Supreme Court ruling: Checkmate for Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu?

From our special correspondent in Israel – Three months into the war between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli Supreme Court dealt two major blows to Binyamin Netanyahu and his governing coalition this week. The court struck down an essential part of the government’s polarising judicial reform plan and postponed the implementation of a law shielding the PM from mandatory recusals. FRANCE 24 spoke to Dr. Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, about the impact these decisions will have.

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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu suffered a major setback on Monday as the country’s top court voted narrowly (8 to 7) to overturn a law passed in July that took away judges’ ability to veto government and parliament decisions that they deem “unreasonable”. 

The law was a key component of the government’s contentious plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system that sparked massive protests across the country. 

On Wednesday, the Israeli prime minister suffered another legal defeat as justices ruled (6 to 5) to delay the enforcement of a controversial law that would shield Netanyahu from being forced to recuse himself from office if ordered to do so by the attorney general or the Supreme Court. 

The recusal law, which was passed in March, will now only go into effect at the beginning of the next term of the Israeli parliament after the next general elections.  

The Israeli high court’s rulings comes as Netanyahu’s popularity plummets in opinion polls amid mounting criticism of Israel’s offensive on Gaza.  

According to a recent survey, Netanyahu’s party – Likud – would win only half of the seats it currently occupies (16 versus 32) if elections were held now. 

To better understand the impact of the high court’s decisions, FRANCE 24 spoke to Dr. Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute.  

Dr. Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, in Kfar Sava, Israel on January 4, 2024. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

France 24: What would have been the consequences of this reform had it not been overturned by the Supreme Court? 

Fuchs: The government’s reform aimed to reduce the power of the judiciary. Israel doesn’t have a formal constitution. But we do have these Basic Laws that serve as a quasi-constitution. If a law goes against the Basic Laws, the Supreme Court can say this is an unconstitutional law, and they can therefore strike it down. This has happened just under 20 times in 30 years since the Supreme Court altered Israel’s system of government in 1995.

In Israel, we don’t have checks and balances as in other country’s systems. For example, we don’t have a real separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. The government rules through a majority coalition in parliament. If you win a simple majority of 61 seats, you can do whatever you want. The only thing we have as a counterbalance is a strong and independent Supreme Court. And what Netanyahu’s government wanted to do was to change that. 

The government also wanted to change how the judges are nominated. So that they could just appoint the judges they wanted.

The attorney general heads the state prosecution system. Netanyahu is currently facing charges of fraud and corruption. If the law had been passed, Netanyahu could just fire his prosecutor and pick another one, which would be more convenient for him.

The high court also postponed the recusal law which aims to protect Netanyahu, stating that it was “clearly personal” in nature”. What does that mean? 

Fuchs: For decades we had a very vague law which said that when the prime minister is incapacitated, then someone will replace him. But it didn’t explain what the grounds for this incapacity might be. Would it be on medical grounds or for other reasons? Nothing was written about this – or the procedures to be followed. 

So Netanyahu’s government decided to change the Incapacitation Law – meaning that only when the prime minister himself says he is incapacitated, or three quarters of the government says he is, would the prime minister then be recused.

The government then needs a two-thirds majority in the Knesset. They introduced measures to ensure that this would never happen. After they voted for it, Netanyahu announced to everyone that his hands were no longer tied. However, the court said the law was “clearly personal in nature” and postponed its enforcement until the next Knesset. So the law won’t be implemented until the next elections. 

Can Netanyahu be impeached? 

Fuchs: If there is a majority of 61 MPs, they can just hold a no confidence vote and form a new government. 

But what can happen – and what always happens in Israel when a government loses political support – is that they just announce new elections. And for that, you need 61 MPs in the Knesset who support a new election. And the whole opposition will agree with that. We’ve seen in polls that a lot of people who voted for the coalition are now totally against it.  I don’t know when the war will end. But if the war ends tomorrow, they will probably announce an election.

Will Netanyahu be held accountable for the October 7 attacks? 

If the government changes, there will be an investigation committee, which is very independent because it is appointed by the Supreme Court, not by the government. This is what usually happens after big failures like what happened in 73, and in 82, when Christian militias, with the support of the Israeli army, massacred up to 2,000 Palestinians in Lebanon’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. 

The committee will ask Netanyahu hard questions and they will deliver a verdict. And they will say that he is to blame. He was negligent. He cannot be re-elected. For example, when they said that former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who also served as defence during the Sabra and Shatila massacres, can no longer be defence minister, he was removed from office.

If Netanyahu is convicted in his various trials, will he be able to stay in power? 

If he’s convicted in a final court decision after the appeal, then according to the Basic Laws, he has to step down. It will take time – at least another year.

Maybe after the war when Netanyahu will see that everything is falling apart, he might get some kind of deal – whereby he doesn’t go to prison and isn’t even convicted of anything serious in exchange for stepping down and not participating in the election. 

Once Netanyahu understands that he can’t be re-elected, then maybe he will go for the deal. And I’m kind of sure that the attorney general will aim for such a deal so he/she doesn’t have to deal with the trial. 

Again, this is an optimistic scenario. I’m not sure that this will happen. A lot of people were sure that that this would happen years ago when he was indicted in 2019 on corruption charges. But he chose to fight and ran in elections again and again. He’s never given up but maybe he will have some good advisors that will say: “This is the time to step down, you’re not popular enough, you won’t get elected. So at least use that bargaining chip to close all the criminal files on you.”

This article has been translated from the original in French

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

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The Hindu Morning Digest, December 11, 2023

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, party leader Rahul Gandhi, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) chief Uddhav Thackeray, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (JKPDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti and others during a press conference after the Opposition’s Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc leaders meeting. File.
| Photo Credit: ANI

India denies U.S. news outlet’s report on Khalistan sympathisers

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) “strongly” denied that a written order was issued last April to deal with the threat of Khalistan sympathisers in the western countries. The remark from MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi came soon after the U.S.-based online news outlet The Intercept reported that the official order was signed by Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra and listed several pro-Khalistan figures.

Supreme Court verdict to respond on petitioners claim that Article 370 assumed ‘permanent character’

A Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud is scheduled to give its verdict on the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution on December 11, primarily on the cardinal issue raised by petitioners as to whether the now-extinct provision was part of the basic structure and beyond the amending powers of Parliament.

Fourth meeting of leaders of INDIA bloc will be held on December 19

Leaders of the INDIA bloc will meet on December 19 in Delhi. This will be the bloc’s first meeting in three months as all activities related to it were paused with the Congress focusing on the five-State Assembly elections. The top agenda of the meeting is to begin talks on seat sharing as was resolved in the bloc’s last meeting held in Mumbai on August 31 and September 1.

