Human Rights Issues

Dec, 07, 2019

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

News

  • The killing by police of all four accused in the Hyderabad rape-murder case have been questioned over the legality and propriety of the action.
  • Extra-judicial or “encounter” killings have been a contested and divisive police procedure for decades.
  • This is what the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court have said on the proper procedures to be followed during such action by police.

About NHRC

  • The NHRC is a Statutory public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993.
  • It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).
  • It is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”.

Powers of NHRC

  • NHRC investigates grievances regarding the violation of human rights either suo moto or after receiving a petition.
  • It has the power to interfere in any judicial proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights.
  • It can visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to see the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon.
  • It can review the safeguards provided under the constitution or any law for the protection of human rights and can recommend appropriate remedial measures.

Limitations

  • NHRC does not have any independent mechanism of investigation. In majority cases, it asks the concerned Central and State Governments to investigate the cases of the violation of Human Rights
  • NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions.
  • Its powers related to violations of human rights by the armed forces have been largely restricted.

NHRC’s guidelines on fake encounters

  • Justice Venkatachaliah, who was Chief Justice of India in 1993-94, underlined that “under our laws the police have not been conferred any right to take away the life of another person”.
  • And “if, by his act, the policeman kills a person, he commits the offence of culpable homicide whether amounting to the offence of murder or not unless it is proved that such killing was not an offence under the law”.
  • The only two circumstances in which such killing would not constitute an offence were-
  1. if death is caused in the exercise of the right of private defence, and
  2. under Section 46 of the CrPC, which “authorises the police to use force, extending upto the causing of death, as may be necessary to arrest the person accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life”.
Dec, 05, 2019

[op-ed snap] Close encounters: On faking anti-Naxal fight

Context

The Justice V.K. Agarwal judicial inquiry commission said that no evidence existed to support the claim that 17 people who died in the “encounter” in 2012, in three villages in Bijapur and Sukma districts were “Naxalites”. The security forces in Chhattisgarh have to live down this assertion.

Story

    • In the official narration, two teams led by a DIG marched into the forests to outflank subversives in a meeting. It was met by gunfire. 
    • 17 Naxalites lay dead, and six uniformed personnel hurt. 
    • The commission found no evidence of a gunfight.
    • It held that firing had been one-sided beginning to end.

What it means

    • The findings catalog that truth can be subverted and buried by the very officers who are supposed to enforce the law. 
    • The commission puts it down to a disproportionate reaction from the anti-Naxal formation.

Botched up story

    • The findings make it clear that the entire operation was botched from the start by poor intelligence, inadequate training, lack of communication, and hasty reaction.
    • Postmortem reports showed injuries on 10 of those killed were on their backs.
    • This is not consistent with claims that firing had been in self-defense.
    • The nature and location of the injuries suggest that they were fired upon while fleeing. 
    • There were bullet shots on some of the heads from close quarters. 
    • There were injuries on the upper torsos caused by the butt of guns or rifles which show signs of physical assault. 
    • The cataloging and managing of the evidence of armaments such as guns and detonators suffered from imprecise documentation. 
    • There are signs of manipulation in the timing of injury and post-mortem reports in at least one case. 
    • The commission concluded that injuries sustained by the uniformed personnel were more likely caused through friendly fire. 

Recommendations

    • Training is to be imparted “to improve the mental fabric of security forces”.
    • It aims “to make them more balanced so that they act with equanimity and do not succumb to panic reaction even in a critical situation”. 
    • Ways must be found to initiate action against the officers involved in this unfortunate operation.
Dec, 04, 2019

[op-ed snap] Setting the clock back on intersex human rights

Context

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, continues to trigger protests across the country. Still, Rajya Sabha has passed the same version of the draft law that was passed by the Lok Sabha.

The journey of intersex human rights

    • Arunkumar v. The Inspector-General of Registration – Given by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, it judgment marks the beginning of a journey of intersex human rights in India. 
    • It took up the issue of the validity of consent given on behalf of intersex infants for undergoing sex-selective surgeries. 
    • It held that the consent of the parent cannot be considered as the consent of the child. Hence, such surgeries should be prohibited. 
    • It recognizes the consent rights of intersex children and the right to bodily integrity. 
    • The judgment declared a prohibition on sex-selective surgeries on intersex children in Tamil Nadu. 
    • Tamil Nadu banned sex reassignment surgeries on intersex infants and children.

Transgender Bill

    • It also deals with issues related to human rights protection of intersex persons.
    • The title of the Bill itself is exclusionary. It does not accommodate all persons whose legal protection it seeks to recognize. 
    • Transgenders have a different gender identity than what was assigned to them at birth. Intersex indicates the diversity of gender-based on biological characteristics at birth. 
    • There are also multiple variations in intersex itself. The Bill is not in alignment with the evolving international human rights framework. 
    • Parliament has to change the title of the Bill to Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019. It conflates the condition of intersex persons with transgender persons. 
    • Mostly. the legal and welfare needs of intersex persons are different from those of transgender persons.
    • Some persons born or living with intersex traits can live with a non-binary identity or may choose to live as gender-fluid persons. The Bill fails to account for these possibilities. 
    • It does not provide for the definition of terms such as gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics.
    • The Bill doesn’t say much about discrimination against intersex persons. Intersex conditions are termed in derogatory terms even by medical professionals. 
    • It should have included a provision directing medical professionals to ensure that intersex traits are not characterized as “disorders of sex development”
    • Intersex traits should not be considered as genetic defects/ disorders, and terms like ‘gender dysphoria’ should be used to characterize them.

Unnecessary medical procedures

    • As per the court’s jurisprudence, medical procedures are not a necessity for self-identification. 
    • The Union Health Ministry has still admitted that medical procedure including sex reassignment surgeries are being performed on intersex children. 
    • Court slammed the Ministry for its poor understanding of consent rights and imposed a ban on the practice of sex reassignment surgeries on intersex infants/children. The Bill fails to protect intersex persons from unnecessary medical intervention.

Conclusion

    • The discourse around gender and sexuality has evolved a great deal in the last decade. 
    • The current legislative discourse on this issue suffers from a lack of foundational understanding. 
    • Intersex persons are particularly vulnerable and experience barriers in access to education, employment, marriage, etc. 
    • The Bill turns back the clock on decades of positive change brought about by intersex activists.
Dec, 03, 2019

[op-ed snap] Terror in London: on London Bridge knife attack

Context

The knife attack near London Bridge that killed two and injured three others is another reminder of the threat lone-wolf assaults pose to public security. 

Attack

    • The attacker was born in the U.K. to immigrants from Pakistan-held Kashmir. He was a convicted terrorist. 
    • He was released in December 2018 with conditions after serving half his jail term. 
    • He was attending a prisoner rehabilitation program. Wearing a fake explosive vest, he first threatened to blow up the building and then went on a killing spree. 
    • This is the latest in a series of terror attacks the U.K has seen in recent years. 
    • In 2017, terrorists had rammed a van into pedestrians on the Bridge and stabbed people in nearby bars and restaurants. 
    • In the same year, a van ran into pedestrians outside a London mosque and a suicide bomber killed 22 concert-goers in Manchester. 
    • Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this attack.

Issues underlying the attack

    • Radicalization is the primary problem.
    • It also points to security, intelligence, and systemic failures. 
    • The British intelligence is often credited for foiling dozens of terrorist attacks since the 2005 London train bombings that killed 56.
    • But less sophisticated, less coordinated, often lone-wolf attacks are on the rise. 
    • The attacker who was convicted in 2012 for being part of an al-Qaeda-linked plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange was sentenced under the imprisonment for public protection (IPP) program. It allowed the authorities to keep him, or convicts considered a threat to the public, in prison indefinitely. 
    • Under the automatic early release scheme, he was freed in 2018 with an electronic tag and supposed to be monitored. But the police still could not prevent the knife attack.

Way ahead

    • This demands to make policing more efficient and reviewing the early release scheme. 
    • What is needed is a good counter-terror plan to tackle both extremisms among youth and prevent lone-wolf attacks that often go undetected. 
    • State agencies need to work with civil society groups as well as community leaders and have deradicalization programs.
Dec, 03, 2019

[op-ed snap] The dubious legal case for an NRIC

Context

The government is proposing an NRC for the country. The Union Home Minister said that the Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) is governed under several laws.

Legal provisions

    • Citizenship Act – It is said to be governed by the provisions of Section 14A of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.
    • Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for compulsory registration of every citizen of India and the maintenance of NRIC. 
    • Citizenship Rules – The procedure to prepare and maintain NRIC is specified in The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

Problems with the argument

    • It suggests that a nationwide NRIC is mandated by law. 
    • “May” – Section 14A in the Citizenship Act of 1955 provides in sub-section (1) that “The Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card to him”. 
    • Discretion vs mandate – The word “may” implies a discretion contingent on other factors. It is at odds with the “compulsory” nature envisaged.
    • From the past – this section was introduced in 2004 in the last days of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

Rules that authorize an NRIC

    • The 2003 Rules are cited by the Home Minister. Three Rules are of particular interest, Rules 11, 6 and 4 seem to grant some sort of authority for a nationwide NRIC.
    • Rule 11 – “Registrar General of Citizen Registration shall cause to maintain the National Register of Indian Citizen in electronic or some other form .. continuous updating .. from various registers under Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 and the Citizenship Act 1955.” 
    • Registrar General’s responsibility is only to do a periodic revision of the National Register. There is no duty upon the citizens to apply for their citizenship afresh.
    • Rule 4 – it places the responsibility to carry out a census-like exercise on the Central government and not on citizens. It deals with “Preparation of the National Register of Indian Citizens”. 
    • It says that the Central Government shall carry out a “house-to-house enumeration for collection for particulars related to each family and Individual including the citizenship status”. 
    • This is a passive process compared to the grueling exercise that was forced upon citizens in Assam. 
    • Assam exercise of making “residents” register vis-à-vis a specific cut-off date was an explicit exception, inserted by amendment through Rule 4A in 2009.
    • Rule 6 – every individual must get himself/herself registered with the Local Registrar of Citizen Registrations during the period of initialization. This rule is circumscribed by the other clauses in the Act.
    • Contradiction in rules:
      • Rule 11 says that updating the NRIC entails updating the information available with ‘Registrar of Births and Deaths’. 
      • Rule 4 says that a census-like exercise shall be carried out and, if the Central government wants to exclude a citizen, it will give him/her a hearing. 
      • Rule 6 says that a citizen shall have to get himself/herself registered once a start period is specified. 
      • These Rules are in direct contradiction with one another, and smack of non-application of mind and arbitrariness.

Not mandatory

    • The rules, as currently drafted, do envisage other less destructive scenarios to register “citizens” which are redundant in the wake of the Aadhaar Act and not mandatory. 
    • Under the Act, the Centre continues to enjoy rule-making powers and could issue rules which could make it mandatory in the Assam format.
    • Under the Foreigners Act of 1946, the burden of proving whether an individual is a citizen or not lies upon the individual applicant and not on the state (Section 9). 

Projects & constitutionality

    • Identity enrolment was made mandatory under the Aadhaar project and this was struck down as excessive. 
    • The NRIC scheme would be directly in violation of the K.S. Puttaswamy judgment. 
    • Not acquiring an Aadhaar number does not subject a citizen to the serious penal consequences envisaged in the case of an NRIC.
    • The NRIC exercise promises to inflict a long period of insecurity on over a billion people. 
    • The individuals most likely to suffer are those at the very margins of poverty, who risk being rendered stateless and being incarcerated in detention camps which are truly a blot on our democracy. 
    • Such a register (NRC) has existed since 1951 only in Assam, as a special case.
Dec, 02, 2019

[op-ed snap] Glimmer of hope: On fresh SIT report on 1984 riots

Context

A report by a court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) will tell if there is any improvement in bringing justice for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom. As many as 3,325 people from the Sikh community, including 2,733 in Delhi alone, were killed in the pogrom.

Progress on the issue

  • Successful prosecutions have been few and far between.
  • Each time a new probe is ordered or a fresh report submitted, it is seen as major progress. 
  • The SIT was formed by the Supreme Court a year ago to examine the record in 186 cases.
  • Another SIT had scrutinised 293 cases and closed 199 of them. A two-member team of retired apex court judges scrutinised these 199 cases, along with 42 other matters that had been closed earlier. 
  • The supervisory committee was informed that 186 cases merited further investigation.
  • A fresh three-member team was asked to examine these 186 cases. Last week, the team submitted its report.
  • The development offers a glimmer of hope to the victims of 1984.

Challenges

  • It is not easy to secure convictions in instances of communal riots and sectarian violence.
  • This is difficult for those that involve thousands of offenders gripped by mob frenzy.
  • There was little effort in the early days to bring to book the high political functionaries of the Congress who were suspected to have instigated the riots. 
  • The country has seen other large-scale riots and pogroms after 1984 but has not been able to ensure substantive justice.
  • Delhi High Court’s suggestion in Sajjan Kumar case, to have separate legislation to deal with mass murders that amount to genocide or crimes against humanity should be considered.

Back2Basics

Communalism

Communalism

Nov, 22, 2019

[op-ed snap] A blow against punitive constitutionalism

Context

Two centuries of colonial rule imposed many cruelties upon Indians. There was criminalisation and stigmatisation of entire populations that did not “fit in” to a certain, narrow way of life.

Examples of such laws

    • Criminal Tribes Act –  indigenous peoples were deemed criminals by birth and herded into concentration camps, where families were separated and forced labor was the norm.
    • Post Independence – despite Independence and adoption of Constitution, post-colonial Indian state replicated many of the worst excesses of the British regime.
    • “Beggary law” – it was enacted in Bombay in 1958, and later extended to many States and Union Territories. 
    • These laws criminalise itinerant and nomadic communities, anyone who does not fit the state’s definition of a “normal” citizen.
    • They establish a system of “certified institutions” that are little better than detention centres.
    • They facilitate the continued stigmatisation and incarceration of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised segments of society.

Recent judgment

    • Jammu and Kashmir High Court struck down that state’s iteration of the Beggary Act. 
    • It identified the colonial origins of the law and found it to be a gross violation of human dignity, equality, and freedom.

The Beggary laws

    • Broad definition of “begging” – “begging” is defined as “having no visible means of subsistence and wandering about or remaining in any public place… in such condition or manner, as makes it likely that the person doing so exists by soliciting or receiving alms”.
    • Beyond begging – beggary laws go substantially beyond criminalising the act of begging. They criminalise people who are “wandering about” and who look like they might need to beg at some point.
    • Purpose – the purpose of such provisions is not to protect public peace or prevent crimes, but to effectively “cleanse” these spaces of individuals who appear poor or destitute.
    • Process – People found “begging” can be arrested without a warrant and thrown into “Beggars’ Homes” for a year to three years. The Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Beggary Rules authorised forced medical examinations of “beggars” taken in police custody, “shaving” of hair and “removal of clothing” in order to undertake the euphemistically-phrased “cleansing” of the body.
    • Government defense – The government defended the law on the ground that it was necessary to make “good citizens” out of “beggars”, and that it was necessary to maintain public order.

