The HINDU Notes – 22nd October 2019 - VISION

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 22nd October 2019

πŸ“° ‘Giving judgment on policy framework not under RTI’

High Court quashes CIC order to MHRD

•The Delhi High Court has remarked that giving judgment on the policy framework of an organisation and directing change of policies are not envisaged under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

•Justice Jayant Nath quashed a Central Information Commission (CIC) November 11, 2018 order to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to revise the present policy for the selection of meritorious students under the ‘Bal Shree scheme’.

•The court said the directions were “clearly beyond the statutory framework and powers of the CIC”. The Ministry had appealed against the CIC order before the High Court on the ground that it was “bad in law” as the direction given was “beyond the scope, purview and ambit of the RTI Act”. While quashing the Commission’s order, the court said: “Giving judgment on the policy framework of an organisation and directing a change of policy are not envisaged in the RTI Act”. The CIC order had come on an RTI applicant’s plea to the National Bal Bhawan seeking the details regarding the age limit for Bal Bhawan membership and whether it was necessary for being eligible for a ‘Bal Shree award’.

Sought a revamp

•In its order, CIC had said that “for selection of meritorious students [under the Bal Shree scheme], there was a lack of clarity at the District, State and National-level, which requires a complete revamp and reformulation of the policy”.

πŸ“° Uttar Pradesh tops in crimes against women, says NCRB report

Uttar Pradesh tops in crimes against women, says NCRB report
Incidents of atrocities against Scheduled Castes jump from 5,082 to 5,775

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

•As per the report, 3,59,849 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.

•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.

•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.

•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 (23,564 males, 46,798 females and 78 transgender) were recovered/traced,” the report said.

•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).

πŸ“° A road map for criminal justice reforms

Amendments to laws must be based on certain principles

•Home Minister Amit Shah recently said that the Bureau of Police Research and Development should work on a proposal to amend various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The reason for this decision, the direction the exercise should take, and the changes envisaged in the laws are not clear. Therefore, before introducing changes, the Home Ministry must first identify the provisions to be revised and provide a justification for doing so. Until now, envisaged amendments were always focused on specific provisions, offences, or classes of offences. The clarity required for the creation of new offences, reclassification or removal of existing offences, and changes to the quantum of punishment is missing from the discourse.

Keeping principles in mind

•It is not our case that criminal laws do not need revision, but that they do not need unprincipled and unguided amendments. The authors of Codification, Macaulay and the Indian Penal Codesuggest first looking into the general principles of criminal law, the language of the IPC, and the rules which should govern its interpretation. Well-conceived reforms in these laws would automatically translate into massive reforms in criminal justice. Criminal law is considered to be the most apparent expression of the relationship between a state and its citizens. Any revision of the IPC, therefore, needs to be done while keeping several principles in mind.

•First, victimological underpinnings ought to be given a major thrust in reforming laws to identify the rights of crime victims. The launch of victim and witness protection schemes, use of victim impact statements, advent of victim advocacy, increased victim participation in criminal trials, enhanced access of victims to compensation and restitution all point towards the increased role of victims in the criminal justice system.

•Second, construction of new offences and reworking of the existing classification of offences must be informed by the principles of criminal jurisprudence which have substantially altered in the past four decades. For instance, liability questions in offences need a fresh look. Criminal liability could be graded better to assign the degree of punishments. New types of punishments like community service orders, restitution orders, and other aspects of restorative and reformative justice could also be brought in this fold.

•Third, the scheme of chapters and classification of offences can be drastically reworked. Offences like criminal conspiracy, sedition, offences against coin and stamps etc. must be abolished or replaced. Chapters of the IPC are overloaded at several places. It is unnecessary to have hundreds of sections in the category of property offences. Even the chapters on offences against public servants, contempt of authority, public tranquility, and trespass can be redefined and narrowed. New offences under a fresh classification scheme, like those suggested by the Malimath Committee on criminal justice reforms, can be introduced. Classification of offences must be done in a manner conducive to management of crimes in the future.

•Unprincipled criminalisation must be avoided to save the state from dealing with too many entrants into the criminal justice system. Guiding principles need to be developed after sufficient debate before criminalising an act as a crime. Unprincipled criminalisation often leads to not only the creation of new offences on unscientific grounds, but also arbitrariness in the criminal justice system.

•On the procedural side, sentencing reforms are highly imperative. Principled sentencing is needed as judges at present have the discretion to decide the quantum and nature of sentence to be imposed and often sentence convicts differently for crimes of the same nature and/or gravity.