BJP to select Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister on December 11; Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan choices likely to impact decision

The Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to select its Chief Minister for Madhya Pradesh on December 11, as its legislature party meeting is scheduled to be held that evening in the State capital in the presence of the party’s three central observers. In last month’s Assembly election, the BJP won a massive majority with 163 seats. The Congress, which was hoping to wrest power in the State, could only manage 66 seats. 

India to receive Trade Ministers from Switzerland, Norway for ‘critical talks’ this week 

As Trade Ministers from Switzerland and Norway visit Delhi this week, officials say they remain optimistic of reaching an agreement on a trade pact with Nordic countries in the next few months, although several outstanding issues remain and Indian trade negotiators are busy trying to close other FTAs with the U.K. and Australia.

Hong Kong holds first council elections under new rules that shut out pro-democracy candidates

Residents went to the polls on Sunday in Hong Kong’s first district council elections since an electoral overhaul was implemented under Beijing’s guidance of “patriots” administering the city, effectively shutting out all pro-democracy candidates. In 2021, the city amended its electoral laws for its legislature, drastically reducing the public’s ability to vote and increasing the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers making decisions for the city.

Key COP28 draft document says countries must show progress on adapting to climate change by 2030

By 2025, all countries must have in place a detailed plan to adapt to the current and future impacts of climate change in their countries, and must demonstrate progress in implementing such a plan by 2030, the draft of a key climate document said.

Ethics panel asked Mahua Moitra to explain ‘nature of friendship’ with industrialist Darshan Hiranandani

A transcript of expelled Parliamentarian Mahua Moitra’s deposition in front of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee shows that she was asked a range of personal questions, including: “Why do you consider industrialist Darshan Hiranandani a dear friend?”, “What is the nature of your friendship with him?”, and “Where did you stay on your trips to Dubai?” The transcript is part of the Ethics Committee’s report that was tabled in Parliament on Friday, accusing the Trinamool Congress leader of taking pecuniary benefits in exchange for asking questions in Parliament.

Grant Bihar the status of Special Category State, Nitish urges Amit Shah

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to give Bihar the status of Special Category State, during the meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council (EZC) in Patna. He also requested Mr. Shah to include the new State law on higher reservation in the ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

Cyclone Michaung | T.N. government could take 2015 model as blueprint for issuing duplicate documents

Successful special camps organised in Chennai and its surroundings in December 2015 to issue duplicate documents to flood-affected people could serve as blueprint for the Tamil Nadu government in the aftermath of cyclone Michaung. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has announced special camps would be launched on December 11 in Chengalpattu, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur. The camps would begin in Chennai on December 12.

Income Tax raids: Congress seeks clarification from party MP Dhiraj Sahu

The Congress has sought a clarification from its Rajya Sabha member Dhiraj Sahu after ₹350 crore in cash from entities linked to his companies have been recovered during the raids by the Income Tax (I-T) department in Odisha. “It is a collective business of his joint family. That family has been in business for over 100 years. Only he can give information about from where he got such a huge amount of money but since he is associated with the Congress and is a Rajya Sabha member of our party, the Congress has sought a clarification from him,” Congress’s Jharkhand in-charge and All India Congress Committee (AICC) member Avinash Pandey told the media in Ranchi. 

Centre denied aid worth ₹332 crore, says Kerala Chief Minister

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that Kerala had been denied ₹332 crore, that was to be received in November. However, the Central government has not made it clear on what grounds the cut had been effected. Kerala, a consumer State, was not receiving its due compensation, he said, at the Navakerala Sadas, organised at Government Higher Secondary School, Perumbavoor, on Sunday.

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Checks & Imbalances: How Ivanka Trump Lied

As Don Jr. and Eric Trump take the stand, we continue our coverage of Donald Trump’s ongoing trial in New York. Follow along now with live updates from inside the courtroom.


Ivanka Trump Helped Her Dad Lie About His Net Worth

Ivanka Trump is expected to testify soon in a $250 million fraud case that the New York attorney general is waging against her father and his associates, reports Dan Alexander. That’s bad news for Ivanka, who tried to get out of taking the stand. But it might be even worse news for her father, who employed Ivanka in his years-long con to convince the world that he had more money than he actually did.

The attorney general will have plenty of questions for Donald Trump’s eldest daughter. Ivanka helped lead the acquisition of two assets at the center of the lawsuit, the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. and the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami. She also lived in another property caught up in the proceedings, a condo building named Trump Park Avenue in New York City.

But to fully understand Ivanka’s involvement in her father’s deceit, it helps to get inside the room where the lying took place. That’s exactly where three Forbes journalists were in September 2015, when Donald Trump hosted them in Trump Tower as part of his quest to climb higher on The Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people. Trump spouted off all sorts of nonsense that day, claiming his properties were more profitable, spacious and valuable than they actually were. In the middle of his pitch, the Republican frontrunner received a phone call. “Ivanka,” said Trump, “my little Ivanka.”

Nine minutes later, she entered the room: “Hiiii!”

MORE FROM FORBESIvanka Trump Helped Her Dad Lie About His Net Worth

Tracking Trump

Trump-Linked SPAC Spent $10.8 Million On Legal Fees Amid Regulatory Probes

The company planning to merge with Trump Media & Technology Group, owner of Truth Social, spent $10.8 million on legal fees related to government investigations in 2021 and 2022, according to an amended financial statement Digital World Acquisition Corp. filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. Those legal fees comprise about 46% of the company’s total expenses over that two-year period.

MORE FROM FORBESTrump-Linked SPAC Spent $10.8 Million On Legal Fees Amid Regulatory Probes

How Much Money Has Michael Cohen Made Hating On Trump?

Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified last week in the New York fraud case. Trump’s legal team immediately set out to discredit Cohen, asking him how much money he has made from hosting podcast episodes and writing books relentlessly criticizing Trump.

“It’s irrelevant,” Cohen said, clearly reluctant to get into specifics on his personal finances. But when asked whether he had monetary incentives to criticize his boss, Cohen conceded the point. “Yes,” he responded in open court.

How much money has Cohen earned from his media ventures? It’s hard to say exactly, but it does look to be a solid revenue stream.

MORE FROM FORBESHow Much Money Has Michael Cohen Made Hating On Trump?

This Is What Trump Is Actually Like In The Courtroom When Cameras Aren’t Allowed In: Reporter

Forbes senior editor Dan Alexander, who was in a Manhattan courthouse covering the fraud case against former President Donald Trump, joins Brittany Lewis on “Forbes Newsroom” to discuss.

