Monday, November 29, 2010

Digital Wills. Who is your digital heir ?

Digital inheritance is the process of handing over personal digital assets to beneficiaries. Data that can be inherited includes passwords, instructive memos, digital contracts, digital receipts, pictures, and data stored on personal computers. All such data is collectively referred to as digital estate or digital assets.

We all have digital assets. Our emails, social networking accounts, blogs, online photo album and data stored on our personal computer.

Yes, all these can be and have to passed on to your heir. It is something no many people understand and so it creates a lot of problems for their lawyers.

A writer's manuscript in his computer or a photo journalists online photo album or your financial record on a file in your computer. All this is very important to you as well as your heirs. It is thus necessary to make provisions to pass it on to someone through a digital will.

Different companies have different policies with regards to passing on digital information. Yahoo deletes the person's account. Google gives conditional access to family members. You just have to provide a proof of authority under the local law to certify that you are the lawful representative of the deceased and also provide his/her death certificate. It takes around 30 days for the entire process.

Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in Cyber Law says," In April this year, a Delhi businessman's digital will was India's first in this regard. Ever since, six more people have approached me to discuss their digital estate and consequently, make their wills."

First of all you have to create a list of all the digital assets that you have. Secondly, you have to get your digital signature authenticated. It is then just a matter of a thousand rupees or so to get your digital will ready.

Some helpful websites:

I hope this information is useful. It is something not many people know of. Spread the word.

Some quotes and the list of websites are taken from the newspaper Time of India, Ahmedabad Edition, Page 11. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Airtel's New Logo: Pass or Fail ?

Airtel released a new logo recently.

It also announced that it had crossed 200 million customers.

The company says that the Logo is modern, vibrant and friendly. All the letters are in small caps which is supposed to suggest the need for humility. Here's the official declaration by the company. A.R. Rahman also composed a new signature tune for the company.  The Logo cost the company Rs. 300 crores. I mean the total cost for promoting the new logo is Rs. 300 crores.

I personally think its not worth it. The logo is not even good, leave alone great. I'm not the only one who think so. Almost all the people I have talked to think its not good. It definitely is not worth 300 crores.

There is also a large group of people who believe that the Logo is a combination of Videocon's Logo and Vodafone's colour scheme.

So the only thing left to say is, does the new logo pass or fail ? 
Is it really worth 300 crores? 
Does it improve Airtel's image or does it diminish it? 

If your views are contrary then please let me know. 



Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Ratan Tata did for the Mumbai Victims

Hey, we all know about the Mumbai bomb blasts. We also know how the Government has handled it till now.

What we don't know is that Ratan Tata has done something for everyone affected that no one else has.

Here is the list of things done by him. I got it from a link posted by my friend Madhuri on Facebook. Here is the original note.

1. All category of employees including those who had completed even 1 day as casuals were treated on duty during the time the hotel was closed. 

2. Relief and assistance to all those who were injured and killed 

3. The relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the railway station, surroundings including the “Pav- Bha ji” vendor and the pan shop owners.

4. During the time the hotel was closed, the salaries were sent by money order. 

5. A psychiatric cell was established in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences to counsel those who needed such help. 

6. The thoughts and anxieties going on people’s mind was constantly tracked and where needed psychological help provided. 

7. Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water, sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were covered by this facility. 

8. Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the person required. 

9. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who in some manner – either through injury or getting killed – were affected. 

10. The dependents of the employees were flown from outside Mumbai to Mumbai and taken care off in terms of ensuring mental assurance and peace. They were all accommodated in Hotel President for 3 weeks. 

11. Ratan Tata himself asked the families and dependents – as to what they wanted him to do.

12. In a record time of 20 days, a new trust was created by the Tatas for the purpose of relief of employees.

13. What is unique is that even the other people, the railway employees, the police staff, the pedestrians who had nothing to do with Tatas were covered by compensation. Each one of them was provided subsistence allowance of Rs. 10K per month for all these people for 6 months.

14. A 4 year old granddaughter of a vendor got 4 bullets in her and only one was removed in the Government hospital. She was taken to Bombay hospital and several lacs were spent by the Tatas on her to fully recover her.

