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21 May 2024 : The Hindu Editorial Notes PDF

1. Critical times call for strong judicial adjudication

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Judiciary
Context
The Supreme Court of India is poised to assess the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) amid concerns over its potential discriminatory effects, especially towards Muslims.

● The article discusses the broader implications of legislative malice, judicial review, and the need for timely judicial intervention to uphold democratic principles and prevent harmful laws.

 Introduction

  • The Supreme Court of India is expected to review the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and its associated rules to determine their constitutionality.
  • Concerns have been raised about the lack of clarity in the CAA Rules, especially regarding the fate of applicants whose citizenship requests are denied.
  • There is a fear that rejected applicants may end up in detention centres.
  • Petitioners have also expressed worries about the potential for dual citizenship, which contradicts the spirit of the parent Act and creates uncertainty in citizenship matters.
The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019:
About:

The Act seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, Jains and Christian (but not Muslim) immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation.

They will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in 5 years (11 years earlier).

● The Act (which amends the Citizenship Act 1955) also provides for cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registration where the OCI card-holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.

Who is eligible?

The CAA 2019 applies to those who were forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion. It aims to protect such people from proceedings of illegal migration.

●  The cut-off date for citizenship is December 31, 2014, which means the applicant should have entered India on or before that date.

The act will not apply to areas covered by the Constitution’s sixth schedule, which deals with autonomous tribal-dominated regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.

● Additionally, the act will not apply to states that have an inner-line permit regime (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram).

 Judicial Review and Legislative Presumptions

  • Constitutional courts do not routinely interdict statutes or statutory rules.
  • Laws enacted by Parliament are generally presumed valid unless proven to breach constitutional provisions.
  • Legislative malice is typically not attributed to the legislative process, as seen in previous Supreme Court rulings.

Contemporary Legislative Challenges

  • Conventional judicial wisdom does not adequately address contemporary challenges posed by populist regimes.
  • Such regimes often enact motivated or targeted legislation and manipulate electoral systems.
  • There is a need for an advanced juridical approach to address these challenges.
  • Adhering to outdated presumptions of law validity diminishes the counter-majoritarian role of constitutional courts.

Political Nature of Legislation

  • Every piece of legislation is inherently a political statement.
  • Regimes indifferent to constitutional democracy tend to enact laws with little regard for constitutional schemes.
  • Judicial euphoria about the validity of laws has historically prevented the Supreme Court from interdicting harmful laws.
  • Examples include the lack of stay on demonetization and the dilution of Kashmir’s special status, which led to irreversible situations.

The Need for Judicial Interdiction

  • A radical judgement by the Constitution Bench called for an independent body to select the Election Commission of India, reducing executive dominance.
  • However, new legislation reverted to the “Prime Minister’s Committee” model, undermining this judgement.
  • The Court’s refusal to stay the operation of such legislation, based on presumed validity, undermines its own decisions and the democratic process.
  • In critical cases, such as the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023, the Court’s inaction led to questionable conduct in the 2024 general election.

Targeted Legislation and Legislative Malice

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act and its rules exemplify targeted legislation with evident legislative malice.
  • The Act discriminates based on religion, excluding Muslims from the citizenship process.
  • Another example is the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act (2019), which criminalised instant triple talaq, despite its prior invalidation by the Supreme Court.
  • The Act did not effectively protect Muslim women and was perceived as divisive.
  • Anti-conversion laws in some States similarly follow a targeted legislative trend.

International Perspectives on Judicial Nullification

  • In the United States, conventional views also disfavored judicial nullification of statutes based on legislative malice.
  • However, contemporary realities necessitate rigorous judicial scrutiny of motivated legislation.
  • Legal scholars argue that animus cannot constitute a legitimate state interest, and targeted legislation reflects discriminatory intent.

Indian Precedents of Judicial Interdiction

  • There are precedents where the Supreme Court of India has effectively interdicted parliamentary legislations.
  • In the case of the 27% quota for Other Backward Community candidates in professional colleges, the Court initially issued a judicial injunction.
  • The Court also stayed the implementation of the contentious farm laws, which were eventually withdrawn following protests.

The Importance of Timely Judicial Review

  • Judicial review of unconstitutional or divisive statutes should be strong, immediate, and unambiguous.
  • The Supreme Court needs to learn from past experiences and consider the political consequences of its decisions.
  • Delay in judicial review often defeats the purpose of constitutional adjudication.
  • Time is crucial when reviewing malicious and unconstitutional laws to prevent irreversible damage.

