The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 passed – Children in India get a new Law

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, has been passed by the Lok Sabha today, 22nd May, 2012. The Bill was earlier passed by the Rajya Sabha on 10th May, 2012.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 has been drafted to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation. For the first time, a special law has been passed to address the issue of sexual offences against children.

 Sexual offences are currently covered under different sections of IPC. The IPC does not provide for all types of sexual offences against children and, more importantly, does not distinguish between adult and child victims.

 The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. These offences have been clearly defined for the first time in law. The Act provides for stringent punishments, which have been graded as per the gravity of the offence. The punishments range from simple to rigorous imprisonment of varying periods. There is also provision for fine, which is to be decided by the Court.

An offence is treated as “aggravated” when committed by a person in a position of trust or authority of child such as a member of security forces, police officer, public servant, etc.

 Punishments for Offences covered in the Act are:

  1. Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 3) –  Not less than seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 4)
  2.  Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 5) –­ Not less than ten years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 6)
  3. Sexual Assault (Section 7) – Not less than three years which may extend to five years, and fine  (Section 8 )
  4. Aggravated Sexual Assault (Section 9) – Not less than five years which may extend to seven years, and fine (Section 10)
  5. Sexual Harassment of the Child (Section 11) – Three years and fine (Section 12)
  6. Use of Child for Pornographic Purposes (Section 13) –  Five years and fine and in the event of subsequent conviction, seven years and fine (Section 14 (1))

The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the Act, keeping the best interest of the child as of paramount importance at every stage of the judicial process. The Act incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences. These include:

  1. Recording the statement of the child at the residence of the child or at the place of his choice, preferably by a woman police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector
  2. No child to be detained in the police station in the night for any reason.
  3. Police officer to not be in uniform while recording the statement of the child
  4. The statement of the child to be recorded as spoken by the child
  5. Assistance of an interpreter or translator or an expert as per the need of the child
  6. Assistance of special educator or any person familiar with the manner of communication  of the child in case child is disabled
  7. Medical examination of the child to be conducted in the presence of the parent of the child or any other person in whom the child has trust or confidence.
  8. In case the victim is a girl child, the medical examination shall be conducted by a woman doctor.
  9. Frequent breaks for the child during trial
  10. Child not to be called repeatedly to testify
  11. No aggressive questioning or character assassination of the child
  12. In-camera trial of cases

The Act recognizes that the intent to commit an offence, even when unsuccessful for whatever reason, needs to be penalized. The attempt to commit an offence under the Act has been made liable for punishment for upto half the punishment prescribed for the commission of the offence. The Act also provides for punishment for abetment of the offence, which is the same as for the commission of the offence. This would cover trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

For the more heinous offences of Penetrative Sexual Assault, Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault, the burden of proof is shifted on the accused. This provision has been made keeping in view the greater vulnerability and innocence of children. At the same time, to prevent misuse of the law, punishment has been provided for making false complaint or proving false information with malicious intent. Such punishment has been kept relatively light (six months) to encourage reporting. If false complaint is made against a child, punishment is higher (one year).

The media has been barred from disclosing the identity of the child without the permission of the Special Court. The punishment for breaching this provision by media may be from six months to one year.

For speedy trial, the Act provides for the evidence of the child to be recorded within a period of 30 days. Also, the Special Court is to complete the trial within a period of one year, as far as possible.

To provide for relief and rehabilitation of the child, as soon as the complaint is made to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or local police, these will make immediate arrangements to give the child, care and protection such as admitting the child into shelter home or to the nearest hospital within twenty-four hours of the report. The SJPU or the local police are also required to report the matter to the Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours of recording the complaint, for long term rehabilitation of the child.

The Act casts a duty on the Central and State Governments to spread awareness through media including the television, radio and the print media at regular intervals to make the general public, children as well as their parents and guardians aware of the provisions of this Act.

The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) have been made the designated authority to monitor the implementation of the Act.

  1.  SCR summary-Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill
  2. SCR Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill 2011
  3. Children  sexual offences
  4. Bill Summary – The Protection of children from sexual harassment Bill, 2011
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From Chief Minister to Chief Censor

From Chief Minister to Chief Censor

From Chief Minister to Chief Censor

A G NOORANI IN THE HINDU

Mamata Banerjee‘s edict on selection of newspapers is a violation of the citizens’ right to know and is an insult to libraries.

Around 1967, Warren Unna of The Washington Post asked Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray whether he read any books. He received a stunning reply: “I don’t want to mix my thinking with that of others”. The same arrogance, bred by insecurity, explains the order of March 14 made by the West Bengal government headed by Mamata Banerjee: “In public interest the government will not buy newspapers published or purported to be published by any political party, either national or regional, as a measure to develop free thinking among the readers”. The affinities between the two leaders are striking — populism and intolerance of dissent.

