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Policy & Politics

China & the international law

China joined the UN in 1971, later negotiated the UNCLOS from 1973 to 1982, and finally ratified the UNCLOS in 1996. China has vague and revisionist claims in the South China Sea, based on a line called the Nine-dash line, which otherwise is devoid of any legal or historical sanctity. Incidentally, even in geometry, dashes do not constitute a line. These recent claims based on the Nine-dash line have put China in conflict with many countries as Beijing forcibly occupied islands and commenced construction activities, mainly military-oriented.

Major Nirvikar Singh (Retd)

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China has an interesting association with the international law. After years of rejecting the international law on various reasons such as being prejudiced, the international global order being West-dominated or the treaties being ‘unequal’, China has now adopted a unique approach. It uses the international law whenever it suits them, and rejects it at the times of unfavourable decisions, while paying lip service at other times. In short, it manipulates the international law.

Few examples are in order before we analyse the reasons for this approach. The global rules regarding the oceans and the seas are primarily based on the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The convention is also referred to as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty. UNCLOS, as a law of the sea came into operation and became effective from November 16, 1982. UNCLOS is the bedrock of all international nautical laws. Among other aspects, it covers the legal rights of a nation to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

China joined the UN in 1971, later negotiated the UNCLOS from 1973 to 1982, and finally ratified the UNCLOS in 1996. China has vague and revisionist claims in the South China Sea, based on a line called the Nine-dash line, which otherwise is devoid of any legal or historical sanctity. Incidentally, even in geometry, dashes do not constitute a line. These recent claims based on the Nine-Dash line have put China in conflict with many countries as China forcibly occupied islands and commenced construction activities, mainly military oriented. This led to a legal dispute, and finally an independent arbitral tribunal established under the UNCLOS published a clear and binding ruling on China’s claims vis-à-vis the Philippines in the South China Sea on July 12, 2016. The tribunal rejected all claims of China, and upheld the rights of Philippines. Predictably, China dismissed the ruling as “nothing more than a piece of waste paper”.

The second example is closer home, moving from the contested seas to the high Himalayas. In 1913 and 1914, the representatives of the Republic of China, Tibet and Great Britain gathered at the Viceregal Lodge in Simla to negotiate a treaty regarding the status of Tibet. This was called the Simla Convention and resulted in a treaty. The draft convention was initialled by all three countries on April 27, 1914. Among other things, the convention with its annexes defined the boundary between Tibet and China proper and that between Tibet and British India, the latter to be known as the McMahon Line, named after British colonial administrator and chief negotiator Sir Henry McMahon who proposed it at the convention.

The British began using the McMahon Line on Survey of India maps in 1937, and the Simla Convention was officially published in 1938. Post-Independence India regarded the McMahon Line as the legal national border, but China rejected the Simla Accord and the McMahon Line, contending that Tibet was not a sovereign state and therefore did not have the power to conclude treaties. This was the beginning of the complex and long-outstanding India-China border dispute.

However, the Chinese stance is selective. The same McMahon Line extended into Burma (now Myanmar), and China has de facto recognised this line with Burma. China settled its outstanding boundary issues with Burma in 1960, and in the Burmese sector of the McMahon Line, the settlement in physical terms is an adoption of the McMohan Line. To put it simply, according to the Chinese, the same line, inherited from the same convention and the same map, is legal with one country and illegal with another. This is because the Chinese intend to keep the border dispute simmering with India, with a larger aim of preventing the growth of a rival nation in power dynamics of Asia.

Another commonly used principle of international law regarding demarcation of land boundaries also comes into play here. The McMahon Line followed the Watershed Principle of map making and, to the extent possible, ran along the highest ridges of these eastern Himalayan ranges. This is the normal principle of division of boundary in the mountains. In the 1960 Sino-Nepalese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, China settled the boundary with Nepal including dividing the Mount Everest by the watershed principle. While Watershed Principle is acceptable with one country (Nepal), but not acceptable with another (India), seems to be the Chinese mantra.

