Cabinet nod for death in rape of child under 12

Above: Maneka Gandhi    The Union Cabinet today approved an ordinance mandating death penalty to those guilty of raping minors below 12 years of age. The decision comes in the wake of the Kathua gang-rape case which created a huge uproar, prompting the Ministry of Women and Child Development, headed by Maneka Gandhi,  to propose death penalty to those convicted of raping minors below 12 years of age. —India Legal Bureau…
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Will simultaneous polls help democracy?

~By Inderjit Badhwar The issue of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies is once again in the news. A draft white paper has been released by the Law Commission that recommends holding of such elections and even suggests that it could be done in 2019 itself, when Lok Sabha polls will be held. It also moots the idea of making changes in the Constitution to realise the objective. India Legal in its February 12, 2018, editorial had already picked up the issue right after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had floated the idea. The write-up delved into every possible angle involved—legal, political and economic—and analysed the pros and cons as well as the background to find out whether the idea thrown up by Modi had any basis or it was merely backed by political expediency. It is now pertinent and relevant to remind our readers about the edit: To be fair to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the proposal to hold national and state elections simultaneously preceded his recent public advocacy of it by nearly two decades. As early as 1999, the Law Commission, chaired by Justice Jeevan Reddy, supported the idea. More recently, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice came to a similar conclusion.…
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PM Modi breaks silence on Kathua and Unnao rapes, even as UN chief calls Kathua incident “horrific”

After nation-wide public outrage over the horrific Kathua and Unnao rape cases and the widespread criticism of the government’s silence on the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally spoke on Friday (April 13).  And it was just about in time, because a few hours later and the Prime Minister would have been upstaged by no less than UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who called the Kathua incident “horrific.” There has been significant coverage of the incident in the international media. On Saturday (April 14) came a statement from United Nations chief Guterres who termed the gangrape and murder of the eight-year old Asifa as “horrific”. “I think we’ve seen the media reports of this horrific case, of the abuse and the murder of a young girl. We very much hope that the authorities will bring the perpetrators to justice so they can be held accountable for the murder of this young girl,” said Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujjaric told the media at a press conference. Meanwhile, PM Modi said, while speaking at the inauguration of B R Ambedkar Memorial at Delhi’s Alipur Road: “I want to assure the nation that no culprit would be spared. Complete justice will be done. Those daughters will get justice.” Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who had earlier challenged the Prime Minister to speak calling his silence as “unacceptable”, later tweeted and asked PM Modi ‘when’ the daughters were going to get justice.…
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Coasting to Gold

Above: Illustration by Anthony Lawrence ~By Dilip Bobb The usual media hype has accompanied the Indian contingent to the Commonwealth Games being staged in Australia’s appropriately named Gold Coast. India’s gold tally is already being talked about without much objectivity in the analysis. A genuine gold rush would have been possible if the Indian selectors had chosen the following superstars who truly excel in their chosen sport. The alternative Indian team would include: Smriti Irani/Backstroke:  She has been swimming against the tide lately, straining to get ahead of the pack by pushing herself to the limit and trying to break records set by other stalwarts like Rajiv Gandhi and Vasundhara Raje. Like her, they too wound up doing the backstroke after their attempts at freestyle came to naught. The lessons here were obvious: trying to create a splash by intimidating inconvenient opponents can lead to disqualification, and, number two, always consult the coach before switching disciplines. Salman Khan/Shooting:  The aim was always dead on—to use superstardom to showcase being human. However, if the courtside judges have got him dead to rights, then his original aim was off and, even if he did hit the target, the buck now stops with him.…
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Sedition case hearing against Manishankar Aiyar now on May 4

