Gautam Bhatia’s book is a fascinating exploration of the principles and issues involved in free speech jurisprudence. While other books on the subject are content with giving instances, and lengthy citations from the judgments of the Supreme Court, Gautam dissects each judgment with his penetrating analysis of the principles, which I am sure, even some of the Judges who delivered them were not aware of, with comparative examples from foreign judgments. A reader will be richly rewarded with the gains in scholarship and understanding. Gautam has consented to be interviewed on his book here in the coming days.
The book has been reviewed by Arudra Burra at The Wire.
The book is available for purchase here.
The questions that pose Ninan for himself at the outset are of interest to an ordinary reader: By what alchemy does growing inequality coexist successfully with surging aspiration? What is the actual size of the emerging neo-middle class and how do you define it? What are its implications for the economy and for politics? Is India in a position to put an end to absolute poverty?
Ninan sounds optimistic despite many failures and the many frustrations of living with their consequences. India has held together quite well, and its record has been rather good, he says. There is no India-shining, (Remember 2004 election?), but country is well-positioned to reach for some of its long sought-after goals, like the slow-moving tortoise that at long last sees some end points in sight. He is confident that India should make steady progress over the ground to be covered.
I found the section on ‘The hunter hunted?’ in the chapter on ‘Cronyism in an Arbitrary State’ extremely interesting. His comment that the fusion of business and politics has given India its oligarchs, people who wield financial as well as political clout, is apt. Ninan qualifies his certificate of free from scandal taint to the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre with his belief that unless the funding of political parties and elections becomes above board, problems will inevitably recur.
Ninan’s aphorism on the state of judiciary is profound: “Reform of judicial processes has to be an essential element of broader reform, but judges who are trigger-happy when it comes to pronouncing obiter dicta from the bench are surprisingly blind to the fundamental problems of the justice delivery system.” The recent dismissal of SLP [Mathai @ Joby v.George] by the Supreme Court’s constitution bench on 11 January wherein the Court had an opportunity to lay down guidelines to restrict number of SLPs in the Court, is an instance of the Court being uninterested in reforming itself.
Ninan has an interesting explanation for the rising intolerance in the country. Some of the points of conflict, he says, are the result of social churn that is linked to modernization. Traditional hierarchies, boundaries and authority get challenged in a more freewheeling world where more women go to work, where youngsters mingle without concern for caste or community, and where old identities get fused into new ones that might seem deracinated.