07.12.2017

The Indian print media has lauded the Supreme Court for asking the Indian government for bringing in legislation to cap lawyers’ fees. This is a step in the right direction, as access to affordable justice is a pre-requisite in a vibrant democracy. The Free Trade Agreement between the Maldives and China has also been discussed by the Indian newspapers. President Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is likely to heighten regional tension, the dailies observe.

THE HINDUSTAN TIMES in an editorial MAKE JUSTICE FOR ALL A REALITY writes, concerned that astronomical lawyer fees are an obstacle to justice for the poor; the Supreme Court of India (SC) has asked the Centre to bring in a bill to regulate this. It has asked that the flloor ceiling of advocates’ fees be prescribed. Various SC judgments and law commission recommendations have sought such legislation, so that lawyers do not profit from the poor or refuse to represent them adequately. It is clear that the apex court does not view the legal profession like any other where practitioners have the choice to charge what they see fit for their services. The legal justice system is seen as a vital component in upholding the rule of law. In its 226th report, the law commission had said that the unethical conduct of lawyers had contributed to the pendency of cases which had, in turn, clogged the justice system.

THE HINDU in an editorial ISLAND HOPPING says the announcement of a free trade agreement between the Maldives and China is another sign of Beijing’s outreach in South Asia. After its push for maritime linkages across the Indian Ocean, including naval exercises and port projects, and for the enhancement of regional connectivity through the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, China seems to be ready to ramp up business ties across South Asia. China already has an FTA with Pakistan, and is exploring or negotiating FTAs with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The negotiations with the Maldives took about three years and were completed in September this year; it was ratified overnight by Parliament in Male. The agreement is expected to be signed this week, during President Abdulla Yameen’s first state visit to China. New Delhi has made no public statement on the issue.  What is of particular significance is the speed and stealth with which the negotiations were completed by Male. However, apart from the actual FTA, the rapid growth in China-Maldives ties has not been hidden from anyone. This is driven by massive infrastructure projects, including the development of Hulhule Island and the “Friendship” bridge connecting it to Male. Apart from investments of $1 billion, Chinese companies are exploring tourism prospects in the Maldives, leases to resort islands, and reclamation projects.

THE TRIBUNE in an editorial TRUMP’S JERUSALEM GAMBIT observes, if there is an upside to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it is not easily apparent. The blowback has started: all major Arab countries have raised the flag and the US is scrambling to protect its citizens from harm. That may just be the beginning: the second Intifada was triggered by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Mount Temple, an area sacred to both Jews and Muslims. If a mere visit was a provocation, the US decision will register higher up on the Richter scale of political upheavals. East Jerusalem, penciled in by the Palestinians as their future capital, is not just a contested parcel of land; it also has key religious sites of reverence to Judaism, Islam and Christianity. To be fair, Trump was fulfilling a campaign promise. Trump’s decision is also rule-based: in 1995, US Congress had passed an Act requiring the shifting of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. A repeat occurred a few months ago. But ever since Israel snatched East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, successive US Presidents have hung back from recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order to maintain the fiction of US neutrality.