A new policy

•Criminal justice is directionless and in a state of policy ambiguity. India needs to draft a clear policy that should inform the changes to be envisaged in the IPC or CrPC. Another systemic error is that of non-adherence to a particular theory of punishment. The criminal justice system often swings between the three theories of deterrence, retribution and reformation depending on its convenience.

•Finally, these reforms will be of no consequence unless simultaneous improvements are made in the police, prosecution, judiciary and in prisons.

•A Criminal Justice Reform Committee with a mandate to evolve criminal justice policy should be formed for this exercise. It should be in furtherance to the work done by the Menon Committee on Criminal Justice System, the Malimath Committee, and the Law Commission in India in this regard.

πŸ“° Safe, but not entirely: On milk safety survey

The presence of aflatoxin M1 in milk points to the need to regulate cattle fodder

•The “most comprehensive and representative” milk safety and quality survey has demolished the perception of large-scale milk adulteration in India. It was undertaken on 6,432 samples collected last year between May and October, and picked from over 1,100 town/cities with over 50,000 population. The survey by an independent agency at the behest of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) found 93% of the samples were absolutely safe. The samples were tested for 13 common adulterants and three contaminants — pesticides, aflatoxin M1 and antibiotics. Only 12 adulterated samples were found to be unsafe for consumption. The adulterated samples — they were also subjected to confirmatory tests — were from just three States: Telangana (nine), Madhya Pradesh (two) and Kerala (one). The survey claims that quantitative analysis of all adulterated samples showed the amount of adulterants and contaminants in the dozen samples was not high and hence “unlikely to pose serious threat” to human health. However, it did find 368 samples (5.7%) had aflatoxin M1 residues beyond the permissible limit of 0.5 microgram per kilogram. Compared with aflatoxin M1, antibiotics were seen above the permissible level in 77 samples, from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

•At 227, aflatoxin M1 was more widely present in processed milk samples than in raw milk (141). This is the first time the presence of the contaminant in milk has been assessed. According to the FSSAI, aflatoxin M1 in milk is from feed and fodder, which is not regulated. The highest residue levels of aflatoxin M1 in milk were seen in samples from three States — Tamil Nadu (88 out of 551 samples), Delhi (38 out of 262) and Kerala (37 out of 187). According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer the contaminant has been classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Its carcinogenic potency is estimated to be about a one-tenth of aflatoxin B1. Since the current survey has limited itself to milk, it is not clear how widespread aflatoxin M1 contamination is in milk products such as cheese, and hence the total exposure to it. Aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is a public health concern especially in infants and young children as milk constitutes one of the major sources of nutrients. According to the World Health Organisation, exposure to aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is especially high in areas where the grain quality used as animal feed is poor. Hence all attempts need to taken both before and after food crop harvest to reduce the toxin amount. Improper storage of food harvest in warm and humid conditions leads to aflatoxin contamination that is much higher than what is seen in the field. Equally important is in having facilities to regularly test for aflatoxin M1.

πŸ“° ‘Total wealth in India touches $12.6 trillion’

Country now fifth globally in terms of number of ultra-high net-worth individuals

•Total wealth in India increased fourfold between 2000 and 2019, reaching $12.6 trillion in 2019, making India the fifth globally in terms of the number of ultra-high net-worth individuals, as per a Credit Suisse study.

•According to the study, the wealth per adult in India grew by an average of 11% annually over the period 2000–2019 and the wealth per adult is estimated at $14,569 in mid-2019 after a year of moderate growth.

•“Prior to 2008, wealth rose strongly, from $2,127 in 2000 to $6,378 in 2007. After falling 29% in 2008, it rebounded and grew at an average rate of 12% up to 2019,” said the report while adding that personal wealth in India is dominated by property and other real assets, which make up the bulk of household assets.

•Incidentally, while India has 8.27 lakh adults in the top 1% of global wealth holders – 1.6% share of the global pool — it is estimated that India has 4,460 adults with wealth of over $50 million and 1,790 that have more than $100 million.

•However, the study also found that while the number of wealthy people in India has been on the rise, a larger section of the population has still not been part of the growth in overall wealth.

•“While wealth has been rising in India, not everyone has shared in this growth. There is still considerable wealth poverty, reflected in the fact that 78% of the adult population has wealth below $10,000,” stated the report, while highlighting the fact that a small fraction of the population — 1.8% of adults — has a net worth of more than $100,000. Meanwhile, as per the financial major, India is expected to grow its wealth very rapidly and add $4.4 trillion in just five years, reflecting an increase of 43%.

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