POWER OF DIALOGUE

The most versatile strategic tool available to us is the ability to engage the other side in meaningful, constructive and sane conversation. Unfortunately, that isn’t the order of the day

By Somasekhar Sundaresan

The power of dialogue is staring us in the face. India and Pakistan have found enough excuses not to have a dialogue. Each side claimed the other started unprovoked firing at the border. Each side built imagery of savage-like conduct by the other side’s armed forces. Each whipped up patriotic zeal and fervour to a level loud enough to make it politically impossible to engage in dialogue without being seen by the public as a loser. Obviously, each side is sheepish about the breakdown in dialogue, and is therefore blaming the other for it.

An unknown upstart is laying claim to being the new Loh Purush” (iron man) from Gujarat. Hardik Patel, in his early twenties, is green enough behind his ears to now know the finer nuances of the law and policy on caste-based reservations. In seeking caste-based reservations for the well-off and powerful Patidar community (which gave India Sardar Patel), he is on course to triggering a new and dangerous wave of anti-reservation emotions among the higher castes who have a louder voice and greater reception in the mainstream media. He does not carry a sane voice of reason and no sane voice of reason attempted to talk to him.

He had the delusion of being big enough for the chief minister to come to him to accept his representation and the CM did not have anyone bigger than the local collector to collect his representation on her behalf. He was arrested, unrest followed and unbelievably, large parts of Gujarat have had to face curfew.

Arguments with children necessarily place the child at an advantage – you can’t win easily win against them particularly when they lack reason. But you simply have to engage with them to resolve tantrums. They need to be talked to, to be distracted, convinced, or to be given something else to fancy.

Dialogue is critical for making law and policy. Just a few weeks ago, opposition parties in Parliament blew out an entire session. They just refused to engage. Their justification: others have done it before, and we can do the same now. In a nutshell, they refused to participate in any dialogue. In the Lok Sabha, even when a farcical dialogue started – on a motion to adjourn Parliament with one day to go for the session to get over, the two sides talked at each other and not to each other. The dialogue was so base that it was hardly a dialogue. The result: lawless conduct by lawmakers. Parliamentarians took to the streets against the speaker who sought to read the riot act and lay down the rule of law.

The law on making it easy to acquire private land for the larger public good needs a dialogue between the one whose land is being acquired and the one seeking to acquire it. In much the same way, acquiring small investors’ shares to take a company private from being publicly traded needs a format for a dialogue. The format for dialogue in the laws that governs each of these subjects is about the money. For land, the buyer has to compute and provide what the compliant price should be. In sharp contrast, for shares, the sellers get to decide and prescribe what the compliant price from the buyer should be.

Replacement of a multi-state-diverse-and-complex tax regime governing sale of goods and services with a standardised uniform goods and services tax across the nation requires a constitutional amendment. By design, it necessitates a dialogue across political lines and across states, when any one of the multiple stakeholders can argue that some element in the proposal is bad. When Mamata Banerjee wins a package deal for West Bengal to give her consent to something of national importance and you feel like abusing her, think again. She is in fact engaging in dialogue. And getting a political bargain is far better than a breakdown in dialogue.

Remember the ad campaign with the tag line: “Baat karne se hi baat banti hai”? Unfortunately, dialogue is fast becoming a dream that is only sold in ad campaigns for telecom services. If only there was more dialogue.

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This article was published in the Mumbai Mirror and allied publications on August 26, 2015

EVERYONE LOVES A MURDER

Firmly embedded in the Sheena murder story is the saga of a breakdown of the criminal investigation and justice delivery system. With media keen to play judge, jury and executioner, there’s little hope for a fair trial

By Somasekhar Sundaresan

One could not have thought of a more bizarre but riveting reality television story. Every consumer and supplier of news is obsessed with it. A shoddy police system is trying to take credit instead of addressing what is evidently a failure on multiple levels. Perhaps because the prime accused is a former media owner, the rest of the media is overzealously crowing over the fallen foe.

The allegation is that a woman planned and executed her daughter’s murder with the help of a former husband and driver, taking her current husband for a ride, whose son was the murder victim’s lover. A son too is alleged to have been the subject of an attempted murder, and he is on television calling for his mother’s blood. A man in a mask claims to be the father of the murder victim, calling for stringent punishment for his former lover. The stepson alleges that he tried to make police complaints about his missing lover but was frustrated and got reconciled to being without his lover. Remains of the murdered corpse are alleged to have been found in some remote place.

