Jet-Etihad Deal: When Pull Came to Tug

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What justifies the Indian Government’s move to raise its regulatory limit on flight seats to Abu Dhabi so radically?

Since India opened its civil aviation market to foreign investment last September, UAE-based Etihad’s purchase of a 24-per cent stake in Jet Airways for $379 million has been the biggest deal so far. Now, Jet is a debt-laden carrier, and with domestic aviation no longer booming, that sum sounds too generous. But then, Etihad may be betting on the partnership’s international prospects. As if to confirm this, the Indian Government has okayed a huge jump in seats on flights from India to Abu Dhabi, Etihad’s base and global hub from which passengers can reach other destinations. “The nature and timing of the latest India-Abu Dhabi bilateral amendment [raising to-and-fro seat limits] appears to have been designed to support the passage of this commercial transaction,” says Binit Somaia of the Sydney-based Centre for Aviation, a thinktank.

If the Jet-Etihad combine keeps its fares low (say, by using cheap UAE jetfuel), it could capture much of India’s West-bound traffic—perhaps at the cost of India’s state-owned Air India, which depends heavily on West-bound traffic. So what justifies the Government’s move in favour of Jet-Etihad?

Sharan Lillaney at Angel Broking argues that such bilateral favours are necessary to attract foreign investment in Indian aviation; also, it is not a zero-sum game and Indian carriers by themselves cannot meet the incremental demand for outbound travel. Somaia, however, wonders why Etihad was given such a deal sweetener only a few months after the Centre declared that no new entitlements would be extended unless Indian carriers had exhausted all available seats. What if similar demands are made by other foreign players? While India has done well to open its aviation market, Somaia says, “ad hoc and selective liberalisation in the absence of a transparent strategic plan known to all stakeholders creates market distortions”.

As it happens, aviation operates under arbitrary rules almost everywhere in the world. In this case, if the Jet-Etihad deal puts competitive pressure on others and pushes overall outbound fares down, Indian passengers would be pleased. Where that would leave Air India is a tough question. The carrier gets 70 per cent of its global revenues from its Gulf, Europe and North America routes, the ones under direct threat. Air India does offer direct flights to Western destinations, but Indian travellers aren’t averse to Gulf stopovers. “What can save Air India,” says Lillaney, is “a professional mindset” that lets it chart its own course. But tight State control makes it unwise to bet on this.

It Happens

How SHE Will Shock Rapists

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Society Harnessing Equipment is an anti-rape bra designed by a group of Chennai students

After the horrific Delhi rape case on 16 December, a group of students— Manisha Mohan, Rimpi Tripathi and Niladri Basu—of SRM University, Chennai, put their heads together to see if there was something they could do for women to protect themselves. And the answer they arrived at was rather unusual—an anti-rape undergarment.

“I was in Chandigarh at the time, and was deeply hurt by the news. When I came back to Chennai, I discussed this idea with Rimpi and Niladri and they agreed that we should do it,” says Manisha.

The undergarment, named Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE) is equipped with circuitry that delivers a strong electric shock to an attacker. Pressure sensors trigger the shock mechanism if the wearer is attacked, delivering an electric shock of about 3800kv. “We’ve calibrated the value of pressure of an unfriendly touch or an attack and the sensors will get activated only at a particular value,” says Rimpi, “The electric shock will immobilise the attacker for 10 minutes, allowing the woman to defend herself or escape.” The wearer can activate the device whenever she feels unsafe. A layer of insulation protects her from the shock. The garment is also equipped with a GPS and GSM module that, when the device is triggered, will immediately send messages to the closest police station as well as the woman’s loved ones, informing them of her location.

The technology caught public attention when the trio won the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award at IIM Ahmedabad in March. “It was a completely independent project,” says Rimpi, “We even funded it out of our own pockets.” They are still in the process of developing the technology to make it more accessible and user friendly. “When we entered it for the competition, it was still in its prototype phase,” says Manisha.

As for releasing the product commercially, the trio have their own business plan. “We were approached by lingerie companies,” says Niladri, “but we want to release the product ourselves. The moment it gets associated with a brand, its price will go up. That defeats the purpose of this technology. We want it to be affordable and available to every woman in this country and maybe even the world.”


