The Supreme Court issued two key orders this week, one setting up an investigation team to look into the causes for tax evasion, or “black money,” and another ordering the state government of Chhattisgarh to stop using ill-trained ad-hoc police officers in response to Maoist violence. Here’s what commentators had to say about these decisions:
The Supreme Court issued two key orders this week – one, on ‘black money’ and the other on Maoist violence.
The Indian Express, in an editorial on Thursday, asked whether the court was getting carried away with a “fixation on neoliberal conspiracy.”
It noted that the court blamed Chhattisgarh’s privatization policies among the reasons why the state has been unable to control Maoist unrest.
“Whatever the substantive point of the judgment, its rhetoric is increasingly familiar, the court’s one-note answer to all the bewildering problems that beset citizens,” said the paper. “The troubling thing about these judgments is not what they finally resolve, but their tendency to draw straight connections between diverse, highly specific cases…to a cloudy abstraction called neoliberalism.”
The business daily Mint, in an editorial the same day, began by praising the court, saying that “it is often viewed—and rightly so—as one of the last incorruptible and effective institutions in the country.” (The Wall Street Journal and Mint have a content-sharing partnership.)
But the paper took contention with the court’s argument that “the culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by modern neo-liberal economic ideology, and the false promises of ever-increasing spirals of consumption leading to economic growth that will lift everyone” were responsible for social and political problems in Chhattisgarh and in other parts of the country.
“The fact is that ‘neoliberal’ policies—or free markets—have led to growth rates unseen in India before 1991,” said the paper. “The number of the poor has fallen consistently during this period.” The paper said it was simplistic to criticize neoliberal economics for rising inequality.
“It is well-known that in initial stages of fast economic growth, inequalities do rise,” said Mint. “The remedy for this is not to stop growth, but to enable citizens to catch up by better education, something that policymakers and intellectuals are not interested in.”
The Calcutta Telegraph, in an editorial on Thursday entitled “Guns Down,” praised the court for standing up for the rights of tribal villagers in Chhattisgarh.
“There may be something to be said in favor of the principle behind training and arming members of the public for self-defence in situations of extraordinary crisis, but its practical application in Chhattisgarh has resulted in tragedy and bloodshed,” said the paper. “The irony is that such a militia, raised cheaply on the promise of a livelihood of at most Rs 3,000 [$67] a month, can come only from among the underprivileged and can be given only a sketchy training…States must think of other ways to fight insurgency.”
Turning to the court’s order to set up a team to understand why large-scale tax evasion is taking place and take action to bring overseas funds back to India, Surjit Bhalla, chair of fund management firm Oxus Investments, called it “questionable” in a column on Friday in the Financial Express, the business daily of the Indian Express.
“Ostensibly, the judgment is about the Hasan Ali case. Ali has been accused of money laundering,” wrote Mr. Bhalla. “In reality, the judgment is a diatribe against economic reforms, capitalism, neoliberalism…heavily influenced by a rudimentary knowledge of Marxism. The rest of the time there are shades of an (obsolete) eighth grade moral science lecture.”
The Hindustan Times Thursday editorial also accused the top court of excess.
“The courts have every right to rule on rule on individual instances of regulatory failure, but the job of systemic overhaul is beyond their capabilities,” said the paper. “The Supreme Court has often in the past refused to judge the merits of policy. There is little to recommend upturning this restraint over black money.”
The paper went on: “The court is correct in its diagnosis that unaccounted cash is an economy-wide phenomenon that calls for an economy-wide cure. However, it is in no position to administer that medicine.”
Still, it expressed the hope that “judicial overreach may serve a purpose in all this by bringing the pertinent questions to the fore.”
Via: India Real Time