Locals are reported to have said that burial of suspect human remains is a usual occurrence in their area. The police in the region do not have records. Suddenly, some fancy technology to “recreate” the face of the victim from the remains is talked about. The face they would seek to recreate is now nationally well-known and is on the front pages of newspapers every day. Yet, this is talked about as credible build-up of evidence. The accused is castigated in the media for “giving the police a tough time” for refusing to confess. A “sting operation” by the police is reported – placing the three accused in the same room, secretly listening in on their conversation. Helpfully, the police “refuse comment” in the reports that carry news of the alleged blow-by-blow account of this allegedly confessional and incriminating conversation. News agencies proudly claim to have copies of police applications for remand of the accused.

Firmly embedded in this bizarre story is the story of the breakdown of the criminal investigation and justice delivery system. With such wide-ranging public coverage of every allegation from every quarter, some painfully in contradiction with others, one can hardly expect a free and fair trial. Despite the breakdown of the policing system, leading to a three-year delay in even discovering the alleged murder, it would be a complete surprise if the trial leads to acquittal of the accused. In the unlikely event of acquittal, society would turn against the justice system itself. Talking heads on prime time television would spew venom on the breakdown of justice. A movie may be made titled Nobody killed Sheena. In short, the current social dictum is: if someone has allegedly been killed, whoever is accused of the murder must surely be punished.

The media coverage is reminiscent of the coverage of the notorious murder of one Prem Ahuja by KM Nanavati, a decorated militaryman in the 1950s. Society got divided into the Sindhi camp (supporting the prosecution) and the Parsi camp (supporting the accused), and the trial was conducted by the media, with Parsi-owned Blitz magazine firmly supporting the Parsi cause. The accused was acquitted and the media coverage played a role in a mistrial being declared.

In 2012, a Supreme Court constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia refrained from issuing blanket guidelines on gagging the press, but laid down the principle that one may indeed ask a court to issue a writ postponing reporting of court proceedings. The court ruled that a temporary ban on publication of court proceedings may be necessary to maintain a balance between freedom of speech and the need to protect against prejudice to the administration of justice. Critics assailed it as a development that would give rise to a gagging culture. Far from it, the fear of a media backlash and the consequential adverse scrutiny makes one shudder to think of seeking a gag order. Little wonder that the only two known beneficiaries of gag orders since then are a senior counsel and a retired judge.

Meanwhile, trials in the kangaroo courts of television studios and front pages continue unabated. Everybody loves a murder.

Tweets @SomasekharS

This article was published in the Mumbai Mirror and allied publications on September 4, 2015

NEVER IMMUNE TO CONTROVERSY

By Somasekhar Sundaresan

Diplomatic immunity is in the news again. And it will flare up emotively yet again. A Saudi Arabian diplomat and family are alleged to have held hostage two Nepali women hired as domestic help in their apartment in Gurgaon. The women have also alleged sexual assault, and medical examination is reported to have confirmed it. The diplomat’s immunity would be at the centre stage again, and debate would rage over whether the immunity would at all be available since sexual harassment of domestic help would not be in the line of diplomatic duty.

Diplomatic immunity as a custom predates the immunity as we know it since 1961, when the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was signed. Even in the Ramayana, it is said that Vibhishan reminds Ravan that Hanuman was only the messenger of Ram, and could not be put to death. The need to ensure that a country does not shoot the messenger has been at the root of the immunity. Insults to messengers have caused many a war in the history of civilisation. The Vienna Convention binds all member states. Under the treaty, “members of the diplomatic staff, and of the administrative and technical staff and of the service staff of the mission” enjoy “immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State”.

The immunity ends up getting tested. Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested for allegedly lying on oath about the remuneration she paid her maid. Just before the arrest, she had moved the courts in Delhi against her maid. In retaliation, the then UPA government aggressively reviewed the security detail provided to the US Embassy. The US moved out its Ambassador to India when it was discovered that the US had given the maid’s husband in India safe passage and asylum in the US. The two countries have since been busy at patching up relations with the US President being the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day parade in India.

Conflicts between diplomats and their domestic help has been at the core of many a controversy over whether the immunity is absolute. The abuse of diplomatic immunity and the seemingly logical need for nations to rework their agreement on it are increasingly making news.

