The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: The Madras High Court should avert speculation and deliver verdict in 18 MLAs case

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

The Big Story: Undue delay

Judicial independence is not just about judges resisting executive interference in court appointments. Judicial independence also lies in the court’s ability to deliver justice swiftly and authoritatively, leaving no room for extraneous factors to influence the system. But when the higher judiciary drags its feet on cases of political and administrative importance, it is bound to raise awkward questions.

In Tamil Nadu, 18 Assembly constituencies have been functioning without legislators since September 18, 2017. These MLAs were disqualified because of the turmoil in the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. They belonged to the rival TTV Dinakaran faction and had been accused of spreading anti-government and anti-party propaganda. The more obvious reason, though, was that the Edappadi K Palaniswamy government’s wafer-thin majority in the Assembly. The Opposition has alleged that the 18 MLAs were disqualified with the ulterior motive of creating a false majority in the Assembly.

When a vacancy to an Assembly seat arises, the Election Commission of India is expected to fill the seat through a bye-election within six months so that residents do not suffer without a representative. The 18 legislators immediately challenged their disqualification in the High Court. The case was argued extensively for days and judgement was reserved by the bench headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee on January 23. However, the judgement is yet to be delivered.

In the meantime, the court went ahead with the verdict in another disqualification case that involved 11 MLAs of the O Panneerselvam faction, which in August buried its differences with Palaniswamy and merged with his faction. The High Court refused to assume the powers of the Speaker and disqualify them. In this case, the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had moved court seeking disqualification of these 11 MLAs for violating a whip and voting against the AIADMK government in a confidence motion in 2017. This judgement had been reserved in March, much after the court reserved its verdict in the 18 MLAs case.

It isn’t clear why the court chose to first dispose of a case reserved much later and why it has still not delivered its decision on the disqualification of the 18 MLAs of the Dinakaran faction, who are still opposed to the Palaniswamy government.

Over the years, the Supreme Court has provided guidelines on how to proceed when a judgement is delayed. If a verdict is reserved but not delivered for over three months, the parties have the right to move a petition seeking quick delivery. If there is a delay of over six months, the parties could ask for the case to be assigned to another bench. Undue delays in politically-sensitive matters could cast doubts in the minds of the people and prove as perilous as an attempt by the executive to influence the judiciary.

Punditry

  1.   The growing conflict between Dalits and Hindutva must be seen in the context of the paradigm shift in Uttar Pradesh politics, says Zoya Hasan in The Hindu. 
  2. That 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are in India points to a public health emergency, writes Darryl D’Monte in the Indian Express. 
  3.   Investments in irrigation, combined with better-quality seeds, can dramatically improve returns to farming, argues Bjorn Lomborg in Mint. 

Giggles

Don’t miss

In Tamil Nadu, an attempt to revive an ancient lake management system faces challenges, reports Vinita Govindarajan.

“Under the scheme, the executive engineer of the Public Works Department works with either a group of farmers in the region, or a single farmer who is given permission to take up the work, or the Water User’s Association of the area. ‘The PWD [Public Works Department] is not supposed to hire any contractors,’ said Selvam. ‘Ideally, the farmer’s association should also not sub-contract the work.’”  

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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:

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