However, Mr. Thackeray’s preference concerned him alone. Mamata’s affects 2,463 government-aided libraries, 12 government libraries, 7 government sponsored ones and the State Central Library. All English language dailies were barred. Initially, a mere eight survived — Sangbad Pratidin, Sakalbela, Dainik Statesman, Ekdin, and Khabar 365 Din in Bengali; Sanmarg (Hindi) and Akhbar-e-Mashriq and Azad Hind (Urdu).

Two of the Bengali dailies are headed by two Trinamool Congress MPs of the Rajya Sabha. The Hindi and an Urdu daily are headed by Rajya Sabha MPs of the same party. Sangbad Pratidin, for example, is owned by Srinjoy Bose, a party MP. Its associate editor Kunal Ghosh was elected recently to the Rajya Sabha on the Trinamool ticket to give the owner company. After an uproar, five more papers were added on March 28; namely, Himalaya Darpan (Nepali), Sarsagar (Santhali periodical), The Times of India, and two others.

‘First instance’

There is another aspect, besides. The right to select papers belongs to the management of each library depending on the demand among the readers in that particular area. A central edict is an insult to them. Ms Banerjee’s order also flagrantly violates the citizens’ right to know. It is not for any Minister to prescribe a select bibliography to the Indian citizen. An official acknowledged on March 28: “This is the first instance of such a circular. The management boards of libraries have so far been the final authority on deciding which newspapers and periodicals to offer, on the basis of readers’ demands”. Now the readers are asked to read what Kolkata deems fit for their minds; “in public interest”, of course.

Arbitrary orders are invariably defended by absurd and contradictory explanations. On March 29, Mamata Banerjee and her Sancho Panza, Abdul Karim, Mass Education and Library Services Minister, explained: “We will promote local and small newspapers”. Some dailies on her approved list will not be flattered by this decision apart from the impropriety of State funding of the press.

There is a judicial ruling directly on point by a judge of eminence, Lord Justice Watkins, in the Queen’s Bench Division on November 5, 1986 (R. vs. Ealing Borough Council, ex. p. Times Newspapers Ltd. (1987) 85 L.G.R. 316). He quashed decisions by some borough councils in the U.K. to ban from public libraries within their areas newspapers and periodicals published by Times Newspapers and News Group Newspapers for the duration of an industrial dispute between them and their employees. This was done as a gesture of support to the employees. The court ruled that the authorities had taken into account an irrelevant factor and abused their powers as library authorities under the Public Libraries and Museums Act, 1964. In India, the Constitution itself will render such an act invalid as being an abuse of state power.

The petitioners, represented by Anthony Lester, Q.C., relied on Section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act, 1964, which reads thus: “(1) It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof; (2) In fulfilling its duty under the preceding subsection, a library authority shall in particular have regard to the desirability — (a) of securing … that facilities are available for the borrowing of, of reference to, books and other printed materials, sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements of both adults and children …”

The abuse of power was blatant. The councils had but one purpose, namely to punish Rupert Murdoch for his stand in the industrial dispute. The ban was clearly for a purpose ulterior to Section 7. The violation of Section 7 was deliberate and wilful.

India’s written Constitution repairs the omission of any such statute. As H.M. Seervai pointed out in his work Constitutional Law of India, Article 294 vests the assets and properties in the Union or the State Governments, respectively, for the purpose of the Union or the State, in short, for a public purpose.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1884 that “the United States does not and cannot hold property, as a monarch may, for private or personal purposes. All the property and revenues of the United States must be held and applied, as all taxes, duties, imposts and excises must be laid and collected, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States” (Van Brocklin vs Anderson; (1884-85 U.S. 117 U*S.151 at 158). Arbitrary expenditure unrelated to public purpose also violates the fundamental right to equality (Art. 14).

Landmark ruling

The Supreme Court of India’s landmark ruling in the International Airport Authorities Case in 1979 opened another avenue of challenge. Justice P.N. Bhagwati held: “The Government cannot be permitted to say that it will give jobs or enter into contracts or issue quotas or licences only in favour of those having grey hair or belonging to a particular political party or professing a particular religious faith. The Government is still the Government when it acts in the matter of granting largesse and it cannot act arbitrarily. It does not stand in the same position as a private individual…

“It must, therefore, be taken to be the law that where the Government is dealing with the public, whether by way of giving jobs or entering into contracts or issuing quotas or licences or granting other forms of largesse, the Government cannot act arbitrarily at its sweet will and, like a private individual, deal with any person it pleases, but its action must be in conformity with standard or norms which are not arbitrary, irrational or irrelevant.”

