The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: A high court judge is about to be impeached. Does the rot go deeper?

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Robe and dagger

Weeks after senior judges of the Supreme Court held an unprecedented press conference to express their concerns about unseemly judicial conduct, there seems to be some progress. At that time, the four judges said that “democracy was in danger”. Over the last two days, it has emerged that an in-house panel set up by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has recommended the removal of an Allahabad High Court judge because of his questionable actions. The Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court subsequently withdrew all judicial work to that judge, Justice Shri Narayan Shukla. Chief Justice of India Misra has reportedly started the process of recommending impeachment to the prime minister. Justice Shukla, on his part, is said to have refused to resign or take voluntary retirement, and has instead gone on 90 days leave.

The case is connected, though different, to the Medical College bribery matter in which the Chief Justice of India himself has been entangled. Justice Shukla was being investigated for allegedly overruling restraint orders passed by the Supreme Court in August 2017, and allowed a Lucknow institute to admit medical students. He even allegedly made hand-written corrections to his own bench’s order to ensure the institute could admit students in the 2017-’18 academic year. The in-house panel set up by Chief Justtice Misra found that Shukla “disgraced the values of judicial life [and] acted in a manner unbecoming of a judge”.

Shukla’s removal from office is all but certain now. The subsequent question is whether Misra, who earlier refused permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation to name Shukla in its First Information Report in the case, will now allow the investigating agency to look into these allegations of judicial impropriety. The other question is whether the public at large will get a chance to see the report the in-house panel prepared on Shukla’s conduct.

This is tricky territory here, and while it is commendable that Chief Justice Misra is willing to go so far as to recommend impeachment of a high court judge, it is important that this also comes with transparency. If there is one thing that became clear after the revolt-that-amounted-to-little by the four senior judges of the Supreme Court, it is the opacity with which the higher judiciary conducts itself. In this case, the chief justice of India has acknowledged impropriety, and now Parliament will get a chance to examine the same.

But that simply cannot be the end of the matter, since the case at hand suggests that the rot in the judiciary goes deeper. Opening up to investigation agencies of course brings in the danger of the Centre having power over the judiciary. But that is the exact reason why the entire process needs to be more transparent, taking the legislature and, in that way, the public at large into confidence. Indians were given a glimpse into some serious concerns about the higher judiciary a few weeks ago. It is important that the window that was cracked open is not summarily shut with information of a recommended impeachment. There are many more questions about why “democracy is in danger” because of Chief Justice Misra’s conduct, as well as goings on in the judiciary. The Indian people have a right to know whether that danger has passed.

The Big Scroll

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox. For the rest of the day’s headlines do click here.

If you have any concerns about our coverage of particular issues, please write to the Readers’ Editor at readerseditor@scroll.in

Punditry

  1. “In retrospect, the timing of demonetisation and GST turned out to be exactly right from a political viewpoint,” writes Swami Aiyar in the Economic Times. “The dislocation and damage to the economy were done in 2017, leaving time for the economy to recover smartly in 2018-’19, in the run-up to the next general election.”
  2. “A clear separation of national, state and local body powers in the Constitution will actually obviate the need for holding simultaneous elections as voters will know whom to hold accountable for what,” writes R Jagannathan in Swarajya.
  3. Ajay Srivastava in Hindu Businessline offers a new model to improve agricultural productivity in the country.
  4. Will the Budget address the concerns raised in the Economic Survey or will it go its own way, asks Ajit Ranade in the Hindu.
  5. “Global economic history suggests that income tax collections as a per cent of GDP tend to rise sharply once average incomes cross the $2,000 threshold – from 1% of GDP to around 5% of GDP,” writes Niranjan Rajadhyaksha in Mint. “India is on the cusp of that threshold.”

Giggle

Don’t miss

Nitin Sethi explains how Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian’s annual Economic Survey reveals a sobering picture of India’s future.

“The lead author of Economic Survey 2017-’18 and India’s chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, presented a sobering prognosis of how Indian economy could perform in the short term, claiming it will grow at between 7% and 7.5% in next financial year.

This is in strong contrast to the rosy picture Subramanian painted in his first economic survey, for 2014-’15, when he had said that double-digit growth for India’s Gross Domestic Product was within reach.

Asked by a journalist why India had slipped from this sweet spot, he was candid. ‘Stuff happens,’ he said.

Subramanian went on to describe why the ebullience had slipped out of his reports – and the economy. The bad stuff, he said, was the result of the ‘temporary’ impacts of the government’s decision in November 2016 to demonetise high value currency notes and the introduction in in April 2017 of Goods and Services Tax. But these effects, he said, were now fading. He could not have predicted demonetisation and had advised that a better GST system to be put in place. Subramanian did admit, though, that he had underestimated the impact of one factor he had foreseen – the bad loans with which Indian banks are saddled and the unhealthy balance sheets of Indian companies. The unexpected high interest rates of borrowing money made investment difficult and the rise in global oil prices have hemmed in the economy, he added.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.