September 24, 2008

life in financial markets&general: unhealthy judiciary-corporate nexus

There is a deadly and unhealthy nexus between industry and judiciary that is among other few aspects that makes a mockery of the claims by India that it is the largest democracy of the world. There are two things going on, with regard to the rulings by the judges of various High Courts in the country and the judges of the Supreme Court of India, since a few years now and these have got accentuated in recent weeks and months.
1) When they have passed judgements in cases filed by citizens/villagers groups or NGOs against land grab (whether for SEZs or any other so-called 'development' (that, according to me, is a myth perpetuated by industry, blindly believed by urban/semi-urban consumers and aggressively supported by all the top media editors in India), protection of property rights and equal and fair treatment of their human rights they have ruled against. Two examples are one recent (early September 2008) judgement by Supreme Court judges dismissing a petition that strove to stop the illegal grab of farmers' land by Andhra Pradesh state government for a supposedly 'infrastructure' project (see here), and the 8 year old judgement by the Supreme Court on the Narmada dam issue when the Narmada Bachao Andolan filed a petition (in that ruling, two Supreme Court openly pimped for government claims and completely overlooked the major problems and development&environment rules violations that were going on).
2) On the other hand, when they have decided on cases filed by companies or government bodies, on similar issues or issues connected with property rights of companies and rich landlords, they have ruled in favour of them. Just today there has been one (see here). The companies ridicule NGOs and activist groups for using the courts often but reveal their hypocrisy when they themselves approach the courts to protect their vested business interests. Reliance Industries, for instance, last week filed a petition against a Maharashtra district's (Raigad's) collectors decision to hold a villagers' referendum on the SEZ that Reliance wants to build there. Then, Tata Motors, is asking the Calcutta High Court that details of the pact between the company and the West Bengal government for the Singur car plant not be made public. The judiciary of India protects the property rights of the rich and the industry but denies the same to the poor or not-for-profit NGOs.
Here is something I wrote on the same matter and emailed it to 3-4 newspapers for their
'Letters to Editor' section:
In the last 10 years the Supreme Court (SC) of our country has repeatedly handed out shocking treatment to the powerless rural citizens of India as well as to our country's voiceless ecology. In the name of large or small development projects the SC judges have denied the rural people their right to property and cared two hoots about preserving the fragile ecological balance of our country's rivers, mountains, seas, rivers and forests.
The latest case of two Supreme Court judges dismissing a petition that strove to stop the illegal grab of farmers' land by Andhra Pradesh state government for an infrastructure project is yet another nail in Indian democracy's coffin. To justify such verdicts, the central government of India, state governments, the Supreme Court and the various High Courts, have often resorted to the myth of employment generation.
All these bureaucrats, politicians and judges are either lying or they are ignorant of the vast potential that rural lands have for the people residing there in generating agri-based employment. In fact, about 50 per cent of this potential is already being tapped by local people in the remote lands of India. If the politico, bureaucracy and judiciary can not assist in tapping the remaining 50 per cent potential the least they should do is to keep off from killing the existing 50 per cent tapped potential.
The latest SC judgement resorts to 'public good' argument. According to me, 'public good' is a myth. There is no objective assessment of the benefits and harms/pitfalls in any SEZ or other project. The state and bureaucracy is completely beholden to the industry lobby and oblivious to the repeated concerns expressed by ecologists and civil NGOs. The so-called 'development' benefits are, in my view, far lower than the benefits that would accrue if we were to even just leave the rural people alone and allow them to use their land and resources as per what they think is appropriate. Forcing city-centric development mindset on rural India is criminal.
The time has come for Indian civil groups and affected people to lodge a complaint against the Supreme Court of India in some relevant international courts. The Indian judiciary has lost its credibility.

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