Analysis in the judgment

    • Origins of such statutes – Under the belief that people without settled means of sustenance were a threat to society, a number of “vagrancy statutes” were enacted and served as precursors to the beggary laws. 
    • In India – begging was first criminalised in the 1920s to “subjugate certain communities by imputing criminality to them.”
    • What begging indicates – begging and homelessness is indicators of abject, chronic poverty. Poverty had social causes. Beggary is a manifestation of the fact that the person has fallen through the socially created net.
    • Poverty not individual created the court rejected the view according to which poverty is a consequence of individual failings.
    • Fundamental rights – “begging” was a peaceful method by which a person sought to communicate their situation to another, and solicit their assistance. It was protected under Article 19(1)(a)’s freedom of speech guarantee.
    • No proof – the government failed to demonstrate how incarcerating “beggars” into homes would transform them into “good citizens”. 
    • Public spaces access – by criminalising “wandering about” in public spaces, the law attempted to exclude the poor and marginalised from places that were meant “for the enjoyment of every member of the public without exception.” It also violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of movement.
    • Nature of existence – a large number of itinerant communities such as the Gujjars and the Bakarwals, whose very nature of existence is moving from place to place. This would bring them within the ambit of the beggary law. 
    • Dignity – by effectively criminalising poverty, the beggary law violated basic human dignity.
    • Prejudiced view – The legislation was steeped in prejudice against poverty and premised on an absolute presumption of potential criminality of those faced with choicelessness.
    • Right to life – coupled with the draconian processes under the Act, it violated the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Submerging individual rights

    • Recent years have seen the rise of a phenomenon known as “punitive constitutionalism”. 
    • It seeks to submerge individual rights to a grand and undefined national project. It says that an individual may be stripped of their rights if they do not do their bit to contribute to this project. 
    • Laws barring political participation to those who have more than two children, or who lack formal education, effectively make freedom and equality conditional upon the state’s vision of what a “good citizen” should be like. 
    • Rights are no longer about being human, but about earning the right to be treated as a human.
    • The beggary laws belong within this same family of punitive constitutionalism.

Conclusion

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s judgment is explicitly premised upon the unconstitutionality of “invisiblising” a social problem by criminalising it. Thus, it shows us the exact way in which our Constitution rejects this harsh world view.

Oct, 22, 2019

Annual Crime in India Report 2017


News

  • After a delay of two years the annual Crime in India Report 2017 was published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Highlights of the report

Crime against women

  • As per the report, 359849 cases of crime against women were reported in the country.
  • Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 56,011 cases followed by Maharashtra with 31,979 cases and West Bengal 30,002.
  • Majority of cases under crimes against women were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives’ (27.9%) followed by ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (21.7%), ‘Kidnapping & Abduction of Women’ (20.5%) and ‘Rape’ (7.0%),” the report said.

Riots

  • As per the report, 58,880 incidents of rioting were reported, of which the maximum incidents were reported from Bihar – 11,698, followed by Uttar Pradesh – 8,990 and Maharashtra – 7,743.
  • Of the total riots reported, communal and sectarian riots accounted for 723 and 183 incidents respectively.
  • There were 805 riots due to caste conflict and 1909 riots occurred due to political reasons, the report said.

Hate Crimes

  • The incidents registered under the Scheduled Caste Prevention of Atrocities Act saw an increase from 5,082 incidents reported in 2016 to 5,775 in 2017.
  • Incidents of crime related to Scheduled Tribes dipped from 844 in 2016 to 720 in 2017.

Crime against Children

  • A total of 95,893 cases of kidnapping and abduction were registered during 2017, showing an increase of 9.0% over 2016 (88,008 cases).
  • A total of 63,349 children (20,555 male, 42,691 female and 103 transgender) were reported missing in 2017.
  • During the year 2017, a total of 70,440 children were recovered/traced,” the report said.

New Categories

Fake news

  • The NCRB for the first time collected data on circulation of “false/fake news and rumours.”
  • Under the category, maximum incidents were reported from Madhya Pradesh (138), Uttar Pradesh (32) and Kerala (18).

Anti-National activities

  • A new category of offences committed by various categories of “Anti-National Elements” was included.
  • It showed that the maximum offences were committed by Left Wing Extremist (LWE) operatives (652), followed by North East insurgents (421) and Terrorists (Jihadi and other elements) (371).
  • The maximum number of killings was carried out by LWE insurgents (82).
  • As many as 72 of these killings took place in Chhattisgarh. This was followed by killings by terrorists (36) — 34 in J&K alone. North East insurgents killed 10 people.

No data on lynching

  • The data collected under the new sub-heads of death due to mob lynching, murder by influential people, killing ordered by khap panchayat and murder committed for religious reason have not been published.
  • This data was ready and fully compiled and analysed.
  • The decision to collect data on lynchings had been taken in the wake of a spate of lynching incidents across the country through 2015-16.
  • The idea was that such data collection would help the government formulate its policies better in tackling these crimes.
  • Lynchings happen for a variety of reasons which include suspicion of theft, child lifting, cattle smuggling or communal reasons.

Back2Basics

National Crime Records Bureau

  • The NCRB is an Indian government agency responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special and Local Laws (SLL).
  • NCRB is headquartered in New Delhi and is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • NCRB was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was set up based on the recommendation of the Task force,1985 and National Police Commission,1977.
Oct, 01, 2019

High rate of farmer suicides in Punjab’s Malwa

Context

  • Over the past few years, ‘farm debt’ has been one of the main reasons behind farmers and farm labourers committing suicide in Punjab.
  • Data has indicated that 97% of farmer suicides are taking place in the Malwa region only.

More suicides in Malwa region

  • According to report farmer suicides due to debt drastically increased in the late 1990s.
  • The maximum such suicides are taking place in the Malwa region (97.45 per cent), which falls south of the Sutlej, and has 14 of the state’s 22 districts.
  • Malwa has a majority of ‘small and marginal’ farmers’, who have 1-5 acres land.

Reasons for suicide

  • Of around 97 per cent suicides that has taken place in the Malwa region — 94 per cent were due to ‘farm debt’.
  • Majority of them are small and marginal farmers having 1-5 acres of land.

Total number of such suicides

  • The Punjab government’s data states that 3,330 farmers have taken their lives due to farm debt since 2000 till date, of which 698 committed suicide in the past four years, most of them in the Malwa region.
  • It also states that 97 farm labourers committed suicide since 2016, before which no records were maintained of the same.

Why Malwa region?

  • Exorbitant lease land rentals is one of the factors behind the high rate of farmer suicide in Malwa.
  • Farmers cannot get alternative employment opportunities in Malwa, hence small and marginal farmers fall in the trap of debt.
  • If the crop turns out bad, it only adds to their mounting debt.
  • In the Malwa region, a large number of farmers have to spend a chunk of their earnings on health issues including cancer, which is quite common here.
  • There is even a train that carries mostly cancer patients from here to a hospital in Rajasthan.
  • Several reasons have been attributed to high number of cancer patients here, including highly contaminated groundwater.

Why are lease land rentals high?

  • In Malwa, the number of ‘landless’ and ‘marginal farmers’ is very high against the availability of farmland.
  • Cultivation of land is the only way available to them to earn their living.
  • For taking land on rent, they are dependent on big land lords and ‘sahukaars’ who have also become owners of agricultural lands of most small and marginal farmers, who could not pay their debts.
  • Poor farmers think that even if their entire earnings go in paying rent, they will at least get grain for a whole year for their families.
  • On the other hand, in Doaba, which is the NRI belt, and Majha, a large number of farming households either have one member abroad or in government jobs or armed forces from where they get an assured regular income.
  • Even small farmers are running subsidiary occupations like dairy. Also, they prefer to plant three crops in a year including wheat, paddy and vegetables.
  • In the Doaba, large farm lands of NRIs are available to fellow farmers for cultivation due to which lease rentals are 20-30 per cent down here.

Solutions

The report suggests following measures to relieve farmers in the region:

  • streamlining of ‘land lease rentals’,
  • waiving farm loans at least once,
  • providing compensation to the tune of Rs 10 lakh to each family that loses a farmer or farm labourer to suicide,
  • continuation of free power, crop diversification, insurance for crops and health of farmers and labourers, development of dairy sector etc.
  • profitable employment for one family member of farmers and labourers, rold-age pension to farmers and labourers,
  • streamlining of banking sector and curtailing unscrupulous activities of micro-finance agencies and moneylenders etc.
Sep, 27, 2019

[oped of the day] A specific anti-torture law needs to be detailed, comprehensive and conform to international standards

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

CONTEXT

Recently the home minister pronounced that the days of third-degree torture are gone. It is an acknowledgment about something that everyone knows — that torture is an endemic characteristic of Indian policing.

State of torture in India

    • Common cause survey – Common Cause’s recent large national-level survey on the Status of Policing in India affirms violent means
      • 3 out of 5 personnel believe there is nothing wrong with beating up criminals.
      • 4 out of 5 think it’s okay to bash them up to extract a confession. 
      • 1 in 5 even believes that killing dangerous criminals is better than a legal trial. 
    • These show the poor orientation towards working within the law; the deep sub-culture of ferocious machismo; and the tolerance for illegality within the supervisory cadre.
    • These results show the confidence of torturers that no consequences will flow from even extreme acts of cruelty. 
    • When instances of torture become known, a pocketful of ready excuses are used to defend the – necessity, poor working conditions, no other means, mental tension, and pressure from within and without.
    • Poor capacity – generations of active policemen don’t know that any assault and victimisation of anyone that is not entirely in self-defense is prohibited by law.

What should be done – police

    • Not for the police to decide – though the people who come into the police net are cruel, vicious and cunning, their criminality is not for the police to punish. 
    • Role of police – it is to bring alleged criminals before the courts.

Issues persist

    • No detailed provisions – At present, only a few sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code criminalise torture and custodial deaths. 
    • Small changes not useful – A few amendments tucked away in a large code are unlikely to have the visibility or effect that a comprehensive standalone law would. 
    • Convention – India signed the UN Convention Against Torture in 1997. But ratification needs us to pass laws at home that reflect the articles in the UN law.
    • In 2017, under the Universal Periodic Review process 29 countries made 37 recommendations that India take urgent steps to stop the torture.
    • 2010 law – the Prevention of Torture Bill lapsed.
    • 2016 – Law Commission drafted a more diluted version. 
    • 2019 – NHRC has registered over 400 cases of alleged deaths in police custody and over 5,000 cases pertaining to deaths in judicial custody. For the past three years alone, these have regularly clocked in at over a thousand a year.
    • At present, the national infrastructure is sorely wanting.

Way ahead

  • A specific anti-torture law needs to be detailed, comprehensive and conform to international standards. 
  • It will need to have a broad descriptive definition of torture that includes mental torture.
  • It should make it easier to prove as has been done in the case of custodial rape.
  • Fix responsibility not only on the perpetrator but on those who allow it to happen under their watch.
  • Make punishment more stringent especially where there has been sexual violence and ensure the state compensates and cares for its victims. 
  • Bypass the hurdles of Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code which requires permission before public servants can be prosecuted for actions done in the course of his duty. 
  • The new legislation is only a beginning. Actualisation will take much more. 
  • Exhortations will not stop the torture. Having policies, practices and performance in place to demonstrate implementation, will. 
  • The police force has to be reoriented, investigators have to be skilled up with modern techniques of detection and forensic capacities across the country to be ramped up. 
  • It needs long-delayed human rights courts to be set up with specially trained judges in place. 
  • It needs agencies like local legal aid authorities to have clear guidelines to assist where there are allegations of torture. 
  • It requires overseeing bodies like the many human rights commissions and police complaints authorities to do the same. 
  • The police force should have zero-tolerance. It should reinvent its purpose — not as an oppressive force, but as a service whose main work is the protection of the lives and liberties of each of us.
  • The Common Cause survey of 12,000 personnel at police stations uncovers the truth we all know — that political interference in the investigation is near omnipresent. 

Conclusion

Supreme Court has made it clear that torture is not part of anyone’s duty. Still, prosecution and convictions continue to be difficult.

 


Back2Basics

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT)) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.

Sep, 11, 2019

[op-ed snap] One year after ‘Navtej Johar’, imagining an equality law

CONTEXT

One year since the SC judgment in Navtej Johar v. Union of India on Sec 377. We have moved from a society where transgender, intersex, lesbian, gay, bisexual and gender non-conforming persons were treated as criminals to constitutional recognition of rights to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Impact of the judgment

  • The recognition of these rights impacts not only LGBTI persons, but everyone as it protects out rights of self-expression, equality, and autonomy.
  • It laid the ground for stronger equality recognition : Judgment in the Joseph Shine case decriminalising adultery (2018) and the judgment in the Sabarimala case recognising the rights of women to enter religious shrines (2018).
  • It also led to the decriminalising of same-sex intercourse in other jurisdictions such as the High Court of Botswana and inspired a constitutional challenge to Section 377A in Singapore.

Challenges remain

  • Decriminalization is the first step towards the recognition of equal rights. Navtej decision has to be followed by positive steps for equality. 
  • Transgender persons still face a number of legal barriers and LGBTI people continue to face discrimination, exclusion, abuse, and harassment at work, school, health care settings and in public places. 
  • We still do not have equality and anti-discrimination law to protect persons from discrimination on different protected grounds.
  • Even the only close statute, Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. only addresses discrimination against persons with disabilities in the public sector and does not address the private sector. 
  • Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 make some discriminatory acts criminal offenses but do not provide civil remedies such as damages for acts of discrimination. 
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is limited to sexual harassment at work.
  • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 addresses only transgender and intersex persons’ rights. The rights of equality and non-discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation are not covered.

What’s next

  • Overarching legislation is needed to guarantee equality to all persons on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, sex, caste, religion, age, disability, marital status, pregnancy, nationality, and other grounds. 
  • The law should impose obligations of equality and non-discrimination on all persons, public and private, and in the areas of education, employment, healthcare, land and housing and access to public places. 
  • It should provide for civil remedies to stop discriminatory behaviour, costs and damages, and positive action to make reparations.
  • We need an equality law to define what equality would encompass. 
  • Supreme Court comes held in its privacy judgment in K.S. Puttuswamy v. Union of India (2017) that equality and liberty cannot be separated, and equality encompasses the inclusion of dignity and basic freedoms. 

CONCLUSION

Situations like what we see in J&K show us that we need an equality law that not only addresses discrimination against individuals but also addresses structural forms of discrimination and exclusion.

