INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 28TH FEBRUARY 2020

ISSUE: MINI MOON

Astronomers have observed a small object orbiting Earth, which they have dubbed a “mini-moon” or the planet’s “second moon”. It is actually an asteroid, about the size of a car; its diameter is about 1.9-3.5 m. And unlike our permanent Moon, the mini-moon is temporary; it will eventually break free of Earth’s orbit and go off on its own way.

Dubbed 2020 CD3, the mini-moon was discovered by Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) in Arizona on the night of February 15. The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union acknowledged the discovery: “Orbit integrations indicate that this object is temporarily bound to the Earth… Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged.”

When an asteroid’s orbit crosses Earth’s orbit, it can sometimes be captured into the latter orbit. This is what happened with 2020 CD3. It is now orbiting at a distance farther from Earth. Such an asteroid is called a Temporarily Captured Object (TCO). The orbit of such objects is unstable. They have to contend with the gravitational influence of our permanent Moon as well as that of the Sun. Once caught in Earth’s orbit, such objects usually remain for a few years before they break free and go into independent orbit around the Sun.

According to the researchers, 2020 CD3 was captured into Earth’s orbit over three years ago. For CSS, it is only the second such discovery. It previously discovered 2006 RH120, which orbited Earth for some time that year, before it escaped in 2007.

ISSUE: TRUMP’S VISIT TO INDIA

Not since the 1950s has India serenaded a foreign leader with such gusto as the US President Donald Trump this week. This in spite of the fact that none of India’s major power relations have been as deeply contested and controversial as those with the United States.

The historic welcome to Trump was about ending the residual domestic reservations in India about partnering the United States.

The attention and warmth showered on Trump at Motera and Delhi marks a definitive turn in India’s thinking about America. Despite much progress over the last two decades, distrust of the US was entrenched in the bureaucracy, the political class, and the intelligentsia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent predecessors, including P V Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Manmohan Singh, were all eager to transform the relationship with the US, but ran into deep internal resistance against even the simplest forms of cooperation with Washington.

Modi has finally broken through that systemic prejudice against the engagement with the US.

In his address to the US Congress in the summer of 2016, Modi had claimed that India’s “historic hesitations” with the US were over. If that was a declaration of intent, Motera was a demonstration of that transition.

Modi’s affirmation that the US was the most important relationship for India was based on the fact that there is a new level of trust between Delhi and Washington. This was the key to overcome India’s past inhibitions about partnering with the US. It is this new trust that let Modi go all out to publicly flaunt the new possibilities with America.

In the obsession with Trump’s talk on mediation, the Indian discourse misses the extraordinary support that Delhi has received from Trump’s White House on the Kashmir question and on pressing Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism.

America’s support was critical in fending off the Pakistani effort to get the UNSC to discuss Kashmir after India changed the constitutional status of the state last August. It was also crucial in sustaining the pressure on Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Even more important is Trump’s implicit endorsement of Modi’s recasting of the Kashmir question. Since August, the US has not questioned the constitutional change in Kashmir.

That the American backing has come amidst China’s support for Pakistan on Kashmir and protection against international action on terrorism, is one part of the unfolding story of the India-US alignment. The other is about China itself.

If support on Kashmir brought Soviet Russia closer to India in the 1950s, the rift between Moscow and Beijing in the 1960s consolidated the Indo-Soviet partnership. Today the deepening schism between Washington and Beijing and the growing imbalance between India and China have set the stage for Delhi and Washington to work together to stabilise the Asian balance of power.

To be sure, this theme has been in the background for the last two decades as Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama reached out to India. But it is under Trump that the Indo-Pacific strategy was formalised and Washington has ended its own ambivalences in cooperating with India on a range of issues, from technology transfers to Kashmir and terrorism.

Unlike the leaders of many of America’s traditional allies, who tended to treat Trump as an American political aberration, Modi saw significant possibilities in the President’s “America First” approach that opened up space for India in the subcontinent, the Indo-Pacific, and on security and defence cooperation.

Unlike many of America’s friends, the Modi government was willing to take some political risks in appearing to endorse Trump’s reelection at the ‘Howdy, Modi’ rally last September in Houston. This has certainly generated some bad blood with the opposition Democrats in the US. But the real threat to the deeper partnership comes not from Washington, but Delhi. An India at war with itself can hardly take advantage of the huge possibilities presented by the ‘Hindi-Amreeki, Bhai-Bhai’ phase in the US relationship.

ISSUE: RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS

Under the rule of law, no citizen can be denied the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of her choice. Therefore, by labelling those accused of sedition as “anti-national” and denying them the right to legal representation, bar associations in Karnataka’s Hubli and Mysuru stand accused of disregarding due process.

First, the state slaps cases of sedition for flimsy reasons that would not stand the scrutiny of law and arrests individuals. Then, lawyers deal a body blow to possibilities of justice by preventing any lawyer from representing them in court. Apart from disallowing local lawyers to take up cases, bar associations have physically assaulted lawyers who have travelled to smaller cities to file applications seeking bail.

The cab-rank rule or the common practice of law that forbids a lawyer from refusing any brief based on personal opinions or biases is codified in the rules framed by the Bar Council of India. The Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette bind a lawyer to accept “any brief in the Courts or Tribunals or before any other authorities in or before which he proposes to practise at a fee consistent with his standing at the Bar and the nature of the case.”

In A S Mohammed Rafi vs State Of Tamil Nadu, the court called the resolution passed by the Coimbatore Bar Council to not represent certain accused “wholly illegal and against all traditions of the Bar.”

This week, Supreme Court judge Deepak Gupta reiterated that resolutions that forbid legal representation amount to obstruction of justice. A strong message from the legal community — both courts and eminent practitioners — is needed to ensure that such actions are not normalised.

In 2016, lawyers who assaulted Kanhaiya Kumar and journalists in the Patiala House Court complex, barely a kilometer away from the Supreme Court, went scot-free despite the top court’s intervention. Fortunately, this time, the Karnataka High Court has intervened to ensure that the rights of accused are protected.

It has rightly summoned office-bearers of the Hubli Bar Association for passing resolutions defying their professional codes and flouting Supreme Court judgements.

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