BCCI Arm-twisting ICC

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Tim May had won the election 9-1 before a re-vote was called

The recent election of former Indian leg spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan as player’s representative on the ICC’s cricket committee smacks yet again of BCCI overreach. According to news reports, the incumbent Tim May—who has spoken frequently about how the BCCI exerts unfair influence on the ICC’s decision-making and how its stand against the Decision Review System (DRS) is harming world cricket—had won the election 9-1 before a re-vote was called. This time, he lost 4-6. The representative is elected by captains of the 10 Test cricket-playing nations.

Angus Porter, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association in England, was quoted in The Indian Express as saying, “The evidence shows that a number of captains were asked by their respective boards to change their votes.”

Apart from Sivaramakrishnan, the committee has two other Indians—Anil Kumble, who serves as its head, and Ravi Shastri in the capacity of a media representative. Sivaramakrishnan is also an employee of India Cements, whose managing director is BCCI president N Srinivasan.

This is not the first time that the BCCI has used its clout to have its way. Earlier this year, the board objected to the likely appointment of Haroon Lorgat as Cricket South Africa’s CEO, even threatening to pull out the Indian team’s South Africa tour. In his former tenure as CEO of the ICC, Lorgat upset the BCCI by trying to push DRS. Since his ouster, former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi has spoken of how the BCCI used its influence to get ICL outlawed.

In 2008, the BCCI got the ICC to replace umpire Steve Bucknor, who had delivered some controversial decisions during the 2007-08 Sydney Test between Australia and India, with Billy Bowden for the rest of the tour.

Open Space

Unsuitable Girls

In Kharkhoda, a town in Haryana, the Bagri sisters face an unusual dilemma. They are too well educated to get married.

The Bagris belong to a Scheduled Caste community in Haryana. Ruby, the eldest sister, is 29 and has an MA (in Hindi and Sanskrit) and a BEd degree. Rachna, 27, has a diploma in computers and has done a beautician’s course as well. And the youngest, 25-year-old Jyoti, has a BA degree, a BEd, and after pursuing an MA in Literature, is now pursuing an MA in Political Science. She also heads the primary section of a school in the town.

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It may not entirely be a sense of duty that is motivating CBI Director Ranjit Sinha

It may not entirely be a sense of duty that is motivating CBI Director Ranjit Sinha

arindam Thu, 2013-05-09 00:29
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Nothing Lush, Soft or Verdant

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Taiye Selasi’s first novel runs circles around the ‘African story’ you’re used to
Ghana Must Go | Taiye Selasi | Viking | 320 pages | Rs 499

Ghana Must Go poses an immediate challenge to those predisposed to groan at a glossary—not another attempt to translate a corner of the ‘Third World’ for the forum of the First. Behind every glossary lurks the Oldest Literary Argument In The Colonised World, about to rear its wizened head, asking, ‘Why is this book in English?’ It’s a tiring, circular argument, made even more tiring by its persistent relevance. And a glossary of exotic words is its surest omen.

But author Taiye Selasi’s glossary is a taunt, a bizarre assembly of cultural references, only glancingly decoded for the reader. It won’t help you navigate the exotic marketplace you might have expected to find in an ‘Africa book’. This is a fitting fake-out—both conforming to and subverting convention—from an author who just last year responded to a question from an interviewer about writing in English with a strident, “Get over it.” Instead of assisting the usual italic defamiliarisation a reader must contend with in any novel that straddles two (in this case, multiple) linguistic universes, Selasi’s glossary helps normalise non-English words. Each word is broken down into phonetic syllables, then paired with an English word from which it borrows a cadence—‘Kehinde, ky in deh, yesterday’—until it is an easy, rhythmic string of sounds. This is how Selasi seems to use all her words, English or otherwise: like beats or sounds, to be clustered, rhymed, alliterated, layered, one on top of another. Chunks of Ghana Must Go are almost slam poetry:

‘The slippers. Battered slip-ons, brown, worn to the soles. Like leather pets with separation issues, loyal, his dogs. And his religion, what he believed in, the very basis of his morality: mash-up cosmopolitan asceticism, ritual, clean lines. The slipper.’

The slippers in question are Kweku Sai’s, found abandoned on the morning he dies of a cardiac arrest in his garden in Accra, thousands of miles away from his family. They become a nagging, inexplicable detail in the story of his death, especially to his cherished daughter Taiwo, as the scattered family gathers in Ghana after his death.

