Legal Information: Access Denied

Above: Illustration by Anthony Lawrence IT companies have made India the back office of the world, but the country remains a laggard in building live legal e-databanks ~By Rishika Pardikar A nation’s legal system exerts a strong influence on its citizens’ lives. But since citizens often find legalities intimidating, public law usually un-nerves those it seeks to protect. In India, keeping tabs on civil and criminal laws isn’t easy. And given so, the nation’s legal system cannot be termed “effective” because fundamentals like a citizen’s familiarity with public law are not in place. But, like always, this is fixable. And the first step is to make public law freely available online. With intent to legislate the Right to Know, the government enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005. How-ever, while the Act put in place certain obligations on public authorities relating to maintenance of records in an indexed manner, computerisation of such records to facilitate easy access and regular updation, ground realities point at deficiencies in executive functions. “… information on legislation and judicial decisions is scattered and often buried in a maze of websites run by ministries at central, state and territory levels” a paper tiled, Challenges for Free Access to Law in a Multi-Jurisdictional Developing Country: Building the Legal Information Institute of India, published by National Law University (NLU) Press noted.…
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Online Abuse: Tackling Vengeful Trolls

Above: Union minister Sushma Swaraj was trolled for taking measures to ensure that interfaith couples get their passports/Photo: UNI As social media platforms fail to self-regulate, high-profile victims of abuse respond in varying degrees depending on the political support they receive against their harassers ~By Venkatasubramanian The incessant online trolling of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over the transfer of a passport officer for allegedly humiliating an inter-faith couple brought to the fore the absence of a legal regime to deal with cyber hate speech. Swaraj was trolled for her public display of concern to ensure that an interfaith couple gets their passports. Swaraj did not complain to the police, but chose to block an online abuser who stalked and challenged her after her initial gentle response seeking decent expression of dissent by her followers on Twitter became counter-productive. She held an online poll to mobilise opinion against such abuse, but found to her dismay that 43 percent approved it. That the trolls are nurtured by her own party and the climate of intolerance prevailing in the country is a source of concern. None of her ministerial colleagues came to her defence immediately and the continued silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, himself an avid social media follower, fuelled speculation whether the campaign against her enjoyed proxy support.…
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10-yr jail term for Ex Pak PM Nawaz Sharif in case linked to Panama Papers

Pakistan’s Accountability court announces 10 year jail term for Nawaz Sharif, daughter Maryam granted 7 year term, her husband to serve 1 year in prison Just short of a year after Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified him from holding the office of Prime Minister for allegedly amassing wealth through dubious means and investing it in shady deals, the country’s Accountability Court, on Friday (July 6), sentenced Nawaz Sharif to a 10 year jail term. The former Pakistan Prime Minister is currently in London, attending to his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer for the past year and has been on ventilator support since three weeks after her condition deteriorated. Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, has also been sentenced to serve seven years in jail for her role in the same case – purchase of four flats in Avenfield House, Park Lane, London by the Sharifs which was exposed as a corrupt deal under the Panama Papers expose – while his son-in-law, Captain Safdar has been awarded a one-year jail term. According to a report by Pakistan’s Dawn News, the Accountability Court has also imposed a fine of 8 million GBP on Sharif while his daughter, Maryam, has been ordered to pay up 2 million GBP.…
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Adventure Sports in Uttarakhand: Danger Zone

Above: For now, there will be no more river rafting in Rishikesh or elsewhere in Uttarakhand/Photo Courtesy: tajhotels.com Peak season adventure tourism takes a hit in Uttarakhand as the High Court orders it to frame a policy to ensure the safety and security of tourists ~By Govind Pant Raju in Lucknow Think of adventure sports and what comes to mind is Uttarakhand. But that image may soon become a distant memory if the state government fails to adhere to a High Court order to frame a policy to regulate such sports. In a move to safeguard people and the environment, the Uttarakhand High Court has banned river rafting, paragliding and other water sports, ordering the state government to prepare a transparent policy within two weeks. “Whitewater rafting is a serious sport. Paragliding is equally dangerous if not regulated. Water sports in big lakes like Tehri Dam can prove fatal,” the court observed, taking note of the deaths caused due to the capsizing of boats in the Ganga and iterating the need to regularise the activities. It was 18 years back that Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh and granted full statehood. Before then and since, tourism has remained its largest source of revenue and employment despite the absence of an official tourism policy and the resultant lackadaisical attitude of the government.…
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Law Commission: The Quiet Reformer

