Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let Bigger Dreams Take Flight! - A short story!

"Running around in circles on the lawn in Vihar Park, wearing her bright yellow teeshirt and shorts along with a black cap makes Mahesh look like a cute honey bee buzzing in the air," thought Seema as she sat on the wrought iron bench watching her eight year old play lost in his own imaginary world. In Mahesh’s mind as well he was soaring through air but not quite as simply as a bee.

The previous day, Seema’s sister had handed over to her a bag of old toys which the sister’s son had lost interest in. Mahesh showed no interest in the old toys until amongst that batch of toys he found the 7 inch long clay model of an airplane which even had tiny plastic propellers attached to its engines. Mahesh was amazed by the model though a significant portion of its tail had chipped off and one of the four propellers was missing, thanks to his cousin’s mishandling no doubt. Seema wouldn’t even have been able to identify it as the popular passenger airliner of the 1950s if not for the words DC-6 printed on it as a part of its livery. Previous night, she had read up on the internet regarding various aircrafts, for the barrage of questions she knew would soon come from her inquisitive child.

“Brrrr Brrrrr Brrrrrrrrrrrr” Mahesh was growling trying to imitate the sound of the engines of airplane model that he held in his hand as he ran at top speed imagining himself soaring through the air on the aircraft. He swooshed and whisked it around avoiding imaginary obstacles and banked it left and right doing tricks. All of a sudden, Mahesh fell backwards, hitting the ground with an audible thump which made Seema’s heart skip a beat. As she rushed towards him, she realised that he wasn’t crying or trying to move at all because he wasn’t really hurt.

He had fallen down on purpose. His eyes were transfixed on a real aircraft in the sky as it glided low, about to make its landing approach. He held up his free hand and pawed the air as if to reach the aircraft with the innocence that only a child can have. 

"Mumma why cant we see the engines of that plane like this?" he asked, toying with the three remaining propellers on his DC-6 model.

"Because it is a new aeroplane, it has much faster engines than this one. They are called jet engines." Seema replied, glad that she had read up the previous night.

"Mumma but why, why new engines?"

"So that it can be big. That plane can actually carry more than 200 people!"

Tiny Mahesh's eyes shone with astonishment as he contemplated the big number. "But Mumma, it looks small from here."

"It looks small in the sky, but is really big and even with so many people it can go really really fasttt!" Seema continued as she picked him up and twirled him around while he laughed with glee. With the sun about to set, they started heading back home.

"Mumma I have decided. When I grow up, I shall drive an aeroplane. I shall drive the biggest aeroplane in the world.” He spoke with determination in his voice. “Which is the biggest aeroplane in the world, Mumma?"

"It is the A-380." Seema replied as they reached the lift of their apartment complex. "Do you know it even has two floors!  You have to use an elevator inside the A-380!" She told him as he looked on in amazement.

Upon reaching home, Seema ushered him to clean up and he then went off to watch TV while she got busy as well and both forgot about their conversation. Only to be reminded again, at bed time.

Just as she was tucking him in for the night, he stopped her and with a forlorn expression said "But Mumma, I cannot be a big A-380 driver."
"But why?"

"Because I can’t stay away from my Mumma." he said almost teary eyed. "I shall miss you."

She smiled as she kissed his cheeks. "Don't worry son, A-380 now flies from and to Delhi. You don't have to go far at all... "

Lufthansa now flies A-380 non stop from Delhi to Frankfurt! Check it out here

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This post is a part of the “Lufthansa A380 – Bigger is Better” contest on Indiblogger.in sponsored by Lufthansa.
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Lufthansa A280

Get more details regarding Lufthansa's A-380 non stop service from Delhi to Frankfurt here



Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review : Tough Customer by Vandana Vasudevan

​Are you entitled for compensation for delayed flights? Can stickers be placed on the printed MRP? ​Can we hold a fairness cream to the promises made in its advertisement?

Photo of the book
Tough Customer - Vandana Vasudevan
 328 pages | MRP - ₹ 395
Publisher - Westland Ltd.
These are just some of the common questions that any ordinary person is curious about. Consumer law is a field of law that touches the life of the aam admi in innumerable ways on any ordinary day. However, till date all the literature that I had read about 'Consumer Law' was in the form of textbooks discussing each section of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and explaining the judicial interpretations of the same. It was all Consumer Law for the lawyers.

There was no book explaining consumer law for the consumer and this is the void that 'Tough Customer' by Vandana Vasudevan fills perfectly.