Above: Manishankar Aiyar The Saket District Court on Saturday (April 7) adjourned the hearing on a complaint which sought the lodging of a sedition case against Congress leader Manishankar Aiyar for hosting a meeting with Pakistani officials that allegedly posed a threat to national security. Aiyar had been suspended for six months by his party late last year for comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Earlier the court had sought an action taken report (ATR) from the police on the complaint. The police in the submission filed in the court said that the complaint has been transferred to the crime branch, hence the crime branch is looking into this matter. The matter adjourns to May 4. Petitioner Ajay Agrawal, a lawyer, has also sought an FIR against Aiyar for allegedly uttering “derogatory” words against the Prime Minister. —India Legal Bureau…
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SC/ST Act dilution row: Supreme Court declines urgent hearing of govt’s review petition

Above: Members of Dalit organisations raising slogans during  Bharat Bandh over SC/ST issue, in Lucknow on Monday/Photo: UNI Apex court rejected the centre’s request for urgent hearing of a review petition even as violent protests spread across India, claimed six lives Embattled by protests from leaders of all political hues, including those within the saffron fold, as well as various Dalit organizations, the Centre, on Monday (April 2), moved a petition in the Supreme Court seeking review of its March 20 verdict which diluted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. However, the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra is learnt to have declined the Centre’s request for an urgent hearing of the review petition and has directed that the same may be listed as per usual procedure. The Chief Justice’s decision to not grant an urgent hearing to the petition, moved by the Centre’s Ministry of Social Justice, coincided with widespread violent protests across many Indian states by Dalit and Adivasi organizations over the perceived dilution of the SC/ST Act. The top court’s move could be seen as the second major setback for the Centre on the prevailing row SC/ST Act. Social commentators, Dalit and Adivasi activists and political leaders, including several Dalit MPs of the BJP had earlier slammed the Centre for “mishandling” the case in the apex court which finally led to the bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit declaring, on March 20, that automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the SC/ST Act will no longer be permitted.…
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Racing Against Time

Above: The Justice Clock installed in Jaisalmer House in Delhi/Photo: Anil Shakya Justice clocks will come up in all 24 high courts of the country and are aimed at reducing pendency—the bane of the justice delivery system ~By Justice Narendra Chapalgaonkar When do we put our goals and targets on walls? Perhaps the best-known instance of this happening was during the time of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, who was determined to complete the process of transfer of power before August 15, 1947. He put up a notice board on a wall in his office showing the remaining days of British rule in India. The board must have helped the staff in speeding up the work. Many government and industrial offices follow the practice of displaying the work assigned so that it becomes a target for the workforce there. Such boards also show work actually achieved. With the passage of time, such displays have lost their intended effect and are reduced to a mere formality. While they serve as a reminder to the staff working there, there must be genuineness as far as completion of work is concerned, which such reminders serve to stimulate. NOVEL IDEA In an attempt to tackle the huge pendency of cases in almost all courts of the country, a concerned Union government came up with a novel measure.…
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Terms of Endearment

~By Dilip Bobb Like politics and the global economy, cricket is also experiencing the Great Churn as the ball tampering issue scrapes the gloss off the sport. Ball tampering is only one side of the story. Today, everything we say and do and participate in is a state of flux, or a flux up state, including being up for sale to the highest bidder. All this has created a new terminology as the latest edition of the Cambridge Dictionary, renamed Cambridge Analytica, reveals. Here are the latest terms to get endeared to. Ball Tampering: An exercise in which old terms are rubbed out and replaced by new words that reflect the mood of the moment in a more appropriate fashion (statutory warning: will be understood by cricket lovers only). As example, ball tampering would now describe a community which is morally Bancroft. It also refers to something that is in Starc contrast to the spirit of the game. Could they not see it Cumming? The desperation to make it a one-sided affair has only caused universal Paine. Do they have no Shane? What motivated them to cross the Border? These questions will now be subjected to the DRS system which now stands for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.…
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Demonetisation in India: The Legal Aspect