“Make the Law Commission a statutory body” JUSTICE AJIT PRAKASH SHAH, former chairman of the Law Commission of India, tells VRINDA AGARWAL about the hindrances affecting the functioning and productivity of the Commission and advocates that it be made a statutory body with complete autonomy.  How crucial has the role of the Law Commission been in steering the process of legal reforms in India? The idea of Law Commissions has existed since colonial times. After Independence, the Commission had many notable persons such as MC Setalvad, VK Krishna Iyer and PB Gajendragadkar. It plays a crucial role—from suggesting new laws to changing outdated colonial laws and updating them to present times. Periodically, the Supreme Court also decides matters under Article 142 because of which changes need to be made. The Commission steps in then. India is also a signatory to many treaties under which we have statutory obligations which the Commission has worked to ensure. Occasionally, the Commission also takes up matters suo motu. For example, the 20th Commission worked on leprosy affected persons and their treatment in society, which it recognised as a human rights issue. The operating principle in the Commission’s work is that our laws need to be dynamic, and cannot remain static.…
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Property Issues: The Promised Land

Above: Buying lands belonging to the Limboo-Tamang tribals is proposed to be barred in Sikkim/Photo: mapsofindia.com In an ostensible attempt to safeguard scarce land resources, the chief minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling has introduced community specific reforms which seem out of sync with trends elsewhere ~By Neeraj Mishra in Gangtok According to the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, sale of tribal lands can be prohibited. This can be done in any manner which governments feel are necessary to protect the rights of tribals living in that area or to protect habitat or both. The Agrarian Land Ceiling Act 1973 attempted to limit the acreage under private ownership. Various states have since enacted their own land reforms from time to time, which have resulted in some standard stipulations throughout India. One of them is that agriculture land cannot be sold to non-agriculturists. But what Sikkim is attempting to do through its latest Sikkim Panchayat (Amendment) Bill, 2018, passed earlier this month, may be unique and require fine tooth-combing to understand its aim and impact. Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s government has mandated that the Limboo and Tamang communities of the state, also classified as Scheduled Tribes, will henceforth be able to sell their land within their community only.…
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Sleaze behind the Glitter

Illustration: Rajender Kumar The recent revelation of a prostitution racket in the US has blown the lid off the Telugu film industry where actresses who have fallen on bad times are exploited and become part of the flesh trade ~By Kingshuk Nag in Hyderabad Two weeks ago, the Page 3 sections of leading newspapers carried the good news of the betrothal of a minor Bollywood actress. Naturally, there was no mention of the controversy that the actress had landed up in four years ago in 2014—in Hyderabad. The actress—let’s call her S—was arrested from a leading five-star hotel in Hyderabad where she was found in a compromising position with a man, who the police alleged was her client. Consequently, S was sent to a remand home where she spent two months before being released. At the time of her arrest, S is said to have given out a statement (that was carried in a section of the press) that she had fallen on bad days and was forced to resort to prostitution to support her family. On release from the remand home—on the orders of the sessions court which also threw out all the charges against her—S stated that she had never given out the earlier statement.…
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Legalising Marijuana: An Intoxicating Affair

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and other enforcement agencies are mandated to destroy cannabis cultivation, seize marijuana or its derivatives from anyone found in their possession and book him/her under relevant sections of the NDPS Act. A cursory glance at data accessed by India Legal from NCB on seizure of ganja and hashish (the two main derivatives of cannabis used as soft drugs) and destruction of the marijuana crop is enough to prove that efforts to curb circulation of hemp have not yielded the desired results—even over three decades after the enactment of the NDPS Act. (See boxes) Instead, the ban has triggered a massive shadow economy for cannabis cultivation and trafficking. In Amsterdam, for instance, where recreational use of marijuana and its derivatives is legal, Malana Cream  (made from cannabis in and around Malana village of Himachal)—is among the top-selling hashish on bar and pub menus. It could fetch a price of over $250 for the standard measure of a little over 10 grams (a tola in Indian parlance). Obviously, Indian cannabis is not only being circulated within the country but also being smuggled abroad. Someone in the enforcement agencies isn’t doing their job. In an exclusive interview to India Legal, Tharoor said that legalising cannabis in India would check trafficking of marijuana and also help the country benefit financially from the legitimate trade of cannabis.…
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Karti Chidambaram Case: Investigation Or Witchhunt?