However, it is critical to appreciate the need for immunity. Absence of immunity would mean that diplomats could get dragged into politics with false charges being levelled and getting embroiled in legal proceedings to lead evidence on their defence on merits. It would enable frustrating the diplomat’s capacity to serve effectively.

The country that has sent the diplomat may indeed waive the immunity and make its diplomat face trial in the receiving country. Even the individual diplomat is not free to waive this immunity since the benefit of the immunity is not to the individual but to the country that sent the individual diplomat. Indeed, when the country represented by the offending diplomat waives the immunity, and a diplomat is sentenced by the local court in the country where he is serving, the diplomat would typically be sent back to his home country to serve the sentence there. The immunity from prosecution in the country that has received the diplomat does not mean that the diplomat would go scot free. The home country may also prosecute the diplomat or take appropriate action under the home country laws, and punish there for the violation.

Diplomatic immunity got tested in an extremely improbable situation in India when the Supreme Court asked for deposit of the Italian Ambassador’s passport. The court had permitted two Italian marines who were facing trial in India to go home when the Italian Ambassador promised that they would come back. Italy changed its mind and refused to send the undertrials back, and the court took away the diplomat’s passport.

Taking the passport away would constitute an arrest with the territory of India being the prison. The marines indeed came back and the diplomatic crisis was defused. The latest on the subject is that the proceedings in India have been stayed by the Supreme Court after a United Nations tribunal has reportedly directed India and Italy to maintain status quo.

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This article was published in the Mumbai Mirror and allied publications on September 11, 2015

TIMING A CAMPAIGN WELL

By Somasekhar Sundaresan

Corporate India has ordinarily never mustered the courage to speak in one voice on any national issue in an institutionalised manner. That they are doing so now with the mess that is Parliament is welcome even if comical.

The Confederation of Indian Industry has launched a petition on change.org, and social media is aflutter. The group has initiated an appeal to political parties to “have a collaborative and consultative process… and allow Parliament to function, to debate and legislate”.
Corporate India is one section of our society that has singularly demonstrated a lack of cohesive national policy focus. Every corporate chief has typically been focussed on the slant that our laws and policy should have to suit his or her own objective without a thought to the wider section of society. Perhaps due to this reality, the appeal has barely managed to refer to the only possible neutral topic: the importance of amending the Constitution to bring in the goods and service tax. It generally speaks of the need to “discuss important issues, like floods, security issues, other economic priorities, etc.”

The appeal does not name the Congress or any other political party. But the Congress and the Left are enraged. Payback time, says the Left – indicating that industry is being loyal to the king. This is proof that the current government is one set up for industrialists, says Sharad Yadav of Janata Dal (United). Comical, says the Congress’ Manish Tiwari, asking where the industrialists were when the BJP wiped out session after session for ten years. “Return on political investment (is) floundering (and) now they want Parliament to bow to their diktats,” he argues, finding fault with the timing of the first ever institutionalised collective appeal from the corporate sector.
Self-censorship is a classic Indian trait. Attacking the timing of any principled campaign is the easiest way to attack the principle underlying the campaign. And no campaign to make an unpopular point popular, or to shake up society from its slumber, can be won without sticking hard to some core principle underlying the campaign. Attack the timing as inappropriate and you can hope to shoot the message along with the messenger.

Examples abound. One may campaign against capital punishment and merciless handling of mercy petitions, but when Yakub Memon is being hanged, one is supposed to keep shut. One may campaign for free speech, but one must not do so when the national debate is over the effect of pornography. One may have sympathy for the plight of Kashmiris but one must not make a mainstream movie on it since Pakistan has made noises at the same time. One may argue that throwing anyone in jail indefinitely without support of a single legislated legal provision is really bad, but doing so when it is Subroto Roy who has been thrown in jail, is not acceptable.

It is indeed true that Corporate India has ordinarily never mustered enough courage to stand together and speak in one voice on any national issue in an institutionalised manner. Little wonder that we have a horrible company law governing corporates. When it really mattered, there was no cogent debate on the core issues that were wrong with the law. Individual industrialists spoke against issues like limits on board tenures for friendly “independent” directors and rotation of auditors, but worse measures still got through, such that in less than two years since the new law the government committee is trying to rewrite it.