Conclusion

  • The Supreme Court of India faces significant challenges in addressing contemporary legislative issues.
  • A proactive and timely judicial review process is essential to safeguard constitutional democracy and prevent the implementation of discriminatory laws.
  • By learning from past experiences and adapting its approach, the Court can better fulfil its counter-majoritarian role and protect the rights of all citizens.
Practice Question:  Examine the challenges posed by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) to constitutional principles in India. How should the judiciary address these challenges to safeguard democratic values? (150 Words /10 marks)

 

2. Revisiting the Railway strike of 1974

Topic: GS2 – Governance
Context
The article commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1974 railway workers’ strike in India, highlighting its significance in organised labour history.

The strike, driven by poor working conditions and low wages, faced severe government repression but remains a symbol of worker solidarity and struggle against exploitation.

 Introduction to the 1974 Railway Workers’ Strike

  • The year 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1974 railway workers’ general strike in India.
  • This strike is a significant event in the history of organised labour in India.
  • The strike demonstrated unprecedented working-class unity, affecting a vast geographical area and involving public participation.
  • Railway workers faced poor working conditions, decreasing wages and bonuses, and high prices of essential goods and oil.
  • The Third Pay Commission proposed a meagre wage hike, prompting the workers to go on strike on May 8, 1974.

Beginning of the Strike

  • The strike started unexpectedly when over a million railway workers abandoned their posts after the arrest of the president of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation on May 1, 1974.
  • On May 2, station masters at Victoria Terminus sealed its gates, challenging the government and asserting control over a key national infrastructure.

Impact of the Strike

  • Despite initial lack of coordination, the strike quickly paralyzed major cities and halted the railway system.
  • Train movement across the country was disrupted, affecting both long-distance and suburban services.
  • Major railway towns like Jamalpur, Perambur, Mughalsarai, and Kharagpur became strongholds of the strike.
  • The strike lasted over three weeks, despite assertions from the Railway Board and the government that services would continue.

Role of Families and Women

  • Railway workers’ families, especially women, played a crucial role in supporting the strike.
  • In Delhi, women painted the faces of strikebreakers with vermilion and forced them to wear bangles.
  • They demonstrated outside police stations and blocked tracks to prevent train services, protesting the arrest of railway workers.

Government Repression

  • The government declared the strike illegal under the Defence of India rules.
  • Police and paramilitary forces were mobilised to maintain train services, arrest union leaders, and intimidate workers.
  • Security forces outnumbered passengers and strikers at most stations.
  • Around 50,000 railway workers were arrested during the strike, with 10,000 detained within the first 24 hours.
  • More than 30,000 families were evicted from railway colonies, with towns like Mughalsarai, Jamalpur, and Jhansi becoming centers of repression.

Military-Style Operations

  • The police and paramilitary forces raided homes, threatened eviction, and harassed workers and their families.
  • These operations treated workers and their families as enemies, not citizens, marking a shift towards authoritarian governance.
  • This repression is seen as a precursor to the Emergency declared in 1975.
  • The strike, under intense state repression and financial strain, was formally called off on May 27, 1974.

Political Implications and Worker Motivation

  • The strike is often viewed as a prelude to the Emergency of 1975.
  • While it had political implications, it was primarily driven by workers’ grievances ignored by the government for two decades.
  • The strike highlighted workers’ collective will to address their issues through collective action.
  • It inspired militancy and solidarity among diverse categories of railway workers.

Independent Unions and Legacy

  • The impetus for the strike came from independent, non-recognized unions.
  • One of the strike’s lasting legacies was empowering workers within their unions to address grievances.
  • Unions became both sites and instruments of struggle.

Aftermath and Continuing Relevance

  • The strike ended unconditionally, but it was not a total defeat.
  • When a new government came to power, many dismissed employees were reinstated.
  • Railway workers secured their demand for a bonus.
  • Presently, railway workers face similar issues with the scrapping of the pension scheme, privatisation, increased casualization of work, and adverse recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.
  • Various trade unions and federations have united again to resist these challenges.
  • The 1974 strike remains relevant as a symbol of struggle against these ongoing issues.

Conclusion

  • The 1974 railway workers’ strike was a monumental event in Indian labour history.
  • It showcased the power of organised labour and the impact of collective action.
  • Despite severe repression, it left a lasting legacy of worker empowerment and solidarity.
  • The strike continues to inspire current labour movements facing similar challenges.
Practice Question: Evaluate the effectiveness of government policies in addressing labour issues in India. How have these policies impacted the rights and conditions of workers? (250 Words /15 marks)

 

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