Overbroad, overboard: On Kerala’s law to curb abusive content

Kerala has sought to make amends by keeping in abeyance its obnoxious proposal to abridge free speech by conferring unbridled powers on the police to arrest any one expressing or disseminating any matter deemed threatening, abusive, humiliating or defamatory to a person or a class of persons in any manner. But Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should take heed of criticism and drop the measure altogether. It is worrying that such a draconian and ill-conceived ordinance was even promulgated. It is incredible that a State government crafted a law with elements declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, ignoring a major apex court verdict on the law of defamation, and which is repugnant to the provisions of the IPC, a central law, in two ways, besides going against one provision in the Cr.P.C.Also read: Uproar over Kerala law to curb abusive contentHis defence that the amendment only targeted defamatory social media posts and would not curb reportage, political satire or expression of

Matchmaking: On AIADMK’s alliance with BJP

The ruling AIADMK’s declaration on continuing its ties with the BJP for the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections was no surprise. With the Congress and the Left aligned with the DMK, the AIADMK needs all the electoral partners it can get. The Jayalalithaa strategy of taking advantage of a three-way split in votes is no longer possible. But by dispensing with conventional negotiations and internal consultations, and making the announcement after a single meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah, the party leadership has given the impression of being politically vulnerable to pressures from the party ruling at the Centre. Indeed, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami seemed keen to avoid any such impression. Just a day before the announcement, he told senior leaders that the party was not under any pressure from the BJP and need not feel obliged to anyone. The party mouthpiece had sharply criticised the BJP’s ‘Vetrivel Yatra’, a religious-political roadshow being conducted without

Peaceful possibilities: On J&K local body polls

The coming local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir could be an opportunity to open a new political dialogue in the Union Territory, particularly on the question of restoring its statehood. In the first democratic exercise since the Centre revoked J&K’s special status and reorganised it into two UTs in August 2019, Panchayati Raj elections are scheduled over eight phases beginning November 28. For the first time, this part of India will have the entire 73rd Constitutional Amendment coming into operation. In October, the UT administration amended the Panchayati Raj Act, providing for District Development Councils (DDC) in each district, and establishing the three-tier PR structure. Alongside the election of 280 DDC members, by-elections for around 12,000 panchayat seats and over 230 urban body seats will also take place. Peaceful, participatory election in a troubled region can be the most forceful demonstration of the resilience of Indian democracy. It is for this reason that


Pressure and punishment: On conviction of Hafiz Saeed

The conviction of Hafiz Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist whom India and the U.S. blame for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166, by a Lahore anti-terrorism court on terror finance charges shows that Pakistan can be forced to act against terror networks under international pressure. Saeed, in jail since July last year, was convicted in another case of terror financing in February this year. He is currently serving two sentences of five and a half years each. Saeed would not serve any additional jail term as the judge said he would serve the punishment concurrently with the other sentences. But the repeated convictions of someone who was a favourite of Pakistan’s military establishment till a few years ago, in terror financing cases, underscore the concerns India and the U.S. have about his operations. He first founded the LeT in the 1990s targeting India. When the terror group came under international pressure, he revived the JuD, supposedly an Islamic charity, in 2002, which


Digital nation: On delivery of citizen services

Affordable smartphones and Internet access have made India a digital nation with an estimated 750 million connections and a thriving financial technology sector. Citizens inured to queues at dingy utility offices even to pay routine bills find this a major leap, thanks to fintech. Digital platforms providing goods and services, including online education and telemedicine, have grown vigorously during the COVID-19 pandemic, while many professionals have maintained productivity by working from home. Yet, it would be premature to declare digital as a way of life in India, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it at the Bengaluru Tech Summit. The true measure of digital nations is the readiness of governments to use technology to create open, participatory public systems that citizens consider trustworthy. What governance must achieve is a reliable system of digital welfare. A beginning has, no doubt, been made through government-to-citizen services using Common Service Centres, advice to

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