These tests render the order of March 14 a nullity on the very face of it. The Courts can strike it down suo moto or on the petition of any citizen.

They will render high service if they did so. For, it will provide a speedy and effective cure to a mindset which is completely out of sync with constitutional values and curbs. Ads have been stopped to “small” papers which depended on them for sheer survival. On Fools’ Day, it was disclosed that the list of Banga Bibhushan awardees, who received Rs. 2 lakh each, included artistes, poets and writers who had campaigned for the Trinamool. Didi looks after her own, albeit at public expense. An Urdu saying casts her in a different light — “Halvai ki dukan par nanaji ki fateha (Prayers for the soul of grandpa at the sweet maker’s shop, at his cost).

From Chief Minister to Chief Censor

We want a lean, mean Lokpal: Abhishek Singhvi

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Lokpal Bill, on corruption and the most pragmatic ways to check it.

Rajya Sabha MP and Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi chaired the 30-member parliamentary panel that presented its voluminous report earlier this month on the Lokpal Bill 2011. The report has points of divergence with both the official Lokpal Bill draft and the Team Anna version. (The Union Cabinet on Tuesday night approved a Bill for the creation of the Lokpal with constitutional status that will have no control over the CBI but brings within its purview the Prime Minister with a number of safeguards.) Excerpts from an interview with Mukund Padmanabhan, held earlier in the day.

At the heart of the upsurge of public anger against corruption, which a strong Lokpal Bill has come to symbolise, is a basic truth. Namely, that our criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to corruption, is constantly subverted by political interference in the work of investigation and prosecution agencies. Do you agree?

I agree with the sentiment but not with the way you put it. I think you are entirely right in that there is a great amount of legitimate frustration about the criminal justice system, the sloth and the inefficiency.

I will not deny political interference. But I believe that its statistical occurrence is highly exaggerated. Also, at least during the last five years of transparency and media scrutiny, it is not that easy for the CBI and the police forces to convert black into white. Lastly, the attempts at political interference may be greater than the actual results because there is a great amount of both judicial and media scrutiny.

So in other words, judicial delay is a bigger problem than the lack of an independent investigation and prosecution mechanism?

Far bigger. The second is definitely there, but exaggerated.

Your preface in the standing committee report on the Lokpal Bill presented to the Rajya Sabha strikes a philosophical note. You state that the Lokpal Bill resides in the limited ex-post facto punitive sphere and is no substitute for significant “prophylactic” initiatives. It’s impossible to disagree with this, but it raises the obvious question: what have we been doing about preventive mechanisms all this while?

Progress has been made but it has been slow. But during the last year and a half, the progress on corruption — including prophylactic measures — has been remarkable. Unfortunately, in the debate on the Lokpal, which is a very important punitive measure, the prophylactic and policy initiatives have got lost. As I said in my report, sometimes policy is more important than law.

Allow me to list you some of the steps taken. Roughly 62 bilaterals and 20 further one-to-one treaties [have been signed] in the last two years on black money. It now means that there are 80-odd countries around the world that are obliged to give you information on this. The Whistleblowers’ Bill, a recommendation of our standing committee, will come [before Parliament] very shortly. The Citizens’ Charter Bill will possibly be introduced with the Lokpal Bill or in the next session.

The report of the Ashok Chawla Committee [set up to recommend how government allocates key natural resources] has made specific suggestions. According to me, there are three areas — realty, mining, discretionary powers. There is a listing of all the discretionary powers at the Central-government-level in each department, many of which can be abolished. This itself will make a huge difference. On mining, we are on the threshold of a brand new law; the existing mining law is antiquated and breeds corruption. As for real estate, both the Land Acquisition Bill and other policy initiatives on black money will make a lot of difference. These initiatives will have an effect if they are applied synergistically and given at least two years to operate.

Coming back to the Lokpal, there were sharp divisions in the parliamentary panel you headed on key issues. At the same time, you suggested that the dissent was minimal and there was a considerable amount of unity on a range of issues. In what areas do you think the standing committee made advances vis-à-vis the earlier draft of the Lokpal Bill?

This is a very important question. This report is nowhere like a government draft. Chalk and cheese, earth and sky — that is the difference. Our approach has been not merely to look at the Lokpal Bill draft, or the Jan Lokpal draft or the Aruna Roy draft.

Ours has been to see that the overall structure is workable, valid and efficacious. We believe that in many areas the Jan Lokpal is too starry-eyed and idealistic, and not workable. In some areas, we believe the government draft is retrogressive.