Sep, 11, 2019

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

News

  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, and the communications blackout and detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.

The UNHRC

  • The UNHRC describes itself as “an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.
  • It addresses situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
  • The first session took place from June 19-30, 2006, three months after the Council was created by UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 on March 15 that year.
  • The UNHRC has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year.
  • The HRC replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR).

HRC Meetings

  • The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least 10 weeks.
  • The meetings take place for four weeks in March, for three weeks in June, and for another three weeks in September.
  • The sessions are held at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • If one-third of the Member States so request, the HRC can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.

Membership

  • The Council is made up of 47 UN Member States, which are elected by the UNGA through a direct and secret ballot.
  • The General Assembly takes into account the contribution of the candidate states to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
  • Members of the Council serve for a period of three years, and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
  • As of January 1, 2019, 114 UN Member States have served on the HRC. Both India and Pakistan are on this list.
  • The HRC has a Bureau of one President and four Vice-Presidents, representing the five regional groups. They serve for a year, in accordance with the Council’s annual cycle.

Seats distribution

  • African States: 13 seats
  • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  • Western European and other States: 7 seats
  • Eastern European States: 6 seats
Jul, 26, 2019

[op-ed snap] The terrorist tag: on the latest Amendments to the NIA Act

CONTEXT

The idea of designating an individual as a terrorist, as the latest amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act propose to do, may appear innocuous.

Questions regarding amendment

  • However, designating an individual as a terrorist raises serious constitutional questions and has the potential for misuse.
  • The practice of designating individuals under anti-terrorism laws, prevalent in several countries, is seen as being necessary because banned groups tend to change their names and continue to operate.
  • However, there is no set procedure for designating an individual a terrorist.

Need for precautions

  • Parliament must consider whether an individual can be called a ‘terrorist’ prior to conviction in a court of law.
  • The absence of a judicial determination may render the provision vulnerable to invalidation.
  • There ought to be a distinction between an individual and an organisation, as the former enjoys the right to life and liberty.

Consequences

  • The likely adverse consequences of a terrorist tag may be worse for individuals than for organisations.
  • Further, individuals may be subjected to arrest and detention; even after obtaining bail from the courts, they may have their travel and movements restricted, besides carrying the taint.
  • This makes it vital that individuals have a faster means of redress than groups.
  • Unfortunately, there is no change in the process of getting an entity removed from the list.
  • Just as any organisation getting the tag, individuals, too, will have to apply to the Centre to get their names removed.

Human rights’ violations

  • A wrongful designation will cause irreparable damage to a person’s reputation, career and livelihood.
  • Union Home Minister’s warning that his government would not spare terrorists or their sympathisers, and his reference to ‘urban Maoists’, are portentous about the possibility of misuse.
  • It has been argued by some members in Parliament that the Bill contains anti-federal features.

Against Federalism

  • The provision to empower the head of the National Investigation Agency to approve the forfeiture of property of those involved in terrorism cases obviously overrides a function of the State government.
  • At present, the approval has to be given by the State police head.
  • Also, there will be a section allowing NIA Inspectors to investigate terrorism cases, as against a Deputy Superintendent of Police or an Assistant Commissioner.
  • This significantly enhances the scope for misuse.

Conclusion

  • The 2004 amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, made it a comprehensive anti-terror law that provided for punishing acts of terrorism, as well as for designating groups as ‘terrorist organisations’.
  • Parliament further amended it in 2008 and 2013 to strengthen the legal framework to combat terror.
  • While none will question the need for stringent laws that show ‘zero tolerance’ towards terrorism, the government should be mindful of its obligations to preserve fundamental rights while enacting legislation on the subject.
Jul, 20, 2019

[pib] Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019

News

  • Lok Sabha has passed The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Why such Amendment?

  • The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was enacted to provide for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the State HRC and the Human Rights Courts for protection of human rights.
  • Certain State Governments have proposed for amendment as they have been facing difficulties in finding suitable candidates to the post of Chairperson of the respective SHRCs owing to the existing eligibility criteria.
  • The proposed amendments will enable both the NHRC and SHRCs to be more compliant with the Paris Principles.

Highlights of the Amendment

  • A person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court is also made eligible to be appointed as Chairperson of the Commission in addition to the person who has been the CJI;
  • To increase the Members of the NHRC from two to three of which, one shall be a woman;
  • To include Chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as deemed Members of the Commission;
  • To reduce the term of the Chairperson and Members of the NHRC and the SHRCs from five to three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment;
  • To provide that a person who has been a Judge of a High Court is also made eligible to be appointed as Chairperson of the SHRC in addition to the person who has been the Chief Justice of the High Court; and,
  • To confer upon State Commissions, the functions relating to human rights being discharged by the UTs, other than the UT of Delhi which will be dealt with by the Commission.
Jul, 13, 2019

[op-ed snap] Law and beyond

CONTEXT

In July 2018, a Chief Justice of India-led bench of the Supreme Court delivered a stinging indictment of what it called “horrendous acts of mobocracy”, and warned against violent vigilantism propelled by prejudice and hatred — “lynching” — becoming “the new normal”.

Directives

The Court directed the Centre to frame a law that dealt specifically with these crimes, and suggested the setting up of fast-track courts, lodging of FIRs without delay and framing of compensation schemes for victims and their families.

Draft Law

  • The draft law submitted to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister by the UP State Law Commission would appear to take cognisance of the Court’s directive.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Combating of Mob Lynching Bill (2019) proposes imprisonment (upto 10 years for serious injuries and upto life imprisonment in case of death) and stringent fines for perpetrators, as well as those involved in planning and abetting lynchings.
  • Role of administration – Significantly, it also criminalises the “dereliction of duty” by police officers and the district administration.
  • Setting Accountability – The draft law is welcome for the much-needed signal it sends out — there must be accountability for hate crime.

Reports on lynching

  • Far too often, the mob lynching phenomenon, disturbingly ubiquitous since 2014, has been met by the ruling political formation by denial or, at times, with what could be described as tacit and symbolic support.
  • A report by IndiaSpend found that of all “bovine-related deaths” between 2011-2017, 97 per cent occurred after the BJP came to power in 2014.
  • Take the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in UP in 2015.
  • The case, despite being before a fast-track court, has seen little progress.
  • As on date, the court is yet to take cognisance of the charges framed against the accused.

Way Forward

In this context, a state government-appointed commission in  UP does well to propose a law that recognises, first, that mob lynchings require urgent legislative and administrative intervention and, second, that police and administration must also share the blame for the climate that permits such violence.

Conclusion

  • But a new law can only be a first step.
  • The state must follow it through
  • . Then, in 2018, the apex court had also said “grandstanding of the incident by the perpetrators of the crimes including in the social media aggravates the entire problem”.
  • The political and social sanction for violence, in the name of the cow is integral to the sense of impunity that encourages the lynch mob.
  • These can only be addressed with the active support of the political class and civil society.
Jul, 11, 2019

Human Rights Courts in India

News

  • The Supreme Court has sought a response from the Central government, the States and the UTs on the prolonged delay for over a quarter of a century to establish exclusive human rights courts in each district and appointing special public prosecutors in them.

HR Courts

  • The Human Rights Act had called for the establishment of special courts in each district to conduct speedy trial of offences arising out of violation and abuse of human rights.
  • Section 30 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 envisages that a State government, with the concurrence of the CJ of High Court should specify for each district a court of session as a court of human rights for the speedy trial of violation of rights.
  • Section 31 of the Act provides the State government to specify and appoint a special public prosecutor in that court.
  • Sessions Court of the district concerned is considered as the Human Rights Court.
  • Under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 a Sessions Judge cannot take cognizance of the offence. He can only try the cases committed to him by the magistrate under Section 193 of the Cr.P.C.

Why need HR courts?

  • To uphold and protect the basic and fundamental rights of an individual it is an indispensable obligation upon the State to provide affordable, effective and speedy trial of offences related to violation of human rights which can only be achieved by setting up special courts in each district as provided under the Act.
  • The recent India Human Rights Report 2018, which was published by the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 by US provide a deep reality into the sad state of affairs in India.
  • The report threw light on various rights violations such as police brutality, torture and excess custodial and encounters deaths, horrible conditions in prisons and detention centres, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention, denial of fair public trial, the petition said.

HR Violations in India

  • From 2001 to 2010, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded that 14,231 i.e. 4.33 persons died in police and judicial custody in the country.
  • This includes 1,504 deaths in police custody and 12,727 deaths in judicial custody from 2001-2002 to 2009-2010.
  • A large majority of these deaths being a direct consequence of torture in custody.
Jul, 05, 2019

India pledges to contribute $ 5 million to UN Palestine refugee agency

News

India contributes for Palestine

  • India has pledged to contribute USD 5 million in 2019 to the UN Palestine refugee agency.
  • India voiced concern over the agency’s difficult financial situation due to voluntary contributions from a limited donor base and called for ensuring sustained fiscal support for its work.
  • This contribution is a mark of India’s solidarity with the Palestine refugees.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

  • Created in December 1949, the UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees.
  • These along with their patrilineal descendants were fled or expelled from their homes during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War as well as those who fled or were expelled during and following the 1967 Six Day war.
  • Originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief, today UNRWA provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports.
  • Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.
  • The Agency currently serves 5.4 million Palestinian refugees 20 per cent of the world’s refugees.

How is UNRWA different from UNHCR?

  • UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR.
  • Formed in 1950, UNHCR is the main UN refugee agency, which is responsible for aiding other refugees all over the world.
  • Unlike UNRWA, UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation when possible.
  • UNRWA allows refugee status to be inherited by descendants of male refugee, including legally adopted children.
May, 22, 2019

[op-ed snap] Being responsive

CONTEXT

The government’s decision to shut down communication with UN Special Rapporteurs seeking to question India on alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir may appear extreme, but is in line with its reaction to such international reports over the last few years.

Background

  • In a letter dated April 23, India’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva wrote to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights rejecting any reference to the UN’s original June 2018 report on J&K as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and refused to respond to questions about deaths of 69 civilians between 2016 and 2018 in violence in the Valley.
  • In its objections, the government said the report was “false and motivated”, that its conclusions and recommendations were violative of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and accused the Special Rapporteurs preparing the report of “individual prejudices” against India.
  • In addition, India drew notice to the Pulwama attack this year, calling terrorism the “grossest” violation of human rights, not the allegations against the security forces.
  • As a result, the government has decided to treat all allegations made by the UN Special Rapporteurs as a “closed chapter” and will not engage further on it.

Objection to OHCHR report

Justified Objections

  • India’s objections to the OHCHR report, the first of its kind when it was released in 2018, and the follow-up this year are understandable, given the often selective nature of allegations raised by the UN body.
  • It is also clear that demands for action against Indian officials and amendment of laws can cross the line on Indian sovereignty.
  • The call by the previous HCHR that the UN Human Rights Council set up an independent and international tribunal to investigate India’s record in Kashmir was seen to be invasive, and could be dismissed by New Delhi as well.

Question in need of answers

  • However, the government cannot quell the troubling questions that the UN report and the Special Rapporteurs’ submissions raise simply by rejecting them.
  • To begin with, most of the sources for the OHCHR report are official Indian authorities, State and national human rights commissions, international human rights agencies as well as reputed Indian NGOs.
  • This is therefore a view from within India, not some disengaged UN official, and must be taken very seriously.
  • Two Kashmiri NGOs also released a report on Monday documenting 432 specific cases of alleged brutality by security forces in Kashmir, including electrocution, ‘water-boarding’ and sexual torture of civilians, of which only about 27 were taken up by the State Human Rights Commission.

Way Forward

  • The government must press for due process and justice in each of these.
  • Eventually, India will be judged not only by how close it stands to the world’s most powerful countries, but how much the state extends itself to the most vulnerable within its own boundaries.
Mar, 21, 2019

[op-ed snap]Reality of impunity, rhetoric of human rights

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The ratification of the anti-torture convention is related to Human Rights and India has not ratified it.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Last week in Sitamarhi district, Bihar, two families received the bodies of their two sons from the police.

India’s stand on custodial torture

  • In May 2017, addressing representatives from countries at the UN’s Human Rights Council, the then Attorney General of India said, “The concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance of the nation.

Handling of Bihar Incident

  • Between the rhetoric of Geneva and the reality at Dumra lies the all too frequent story, in India, of police torture.
  • The motions of taking action have begun but there are clear signs of routine impunity.
  • Top police officials in Bihar have recognised that the custodial deaths were “unacceptable”.
  • There were some transfers and the policemen who were implicated were suspended and had a criminal case filed against them.
  • A First Information Report has been registered.
  • But in the first instance, the policemen who were implicated were not named. They were arrested and taken into custody but escaped, allegedly with the help of local police. They remain untraceable.
  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is content giving the Bihar Police six weeks to explain its conduct.
  • A plea from several concerned civil society representatives urging the immediate despatch of an NHRC team to Sitamarhi has been turned down. For now, it’s wait and watch.

The situation regarding custodial torture in India

  • That torture is ‘endemic’ across police stations in India is well known.
  • Official statistics show that last year there were 144 deaths in police custody.
  • About 40% of complaints received every year by the NHRC are against the police — mainly for custodial violence.
  • Though forbidden by law, the system perpetuates and incentivises torture. Top police officials tolerate it, turn a blind eye to it, citing it as a ‘practical tool’, or go easy on the perpetrators; Bihar will be a space to watch.
  • Those in the lower judiciary, which is the first point of check against custodial violence, are frequently not vigilant in checking if arrested persons are secure in custody, have a lawyer assigned, or have the means to speak out.
  • Often, pliant doctors further weaken protections to those in custody by willingly minimising or not disclosing the nature of the harm or injuries they have sustained.
  • Oversight bodies like police complaints authorities and human rights commissions are comfortable with the slow pace of accountability from state actors and do no doggedly pursue outcomes.
  • South Asia is among the last regions where the political executive must grant permission before public servants can be prosecuted for acts done in the course of their work.
  • Courts have repeatedly said that torture is no part of policing and so there is no question of waiting for permission for prosecution. Yet, the executive is still asked, decisions are delayed, and trials cannot proceed.
  • According to judicial precedent, recovery of evidence made as a result of torture cannot be used in court, but without proactive lawyers and magistrates, these important details are overlooked in the early stages of the legal process.

Irrationality of torture

  • Besides being illegal and immoral, torture is not even a useful tool to stop crime.
  • Eliciting unreliable confessions — the bedrock of the use of torture — destroys the process of deciding through evidence-based means whether the accused is the real perpetrator or not.
  • Moreover, whenever it goes unpunished, torture actually supports more crime by creating a class of criminals within law enforcement.