15. New hand carts were provided to several vendors who lost their carts.

16. Tata will take responsibility of life education of 46 children of the victims of the terror.

17. This was the most trying period in the life of the organization. Senior managers including Ratan Tata were visiting funeral to funeral over the 3 days that were most horrible. 

18. The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs [One lakh rupees tranlates to approx 2200 US $ ] in addition to the following benefits:

a. Full last salary for life for the family and dependents;

b. Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents – anywhere in the world.

c. Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of their life.

d. All loans and advances were waived off – irrespective of the amount.

e. Counselor for life for each person

B. Epilogue

1. How was such passion created among the employees? How and why did they behave the way they did?

2. The organization is clear that it is not something that someone can take credit for. It is not some training and development that created such behaviour. If someone suggests that – everyone laughs

3. It has to do with the DNA of the organization, with the way Tata culture exists and above all with the situation that prevailed that time. The organization has always been telling that customers and guests are #1 priority

4. The hotel business was started by Jamshedji Tata when he was insulted in one of the British hotels and not allowed to stay there.

5. He created several institutions which later became icons of progress, culture and modernity. IISc is one such institute. He was told by the rulers that time that he can acquire land for IISc to the extent he could fence the same. He could afford fencing only 400 acres.

6. When the HR function hesitatingly made a very rich proposal to Ratan – he said – do you think we are doing enough?

7. The whole approach was that the organization would spend several hundred crore in re-building the property – why not spend equally on the employees who gave their life?


Ratan Tata. Respect.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Golden facts about Gujarat

Here are some facts about Gujarat which all of you might not know:

  • Dholavira is the site of the world's oldest reservoir and Lothal contains the ancient ruins of the world's first dockyard. These are both located in Gujarat. 
  • Out of the 562 princely states in India prior to Independence, as many as 366 were in Gujarat. 
  • The Rann of Kutch is famous for its white salt desert, rare ecosystem, fossils and wildlife. The Indian Wild Ass, called the Ghor Khur resides here.
  • The Champaner_Pavagadh Archealogical Park near the Pavagadh Hills in Gujarat has been recognised by UNESCO as a "World Heritage Site".
  • Gujarat is the exclusive natural habitat of lions outside Africa. According to the 13th Asiatic Lions population estimate, conducted in 2010, a total of 411 lions dwell inn the Gir Forest National Part and the surrounding areas. 
  • The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi was born in Porbandar, Gujarat. The city of Gandhinagar is named after him. 
  • India's first Marina Wildlife Sanctuary and first Marine National Park were created in the Gulf of Kutch off the Gujarat coast in 1980 and 1982 respectively. 
  • There are about 46.1 Million speakers of 'Gujarati' worldwide, making it the 26th most spoken native language in the world. Gujarat's literary history can be traced back to 1000 AD.
  • Gujarat is known as 'the land of fairs and festivals' because over 2000 festivals are celebrated here. 
  • Gujarat has the most, 44 of the 205 to be precise, protected mosques of the country according to the Archeological Survey of India.
  • At the height of about 2000 feet, Palitana in Gujarat is the only place in the world with more than 900 Jain temples. 
  • Over 25% of the Indian population in North America is Gujarati. 
  • Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat is the greenest capital of Indian and one of the greenest of the world. It has 32,00,000 trees and a 22 trees per person ratio. 
  • Gujarat has the highest rate of eye donation in India. It contributes 25% of the total eye donations in the country. 
  • Every minute, on average, one person in Gujarat donates blood. 
  • The Government of Gujarat was the first State Government in Asia to set up a separate Department of Climate Chance and only the fourth such state/province in the world. 
  • Gujarat has the highest coastline of any state in India at 1600 kms. 
  • The first expressway in India links Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat. 
  • On 31st July 2010, Ahmedabad set a world record planting 7.5 lakh spalings in a day by public participation in 12 hours, breaking the earlier record of 5.5 lakh saplings planted in a day in the whole of Pakistan. 
  • Ahmedabad's Bus Rapid Transit System was awarded the best sustainable transport system in the world by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in January 2010. 
  • Gujarat is home to the world's largest ship breaking and recycling yard in Alang, near Bhavnagar. 
  • Ahmedabad gained the nickname 'the Manchester of the East' on account of its booming textile industry. 
  • 10 of the 25 richest Indians are of Gujarati origin. 
  • Tata Motor's Nano, the world's cheapest car, is manufactured in Sanand,Gujarat.  
  • Madhapar, a village in Kutch, Gujarat is Asia's richest village. The population of 15,000 in 2009 reputedly have per capita fixed deposits in the bank averaging 1,200,000 pounds. 
  • The percentage of working days lost due to industrial strife is 0.42 per cent, the lowest in India. 
  • More than 8 out of the 10 of the world's diamonds are processed in Surat in Gujarat. 
  • The SEZ in Dahej in Gujarat is the only Indian SEZ to appear in the top 25 list published by FDI, a magazine of the Financial Times. 
  • Ahmedabad is ranked the third fastest growing city in the world by Forbes. 
  • I am a resident of Gujarat since 20 years now and I did not know some of the facts. All these facts are either collected from various government websites or taken from a brochure of Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2011. 
Other interesting links:
Gujarat Tourism Website