It takes a while to get used to Selasi’s style. Bizarrely complex compound sentences are often bookended by a series of emphatic fragments. Some passages, notably an early description of a garden to which we keep returning, are so thick with homonyms that it takes a few readings to unearth what’s being said. Certain sentences and phrases read like writerly indulgences—‘prodigal prodigy’, ‘the sun rose, ferocious, less a rise than an uprising’—overthought, overwrought. A string of alliterative adjectives that might have felt neat in its formulation feels too convenient once on the page, being read by someone other than the person who wrote it.

But if you are to receive from Selasi’s writing the gifts it has to give, you have to, in her words, get over it. Selasi’s storytelling only bears fruit when you allow yourself to be rocked by the sometimes choppy wave motion of her prose—gushes, pull-backs, slowly building undercurrents—and surrender to the way she plays fast and loose with punctuation and sentence-structure. The looping of motifs, the circling back to key moments and images to layer them with meaning, will be familiar to those who read The God of Small Things when its word-architecture was a new experience—Selasi’s slippers are like Arundhati Roy’s ‘old roses on the breeze’.

Such a surrender might make it possible to see what, for instance, the frequent tussle between tropically-damp description and crisp American colloquialisms is supposed to enact. In his contemplation of his garden—which he so resisted and in which he sees the beauty and fragility of life, moments before his death—Kweku repeatedly says he had wanted ‘nothing lush, soft, or verdant’. The house he dreams of and later builds for himself in Ghana, after leaving his family behind in the US, is intended as ‘a kind of rebuttal to the tropics, to home: so a homeland reimagined, all the lines clean and straight’.

If the author were any more explicit, she’d be conducting a course on imagery in ‘African literature’—a course that would likely begin with a deconstruction of the use of ‘African’ as a catch-all descriptor for any and all literature, no matter how diverse, coming from or having to do with an entire continent. Selasi sets up her Africa-Abroad binary early in the book, before anyone can accuse her of falling into it, and then goes about confusing it in various—albeit sometimes heavy-handed—ways. This is the same dance as with the glossary: a nod to expectations of ‘African literature’, and a simultaneous shake of the head.

Selasi knows what has come before in the conversation and neither ignores nor repeats it. In the waiting room of a Massachusetts hospital, while Kweku’s wife Folasadé gives birth to their fourth child Sadie, 14-year-old Olu, their oldest son, reads Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart—it is Achebe, not his archetypal African male protagonist Okonkwo, who exists in the world of Selasi’s novel. In The Sex Lives of African Girls—a short story and the author’s only other published work of fiction—another young reader, Edem, reads copies of Richard Wright and Edith Wharton handed down from an older cousin.

Selasi’s project with Ghana Must Go appears similar to what she achieves with Sex Lives—the telling of a different kind of ‘African’ story. In her essay Bye-Bye Barbar, Selasi outlines the potential for a new kind of African identity: ‘For us, being African must mean something. The media’s portrayals (war, hunger) won’t do. Neither will the New World trope of bumbling, blue-black doctor. Most of us grew up aware of ‘being from’ a blighted place, of having last names from countries which are linked to lack, corruption. Few of us escaped those nasty ‘booty-scratcher’ epithets, and fewer still that sense of shame when visiting paternal villages.’

Implicit in the ‘African story’ we’re accustomed to hearing is horror—horror at poverty, at violence, at death, disease and injustice. In Selasi’s writing, encounters with horror become imaginative opportunities, doors to deeper understanding. In Sex Lives, Edem sees Ruby, one of the ‘house staff’, kneeling between her uncle/foster patriarch’s legs, and feels that ‘something was possible under this roof, in this house; something different from—and you wondered, was it better than? preferable to?—the thing you lived out every day.’ In Ghana Must Go, when Taiwo finds her father passed out on the couch in the middle of the night, drunk and slumped over, his slippers off, revealing the horribly bruised, calloused, raw soles of his feet, she is afraid, but also experiences ‘an opening up’—‘The fact of her father here slumped in the moonlight meant something was possible that she hasn’t perceived…’

Selasi writes in the space opened up by such newly-perceptible possibilities. As for the old ‘African story’, she tackles it deftly, early in her novel. In a quick, procedural paragraph, she runs down her version of the classic poverty narrative that she, as a writer of the African diaspora, is expected, if not to recreate, then at least to address in some way, whether she likes it or not. This she does, but with a great, bitter eye-roll for the staleness of the story, which makes it untellable again, and also for its genericness, which leaves so much untold: ‘This was one perk of growing up poor in the tropics. No one ever needed the details. There was one basic storyline, which everyone knew, with the few custom endings to choose now and again. Basic: humming grandmas and polycentric dancing and drinks made from tree sap and patriarchy. Custom: boy-child Gets Out, good at science or soccer, dies young, becomes priest, child-soldier or similar. Nothing remarkable and so nothing to remember. Nothing to remember, and so nothing to grieve.’