From The News Desk

Senate Democrats Plan To Subpoena GOP Megadonors—Including Harlan Crow—Over Reported Gifts To Supreme Court Justices

Senate Democrats announced plans to subpoena two GOP megadonors and a conservative judicial activist, seeking details about their reported role in paying for lavish gifts and luxury trips for conservative Supreme Court justices that triggered calls for an ethical code for the judges serving on the court, reports Siladitya Ray.

MORE FROM FORBESSenate Democrats Plan To Subpoena GOP Megadonors-Including Harlan Crow-Over Reported Gifts To Supreme Court Justices

Billionaire Says Glenn Youngkin Could Declare Presidential Run Next Week

Thomas Peterffy, the billionaire founder of Interactive Brokers, has made no secret of his desire for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin to become president, reports John Hyatt. He has given $3 million to Youngkin’s political action committee since April and publicly urged Youngkin to enter the race.

Youngkin, a former private equity investor, has previously insisted he’s “wholly focused on the Commonwealth of Virginia.” But Peterffy, in an interview with Forbes, says Youngkin may reconsider if Republicans take control of Virginia’s senate in next week’s state election. “His hope is that…the Senate will flip Republican, and that would give him a platform on which we could say, “Look, I turned an all-blue state red, and I can do that nationwide. So please vote for me,’” says Peterffy.

MORE FROM FORBESBillionaire Says Glenn Youngkin Could Declare Presidential Run Next Week

By The Numbers

$1,371,800

The sum that Nirmal Mulye, the CEO of Nostrum Laboratories, has donated to candidates for federal office since 2003. On Monday, Nostrum and Mulye agreed to pay the government at least $3.8 million in fines “to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by knowingly underpaying Medicaid.”

$15,000

How much Donald Trump has been fined for violating gag orders.

$2.6 billion

Donald Trump’s net worth, according to Forbes’ estimates.


Road To 2024

On “Forbes Eye on Iowa,” former 2024 Republican presidential candidate Larry Elder spoke with Sarah Muller about his endorsement of former President Trump, his campaign, the future of the Republican Party and more.

Quiz

Which of the following is not a figure Ivanka Trump gave for the amount of meeting space at Trump National Doral?

  1. “75,000 square feet”
  2. “over 90,000 square feet”
  3. “a hundred thousand square feet”
  4. “150,000 square feet”

Check if you got it right here.

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Morning Digest | India’s first solar observatory mission Aditya-L1 launches today; ED arrests Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal in bank fraud case, and more

Preparations in the final phase for India’s maiden solar mission, Aditya L1 onboard the PSLV-C57, ahead of its launch on Sept. 2, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

India’s first solar observatory mission Aditya-L1 to be launched at 11.50 a.m. today

India’s first solar observatory mission, named Aditya-L1, will be launched onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 11.50 am on Saturday. This PSLV-C57/Aditya-L1 mission can be counted as one of the longest missions involving ISRO’s workhorse launch vehicle. However, the longest of the PSLV missions is still the 2016 PSLV-C35 mission which was completed two hours, 15 minutes and 33 seconds after lift-off.

Opposition says govt. rattled by INDIA alliance; thus exploring ‘one nation one poll’

Opposition parties on Friday said the coming together of the INDIA alliance had worried the ruling BJP, forcing it to set up a panel to explore the feasibility of holding Assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously. The government on Friday constituted a committee, headed by former President Ramnath Kovind, to explore the possibility of holding simultaneous elections to State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha, a day after announcing a special session of Parliament from September 18-22.

SC moots even airdropping food, medicine in Manipur due to blockades

The Supreme Court on Friday suggested even airdropping food and medicine in Manipur after Justice Gita Mittal Committee said the situation might turn dire with supplies dwindling due to road blockades, coupled with an outbreak of chickenpox and measles in relief camps lodging victims of ethnic violence. Chief Justice Chandrachud also sought action from the government about the unidentified bodies of people killed during the violence still lying in mortuaries in the State.

Rajnath Singh cancels 2-day visit to Sri Lanka

In a sudden development, the Defence Ministry on Friday announced that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh would not be travelling to Sri Lanka on a two-day visit beginning Saturday, which it had announced earlier in the day, due to “unavoidable circumstances”. Coinciding with the visit, INS Delhi, Indian Navy’s first indigenously designed and built guided missile destroyer, arrived at Colombo on September 1.

IIT-Delhi student dies by suicide, second case in two months

A 21-year-old student of B.Tech final year at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi died by suicide on September 1. According to the police, the student was on extension as he failed to clear some exams. It is the second incident of suicide on IIT-Delhi campus in last two months. On July 10, a student named Ayush Ashna, who was pursuing B.Tech (Maths), passed away after a suicide bid.

Some countries are trying to hijack G-20 agenda, says Russia

A week before the G-20 summit in New Delhi, Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov on September 1 came out strongly against western attempts to foreground the Ukraine crisis at the multilateral platform saying that political issues should not be raised in keeping with the tradition of G-20. He further said the language of Bali Declaration 2022 that had mention of Ukraine will have to change when the G-20 countries meet in New Delhi. 

Countdown to the end of the fascist BJP regime has begun, says Stalin

Alleging that “lies and falsehood are the capital of the fascist BJP regime”, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M.K. Stalin on Friday said the countdown to the end of the BJP rule had begun. In his statement at a joint press meet held on behalf of the INDIA bloc of Opposition parties in Mumbai, Mr. Stalin alleged that the BJP had, during the past nine years of its rule, shown scant regard for democratic ethos, and now, it had become a threat to the very existence of democracy.

ED arrests Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal in bank fraud case

The Enforcement Directorate on September 1 arrested Jet Airways (India) Limited’s founder chairman Naresh Jagdishrai Goyal, in connection with an alleged loan fraud involving about ₹538.62 crore of the Canara Bank. The ED probe is based on a case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in May. Among those named as accused were the company, Mr. Goyal, his wife Anita Naresh Goyal and Gaurang Ananda Shetty.

Singapore ex-deputy PM Shanmugaratnam elected president: official results

Former Singapore deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was elected president on September 1, according to official results, in the city-state’s first contested vote for the largely ceremonial position in more than a decade. Shanmugaratnam replaces incumbent Halimah Yacob who ran unopposed for her six-year term in 2017.

Children from void, voidable marriages entitled to parents’ share in ancestral property: SC

The Supreme Court on September 1 held that a child born of a void or voidable marriage can inherit the parent’s share in a joint Hindu family property governed by the Mitakshara law. A voidable marriage is one that is made invalid by the husband or wife through a decree. A void marriage is invalid at the very inception. Mitakashara law of succession governing Hindu Undivided Families applies to the whole of India except West Bengal and Assam.

AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi demands debate on China, others in special session of Parliament

AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi has demanded a debate on the border issue with China, along with others, in the special session of Parliament convened by the government even as he said that any Bill on ‘one nation-one election’ would be unconstitutional. He demanded that the NDA government hold a comprehensive debate on China. Referring to media reports on ‘one nation-one election’ with regard to the special Parliament session, he claimed that it is “impossible”.

8 killed, 29 injured in Manipur since August 29: source

As many as 29 people were injured and eight killed in a fresh cycle of violence that erupted on the boundary of Churachandpur and Bishnupur districts in Manipur since August 29, a defence source said on Friday. The area witnessed intermittent firing between the two groups on Friday where a person was said to have been injured in Churachandpur.

India to have 42.5 crore air passengers by 2035, says Jyotiraditya Scindia

India is expected to have 42.5 crore air passengers by 2035 from the current level of 14.5 crore and that is the growth potential that international players can look at, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Friday, September 1, 2023. The Union Minister also said that the regional air connectivity has democratised civil aviation and has spawned four regional carriers.

Asia Cup 2023 | High-voltage India-Pakistan clash all set to produce sparks

Fitness test for one side, carrying the form for another. And the last leg for the World Cup preparations for both the teams. All these objectives will be paused for eight hours at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on the outskirts of hilly Kandy on Saturday afternoon. After all, it’s India vs Pakistan time. That too in the Asia Cup. And the same stands and grass banks that wore a deserted look on Thursday for Sri Lanka’s game against Bangladesh — the other fierce inter-continental rivalry — will be choc-a-bloc.

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Explained | What is the ‘reasonableness’ doctrine at the heart of Israel’s judicial overhaul?

The story so far: Israeli lawmakers on July 24 approved a key portion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive plan to reshape the country’s judiciary by passing a controversial legislation that prevents judges from striking down government decisions on the ground that they are ‘unreasonable.’

The development comes amid massive protests against the proposed overhaul. Proponents believe that the sweeping reforms would allow more effective governance while still leaving the Court with other standards of judicial review, such as proportionality. Critics however say that without judicial oversight, the drive would upend the country’s democratic checks and balances, weaken the Supreme Court, and concentrate power in the hands of Mr. Netanyahu and his parliamentary majority.

After seven months of debate, the government managed to scrap the ‘reasonableness’ doctrine with a final vote of 64-0. Every member of the coalition voted in favour, while opposition lawmakers abandoned the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) plenum in protest.

The amendment will prohibitcourts from using the doctrine to review decisions made by the cabinet, government ministers, and unspecified ‘other elected officials, as determined by law’, but would continue to allow the use of the doctrine for decisions made by professional civil servants in government ministries and agencies.

A day after the passage of the contentious law, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear petitions challenging its constitutionality in September. It, however, refused to pass an injunction to freeze the law in the meantime.

What is the ‘reasonableness’ doctrine?

Israel does not have a written constitution. The country is governed by a set of laws on various subjects such as land, President, government, economy, and judiciary. These laws are called the country’s Basic Laws and function as the country’s constitution.

The power to review the legality or ‘reasonability’ of laws is analogous to the power of judicial review vested with Indian courts. There is no law defining judicial review powers, and the grounds for judicial intervention in administrative affairs have been promulgated through court rulings.

One such legal standard is the ‘reasonableness doctrine’ —more commonly known as the standard of extreme unreasonableness— derived from the Wednesbury unreasonableness principle in English common law. That principle was introduced in Israeli jurisprudence by a 1980 ruling in the Yellow Pages case, by Aharon Barak, then a new judge of the Supreme Court. He held that administrative bodies must act with reasonableness, and lack thereof may be grounds for invalidating their decisions. Although the Court at times had held that administrative bodies should act with reasonableness, it was unclear whether this could be an independent metric to invalidate administrative decisions.

A decision is deemed unreasonable if a court rules that it was made without considering all relevant factors or without giving relevant weight to each factor, or by giving irrelevant factors too much weight— even if they do not violate any particular law or contradict other administrative rulings. Notably, the judiciary cannot revoke government decisions simply because they disagree with them. Under the doctrine, such revocation is permissible — only in cases in which the balance between the various considerations that were made is unreasonable to an extreme.

For instance, while deciding on the location of a new industrial complex, a minister may give relatively great weight to the impact on the quality of life of those living nearby and assign relatively lower importance to other factors, such as a small difference in the value of the land that the state will expropriate for the project. However, it is possible that some inappropriate consideration (such as a nudge by a friend who expects to reap a huge profit from the expropriation of the land) tipped the balance for the minister’s surprising decision about the industrial complex’s location, overriding other relevant considerations.

How have Israeli courts invoked the doctrine in the past?

The reasonableness doctrine has been used by Israeli courts on numerous occasions to scrutinise political appointments as well as executive decisions.

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled in the Ganor v. Attorney General case that the Attorney General’s decision not to charge the heads of the banks in the manipulation of stocks affair, which caused the collapse of the Israeli stock market, was tainted by extreme unreasonableness, as it did not give sufficient weight to the price paid by the public as a result of the banks’ actions.

In 2007, the government decided to fortify only some classrooms against rocket attacks in 24 schools in the Gaza border region. Ruling that the decision was unreasonable, the judges highlighted the large number of children who were exposed to rocket fire which posed a severe threat to their daily lives. The government was accordingly ordered to fortify every classroom in those schools.

Another well-known use of the reasonableness doctrine was a High Court decision in 2014 that found that the Kfar Vradim municipal council’s decision not to build a mikveh, or ritual bath, in the town was unreasonable, bearing in mind the needs of the local religious population and the circumstances of the request

Invoking the doctrine to invalidate political appointments, the Supreme Court in 1993 ruled that the failure to dismiss Minister Arye Deri and Deputy Minister Rafael Pinhasi after indictments were issued against them for serious corruption, was tainted by extreme unreasonableness.

In January this year, the Supreme Court ordered Prime Minister Netanyahu to dismiss his key ally, Shas leader Aryeh Deri from his cabinet, on the grounds that his recent criminal conviction for tax offenses, and a resultant suspended jail sentence which was yet to expire, made his appointment ‘unreasonable in the extreme.’

What are the other proposed reforms?

Netanyahu’s government launched its judicial overhaul plan in January, soon after it was sworn in. The plan has a set of proposals that attempt to limit judicial review over executive actions. First, the government wants to enable the 120-member Knesset to override any Supreme Court judgement by a simple majority of 61 votes, unless those rulings are unanimous.

Second on the cards is a law that would give a greater role to lawmakers in the appointment of Supreme Court judges. As of now, judges are appointed by a collegium-like nine-member committee — three Supreme Court judges (including the Court President), two members of the Israeli Bar Association, two members from the Knesset, and two from the government (Ministers). According to the proposed reforms, the members of the Bar Association would be replaced by two ‘public representatives’ picked by the government, thus giving the government a majority of votes in the committee.