Vibrant Gujarat Summit Official Website

A.R. Rahman's song about Vibrant Gujarat

Gujarat Tourism Ad featuring Amitabh Bachchan

Advertisement 1

Advertisement 2

Please share it with your friends and family who want to visit Gujarat and who might not know a lot of things about the State.

If you need any other information then you can write it in the comments and I will reply. Google is also an option. :D



My views on Flipkart

Flipkart: The store at your door.

It is a website which sells books, movies, music, games and mobiles. Their tag line is "The store at your door."

First of all I have to admit that I am mighty impressed by the service given by Flipkart. I had ordered a book named Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I got the book at my door step in perfect condition, with the option of cash on delivery and above that there was a nice little bookmark in it. Their system is like clockwork. They already have a lot of books and they try to add books based on your suggestions too. They have an easy to operate website and numerous check and balances to see to it that their customer is satisfied. They even called me the day after my book was delivered. I have not seen such a high level of service in any online website. 

Inspite of all these awesome features I personally think there is some room for improvement. These are not exactly problems with the service, they are just improvements. It is what you call the icing on the cake. Although this cake already has some icing, the suggestions might make it even better. :)

  • I can see that the website has a gift voucher system. I think what would be even better is having an option to send a book as a birthday gift. If I want to gift a friend a book I cannot send it by just giving his/her address as the delivery spot because the box that you send the books in keeps the book safe but looks very clumsy when you get it for a birthday gift. So if we had an option of sending a gift wrapped box which does not have the price of the book written on it then it would be perfect. If I am staying in Ahmedabad and I want to send a gift to a friend in Bombay then I can do it easily. It's so much better than having to courier a book or a mobile phone on our own.
  • The website doesn't let you choose the time of delivery. It is sometimes inconvenient for the customer to not get the book on time just because the courier guy came in that three hour period when the customer had gone out. If we could have an option of mentioning the timings during which we are at the delivery address it would be more convenient for both us and the courier company. 
  • There are so many students in India who don't even know that your website exists. They buy books from stores and pay more for it. I think that if you they find out that there are books available online that too at a discount then they will pounce on you. Send a small poster or something to all the big colleges across the country. It will be the cheapest and the most effective marketing trick ever. I have seen websites grow because of it and hence suggesting this.

Well I don't have anything else to say as of now. You guys are doing a great job and I wish you continue with it. The above suggestions are just something that I have been thinking about. Hope this helps.

Flipkart can be found at their website, facebook page and twitter



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Foreign Law Firms

"The legal profession in so-called advanced countries is a product of Industrial Revolution whereas in India it is a product of Independence Revolution"

These are the words that made me think. Should foreign law firms be allowed in India? Are they necessary?