This is the worn dilemma of the African writer writing, inevitably, for the rest of the world—to risk telling the same old story, or not to tell at all. This, perhaps, is why Selasi uses her language so thoroughly—to exhaust all the possible ways of saying something, to write circles around that something, so as not to leave it unsaid.


Let’s Not Ask Her Screen Age

Rajeev Masand is Entertainment Editor and film critic at CNN-IBN
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Let’s Not Ask Her Screen Age • Tears of Luck • To Act or Not To Act

Aditya Chopra has given Katrina Kaif three of her biggest films —Ek Tha Tiger (opposite Salman Khan, a bonafide blockbuster), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (opposite Shah Rukh Khan, another blockbuster), and the forthcoming Aamir Khan-vehicle Dhoom 3 (a surefire firecracker)—yet the actress turned down Gunday (which Aditya was reportedly keen that she star in) so she could work with Hrithik Roshan in Siddharth Anand’s Knight & Day remake, Bang Bang, instead.

Priyanka Chopra slipped into Gunday instead, earning brownie points with the producer. And Bang Bang, whose shooting dates originally clashed with Gunday, has been endlessly delayed, with filming only likely to start in June now.

Industry pundits are saying Katrina is no longer in Aditya’s ‘good books’, and she might have shot herself in the foot by turning down Gunday, where she would have been cast opposite younger heroes Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor. “Working so frequently with the Khans and with Hrithik, her ‘screen age’ has become considerably more than her real age. Unlike Deepika and Anushka, Katrina doesn’t have films opposite younger actors like Ranbir, Imran and Shahid. It wouldn’t have hurt to do a film that would bring down her screen age,” explains a respected film producer.

Tears of Luck

Deepika Padukone may have known Ayan Mukerji from the time he directed her then-boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor in Wake Up Sid, but when she worked with the 29-year-old director on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani recently, she reportedly received no favours on account of their old friendship. In fact, the actress told me she got quite an earful from Ayan on the first day of shoot when she “jokingly” made a comment that he didn’t appreciate. “He really let me have it,” she says, now smiling at the memory.

At the time, however, the actress burst into tears following the public dressing down she received and had to be pacified by Ayan and Ranbir (who stars opposite her in the film) before she could resume filming. It didn’t help that they were filming in the freezing cold of Manali on a snow-capped mountain, where every minute spent not shooting was another minute allowing the chill to get into their bones. “I was okay soon, but it really threw me off initially, getting yelled at in front of the whole unit,” Deepika recounts. “I guess what upset me most was that Ayan didn’t realise I was only joking; he got mad at me for a joke.”

Not an auspicious way to start a film, some would say. “Well, Farah [Khan] made me cry on my first day on Om Shanti Om,” Deepika reveals cheekily. Didn’t really hurt that movie, did it? Might even turn out to be a lucky charm.

To Act or Not To Act

For years dismissed as a non-actor, this good-looking leading man insists he’s finally been vindicated by the success of his latest film, even though feedback on his own performance was, at best, mixed. He’s been lashing out at critics, saying things like: “I’m sorry I’ve proven you wrong!” and “Ouch, it must hurt that you couldn’t keep me down.”

His confidence and cockiness may come from the fact that his next release is a serious thriller directed by an awards-darling; a film that the star is convinced gives him enough scope to flex his acting muscles. But someone ought to remind him of that old adage of speaking too soon. Encouraged by his recent success, he goes next into filming the sequel of a blockbuster ‘brainless comedy’ that will more than likely have critics drawing their daggers again.

On the Contrary

The Emperor’s New Values

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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On the absurdity of the nude dance of an NSUI president becoming such a big deal

It is said of the American people that they will tolerate anything of their leaders so long as they don’t lie. The man can be caught with his pants down and be forgiven. But if he lies that his pants were not down, then he is condemned forever. That was why Bill Clinton confessed that he got a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky even while making the incredible claim that it did not fit in with the definition of a sexual act. To Americans, there is a moral delineation between adultery, a betrayal of faith, and lying, a flaw of character. The former is a sin, the latter a trait that is expected to run through all actions.

