A cynical, instrumental use of Law

Cast your mind back to the days when Kapil Sibal and others were negotiating with Team Anna about the Jan Lokpal Bill. Team Anna, at one point, wanted its version of Lokpal Bill to be passed by the Parliament by a particular date. Fail to pass the bill, the team members said, and Anna would stop eating again. At that time, Sibal and his cabinet colleagues described the demand as unconstitutional. Not to mention disrespectful to the Parliament.

It’s interesting to recall those halycon days in the wake of the Standing Committee on Finance report on the UIDAI Bill. One reason the Committee rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill is that due Parliamentary process was not followed. Nandan Nilakani’s UIDAI was collecting biometrics and issuing numbers even before the Bill became law. The committee’s report says it was at a “loss to understand as to how the UIDAI, without statutory power, could address key issues concerning their basic functioning and initiate proceedings against the defaulters and penalize them.”

Commenting further on the UIDAI Bill, the Standing Committee described the government’s failure to get a bill passed before proceeding to collect biometric information “unethical and violative of Parliament’s prerogatives”. In this opinion piece, I say that  the India’s current UPA government is using the country’s legal framework in a deeply opportunistic manner. It turns to the Rule of Law whenever expedient. And ignores it whenever inconvenient.

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