Just as I questioned myself, a small part inside me said ‘Yes’ immediately. It was then, that I thought about it properly and tried to research on it.
In 1994, two New York-based and one London-based law firm had sought permission from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to begin liaison office activities in India to advise and assist non-Indian clients in connection with their activities in India and outside India. The three law firms, White & Case (NY), Chadbourne & Parke (NY) and Ashurst Morris Crisp (UK) were granted permission under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) to start liaison activities. However, in 1995, Lawyers’ Collective, a public interest trust set up by lawyers to provide legal aid, moved Bombay HC challenging the right of foreign law firms to “practice law” in India. The High Court had held that the practices engaged by these firms amounted to “practicing the law” and hence were not to be permitted.

Under Section 7(1) of the Advocates Act 1961, foreign law degrees are recognized by the Bar Council of India on a reciprocal basis, and legal academics can teach and engage in legal research without any bar. However, foreign nationals are prohibited from “practicing law” in India as per the same Act.
Countries other than India, usually have two types of lawyers. Barristers and Solicitors. Solicitors can give advice and draft documents but cannot argue in the court. Barristers can do everything that solicitor can and also argue in the court. Indian lawyers can do both, and they usually do it too.
The biggest problem with this debate is that there is a lot of false news going around regarding the it. A lot of people are given only one side of the story and choose sides based on it. We are human beings, we will always oppose change.

Foreign law firms are not here for advocacy work, they are here for transaction work. All the Indian law firm’s majority work is transaction work. Why will they not oppose competition? Who would not want a closed market for such a huge and growing economy? It is simple economics.
The argument in favour of the Indian law firms is that they will bring in professionalism. I am definitely not saying that the current firms are not professional. I mean that global competition will force them to become better than they are right now. Increased competition is always good for the consumer and the economy.
Reciprocity and international law obligations are also very strong arguments. Foreign countries allow Indian lawyers to work there, after certain small requirements are met with, then why should we not reciprocate the favour? India is a founder member of World Trade Organisation’s (WTO), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The main objective of this agreement is to facilitate free flow of services across the world.

Other countries which allow foreign lawyer and firms have certain restrictions. For example in California the Foreign Law Firms were only permitted to deal in laws not specific to California. In countries like Singapore, Hong-Kong and Japan they are restricted to servicing only foreign firms. The models of all these places, their practices, rules and regulations need to be analysed thoroughly before being incorporated into the Indian system.

There have been news that government is going to allow foreign law firms in a short while. There is immense pressure on the government from both sides. Foreign governments are pressurising it to allow the entry and Indian law firms and the Bar Council of India is asking it to go against it. There have been speculations that foreign law firms may be allowed to enter but in phases. In the first phase, they will be allowed to set up offices here but it has to work solely as if it is outsourcing its work to India. In the second phase they will be allowed to do transaction work in India. It might be restricted to work for foreign companies who are working with Indian companies. In the third and the final phase, they will be given total access. They will be treated like any other lawyer in India. Although they might have to pass some examination. It is still not very clear.
If we look at it in a strict sense then we can see that they are already here. We are all aware of the so called ‘friendship agreements’ between foreign law firms and Indian law firms. They have common training programmes and a lot of other such things. So they are already making a foundation for an entry.
I don’t understand one thing though. It’s a really simple question. If they have allowed us into their markets then why can we not allow them in our? I would like to refer to the book ‘The World Is Flat’ by Thomas Friedman. It advocated the fact that the world is now a common market and all the products and services are launched will have a level playing field. This is not the condition with our legal services. We want other countries to open up their markets. We ask them for more lenient laws for settling there and doing business there. We want all other countries to follow GATS, but what are we doing? How hypocritical are we?