In India, we are not particular about such gradations, or Suraj Singh Thakur would not find himself in trouble. There is a video that does not exist on YouTube anymore, and this is a good thing because it would not have been a pleasant sight. It is said to show Thakur dancing in the nude. He is the Mumbai president of the National Students Union of India, the students’ wing of the Congress party, who has just been suspended for his act. There are a number of ironies in Thakur’s sad tale. For example, he embarked on this enterprise during an NSUI leaders’ workshop which, among other things, included training in personality development and political management skills. And his fate shows that he really needed that workshop because both skills were found wanting.

There are numerous versions of Thakur’s indecent behaviour. Initial television reports said that he was nude. A Mumbai Mirror report says that he was ‘dirty dancing’ in his undergarments. An Indian Express report says that he was shirtless. All of them agree that there was a party in progress and he was drunk. The Express report says that he was asking everyone to remove their shirts and when someone objected, Thakur showed him how to do it by taking off his own shirt, and, as per one eye witness, “swinging it in the air”. The rambunctiousness reached the ears of Rahul Gandhi, who ordered the suspension. The NSUI says it is for indiscipline.

Let’s for a moment put this in context. Remember, this is a party which, at the time of going to print, is yet to suspend one minister who tweaked a CBI report in the coal scam and another who is getting embroiled in allegations of his relatives selling a top post in the Railways. This is also a party that saw its spokesperson, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, quit his job after an MMS clip of his adultery went public, but only to be reinstated later without any explanation of why he had to go in the first place and what had changed to allow his comeback. Between shirtless/nude and adulterous sex, there is a gulf, even if neither is really a crime. If Singhvi was exiled for eight months, it would only be fair that Thakur be suspended for a fraction of that period.

The nice thing about the episode has been some good jokes on Twitter, many of them aimed for some odd reason at Digvijaya Singh. For example: ‘Its Transparency in politics—Digvijay Singh on Suraj Thakur’. Some tweets had images of Thakur at a photo-op with Manmohan Singh; others linked him with his supposed mentor Kripashankar Singh, who used to head the Mumbai Congress once upon a time and is now facing charges of owning assets disproportionate to his income.

Given all of the above, there is still this question that applies to both the Congress, which suspended Thakur, and the BJP’s gleeful supporters on Twitter: what exactly is wrong in getting drunk and taking off your shirt? What is the ethical line being crossed? The answer is there seems to be none. It happened one night at a party, well after workshop hours. It was on the terrace of a hotel. When Sourav Ganguly did the same thing after winning the Natwest Trophy in 2002, it was just the man thing to do. What it shows is the bizarre nature of Indian politics in which everything attains equivalence in the momentary outrage or sneering that an act evokes—murder, riots, underworld links, corruption... or a man going shirtless.


Cartwheels within Wheels

Jatin Gandhi has covered politics and policy for over a decade now for print, TV and the web. He is Deputy Political Editor at Open.
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Contrasting SC judgments in the Bhullar and Das cases spell confusion

In the span of less than a month, India’s Supreme Court, faced with the question of whether a death sentence should be commuted in case of an inordinately delayed decision on a clemency petition, has issued two contrasting judgments. This re-opens the debate over unexplained delays in hanging in particular and on the death penalty in general.

The 12 April judgment in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s case—in which the Court rejected the accused’s plea for commutation of his death sentence to a life term on the grounds of an inordinate delay by the President of India in turning down his mercy petition—was supposed to have closed the matter for other death row convicts who had made similar appeals in court. But on 1 May, the SC commuted Mahindra Nath Das’ sentence from death to life imprisonment, ruling that an unexplained delay in his execution justifies such a commutation.

In its Bhullar verdict of 12 April, the SC observed: ‘It is true that there was considerable delay in disposal of the petition filed by the petitioner, but, keeping in view the peculiar facts of the case, we are convinced that there is no valid ground to interfere with the ultimate decision taken by the President not to commute the sentence of death awarded to the petitioner into life imprisonment.’

In the case of Das, on 1 May, the bench noted: ‘In absence of any reasonable explanation by the respondents we are of the view that if the concerned officers had bestowed the necessary attention to the matter and devoted the time its urgency needed, we have no doubt that the entire process of consideration of the questions referred would have been completed within a reasonable period without leaving any yawning gap rightly described by the learned Additional Solicitor General as an “embarrassing gap”. There has, thus, been an avoidable delay, which is considerable in the totality of circumstances in the present case, for which the condemned prisoner is in no way responsible.’

