Gautam Bhatia
Articles by Gautam Bhatia

Will Big Brother be watching?

The Broadcasting Bill aims to provide a modern legislative framework, but there are concerns because its framework replicates a command-and-control model

One hopes that as the Bill progresses through Parliament, the focus will shift from control to regulation (PTI)
Published on Nov 28, 2023 10:11 PM IST

State regulation of film reviews is a risky business

‘Review bombing’ is distasteful and unethical, but government intervention can have a chilling effect on free speech

Between a nuanced critique of a film, and a crude and intentional attempt to blackmail or extort money from a director, there is an entire spectrum that belongs in a grey area.(HT Archive)
Published on Nov 03, 2023 10:40 PM IST

Gig workers law deepens industrial democracy

Rajasthan's gig workers law mandates transparency in gig companies' transactions and creates a welfare board for gig workers

The term gig workers refers to those who are engaged in any income-generating activity as freelancers or on a temporary basis. (Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 17, 2023 10:22 PM IST

Safeguard the election panel’s independence

A new bill to select the CEC and ECs has sparked a row. But the real issue with the legislation is that it cedes control of the body to the executive

A few months ago, the Supreme Court held that the selection of the CEC must be done by a three-member committee comprising the Prime Minister (PM), the Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) (Representative Photo)
Published on Aug 17, 2023 09:55 PM IST

Bhima Koregaon bail curbs State impunity

The SC’s decision to grant bail to Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira attempts to infuse some measure of due process into the stringent provisions of UAPA

Supreme Court of India (File Photo)
Published on Aug 02, 2023 10:06 PM IST

Bail hearings in Delhi riots cases can be a test for liberty under UAPA

Delhi Riots cases have tested the commitment of the judiciary to upholding personal liberty. The SC can clarify on the law and protect personal liberty.

A prominent case is that of Umar Khalid, whose denial of bail by the trial court and the Delhi high court was on flimsy grounds, resting primarily on his being part of a WhatsApp group whose stated task was to coordinate protests, and a speech that he gave(ANI)
Published on Jul 11, 2023 09:09 PM IST

Courts and law enforcement must combat hate together

The Uttarakhand saga revealed a gap between the law on hate speech, and what happens on the ground. Here, law enforcement and higher courts must play joint role

In Uttarakhand, reports said the doors of the homes of some Muslim residents were marked with identifying signs by fringe groups, which also pasted posters and held rallies asking Muslims to leave the area. it is evident that what happened constitutes hate speech(ANI)
Published on Jun 27, 2023 09:46 PM IST

Top court must strike down the sedition law

The Law Commission has recommended that sedition be retained in the statute books. But it fails proportionality and incitement tests, making it unconstitutional

Regardless of whether the government accepts or rejects the Law Commission’s proposed changes, it is long overdue for the Supreme Court to take up this case again, and strike down sedition once and for all. (AP File )
Updated on Jun 06, 2023 01:22 PM IST

Andhra HC’s model for shielding citizens’ rights

The HC’s judgment, which reaffirmed the right to protest, is an excellent example of the judicial safeguarding of rights against executive impunity

Updated on May 28, 2023 08:06 PM IST

The real bite of SC’s MediaOne ruling

It provides lessons in how the judiciary should respond when faced with invocations of national security and sealed covers by the State. The real test, however, will be when the next case comes before a court somewhere in India

The Supreme Court invalidated the government’s ban on MediaOne for failing to respect the channel’s due process rights (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Apr 09, 2023 08:29 PM IST

A desolation Called Peace: Finality of Bhopal gas leak case is another tragedy

The curative hearings were an opportunity for the victims of the tragedy to have their day in court. It was incumbent upon the SC to parse their claims with care and rigour. Instead, however, the SC did the opposite.

What the SC failed to adequately consider was the argument that the settlement amount had been arrived at on the basis of the suppression of crucial facts. (ANI)
Updated on Mar 24, 2023 09:36 PM IST

A new deal to protect India’s gig workers?

Rajasthan announced that the state will enact a law for the protection of gig workers. Why is this necessary? Because, at present, gig work exists in a legal vacuum.