The humorous part is that foreign law firms are not being bogged down. They are pretty smart too. Apart from the ‘friendship agreements’ they have already started hiring fresh law graduates from law colleges in the country. They are giving them monetary benefits which are much more than the average that Indian law firms are providing. They are brain draining us. Their message is clear, if you don’t allow us to work in your country then we will take your brightest law graduates and camp them in our country and charge you in pound sterling or dollars or whatever.
Foreign law firms are more professional. They don’t have the ‘only 20 partners’ restriction. So they have a lot of partners and so employees there have a higher chance of becoming a partner. Indian government is planning on bringing in Limited Liability Partnerships. This way, the situation in India will change. I have heard that Clifford Chance has over 600 partners. I am not sure but if it is then I am surprised.
My suggestion:
Let them enter. They will make the market more client friendly. They will bring more jobs. They will being professionalism. Indian law firms are already facing a lot of competition but are still able to hold on to the top spot. I don’t think they will have a problem with that later on. You cannot avoid competition forever. There should be Special Exams for foreign lawyers so that the quality of lawyers that are allowed to practice can be moderated. Multi National Companies have changed the entire business scene. They have made a MBA degree a special qualification. The students now get a higher salary because they are now wanted by a larger population. Something similar can happen to a law degree. This is very important for people who consider National Law Schools are the IIM’s of law just like people think that IIT’s are the IIM’s of engineering. No one’s vested interest should come in the way of common good. I am not advocating the entry for monetary purposes. I am supporting it so that Indian lawyers become more efficient. They have started slacking in their effort. There is a scarcity of ‘good’ lawyers and law firms in the country. They can be counted on our fingers. I want it to change.
The decision is still pending. Mr. Law Minister is not ready to take a stance. No organisation/website wants to take sides because they are afraid of backlash if the decision goes against them. A lot of polls have been conducted, all which showed a majority of people who want foreign law firms in India.
Don’t push India back by trapping its economy. Imagine the situation if we had not liberalized the economy in 1991. Let’s not do anything that we might regret in the future.
I am not against Indian law firms or the Bar Council of India. I am pro-liberalization. Let the democratic country do its thing. Sorry for the unusually long post. I hope I have made my point.
Constructive suggestions are welcome.

Related read:

P.S.- This post first appeared on my blog on Legally India : Entry of Foreign Law Firms- Let them in.

Love in the times of Law School

In Law schools, relationships mainly start due to boredom.

Yes, that what I believe. I have seen it and I think a lot of people have too.
I have to clarify. I am not talking about all the relationships. I am talking about a ‘majority’ of them. Love and law are two separate concepts. Although in a law school, they come together.

People in law schools are away from their families. They have almost no extra-curricular activity which keeps them busy all day long. They long for friendship. They long for a family. They want to be loved.

So, what do they do?

Well, they ‘fall in love’. Pretty simple.

It’s an extra-curricular activity. There are a few exceptions though. There are a few people who are not successful and then are others who although have nothing to do, do not pursue any such adventures.

I might not be completely true but I am pretty sure that I am true in a lot of cases. I am not talking about just people in my college. This is the situation in a lot of residential colleges.

There are couples. They roam around together. They ‘enjoy’ in their free time. They watch movies together. They share emotions. They go for trips to nearby tourist destinations. They are like a proper couple, without the emotions.
The messed up part is that both of them know it, but both of them want it, so no one will say anything.

They work on the principle that our country works on, “Jab tak chal raha hai, chalne do.” (As long as something works, let it go on). After 5 years or whatever the length of the course is, they go their separate ways and live happily ever after. There are a few fortunate people who end up marrying their ‘time-pass’.
I personally think that there are more constructive things that can be done.

Do whatever makes you happy.

Yes I am judging.



P.S.- This post first appeared on my blog on Legally India: Love in the times of Law School

Nari Adalat: A Social Experiment

They have never been to a law school or sported the lawyer's black robes butmany women in rural India are dispensing justice in tough cases like rape, child marriage and even divorce mostly in just two weeks - at “NariAdalats.”

I am sure majority of you would not have heard of Nari Adalats. The literal translation would mean "Women's Court". They are a type of ADR system. Mostly unknown, they work very efficiently. They are known as the silent warriors. They fight for justice. It was started in Vadodara, Gujarat.
What is a Nari Adalat?
They are a bunch of women working as a Lok Adalat. There are no male members involved in the decision making process. Contrary to the opinion that you might have had in the first two lines, they are absolutely gender neutral when it comes to delivering justice. Yes, you read that right.
They want to involve women into the judicial process. They want women to raise voice against violence and injustice. They want to change the role of women in the society. They want to be less dependent on the patriarchal society of justice.