So we have struck a new course. Consider the dissent, which there has been a lot of misinformation about. This was not a normal committee report. It was unusual because in two-and-a-half months, it decided on 23 issues, not just one or two like most committees. Of the 23, there was absolute unanimity on 12 issues. Of the remaining 11, in three issues there was a majority of 29 and only one dissenting voice. On another six, there were 22 for and eight dissents. There was real dissent only on two issues — the CBI (20 to 10) and the inclusion of the lower bureaucracy (17 to 13).

But going by Team Anna and the attention they receive in the media, aren’t these issues the nub? And on the question of including the Prime Minister under the Lokpal, the standing committee left this to Parliament…

Sorry, but there is no dissent there. I could have given the majority view which was for inclusion with deferred prosecution. I was excessively reasonable in putting forward three [divergent] views, all of which had resonance.

Team Anna alleged that by leaving the Citizens’ Charter and the lower bureaucracy out, you had disrespected Parliament and violated the Sense of the House resolution passed in August.

This is a complete misunderstanding. Look at what the Finance Minister said in his reply to the debate in Parliament, which is quoted in the report. He said, “This House agrees in principle on the Citizens Charter, Lower Bureaucracy to be brought under Lokpal through appropriate mechanism and establishment of Lok Ayuktas in the States.” What this suggests is that we must pass a law on the Citizens’ Charter, which we are doing. As for the Lok Ayuktas, we have recommended a common Lokpal-Lok Ayukta Bill, something that goes against the government draft. Being under the Lokpal only applies to the lower bureaucracy. But look at the resolution closely. It says the lower bureaucracy must be brought under the Lokpal through an “appropriate mechanism”…

…Which you imply you have addressed by making the Central Vigilance Commission, which will cover the ‘C’ and ‘D’ level employees, accountable in a way to the Lokpal?

Yes, there is a method to the madness. We don’t want a top-heavy Lokpal set up. We want it to be lean, mean and efficient. To prevent a new organisation from becoming top heavy, if you utilise the CVC, which for the first time will have ‘C’ class employees under it, aren’t we improving the situation? The CVC will then be obliged to file two or three monthly reports to the Lokpal, which will then issue advisories on the basis of this.

The standing committee has recommended both Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ officials come under the Lokpal, unlike the government draft which included only ‘A’. We made a huge jump — this is being forgotten in the controversy. From ‘A’ to ‘B’, the group comprises everyone down from Prime Minister to Section Officer.

Wasn’t the Lokpal conceived as a new mechanism to deal with medium-ticket and big-ticket corruption? Or was it to go below level ‘C’ and include drivers, clerks and peons?

I am not suggesting that drivers and peons are not corrupt. But the Section Officer is the first to write an opinion on the file. From there on it goes upwards. We have said that the ‘C’ group which was not covered until now should come under the CVC. What wrong have we done? They speak as if we have cheated the nation.

There is also a certain amount of misinformation circulating regarding the CBI and investigation. The report deals entirely with Lokpal-referred investigations. The suggestions in it regarding preliminary inquiry, abolition of sanction, separation of investigation and prosecution et cetera are all recommendations made in the context of Lokpal-referred investigation.

It does not seek to deal with a large number of other cases dealt with by the CBI, including murders or those referred to the agency by the higher judiciary.

Isn’t it odd that a legislation to check corruption in government should include NGOs, corporates and the media? This seems a little like tit-for-tat. The NGOs and the media wanted strong legislation against official corruption, so lets put them into the net as well.

This is not true. We have included only NGOs, companies, associations, trusts owned or controlled by the government or those that receive large public donations. The other test is whether they receive donations above a certain amount under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. There are figures to show the volume of foreign funding is enormous and the accountability of this is very limited.

And this is necessary? Wouldn’t it dilute the work of a lean, mean Lokpal?

This is necessary because you are dealing with corruption. Today, corruption is accountability. Look at the United Kingdom Bribery Act, a remarkable piece of legislation, which applies to literally everybody — the public and private sectors, U.K. firms acting abroad, non-U.K. citizens acting in the U.K. We have said we need a model like this in tackling bribery. You can’t draw artificial Chinese walls when it comes to a particular sector.

Compulsory Registration of Marriages

Compulsory Registration of Marriages The Supreme Court vide its judgment dated 14.02.2006 in Seema Vs. Ashwani Kumar (AIR 2006 S.C 1158) has directed the State Governments and the Central Government that marriages of all persons who are citizens of India belonging to various religious denomination should be made compulsorily registerable in their respective States where such marriages are solemnized.