Of course corporates have also been effective in collective efforts. Mumbai’s industrialists have effectively stymied the building of a vital flyover at Peddar Road, where many of them live. They came together to support a law that would make acquiring land from farmers even easier – while this is said to be a failure, truth be told, today it is easier to forcibly acquire a farmer’s land as compared to forcibly acquiring a public shareholder’s shares in a listed company.

Yet, when corporate India speaks up on the need for Parliament to function, it is useful. Light from any source is illuminating. The CII campaign has caught the public imagination, thanks to public tolerance of failed Parliamentary sessions wearing out. Just as we finally have a Speaker who knows to throw the rule book at lawmakers, we finally have a generally-disinterested group taking a public stance. The need for any principled stand is always at a time of crisis.

This piece was published in Mumbai Mirror and allied editions on August 14, 2015

Iran is the new horizon for India

No other development in international law has been more significant for India’s corporate and business sectors than the Iran nuclear deal. India’s businesses typically take no interest in geo-political issues but this is once that they ought to sit up and move in to exploit an advantage they would have over businesses from the western world.

The agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the “P5+1” group (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) can truly be a game-changer for Indian industry. The western powers have historically tried (and failed) to cripple Iran into a banana republic, and the latter has fought back valiantly (and successfully). Germany alone has maintained robust trade relations, despite deep inconvenience. To cut a long story short, the sanctions against Iran by the western powers has gone way beyond what the sanctions by the United Nations legitimately endorse.

Sanctions by the United Nations are only restricted to arms, ammunition and contraband, while the sanctions from the western nations went beyond that and attempted to cripple the nation’s financial systems and channels of funds. The idea was to be coercive with the republic and get them to wind down a nuclear programme, which was feared to be convertible into a weapons programme, that Iran kept insisting was never about making warheads.

The bargain to resolve the impasse and lift sanctions has been inevitable in more ways than one. Against the teeth of the sanctions, Iran has built a reasonable quality in its infrastructure, good public transport, decent public health indicia, and consequently bolstered Iran’s resilient national pride. Iran’s own internal politics is complicated and divisive – just the same type of divisiveness that one sees in other democracies such as India and the United States.

The Department of Financial Services in the State of New York extracted an expensive settlement of $340 million from Standard Chartered Bank for allegedly helping Iran’s trades – this was among the settlements that sparked international literature on the extortionate state of the United States’ law enforcement policy, since defending oneself is so expensive that one would rather settle fights with state agencies. This was a case of a local prosecutor enforcing federal law – somewhat like Kerala Police harming entire careers of India’s space scientists on charges of espionage against India. Even larger settlements ($9 billion against BNP Paribas for allegedly facilitating trade with Iran, Cuba and Sudan) have reflected even more poorly on the US. Indeed, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are widely available in Iran due to exceptions on “humanitarian” and “food supply” grounds.

In the United Kingdom, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the government for harassing and seriously harming the interests of Bank Mellat, an Irani bank’s operations in the United Kingdom.

The upholding of the rule of law by the UK legal system in fact is still in play – proceedings for payment of damages by the UK to the bank are under consideration by UK courts now.

Gradually, the lawless means of hurting Irani interests, all in the name of safeguarding the world from weapons of mass destruction – a hollow phrase one has heard of earlier in the context of Iraq – had to give way. What does this mean for India businesses? If Indians get out of their stereotypical thinking and realise that Iran is neither like Saudi Arabia in cultural conservatism nor like Egypt or Morocco in being a pushover for other world powers, they would see the opportunities that abound there.

First, Islamic capital markets entail sophisticated derivatives contracts (using put and call options to get around sharia limitations on payment of interest) and market players are highly sophisticated in appreciation of financial products. Second, the release of sanctions would pose immense opportunities for Indian players active in the banking and financial services back office industries, more particularly for the information technology industry.

Third, and most importantly, if the agreement is operationalised, the sheer inability of an Indian business to trade with Iran because just doing so would lead to others who trade with these Indian businesses violating US laws would go away. India could well be the regional headquarters for multinationals entering Iran if India strikes good bargains with good treaties on investment protection and tax avoidance.