General features

It does not have a formal court setup. No fix place. No judge, a large group of women instead. The minutes of the proceedings in a day are written and maintained. The orders decided in the meetings do not bind the parties legally. It only binds them morally and socially. They charge no fees. They travel to the party’s home to solve their disputes. They are sometimes trained by the local lawyers on basic topics of law. These ‘adalats’ have solved more than 23,000 cases till now. The figure is a very conservative estimate. The real figure will be much much higher.
Future plan
They are working on making people aware about the complimentary judicial systems. They want to expand it to every village in the country. It is to be made a bit formal. They will finalise a place. Training will be given to Nari Adalat women. of NA. They will start observing the International Violence against Women day. They will hold legal workshops where people will be made aware about their rights.

The government, the judiciary and the society at large have a duty to encourage such women. The police force of their respective areas is already in awe of these women. They have made identification cards for some of them. They also offer transportation facilities whenever they can. People in the village look up to them.

The faith that people had on the justice system in the olden days is being restored by these women. They are a pillar of strength for other women in the society. They are the symbol of the rise of women in the society.
Inspite of all these positives, they are still ignored by the larger mass. Almost no one knows about them. They have to spend their personal money for travelling expenses. Their only identification is the identity cards that police of certain villages have given them.
I had gone to many such Adalats for a survey for the college. We were moved by the enthusiasm of these women. We asked them what they needed. They said that they want more people to know about this. They want more people to join in the movement. They want a normal uniform, maybe saree so that they can connect with it and feel like one. They want a proper place to function. They do not want tables and chairs, they just want a place which has a concrete shade over it and a fan. All their sessions are held in borrowed places and all of them sit on the floor.
Thank You
This is the first post I have written which has actually given me a sense of satisfaction. I can now tell my subconscious, “This is why I became a law student.”
P.S.- This post first appeared on Legally India: Nari Adalat- A Social Experiment. This post won the most socially relevant post in their blogging competition.

What's your CGPA?

Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA)
My CGPA just went up. *celebrates*
No, it’s not because I started studying more or anything. My law school just found out that they needed to be more lenient in their marking system to ensure that I get a job.
Unbelievable? Well, it’s happening so better believe it.
In the last few years many law schools have changed their grading system and made them more lenient. Law schools see higher grades as one way to rescue their students from unemployment. Perhaps even to protect their reputation and ‘rankings’.
Till now we have seen a lot of tactics that law schools adopt to ensure better recruitment for their students. Some of them organize recruitment camps early, some of them treat their recruiters lavishly etc.
Grade inflation is probably the most dangerous of these tactics. Imagine everyone’s grades going up. No change in study time or preparatory material or papers. Parents will be happy, in the beginning, and why not, their son/daughter is scoring well. A first class in law school was not that easy to come till some time back but their son/daughter has a first class in almost all subjects. Happy parents, happy students and happy college. Erm, just tell me one thing, if everyone is getting good grades then how will you differentiate between the good students and the bad students? The recruiters will be or should I say, are in a fix. They always look at the CGPA first. (Mistake?) So if my college gives CGPAs out of 10 and half of the class is above 8.5 then does that mean that no one is even mediocre, leave alone bad?
“If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser at the end,” says Stuart Rojstaczer, a former geophysics professor at Duke who now studies grade inflation. “So you artificially call every student a success.”
Harvard, Stanford and Yale do not have grading systems. They now follow a pass/fail system. This again creates problems for recruiters. But then according to me it the fault of the recruiters to judge a student by CGPA alone, so its fine. I guess if law schools here do that then more emphasis would come on the other activities, the articles, the moots, the internships and as always, Jugaad. Is that good or bad?
If all the law schools start doing it then the status quo will not change. The problem starts when the grades reach such a level that the college cannot increase it any further. So there will be a time when all the colleges will have the same average grades. How cool na? No need for rankings. India Today and Outlook, are you listening? We will have no other choice but to go for the pass/fail system then.
So basically it’s a stupid system. I am sure none of the law schools will change but yes this is something that students and prospective recruiters have to look after. Some of the recruiters keep track of such things but others don’t and so are easy conned.
This will take time and so all of us will pass (with good grades, I must add). If this continues then the future is definitely not bright.
My CGPA just went up. *Oh damn!*
P.S. - This post first appeared on Legally India: What's your CGPA? and related read.

