Ending inaction: On Speakers and disqualification

There are two significant aspects to the Supreme Court’s latest decision on the Speaker as the adjudicating authority under the anti-defection law. The first is that Parliament should replace the Speaker with a “permanent tribunal” or external mechanism to render quick and impartial decisions on questions of defection. Few would disagree with the Court’s view that initial fears and doubts about whether Speakers would be impartial had come true. The second is its extraordinary ruling that the reference by another Bench, in 2016, of a key question to a Constitution Bench was itself unnecessary. The question awaiting determination by a larger Bench is whether courts have the power to direct Speakers to decide petitions seeking disqualification within a fixed time frame. The question had arisen because several presiding officers have allowed defectors to bolster the strength of ruling parties and even be sworn in Ministers by merely refraining from adjudicating on complaints against them.

Playing with learning: On status of early childhood education

The Annual Status of Education Report 2019 data on early childhood education in rural areas makes the case that the pre-school system fails to give children a strong foundation, especially in government-run facilities. Going by the findings, the percentage of girls in government schools is higher than in private institutions, the cognitive skills of children attending official anganwadi playschools do not match those attending private schools, and there is a significant percentage of underage children in the first standard of formal school, in violation of the stipulated age of six. It is beyond question that children will be benefitted greatly if they are provided a properly designed environment to acquire cognitive skills. These skills are critical to their ability to verbalise, count, calculate and make comparisons. What the ASER data sampled from 26 Indian districts seem to indicate is an apparent imbalance in State policies, which is disadvantaging the less affluent as
 
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Chinese President Xi Jinping, Myanmar President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at a ceremony in Nayi Pyi Taw marking the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
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Life affirming: The baobab tree in Jamshedpur.
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