Wanted TN Sheshan; Whither Inter State Council; Can masks go away?

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Opinion Watch

Wanted TN Sheshan

Independence of an institution is critical for a functional democracy. The great leaders of India while framing Constitution had desired in letter and spirit that there would be strict separation of powers among the executive, legislature and judiciary. But the lines have been blurred, and scales tilted heavily in favour of the executive.

Almost all the dailies have carried lead Editorials on five-judge bench of the Supreme Court calling for the insulation of the Election Commission from the interference of the Executive. The apex court expressed yearning for a Chief Election Commissioner like Sheshan.

The Economic Times has suggested that a blend of judiciary, executive and legislature could be a way out to bring a greater sense of autonomy in the Election Commission. But the Indian Express countered, arguing that the CBI Director is also appointed in similar fashion, without giving the desired result. The Hindu calls for equal tenure of the CEC and other EC members, while underlining that the Article 324(2) desires a law for the EC but Parliament hasn’t yet enacted one.

The Supreme Court’s hearing the issue of perceived lack of independence of the EC for which there are too many examples is timely, and the election body needs deep reforms to clean away the rusts. Process, not individual, is the hallmark of an independent institution, and a few aspects may be immediately adopted – fixed tenure, broadening pool to look beyond IAS, Constitutional mandate to the EC, an objective selection committee, and also a larger public scrutiny.

Whither Inter State Council

Violent skirmishes on borders between states are increasingly becoming alarming. Police firing on Assam-Meghalaya border too place on account of the ground forces resorting to fire to stop timber smugglers. Belgaum district is another flash point between Maharashtra and Karnataka. Already 51 people were killed and over 70 injured in the July skirmish on the border of Meghalaya and Assam.

The Times of India and The Indian Express have commented on the issue, calling for caution from the two state governments. ToI raises a pertinent question on the disappearance of the Inter State Council, enshrined in the Constitution through Article 263, which has met only twice in the last 16 years. The daily opined that the zonal meetings of Chief Ministers have been found to be ineffective.

Inter State Council and the National Development Council have become relics of the past era, as has been evident in the recent years as cosmetic meeting of the Governing Council on the Central government’s agenda now remains the only forum for the states to meet the Centre on one common platform.  

Can masks go away?

Masks are no more mandatory in airlines now. Crowded Metro is also without the people wearing masks. The daily Covid-19 cases are now below 500, and The Hindu calls for making wearing masks mandatory only for the vulnerable, besides saying that it is time for easing away the pandemic norms.

Indeed, the Covid-19 cases are at low after peaking in January 2022. But, the air quality in most of the cities in India are below par. Also, there are several communicable diseases which are airborne. Therefore, the government should now focus on sensitisation to promote wearing mask at crowded places by the people.

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