disappointing. The newspaper failed to make a fair assessment. The editorial raises the issue of media-transparency – the “why” behind the editorial – and the need for accountability on the part of the media itself.

The editorial, correctly stated that the “media house is not expected to be above the law” but proceeded to invoke the epithet “caged parrot” for the CBI and draw upon the “relics of a dark time to which no one wishes to return”. The illustrations given would have been justified if the facts of the case in question showed that the raid was unwarranted. The newspaper, however, chose not to commit to this position yet suggested the possibility of raid being of questionable intent! Any search for information which confirms one’s preconceptions is nothing but cherry picking – using information which confirms one point of view while ignoring all data which can contradict it. And having itself acknowledged that “ownership of most media today is defined by vertiginous web of cross-holdings involving corporates and entities for whom media is not primary business” the newspaper would have done to maintain the difference between the interest of the media from the commercial interests of the media owners which it chose not to do.

The editorial raised what it called “disquieting questions”. The CBI, it said, stepped in seven years “after the event”! “Event” is a value neutral description and is inapposite considering the subject of the editorial. It is interesting to note the absence of any word (criminal?) modifying the noun “event” and attributing to it any quality  (crime?) as to justify initiation of an investigation. If it was an “event” seven years is a long period of time for it to be worthy of interest or attention but if the event was a “crime” the passage of seven years is irrelevant and the more disquieting issue is its being hidden for the period.

The editorial next regrets that “there is no original investigation”. Investigation, however, follows and does not precede registration of information concerning commission of an offence. And if “original investigation” is the key how can the newspaper without even touching the facts of the case leave aside investigating the same call the initiation of the process “disquieting”?

ICICI, the editorial says, has not complained and the loss is described as a “private loss” to be decided by the “law of torts” with which the government is not expected to “weigh in”. Firstly, the concept of locus standi is alien to criminal law and anyone can put the criminal law into motion unless contra-indicated by the statute. Secondly even private banks perform public duties and their officials can be prosecuted for corruption or otherwise abusing their authority. Thirdly, even torts can be simultaneously be criminal wrongs and there is no bar to proceed under the latter. In fact as banks have the power to create money, shape economy and manipulate investments the need for accountability and control is higher in “events” involving banks which consequently cannot be called “private wrongs” to individual victims (to which law of torts applies) but “public wrongs” which need to be prosecuted on behalf of the society and placed clearly in the realm of criminal law.

The editorial contradicts itself by saying, “disputes concerning defaults bigger by order of magnitude are being heard by courts and the government has made no attempt to short circuit the process by letting the CBI loose.” The grievance thus shifts from an “event” to a “private wrong” to eventually a wrong which many others have also committed a plaintive attempt following this change in perception at seeking parity in illegality and perpetuation of criminal order – something which does not behove a newspaper which proudly proclaims “journalism of courage”. The newspaper should be more concerned about those left out rather than those reined in. Besides how can the newspaper complain simultaneously about “letting CBI loose” AND its being a “caged parrot”? Did the newspaper want the CBI to be caged in rather than being free to investigate the wrong. Does this not entail conviction being replaced by preferences and position on principles shifting with the personalities involved creating the very crisis of credibility for the newspaper which it apprehends is being faced by the CBI? Besides “disputes” of “bigger defaults” are weasel words stripped of specifics which can be manipulated according to one’s biases and written without threat of contradiction with no means of knowing which disputes and defaults the editorial had in mind to test whether its opinion was in fact correct.

Any tampering of information by the government is wrong. However a correct portrayal of it by the media is as equally mandated. And both need to be wary of giving it a spin manipulate opinion rather than inform it and allow it to reach its own conclusions about the issues which confront it. The case of the Roys is a test not only of the “commitment” of the CBI to investigate fairly as the editorial rightly opines but its reporting by the media is equally a test of its commitment to transparency and reliability of information purveyed by it.

Raas Leela comment & Bhushan Buffoonery!

A fool’s brain, said George Bernard Shaw, digests philosophy into folly! Prashant Bhushan’s buffoonery in calling Lord Krishna an “eve teaser” proves Bernard Shaw right. Forget knowledge of religion or philosophy (which he demonstrably lacks) this man seems to be unfamiliar with elementary English and the utter shamelessness with which he yet comments (on topics he does not know and in a language whose nuances he is yet to grasp) makes him the perfect illustration of the idiom – Fools rush where angels fear to tread! The “clarification” of his original tweet proves this point too. It is a different matter that the clarifications make things worse!

But it is not mere foolishness of Bhushan which troubles me. I feel he is suffering from a psychiatric disorder. He used the words “legendary eve teaser” for Lord Krishna. God is no fable or fiction to be described as “legendary”. Besides eve teasing is defined as the act of annoying a woman in a public place for example by making sexual comments. but Raas leela takes place in a metaphysical plane. Thus anyone who suggests that Lord Krishna “annoyed women through sexual comments” suffers from cognitive distortion – an irrational thought pattern which makes one perceive reality inaccurately. This is generally the result of depression and anxiety and the fact that Kashmir is still part of India may be the reason for the same for him.