Past attempts to correct  Custodial torture

  • There have been attempts to restrain the use of torture.
  • The Kerala Police Act puts the onus on all police officers to report any physical torture they know of.
  • Prisons in Telangana refuse to admit people brought into judicial custody if they appear injured; such persons are sent back to hospitals, forcing their injuries to be properly recorded.

Way Forward

  • But isolated innovations are not enough to stop this horror that has embedded itself in the subculture of policing.
  • A comprehensive solution would be to ensure that disincentives are put in place and that there is proper accountability. But there is a lack of political will.
  • India signed the UN Convention against Torture in 1997, but despite repeated domestic and international recommendations to ratify it, there has been no attempt to create a specific and comprehensive torture prevention law. This is in sharp contrast with Bangladesh, which passed a strong law in 2013.
  • Until we have such a law, Indians must accept that the active tolerance of torture puts punishment before the crime and judgment in the hands of the wrong agency.
  • For those who now plead on behalf of the police personnel of Sitamahri and say “let the law take its course”, this is absolutely right.
  • Let the effort to establish guilt or innocence be thorough and speedy.

 

Mar, 13, 2019

[op-ed snap] Slipping state

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Custodial deaths are still a reality in India and such instances erode Confidence in government and administration.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The deaths of two men, Taslim Ansari and Gufran Alam, accused of theft and murder, in police custody, in Sitamarhi on March 7 raise disturbing questions about the  government’s claims to sushasan (good governance).

Background

  • The men were held for stealing a motorcycle and allegedly tortured to death.
  •  Five policemen, including the officer-in-charge of the concerned police station, have been suspended since.
  • But the government must do more and ensure quick and exemplary punishment to the culprits. It needs to send out the message that it will not allow a culture of impunity to return and thrive in the state.

History of misuse of power

  • Beginning in the 1990s, the Bihar story has been about the oppressed and marginalised finding a voice.
  • This was not merely about a transfer of power at the top from the upper castes to hitherto unrepresented communities, but also about instruments of state power, including police, becoming less hostile to the poor, the lower castes and the minorities.
  •  A mandate promising to build a stable state and offer good governance without reversing the social advancement achieved in the ‘90s was given to state.
  • Yet, the Sitamarhi deaths are a throwback to a time in Bihar when the law and order machinery was seen as biased against certain groups — incidents such as the Bhagalpur blindings of 1980, wherein policemen blinded 31 undertrials by pouring acid in their eyes and numerous anti-Dalit atrocities across the state had created the perception of the state police as a force that served the interests of the dominant castes. 
  • The police thana continues to be a representative institution of state power in rural areas and mofussil towns and its conduct is a barometer of the justice and inclusiveness in state and society. 
  • Custodial deaths and torture are an indication of a slipping state.
  • They puncture the governments’s claim to have turned around Bihar’s law enforcement culture and machinery.

Way Forward

  • Present government in Bihar has been shrewd in building political alliances to consolidate his hold on office. However, rise in political stature has been on account of the  claim to be a fair and competent administrator, who refuses to be dictated to by sectarian interests and communal prejudice.
  • A fair and timely inquiry into the Sitamarhi incident and action against the perpetrators alone can help retrieve that reputation.
Feb, 20, 2019

[op-ed snap] The importance of being humane

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The ratification of anti-torture convention is related to Human Rights and India has not ratified it.


NEWS

CONTEXT

Custodial torture is global, old and stubborn. Opposition parties must make a new anti-torture legislation part of their common programme.

History of torture by Power

  • The Arthashastra prescribes mental torture through swear-words with or without physical assaults.
  • Death by a thousand cuts was ancient China’s speciality.
  • Their modern avatar in Japan’s World War II of biological and chemical experimentation on humans — prisoners, mainly Chinese — in Unit 731 stop the blood-flow to one’s heart.

Worldwide convention against Torture

  • Meeting on December 10, 1984, the UN General Assembly stirred the world’s conscience. It adopted the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Better known as the UN Convention against Torture, it sought to prevent torture around the world.
  • It “required states to take effective measures to prevent torture and forbade them from transporting people to any country where there is a reason to believe they will be tortured (refoulement)”.
  • Most significantly, the Convention made state parties to undertake that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” will be “invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict”.

The Indian Case

  • India took 13 years to sign the Convention, but sign it did, on October 14, 1997,
  • Unless a convention is ratified and followed or preceded by domestic legislation that commits the ratifying party to compliance, the original signing carries no meaning. India has not ratified.
  • A state which signs the Convention has to have a domestic law on the subject to outlaw and prevent custodial torture. Without such a law, there is no meaning to signing the Convention.

History of Anti-torture legislation in India

  • UPA II government introduced a Prevention of Torture Bill in the Lok Sabha in 2010 and had it passed.
  • A select committee of the Rajya Sabha. The committee gave its report recommending the Bill’s adoption later the same year. Citing National Human Rights Commission figures of reported torture cases, the report said the figures showed custodial torture was rising.
  • It lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
  • In reply to a question (May 11, 2016) whether the government was planning to ratify the Convention, the Minister of State for Home did not answer either in the positive or negative but spoke of amending Sections 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession) and 331 of the Indian Penal Code.
  •  A PIL was moved in the Supreme Court in 2016 asking it to get Parliament to move forward in the matter. After a full day’s exclusive hearing in the case, the court has reserved its orders.

Way Forward

  • In a matter that concerns ‘life and liberty’, the Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution’s guarantees.
  • It is imperative that the democratic opposition makes the ratification of the Convention and a new anti-torture legislation part of its common programme.
  • The 17th Lok Sabha must take a stand on this matter. It has a choice: to join the civilised world in moving away from ancient barbarism or stay in the dungeons of blinding, benumbing brutality.
Feb, 18, 2019

Explained: The lowdown on National Security Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

From UPSC perspectives, following things are important:

Prelims level: Provisions related to preventive detention

Mains Level: Art. 22 Vs. Preventive Detention


News

Background

  1. Recently a state govt. invoked the National Security Act (NSA) against three men accused of killing a cow.
  2. In December last year, a Manipur journalist, who had posted an alleged offensive Facebook post on the CM, was detained for 12 months under the NSA.
  3. This and a spate of recent cases have invoked the stringent provisions of the NSA to detain citizens for questionable offences.
  4. This brought the focus back on the potential abuse of the controversial law.

National Security Act

  1. The NSA empowers the Centre or a State government to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security.
  2. The government can also detain a person to prevent him from disrupting public order or for maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community. T
  3. The maximum period for which one may be detained is 12 months.
  4. But the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.

History of Preventive Detention in India

  1. Preventive detention laws in India date back to early days of the colonial era when the Bengal Regulation III of 1818 was enacted.
  2. It aimed to empower the government to arrest anyone for defence or maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings.
  3. A century later, the British government enacted the Rowlatt Acts of 1919 that allowed confinement of a suspect without trial.
  4. Post-independence India got its first preventive detention rule when the government of PM Nehru enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950.

How did NSA come about?

  1. The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act.
  2. After the Preventive Detention Act expired on December 31, 1969, the then PM, Indira Gandhi, brought in the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in 1971 giving similar powers to the government.
  3. Though the MISA was repealed in 1977 after the successive government, led by Mrs. Gandhi, brought in the NSA.

Legal Provisions for NSA

  1. In the normal course, if a person is arrested, he or she is guaranteed certain basic rights. These include the right to be informed of the reason for the arrest.
  2. Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) mandates that the person arrested has to be informed of the grounds of arrest, and the right to bail.
  3. Sections 56 and 76 of the Cr. PC also provides that a person has to be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest.

Extra-Judicial nature of NSA

  1. Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
  2. But none of these rights are available to a person detained under the NSA.
  3. A person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days, and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days.
  4. Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against public interest to disclose.
  5. The arrested person is also not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.

Why it matters?

  1. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which collects and analyses crime data in the country, does not include cases under the NSA in its data as no FIRs are registered.
  2. Hence, no figures are available for the exact number of detentions under the NSA.
  3. Experts say these cases point to the fact that governments sometimes use it as an extra-judicial power.

Way Forward

  1. The NSA has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
  2. It is time to reconsider the law because in four decades of its existence.
Feb, 14, 2019

[pib] National Commission for Safai Karmacharis

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NCSK

Mains level: Welfare of Safai Karmacharis


News

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis (NCSK) beyond 31.3.2019 for three years.

About NCSK

  1. The NCSK is a statutory body that looks into matters concerning the Safai Karamcharis’ welfare and makes recommendations to the government.
  2. For the first time, NCSK was constituted as a statutory body under the NCSK ACT, 1993.
  3. This commission continued till February 2004, when the relevant Act expired. Thereafter, the tenure of the commission has been extended from time to time, as a non-statutory body, the last such extension being up to 31 March 2016.
  4. It is working for the welfare of both Safai Karamcharis and Manual Scavengers.
  5. It is mandated to work towards the elimination of inequalities in status facilities and opportunities for Safai Karamcharis and has an important role to ensure rehabilitation of all the identified manual scavengers on a time-bound basis.
  6. Under Section 31 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, the Commission is to perform functions namely:
  • To monitor the implementation of the Act;
  • To inquire into complaints regarding contravention of provisions of the Act; and
  • To advice Central and State Governments for effective implementation of the Act.

Why extend the tenure?

  1. NCSK works for the welfare and upliftment of the Safai Karmacharis and persons engaged in manual scavenging in the country.
  2. The number of Manual Scavengers identified under the MS Act Survey as on 31.01.2019 is 14226.
  3. Under the National Survey undertaken by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment at the behest of NITI Aayog is 31128.
  4. Though the Government has taken many steps for the upliftment of the Safai Karamcharis, the deprivation suffered by them in socio-economic and educational terms is still far from being eliminated.
  5. Further the practice of manual scavenging is still prevalent in the country and its eradication continues.
Feb, 14, 2019

[pib] National Policy for Domestic Workers (draft)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National policy for domestic workers

Mains level: Welfare measures for domestic workers


News

Draft Policy for Domestic Workers

  • The Ministry of Labour & Employment is considering to formulate a National Policy on Domestic Workers which is in the draft stage.
  • The govt. has not enacted any separate law to protect the interest of domestic workers.

Salient features of the proposed draft National Policy on Domestic Workers

  • Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislations.
  • Domestic workers will have the right to register as unorganized   workers. Such registration will facilitate their access to rights & benefits.
  • Right to form their own associations/unions
  • Right to minimum wages, access to social security
  • Right to enhance their skills
  • Protection of Domestic Workers from abuse and exploitation
  • Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals for grievance redressal
  • Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of private placement agencies.
  • Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic workers.

 Other Policy Measures

  1. The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 has been enacted for providing social security to all unorganized workers including domestic workers.
  2. The Act provides formulation of social security schemes viz life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits & old age protection.
  3. The State Governments are mandated under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 to formulate suitable welfare schemes for the unorganized sector workers.

Initiatives by states

  • The State Governments of AP, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerela, Odisha, Rajasthan, Haryana,  Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Tripura have  included domestic workers in the schedule of Minimum Wages Act.
  • The matter of constitution of State Domestic Workers Board is under the jurisdiction of the State Governments.
Jan, 18, 2019

First human rights TV channel to ‘lend voice to the voiceless’

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IOHR

Mains level: Bringing unnoticed HR violation reports to light


News

  • The world’s first television channel dedicated to human rights was launched in London with a promise to deliver hidden stories ignored by mainstream media.

Human Rights Channel

  • The International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) said its web-based channel would bring human rights issues to audiences in over 20 countries across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
  • Topics will include refugees, press freedom and the incarceration of journalists, extremism, women’s rights, LGBT+ issues and the plight of the world’s stateless people.
  • Programmes in the pipeline will look at China 30 years after the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, the positive and negative impacts of technology on women, and the human rights implications of Brexit, Britain’s departure from the EU in March.
  • Broadcasts can be viewed via the netgem.tv interactive platform and will shortly be available via a mobile app.
  • Programming is in English, but IOHR eventually hopes to broadcast in other languages including Farsi, Turkish, Arabic and Russian.

About IOHR

  • The International Observatory of Human Rights was established in 2017 in London as an independent non-profit and non-governmental organisation.
  • The team is made up of human rights professionals, lawyers, researchers, award-winning journalists and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.
  • IOHR utilizes its unique access and the expertise of its multilingual and dedicated staff to advocate for human rights worldwide.
  • It has created partnerships with local and international human rights groups.
Dec, 27, 2018

Sex workers, lawyers seek to amend language of anti-trafficking Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), 2018, Bill

Mains level: Human Trafficking and other associated crimes.


News

  1. The National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) has raised concerns over the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation), 2018, Bill.
  2. The proposed law aims to criminalise all adult sex work.
  3. It doesn’t make any clear distinction between the victims of sexual exploitation or human trafficking and persons who voluntarily opt to provide sex to make a living.
  4. It has been observed that sex workers had not wanted to be ‘rescued’.

Legal Status of Prostitution in India

  1. Voluntary adult sex work is not illegal in India under certain circumstances, such as when a woman provides the service in her own home without any solicitation.
  2. The primary law on trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), 1986.
  3. It punishes offences including procuring a person for the purpose of prostitution, living on the earnings of prostitution of another person and keeping or using a brothel.

Core of the Issue

  1. Enforcement agencies often conflate trafficking with voluntary sex work and abuse the provisions of the law to evict sex workers from their houses.
  2. It is this experience that has stoked fears among sex workers about the new Bill, which is aimed at curbing “physical and other forms of trafficking”.
  3. They are urging lawmakers to revisit the language used in the Bill and to ensure that the legislation provides built-in safeguards.
  4. Their key demand is that the Bill should explicitly exclude adult persons voluntarily engaged in sex work.
  5. Certain offences in the Bill were “clearly directed” at sex workers and that these definitions needed to be reworded to remove all ambiguity.

Must seek consent

  1. Sex workers also demand that the consent of a person rescued from trafficking should be a mandatory requirement before a decision is taken to send him or her to a rehabilitation centre.
  2. Clause 4 in Section 17 of the Bill, allows the dismissal of a victim’s application for release if the Magistrate is of the opinion that such application has not been made voluntarily.
  3. With such provisions the current bill will become a tool in the hands of law enforcement agencies to victimize and harass sex workers.

Ensuring dignity to sex workers

  1. The Supreme Court had appointed a Panel for recommendations on rehabilitation of sex workers.
  2. The report recommended community-based rehabilitation through a multi-stakeholder board comprising representatives from the sex worker’s community, a doctor, a lawyer and officials of the State government.
  3. This body would examine educational, training and employability needs of women and help them access these. The panel recommended a scheme to provide interest free loans to enable a woman to set up a business as well.
  4. The panel also proposed a slew of measures to ensure dignity of life for those who want to remain in sex work such as providing them a ration card, right to education for their children as well as crèches and day-time and night-time care centres.
  5. The panel recommended that even when victims of trafficking were being rescued it was important to let them choose whether they wanted to reunite with their families or preferred community-based rehabilitation.

