15.11.2019

Indian print media have commented that the Judiciary has taken a right step towards transparency. Dailies have also commented on Impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump which may or may not unseat him. Newspapers have opined that Sri Lanka’s presidential election comes at a critical time for the island country. The incoming leadership must know the dangers of falling into Chinese debt trap.

FINANCIAL EXPRESS in an editorial JUDICIARY TAKES A STEP TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY writes the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision to bring the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, albeit with certain conditions applying, would seem a watershed moment in the judiciary’s history given how it has resisted public scrutiny. Coming under the RTI lens will push what has been an opaque system to share insights into its functioning. That said, the conditions that the judgment sets lend themselves to the apex court stonewalling efforts to dig out particulars that may be of public interest. The verdict leans heavily on the judges’ right to privacy, and the independence of the judiciary as touchstones for allowing RTI queries. Justice N V Ramana, a member of the bench that delivered the verdict, however, has also cautioned against the RTI becoming a “tool of surveillance” against the court in his separate but concurring judgment in the matter. If the judiciary, is to become meaningfully transparent, the guiding principle has to be what Justice D Y Chandrachud wrote in his judgment: “Failure to bring about accountability reforms would erode trust in the courts’ impartiality, harming core judicial functions… Transparency and the right to information are crucially linked to the rule of law itself.”

THE INDIAN EXPRESS in an editorial WHOSE FOREIGN POLICY? says the first hearing of the impeachment inquiry being conducted by the Intelligence Committee of the US House of Representatives did not go well for President Donald Trump. Two bi-partisan career diplomats — the acting US Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, George Kent — confirmed that Trump used the ; authority of his office to further his personal political agenda. In addition, Taylor presented new facts — a staffer from his office witnessed a phone call between Trump and the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, where the US President had inquired about the progress of Ukraine’s investigation into alleged corruption by the former Vice President and Democratic Presidential hopeful, Joe Biden, and his son. Both de jure and de facto, the impeachment proceedings are political: They are carried out by the legislature, and in fact, are unlikely to lead to the US President being removed from office, given that Republicans enjoy a majority in the Upper House, the Senate, which has the final say.

THE TIMES OF INDIA in an editorial SRI LANKA POLLS observes Sri Lanka goes for Presidential polls on Saturday 16th November, in what could mark a return to power of the Rajapaksa clan. Although a total of 35 candidates are in the running, the contest is essentially being seen as one between Gotabaya Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and Sajith Premadasa of the ruling United National Party (UNP). Gotabaya, younger brother of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was that country’s Defence Secretary during the brutal war against the Tamil separatists, LTTE. After Mahinda lost power in 2015, the Rajapaksa brothers faded from the limelight. But with security back on the political agenda after the horrific Easter Sunday terror bombing in April this year, Gotabaya has the opportunity to harp on his family’s legacy of defeating the Tamil separatists as he bids for top office.  With the objective of protecting common interests in Sri Lanka, New Delhi should keep impressing on the Sri Lankan leadership about the dangers of falling into China’s debt trap. Colombo already had to lease away the Hambantota port to Beijing. It should be wary of more Chinese white elephant projects, which end up taking the island nation’s sovereignty away.