I am a law student but...

A very intelligent acquaintance had once told me, “The reason why you want to become a lawyer and the things you do after becoming a lawyer are mostly different.”

Mostly people decide they want to do law ‘to serve the society’. It is indeed a very noble thought and definitely a strong motive to join a course. What happens after you pass out? You look for money and recognition and more money. The ideal thoughts that got you into the course are nowhere to be found.

Hell! It has even happened to me. I wanted to get a law degree because I thought I would be doing something for the society after I pass out. Helping people get ‘justice’. Improve people’s lives. I thought I would intern at places that matter, which affects the society directly. I will make a difference.

I am still studying and it seems I am already too far away from my dream. All I am worried about right now is CGPA, Moots, Conferences and Seminars, Recruitment and what not. Where did the old me disappear? The one who would give a damn.

I do not care about Human rights, Legal rights or Legal Aid. I don’t care if people suffer just because they don’t know their rights. I have become insensitive. I have become selfish. I have become greedy.

I have already completed a few years in college and so all my acquaintances think that I am a career councillor when it comes to choosing law as a career and then choosing a law school. All the above things came to my mind when I asked a young aspiring law student why she wanted to get a law degree. She had come to learn things from me but instead taught me something.

I would like to quote another friend, “See I took up law because I'm one of those freaks who say that we should change India, change the system etc. etc.”

After this incident, I have changed. I am trying to go back to the ‘old me’.

The question is not if I will be successful, it is whether I tried or not.



P.S. - This post first appeared on my blog on Legally India: I am a law student but..

Compulsory Voting in India

Compulsory Voting

On the 16th of December 2009. Gujarat government announced that it will pass an Act on the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009.The amendment will voting compulsory for all citizens of Gujarat to vote to elections to a self governing body. This will make the right to vote, a duty. It will apply to all qualified voters Municipal Corporations, Municipalities, district, talukas and village panchayats. When it is done. Gujarat will be the first state in India to do such a thing. It will be implemented for the first time in October 2010 during the Municipal elections in Ahmedabad.

I am not taking sides here. I just want to point out the pros and cons of the action.

Voting in India is not compulsory. We usually have 50-60% turnout. We also see some candidates winning and being elected even though they have just received only 10-20% votes of the total registered voters. I mean how can someone be chosen to rule over the constituency even when he/she has received only 1/5 of the total votes. Most people don’t vote because of two main reasons. First, they think that their votes don’t count for much. A single vote won’t make a difference. Second, they think that none of the contestants are good enough. I read it in a book named Freakonomics that a very very low number of elections are won by a margin of one vote. Does that mean that your vote doesn’t matter ? No if everyone thinks like that then it will be very tough to choose good candidates. Why should people be forced. They know that voting for a good candidate is in turn going to benefit them only. They have to understand that. If we consider them as adults and give them the right to vote then we should treat them like adults and let them make the decision on whether to vote or not. To make my point more clear I would like to quote a analogy.

The Lifeboat Analogy.