Third is a new measure that would curb the authority of independent legal advisers attached to government ministries. At present, their opinions have quasi-legal force, as Supreme Court judges often rely on them while ruling on the propriety of government actions. The reform would make their advice non-binding.

On March 23, Netanyahu’s coalition passed a law preventing legal authorities from removing the Prime Minister from office if he is deemed ‘unfit to rule’. As a result, only the Knesset and the Cabinet can now remove the leader from office. These measures could technically help Netanyahu evade prosecution in his ongoing corruption trial as well as his eviction from office.

What are the concerns and what happens next?

With the Supreme Court set to hear petitions challenging the law in September, the apex Court is faced with a tough decision — how should it respond to a challenge to its own power?

A range of groups, including nonprofits, parliamentary opposition parties, and individual citizens have filed petitions against the law on the basis that it is in conflict with the country’s Basic Laws and changes the basic structure of Israeli democracy. Former Israeli Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid has also said that he would be appealing to the Supreme Court to revoke the law.

The new law is an amendment to a Basic Law— one of the bodies of laws that have a quasi-constitutional status in Israel— and the Supreme Court has so far never intervened in, or struck down, a Basic Law. It has however in the past set a precedent for the possibility of doing so. In 2021, it declared a law to delay the deadline to pass the state budget an improper use of parliamentary power but stopped short of annulling it in order to avoid setting the formal precedent of disqualifying a Basic Law. The same year, the Supreme Court while adjudicating upon a case challenging the constitutionality of Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People, outlined the very narrow circumstances in which the Court might strike down a Basic Law. These included cases where a bill ‘dealt a mortal blow to free and fair elections, core human rights, the separation of powers, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary’.

The Court is however not left without remedy and will still be able to review government and ministerial decisions using other doctrines of administrative law —proportionality, discrimination, conflict of interest, bias, lack of factual basis, arbitrariness, and extraneous considerations. Experts however say that deploying other legal standards such as bias or conflict of interest is harder to justify since these would be difficult to prove in court considering the difficulty in finding evidence of such malfeasance in the decision-making process itself.

It is also expected that the coalition will move to reinstate Aryeh Deri,  barred from holding a cabinet position by the Supreme Court. Although the reasonable standard cannot be used this time round, as it was in January, the Court may be able to prevent his appointment using other principles —most likely the Estoppel principle, already cited by some judges in the January verdict. 

Estoppel is an equitable doctrine, a bar that prevents one from asserting a claim or right that contradicts what one has said or done before, or what has been legally established as true. The Court ruled in January that due to Deri’s promise to the Magistrate’s Court that he would temporarily withdraw from political life as part of his plea agreement, he cannot now claim before the Court that he has the right to return to politics as a senior minister.

Notably, according to polling released this month by the Israel Democracy Institute, only a minority of Israelis support the changes. Less than a third of the public supports barring the Supreme Court from intervening in decisions by politicians or public officials even if they are found by the justices to be ‘grossly unreasonable’. Only 14% support completely barring the Court from intervening on this basis compared to a large majority (59%) who oppose this type of legislation.

The passage of further bills pertaining to the judicial overhaul is unlikely to take place in the coming days since the current Knesset session expires at the end of July, and the parliament will reconvene in October, after the Jewish High Holidays.

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Morning Digest | Home Minister Amit Shah tells Lok Sabha that government is ready for discussion on Manipur; government approves 8.15% interest rate for PF deposits, and more

Home Minister Amit Shah tells Lok Sabha that the government is ready for discussion

Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha on July 24 that the government was ready for a discussion on Manipur on the floor of the House as the country needs to know the truth about the sensitive situation in the State.

Union government approves 8.15% interest rate for PF deposits

The Centre on July 24 accepted the recommendation of the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to increase the interest rate of deposits in Provident Fund (PF) to 8.15%.

Dry runs of security software at new Parliament building

The security software of India’s new Parliament building is being updated. The new structure was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28.

Parliament monsoon session day 4 | Logjam persists in Parliament; AAP MP Sanjay Singh suspended

Home Minister Amit Shah asked the opposition on Monday to allow a debate on the Manipur issue to begin in Parliament but the deadlock persisted in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as both sides refused to budge from their stand, with Congress and its allies insisting on a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi first. Relentless protests from opposition members marred proceedings in both the Houses and Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh, one of the more vocal voices in Rajya Sabha, was suspended for the rest of the Monsoon session for repeatedly “violating” the directives of the Chair.

Red diary issue: Sacked Rajasthan Minister Gudha, BJP MLA Dilawar suspended from State Assembly for ‘unruly behaviour’

Sacked Rajasthan Minister Rajendra Gudha on Monday was suspended from the State Assembly for “unruly behaviour” after ugly scenes were witnessed in the House when he raised the issue of a red diary, claiming it held details of irregular financial transactions. BJP MLA Madan Dilawar too was suspended for the remainder of the Assembly. Earlier, Gudha was pushed and shoved by Congress MLAs after he created a ruckus over the red dairy, demanding that he be allowed to make a statement.

Supreme Court to hear plea seeking SIT or CBI probe into death of Bihar BJP leader during march

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Tuesday a PIL seeking a probe by an SIT headed by a retired apex court judge or the CBI into the July 13 incident in Patna in which a BJP leader died while taking part in a protest march against the Nitish Kumar government. According to the Supreme Court website, a bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta will hear the PIL filed through lawyer Barun Kumar Sinha on July 25.

Arrest Pak ex-PM Imran: Pak election commission tells Islamabad police

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday directed the Islamabad police to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan and produce him before it on Tuesday in a case linked to contempt of the top electoral body. Irked by Khan’s persistent absence from the hearings, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) instructed the Islamabad IG to arrest the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief for his failure to appear in the contempt case.

President Murmu to visit Odisha from July 25-27

President Droupadi Murmu will embark on a three-day visit to Odisha on Tuesday, coinciding with her completing one year in office. “Murmu will visit Odisha from July 25 to 27. She begins her visit with an interaction with a group of medical students sponsored by (the) ATUT-BANDHAN family and (will) lay the foundation stone for a new building block of the Raj Bhavan, Odisha, in Bhubaneswar,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said. On July 26, Murmu will grace the valedictory function during the 75th-year celebrations of the High Court of Orissa in Cuttack.