What is expected from the Law?

  1. The recommendations submitted to the Central government through the Supreme Court don’t find any mention in the proposed law.
  2. Activists said that while the law focuses a lot on surveillance and policing, there is very little in terms of the welfare of a survivor of trafficking apart from the provision of her rehabilitation in a shelter, and these are also weak.
  3. The Bill also doesn’t provide a mechanism to ensure monitoring and accountability of shelter homes or revocation of licences or punishment for those running the centres in case of non-compliance.

Way Forward: Imbibing best practices

  1. Partnership between sex workers and anti-human trafficking units to root out exploitative practices is essential.
  2. This is a model that activists cite as success stories such as in the country’s largest red-light district of Shonagachi in West Bengal.
  3. Here, a self-regulatory body of sex workers is operating since 2001 helps in tracking entry of minors and in identifying traffickers.
  4. This model has also been emulated in Sangli in Maharashtra where the anti-human trafficking unit has collaborated with workers to rescue minors and prevent trafficking.
Dec, 12, 2018

UN members sign Global Migration Compact

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of the compact

Mains level: Illegal migrants issue in India


News

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

  1. To mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the global leaders inked this historical accord to help millions of women and men who are not exercising their basic human rights.
  2. The first-ever Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was adopted by 164 countries in order to help as many as 258 million migrants worldwide achieve a life of safety and dignity.
  3. The Conference was hosted by the Government of Marrakesh, Morocco as agreed to by UN member states in the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants’.
  4. The aim of the Global Compact is to improve the cooperation and management of cross-border movements of people.
  5. The Global Compact also makes clear that it is legally non-binding, fully respecting the sovereignty of all States.

Aim and Objectives of Compact

  1. The Global Compact encompasses 23 objectives to help manage migration at all levels – global, national and local. The issues were discussed on these lines,
  • Adverse drivers that impede people from accessing sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin
  • Risks and vulnerabilities faced by people during various stages of migration
  • Concerns of states and communities
  • The economic and social effects and implications migration may have on social and environmental levels as communities undergo demographic changes.
  1. It strives to create conditions to help migrants add value to societies through their human, economic and social contributions to sustainable development.

4 key objectives of Global Compact for Migration

  • Ease the pressures on host countries
  • Enhance refugee self-reliance
  • Expand access to third-country solutions
  • Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

Why is it important to discuss the Global Compact for Migration?

  1. It is, indeed, the need of the hour to discuss migration as the issue is becoming a global tension by giving rise to illegal activities across borders like smuggling, terrorism.
  2. Unregulated migration bears a terrible human cost: a cost in lives lost on perilous journeys across deserts, oceans and rivers; and a cost in lives ruined at the hands of smugglers, unscrupulous employers and other predators.
  3. More than 60,000 migrants have died on the move since the year 2000.

Difference between migrant and refugee

Refugee

  1. Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order ; as a result, require international protection.
  2. The refugee definition can be found in the 1951 Convention and regional refugee instruments, as well as UNHCR’s Statute.

Migrant

  1. While there is no formal legal definition of an international migrant, most experts agree that an international migrant is someone who changes his or her country of usual residence, irrespective of the reason for migration or legal status.
  2. Generally, a distinction is made between short-term or temporary migration, covering movements with a duration between three and 12 months, and long-term or permanent migration, refering to a change of country of residence for a duration of one year or more.
Oct, 13, 2018

India wins election to UNHRC

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of India’s re-election in UNHCR


News

India gets re-elected

  1. The 193-member UNGA held elections here for new members to the UN Human Rights Council.
  2. India is re-elected for a period of three years beginning January 1, 2019, getting 188 votes in the Asia-Pacific category, the highest number of votes among all candidates.
  3. India had previously been elected to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council for the 2011-2014 and 2014-2017 terms.
  4. Countries needed a minimum of 97 votes to get elected to the Council.

Other members from Asia Pacific

  1. The 18 new members were elected by absolute majority through a secret ballot.
  2. India was vying for a seat in the Asia Pacific category.
  3. Along with India, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Fiji and Philippines had also staked a claim in the same regional group.
  4. All five of the UNGAs regional groups had submitted competition-free slates, meaning that all candidates, regardless of their rights records, were virtually assured seats on the council.

Back2Basics

UN Human Rights Council

  1. Created by the Assembly in March 2006 UNHRC is the principal United Nations body dealing with human rights.
  2. The Human Rights Council comprises 47 elected member states.
  3. On the basis of equitable geographical distribution, Council seats are allocated to the five regional groups.
  4. They are as follows: African States, 13 seats; Asia-Pacific States, 13 seats; Eastern European States, 6 seats; Latin American and Caribbean States, 8 seats; and Western European and other States, 7 seats.
Oct, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] More teeth for NHRC

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),  Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993,  Paris Principles on Human Rights

Mains level: Proposed amendments to the PHR Act and how it would improve the functioning of NHRC


Context

25th anniversary of NHRC

  1. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
  2. The Commission, which draws its mandate from the Protection of Human Rights (PHR) Act 1993, has been mired in controversies since its formation
  3. The government seeks to introduce amendments to the Act in Parliament’s Winter Session

Proposed amendments

  1. The proposed amendment will strengthen human rights institutions for the effective discharge of their mandates, role and responsibilities
  2. The salient features of the proposed amendments bill include making the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights as deemed member of the National Human Rights Commission, adding a woman member in the composition of the commission, enlarging the scope of eligibility and scope of selection of chairperson, NHRC as well as State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs)
  3. It also proposes to incorporate a mechanism to look after the cases of human rights violation in Union Territories, to amend the term of office of chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRCs to make them in consonance with the terms of chairperson and members of other commissions.
  4. The amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 will make NHRC and state human rights commissions more compliant with the Paris Principle concerning its autonomy, independence, pluralism and wide-ranging functions in order to effectively protect and promote human rights

Grading of NHRC

  1. In 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted the Paris Principles on Human Rights
  2. This led to the constitution of national human rights institutions in almost every country
  3. Every five years, India’s human rights agency, the NHRC, has to undergo accreditation by an agency affiliated to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR)
  4. The Commission’s compliance with the Paris Principles is ascertained in this process, which is similar to NAAC accreditation of Indian colleges — better the grade, higher the benefits
  5. In 2016, the accreditation agency deferred grading the NHRC because of the Commission’s poor track-record — especially, political interference in its working
  6. But the agency was satisfied with the government’s commitment to introduce necessary changes to the Commission and granted the NHRC A-status in 2017
  7. The PHR (Amendment) Bill, 2018 is an outcome of this commitment

Problems with NHRC

  1. The selection committee tasked with appointing the chairperson and the members to the Commission is dominated by the ruling party
  2. It consists of the prime minister, home minister, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Deputy-Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
  3. NHRC’s selection process is very obscure
  4. Very often, the government does not publicise vacancies in the Commission & the criteria to assess candidates is also not specified
  5. As a result, appointments to the NHRC have been fraught with disputes

Changes required

  1. The much-needed diversification that the Amendment Bill seeks to introduce could be realised through the inclusion of civil society members and academicians with a proven track record in the improvement of human rights
  2. The NHRC could certainly benefit from the grassroots level experience, widespread community outreach and the expertise of these organisations or individuals

Need of officers

  1. Police officials investigating for the NHRC are sent on deputation by their forces
  2. Their allegiance lies with their home cadre to which they return after their tenure at the Commission is over
  3. This conflict of interest restricts the scope of their work, as they often are charged with investigating abuse of power by law enforcement personnel
  4. These officials are not answerable to anyone, there is no parliamentary oversight on their functioning, they do not owe financial accountability to the Comptroller and Auditor General, and have often been accused of human rights violations themselves
  5. The NHRC urgently requires officers of its own to carry out independent investigations, and the government should provide it resources for the same

Way forward

  1. The Amendment Bill intends to strengthen human rights institutions in this country. But it falls short of this objective by some distance
  2. A year after the Supreme Court called the NHRC a “toothless tiger”, the onus is on the government to bestow the Commission with more teeth
Oct, 05, 2018

No trial in sewer death cases

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan

Mains level: The newscard covers important stats related to the prevalence of fatalities due to manual scavenging activities.


News

Most Cases Unreported

  1. A sample study of deaths due to sewer and septic tank cleaning since 1992, shows that FIRs were filed in only 35% of the cases.
  2. None led to a trial or prosecution of any sort.

Garima yet Unsecured

  1. The study was released by the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan (RGA), an NGO partnering with the Union Ministry of Social Justice for an ongoing manual scavenging census.
  2. The Ministry has reported 323 deaths nationwide in 2017 alone.
  3. Only 31% of affected families received cash compensation, while none received the rehabilitation or alternative jobs to which they are entitled by law.

Families recount: A Case Study

  1. On the sidelines of the release event, families of victims shared the personal tragedies.
  2. A Dalit community held hartals to protest the two deaths in Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah in May 2009.
  3. Under pressure, the police registered an FIR and took the house’s owner into custody.
  4. The municipality promised compensation and permanent jobs for family members.
  5. A few months later, when the pressure died down, the owner was quietly released.
  6. The bereft family received no cash or jobs.
  7. The deceased family dint even gets a death certificate.
  8. They were not allowed to cremate him in the city because authorities wanted to avoid public outrage.

The Unanswered Question

  1. When the government builds toilets through its Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, it is not taking into account the question of who will have to clean the septic tanks.
  2. The government as an employer, so how could one file an FIR is an unanswered exclamation.
Sep, 26, 2018

Supreme Court constitutes committee to look into jail reforms

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Amitava Roy Committee on Prison Reforms

Mains level: Need for prison reforms


News

Context

  1. The apex Court formed a Committee on Prison Reforms chaired by former SC judge, Amitava Roy, to examine the various problems plaguing prisons in the country.
  2. The judgment came on a letter from former CJI R.C. Lahoti highlighting the overcrowding in prisons, unnatural deaths of prisoners, gross inadequacy of staff and the lack of trained staff.

Committee on Prison Reforms

  1. Issuing a slew of directions, the Bench has directed the committee to examine-
  • extent of overcrowding in prisons and correctional homes and recommend remedial measures,
  • examination of the functioning of Under Trial Review Committees,
  • availability of legal aid and advice,
  • grant of remission, parole and furlough.
  1. The panel would also probe the reasons for violence in prisons and correctional homes and recommend measures to prevent unnatural deaths and assess the availability of medical facilities there.
  2. It would assess the availability and inadequacy of staff in prisons and correctional homes, suggest training and educational modules for the staff and assess the feasibility of establishing open prisons.
  3. The committee has been asked to recommend steps for the psycho-social well-being of minor children of women prisoners, including their education and health.
  4. The Committee is further aimed to examine and recommend measures for the health, education, development of skills, rehabilitation and social reintegration of children in observation homes and the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
Sep, 15, 2018

Bengal scheme to combat human trafficking

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Swayangsiddha Initiative

Mains level: The Swayangsiddha is robust measure against Human Trafficking. Such an initiative can be implemented at pan India level.


News

Context

  1. In an attempt to combat human trafficking, the West Bengal government has rolled out a scheme, Swayangsiddha, in its different districts.
  2. As the per the NCRB data West Bengal has highest recorded case of trafficking among the States.

Swayangsiddha Initiative

  1. Swayangsiddha, which means self-reliance, will be executed by the West Bengal Police.
  2. The scheme aims to empower young boys and girls to make informed choices so that they are less vulnerable to trafficking and child marriage.
  3. Swayangsiddha Groups have been formed in schools and colleges with interested students.
  4. These groups were formed with students between the age group of 12 to 21 years.
  5. Particulars of the Mission-
  • Raising awareness on human, gender and child rights and strengthening prevention of human trafficking and child marriage using a converging approach.
  • Engaging youth from different schools and colleges to combat human trafficking and child marriage
  • Strengthening response mechanism in collaboration with Police and child protection committees to build safe community
  • Strengthening access to schemes and entitlements on education, training, livelihood and food security for vulnerable groups.
Sep, 01, 2018

[op-ed snap] The crackdown on civil society

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governnance | The role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups & associations, donors, charities, institutional & other stakeholders

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need for civil society organizations in the flourishing of democracy


Context

Recent incidents of authoritarian governance

  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the modern democratic state, armed with technologies of surveillance and control, possesses the kind of power that has never ever been exercised by any other state in history
  2. There is no one more vulnerable and more helpless than our rights-bearing citizen if the, otherwise, the democratic state decides to terrorise, kill and drill fear and trepidation in the mind of the body politic
  3. The only sphere that stands between the individual and the omnipresent and omnipotent state is civil society

The need for civil society organizations

  1. Civil society is a plural sphere, and all manners of associations find space for themselves here, from football clubs to reading groups to film fan societies
  2. Associations have the capacity to challenge the brute power of the state through petitions, protests, dharnas and ultimately judicial activism
  3. Given unresponsive political parties, citizens can access centres of power and privilege only through a vibrant civil society
  4. Civil liberty and human rights groups are an essential precondition for human well-being

Rise of civil society in India

  1. Every political revolution in the world has begun with the rights to life and liberty
  2. Some Indian citizens were randomly and arbitrarily imprisoned during the Emergency (1975-77) and the fundamental rights of others were truncated
  3. In the aftermath of the Emergency, the civil liberties movement made a dramatic appearance on to the scene of Indian politics
  4. The movement which developed into, or acted in concert with, the human rights movement took on an extremely significant task, that of protecting the fundamental right to life and liberty granted by the Indian Constitution

Role played by civil society

  1. Human rights groups have become the custodian of the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Indian Constitution
  2. They have investigated cases of arbitrary imprisonment, custodial deaths, deadly encounters and coercion of any citizen who dares to speak up against the state or dominant groups
  3. These organisations have carefully documented the causes and the triggers of communal and caste violence and established an excellent archive on the abuse of power by governments
  4. They have protected the rights of vulnerable sections of society i.e. Adivasis, the Dalits and Muslims

Are all civil society organizations good?

  1. Not all civil society groups are involved in good work
  2. Some are in the sole business of getting funds from the state or others
  3. Today there are few organisations that articulate the right not to be lynched, or who struggle for the right to life and liberty

Way Forward

  1. The well-known Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, jailed by the Mussolini government in the 1920s, set out to answer a crucial question that ‘Why had a revolution occurred in semi-feudal Tsarist Russia, and not in the Western capitalist world as predicted by Marx?’
  2. He concluded that revolutions only happen when the government directly and unashamedly exercises brute power, as in Russia
  3. They do not happen in countries which possess civil societies, for here projects of domination and resistance can be played out
Aug, 24, 2018

[op-ed snap] Another step in the battle against leprosy

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Mains level: Discrimination being faced by leprosy patients in the society & how inaction from the government’s end has helped in increasing its effect


Context

Discrimination against leprosy patients

  1. Over 110 Central and State laws discriminate against leprosy patients
  2. The biased provisions in these statutes were introduced prior to medical advancements but now, modern medicine (specifically, multi-drug therapy) completely cures the disease
  3. These laws stigmatise and isolate leprosy patients and, coupled with age-old beliefs about leprosy, cause the patients untold suffering

Proposed changes

  1. The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, seeks to make a start in amending these statutes
  2. It attempts to end the discrimination against leprosy persons in various central laws: the Divorce Act, 1869; the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939; the Special Marriage Act, 1954; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956
  3. The Bill eliminates leprosy as a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce
  4. The Bill is meant to provide for the integration of leprosy patients into the mainstream

How the law took shape?