I am sure Prashant Bhushan is not mad. However in the spectrum of human behaviour he does lean towards the abnormal. And while Bhushan must surely be having a brain, it is health of the mind which is the issue. I have been informed a criminal complaint has been filed against him. Criminal charges, however, may never stick – not because there was no crime but for want of intent, it being easy to show Bhushan is non compos mentis – without a sound mind!

Raas Leela is transcendental that is in the spiritual plane. It has no carnal aspect. It symbolises union of jeev (male AND female) in God. God in Hinduism is not a man but energy. And the physical reality (including gender) a mere illusion. Gender thus is irrelevant  to Raas Leela (Gopis are but ALL devotees) and it signifies nothing except immersing of the soul – Atma- into the metaphysical reality – Brahman! Lord Krishna was not male lover like Romeo nor Gopis female like Juliet! No one can emulate the Raas, just imbibe the idea.

But Bhushan wants “Anti Krishna squads.” This means he wants to reinforce gender, emphasise physical attachments, accentuate carnal desires and move AWAY from the spiritual plane into the physical plane and indulge in orgies of free love (which I presume he understands only as sex.) This aspect of his depravity I was completely ignorant of! This is re-enforced by the lament expressed in a later tweet where he frets anti romeo squads “would criminalise teasing gopis!”- He, thus, WANTS to tease gopis!! And then see his desperation – so frantic is he that teasing should be allowed he invokes GOD to justify it and protests the organising of Romeo Brigades because he feels that this would make Lord Krishna look like an eve teaser!!!

Indulge in your fantasies Mr Bhushan. Dont take to Twitter next time to make them public.

Salman Khan & Pakistani artistes…

“Ideal situation should have been of peace. But now reaction to an action has happened. It was a proper action because they were terrorists. But in this day and age I think if we lived in peace and harmony it would have been better for everyone especially for the common people.” Thus spoke Salman Khan protesting banning of Pakistani artistes.

For Salman Khan the Uri attack and killing of 19 Indians was merely “an action” – a physical fact to which one can be indifferent and which can carry not attribute of right or wrong!  This is a flawed premise which cannot but doom the conclusion which follows.

India, according to him, did not respond (that is did not act in a thoughtful or reasoned manner) but “reacted” that is acted thoughtlessly and impulsively to the action which brings both countries at par with nothing to distinguish between them. India responded not reacted as it moved mindfully against specified targets to prevent infiltration into the country which Pakistan has no right to permit.

I presume what he called “proper action” actually implied “proper reaction” unless he feels that terrorist infiltration into India is proper with which point of view I cannot have a reasoned discourse. If however the reaction was “proper” then he cannot simultaneously rue the want of “peace and harmony” because a proper reaction is a restore a disturbed equilibrium and impose restraint to curb injuries of excess.

Peace and harmony can be an end in itself only if the intention is shared. It is always the preferred state of existence but in an interactive environment that goal can be achieved only when actions are conducive towards that end. The Pakistani track-record (to which Salman Khan does not allude) needs to take the blame for want of peace and harmony. Pakistan has to be condemned for Pakistani artistes losing work in India. Have any of the Pakistani artistes spoken? If they are not affected whose case is Salman Khan espousing?

Pakistani artistes may not be terrorists but who amongst them have called the terrorists terrorists? And will these artistes not endorse the official Pakistani line both on Kashmir and terrorism on which Pakistan justifies the repeated disturbances in India? How can Pakistan be defeated unless the mindset which drives Pakistan be vanquished? And how can that mindset be vanquished without quelling those who endorse it overtly or covertly? This is not a question of mere politics but survival of India as India and art cannot be the Trojan Horse for India’s defeat in its battle for existence. India wants its position to be accepted as that acceptance gives India the justification to resist Pakistan. If we host those who are not aligned with India’s interests how can we isolate those hostile to it and prove the seriousness of our intent to do it?

Salman Khan may feel sorry for Pakistani artistes friends. But he should also wonder whether his friends feel sorry India.

COURT, CONSTITUTION,CHAAL-CHALAN & ARUNACHAL

“Status quo ante as on 15.12.2015” was the order passed by the Supreme Court in the Arunachal Pradesh case.

Tuki should have been the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

But Tuki resigned.

Pema Khandu instead shall be the Chief Minister.

Pema Khandu however was sought to be disqualified by the Speaker who was acting in tandem with the Chief Minister Tuki and this was the reason for the Governor to pass his Order of 9.12.2015  which was set aside by the Supreme Court to order status quo. But Khandu not Tuki will take oath as the Chief Minister.

The Supreme Court said the Governor was wrong. But the Supreme Court also said that the Speaker was wrong. So Pema Khandu could not be disqualified. But if Pema Khandu could not be disqualified how could the Governor’s Order against the disqualifying be wrong? And if the Governor’s Order was wrong and the Speaker was right Khandu could not become the Chief Minister!