Two-day Vijay Diwas event to begin on Tuesday, preparations underway

A two-day event to mark the 24th Vijay Diwas will begin here on Tuesday, commemorating India’s triumph in the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan. Preparations are underway for the event at the War Memorial here with final touches being added. The event will be graced by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Singh will arrive on Wednesday to pay homage to the jawans who laid down their lives for the nation. The families of the martyred soldiers make it a point to visit the memorial each year on the occasion. Many of them have already arrived here for this year’s event.

Bengal Assembly adjourned for day after obituary references

The West Bengal Assembly was adjourned for the day on Monday after obituary references to eminent personalities who died recently. Obituary references were made to eminent Bengali writers Samaresh Majumdar and Sasthipada Chattopadhyay, former State Minister Dawa Lama and former MLAs Prabodh Purkait, Dr Tarun Adhikary. Later, Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay convened an all-party meeting, but it was not attended by the opposition BJP and ISF. The House will take up reports of different standing committees on Tuesday and Wednesday to be followed by the question and answer session from Thursday, officials said.

IMD forecasts heavy rain in 10 Odisha districts

With the formation of a cyclonic circulation over the Bay of Bengal on Monday, the IMD has predicted heavy rainfall very likely to occur at one or two places in 10 districts of Odisha during the next 24 hours. Under its (cyclonic circulation) influence a low-pressure area is likely to form over the same region during the subsequent 24 hours, the IMD said in a Twitter post. The district for which the yellow warning (be updated) of heavy rainfall has been issued are Ganjam, Gajapati, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Koraput, Nawarangapur, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Bolangir.

AAP announces nationwide protests on Manipur issue on Tuesday

The Aam Aadmi Party will Tuesday stage protests across the country against the precarious situation in Manipur, party officials said. In Delhi, the protest will be attended by top leaders of the party at Jantar Mantar, they said. Leaders of several opposition parties on Monday demonstrated in the Parliament complex demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi make a statement in the House on the Manipur issue.

North Korea fires ballistic missile after US submarine arrives in South Korea

North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile into its eastern sea, South Korea’s military said Tuesday, adding to a recent streak in weapons testing that is apparently in protest of the US sending major naval assets to South Korea in a show of force. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff did not immediately say where the weapon was launched from and how far it flew. The launch came hours after South Korea’s navy said a nuclear-propelled US submarine – the USS Annapolis — arrived at a port on Jeju Island. The arrival of the USS Annapolis adds to the allies’ show of force to counter North Korean nuclear threats.

China to review appointments, dismissals of officials at Tuesday meeting: state media

China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, a powerful body that enacts and amends laws when parliament is not in session, will review appointments and dismissals of officials at a meeting on Tuesday, state media reported. The announcement comes one month since Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was last seen, with China’s government saying he was off for unspecified health reasons. The NPC committee, which meets roughly every two months to deliberate legislation and pass laws, was next expected to meet in August after concluding a scheduled meeting in June.

Jill Biden heads to Paris to help mark US return to UN educational and scientific agency

Jill Biden has represented her country at the Olympics in Tokyo, a king’s coronation in London and a royal wedding in Jordan. She gets another chance to put her ambassadorial skills to work this week when the United States formally rejoins a United Nations agency devoted to education, science and culture around the globe. Biden arrived in Paris early Monday, accompanied by her daughter, Ashley Biden, after flying overnight from Washington to join other VIPs and speak at a ceremony Tuesday at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The American flag will be raised to mark the U.S. return to UNESCO membership after a five-year absence.

Delhi govt to install 500 water ATMs near slums, densely populated areas: Kejriwal

The Delhi government has planned to install 500 water ATMs to provide drinking water treated using the Reverse Osmosis (RO) process to people in slums and other such densely populated areas, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday. The Chief Minister, who inspected an RO plant and inaugurated a water ATM at Khajan Basti in the Mayapuri area, said four water ATMs have been installed and 500 are planned in the first phase. Every person will be provided with a card that will let them draw 20 litres of water per day from these ATMs free of cost, he said.

Sindhu, Prannoy keen to regain lost touch; buoyant Satwik-Chirag eyeing another title

Fresh from their Korea Open triumph, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will look to continue their dream run, even as the focus will be on the struggling PV Sindhu and HS Prannoy in the Japan Open Super 750 badminton tournament, beginning here on Tuesday. The 2022 Commonwealth Games-winning Indian doubles pair of Satwik-Chirag on Sunday stunned the world No. 1 pair of Fajar Alfian and Muhamad Rian Ardianto in a hard-fought final to extend their winning streak to 10 matches.

Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams aim to excel in Spain

The Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams are determined to produce their best at the 100th Anniversary Spanish Hockey Federation – International Tournament to begin on Tuesday in Terrassa, Spain. The tournament will see the Indian men’s hockey team playing against formidable rivals England, the Netherlands and host nation Spain. The women’s side will also take on England and Spain. The tournament will be particularly crucial for the Indian men as it will serve as a preparatory event for them ahead of the much-awaited Hero Asian Champions Trophy to be held in Chennai from August 3 to 12, ahead of Hangzhou Asian Games.

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Morning Digest | Four held in Manipur sexual assault case; Justice B.R. Gavai to head Bench hearing Rahul Gandhi defamation case today, and more

Manipul sexual assault case main accused Huirem Herodas Meitei of Pechi Awang Leikai in police custody on July 20, 2023.
| Photo Credit: ANI

Four held in Manipur sexual assault case

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said on Thursday that none of the guilty in the May 4 sexual violence case will be spared adding that he got to know about the incident only after a video went viral on Wednesday. He said that the government will seek capital punishment for the accused even as police confirmed that four persons have been arrested in the case.

First day of Monsoon Session a washout

The Parliament failed to function on the first day of the monsoon session, with the Opposition remaining adamant that the first order of business should be a debate on the violence in Manipur with a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though the government said it was willing to hold a discussion on the Manipur situation, the PM was only briefly present in the Lok Sabha, and both Houses were adjourned for most of the day, due to Opposition protests.

B.R. Gavai to head Bench hearing Rahul Gandhi defamation case today

A Supreme Court Bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and P.K. Mishra is scheduled to hear a petition filed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to suspend his conviction in a criminal defamation case on Friday.

Focus on joint projects during Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s India visit 

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on July 20 arrived in India for an official visit, a year after he became President of the Island nation that witnessed its worst economic crisis last year. Mr. Wickremesinghe is scheduled to call on Indian President Droupadi Murmu and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 21, according to a press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

RS Chairman nominates four women parliamentarians to panel of vice-chairpersons

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar nominated four women parliamentarians to the panel of vice-chairpersons, giving women equal representation in the panel, for the first time in the history of the Rajya Sabha, even as the women’s reservation Bill, that was first introduced in 1996, remains pending.