The book is divided into four parts, the first one covering the six rights of the consumer, a section on consumer service, another regarding the failure of certain consumer welfare legislation and the last being a must have 'Toolkit for consumers''.

Right from the first two chapters on safety and information, it is apparent how well researched the book is. The section on safety not only covers the obvious concerns that would come to one's mind such as issues relating to food adulteration and protection of financial data but it even goes on to give comprehensive information regarding India's mixed record with respect to railway safety and dubious record with respect to safety measures on roller coasters. The second section regarding the right to information is a delight to read it manage the laws relating to mandatory information disclosures on packaging in simple and succinct terms. Furthermore, we are treated to some fascinating case studies which expose how instant-noodles and cosmetics brands in India flout information disclosure and advertising norms with impunity.

The book's chapter on Right to Redressal shall be of particular interest to any reader as it describes the entire scheme of filing a consumer complaint in detail but at the same time in simple and clear language. Author employs bulletted lists under headings to explain various aspects of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and within those handful of pages an aam aadmi can find answers to all his questions such as "What is unfair trade practice?" "Who can complain?" "When and Whom to complain?" "What relief can the forum give?" etc. The author also goes beyond the Consumer Protection Act and has also included details of other redressal mechanisms such as the Banking Ombudsman, Insurance Ombudsman etc.

The book doesn't stop at just telling the reader how to file a complaint but also tries to inspire the reader by presenting the stories of several consumers who filed consumer complaints and got generous relief from the Consumer forums.  It is often said that the Indian judicial system is stacked against the ordinary man and that large corporations get away with anything. However, in this book we find tales of consumers who took on and won against mammoths like the Railways, DLF and Idea mobile. These real life stories written in a fine narrative style are not just heartening but also at times funny and unfailingly enjoyable to read. If I had to pick a fault with this book (apart from the fact that it has scared me regarding several things by exposing the lax safety standards in India), it would be that the author hasn't included any cautionary tales regarding when consumers failed to prove their case before the forums. Such counter-anecdotes could have provided some advice for the readers regarding the pitfalls to avoid while filing consumer complaints.

The section of the book on consumer service is also replete with anecdotes, most from author's own life regarding how the standard of consumer service in India is a major cause for concern while the following section is a detailed analysis of four consumer welfare laws and the author's views on possible reform. Here again what sets this book apart from most other law books is that even an analysis of the law never feels like burdensome reading. While getting the point across, it remains simple enough to be understood by the ordinary man.

The last section "Toolkit for consumers" is a real gem. It includes the contact details of various consumer welfare organisations and also contact information of consumer forums and other grievance redressal mechanisms. The toolkit also includes model form of a consumer complaint which can be adopted an used for his/her own purpose by the reader. This is followed by a checklist of precautions that an informed consumer must adopt in everyday scenarios such as while buying electric appliances or while buying jewellery. It might possibly be worth buying the book for this section alone! However do note that the tips and tricks aren't restricted to this section alone. The entire book is replete with small tips and information that shall come of use to every single person. (Eg - Tips to differentiate between genuine or fake maid agencies, entitlement to compensation in cases of delayed flights, identifying puffery in advertisements etc.)

When I was reading this book, it did not feel like drudgery for a single moment. Every single chapter is relevant and includes references to situations that we face day in and day out.

This book would be of some utility to each and every person who purchases or has ever purchased any goods or services in India!

Disclosure : I was supplied with a review copy by Wesland Ltd.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Passengers on the Clapham Omnibus! Reasonable man gets company!

"Public opinion, nowadays, is the opinion of the bald-headed man at the back of the omnibus. It is NOT the opinion of the aristocratical classes as such; or of the most educated or refined classes as such; it is simply the opinion of the ordinary mass of educated, but still commonplace mankind."

When Walter Bagehot included this line in his famous treatise The English Constitution published in 1867, little did he know that it shall lead to the creation of a of a legal phrase denoting the standard of reasonable care, which shall last more than a hundred years.

It was in 1903 that the “man on the Clapham omnibus” made his debut in judicial decisions when his mention appeared at page 109 in the judgement, McQuire v Western Morning News Company Limited.[1] ‘The man on the omnibus’ became ‘the man on the Clapham Omnibus’ with a typical working class London neighbourhood selected as his destination lest anyone mistake him to be from the upper class elite.