In Bhullar’s case, the Court observed that the delay was partly on account of numerous petitions filed on his behalf by others—in effect, holding him obliquely responsible for it.

The bench of Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya also made a distinction between the murder committed by Das and the 1993 bomb blast of which Bhullar was accused of a conspiracy. ‘Such cases stand on an altogether different plane and cannot be compared with murders committed due to personal animosity or over property and personal disputes. The seriousness of the crimes committed by the terrorists can be gauged from the fact that many hundred innocent civilians and men in uniform have lost their lives. At times, their objective is to annihilate their rivals including the political opponents. They use bullets, bombs and other weapons of mass killing for achieving their perverted political and other goals or wage war against the State. While doing so, they do not show any respect for human lives. Before killing the victims, they do not think even for a second about the parents, wives, children and other near and dear ones of the victims. The families of those killed suffer the agony for their entire life, apart from financial and other losses. It is paradoxical that the people who do not show any mercy or compassion for others plead for mercy and project delay in disposal of the petition filed under Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution as a ground for commutation of the sentence of death. Many others join the bandwagon to espouse the cause of terrorists involved in gruesome killing and mass murder of innocent civilians and raise the bogey of human rights,’ said the bench in its judgment.

In doing so, the SC not only seeks to create a new category of death row convicts without citing any Constitutional basis for this distinction, but also seems to hold the view that the human rights of ‘terrorists’ differ from those of other criminals. India’s apex court, in effect creates a subcategory within the scope of the principle of ‘rarest of rare cases’ for capital punishment laid down by a higher, five-judge bench in the Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab case of 1980, a principle that makes the awarding of a death sentence an exception rather than the norm. In the Bachan Singh case, the apex court laid down the following: ‘A real and abiding concern for the dignity of human life postulates resistance to taking a life through law’s instrumentality. That ought not to be done save in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.’

It can well be argued in the Bhullar case that the alternative option was not unquestionably foreclosed because the SC’s earlier verdict upholding his death sentence saw its presiding judge Justice MB Shah pass a dissenting judgment that acquitted Bhullar in 2002. ‘In this view of the matter, when rest of the accused who are named in the confessional statement are not convicted or tried, this would not be a fit case for convicting the appellant solely on the basis of so-called confessional statement recorded by the police officer. Finally, such type of confessional statement as recorded by the investigating officer cannot be the basis for awarding death sentence,’ pronounced Justice Shah in his dissenting judgment. In a judicial system that has resolved to use capital punishment only in exceptional cases of guilt, as the ‘rarest of rare’ principle holds, dissent by the presiding judge and a conviction based on a 2-1 judgment is a strong argument against Bhullar’s case being classified as one deserving of the death penalty.

Das’ sentence has been commuted on account of, one, the delayed decision of the President on his mercy petition; and two, the fact that the Government—while advising former President Pratibha Patil on that decision—had withheld from Patil her predecessor APJ Abdul Kalam’s views on the matter. Kalam had in a note said that Das’ case merits commutation. The Government, it said, did not share the note with Patil, denying her an opportunity to reach a conclusion based on what her predecessor had already decided. Therefore, the Court held on 1 May: ‘It is neither the pleaded case of the respondents nor any material has been produced before this Court to show that the Government of India had placed the file before the then President for review of the order recorded by him on 30.9.2005 or the President who finally decided the appellant’s petition on 8.5.2011 was requested to reconsider the decision of her predecessor. Therefore, it must be held that the President was not properly advised and assisted in the disposal of the petition filed by the appellant.’

The Ministry has, following this Court observation, issued a clarification that the entire file, including Kalam’s note, was put up for Patil to see.

Justice Shah, in a recent interview to The Hindu after the 12 April verdict, had this to say: “The normal procedure in death penalty cases is that when there is a dissenting judgment, it gets converted into life sentence…I don’t know why this was not followed in this case.”

Under Section 432(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Government ‘may require’ the presiding judge to offer his opinion in determining clemency appeals. Bhullar’s wife has filed a review petition. Whether the Court will take into account the procedural lapse in his case is unclear at this juncture. But the contrast in the SC’s judgments on Bhullar and Das throws up new complications. In a country where judicial precedent effectively becomes law, the apex court may have created a problem instead of resolving one.

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