However, no treaty with China is safe and this year China made claims on the Mount Everest as well wherein China Global Television Network (CGTN) Tweeted on May 2, 2020 that “An extraordinary sun halo was spotted Friday in the skies over Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak located in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.’’ China has now claimed Mount Everest. This tweet also brings to fore another unique feature of Chinese manipulation – assigning Chinese names to places in other countries. In fact, Chinese expansionism starts with calling the geographical features with chauvinistic names and recognising them as parts of Chinese territory. Resultantly, Mount Everest to the world and Sagarmatha to the Nepalese becomes ‘Mount Qomolangma’, Arunachal Pradesh in India becomes ‘South Tibet’, and the Senkaku Islands of Japan become ‘Diaoyu Islands’ for China.

Let us briefly examine the reasons for such a cavalier and manipulative approach by China towards the international law. The approach is well thought-out and planned, and is based on ‘lawfare’, or short for Chinese legal warfare. Chinese writings often refer to the “Three Warfares” (san zhan) which consist of public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare. Among these three forms of warfares, lawfare is considered to be an offensive weapon capable of hamstringing opponents and seizing the political initiative. According to Chinese thinkers, lawfare raises doubts among adversary and neutral military and civilian authorities, as well as the broader population, about the legality of adversary actions, thereby diminishing political will and support and thereby potentially retarding military activity. Selective acceptance of treaties while denouncing the others as ‘unequal’ is a key part of lawfare.

Terming treaties and conventions as illegal or unequal is another typically Chinese feature. In rest of the world, treaties are the primary legal instruments for governing and regulating relations between the nation states. Legal hawks like me pore and debate over each line, comma and full stop. Later, once a treaty is in force, its provisions are binding between parties and its objectives must be performed in good faith. However, China significantly deviates from the international law by terming some treaties as unequal. The term ‘Unequal treaties’ has been coined by China to refer to a group of treaties through which she was supposedly coerced to concede certain territorial rights to Western powers during the heydays of imperialism. China has a long list of such unequal treaties – Nanking, Whampoa, Aigun and Shimonoseki. Within China, such treaties are linked to the ‘Century of Humiliation’ (1839-1949) and used to whip up public sentiments for nationalistic causes.

Of late, though China has not termed it as an ‘unequal’ yet, China is displaying no or little regard for the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984 and aimed at smoothing the transition of Hong Kong when the territory was handed back to China in 1997. The 1984 Declaration stipulated the sovereign and administrative arrangement of Hong Kong after July 1, 1997, when the lease of the New Territories was set to expire, and provided significantly autonomy to Hong Kong. However, China has steadily chipped away the autonomy, and has recently introduced a harsh security law on Hong Kong, which is a serious violation of its treaty with Britain. This draconian security law is in direct conflict with the Hong Kong’s Basic Law (its mini-constitution), and threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration. The international community is already regarding Hong Kong as a lost cause.

Digging deeper, the scant regard for the international law by China is not merely a manifestation of lawfare, or an indirect form of warfare. It goes back in the Chinese history, wherein the Chinese emperors and mandarins have always aspired to rewrite the history. The Chinese claims in land and maritime domains essentially flow from its revanchist view of the past. China adopts a careful but shifting standpoint that distorts history, and thereby helps to legitimize claims to the territories long held by other countries.

China is unique in many ways and the law is no exception. The People Liberation Army (PLA) is not an Army of the people or the Chinese government, but of the Communist Party of China. Further, as China does not apply the rule of law at home, it does not recognize its value or sanctity in the international affairs. The Chinese citizens have hardly any political and economic rights. Enforcing business claims are a nightmare in China. Arbitration is complex. Shifting the capital out of China is practically impossible. Human rights are another joke in China, as exemplified by the massive detention of helpless Uighurs in Xinjiang, or the continued oppression of the Tibetans. Therefore, to expect China to adhere to the international law is unrealistic.

