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23 May 2024 : The Hindu Editorial Notes PDF

1. When control is disguised as reform

Topic: GS2 –  Indian Polity – Judiciary
Context
Recent judicial decisions by the Supreme Court, including declaring electoral bonds unconstitutional and granting bail to prominent figures, have sparked debates about the Court’s independence and effectiveness amidst allegations of executive influence and online attacks on its legitimacy.

 Overview of Recent Judicial Decisions

  • The Supreme Court has made several significant decisions recently, including declaring electoral bonds unconstitutional, granting bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and releasing Prabir Purkayastha, founder of NewsClick, based on legal merit.
  • These rulings challenge state excesses and have been perceived as unexpected but positive developments, especially during an election year.
  • Critics have previously accused the Court of judicial abdication, acquiescence, and avoidance, prompting concerns about its independence and effectiveness.

Perceived Threats to Judicial Legitimacy

  • In the digital age, online commentary during high-profile court cases has become common, facilitated by live tweeting and streaming of proceedings.
  • However, there is a disturbing trend of abusing the judiciary, with some questioning the legitimacy of colonial-era institutions and Western legal norms.
  • Attacks against the judiciary exploit frustrations with delays in justice delivery, perceived nepotism, and lack of diversity in the higher judiciary, aiming to undermine its legitimacy and advocate for executive control.

Analysis of Digital Campaigns

  • Researchers have observed spikes in online comments critical of the Chief Justice of India on days when he takes positions contrary to the ruling party.
  • Digital influencers, often aligned with the BJP, play a significant role in spreading misinformation and attacking the judiciary’s liberal-leaning justices.
  • Critics dismiss such studies as biased but fail to acknowledge the organised nature of online attacks aimed at influencing public opinion and consolidating executive power.

Impact of Coordinated Campaigns

  • Coordinated campaigns on social media ridicule and delegitimize court judgments, contributing to public distrust in the judiciary.
  • For instance, recent bail granted by the Juvenile Justice Board was criticised as evidence of judicial incompetence, ignoring other factors in the legal process.
  • These campaigns serve the long-term goal of exerting direct control over the judiciary by partisans aligned with the ruling party.

Recommendations for Preserving Judicial Independence

  • Television and social media platforms play a crucial role in shaping public perception and must be used responsibly to address threats to judicial independence.
  • Proposals for judicial reforms must be carefully scrutinised to ensure they do not undermine the judiciary’s autonomy.
  • Urgent action is needed to improve service delivery, increase diversity in judicial appointments, and strengthen the Court’s ability to act as a check on executive power.
  • The legal fraternity must counter online threats by dispelling misinformation and advocating for the judiciary’s constitutional role.
  • Citizens must recognize the judiciary as imperfect but essential in protecting constitutional rights, regardless of political affiliations or election outcomes.
Executive influence and online attacks on legitimacy of Supreme Court of India:
Implications:

Undermining Judicial Independence: Executive interference or perceived influence can erode the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, compromising its ability to deliver justice.

Public Distrust: Online attacks on the legitimacy of the Supreme Court can erode public trust in the institution, undermining its authority and effectiveness.

Threat to Rule of Law: Any erosion of the Supreme Court’s legitimacy poses a threat to the rule of law, weakening the foundation of India’s democratic framework.

Impact on Judicial Decision-Making: Fear of online backlash or executive pressure may influence judicial decision-making, compromising the court’s ability to uphold constitutional principles and protect fundamental rights.

Stifling Dissent: Online attacks may deter judges from delivering unpopular judgments or dissenting opinions, stifling judicial independence and freedom of expression.

Way Forward:

Preserve Judicial Independence: Safeguard the independence of the judiciary from executive influence or pressure, ensuring judges can uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.

Combat Online Misinformation: Implement measures to counter online attacks and misinformation campaigns targeting the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, including fact-checking initiatives and public awareness campaigns.

Enhance Transparency: Promote transparency in judicial appointments, proceedings, and judgments to foster public trust and accountability.

Strengthen Cybersecurity: Bolster cybersecurity measures to protect the Supreme Court and judicial officials from online threats and cyberattacks.

Promote Civic Education: Enhance civic education programs to educate the public about the role and importance of an independent judiciary in upholding democracy and protecting rights.

Professional Ethics: Uphold professional ethics and standards among legal professionals, judges, and government officials to maintain the integrity and credibility of the judiciary.

Engage in Dialogue: Foster constructive dialogue and engagement between the judiciary, executive, civil society, and the media to address concerns and strengthen public confidence in the Supreme Court.

Judicial Reform: Implement reforms to enhance the efficiency, accountability, and accessibility of the judicial system, addressing grievances and promoting justice for all.

PYQ:

‘Constitutional Morality’ is rooted in the constitution itself and is founded on its essential facets. Explain the doctrine of Constitutional Morality’ with the help of relevant judicial decisions. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2021)

Practice Question:  To what extent do recent judicial decisions, such as the declaration of electoral bonds as unconstitutional, reflect the autonomy and effectiveness of the Supreme Court amidst concerns of executive influence and online attacks on its legitimacy? Discuss. (150 Words /10 marks)

2. The curious case of declining voters in the 2024 elections

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity

GS2 –  Governance

Context
The article discusses a puzzling trend in India’s 2024 elections where nearly one-third of constituencies saw a decline in total voters compared to 2019.

● It questions the reliability of voter turnout percentages and calls for an explanation from the Election Commission.

 Introduction:

  • The article discusses a peculiar trend observed in the 2024 Indian elections where the total number of voters declined in nearly one-third of all constituencies compared to the 2019 elections.

Background:

  • In a growing country like India, it’s generally expected that parameters like GDP, population, and voter turnout would increase annually, barring exceptional circumstances like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Analysis of Voter Turnout:

  • An analysis of 427 constituencies until Phase 5 of the 2024 elections revealed a decline in total voters in 115 (27%) constituencies compared to 2019.
  • This decline in total voters is unprecedented in India’s electoral history, raising questions about the reliability of voter turnout percentages as a measure of comparison across elections.

Comparison across Elections:

  • The more meaningful measure for comparison is the change in the total number of voters across elections, rather than voter turnout percentages.
  • Until Phase 5 of the 2024 elections, there was a 4% increase in total voters compared to 2019, significantly lower than the 12% increase observed in the same constituencies between 2014 and 2019.

Anomalies in Voter Trends:

  • It’s baffling that 115 constituencies experienced a decline in total voters, a phenomenon not observed in the 2014 elections and seen in only 19 constituencies in 2019.
  • Most of these constituencies with declining voter numbers are in six states: Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh.

Possible Explanations:

  • The decline in total voters could be attributed to a significant decrease in voter turnout rather than demographic factors like population decline or increased emigration.
  • The sudden drop in turnout raises questions about whether the reduced participation was voluntary or implicitly coerced.

Questions Raised:

  • The article questions why constituencies that were won by the Opposition in 2019 or were expected to strengthen in 2024 witnessed reduced turnout.
  • It calls for demographic or other explanations to justify the sudden drop in turnout, especially in states considered ‘in play’ for the 2024 elections.

Conclusion:

  • The decline in the absolute number of voters across nearly one-third of all constituencies in the 2024 elections is unprecedented and warrants explanation from the Election Commission.
Practice Question:  Examine the unusual trend of declining total voters in nearly one-third of constituencies during India’s 2024 elections compared to 2019, and its implications for electoral processes and democratic participation.  (250 Words /15 marks)

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