You are one of twenty two people who are stranded on a life boat after the pleasure cruiser sinks.
Yes there is enough room and supplies for all of you for the immediate future so no decision has to be made as to who has to be thrown overboard. However there is one problem: the navigator has gone down with the ship and no one actually knows which direction to row to ultimately reach the shipping lanes. Even though no one knows for sure, eleven members of those on board have formulated ideas. Some think they can operate the sextant which has been saved, some believe they can tell which way to go by the currents, some by the sun, and some by the prevailing winds. The problem is that there is not general consensus from all there theories, and existing provisions will only allow for one attempt. It is ultimately decided that a vote has to be taken to decide whose theory will be accepted to decide the course to follow. Because the decision may well result in the life or death of everyone on board it is decided that everyone will have the right to vote. Even though you yourself have come to no theory, you decide to vote with one person who, to you, gives the general impression of being slightly more astute and knowledgeable that the other amateurs navigators. This leaves the remaining ten occupants. Not only do they have no idea which is the best direction for rescue, they also share equal faith in all of those who have suggested theories. Therefore because they fear their vote may lead to the wrong decision, they have decided to abstain from voting.

Will you allow the ten to abstain from voting or will you insist that, because lives are at risk, they must partake in the vote?

On the other hand, let us consider the scenario where voting is compulsory.

So its election day and you HAVE to vote. Sounds weird. We are so used to voting being a right that we cannot grasp the thought of it being a duty. The first question that comes to your mind is,” Why would someone want to do that ?” .

The reasons given are :

“It is a central conservative insight that democracy confers both rights and responsibilities. Attending a polling booth on election day is the mildest possible responsibility”

“Voting is a civic duty”

“Obligations may be imposed on individual for the benefit of the society generally”

Many countries like Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Egypt to name a few have compulsory voting.

Government of Gujarat is thus not the first to come up with the concept. On April 17, 2009 the Supreme Court of India had dismissed a plea to make voting compulsory. The plea was filed by Atul Sarode from Savda district in Maharashtra. He wanted to make voting compulsory for all elections. His plea also mooted the idea of not allowing any one to represent a constituency unless he/she fails to get a minimum of 51% of votes. If that doesn’t happen then there should be re-elections. We cannot choose the best from the worst. After all it’s a matter of running our constituency. We do not want some random person to govern us. We want responsible people. Why can we not have re-elections ? Some say that it is too expensive. I say if he/she is going to govern us then we definitely should take all precautionary measures available to see to it that we choose only the best. The plea also mooted the idea of e-voting.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam dismissed the plea and observed that a greater voter turnout could be ensured only by increasing people’s awareness. They also observed that voter turnout of 60% was satisfactory. (?!?!?!)

Well, this is the state of our India.

We also have a No vote provision in our constitution. Article 49-O of The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 gives the right to its citizens to not vote for any of the candidates even after going to the pooling booth. This provision has been very nicely hidden by our politicians. I have never seen a News Channel run a report on this provision. Even when it comes to the papers, it just a small article stating the basic things. Even poll booth volunteers don’t know what steps are to be taken when someone wants to exercise this right.

The Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009. allows negative voting. The manner of negative voting and its impact on other candidates will be worked out by the state government through special rules framed later. It is also under consideration that all candidates will be disqualified if negative voting is the highest.

In countries that have compulsory voting, there are certain sanctions imposed if people fail to vote. Some of them are :
  • He has to give a legitimate explanation for not voting. ( I think this can be easily abused)
  • A fine is imposed on him/her. The amount of fine depends from country to country.
  • It can also lead to imprisonment. No cases have been filed under this but sometimes when a person does not pay fine even after repeated warnings then he is sentenced to imprisonment. Although the reason for imprisonment is given as failure to pay fine and not failure to vote.
  • Other sanctions are like in Belgium, it is difficult to get a job in public sector if you have not voted. There are also social sanctions, in Mexico it is difficult to get a day care place for your child if you are a non-voter. Salary of government employees is sometimes stopped if they don’t vote.
Gujarat government is also thinking of something like that. An official has said that people who do not vote will be deprived on Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards, government service and subsidized loan. Defaulters will be served a one month notice and in that time they have to give a reason to the election commissioner for not voting. The exempted categories will include people who are physically incapable due to illness, or absent on the date of election from the country or the state of Gujarat.

India is a land where Bills and their corresponding Acts can sometimes be so different that it’s difficult to find something common between them. We can just hope that this time they come up with a logical Act.

Long live Democracy.

P.S. - This post first appeared on my blog on Legally India: The Concept of Compulsory Voting

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