  1. The proposed law follows a National Human Rights Commission recommendation a decade ago to introduce amendments in personal laws and other statutes
  2. The Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions, in its 131st Report on ‘Petition praying for integration and empowerment of leprosy-affected persons’, had examined various statutes and desired that concerned Ministries and State governments urgently wipe clean the anachronistic and discriminatory provisions in prevalent statutes
  3. The Law Commission of India, in its 256th Report, ‘Eliminating discrimination against persons affected by leprosy’, had also recommended removing the discriminatory provisions in various statutes against leprosy patients

In line with UN resolution

  1. This is in keeping with the UN General Assembly Resolution of 2010 on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’
  2. India has signed and ratified the Resolution
Aug, 13, 2018

[op-ed snap] Undoing a legacy of injustice

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various colonial era provisions still in force and need to remove them for better governance


Context

Delhi HC strikes down the beggar act

  1. Last week, in a remarkable, landmark and long overdue judgment, the Delhi High Court struck it down as inconsistent with the Constitution
  2. In its judgment in Harsh Mander v. Union of India and Karnika Sawhney v. Union of India, Delhi HC held that the Begging Act violated Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution

Inhuman provisions of the Begging Act

  1. The Begging Act was passed in 1959 by the State of Bombay, and has continued to exist in as many as 20 States and two Union Territories
  2. Begging Act criminalises begging
  3. It gives the police the power to arrest individuals without a warrant
  4. It gives magistrates the power to commit them to a “certified institution” (read: a detention centre) for up to three years on the commission of the first “offence”, and up to 10 years upon the second “offence”
  5. It strips the people of their privacy and dignity by compelling them to allow themselves to be fingerprinted
  6. The Act also authorises the detention of people “dependent” upon the “beggar” (read: family), and the separation of children over the age of five
  7. Certified institutions have absolute power over detainees, including the power of punishment, and the power to exact “manual work”
  8. Disobeying the rules of the institution can land an individual in jail

Less help and more harassment

  1. From its first word to the last, the Begging Act reflects a vicious logic
  2. There is the definition of “begging” which has a pointed reference to “singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale”
  3. This makes it clear that the purpose of the Act is not simply to criminalise the act of begging (as commonly understood), but to target groups and communities whose itinerant patterns of life do not fit within mainstream stereotypes of the sedentary, law-abiding citizen with a settled job
  4. The reference to “no visible means of subsistence and wandering about” punishes people for the crime of looking poor
  5. These vague definitions not only give unchecked power to the police to harass citizens but they also reveal the prejudices underlying the law

Transforamtive Constitution

  1. The Delhi High Court order striking down the Begging Act heeds the Constitution’s transformative nature
  2. It marks a crucial step forward in dismantling one of the most vicious and enduring legacies of colonialism
  3. A judgment delivered by the same court more than nine years ago, decriminalised homosexuality (Naz Foundation v. NCT of Delhi)
  4. Both Naz Foundation and Harsh Mander recognise that our Constitution is a transformative Constitution, which seeks to undo legacies of injustice and lift up all individuals and communities to the plane of equal citizenship

Way Forward

  1. It is important to remember one thing: a court can strike down an unconstitutional law, but it cannot reform society
  2. Poverty is a systemic and structural problem
  3. It is now the task of the Legislative Assembly and the government to replace the punitive structure of the (now defunct) Begging Act with a new set of measures that genuinely focusses on the rehabilitation and integration of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society
Aug, 10, 2018

[op-ed snap] The anti-trafficking Bill is necessary

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Slavery Index

Mains level: Various laws against trafficking and their effectiveness in curbing it


Context

Human trafficking in India

  1. According to the Global Slavery Index, India has more than seven million victims of modern slavery
  2. It is an alarmingly high number, even for a large country like India

Why increase in trafficking?

  1. The cases of trafficking that enter the criminal justice system are just the tip of the iceberg
  2. The number of victims is increasing each year, while the conviction rate of perpetrators continues to be abysmally low
  3. Traffickers are not scared of being penalized for the brutality and violence they subject their victims to
  4. The natural outcome of all this is that trafficking is one of the lowest risk crimes, not just in India, but all over the world

India’s steps towards curbing trafficking

  1. The Lok Sabha has recently passed a new Bill for countering human trafficking
  2. Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code defines trafficking and penalizes offenders
  3. There exists the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, which deals with cases of sex trafficking, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, which deals with offences of forced labour

Problems with current provisions

  1. Except for certain provisions of the ITPA, no law has provided any relief or rehabilitation to the victims of the offence
  2. With no witness/victim protection mechanism and no rehabilitation schemes, prosecutions suffer for lack of evidence
  3. This handicaps the criminal justice system’s efforts to secure convictions

Changes in the new bill

  1. The new Bill has been drafted with a victim-centric approach
  2. The new law focuses solely on the trafficked persons
  3. The focus is on the protection and rehabilitation of the victims
  4. It does not encourage the institutionalization of victims. Rather, it encourages reintegration, with provisions to ensure the protection of vulnerable survivors and that they are not re-trafficked
  5. The new Bill has a robust framework in place to ensure the human agency of trafficking survivors is not snatched away; their dignity has been given prime importance
  6. The Bill also calls for the creation of specialized units within the criminal justice system
  7. This is a proven method worldwide when it comes to increasing the efficiency of efforts to combat crimes like human trafficking

Socioeconomic causes behind crimes

  1. Most crimes have their roots in socioeconomic problems
  2. Poverty and unemployment make people vulnerable to being trafficked

Way forward

  1. Human trafficking is an extremely serious offence
  2. Its enormity calls for a stringent mechanism to counter it
  3. New Anti-trafficking law is not a perfect law, but it certainly is a better law than before
Jul, 25, 2018

[op-ed snap] Anti-trafficking Bill may lead to censorship

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 36 and 39, Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.

Mains level: The newscard discusses major issues with errors in draft Anti-Trafficking Bill.


News

Context

  1. The govt introduced the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, in the Lok Sabha.
  2. The intention of the Union government is to “make India a leader among South Asian countries to combat trafficking” through the passage of this Bill.
  3. Good intentions aside, there are a few problematic provisions in the proposed legislation, which may severely impact freedom of expression.

Drafting error

  1. It proposes a minimum three-year sentence for producing, publishing, broadcasting or distributing any type of material that promotes trafficking or exploitation
  2. A/c to Section 36 “any propaganda material that promotes trafficking of person or exploitation of a trafficked person in any manner” has wide amplitude as Bill does not define what constitutes “promotion”.
  3. For example, in moralistic eyes, any sexual content online could be seen as promoting prurient interests, and thus also promoting trafficking.

Fouled Censorship experiments of the past

  1. In June 2016, the Union government banned 240 escort sites for obscenity even though it cannot do that under Section 69A or Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, or Section 8 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  2. In July 2015, the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 pornography websites sites on grounds of outraging “morality” and “decency”, but later rescinded the order after widespread criticism.
  3. If historical record is any indication, Section 36 in this present Bill will legitimize such acts of censorship.

The excessive scope of the bill

  1. Section 39 proposes a weaker standard for criminal acts by proposing that any act of publishing or advertising “which may lead to the trafficking of a person shall be punished” (emphasis added) with imprisonment for 5-10 years.
  2. In effect, the provision mandates punishment for vaguely defined actions that may not actually be connected to the trafficking of a person at all.
  3. The excessive scope of this provision is prone to severe abuse since, without any burden of showing a causal connection, it could be argued that anything “may lead” to the trafficking of a person.

Another scope of ambiguity

  1. Another by-product of passing the proposed legislation would be a dramatic shift in India’s landscape of intermediary liability laws, i.e., rules which determine the liability of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and messaging services like WhatsApp for hosting or distributing unlawful content.
  2. Provisions in the Bill that criminalize the “publication” and “distribution” of content, ignore that modern electronic communication requires third-party intermediaries to store and distribute content.
  3. Under the proposed legislation, the fact that human traffickers used WhatsApp to communicate about their activities could be used to hold the messaging service criminally liable.

Comparing the bill with global standards

  1. The Bill is in direct conflict with the internationally recognized Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.
  2. It is also in dissonance with existing principles of Indian law, flowing from the Information Technology Act, 2000, that identify online platforms as “safe harbours” as long as they act as mere conduits.
  3. From the perspective of intermediaries, monitoring content is unfeasible, and sometimes technologically impossible as in the case of Whatsapp, which facilitates end-to-end encrypted messaging.

Way forward

  1. The proposed changes will invariably lead to a chilling effect on speech on online platforms.
  2. Considering these problematic provisions, it will be a wise move to send the Bill to a select committee in Parliament.
  3. The relevant stakeholders can engage with the lawmakers to arrive at a revised Bill, hopefully, one which prevents human trafficking without threatening the Constitutional right of free speech.
Jul, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] The mob that hates

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Salient features of Indian Society

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Rise in lynching incidents across India and reasons behind them


Context

SC directive on anti-lynching law

  1. The court has asked Parliament to consider passing a special law on lynching
  2. As the grim threat of lynching casts a terrifying shadow over large swathes of the country, directions from India’s Supreme Court to all governments to take steps to prevent what it described as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” can only be welcomed
  3. This is essential to protect citizens and ensure that the “pluralistic social fabric” of the country holds against mob violence

Lynching as a crime in India

  1. Lynching is not officially a crime in India
  2. But if state administrations choose to clamp down, the Indian Penal Code already punishes all the criminalities perpetrated by lynch mobs
  3. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure also enables a group of people involved in the same offence to be tried together

Defining lynching

  1. Lynching is not just “mobocracy”; it is a collective hate crime
  2. Lynching may be sparked variously by disputes over allegations of cow smuggling or slaughter, or wild rumours of cattle theft or child kidnapping, or something even as trivial as a seat in an unreserved train compartment
  3. Whatever the ostensible trigger, murderous mobs gather to lynch people of hated identities with gratuitous cruelty

Minorities & disabled are easy targets

  1. IndiaSpend found that 86 per cent of persons killed in cow-related lynching were Muslim, and 8 per cent Dalit
  2. The recent spate of mob killings on rumours of child kidnapping target strangers and mentally challenged persons

Reasons for rise in lynchings

  1. These hate crimes flourish most of all because of the enabling climate for hate speech and violence which is fostered and legitimised from above
  2. This frees people to act out their prejudices, and the impunity assured by state administrations to the perpetrators
  3. Senior ministers and elected representatives frequently come out in open defence of the attackers, charging the victims with provoking the attacks
  4. The members of the lynch mob in most incidents of lynching video-tape the act and upload the videotapes
  5. To record one’s crimes and display these on the social media reflects a brazen confidence that you will not be punished for your crime, and even if you are nabbed, you will be a hero for the ruling establishment

Role of police

  1. There is a recurring pattern in police action too. If present, even as the slaughter of innocents unfolds, they don’t act, pleading later that they were outnumbered
  2. In most cases, they come in too late to save lives, and very often they register crimes against the victims and drag their feet to charge and arrest the attackers
  3. After the lynching, police often tries to record the incident as a crime of cow smuggling, animal cruelty, rash driving and road rage
  4. In its investigations, the police never cordon off the site of the lynch attacks: Even hours after the crime, people walk over the ground still splattered with blood or burned flesh
  5. This is not a shoddy investigation. It is deliberate (and criminal) destruction of evidence which could have been used against the killers
  6. The police in almost every case, instead, registers crimes against the victims

Just a moral failure?

  1. For people in political authority, uniform and magistrates to take sides in hate battles is a profound crime against humanity
  2. Yet this still is recognised at best as a moral failure, not a punishable crime

Way forward

  1. If there is any new law we need to prevent the spread like an epidemic of this new scourge of targeted hate crime, of lynch mobs, it requires only one law, and this is the creation of a crime of dereliction of duty and communal partisanship by public officials
  2. The challenge, ultimately, is not of law, but of our collective morality and our collective humanity
Jul, 18, 2018

President clears Assam Bill against witch-hunt

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Birubala

Mains level: Curbing atrocities in the name of superstitious witchcraft hunting.


News

Mission Birubala

  1. President Kovind has given his assent to the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015 against witch-hunting that the Assam Assembly passed three years ago.
  2. Birubala Rabha has been campaigning against witch-hunting after a quack almost killed her son in 1996.
  3. She stood her ground despite the threat of excommunication by the local shaman and went on to rescue over 50 women from being branded as witches before launching Mission Birubala against the menace.

