Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Congratulating a great human being!

What makes a genuinely great person? One may wonder, and find so many answers, but the core criterion remains: how he treats his subordinates. One person who has had a profound impact on my life is Mr. Saurabh Ajay Gupta, who had found his own place in my blog earlier. One has to meet him to fully comprehend why I have so many words of praise for this man.

Recently, he was appointed as the Additional Advocate General of Chattisgarh, after he held the position of the Additional Advocate General of Punjab from 2011 to 2017. This post is primarily congratulatory towards his new achievement. As a man who tirelessly worked without resting on his laurels, this seems like a natural progression with many more laurels to come in the future.

I have been fortunate enough to be an intern for this great man, and I have had the opportunity to learn a lot from him. This learning process was not only how to be a good lawyer, but how to be a good human being. A month of an internship has given me a lifetime of learning and a bond so strong, it will outlast any professional relationship there can be.

For a lawyer of his calibre, I am underqualified to congratulate, but I hope wishing well never required fulfilment of criteria. This deserved its own blog post because it was a personal moment of happiness for me, seeing him fly high without limits. Like a guardian, he has been the guiding light for me through the legal profession. Even after all these achievements, and having represented clients with the highest profiles who make national headlines, I still find him to be the same as he was when I first met him five years ago: the humble, witty and polite man who does not hesitate to share knowledge and build people.

I am sure that the Chattisgarh government will be pleased to have taken such a wonderful decision and will place confidence in him for years to come. The things that are required from a lawyer are the exact things required to be a good human being — integrity, honesty, an unassailable spirit for justice and of course, intellect. It is the perfect combination of these four qualities that make him unique, which I am sure has been one of the reasons the Chattisgarh government chose him for the job.

To new beginnings and new laurels, congratulations, sir!

Saturday, 8 June 2019

The Limits of Democracy: Legitimising Populism

Imagine this: A country, Outlandia, democratically elects its leader whose primary political agenda and promise was to commit genocide against a minority group, the Outlandish. The people of Outlandia, with an overwhelming majority, voted to power the promise of erosion of human rights.

While that may be an outrageous claim today since it is feeding on extreme notions of populism, one cannot but turn a blind eye to the rise of populism across the world. Is a populist leader, in whatever form or political spectrum, the end of rule of law and the end of compliance with international legal norms? Hardly anyone would doubt that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are fundamental pillars of the modern concept of a ‘free state’. Yet, that one pillar can be a legitimate threat to the other two. In the past, democratically elected parties have toppled rule of law in the traditionally ‘civilised’ European nations. Same is the case with human rights.

What then, is the boundary for democracy? How does one draw a line? What seems right against a popular support for the destruction of the independence of judiciary and disregard for human rights? What would have seemed like a hypothetical question is a tangible threat in today’s world: disregard for human rights and the rule of law is legitimised by democratic support for leaders that do so. This concern cuts across continents, across religious values, across developed nations and developing nations.

Koskenniemi suggests that the rise of the far-right is not based on the anxiety over economic deprivation, it is built over the ‘loss of status’.[1]  There can be two identifiable schools of thought: namely that of the two schools of ‘economic inequality’ and ‘cultural backlash’.[2]  However, it is also suggested that the data for correlation between economic factors and the rise of far-right tendencies is inconclusive, so to say.[3]  Cultural backlash, therefore, becomes a feasible explanation of the rise in populism. As a majority of the population feels marginalised in favour of protection of the minority, a sudden refuge in populism seems tempting.

What then is the limit of, and substitute for democracy? There is none and there shall be none. There is no limit to the process of democracy, but the only form of constraint against anarchy is that there are strict limitations on how populist leaders can effectuate their populist policies at both the international and the domestic level.

The freedom to choose also entails with it the responsibility to choose wisely. Yet, like most things in life, a clear separation of populist and not-a-populist parties is impossible. More so, when populism comes as a side dish to the promise of great economic and social reform. Sometimes, the wise choice of emancipation may mean taking a step back in other places. It seems not-so-wise, but sometimes the freedom to choose political parties may entail a difficult decision to support populism. After all, it is not sustainable to create a society where the exact same society is pleasant for some, but a nightmare for others.

[1] Martti Koskenniemi, ‘International Law and the Rise of the Far-Right’ (Asser Annual Lecture, The Hague, 29 November 2018); See also Dimitri van den Meerssche, ‘Interview: Martti Koskenniemi on International Law and the Rise of the Far-Right’ Opinio Juris (10 December 2018) available at accessed 07 June 2019.
[2]  Ronald F Inglehart and Pippa Norris, ‘Trump, Brexit, and the rise of Populism: Economic have-nots and cultural backlash’ (2016) Harvard University John F Kennedy School of Government Research Paper Working Series 16-026 available at accessed 07 June 2019.
[3] ibid.

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