Giving this information in written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha this week, Shri Salman Khurshid, Minister of Law & Justice, said that it is not correct to say that the process of registration of marriages is cumbersome. The process for compulsory registration of marriage is worked out by respective State Governments and the Union Territory Administrations by making suitable legislation/ rules or by amending existing legislation/ rules on the basis of the situation obtained in their respective territories to make the process simple and easier. Hence, no separate action by the Central Government is considered necessary, Shri Khurshid said.

Jan Lokpal Bill and Parliament

Social activist Anna Hazare having a word with his team members Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan during the fast for Jan Lokpal Bill at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.

Social activist Anna Hazare having a word with his team members Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan during the fast for Jan Lokpal Bill at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.

SHANTI BHUSHAN IN THE HINDU

Is the Bill within the legislative competence of Parliament? Yes.

All provisions in Anna Hazare‘s Jan Lokpal Bill are within the legislative competence of Parliament, including the provisions relating to Lokayuktas in the States. Some confusion is being spread in the media that Parliament cannot enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill, particularly those relating to the Lokayuktas in the States, a law for which will have to be enacted by the State Legislatures themselves. Any constitutional jurist would confirm that there is no substance in this impression and that Parliament is fully competent to enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Parliament can enact any law if the “pith and substance” of that law is covered by any entry in the Union List or any entry in the Concurrent List. Entry 97 of the Union List is as follows: “Any other matter not enumerated in list 2 or list 3 including any tax not mentioned in either of those lists.”

The effect of this is that unless the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill falls squarely under any of the entries in the State List, Parliament cannot be denied the legislative competence to enact the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Even a student of law would tell you that the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill does not fall under any entry in the State list.

One of the entries in the Union List is entry No.14: “entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries.” Article 253 provides that “Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.” The effect of Article 253 is that even if the pith and substance of an Act is squarely covered by an entry in the State List, even then if the enactment is for implementing a U.N. Convention, Parliament would still be competent to enact the legislation.

As the statement of objects and reasons of the Jan Lokpal Bill would show, the object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to implement the United Nations Convention on Corruption, which has already been ratified by India (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/index.html).

The definition of “public official” in the U.N. Convention includes any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative, or judicial office, whether appointed or elected. This is quite similar to the definition of “public servant” in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, enacted by India’s Parliament, which covers all Ministers including the Prime Minister, all judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court as well as all elected Members of Parliament and State Legislatures. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Prevention of Corruption Act was enacted by Parliament and not by any State Legislature, even though it is applicable not only to Central government servants but also to servants of the State governments. The main object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to set up an independent authority as required by the U.N. Convention to investigate offences of corruption by all public servants covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Entry 1 of the Concurrent List refers to criminal law, including all matters included in the Indian Penal Code. As bribery and corruption were covered by the Indian Penal Code, Parliament had full competence to enact the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Entry 2 of the Concurrent List relates to criminal procedure, including all matters included in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Since the investigation of bribery and corruption was included in the Code of Criminal Procedure, Parliament is fully competent to enact a law to provide for alternative methods of investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Article 8 (2) of the U.N. Convention requires each state that is a party to the Convention to apply, within its own institutional and legal systems, codes or standards of conduct for the correct, honourable, and proper performance of public functions.

Article 8 (5) further requires the states to establish systems requiring public officials to make declarations regarding their outside activities, employment, investments, assets, and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result with respect to their functions as public officials.

Article 8 (6) further requires the states to take disciplinary or other measures against public officials who violate the codes or standards established in accordance with the convention.

Article 12 (2) requires the taking of measures for preventing the misuse of procedures regulating private entities, including procedures regarding subsidies and licences granted by public authorities for commercial activities. It further requires the imposition of restrictions for a reasonable period of time on the professional activities of former public officials after their resignation or retirement, where such activities of employment relate directly to the functions held or supervised by those public officials during their tenure.

Article 34 of the Convention requires the states to consider corruption a relevant factor in legal proceedings to annul or rescind a contract, withdraw a concession or other similar instrument, or take any other remedial action. It would be crystal clear to any constitutional jurist that even if the Jan Lokpal Bill had not been for the purpose of implementing the U.N. Convention, all its provisions would be squarely covered by the Union List and the Concurrent List.

While one can understand the anxiety of political parties to somehow attempt to dilute the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill by reducing its coverage or to weaken it, they owe it to the people of India not to mislead the gullible people that Parliament is not competent to enact the provisions contained in Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill. Even the claim that at the least the States are required to be consulted has no basis at all. The Constitution-makers had foreseen that in a federal or quasi-federal country, the States’ views had to be taken into consideration by Parliament when enacting a law. They had, therefore, provided for the Council of States and a Bill cannot be enacted by Parliament unless it is passed both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The constitution of the Rajya Sabha provides that each State elects its representatives to this House. Thus all States are represented in the Rajya Sabha. The MPs in the Rajya Sabha are there to represent the views of the states on any Bill that comes before it and there is thus an inbuilt mechanism in the Constitution itself to provide for taking into consideration the views of the States on a Bill that is being enacted by Parliament.