Provisions of the Bill

  1. The legislation has made every offence a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
  2. The Act prescribes a prison term of up to seven years and up to ₹5 lakh in fine for calling a person witch.
  3. It also has provisions to come with Section 302 of the IPC (punishment for murder) if someone is killed after being branded a witch.
  4. The punishment for leading a person to suicide may be extended to life imprisonment and up to ₹5 lakh in fine.
Jul, 14, 2018

Coming home to jail: on the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, UN Model Agreement on the Transfer of Foreign Prisoners and Recommendations on the Treatment of Foreign Prisoners 1985, Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad, Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Repatriation of Prisoners Act 2003

Mains level: Repatriation status of Indian nationals in various countries and mechanism available for it


Context

Problems faced in the repatriation of Indian nationals

  1. Two cases of repatriation of Indian nationals, the first being 52-year-old Ismail Samma of Gujarat, and the second, of a sick 21-year-old, Jetendaera Arjanwara of Madhya Pradesh, highlights the tribulations of being imprisoned in a foreign prison
  2. Ismail’s imprisonment in Karachi, Pakistan, came to light last January after being given up for dead for nine years by his family
  3. Jetendaera’s case became known in May after five years of detention
  4. Both men had accidentally crossed the border with Pakistan and were sentenced for illegal entry
  5. They were detained well past their terms as a result of delayed consular attention and nationality verification

Global conventions related to repatriation

  1. The right to return to one’s home country is assured under Article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  2. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, provides for information to consulate, consular protection and consultation upon arrest, detention and during trial in a foreign country including entitlement to travel documents
  3. Similarly, the UN Model Agreement on the Transfer of Foreign Prisoners and Recommendations on the Treatment of Foreign Prisoners 1985, lays emphasis on the social rehabilitation of foreign prisoners through early repatriation to their home countries to serve their remaining sentence
  4. The legacy of transfer of sentenced prisoners lies in the post-war humanitarian exchange of prisoners of war and in two UN Conventions of 2004 (against transnational organised crime and against corruption) which have laid emphasis on the issue of inter-country transfer of prisoners
  5. Both anticipate, under Articles 17 and 45, respectively, that state parties may consider entering into bilateral or multilateral agreements for transfer to their territory of persons sentenced to imprisonment or other forms of deprivation of liberty for completion of their sentences

Repatriation of Prisoners Act

  1. In consonance with these international humanitarian commitments, most countries have legislated on a Repatriation of Prisoners Act
  2. The transfer framework under the Act is premised on the principles that an offence committed abroad is also an offence in the home country and the sentence implemented upon transfer shall not be aggravated
  3. India legislated its Repatriation of Prisoners Act in 2003, which came into force on January 1, 2004
  4. The first part deals with the transfer of sentenced foreign national prisoners from India, while the second deals with the transfer of sentenced Indian nationals into India
  5. It explains the eligibility for transfer, the transfer process and obligations upon the transferring and receiving states with regard to consent, communication and custody of a prisoner
  6. Every sentenced foreign prisoner in an Indian prison and every Indian national in a prison abroad is technically eligible for repatriation to a prison in their home country under these conditions:
  • they are willing
  • have no pending appeals
  • the offence is not an offence under military law
  • the sentence is not a death sentence
  • they have at least six months of their sentence still left to serve, and
  • their transfer has the consent of both treaty countries

Importance of act for India

  1. The Act is significant for India which sees considerable outflow and inflow annually by blue- and white-collar workers, fishermen, students, stateless persons and other groups
  2. Several come into conflict with the law
  3. More than 2,095 Indian nationals (2017) were known to be sentenced abroad
  4. They would be eligible for repatriation subject to nationality verification

Implementation by India

  1. India has taken steps for reciprocal transfers under the Act
  2. It has developed a Standard Draft Agreement and signed 30 bilateral transfer agreements
  3. It also entered into transfer arrangements with signatories of the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad and the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons

Status of repatriation

  1. Between 2003 and March 2018, only 63 of 171 prisoner applicants abroad have been transferred to India

Way Forward

  1. Effecting transfers under the Repatriation of Prisoners Act presents a win-win situation for India as it need not spend unduly on the housing of foreign national prisoners
  2. It can also save the cost of providing consular services abroad by bringing back Indian prisoners
  3. It can simultaneously satisfy the public expectation of bringing nationals home and the meeting of international humanitarian commitments
Jul, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] Rhetoric and reality: on the UNHRC and human rights

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of tampered  and biased HR violation reports on India


News

Should India withdraw from UNHRC?

  1. The withdrawal of the U.S. from the UNHRC in June this year sent shock waves through the international community, foreign-policy think-tanks and human rights non-governmental organisations.
  2. However, some feel this was the right decision and are now advocating withdrawal by other countries; this includes those in India.
  3. The main criticism against it is that it is made up of states not known for their human rights records; that many are in fact egregious violators of human rights. C
  4. Current members include Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom — a few of the 47 states elected by the General Assembly, based on geographic quotas.

All states under scrutiny

  1. The ‘Universal Periodic Review’ process, where all states are scrutinised, is currently in its third cycle (2017-2021).
  2. No state is exempt from this process, including Security Council members.
  3. Politics is unavoidable, with states using the opportunity to highlight the records of other states.

Problem of monitoring

  1. An overly simplistic reading of the HRC paints this as purely partisan theatre, which is not the entire picture.
  2. What gets lost in all the rhetoric regarding the HRC is the actual track record — the overt manner in which a human rights agenda and the evolution of human rights norms are facilitated.
  3. Resolutions adopted have highlighted egregious violations despite efforts to the contrary by some members of the HRC such as Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and North Korea.

But it is still important

  1. Subject areas that have been the source of much controversy have been addressed at the HRC, including LGBTIQ rights and discrimination on the basis of religion.
  2. The HRC is also a forum to monitor international obligations of a state based on international law that states themselves have undertaken.

UNHRC is different from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

  1. It is also worth pointing out that the role of the Office of the OHCHR is often confused with the HRC.
  2. It is a separate institution which presents reports independent of the HRC, the recent report on Kashmir being an example (which has turned out to be tampered on facts).
  3. Hence, there are multiple strands in the monitoring functions of human rights by UN institutions, one of which is the HRC. In the promotion of human rights, all these play a critical role.

US withdrawal is a foul cry

  1. The factor that precipitated US withdrawal is the alleged targeting of Israel by the HRC.
  2. Discussions and reform proposals are already in the works, with engagement by states and human rights organisations indicating a consensus building approach.
  3. However, while committing to reform, the impatience of the current U.S. administration and its disdain for multilateralism has resulted in the impetuous decision to withdraw.
  4. By ceding a role at the HRC, a state reduces its ability to influence the agenda, and if it is so inclined, a genuine engagement in the monitoring of human rights.

Way Forward

  1. Withdrawal is not a feasible option.
  2. Not just states but also individuals who are in need of a more robust defence of their rights stand to lose much.
  3. It is worth instead contemplating the need to reduce rhetoric and, rather, increase substantive engagement with issues concerning the rights of individuals.

Back2basics

United Nations Human Rights Commission

  1. The UNHRC was established in 2006, as part of the UN’s reform process, replacing the Commission on Human Rights.
  2. Council members are elected by the General Assembly with three-year terms, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
  3. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland
  4. The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
  5. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership
  6. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
Jul, 05, 2018

[pib] National Commission for Safai Karamcharis

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Indian Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NCSK

Mains level: Welfare of Safai Karmacharis


News

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of one post each of Vice-Chairperson and Member in the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis.
  2. The decision is intended to optimize the functioning of the Commission and for fulfilling desired objectives of welfare and development of the target group.

National Commission for Safai Karmacharis (NCSK)

  1. The NCSK is a statutory body that looks into matters concerning the Safai Karamcharis’ welfare and makes recommendations to the government.
  2. For the first time, NCSK was constituted as a statutory body under the NCSK ACT, 1993.
  3. This commission continued till February 2004, when the relevant Act expired. Thereafter, the tenure of the commission has been extended from time to time, as a non-statutory body, the last such extension being up to 31 March 2016.
  4. It is working for the welfare of both Safai Karamcharis and Manual Scavengers.
  5. It is mandated to work towards the elimination of inequalities in status facilities and opportunities for Safai Karamcharis and has an important role to ensure rehabilitation of all the identified manual scavengers on a time-bound basis.
  6. Under Section 31 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, the Commission is to perform functions namely:
  • To monitor the implementation of the Act;
  • To inquire into complaints regarding contravention of provisions of the Act; and
  • To advice Central and State Governments for effective implementation of the Act.
Jun, 21, 2018

U.S. pulls out of United Nations Human Rights Council

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of ‘America First’ policy on various international institutions and their members


News

Another US withdrawal

  1. The United States has announced that it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council
  2. It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution
  3. The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back from international agreements and forums under the president’s “America First” policy

Reason given for withdrawal

  1. There has been longstanding U.S. complaint that the 47-member council is biased against Israel
  2. The U.S. is Israel’s biggest defender at other U.N. organizations

Special mention of Israel at UNHRC

  1. Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under “Item 7” on the agenda
  2. Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of the council’s regular business almost as long as it has existed

Other major withdrawals

  1. Since January 2017, U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the U.N. educational and cultural organization and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal

Ripple effects on China

  1. At the rights council, the United States has recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China

Back2Basics

United Nations Human Rights Council

  1. UNHRC is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world
  2. The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis
  3. The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006
  4. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland
  5. The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
  6. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership
  7. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
Apr, 05, 2018

Cabinet clears human rights Bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018, NHRC

Mains level: Issues related to human rights


News

Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018

  1. The Cabinet has cleared the long-pending Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018
  2. The Bill proposes to include the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights as a deemed member, besides adding a woman member to the panel

Proposed amendments

  1. The present law proposes to enlarge the scope of eligibility and selection of the chairperson of NHRC as well as the State Human Rights Commission
  2. The Bill also proposes to amend the term of the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC to make it in consonance with the terms of chairperson and members of other commissions
  3. The amendments will have to be ratified by Parliament

Back2Basics

National Human Rights Commission

  1. National Human Rights Commission of India was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
  2. It is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “rights relating to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”
  3. The NHRC consists of:
  • A Chairperson who should be retired Chief Justice of India
  • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Two members to be appointed from among persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of four National Commissions (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women, and Minorities) serve as ex officio members

4. The Chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendation of a committee consisting of:

  • The Prime Minister (Chairperson), The Home Minister, The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, The Speaker of the Lok Sabha, The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
Mar, 28, 2018

Khaps cannot interfere in marriage of consenting adults, rules Supreme Court

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fundamental right, Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, The Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill

Mains level: Various social stigmas prevalent in India and how to reduce them


News

No interference permitted in consented marriages

  1. The Supreme Court has ruled that interference, harm or insult caused to consenting adults who fall in love and choose to marry is absolutely illegal
  2. The court said the fundamental right of two people who wish to get married to each other and live peacefully is absolute
  3. With this judgment, the court has filled the vacuum caused by the lack of a specific penal law against honour killings

Argument in favor of khap panchayats

  1. The objection of khaps about marriages between people from the same gotra is upheld in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955
  2. The section said the “sapinda should be removed by five degrees from the father’s side and by three degrees from the mother’s side”

Proposed law against honour killing

  1. The Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill — is still under circulation among the States
  2. The Centre recommended that the State governments should take responsibility for the lives of couples who fear retaliation
  3. They should be housed in special protection homes, away from danger
  4. The government said special cells should be formed in every district to receive complaints from couples who feared for their lives
Mar, 01, 2018

Draft Bill on human trafficking in, NIA to be nodal agency

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, National Investigation Agency (NIA), Nirbhaya fund for safety of women

Mains level: Human trafficking in India and ways to stop it


News

Bill to stop human trafficking

  1. The Union Cabinet approved the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018
  2. The proposed legislation addresses the issue of trafficking from the point of view of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation

Key Provisions 

  1. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will act as the nodal authority for probing cases of human trafficking
  2. The bill also proposes a punishment of life imprisonment for repeat offenders
  3. Aggravated forms of trafficking, which includes trafficking for the purpose of forced labor, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity would carry a jail term of seven to 10 years
  4. Trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage or after marriage would carry a punishment of at least 10 years in jail, which can be extended to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs 1 lakh
  5. The draft Bill also moots three years in jail for abetting, promoting and assisting trafficking

Relief measures

  1. The proposed legislation recommends a national anti-trafficking relief and rehabilitation committee which would be headed by Secretary, WCD Ministry
  2. The Bill provides for interim relief immediately to victims within 30 days to address their trauma and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of chargesheet
  3. The NIA will receive financial aid under Nirbhaya fund for safety of women in order to set up a cell for investigating human trafficking

Back2Basics

National Investigation Agency (NIA)

  1. National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India
  2. It acts as the Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency
  3. The agency is empowered to deal with terror-related crimes across states without special permission from the states
  4. The Agency came into existence with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 by the Parliament of India on 31 December 2008
  5. The Agency has been empowered to conduct investigation and prosecution of offenses under the Acts specified in the Schedule of the NIA Act
  6. Officers of the NIA who are drawn from the Indian Revenue Service, Indian Police Service, state police, Income Tax as well as officers from the Central Armed Police Forces, have all powers, privileges and liabilities which the police officers have in connection with investigation of any offense
  7. Various Special Courts have been notified by the Central Government of India for trial of the cases registered at various police stations of NIA under Section 11 and 22 of the NIA Act 2008
  8. The NIA Special Courts are empowered with all powers of the court of sessions under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for trial of any offense
Feb, 27, 2018

SC seeks details on over-crowded prisons

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Legal Services Authority, Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs)

Mains level: Human rights of convicts and deteriorating conditions of prisons


News

Over occupancy in prisons

  1. The Supreme Court has asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to provide details and figures of prisons where the occupancy rate is over 150% as on December 31, 2017
  2. SC has also asked to provide the number of posts lying vacant in major prisons across the country
  3. The top court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country

Procedure related to UTRCs

  1. SC agreed to hear issues related to standard operating procedure for Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs) and the possibility of open jails
  2. The UTRCs, set up in every district, deliberates and recommends the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have completed their sentences or are entitled to be released from jail due to bail or remission granted to them
  3. Semi-open prisons or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the jail premises and earn a livelihood and return in the evening

SC support to open prisons

  1. On September 15, last year, a Supreme Court judgment had encouraged the need for open prisons
  2. It had urged for steps like the appointment of counsellors and support persons for prisoners, particularly first-time offenders
  3. The apex court had suggested steps like more family visits for prisoners and use of phones and video-conferencing not only between a prisoner and family but also his lawyers
Feb, 13, 2018

[op-ed snap] Rethinking trafficking

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, ‘Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage’, wtc.

Mains level: The newscard discusses some issues related to the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016.


News

‘Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage’

  1. It was a collaborative effort of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation, and the International Organisation for Migration
  2. It did not name countries, but the writing on the wall was clear as 17,000 interviews had been conducted in India, and 61.78% of the “modern slaves” were in Asia and the Pacific
  3. India protested against the release of a report

Complex structure of anti-trafficking laws in India

  1. It ranges from the Indian Penal Code and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986, to social welfare legislation on contract and bonded labour, and inter-state migrant work
  2. While criminal laws like the ITPA target ‘bad men’ traffickers, labour laws presume endemic exploitation in labour markets
  3. In India, a combination of penal, labour and contract laws are used to impose obligations for better working conditions
  4. Unfortunately, as the topic of trafficking gained international prominence, the government understood trafficking to be equivalent to sex trafficking and sex work

Issues with the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016

  1. The current definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC is not limited to sex work; yet, the Trafficking Bill is patently neoabolitionist
  2. It pursues the classic raid-rescue-rehabilitation model, with stringent penalties for trafficking
  3. It creates a plethora of new institutions with unclear roles, capacious powers (including for surveillance) and no accountability
  4. There is no clarity on how the Bill relates to the ITPA and to labour laws

What should be done?