International laws and treaties are just a piece of paper for the Chinese, only helping them to ‘Hide your strength, bide your time’ till an appropriate time, when they shall be discarded. Nevertheless, the international laws like UNCLOS are a cornerstone of international peace and security, providing a neutral mechanism to allocate the world’s maritime resources. There are persistent efforts by China to overturn such established laws, deploying military might to negate the legal (and inalienable) rights given to the relatively smaller countries. These unilateral actions by China do not bode well for the international peace, security and the rule of law. As China grows in military and economic might, among others, the law is a victim.

The author is a lawyer at the Supreme Court of India.

International laws and treaties are just a piece of paper for the Chinese, only helping them to ‘hide your strength, bide your time’ till an appropriate time, when they shall be discarded. Nevertheless, the international laws like UNCLOS are a cornerstone of international peace and security, providing a neutral mechanism to allocate the world’s maritime resources. There are persistent efforts by China to overturn such established laws, deploying military might to negate the legal (and inalienable) rights given to the relatively smaller countries.

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Policy & Politics

Back from the brink: Positivity is the key

Anil Swarup

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“Anil, it is not good news. You have malignancy”. This was my doctor-friend, Ambrish Mithal on phone. He was the one who had persuaded me to get the necessary tests done after some painless growth was detected in my groin and armpits. I had half expected it as the tuberculosis treatment for this growth was not working and the PET Scan had revealed growth in many parts of the body. Ambrish went on to explain that it was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cancer of lymph glands. Though I had lost my mother to cancer a few years ago, I didn’t have much of an idea of this variety of cancer. Hence, all that he told me made no sense except that I had been afflicted with this dreaded disease. My wife, Ruchi was with me. My first reaction was that irrespective of the outcome, we will fight it out. She was a step ahead. She looked totally unfazed and was confident that we will tide over the crisis. If there was any turmoil going inside, she didn’t show it. She remained that way right though the six-month trauma of debilitating medication called chemo-therapy. It was her emotional strength that made all the difference.

I looked at the entire crisis differently. If I were to die, so be it. Everyone does some day. I had always believed in living in the moment and enjoying each one of it simply because I had no control over the consequences. This approach helped. I continued to fire on all cylinders. In a sense, COVID was a blessing in disguise. We were cut off physically from most of the world during the past year and a half. Hence, this quarantine on account of lowered immunity made no difference. I was physically shattered because of extreme weakness, loss of appetite, intermittent nausea, loss of weight, strange sensations, high pulse rate, long sessions of hiccups and sleeplessness. Consequently, I lost 10 Kgs of weight (I had previously thought I didn’t have additional weight to shed) and gained 10 years in age. All this made life extremely difficult. However, I was mentally as alert and as positive as ever, penning down my usual three articles every week and working on my next book, “No More A Civil Servant”. However, the Webinars stopped after some time. Intermittent appearances on television also were without the video feed because I could barely recognize myself in the mirror. To begin with, I could continue with physical exercises but as the body became weaker, I had to give it up. Even walking became difficult

I was lucky to run into a very competent set of doctors at Max Hospital at Saket, New Delhi. Ambrish who works in the same hospital was a great help in introducing me to Dr Harit Chaturvedi who performed the biopsy and, he in turn put me across to Dr Rajesh Naithani, a cool-headed doctor who knew his job. The experience otherwise with the hospital was a forgettable one. I have often wondered how and why do such accomplished doctors work in an environment that is so poorly managed. For a patient it is even worse. The hospital is interested in “catching” you. You are a VIP till then but once you are “caught”, you are left to the wolves. The only concern of the management is to somehow make money. Unfortunately, the doctors who have nothing do with this “mismanagement” end up getting a bad name.

The incompetence and callous attitude of some para-medical staff has to be experienced to be believed. You pay through your nose (though my bills were taken care of CHGS), yet get such poor service. My first experience was blood extraction for tests. The person just shoved the needle while engaging in a casual conversation with his colleague. Experience at Sir Gangaram hospital where I went for PET Scan was totally different. Here the para medical staff was not only polite but competent. When I asked one of them how did they manage such painless insertion of needles, I was pleasantly surprised at his response. He said that since all the patients that came to him were already in pain, they made an effort not to add to their misery.