(Shanti Bhushan, a constitutional expert, is a former Union Law Minister and member of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill.)

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2430078.ece?homepage=true

‘Genuine movement’

Arun Jaitley

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VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN & AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA IN THE FRONTLINE

Interview with Arun Jaitley, BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

THE interventions in the monsoon session of Parliament by Arun Jaitley, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, have been rated as “masterly” by a large number of seasoned Parliament-watchers. During the course of these interventions, which saw him make important observations on the legal and constitutional dimensions of the issues relating to corruption and the Lokpal Bill, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader also adopted the role of an “in-depth political analyst and visionary” who had cast off the limitations of a “narrow, sectarian politician”. In this interview to Frontline, Jaitley elaborated on these interventions and delineated his understanding of the future course of action on issues such as the Lokpal Bill. Excerpts:

Parliament has conceded three points raised by Team Anna on the Lokpal Bill, and the Standing Committee is going to look at the provisions of the Bill. What will be the broad road map on the issue?

Logically, all issues and viewpoints on which parliamentary consensus was built up after the recent debates will be placed before the Standing Committee. The committee should hold extensive public consultations and come out with a report expeditiously so that the final draft, with amendments, can be approved by the Cabinet. Hopefully, the government will introduce the amended Bill in the winter session.

What is the BJP’s position on the Lokpal issue?

There are two underlying principles that should guide the issue. There should be wide scope for government offices coming under the Lokpal’s jurisdiction. It should be a strong, independent Lokpal. The judiciary should have an alternative mechanism, where I prefer the National Judicial Commission. The appointment mechanisms should be completely independent; not excluding the government, but the government should not be able to be dominate or control it. So it should be an institutional mechanism. And it should be a mechanism where we are able to eventually bring in various other institutions. The institution of Lokpal should follow fair procedures. For instance, we should be able to bring in [under its purview] civil servants who work in state instrumentalities.

The only other factor that should be taken into consideration is that the Lokpal Bill should be consistent with constitutional requirements. There are four areas that need to be stressed in this connection. One, when you deal with the judiciary, you have to keep it independent of the executive. Therefore, the mechanism for the judiciary should be separate and not executive-centric.

Two, the principles of federal polity enshrined in the Constitution should not be affected by the Lokpal Bill. The Centre pressing for Lokayuktas in the States can compromise the federal principles of the Constitution. For instance, can the Centre legislate on a law dealing with State bureaucracy? My prima facie view is that with regard to some criminal law procedures, the Centre can, but not with regard to disciplinary and inquiry procedures against the State bureaucracy. The Centre can at best pass an enabling law under Article 252 of the Constitution [Power of Parliament to legislate for two or more States by consent and adoption of such legislation by any other State] or a model law, but not a binding law. The States will have to do it. Therefore, the fight against corruption should not compromise the federal principles. I have already spoken about the issue to Team Anna.

Three, in relation to the conduct of the Members of Parliament inside the House, the Bill should be consistent with Article 105 of the Constitution [power and privileges of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees].

Four, in relation to who takes disciplinary action – those who hold a civil post in the Central and State governments have protection under Article 307; that constitutional protection should not be affected.

Now, having covered all these areas, we can say that the Prime Minister should be covered but we can exclude certain functions; functions predominantly in the areas of public order and national security.

There is a suggestion that the functions of intelligence agencies relating to external affairs should not be covered. These are issues that should be fine-tuned by the Standing Committee.

There are other questions, too. Such as whether the entire bureaucracy should be covered and whether it should be entirely under the Lokpal. I think we would like the entire bureaucracy to be accountable. But the government has said there can be a splitting of functions in which the lower bureaucracy can come under the Central Vigilance Commission. There is a third proposal, that the lower bureaucracy can be put under a CVC, which in turn could be monitored by the Lokpal.

Should MPs be covered? Yes, obviously, but what they say inside the House, protected by the privileges of Article 105, should not be covered. These are issues of workability and accountability, which the Standing Committee can look into keeping the major principles in mind.

I have objected to only one point that is found in both the Bills [the Jan Lokpal and the government’s Bill], that is, the bugging of telephones. This can compromise national security. It violates personal liberty. I hope the Standing Committee will consider this.

The idea of attaching property of those charged with corruption has also raised objections.