Above: Karti Chidambaram talks to supporters during the CBI raid at his Chennai home  In their pursuit of Chidambaram and his family members, the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI and the IT department have displayed a tenacity seldom seen before ~By India Legal Bureau After months of interrogation, even intimidation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on June 13, 2018 finally filed a chargesheet against Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis deal. The chargesheet was filed before the Patiala CBI special court which has listed the matter for further hearing on July 4. This is the first chargesheet filed by the ED in the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case registered against Karti and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The agency has charged Karti under Sections 3, 4 and 45 of the PMLA 2002. If the charges stick, Karti could spend between three to seven years on non-bailable rigorous imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. The day before the chargesheet against Karti was filed, the senior Chidambaram was interrogated for over five hours for the second time this month in connection with the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case. Karti had earlier been questioned multiple times in this case.…
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J&K Sex Scandal: Finally, Some Justice!

Above: BSF Deputy Inspector General KC Padhi is one of those convicted Though five men got 10 years for the shocking rape and prostitution of a minor in 2006 J&K Sex Scandal case, two were acquitted ~By Vipin Pubby in Chandigarh A dozen years before the horrendous Kathua rape case, where the trial was shifted to Pathankot in Punjab, another rape and prostitution case was reported from Kashmir Valley and the Supreme Court had intervened to shift the trial to a special court in Chandigarh. Among the 56 accused in the case were two former ministers, senior bureaucrats, police officers, leading law officers and prominent businessmen of Kashmir. The case not only hit the national headlines for months together, but led to the resignation three years later of then J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah. He withdrew it the next day only after then governor NN Vohra rejected the resignation and gave an assurance that he had got the allegations against Omar investigated by the CBI and found no evidence. The special CBI court in Chandigarh has now found enough evidence to convict five accused under Sections 376 of the Ranbir Penal Code (applicable in the state of J&K), Section 5 of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, among other provisions.…
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J&K Sex Scandal: Finally, Some Justice!

Above: BSF Deputy Inspector General KC Padhi is one of those convicted Though five men got 10 years for the shocking rape and prostitution of a minor in 2006 J&K Sex Scandal case, two were acquitted ~By Vipin Pubby in Chandigarh A dozen years before the horrendous Kathua rape case, where the trial was shifted to Pathankot in Punjab, another rape and prostitution case was reported from Kashmir Valley and the Supreme Court had intervened to shift the trial to a special court in Chandigarh. Among the 56 accused in the case were two former ministers, senior bureaucrats, police officers, leading law officers and prominent businessmen of Kashmir. The case not only hit the national headlines for months together, but led to the resignation three years later of then J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah. He withdrew it the next day only after then governor NN Vohra rejected the resignation and gave an assurance that he had got the allegations against Omar investigated by the CBI and found no evidence. The special CBI court in Chandigarh has now found enough evidence to convict five accused under Sections 376 of the Ranbir Penal Code (applicable in the state of J&K), Section 5 of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, among other provisions.…
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Non-Performing Assets: The Scam within a Scam

When the NCLT accepts an insolvency petition, the return routes narrow down. And that is when the reverse bidding process (a backdoor entry) begins. The ordinance wanted to address this part, but the new Section 29A (see box) actually details cases in which the promoter may not be allowed to return. If it had detailed the parameters only through which a return would have been possible, the loophole could possibly have been capped. “There will always be loopholes in laws,” senior corporate lawyer Vidender Ganda told India Legal. “The government has been trying to seal the gaps, but a return route for promoters has not really been denied.” The BSL case is a classic example of why the Code has failed to tame Indian promoters. BSL had been declared a stressed asset with unpaid dues amounting to Rs 56,000 crore and Tata Steel won the bid in an insolvency auction. But when the bidding process was still on, BSL promoter Neeraj Singal had said that promoters put their lives into building a company, meaning that their rights remain immutable. The law and the markets would disagree. But the Tatas’ first move to take control of the newly acquired plant was met with stiff resistance.…
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