While gig work does not resemble the employment relationship of the factory owner and the worker, it exhibits all the hallmarks of institutionalised power differences and subordination that make labour laws important in the first place. (PTI)
Published on Mar 18, 2023 07:18 PM IST

SC order on ECI will bolster democracy

The judgment is neither activism nor judicial overreach. Parliament can take up alternative appointment processes for ECI but will have to secure institutional independence

A look at the debates around the framing of the Constitution reveals that its drafters were keenly aware of the need for an independent ECI, which — specifically — they understood to be a commission outside the sole control of the executive in the matter of appointments (HT PHOTO)
Published on Mar 05, 2023 06:34 PM IST

Trial courts need to act as first line of defence

A recent order passed by additional sessions judge Arul Varma on February 4 is an excellent illustration of how trial courts can serve as that first line of defence

A person may join a peaceful protest, which might later turn violent. To then hold this person liable for those acts of violence would amount to criminalising protest itself (AP)
Published on Feb 07, 2023 07:47 PM IST

Haldwani case: SC ruling is laudable

Its observations — evictions cannot be done without a rehabilitation plan, and there must be proper consultation with the people — stem from a fundamental realisat-ion that ‘encroachments’ are a result of the State’s failure to provide shelter to all citizens

People from Haldwani celebrate after the Supreme Court order (Sanjay Sharma/JHTPhoto)
Updated on Jan 09, 2023 06:53 AM IST

Uniform Civil Code: Reframe the debate

The starting point of the discussion should not be whether India needs a UCC, but how to ensure every Indian is governed by a gender-just civil code of their choice

At the time the Constitution was being framed, there was a 150-year-long history of communities being governed by their personal laws. Realising that the overhaul of such structures was impossible in one go, the framers of the Constitution left UCC as an aspirational goal (Shutterstock)
Published on Dec 27, 2022 08:23 PM IST

Preventive detention cannot be normalised

The Madras high court’s judgment, thus, strikes an important blow for individual freedom against State impunity. It reminds us that, for all our criticism of the courts, an independent judiciary is the surest bulwark against authoritarianism

It is crucial to remember that preventive detention is meant to be used only in the most exceptional of circumstances. As a general rule, we do not curtail the liberty of individuals for things that they might do in the future, but have not yet. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Updated on Dec 12, 2022 08:41 PM IST

Why the new draft data bill must be reconsidered

A closer look at the provisions reveals some serious shortcomings within the proposed legal framework.

The bill presents an inadequate and problematic legal framework for data protection in India. It is to be hoped that the government will take constructive critique on board, and modify the bill. (Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 29, 2022 08:09 PM IST

Criticism of judiciary needs more nuance

The Centre criticised the Supreme Court’s system of picking judges and accused it of judicial activism. Such criticism is fair to an extent, but it requires more nuanced deliberation than what is being offered at present

The collegium system has been criticised for being opaque, but it benefits all parties. The so-called judicial activism has faced disapproval, but in our constitutional system, it is the central obligation of the courts to review and test laws for compliance with the Constitution (PTI)
Published on Nov 16, 2022 06:52 PM IST

SC’s Saibaba order raises doubts about safeguards in UAPA, authority of HCs

Apart from depriving the accused of the liberty they were entitled to by virtue of the HC’s reasoned judgment, the order sends a signal across the judiciary, ie, that the sanctity of procedural safeguards under UAPA is negotiable, at best.