Obtaining medical reports was another tragic experience at Max. Those at the front desk, almost always indifferent and sometimes even rude, have no clue. They make people run around for locating medical reports. The callous indifference is pretty appalling. The hospital takes regular feedback after each visit but follows up with no action.

Despite all the mismanagement, the hospital continues to attract patients on the strength of the quality of its doctors. My miraculous recovery in just six months after six rounds of chemo-therapy can be attributed totally to Dr Naithani. The para-medical staff, however, gave me an infection on account of their incompetence in inserting the Cannula needle.

The news relating to my ailment wasn’t kept a secret but I made no effort to share it with everyone. Still, many of my friends, former colleagues and relatives got to know of it. Their reaction ranged from disbelief to a variety of positive inputs. Many of them narrated cases where Lymphoma had been cured. All this helped enormously in staying positive. It was also extremely heartening to know that so many cared and prayed for me.

In such a crisis, support from family is the key. I was lucky to have them around. For my wife, everything else became secondary as she committed full time to take care of me. One of the fall-out of chemo-therapy was the loss of taste and appetite. She researched and cooked stuff that I could eat. There was never an occasion that she was found wanting, keeping awake with me during many sleepless nights to ensure that I was not put to any inconvenience. More than anything else, she never lost hope. My daughter, Aditi and son, Apurv were living elsewhere in Delhi.

They had their own professional and personal commitments but they ensured that at least one of them was around to assist my wife. Apurv also ferried me to the hospital and undertook the difficult task of engaging with the “people” at the hospital. In his absence, Divam, my son-in-law deputized for him. During these six months what I missed most was the company of my twin grand-daughters, Dviti and Srisha.

It was a tough journey, perhaps one of the very few in my life that I didn’t enjoy. However, it was an experience where positivity helped. It is not all over yet as there could be recurrence of this deadly disease but this experience will hopefully stand me in good stead.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

The incompetence and callous attitude of some para-medical staff has to be experienced to be believed. You pay through your nose (though my bills were taken care of CHGS), yet get such poor service. My first experience was blood extraction for tests. The person just shoved the needle while engaging in a casual conversation with his colleague. Experience at Sir Gangaram hospital where I went for PET Scan was totally different.

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Policy & Politics

Self-proclaimed appearance of Param Bir Singh

Vijay Darda

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It’s been great that at long last you have turned in, Mr Param Bir Singh! Greetings to you on behalf of the people of Maharashtra! Your appearance calls for a celebration! Your appearance day should be celebrated the same way as that of saints and sages. The date of your appearance has also been recorded in the book of history. Yes, of course why not? How hard you got the police and intelligence agencies to chase you, how many of them got dead tired chasing you and how many of them were reduced to tears! You are in a class beyond compare! Actually we were anxiously waiting for you for a long time! Better late than never! At last you have turned in. Is your appearance any less than a miracle?

Mr Param Bir Singh, I was really longing for you. Everyone was wondering where you went missing? How did you vanish into thin air? Did anyone cause your disappearance? How would you have dodged the red corner notice? Have you changed your appearance? Did you undergo plastic surgery? Tell you what! Your disappearance fired up people’s wildest imaginations! Everybody had something to say about you! Someone said you were staying in Belgium. Someone else said you had relocated to London. Some people claimed with great pride about having tea and breakfast with you. What could we have done? Just kept listening..!

Whom could we have trusted? We just had faith in you and also believed that one day you will definitely come and tell us how you managed to escape the eyes of your department as well as dodge the smart agencies of your country. I think you should conduct training camps for police and intelligence agencies to see what vanishing tricks can be employed. Once the detectives of the agencies become aware of your art, learn your skills and master the nuances, it will become easier for them to nab the accused.