NHRC takes up Manipur abduction, gang-rape case, issues notice

Two and a half months after the ethnic conflict in Manipur began on May 3, the National Human Rights Commission of India issued its first public statement about human rights violations in the State on Thursday. In its statement, the NHRC said that it had taken cognisance of the May 4 incident in B. Phainom village of Kangpokpi district, where a mob of 1,000 Meitei people had abducted five members of a Kuki-Zo family while they were being escorted to safety by the Manipur Police.

Nine dead, 13 injured as speeding car ploughs into crowd in Ahmedabad

In a horrific incident, nine people were killed and over a dozen grievously injured when a speeding luxury car mowed down a crowd gathered at an accident site in Ahmedabad’s SG highway flyover On July 20, 2023.

Supreme Court urges Centre to transfer cheetahs to another location

The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Union Government that the deaths of 40% of the 20 cheetahs brought from South Africa and Namibia to the Kuno National Park (KNP) in under a year is does not present a good picture.

SC proposes to nominate pro tem DERC chairperson, takes time till August 4 to scout for suitable candidate

The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday indicated that it may appoint a pro tem chairperson to discharge the functions of a Delhi Electricity Regulatory (DERC) Commission chairperson for “a little while” after the Delhi government and Lieutenant-Governor failed to reach a consensus on a name.

16 dead after landslip triggered by heavy rains buries village in Maharashtra’s Raigad

At least 16 persons were killed and 21 injured after a landslip induced by incessant rainfall buried the hamlet of Irshalwadi in Raigad district, 65 km from Mumbai, said authorities on Thursday.

Two Nobel winning U.S. economists among 304 write to President against Visva-Bharati Vice-Chancellor

As many as 304 people related to the world of education, including two Nobel winning American economists, have written to President Draupadi Murmu, criticising Visva-Bharati Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty for targeting Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who has a house near the university in Santiniketan.

Centre bans export of non-basmati white rice to check price rise

The Centre banned the export of non-basmati white rice on Thursday. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade under the Union Commerce Ministry announced in a notification that the ban would come into effect immediately and exemptions would be given only if the loading of non-basmati rice on the ship had commenced before the notification or the shipping bill was filed and vessels had already berthed or arrived and anchored in Indian ports.

Fresh consultation needed on Uniform Civil Code, Law Minister tells Rajya Sabha

The Law Commission has started fresh consultations on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) due to the “relevance and importance” of the subject and various court orders on the matter, Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

China doesn’t want a trade war with the US but will retaliate against further curbs, ambassador says

China does not want a trade war with the United States but will retaliate against any further U.S. restrictions on technology and trade, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. said. Ambassador Xie Feng criticized U.S. curbs on the sale of microchips and chipmaking equipment to China that were imposed last year by the Biden administration. Beijing has described the measure as part of an effort to “contain” China.

India vs West Indies, Test 2 of 2 | West Indies show some fight before Kohli puts India ahead on day one

irat Kohli reached close to a memorable hundred in his 500th International game after the West Indies put up a much needed fight to limit India to 288 for four at stumps on day one of the second Test in Port of Spain on July 20

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Here’s Joe Biden’s Student Debt Forgiveness Backup Plan … And His Other Debt Relief Plans, Too!

Joe Biden went on TV yesterday to say that he thinks the Supreme Court got it wrong when it nuked his plan for up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness in a very dubious 6-3 ruling. He was obviously pretty cheesed about the decision, especially the fact that so may Republicans are just fine with doling out corporate loans, tax cuts, and subsidies but suddenly care very much about the national debt if a struggling family gets a little help from the government, to give them some breathing room. But it wasn’t just condemnation of the Court and the greedheads; Biden also highlighted what he intends to do now to help families with student debt.

Previously!

Supreme Court: You Owe Your Soul To The Student Debt Store

Joe Biden’s Here With A Few Choice Words About The Supreme Court’s Student Debt Decision

Here’s the video; we have so much to get to in this post that we’re only barely going to mention the assholish question at the end from Jacqui Heinrich — of Fox News, of course — who accused Biden of giving “false hope” to millions with his debt forgiveness plan, because presumably he should have known in advance the Supremes would act lawlessly. Kudos to Joe for not letting that foolishness stand, and for pointing out that “Republicans snatched away the hope” borrowers had been given by the plan. Also, that brief flash of anger in his eyes before his fairly measured reply. I like this guy.

youtu.be


Biden said that since the Court ruled — stupidly, we’ll add — that the loan forgiveness plan wasn’t authorized by the 2003 HEROES Act, his administration would pursue a new path to loan forgiveness, using the Education Department’s authority under the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA), which established low-interest federal student loans in the first place. It was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson and has been reauthorized nine times, with revisions to update it, like the establishment of Pell grants in 1972.

The law authorizes the secretary of Education to “compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption,” and that clause was what Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer had in mind when they called on Biden to forgive student debt. Real policy nerds can dive into this 7-page analysis that Sen. Warren requested in 2020 from Harvard Law School’s Legal Service Center, which concludes that the HEA gives the secretary the power to grant “broad or categorical debt cancellation.”

Biden said he had already directed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to start the process of using the HEA to bring back debt forgiveness; because of the lengthy federal rulemaking process, it will likely take months to reach a final rule, which of course would then be subject to challenge in the same Court that decided the HEROES Act’s authorization for the secretary to issue “waivers and modifications” of student loans in national emergencies wasn’t good enough. To be sure, the HEA language is more expansive, but we suspect that still might not be enough for the Roberts Court because it doesn’t also say “including cancelling up to $10,000 of debt for most borrowers, or $20,000 for those who received Pell grants. P.S.: Alito’s a tool.”

In addition to the second try at loan forgiveness, Biden also said that when the pandemic loan payback and interest pause ends on October 1 and loan payments are again due, the Education Department will allow a 12-month “ramp up” period through September 30, 2024. That’s to make sure that

financially vulnerable borrowers who miss monthly payments during this period are not considered delinquent, reported to credit bureaus, placed in default, or referred to debt collection agencies.

In addition, Biden called attention to the Education Department’s proposed revisions to the Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plan for student loans, which were announced in January and are still moving through the federal rulemaking process. Once that revision goes into effect, many borrowers in the most popular income-based repayment plan will qualify for far lower monthly payments, and many financially challenged borrowers will actually see their monthly payments go to zero. At the end of 20 to 25 years, depending on the type of loan, their remaining debt will be discharged. Folks who initially borrowed $12,000 or less will have their loans forgiven after 10 years of payments. More on that program here.

More! Here!

Did Joe Biden Just Fix Student Loan Debt Going Forward? Mayyyyybe!