The Supreme Court felt Governor could not have exercised discretionary powers outside constitutional sanction. However Tuki admittedly (as Khandu’s becoming Chief Minister itself shows) did not enjoy support of the support majority in the Legislative Assembly. It was for this reason that the Speaker locked up the Legislative Assembly itself and did not earlier respond to any communication from the Governor aside from combining with Tuki to threaten the Governor at his residence.  How is the foisting of Tuki who lost confidence of the Assembly which could not be demonstrated in the Assembly because the Assembly itself was locked aside from resorting to extraconstitutional means against a high constitutional functionary constitutionally sanctioned?

Did the Governor act at his whim (which is not constitutionally sanctioned) or “under the Constitution” which is? If those (the Chief Minister and Speaker) who have to comply (by responding to messages of the Governor and holding the Assembly Session as mandated aside from taking law into their own hands) choose to defy is the Constitution is the Governor supposed to acquiesce in the illegality and gross impropriety and not enjoined to act correct a wrong which would otherwise be un-redressed?

Kalikho Phul was the Chief Minister replaced by the Supreme Court and Tuki placed in the saddle. Phul supports Khandu not Tuki and with is support Khandu not Tuki is the Chief Minster and Khandu himself had supported Phul when the latter was Chief Minister. Phul too was sought to be disqualified by the Speaker which was the reason why the Governor passed the Order and sent the Message both of which were set aside by the Supreme Court.

Now both Khandu and Phul are part of the ruling dispensation and Tuki is out abandoning new allies and invoking the old ones.

Is this the case of politics stumping both law and values and has the “whim” of the Governor been vindicated not the “reasoned order” of the Supreme Court?

THE SKILL INDIA AD – A POSER

The SKILL INDIA advertisement featuring Sachin Tendulkar credits skill at the expense of dignity.

One sees Sachin sit on a chair while the carpenter sits on the floor as they talk and have tea. Why could both not be shown sitting on a chair and talking?

Apart from skill, personhood carries value too. Why hold anyone down whether skilled or not?

A patronising attitude carries an arrogance of superiority  which shifts attention to the symbolic generosity of a patron from the worth of the patronised and re-enforces the very inequality which it pretends to redress.

And if an ascribed status will continue despite achievement, as the advertisement suggests, what merit will inculcation of skill attain?

The advertisement presents status as an entrenched power and fails to present skill as being versatile.

Skill is meant to be assertive and itinerant unlike status which is inhibitive and immobile. The advertisement focusses on the status of the carpenter not his skill.

Skill is dynamic unlike status which is sterile and moribund. Yet it is precisely that which the last shot of the advertisement displays.

Skill has to be achieved but any effort in this direction will be futile unless there is a corresponding correction in attitude.

It is the right attitude (Tendulkar making the other sit on the chair) alone which can facilitate social mobility (symbolised in the carpenter also so sitting) to improve our cultural capital (recognition of the innate worth of a human being aside from skill trumping status) and unravel the social stratification which the advertisement puts on display.

 

Of Queen’s Counsels &”Seniors”

I feel there should be no Senior Advocates only advocates.

Endowment not habiliment is the test of a lawyer. He should be recognised by his performance not his robes and his identity should lie in his work not attire. The gown does not make a lawyer. An incompetent lawyer will only disgrace it while the competent should not need it.

As long as the system remains it is liable to be exploited. A lawyer who is not designated can be run down as being incapable and be unjustifiably compared unfavourably with another who is designated aside from being denied priority in appearance in court despite superior capacity while the incapable can perpetually hide their incapacity in their robes and get undeserved preference when in fact they should be denied an audience altogether.

There is a hike in fees immediately upon designation despite want of any improvement in the quality of work. A non-designated lawyer has to explain (often without success) even a warranted increase in his charges. This not only shoots the cost of litigation up without any corresponding improvement in the quality of practise but adversely affects the quality itself as more effort is placed on the race for designation through networking rather than working.

Preference is often shown to senior advocates in courts and in some it becomes the very condition for practise. Aside from being anti-merit this is also anti-democratic as it not only stifles potential it entrenches established interests.

It is a little known fact that Francis Bacon was the first person to be so appointed and that too for reasons having nothing to do with his undisputed versatility. Till his appointment the Attorney General, Solicitor General and King’s Sergeants were Kings Counsel in Ordinary. Queen Elizabeth appointed Francis Bacon Queen’s Counsel Extraordinary. The reason for this extraordinary honour was only political and intended to prevent him from acting against the Crown. The appointment as Kings Counsel therefore had nothing to do with the admitted capabilities of Bacon – a trend which continues till today.

Distinction never needs any dressing up. It is self-evident.

Merit is always humble. It makes a place for itself without having to be ushered in.

Ability requires no badge of honour. It attracts attention without a formal proclamation.

And true recognition lies not in formal acknowledgment but in voluntary appreciation.

So where do we fit designation of Senior Advocates?