The art of dissimulation that you have demonstrated has failed even Anil Kapoor of Mr India and Amitabh Bachchan of Bhootnath fame. Both of them acted wonderfully on screen. Actually you did all that stuff too, though off screen. I want to thank you that you have also exposed some time-honoured institutions. The first is that the Mumbai police, which is equated to the Scotland Yard police, can so badly be defeated by its single officer in a game of hide and seek. You have also busted the myth of the invincibility of the intelligence agencies which consider themselves as ‘Turram Khan’ or supreme ones. You have proved to them that just one police officer can send them on a wild goose chase. The agencies kept running from post to pillar yet drew a blank. The court declared you a fugitive but amidst all this drama you were relaxing in Chandigarh. How amazing, isn’t it! Wow! I feel like doffing my hat to your skills. People are asking a wrong question: Who among you all three– you, police and intelligence agencies is the most powerful?

You are the emperor of the police department. Even the ones who witnessed your mood swings don’t know who you are, how you are, where you have come from and where you are going to go. Only the emperor can know this. You have also proved that it is not only difficult but impossible to catch the don. I am just astonished to think as to what would have happened if you had not appeared? Those who were saying that they will confiscate your property are ignorant. They don’t know who you are!

By the way, I want to advise your police and intelligence agencies that they must celebrate your appearance day. Your appearance is nothing less than an official celebration. I just want to say that what has passed in six months is a matter of letting bygones be bygone! The government should feel relieved and thankful that your appearance has saved it a lot of labour, time and resources in locating you. You have also benefitted those ensconced in power.

So say with love: Glory to Param Bir Maharaj’s appearance day! And be least bothered about those who have filed a case against you and some policemen for demanding Rs 15 crore from a builder. Now cases keep getting registered! You accused Anil Deshmukh of extorting Rs 100 crore and others accused you of seeking Rs 15 crore as bribe. Now understand that the greater the status, the greater the allegation! God alone knows the truth..!

And of course, one should really learn from you the art of executing somersault on tamarind leaves. The tamarind leaf is very small and no one can be a better acrobat than the one who can execute a somersault on it. That’s why this Hindi phrase ‘Imli Ke Patti Par Gulati Marna’ which means somersaulting on the tamarind leaf. I remembered this adage because your lawyer stated before the Chandiwal Commission that you do not have any specific evidence regarding the allegation in which you had accused Anil Deshmukh of extorting Rs 100 crore a month. You had levelled this allegation on the suggestion of some officials! Oh wow Param Bir Singh! You were the police commissioner.

As you already know that allegations require solid evidence, yet you acted like a child. Initially, you were breathing fire against the former minister, but you executed a reverse somersault when you found yourself on a sticky wicket. You are a great acrobat indeed!

I have just one request to make. Kindly don’t share and teach this magical art to other police officers because what you did has put our police system to shame! Don’t know how many skeletons in the cupboard have tumbled out and are still tumbling out. You are indeed a blessed soul, Param Bir..!

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

Param Bir Singh is unique indeed. There is no other like him! He has immense potential to vanish into thin air like Mr India! The magic of staying out of sight of the police department of which he is a top officer and dodging all the government agencies is really unmatched. His appearance is no less than a miracle and calls for celebration!

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Policy & Politics

ILLEGAL USE OF LICENSED WEAPON PER SE NOT OFFENCE UNDER SECTION 27 UNLESS MISDEMEANOUR UNDER SECTIONS 5/7 PROVED: SC

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It is extremely significant to note that the Apex Court just recently on November 26, 2021 in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Surinder Singh vs State (Union Territory of Chandigarh) in Criminal Appeal No. 2373 of 2010 has made it absolutely clear that illegal use of a licensed or sanctioned weapon per se does not constitute an offence under Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 (“Act”). The Apex Court also observed that at best, it could be a ‘misconduct’ under the service rules. It must be also mentioned here that the Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice AS Bopanna in this present matter was considering a criminal appeal against Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order dated May 19, 2010 (“impugned order”).

