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Reaching for the sky

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The successful launch of a record-breaking 104 nano satellites into orbit by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), all on board a single rocket, is a huge landmark in India's space programme which must be welcomed wholeheartedly. That this country's space scientists compare with the best in the world has been proved time and again but caught as we are in a web of petty politics on partisan lines, we fail to exult collectively as a people in any meaningful way on any strides by the country. 

History is being made around us but we still revel in negativism in overall terms. The reality is that the milestone launch, from the Sriharikota space centre in the south, overtook the 2014 Russian record of 37 satellites in a single launch. On board was a 714 kg satellite for earth observation and more than 100 smaller satellites weighing less than 10 kg each. Three were Indian-owned, 96 were from US companies, and the rest belonged to companies based in Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. Most were owned by Planet Labs Inc, a US-based Earthimaging company, and offered a fine opportunity to India to make commercial capital of our rare expertise and enterprise.

The feat did not require vastly new technology, but rather reflects the shrinking size and weight of modern satellites. After reaching a height of about 505 km, the satellites will separate from the launch vehicle at different times, angles and velocities to avoid collisions. The precision required in this is mind-boggling. 

That India had sent an unmanned rocket to orbit Mars in 2013 at a cost of just $ 73 million compared with NASA's Maven Mars mission which had a $ 671 million price tag is in itself worthy of commendation. It is, indeed, happy augury that the business of putting commercial satellites into space for a fee is growing as phone, Internet and other companies as well as countries seek greater and more hi-tech communications. 

The reputation India has built up as a reliable low-cost option in this line will go a long way in getting India orders in the future but there is no room for complacency in a world that is so fiercely competitive. We can neither afford to lower our guard against saboteurs nor loosen our grip over tight pricing. Much of the progressive world is looking up to us and we have new sights to set. And new skies to reach. 

(Follow us on Twitter @NTChennai, FB page News Today)


Test for judiciary

Friday, 17 February 2017

The contempt notice served on a Calcutta High Court judge, Justice Karnan, by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India Justice J S Khehar is the first instance of a sitting High Court judge facing a contempt case. The notice is for continuously levelling allegations against former and sitting judges and other luminaries. 

That Justice Karnan is defiant is borne out by the fact that he did not turn up for the court hearing on Monday and failed to intimate the court about the reasons for it. 'It is the first time we will act against a sitting High Court judge and have to be very careful with what we settle as a precedent for times to come,' the bench observed. Last year, one of the three judges who comprised the High Court’s collegium which had recommended his appointment as a judge, went public, apologising for his selection. The other two suggested that impeachment proceedings be initiated against him.

Like in any other walk of life, the judiciary can hardly be expected to be without any aberrations. Justice Karnan’s first brush with controversies was in 2011, when he wrote to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes complaining of harassment and victimisation by other judges because he was a Dalit. He also alleged others were trying to belittle him. By way of an example, he spoke about how another judge, who was also attending a marriage function, crossed his leg so that it touched his. 

In June 2013, the judge — while hearing a case — ruled that if a couple of legal age indulged in sexual gratification, it would be considered as a legal marriage and they would be termed as husband and wife. When there was an uproar over the judgment, he passed another order in which he gagged persons from making adverse comments. In February 2016, Justice Karnan stayed his transfer ordered by the Supreme Court collegium to Calcutta High Court. 'I am ashamed to have born in India. I want to move to a country without caste system,” he said. When this case reached the Supreme Court, he apologised, attributing his decision to “loss of mental balance'. One can only hope that the Karnan controversy will soon be put to rest and that justice will prevail in the highest rung of the judiciary

It also doesn't look good on the judiciary when one of its numbers remains intransigent and recalcitrant. It cannot lead to any kind of confidence in law enforcers. Having said that, it also behoves on the judiciary to find out whether Justice Karnan has real grounds for grouse. If so, that also needs to be addressed. It is a delicate position. But one which is a real test for the nation and its judiciary.



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