There are already laws in some States that address this issue. There is a law of 1945 called Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance. The principle behind attaching property is that you cannot profit out of corruption. The court can attach corrupt money, not an executive authority, and use it for national development. The money should not wither away or you should not be able to dispose of the corrupt money. Proceeds of narcotics and smuggling money are invested in the state. Why not in the case of corrupt money? Bihar has brought this law. Other States are following suit.

There is a view that the BJP has spoken in different voices, especially with regard to the Jan Lokpal Bill.

The positions I have enunciated in Parliament are the party’s positions.

 Several votaries of the Jan Lokpal Bill hold the view that the existing anti-corruption laws are completely faulty and inefficient. Do you agree?

I think to say they are completely faulty may not be correct. They are a bit lax, a bit liberal, and capable of misuse. At times the law works, at times it does not. Seeing the enormity of corruption, you do not see so many people punished. A Lokpal may not be able to eliminate corruption but the fear of the Lokpal and of being tried under a fair mechanism may certainly be some kind of a deterrent.

Do you think this movement has created an unprecedented public sensibility?

I think this movement was genuine. No major parties participated. Sympathisers and workers did join it, but in their capacity as citizens. It was genuinely a citizens’ movement. It had a lot of goodwill. Such kind of consciousness is a positive development in India.

Do you subscribe to the view that such protest methods are symbolic of bypassing representative democracy?

I do not think it is fair to say that they were bypassing [representative democracy]. They were not saying they had the power to legislate, and not Parliament. Yes, they did bring pressure on Parliament. But we should treat them as a pressure group. They have the right to campaign and we have an obligation to listen to them. I think the government did not have a game plan. I have spoken to Team Anna at least three times. And on most issues, I have found its stand to be extremely reasonable, and after a little diversion we have converged on the same opinion. On the question of excluding certain functions of the Prime Minister, we are of the same view. Regarding the judiciary, we are of the same opinion also.

 There is a feeling in many quarters that the political class as a whole has lost the moral authority in the context of the movement.

I do not think this is fair. You see, there is a campaign against the political class. The campaign is also against Parliament. I still believe that there are still a large number of good and honest people in various political parties. There are aberrations also. But there is still a space for decency and ethics in politics and that space is being encouraged by such strong public opinion. There is no reason to be cynical. But if you pick up each one of the debates in Parliament in this session, I can tell you some of the debates have been exemplary. For instance, if you see the debate on the day Anna Hazare was arrested, or on the Lokpal Bill, or the impeachment debate, the quality has been very good. The fact is that if private television channels feel that the debates are bringing them TRPs and they cut out to Parliament for speeches, that itself means that people are interested. The stronger the public opinion, the more the viewership of parliamentary speeches, both in the electronic and the print media.

Provocative statements are being made against Parliament. We must not be vindictive in our actions even then. We should not make angry reactions or get provoked. What we do on the issues will be our response to the people. Even without this movement, States such as Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have brought out Citizens’ Charters. This is a significant response and this is the way it should be.

http://www.frontline.in/stories/20110923281901400.htm

Objection, your honour

THE ROT IN JUDICIARY

THE ROT IN JUDICIARY

SATYA PRAKASH IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

As Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court faces impeachment proceedings, the focus is back on corruption in the Indian judiciary, often accused of opposing measures to introduce transparency and accountability in an institution that also judges the works of the Legislature and the

Executive.

During the debate on the resolution in the Rajya Sabha to remove Justice Sen, cutting across party lines, MPs attacked the judiciary for corruption, lack of accountability and the collegium system of appointments, in which the executive hardly has any role to play. No wonder, in his farewell speech, Justice VS Sirpurkar of the Supreme Court described the statements against the judiciary as “indigestible”.

Should the Judiciary be under Lokpal?
Gandhian Anna Hazare, who had been on an indefinite fast since August 16 to demand a strong Lokpal (anti-corruption ombudsman), first demanded that the judiciary be brought under the Lokpal. However, team Anna is now said to have agreed to keep the judiciary out of the purview of the Lokpal if the government simultaneously brings the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill with strong provisions to deal with judicial corruption.

“Judiciary can’t be covered by this (proposed) Lokpal. It should be covered by another alternative mechanism. We call it the National Judicial Commission,” leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said on August 18, during the debate on Sen’s impeachment.
According to former Chief Justice of India PN Bhagwati, bringing the judiciary under the Lokpal would “seriously” affect its independence. Only a “specialised agency” should be entrusted to ensure accountability in the judiciary, whose autonomy could be compromised if brought under the Lokpal, Bhagwati said in an open letter to Hazare.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010
The UPA government introduced the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 1, 2010. It proposes to lay down judicial standards, provide for the accountability of judges, and requires them to declare their assets and liabilities, and also that of their spouse and children.