However, his moment of glory definitely came in the 1933 case of Hall v. Brooklands Auto Racing[2] when Greer L.J. of the Court of Appeal held "…the man in the Clapham omnibus taking a ticket to see a cricket match at Lord's would know quite well that he was not going to be encased in a steel frame which would protect him from the one in a million chance of a cricket ball dropping on his head.[3] …In my opinion, in the same way such a man taking a ticket to see motor races would know quite well that no barrier would be provided which would be sufficient to protect him in the possible but highly improbable event of a car charging the barrier and getting through to the spectators. The risk of such an event would be so remote that he would quite understand that no provision would be made to prevent it happening, and that he would take the risk of any such accident.”  Poor, Mr. Hall who had obtained damages of 998 shillings from the lower court had the judgement in his favour set aside due to the implied terms in the contract for purchase of the ticket which ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ would have known. More than 110 years after its first use, the ‘Man on the Clapham Omnibus’ is still often invoked by the judges across common law jurisdictions.

However, what is uncommon is judges accepting the test for what it really is – judges dictating what ought to be. When the reasonable man test or any tests of like nature are applied, the court judges the situation not by considering what the persons involved in the case thought or not by taking evidence as to what the average view in the country is but by actually subjectively making a decision on the basis of what the judges think the reasonable man’s perspective is or ought to be. Thus the persons on the Clapham omnibus are actually none other than the judges themselves!

Recently, the United Kingdom Supreme Court[4] speaking through Reed L.J.[5] in Healthcare at Home Ltd. v. Common Services Agency[6] has elaborated eloquently about the various new legal fictions similar to the man on the Clapham Omnibus that the courts have come up with in recent times. I am reproducing the first four paragraphs from that wonderful judgement here -

1. The Clapham omnibus has many passengers. The most venerable is the reasonable man, who was born during the reign of Victoria but remains in vigorous health. Amongst the other passengers are the right-thinking member of society, familiar from the law of defamation, the officious bystander, the reasonable parent, the reasonable landlord, and the fair-minded and informed observer, all of whom have had season tickets for many years.

2. The horse-drawn bus between Knightsbridge and Clapham, which Lord Bowen is thought to have had in mind, was real enough. But its most famous passenger, and the others I have mentioned, are legal fictions. They belong to an intellectual tradition of defining a legal standard by reference to a hypothetical person, which stretches back to the creation by Roman jurists of the figure of the bonus paterfamilias. As Lord Radcliffe observed in Davis Contractors Ltd v Fareham Urban District Council[7]

“The spokesman of the fair and reasonable man, who represents after all no more than the anthropomorphic conception of justice, is and must be the court itself.”

 3. It follows from the nature of the reasonable man, as a means of describing a standard applied by the court, that it would misconceived for a party to seek to lead evidence from actual passengers on the Clapham omnibus as to how they would have acted in a given situation or what they would have foreseen, in order to establish how the reasonable man would have acted or what he would have foreseen. Even if the party offered to prove that his witnesses were reasonable men, the evidence would be beside the point. The behaviour of the reasonable man is not established by the evidence of witnesses, but by the application of a legal standard by the court. The court may require to be informed by evidence of circumstances which bear on its application of the standard of the reasonable man in any particular case; but it is then for the court to determine the outcome, in those circumstances, of applying that impersonal standard.

4.In recent times, some additional passengers from the European Union have boarded the Clapham omnibus. This appeal is concerned with one of them: the reasonably well-informed and normally diligent tenderer

 



[1] [1903] 2 KB 100

[2] [1933] 1 KB 205

[3] I do wonder if he had been ruling in the present era, Greer L.J. would indulge in this cricket analogy, seeing how often the likes of Gayle dispatch the ball into the crowd.

[4] This is so weird. Since I never have had to cite a post-2009 UK Apex Court case in any of my writings till date, this is the first time I am citing the UK Supreme Court as opposed to the House of Lords. I know and appreciate the arguments regarding strict separation of power but it still feels weird to cite the UKSC.

[5] He shall be one of the last few Lord Justices (L.J.). New UKSC judges appointed herewith shall not be elevated to the House of Lords.

