India’s Supreme Court is becoming a national embarrassment. One of its judges, Justice Dipak Misra, has forced cinemas to play the national anthem at the start of every film, ordered people to stand, and banned dramatisations of the anthem. The judge’s order, which is very poorly written, is bad in law and damages the credibility of the court.
Baloch leader Brahumdagh Bugti’s request for asylum in India has prompted calls for a uniform and apolitical asylum law. That would be a mistake. Asylum has always been a diverse institution, resistant to homogeneity and friendly to political dissidents. Last winter, three asylum bills were introduced in Parliament, including one by Shashi Tharoor, but none of them would protect Mr. Bugti. Denying the government the ability to make sovereign decisions about who can receive India’s asylum is counterproductive. We need a nuanced law which recognises that asylum and refuge need not overlap.
The Indian nation-state is unique, so is its experience of refugees and migration. Future asylum law must acknowledge the country’s exceptionalism. An intelligent asylum regime should: (i) create different forms of protection; (ii) address mixed flows; (iii) prioritise mass influxes; and (iv) proactively govern refugee situations.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to strike down the anachronistic colonial offence of criminal defamation is wrong. Criminalising defamation serves no legitimate public purpose; the vehicle of criminalisation – sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) – is unconstitutional; and the court’s reasoning is woolly at best.
[Excerpt] Aadhaar’s vast database of biometric information is another pillar of India’s national security state. India is currently engaged in technological projects of astonishing dimensions, a colossally wide array of information collection, communications monitoring, and identity profiling. Biometrics have long been associated with biopower, a Foucauldian concept that is being frequently revisited as the world negotiates pervasive surveillance. The Aadhaar project is a new frontier in biopower: unparalleled in scale and unchecked by law, it is obliterating privacy.