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Cablegate: Delhi Diary, December 10-14

Published: Fri 14 Dec 2007 12:39 PM
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SUBJECT: DELHI DIARY, DECEMBER 10-14
1. (U) Below is a compilation of political highlights from
Embassy New Delhi for December 10-14, 2007 that did not
feature in our other reporting, including:
-- Bhutan Election Commission Disqualifies Third Political
Party.
-- India Finally Offers Balanced Assessment of
Israeli-Palestinian Affairs.
-- Supreme Court Scolds Lower Court,s Judicial Activism
Bhutan Election Commission Disqualifies Political Party
------
2. (U) On November 30, The Bhutan Election Commission (EC)
disqualified the Bhutan People's United Party (BPUP), a
newly-formed political party which was hoping to run against
the People's Democratic Party and the Druk Pheunsum Tshogpa
in the Bhutanese elections scheduled for early 2008. The
BPUP claims to be a political party representing the
downtrodden, with 80 percent of its membership and a
significant number of its candidates being high school
dropouts. This, however, violates EC rules which stipulate
that candidates must hold at least a bachelor's degree. In a
press release the EC concluded that the BPUP lacked "credible
leadersip of the caliber that is needed to run and manage
the affairs of the nation."
3. (SBU) The BPUP appealed the decision of the EC asking for
guidance and time to fix their mistakes. BPUP President
Sigay Dorji, a former member of the Royal Advisory Council,
expressed optimism that the BPUP would be given the
opportunity to develop into a credible political party. If
the BPUP is allowed to contest the election, there will be
three registered political parties and Bhutan will have two
phases of polling. The first phase will be a vote on the
three political parties to narrow the choices to two. The
final phase would be for the actual candidates. Nicholas
Rosselini, Resident Representative of UNDP, told Poloff of
other rumors behind the disqualification. Rosselini said he
heard the EC was only trying to cut its costs of conducting
the elections by reducing the number of political parties to
two.
4. (SBU) Comment: The irony is that Bhutan is a country
where very few have higher education and very many are poor.
The BPUP disqualification speaks little for representational
democracy, although the EC could argue that the transition
phase of Bhutan,s democratic experiment justifies special
attention to the education credentials of the candidates.
End Comment.
India Finally Offers Balanced Assessment of
Israeli-Palestinian Affairs
------
5. (SBU) In an official press release dated December 12, and
a nice follow-on to the constructive comments from Kapil
Sibal in Annapolis, External Affairs Minister Mukherjee gave
a refreshingly balanced view of the situation in the Levant,
offering policy views supportive of Quartet and USG
initiatives. He stated inter alia that the GOI "supports a
negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent,
viable and united State of Palestine within secure and
recognized borders living side by side and at peace with
Israel as endorsed in the Roadmap and UNSC Resolutions 1397
and 1515. India has supported the Quartet Roadmap of 2003
and the Arab Peace Initiative, resumption of dialogue on
Israel-Lebanon and Israel Syria Tracks." Mukhejee also noted
that the Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamad
would attend the International Donors Conference for
Palestine in Paris December 17.
NEW DELHI 00005319 002 OF 002
Supreme Court Scolds Lower Courts, Judicial Activism
------
6. (U) India,s Supreme Court issued a harsh criticism of
the nation,s courts this week, accusing regional benches of
overstepping their purview through rulings which border on
legislation. The criticism was aimed at lower courts in
general but the Delhi High Court was singled out. The
Supreme Court opinion cited specific Delhi High Court
decisions -- those involving demolition of unauthorized
construction, nursery admissions, automobile accidents and
number of free beds in hospitals -- as examples of judicial
encroachment on legislative and executive powers which
threatens "the delicate balance of power enshrined in the
Constitution." The Supreme Court panel wrote, "We are
repeatedly coming across (instances) where judges are
unjustifiably trying to perform executive or legislative
functions. In our opinion this is clearly unconstitutional."
The justices went on to caution that a continuation of this
trend could lead to interference from politicians who will
attempt to rein in judicial power and threaten the
independence of the judiciary.
7. (U) Comment: The Supreme Court,s edict led to judiciary
confusion as some courts refused to hear public interest
litigation cases until their jurisdiction was clearly
delineated. The confusion subsided when the Chief Justice
made it clear that the original criticism was non-binding.
The Supreme Court,s cautionary observations are valid and
relevant because Indian courts have become increasingly
activist in response to political inaction and gridlock. We
should note, however, that in a nation where
consensus-building and legislating are often slow and
frustrating processes this judicial activism may be the only
way to get anything done. For instance, when legislators did
not have the political will to take quick action on the
capital,s rising air pollution levels, the Delhi High Court
issued a ruling calling for the implementation of compress
natural gas technology in all public transportation, which
markedly improved air quality.
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