Contrary to popular western and Indian middle-class perception, Farsi is far closer to Urdu than to Arabic. India is also physically closer to Iran than to China and the United States. And, for the record, in the Ease of Doing Business survey report of the World Bank, Iran ranks 130 out of 189 countries, while India ranks 142. In enforcing contracts, Iran ranks 66 while India ranks 186. This is an opportunity that Indian businesses can only ill-afford to lose.

(This piece was published in my Without Contempt column in Business Standard edition dated July 20, 2015)

DEFAMATION IS NOT CRIME

Self-litigating-non-lawyer-now-with-BJP politician Subramanian Swamy is on course to creating legal history again (after his litigation relating to 2G spectrum).

The Supreme Court is hearing his writ petition challenging the legality of defamation being considered a crime. A bunch of 18 other writ petitions filed this year by petitioners ranging from Rahul Gandhi to Arvind Kejriwal have been tagged with Swamy’s petition of last year.

Under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code any “imputation” by words or signs that can harm the reputation of another person commits the crime of defamation. A nod or a wink in a manner that harms someone’s reputation is a crime. The punishment, apart from fine, can extend to two years in jail. In current-day Indian society, where everyone is quick to assume that everyone else is corrupt, this would mean that the “crime” is rampant in society. Equally, it would mean that a law that renders almost every human being’s conduct to be a crime is draconian and unconstitutional.

The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right. It permits fetters only if they are “reasonable restrictions”. Defamation is explicitly mentioned as one of the grounds on which fundamental rights can be “reasonably restricted”. The key question, therefore, is whether sending someone to jail for expressing a view can be considered reasonable. Every crime is wrong but every wrong cannot be crime.

Remember Sharad Pawar’s famous suit in the 1990s for damages of Rs 100 crores against The Outlook for suggesting that the NN Vohra Committee appointed by the Home Ministry had suggested a nexus with hawala operators of Dawood Ibrahim. The dispute was settled out of court for an unconfirmed sum, estimated at Rs 5 crores. Likewise the only retribution so far against TV anchor Arnab Goswami has been the prohibitively expensive and chilling deposit of Rs 100 crores that has had to be paid in a defamation suit filed by a retired judge after he aired the photo of the retired judge as the photo of someone else who was that night’s subject of humiliation. While civil proceedings are an effective disincentive to defamation, criminalising defamation presents a bad economic policy incentive.

Civil proceedings involve paying fees for justice delivery linked to the amount claimed. Criminal proceedings involve setting up the might of the state at the expense of taxpayers to settle private battles. If one politician bad-mouths another, it is hardly a reason for the common man’s taxes to be used in resolving their battle. Although our politicians are far more thick-skinned than our businessmen, they routinely initiate criminal action for alleged defamation. Recently, the highly-reputed Maharashtra Chief Minister is reported to have threatened criminal defamation against anyone suggesting that he had some responsibility for delaying the take-off of his Air India flight.

The perverse incentive in use of criminal prosecution is pervasive. The rule of law in civil courts is sidestepped by the coercive exploitation of the human fear of losing personal liberty in jail. Private business defaults could routinely be termed as cheating or criminal breach of trust. The very prospect of criminal proceedings could coerce a settlement of disputes. Retired police officers with access to local policemen are reported to have set up business models founded on this fear.

The Union Home Ministry has opposed the petitions on the ground that civil suits take too long to be effective. This statement underlines a governmental endorsement of the fear of the police to curb free speech. The criminal justice system is as broken if not more broken than the civil justice system. Therefore, it is the sheer fear of having to answer summons in distant locations that the ministry seeks to endorse. Such an approach is an endorsement that a chilling effect on free speech is seen as being desirable by the government. It is the government’s job to clean up delays in justice delivery. Endorsing a perversity to deal with another perversity is bad governance. Whichever way the Supreme Court decides, this case will be an important event in India’s legal history of freedom of speech.

(This piece was published in the July 17, 2015 edition of the Ahmedabad Mirror, Bangalore Mirror, Mumbai Mirror and Pune Mirror)

A QUESTIONABLE ANTI-CORRUPTION SYSTEM

This edition of the column is going to talk about a particularly problematic area of law and regulatory policy governing doing business in India.Unless there is a drastic change in political will and capacity to handle this problem, no government, regardless of which political party is in office, and no judicial system, regardless of how judges are chosen and appointed, would be able to pull India out of a fast expanding morass.