  1. Many scholars, activists and workers’ rights groups argued against extending a criminal law, raid-rescue-rehabilitation model beyond sex work to other labour sectors
  2. They called instead for
    (1) a multi-faceted legal and economic strategy;
    (2) robust implementation of labour laws; a universal social protection floor;
    (3) self-organisation of workers;
    (4) improved labour inspection,
    (5) including in the informal economy; and
    (6) corporate accountability for decent work conditions
  3. They also reiterated the need for systemic reforms to counter distress migration, end caste-based discrimination, enforce the rural employment guarantee legislation, avoid the indiscriminate rescue of voluntary sex workers, and protect migrants’ mobility and rights
  4. As the introduction of the Trafficking Bill in Parliament appears imminent, only a bold, holistic response to what is a socioeconomic problem of labour exploitation can help India realise SDG 8.7

Back2basics

Neoabolitionism

  1. Neoabolitionist (or neo-abolitionist or new abolitionism) is a term used in historiography to characterize historians of race relations motivated by the spirit of racial equality typified by the abolitionists who fought to abolish slavery in the mid-19th century
  2. They write especially about African-American history, slavery, the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era
  3. As abolitionists had worked in the 19th century to end slavery and provide equal rights under the US Constitution to blacks, the new activists worked to enforce constitutional rights for all citizens and restore equality under the law for African Americans, including suffrage and civil rights
  4. In the late 20th century some historians emphasized the worlds of African Americans in their own words, in their own communities, to recognize them as agents, not victims. Publishing in the mid-1960s and through the 20th century, a new generation of historians began to revise traditional accounts of slavery in the United States, reconstruction, racial segregation and Jim Crow laws
  5. Some major historians began to apply the term “neoabolitionist” to such historians, and some of this group identified as such.
Feb, 08, 2018

[op-ed snap] Khap menace: on interference in relationships between adults

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Rising cases of honour killings across India


Context

SC observation on khap panchayats

  1. The Supreme court’s latest observations said that khap panchayats should not act as though they are conscience-keepers of society
  2. Also, that no one should interfere in relationships between adults
  3. This was said while it was hearing a writ petition seeking a ban on such community organisations and guidelines to put an end to “honour killings

Why do khap panchayats still prevail in modern society?

  1. The social milieu continues to be under the sway of the medieval-minded
  2. Parents and self-appointed guardians of social mores continue to use coercion and harassment, and even resort to murderous violence, as a means to enforce their exclusionary and feudal prejudices
  3. Families choose the penal consequences of violence over the perceived dishonour caused by an inter-religious relationship
  4. The popular narrative situates community pride as a source of unconscionable violence in rural India
  5. It is a reality in cities and among educated and presumably socially advanced sections too

Khap panchayats declared illegal

  1. In 2011, the highest court termed such khaps “kangaroo courts”, declared them illegal and wanted them stamped out ruthlessly
  2. The Law Commission in 2012 prepared a draft bill to prohibit interference in marriage alliances

Key provisions of draft bill

  1. Such informal groups would be treated as an ‘unlawful assembly’ 
  2. Decisions that amount to harassment, social boycott, discrimination or incitement to violence should be punishable with a minimum sentence

Way Forward

  1. Such views can only be eradicated with a change in social attitudes
  2. Legislative change with high-handed mediation or interference will help reduce such menace from society
Jan, 29, 2018

Acid attack victims to get quota in central govt jobs

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, Intellectual disability

Mains level: Measures taken by government for disabled persons


News

Special quota for acid attack survivors

  1. People with autism, mental illnesses, intellectual disability and victims of acid attacks will now get quota in central government jobs
  2. In case of direct recruitment, four percent of the total number of vacancies, up from the existing three percent, in groups A, B and C shall be reserved for people with benchmark disabilities
  3. Benchmark disability means a person with not less than forty percent of a specified disability

New Reservation Quota

  1. One percent of each post shall be reserved for people with blindness and low vision; deaf and hard of hearing; locomotor disability including cerebral palsy, leprosy cured, dwarfism, acid attack victims and muscular dystrophy
  2. One percent posts each shall be also reserved for people suffering from autism, intellectual disability, specific learning disability and mental illness
  3. The move to enhance reservation quota for those with learning disability and acid attack victims comes after passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
  4. As per an earlier order of the DoPT, issued in 2005, three percent of the total posts were to be reserved for people with disabilities

Intellectual disability

  1. Intellectual disability is a condition characterised by significant limitations in intellectual functioning such as reasoning, learning and problem solving
  2. And in adaptive behaviour that covers a range of everyday skills

No adjustment in other quotas

  1. Provisions have been made to ensure that reservation for people with disabilities is not adjusted against the posts meant for those from Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Classes

Back2Basics

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

  1. The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995
  2. It fulfils the obligations to the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory
  3. Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education (not less than 5%), government jobs (not less than 4 %), reservation in allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes (5% allotment) etc. have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs
  4. Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education
  5. The Act provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also violation of the provisions of the new law
  6. Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs
Jan, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] The road from Tiruppur

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Social empowerment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: POA Act 1989

Mains level: Legislations for protection of vulnerable groups and their implementation


Context

Amendment to POA Act

  1. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015 (POA Amend. Act) has begun to yield results
  2. The Act was enacted to comprehensively amend and strengthen the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (POA Act 1989)

Provisions introduced via the amendment

  1. The act lays down a time limit of two months for completing trials
  2. Establish an exclusive special court
  3. Set up a high-powered “vigilance and monitoring committee”, with the chief minister as chairman and ministers of home, finance, and SC and ST departments, SC and ST MPs, MLAs and MLCs, senior bureaucrats, and local representatives of national commissions for SCs and STs as members
  4. This committee is required to meet every January and July and discharge functions listed in Rule 16
  5. The Act requires the two steps mentioned in points 2 and 3 to be taken by every state government

Recent judgment

  1. Tamil Nadu’s Tiruppur Principal District and Sessions Court has on December 12, 2017, convicted eight of the accused for the murder of V. Shankar, a B.Tech-educated Dalit youth, son of a labourer, as a punishment for the marriage between him and Kausalya, a non-Dalit, educated girl from a middle-class family
  2.  This case shows that the life of a young man with a promising career was snuffed out, the life of a young woman also with a promising career, blighted
  3.  This is an example of wholesale destruction caused by the caste system
  4. There have been a number of cases of the past where persons have been killed for Dalit and non-Dalit marriages and surviving wives and families are languishing

What should be done?

  1. Killings and other atrocities occur to the greatest extent in marriages between Dalits and non-Dalits
  2. This is a recent phenomenon, in addition to the atrocities on traditional grounds related to land, resistance to “untouchability”, etc.
  3. To cover such cases, it will be necessary to have a separate legislation with provisions for the effective protection, a deterrent death sentence, and total rehabilitation
  4. This is particularly important because inter-caste marriages are bound to take place and should become more frequent

Way forward

  1. The perils of the caste system, including its adverse consequences on the growth of employment opportunities for the youth of all communities, should be effectively impressed on the younger generation through the education system
Jan, 10, 2018

No viable alternative to hanging, Centre tells court

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lethal injections, Deena versus Union of India case, Bachan Singh case, Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure

Mains level: Capital Punishment and issues related to it


News

SC seeks less painful means of execution

  1. The Centre told the Supreme Court that there is no viable method at present other than hanging to execute condemned prisoners
  2. Lethal injections are unworkable and often fail
  3. The government was responding to a query from the court on alternative modes of execution

SC view on hanging of convicts

  1. The court had previously said a condemned convict should die in peace and not in pain
  2. A human being is entitled to dignity even in death
  3. The court had asked the government to consider the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of causing death

Is death penalty unconstitutional?

  1. The court has already clarified that it is not questioning the constitutionality of death penalty
  2. It has been well-settled by the apex court, including in Deena versus Union of India and earlier in the Bachan Singh case reported in 1980
  3. Section 354 (5), which mandates death by hanging, of the Code of Criminal Procedure, has already been upheld

Lethal injections an alternative?

  1. Death by lethal injection is practised in the U.S., China, Thailand, Vietnam and few other countries
  2. The Law Commission of India had recommended lethal injection for death penalty
Jan, 08, 2018

[op-ed snap] Standing up for human rights

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Anti-torture law

Mains level: Complement this newscard with one(attached below) of our previous newcards on the same issue. The law is much needed in the current situation where there is a huge focus on Human Rights values.


News

India must hasten to bring in an anti-torture law

  1. This is because the torture of individuals in state custody remains a brazen human rights abuse that mocks our governance
  2. In our approach towards eliminating torture as an affront to human dignity, we have been caught between legislative apathy and judicial abdication
  3. The necessity to move the SC arose because even years after India became a signatory to the Convention Against Torture in 1997
  4. But we have not been able to ratify it or have in place a domestic legislation to effectuate the right to life with dignity read into Article 21 of the Constitution

Imperviousness of the SC

  1. Can’t force govt. to frame anti-torture law: SC
  2. And this is despite the 2010 recommendation of the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha supported by the National Human Rights Commission, the Law Commission of India and repeated assurances given on behalf of the Indian government at the UN Universal Periodic Review(in favor of the law)
  3. The court remained impervious to its own jurisprudence expounded in Puttaswamy and NALSA (2014)
  4. In the precedent the court said that “unless there is a manifest intent expressed to the contrary, domestic laws should be aligned with the international legal regime on the subject”
  5. It seemed legitimate to expect the highest constitutional court to inspire legislation that would vindicate the ethic of human rights as it has done so often in the past

How is it affecting India’s reputation?

  1.  Those facing criminal trials and extradition proceedings abroad including Abu Salem, Kim Davy, Jagtar Singh Johal and others have questioned the country’s investigative and criminal justice system
  2. in the absence of an effective and enforceable law against custodial torture

Government’s view on the law

  1. According to government’s representatives, it is seriously considering the October 2017 recommendation of the Law Commission in support of a standalone anti-torture law
  2. Parliamentarians who are privileged to represent the concerns of the people must keep faith and ensure the passage of a humanitarian law
Dec, 06, 2017

[op-ed snap] Stand up against torture

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The convention is related to Human Rights and it is a hot topic of discussion these days.


News

Background of the Convention Against Torture (CAT)

  1. CAT came into force in 1987 and India signed it in 1997
  2. Today, the CAT has 162 state parties; 83 are signatories
  3. In refusing to ratify the CAT, India is in the inglorious company of Angola, the Bahamas, Brunei, Gambia, Haiti, Palau, and Sudan

Delaying the ratification

  1. In 2011, desiring to be appointed on the HRC of the UN, India took the extraordinary step of voluntarily “pledging” to ratify the CAT
  2. In the 2012 review, once again countries overwhelmingly recommended that India “promptly” ratify the CAT
  3. Again this year, at the universal periodical review, India reiterated “its commitment to ratify the CAT”
  4. India has been making promises but doesn’t seem intent on keeping them

SC’s comment on alleged torture by the Police

  1. Torture cases have escalated in India
  2. The Supreme Court said it was “deeply disturbed by the diabolical recurrence of police torture”
  3. Also, it said that said that “torture is assuming alarming proportions… on account of the devilish devices adopted”

The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010

  1.  It was an excellent attempt by Parliament to draft new legislation
  2. Unlike Indian law, which focusses on murder and broken bones (grievous hurt), torture was expanded to include
    (i) food deprivation,
    (ii) forcible feeding,
    (iii) sleep deprivation,
    (iv) sound bombardment,
    (v) electric shocks,
    (vi) cigarette burning, and other forms
  3. The Indian police force uses these techniques
  4. The Select Committee noted that an overwhelming number of States and Union Territories were in favour of the Bill
  5. But Bill was allowed to lapse

PIL on the issue

  1. A petition was then filed in the Supreme Court in 2016, seeking a direction to the Union government to ratify the CAT
  2. Despite its numerous promises to the UN bodies, the government opposed the petition saying that the Law Commission of India was considering the issue

Undermining India’s Prestige

  1. In showing the world that India has no intention of combating the issues related to its own forces
  2. And of implementing its promises made to the UN, the government has undermined India’s prestige
  3. To be a world power, India must act like one
Aug, 19, 2017

NHRC issues notice on Rohingyas

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the NHRC

Mains level: It is a hot topic these days. after comments from NHRC, it has become more important. UPSC can ask any question on this topic.


News

Notice by National Human Rights Commission

  1. NHRC has issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs
  2. Why: over the planned deportation of about 40,000 Rohingya immigrants from Myanmar
  3. NHRC has asked for a detailed report within four weeks, from the Ministry

Government’s Plan to deport Rohingya immigrants

  1. The government is planning to deport the Rohingyas by setting up “detention centres”

Back2basics

NHRC

  1. The Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993
  2. The NHRC is the National Human Rights Commission of India, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”
Sep, 12, 2016

Why more complaints in NHRC than FIRs?

  1. Source: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)
  2. There is unwillingness among the police to file an FIR against one of their own
  3. Allegations of human rights violations by the police in India are investigated by the police themselves
  4. Need: A body similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as in the United Kingdom or the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in South Africa
  5. The NHRC’s investigative unit draws its members from the State police forces who are on deputation
  6. The unit does not have the powers for active investigation- it cannot collect or preserve physical evidence itself but has to ask the local police for it
Sep, 12, 2016

Do police get away with rights violations?

  1. Source: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)
  2. As many as 35,831 cases were registered against the police with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2015-16
  3. Only 94 first information reports were registered in 2015
  4. Cases against the police involve illegal detentions, extortion, torture, fake encounters and others
  5. The numbers do not include deaths in police custody, for which 153 cases were registered with the NHRC
Aug, 26, 2016

NHRC registering more cases, says there is more awareness

  1. Cases registered by the National Human Rights Commission have gone up over the past three years
  2. Monetary Relief: However, those where monetary relief was recommended have in fact declined
  3. Why? Some cases had been taken up by the courts or State human rights commissions, others were closed or disposed off for lack of a clear offence being established
  4. While the NHRC cannot prosecute, the best case scenario for complainants is when NHRC recommends monetary relief for them
  5. Stats: The cases where relief was recommended fell 26% from 2013-2014 to 2015-2016
  6. For the same time period, the number of cases registered by the Commission rose 20%
  7. People’s faith in the Commission has been increasing because of the way it has been dealing with cases
  8. Awareness: Has increased because of the NHRC’s own efforts and the media
Feb, 26, 2016

Ex-CJI Justice Dattu to head NHRC

  1. News: Committee headed by PM has selected former CJI H L Dattu as the next chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for 5 yr
  2. Context: Post of NHRC chairperson had been lying vacant since May 2015 after Justice K G Balakrishnan completed his nearly 5-year-long tenure
  3. Which Act? Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
  4. Appointment: President appoints the chairperson and members of the NHRC on the recommendation of a committee
  5. Selection committee: PM, Lok Sabha Speaker, Home Minister, Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
Nov, 27, 2015

Government may offer NHRC top job to CJI Dattu

  1. The government is likely to offer the post of chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu.
  2. The post of NHRC chairperson has been vacant since May after Justice K G Balakrishnan completed his nearly five-year-long tenure.
  3. One post of member is also vacant since the retirement of Satyabrata Pal in March last year.
  4. Among the former CJIs eligible for consideration are Justices S H Kapadia, Altamas Kabir, P Sathasivam and R M Lodha.
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