The Bill requires judges to practise universally accepted values of judicial life, such as prohibition on close association with individual members of the Bar who practise in the same court as the judge and allowing family members who are members of the Bar to use the judge’s residence for professional work.

Law Commission Vice Chairman KTS Tulsi terms it a historic step, saying, “For the first time judges’ conduct is being defined by a statute.”
The proposed law is to replace the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 that lays down procedure for removal of the Supreme Court and high court judges. But most importantly, it empowers the common man to file complaints against judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court.

The numbers game
Under the present system provided for in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, the process for removal of a judge can be initiated through a resolution either by 100 Lok Sabha members or 50 Rajya Sabha members.

After the MPs submit a duly signed motion to the Lok Sabha speaker or Rajya Sabha Chairman, the presiding officer constitutes a three-member committee to probe the allegations and determine if it is a fit case for initiating the impeachment process.

If the panel indicts the judge, the resolution for removal has to be passed by two-thirds majority in both Houses in the same session. The resolution is then sent to the President, who orders removal of the judge. The judge is given an opportunity to defend him/her.

While retaining the reference procedure, the Bill proposes to introduce a complaint procedure to empower the aam admi to file complaints against judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court.

It seeks to establish two authorities — a National Judicial Oversight Committee and a Scrutiny Panel — to investigate complaints against judges.

The Oversight Committee will comprise a retired Chief Justice of India as the chairperson, a judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the sitting Chief Justice of India, a Chief Justice of the High Court, the Attorney General for India, and an eminent person appointed by the President. The scrutiny panel shall comprise a former Chief Justice and two sitting judges of that court.

A Parliamentary panel on Law and justice is said to have recommended inclusion of one MP each from the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the Oversight Committee.  Initial complaints will be made to the Oversight Committee, and they will be referred to the scrutiny panel constituted in the Supreme Court and in every High Court.

If the scrutiny panel feels there are sufficient grounds for proceeding against the judge, it shall report on its findings to the Oversight Committee.

When the panel finds that the complaint is frivolous, or that there not sufficient grounds for inquiring against into the complaint, it shall submit a report to the Oversight Committee giving its findings for not proceeding with the complaint.

If the scrutiny panel recommends investigation into a complaint against a judge, the Oversight Committee will constitute an investigation committee to probe into the complaint. The probe panel will comprise three members. It will frame definite charges against the judge and shall communicate the same to the judge, who shall be given an opportunity to present the case, but if the judge chooses not to be heard, the proceedings may be heard without him present.

THE TAINTED GALLERY

THE TAINTED GALLERY

The Removal of a judge

If the Oversight Committee feels that the charges proved against the judge merit his/her removal, it shall request the judge to resign voluntarily, and if the judge fails to do so, it shall advise the president to proceed with the removal of the judge. In such a case, the President shall refer the matter to Parliament, where the rest of the procedure is the same as the one in the case of a motion moved by MPs.

The Bill exempts documents and records of proceedings related to a complaint from the purview of the RTI Act, 2005 but the reports of the investigation committee and the order of the Oversight Committee can be made public. The tainted judges gallery

Why The Collegium stays

Under Article 124(2) and Article 217(1) of the Constitution, a judge of Supreme Court/High Court has to be appointed by the President after “consultation” with the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The government was not bound by the CJI’s recommendation. But in 1993, the Supreme Court introduced the collegium system, taking over primacy in appointments to higher judiciary. A nine-judge Constitution Bench in 1998 ruled that “consultation” must be effective and the chief justice’s opinion shall have primacy. Now India is the only nation in the world where judges appoint judges. In 2008, the Law Commission favoured restoration of pre-1993 position. Despite the UPA government criticising the collegium system, the Bill does not propose to change it.

Post-retirement carrots

During his speech on Sen’s impeachment, Jaitley said: “The desire of a job after retirement is now becoming a serious threat to judicial independence.” Tulsi also described it as a menace. “I agree with Jaitley that judges should not be given post-retirement jobs. If a statute requires a judicial person, a sitting judge can be appointed.”

The way forward

Prevention is better than cure. What is needed is a system that ensures only an honest person becomes a judge. If that happens, the occasion for removal of a judge may not arise.  Also, the collegium system must go, says former law minister Ram Jethmalani. “Setting up a National Judicial Commission is the only solution. The Commission must have the powers to appoint, transfer and remove judges,” he said.

He, however, said: “It should be a broad-based body comprising a government representative, the leader of the opposition and representatives of the judiciary, organised Bar, academic world and the world of social sciences.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Objection-your-honour/H1-Article1-738669.aspx