The problem is around corruption.Not the existence of it – that, is not only a subject beaten to death. The problem is around our societal perception of how should be battled. And even more about the systems we build around battling corruption and the warped incentive system we have built in the process. We are on course to ensuring that the “honest and competent” find it totally unremunerative and uninteresting to join and man our governmental and regulatory systems. The market for human resources outside the is starved of this resource and will price this talent to a level that governments and regulators cannot afford.

As a consequence, the regulatory system would remain largely filled with people who may be either “honest and incompetent” or “dishonest and incompetent”. Since this would largely involve being incompetent, it is the folks who are “dishonest and competent” who will thrive. In short, a completely warped, scary and counterproductive incentive system is being guaranteed by a flawed approach to tackling corruption. Here’s how this plays out.

First, the assumption in Indian society is that every governmental or regulatory decision that is “questionable” on merits involves corruption.  Let’s define a “questionable” decision as one in which two or more potentially conflicting views are possible and that one or more of the views could potentially make life easy for doing business. A professional decision that casts a lesser burden on doing business is at the threshold assumed to have been motivated by corruption.  Therefore, the incentive is always to take the “safe” decision – one where no one is able to point a finger at the decision-maker for having “favoured” business.

Second, if the junior most officer who has to process a decision takes a “safe” view and his senior is competent to know that the long-term cost of the decision to the business ecosystem is heavy and changes it, he would be the one suspected of corruption – for he would be overruling a “safe” decision and would be taking a “questionable decision”, which is most prone to assumption of corruption.   The decision would therefore have to be referred to an outsider – say a “law officer” outside the government agency such as the Advocate General, the Solicitor General or the Attorney General. Now, the “questionable” nature of the decision is a cancer that has come to infect even the law officers’ offices. If the view were to support making life easier for a private party, corruption can be alleged there too. Even the senior most law officers of India have had to stand trial in recent times.

Third, the anti-corruption laws have become so warped that they expose honest and competent officers to the worst possible treatment.  Two features stand out – one: gratification need not even be proved and can just be assumed; and two: before throwing a public servant to the wolves prosecuting for corruption, no prior sanction of a sane voice in the system would be required. These features are contributions of the judiciary, with a disproportionate unfairness against corruption.

Fourth, even where a safe view on a questionable decision is set aside by a court, the decision on whether the court’s decision should be appealed is inherently another questionable one.  The safe view would be to prefer an appeal and let the judges decide – the incentive is in favour of not taking a bold professional decision but instead pushing the ball into the judges’ court to let them carry the burden. Thus, the executive arm of the State keeps finding ways to bring the unelected courts into decision-making and that lays the ground for judicial activism.

Finally, the net effect: every questionable decision is invariably determined in a bipolar manner. It is taken either by the junior most officer at the lowest end of the food chain on the executive side, or, by the senior most officer on the judicial side – mostly a bench of the Supreme Court. The entire decision-making apparatus in between the two is becoming irrelevant, and developing skill sets that idle minds are prone to develop. Create diabolical grounds and create complexities that necessitate referring the matter to outside lawyers and to judges, but pretty much lose the capacity to decide.

If the junior most officer who has to process the file has indeed had the courage to take a view that does not hurt the private party in question although he could have taken a view that would hurt the private party more, then of course, his seniors would only be endorsing someone else’s view. Therefore, such decisions do come through and the system survives. However, even that would fast become a rarity since the junior and the senior could be jointly picked up for conspiracy for not taking a safe view.

Who is the person that everyone is so afraid of? Easy: the junior most officer in the anti-corruption enforcement apparatus whose word on merits would matter the most in a probe into suspected corruption. That gentleman or lady, therefore, runs the country.

How do the corrupt handle this? Easy if you are dishonest and competent, you can game the system. Point a few cases of others to nasty anti-corruption proceedings, build a name, and if competent, package and present decisions in terms that show how harsh they are on private business.  That sets the tone of the discourse in any case and only those who can play the game with them can successfully do business.

Writing this takes moral courage.  A discussion questioning the quality of the incentive system to combat corruption is easily assailed with: “so, your stand is to promote corruption?”  In that ecosystem lies the story of why India can never improve her ranking in the “Ease of Doing Business” surveys of the World Bank.


(The author is a partner of JSA, Advocates & Solicitors. The views expressed herein are his own.)

(This piece was published in the June 15, 2015 edition of Business Standard)

Twitter: @SomasekharS