Arun Kumar, one of India’s foremost economists, and an authority on the black economy, comprehensively analyses the legal and constitutional contours of demonetisation in a new book. Excerpts: Demonetization makes currency that was valid at one point in time invalid. As the prime minister put it in his speech of 8 November 2016: . . . we have decided that the 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender from midnight tonight, that is 8th November 2016. This means that these notes will not be acceptable for transactions from midnight onwards. The 500 and 1,000 rupee notes hoarded by anti-national and anti-social elements will become just worthless pieces of paper. Currency is issued by a country’s Central Bank (in India’s case, the RBI) and has legal sanctity, which is provided by the government. If that legal sanctity is withdrawn, currency becomes worthless pieces of paper. So, the money that was once used for exchange or could be stored for its value cannot be used for these purposes after it is demonetized. In fact, it is no longer money. Demonetization strips a currency unit of its status as legal tender. The Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi, arguing in the Supreme Court on 15 November 2016, made a distinction between demonetization and the withdrawal of legal status for old notes.…
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Festering Womb

Among the most contentious provisions of the proposed legislation is the compulsion for a “close relative” of an intending couple to act as a surrogate. “Firstly, the proposed Bill doesn’t define a close relative. Secondly, making only a close relative of an intending couple eligible to act as a surrogate for their child will have far-reaching and negative ramifications. Consider a scenario where a woman can’t have a child and the only close relative she has is her sister-in-law. Given our patriarchal society, there is a strong possibility that the woman’s family will force the daughter-in-law to act as a surrogate even if she is not willing to do so. How will you stop such exploitation?” points out Dr Shah. There is another possible scenario where this provision for a “close relative” will be problematic, points out Dr Shah. “Having a close relative act as a surrogate always carries the risk of emotional consequences; what if the child finds out later in life about the circumstances of his/her birth. There is the risk of the child growing distant from his legally recognised mother or his biological mother interfering in his upbringing or any number of other issues that could break a family while surrogacy was meant to complete the family,” she said.…
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HISTORY AT YOUR SERVICE?

Above: (Clockwise from top left) Renowned historians Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and British archaeologist the late Mortimer Wheeler   ~By Inderjit Badhwar Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed a committee of “scholars” under the guidance of Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, ostensibly to re-examine and reconstruct Indian history, particularly the ancient and medieval periods, heated arguments have broken out whether this is yet another political tactic by the Sangh Parivar to legitimise its Hindutva-oriented foothold over India. The official answer is that there is no such intention. “We are attempting to capture the antiquity of Indian history, culture and tradition. We will make recommendations and the committee will also be responsible to create resource materials and contents on the same,” a committee member said in response to a newspaper query. He denied the committee was linked to any effort to alter the reading of history. Other sources say the board’s directive could include an inspection of long-held perspective on the advent of Aryans and the fruition of Sanskrit. Saffron pundits have habitually confronted the Aryan “invasion” premise spelled out by some of the world’s most renowned scholars. Actually, as I will demonstrate later with a few examples, the whole exercise really boils down to self-serving “facts” which are manipulated by ruling dispensations to convince people to buy into their political hegemony and dominance.…
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Union cabinet approves Surrogacy Bill amendments, proposes National Surrogacy Board

Bill proposes a ban on commercial surrogacy, setting up of national and state-level boards to regulate surrogacy and prohibit exploitation of surrogate mothers The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday (March 21), gave its approval for moving official amendments in a bill which aims at banning commercial surrogacy, allowing “altruistic surrogacy to needy infertile couples” and its effective regulation in the country. The ‘Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016’ proposes to regulate surrogacy by establishing appropriate authorities at the centre, in states and Union Territories, an official statement said. Once the bill is enacted by the Parliament, a National Surrogacy Board will be constituted and the states and Union Territories will have to constitute the State Surrogacy Board and state appropriate authorities within three months of the notification by the central government. “Once in effect, the Act will regulate the surrogacy services in the country and will control the unethical practices in surrogacy, prevent commercialisation of surrogacy and will prohibit potential exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy,” a press statement issued by the government after the cabinet meeting said. According to the amendments approved by the cabinet, commercial surrogacy – including sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes – will be prohibited while “ethical surrogacy to the needy infertile couples will be allowed on fulfilment of certain conditions and for specific purposes.” The amended Surrogacy Bill aims to benefit “infertile married couples who want to avail ethical surrogacy” and protect the rights of surrogate mothers and children born out of surrogacy.…
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