[6] [2014] UKSC 49

[7] [1956] AC 696, 728:




Thursday, November 13, 2014

Giveaway! - Many Lives of Ruby Iyer by Laxmi Hariharan


~~~ 
A girl desperate to rescue her best friend, a cop willing to do anything to save the city he serves, and a delusional doctor bent on its annihilation. When Ruby Iyer's best friend is kidnapped by the despotic Dr Kamini Braganza, she will do anything to rescue him. Anything, including taking the help of the unpleasant Vikram Roy, a cop on a mission to save Bombay. The city needs all the help it can get, and these two are the only thing standing between its total destruction by Doctor Braganza's teen army. As Bombay falls apart around them, will Ruby be able to save her friend and the city? Will she finally discover her place in a city where she has never managed to fit in? And what about her growing feelings for Vikram? 
 ~~~ 


The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer, a YA novel set in Bombay by Laxmi Hariharan, the British-Indian author of the kindle bestseller The Destiny of Shaitan is now available on  Amazon! It is also accompanied by a short prequel titled The Ruby Iyer Diaries and you can also watch and hear her talk about the novel here

Participate in this giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of her book!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is a free excerpt (chapter 1) from the novel -

Thursday, November 6, 2014

RBI allows reduction of 'free' ATM transactions - Shocking Disregard for Depositors' Welfare

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Reserve Bank of India, the Indian Banking regulator is often praised for being a tough regulator whose strict policy formulations ensured discipline amongst the Indian banks and managed to (atleast to a significant extent) shield the Indian banking system from the financial crisis in 2008.

However, looking after the banking system from a macro perspective is not the only role of the Reserve Bank of India. Its very own website states that the  Department of Banking Operations and Development is responsible for regulation of commercial banks, which is ‘aimed at protecting depositors’ interests’.

However, if you look at the recent notification (RBI/2014-15/179 DPSS.CO.PD.No. 316/02.10.002/2014-2015) titled “Usage of ATMs – Rationalisation of number of free transactions” it would seem as if the RBI is forgetting its role with respect to protection of consumer interests.

Get charged for own-ATM transactions
Previously the position was that ATM transactions at ATMs other than the card issuing bank’s own, were charged beyond the limit of 5 free transactions a month.

However, the new notification allows banks to charge a transaction fee (capped at Rs. 20) for every transaction beyond the free limit of 5 transactions even for use of its ATM cards at its own ATMs!

This is atrocious and defeats the purpose of having ATM machines in the first place. The advantage of having ATM machines was that individuals could withdraw cash as and when needed. This meant that many people, especially students are in the habit of making several (much more than five) withdrawals every month with each one being of small amounts such as Rs. 100-1000. Such a habit was convenient since one could avoid the risk and hassle of carrying large amounts of cash and at the same time one could continue to earn interest since the money was left with the bank and not in the wallet.

Only 3 free transactions at other bank ATMs
The new notification allows banks to restrict their customers’ usage of other bank ATMs to just 3 free transactions every month for transaction in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad (at other locations banks must allow for 5 free transactions). In theses cities on every transaction beyond the third one on other bank ATMs, a transaction fee can be levied.

No distinction between financial and non-financial transactions
Furthermore, the counting towards the free transactions includes “non financial” transactions such as balance enquiry and a ministatement. It is not clear whether the change of the ATM PIN shall be considered as a non financial transaction counted towards the limit of 5 free transactions. If they are so considered, it shall be a major step backward for security since it shall act as a disincentive for changing PIN frequently. People would rather save their free transactions for withdrawals than change of PIN.

Banks given discretion and hence, the poor and middle class bears the brunt
The said RBI regulation is not mandatory and imposition of charges has been left to the discretion of the banks. This means that the banks can choose to let the present practice of unlimited free transactions on the home network ATMs continue unabated, or they can impose chares beyond five free transactions. Similarly they may allow more than three or even unlimited free transactions at other bank ATMs.

As of now SBI has already started charging for more than 5 withdrawals on SBI’s own network of ATMs while the other banks are pondering on what to do. However, a more sinister practice which is already in place and is likely to be extended is that the customers with premium accounts, with high AQBs (Average Quarterly Balance) i.e. the well off customers with fat bank balances are allowed to have unlimited withdrawals at even other bank ATMs while ordinary account holders are charged for transactions beyond the free limit. This practice by the private banks and a few of the PSUs is likely to be extended by allowing more than 5 free home network transactions to the premium customers (rich guys) while the ordinary folks have to pay for every transaction beyond the free limit.

Such discriminatory policies which work against the interests of the small depositors is exactly the sort of evil that RBI, the regulator is supposed to prohibit in order to safeguard the depositor’s interests. Indian banks have managed to perform well enough and have earned profits as well for the past several years of providing unlimited free own-bank transactions and five free other bank transactions every month and hence the Indian Banks’ Association’s argument regarding the significant costs of providing such service deserves to be treated with skepticism. Even if there are costs, I am sure that the banks are entirely capable of absorbing them without a hiccup as they have been doing for the past few years.

I hope the RBI shows regard for the depositors interests and withdraws this notification soon.

Do comment and let me know regarding your views regarding this....