I Got My Student Loans Ready For Joe Biden’s Big Income-Based Forgive-A-Thon And You Should Too

Also too, while Biden didn’t mention it in his remarks yesterday, keep in mind that, in another administrative action the Education Department announced last year, millions of borrowers in IDR plans of all sorts will qualify for a special, one-time adjustment that could dramatically reduce the number of payments they need to get their loans discharged. More on that here; I still plan on doing an update to that next week, too.

Finally, Biden also touted other measures his administration has taken, like increasing the size of Pell Grants; fixing processing roadblocks that had kept participants in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program from actually getting their loans forgiven (Biden too-graciously didn’t name Trump’s Ed Secretary, Betsy DeVos, who made the problem worse); and cancelling more than $66 billion in student debt for those eligible public service workers, as well as for students who were defrauded by the grifty for-profit colleges that were DeVos’s very special darlings.

The more I look at how the Education Department is fixing what’s been wrong with student loans, the more impressed I am.

Now, if we could just tackle the many factors that have made college so expensive in the first place — first among them states’ abandonment of adequate tax support — we’d really have something to crow about.

[CBS News / NYT / Harvard Law School / Income Driven Repayment at Studentaid.gov / One-Time IDR Adjustment at Studentaid.gov]

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Affirmative Action For Everyone But Rich White People

The six rightwing justices on the US Supreme Court today ruled that affirmative action in college admissions violates the US Constitution, because they also want to believe the Constitution is magically “color blind,” despite its being written for and governing over a nation that has always been anything but.

The Court’s decision specifically struck down affirmative action policies at Harvard and at the University of North Carolina that had been challenged by a rightwing legal group, but the ruling will apply to virtually all public and private universities and colleges, except for the weird ones like Hillsdale that reject all federal funding so they can discriminate all they want. The vote was 6-3 in the North Carolina case and 6-2 in the Harvard case. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who unlike some of her esteemed colleagues understands basic ethics rules, recused herself in the latter because she served on a board at Harvard.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion that, in his fan fiction version of the United States of America, “the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual — not on the basis of race.” He continued,


Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.

As with last year’s decision nullifying Roe v. Wade, the Court’s decision today erases decades of previous Supreme Court precedents going back to the 1970s, holding that the interests of having a diverse student body allows selective institutions of higher learning to make at least some consideration of race in admissions. In essence, the Supremes now agree with Tucker Carlson, who in 2018 just wanted to know why the hell diversity is even worth bothering with.

While universities — and, as we say, previous Court decisions — believe having a diverse student body is key to education in a multiracial republic, Roberts said that Harvard and UNC’s admissions processes

lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.

Obviously, the only way to be fair is to go by students’ test scores and grades, which are completely objective and unbiased, although of course it remains perfectly fine to give special treatment to children of alumni and big donors, because that’s how you guarantee a new Economics building gets funded. That’s not discrimination, it’s just a way of filling the Endowment’s quid pro quota.

But just to show that the Civil Whites Agenda isn’t utterly heartless, Robert generously added that

nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.

That certainly reminds me of a a few white students in first-year writing classes I taught at U of Arizona in the late 1980s, whose rhetorical analysis papers on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech said that King would be very upset on their behalf. The poor dears just knew that they were only attending a crappy state university because their guidance counselors all told them unqualified Black students had been given their places at more selective schools. They wouldn’t make that up.

In a bizarre bit of hypocrisy, the decision carved out an exception for the nation’s service academies, because apparently having a diverse officer corps in the military is valuable in ways that eradicating white supremacy in medicine, law, science, and the liberal arts is not.

In a furious 69-page dissent that she read from the bench — something justices only do when they’re well and truly pissed off at a majority’s terrible decision — Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Jackson and Justice Elena Kagan, castigated the majority, saying that it’s a “disturbing feature of today’s decision that the Court does not even attempt to make the extraordinary showing required” to overturn well-established precedent. But hey, that’s what Sam Alito did in the Dobbs decision, so obviously the rightwing majority can do what it wants.

Getting right at the false premise at the heart of the majority decision — and at the center of pretty much every conservative fiction about race in America — Sotomayor wrote,

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment enshrines a guarantee of racial equality. The Court long ago concluded that this guarantee can be enforced through race-conscious means in a society that is not, and has never been, colorblind.

She noted that ever since the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Court has recognized that discrimination is real and pernicious, and that prior decisions have affirmed affirmative action as a means of ensuring equal educational opportunity for all Americans. But in today’s decision, she said,

the Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter. The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society.

Sotomayor has described herself as “the perfect affirmative action child,” arguing that while affirmative action helped her gain admission to elite institutions like Princeton and Yale, her achievements are absolutely her own doing. She told students at Michigan State University in 2018, “Don’t look at how I got in. Look at what I did,” and urged them to focus on what they bring to their education:

“You get in because you’re giving something of value to the community. […] And so is being different. So is coming from a background that a majority of students are not from. The question is not, how did I get in? It’s: What did I do when I got there? And with pride, I can say I graduated at the top of my class.”

The Washington Post notes (gift link) that in contrast to Sotomayor, Justice Clarence Thomas has said that

he felt affirmative action made his diploma from Yale Law practically worthless; he has been a fierce opponent of racial preferences in his three decades on the court. “Racial paternalism … can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination,” he has written.

Still as incredibly bitter as ever, Thomas read his own long concurrence with the majority opinion from the bench, claiming that the Harvard and UNC programs were “rudderless, race-based preferences designed to ensure a particular racial mix in the entering classes,” and that they “fly in the face of our colorblind Constitution and our nation’s equality ideal,” at least for the perfectly spherical, frictionless, colorless human beings in the airless zero-gravity environment he imagines America to be. While he was at it, he aimed particular scorn at Jackson, accusing her of believing that “almost all of life’s outcomes may be unhesitatingly ascribed to race.”

In her own dissent (Page 209 in the opinion PDF) which she didn’t read from the bench, Justice Jackson specifically responded to Thomas’s “prolonged attack” and noted that Thomas

“does not dispute any historical or present fact about the origins and continued existence of race-based disparity (nor could he), yet is somehow persuaded that these realities have no bearing on a fair assessment of ‘individual achievement.'”

While she was at it, she wrote that Thomas “ignites too many more straw men to list, or fully extinguish, here,” and by golly she is definitely the far better writer, she wins. As to the majority’s declaration that the Constitution is colorblind, she added,

“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.”

In conclusion, Jackson rules, Thomas drools, and things are now going to get a lot uglier before they get better, all in the name of an America that none of us actually live in, the end.

[NYT / WaPo (gift link) / US Supreme Court / Sotomayor dissent / NBC News / Detroit News / Headline stolen pretty shamelessly from Michael Harriot on Twitter / Base photo (photoshopped, cropped): Jarek Tuszynski, Creative Commons License 3.0]

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