When we notice that one of the accused — professor Saibaba — is 90% disabled, the SC’S action grows even more concerning. (PTI)
Published on Oct 18, 2022 07:16 PM IST

SC move to live-stream proceedings is good, but more needs to be done

It is important to note that while some courts across the world do live-stream proceedings, a great many don’t: In taking this decision, therefore, the SC is one of the judiciaries that has provided global leadership on this significant issue

The SC is not the first Indian court to live-stream its proceedings. During the pandemic, the Gujarat high court (HC) made its proceedings available to watch online. (REUTERS)
Updated on Oct 05, 2022 07:54 PM IST

The SC’s final ruling in the hijab case will have broader implications

The hijab case raises several issues about Muslim women students’ right to education, the meanings of secularism, tolerance, and accommodation under the Constitution, fostering diversity and pluralism in classrooms, and the limits of State power

Thus, the final judgment of the SC will be important, not only for what it holds but also for how it holds. (Amit Sharma)
Published on Sep 21, 2022 07:58 PM IST

SC’s decision on Pegasus raises troubling questions

Several issues regarding the spyware case need to be addressed, including why the SC sealed the report and why the State chose not to cooperate during the committee’s pursuit of the truth. As a matter of public interest, accountability and action must be non-negotiable

Keeping the report secret sends out a signal that issues of mass, potentially illegal, surveillance are matters between the court, its committee, and the government. (AFP)
Updated on Aug 30, 2022 07:30 PM IST

Decoding the problems with the ‘freebie’ debate

The fundamental issue lies in the word freebie, which has no clear definition, making it susceptible to misuse and selective targeting of welfare measures

The word freebies carries a pejorative connotation that makes one think of populist programmes, aimed at poor people, but does not seem to include corporate loan waivers or corporate tax relief. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)
Updated on Aug 17, 2022 08:40 PM IST

Extend the 24-week limit for abortion to all

In its present form, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not adequately respect bodily autonomy and reproductive choice

In October 2021, the government notified new rules under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. These rules set out seven categories of women eligible for termination of pregnancy until 24 weeks, including survivors of sexual assault and minors (AFP)
Updated on Jul 24, 2022 07:57 PM IST

India’s laws on hate speech need change

Anti-blasphemy statutes and the legal bar on hate speech are clumsily worded, can’t distinguish between the dissenter and the hatemonger or between speech that is uncivil and illegal

The only long-term solution is to repeal the blasphemy law, stop prosecutions for religiously offensive speech, and focus on articulating a clear definition of hate speech, backed by social consensus (Shutterstock)
Updated on Jun 22, 2022 10:15 PM IST

It is crucial to reform foreigners’ tribunals

There are several outstanding issues with the regime of foreigners’ tribunals: Extens-ive State control over members, dubious use of evidence, and declaring thousands of people foreigners ex parte

D (doubtful) voters waiting outside the Foreigners Tribunal Office, Goalpara, Assam, 2016 (Hindustan Times)
Published on May 19, 2022 07:10 PM IST

Jahangirpuri: Demolition, as vigilante justice, is illegal

Home demolition in response to allegations of rioting is akin to medieval wars where armies would poison wells of villages that were suspected of harbouring enemy soldiers, so that soldiers and innocent civilians would be deprived of water

Across states, this “bulldozer justice” has targeted people who are overwhelmingly poor and overwhelmingly Muslim. (Amal KS/HT Photo)
Updated on Apr 22, 2022 11:24 PM IST

Hopepunk, grimdark, noblebright: Gautam Bhatia on new genres of storytelling

Where does speculative fiction go in a dystopia? New genres suggest that the most likely directions are upward and onward, through stories that champion hope and optimism, collective action, and the promise, at least, of a future less bleak.

The new genres don't necessarily tell stories with happy endings. But Hopepunk, for instance, champions optimism, an unwavering moral compass and collective action. It is, in many ways, as a reaction to Grimdark (above, second from left), a genre defined by darkness and pessimism. Noblebright is a world of heroes and quests, but one that is not Euro-centric or male-centric. Solarpunk imagines a positive post-climate-crisis future. What if we were to find solutions and emerge better? (HT Illustration: Jayachandran)
Updated on Apr 08, 2022 02:29 PM IST

Rethink the criminal identification bill

It places the privacy of individuals at the mercy of the State; allows for the retention of personal data of convicted individuals for lifetime; and goes against the best practices of data protection

The absence of a data protection law only adds to an unregulated legal landscape, where State surveillance power — through laws such as the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill — continues to expand (Shutterstock)
Updated on Apr 03, 2022 07:50 PM IST
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