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice Surya Kant for CJI NV Ramana, himself and Justice AS Bopanna sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “Appellant-Surinder Singh has laid challenge to the judgement dated 19th May 2010 of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, whereby, the order of his conviction and sentence dated 25th July 2006 passed by Learned Additional Sessions Judge, Chandigarh was confirmed. The Appellant has been convicted under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter ‘IPC’) and Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 (hereinafter, ‘Arms Act’), and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of 3 years for both the offences, with a direction that sentences will run concurrently.”

While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The prosecution case in brief is that, on 10th July, 1999, Mansur Ali, Advocate (Complainant) was sitting at his residential office alongwith his clerk Maler Singh (PW-3), giving dictation to his steno, R.K. Sood (PW4). At about 5:30 PM, the Appellant, who was then a Head Constable in Chandigarh Police, entered the residential office of the Complainant in an inebriated condition and stating that he was a beat officer of the lane, asked for a glass of water. He thereafter sat across the Complainant and after consuming the water served to him by Balbir Singh (PW5), pulled out his service pistol and threatened the Complainant by pointing the pistol at him and stated that “there are 10 bullets in this gun and I will kill 20 people today”. Appellant also asked the Complainant to stand and raise his hands. At the same time, he directed Maler Singh and R.K. Sood to step outside the office, to which they complied. In the meantime, the Appellant moved around the table, towards the Complainant, pulled the lever and made himself ready to fire. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, Complainant lunged at the Appellant and pushed his hand towards the ceiling, which resulted in the bullet, fired from the pistol, hitting the ceiling of the office.”

While continuing in a similar vein, the Bench then enunciates in para 3 that, “The Appellant then attempted to fire a second time, however, he was unable to and in the said exercise a bullet fell from his pistol. By that time, the ladies of the house had entered the office and raised a holler. Panicstricken, Appellant rushed out of the office, leaving behind his wireless set on the table of the Complainant and his scooter outside the house. No injury was caused to the Complainant. The incident was then reported to the police. Upon receiving the information, about 10-15 minutes later, police officials arrived at the house of the Complainant and F.I.R. was lodged against the Appellant, whereafter, the police officials sprang into action and the Appellant was arrested by SI Ramesh Chand (PW6), who found the Appellant near the Masjid of Sector 20A, with the pistol still in his hand. Appellant was then taken for medical examination where he refused to give his urine or blood samples.”

Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 4 that, “The investigation ensued in light of the above-stated facts, and upon collection of substantial evidence, the charge sheet was filed against the Appellant. The case was committed to the Additional Sessions Judge, Chandigarh, and charges under Section 307 IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act were framed. The Appellant abjured his culpability and claimed trial.”

Simply put, the Bench then lays bare in para 9 that, “Since there is no dispute regarding the presence of the Appellant at the residential office of the Complainant at the time of the incidence, or that the bullet was fired from his service pistol, the pivotal question before the Trial Court was, whether the Appellant fired the pistol, and if so, was the weapon used with the intent to kill the Complainant. The Trial Court observed that the prosecution witnesses had, by and large, supported the prosecution version and that no reason was adduced to depict why the Complainant would want to falsely implicate the Appellant. Although the Trial Court noted that there were some inconsistencies in the statement put forth by the prosecution witnesses, however, the same were held to be minor contradictions brought about naturally due to the passage of time. The Court found version of the Defense to be “a patch of lies and figment of imagination”, and rejected the same in its entirety.”

What’s more, the Bench then reveals in para 10 that, “As far as the charge under Section 27 of the Arms Act was concerned, the Trial Court observed that the Appellant had used his service pistol without any prior permission and for an illegal purpose. The act of firing by the Appellant was thus held to be in contravention of Section 27 of the Arms Act. The Trial Court therefore convicted the Appellant under Section 307 IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act and awarded a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for 3 years.”

Needless to say, the Bench then states in para 11 that, “Discontented with his conviction, the Appellant preferred an appeal before the High Court of Punjab & Haryana. The High Court upon reappraisal of the evidence, sustained conviction and the consequential sentence imposed by the Trial Court and dismissed the appeal.”

Be it noted, the Bench then observes in para 30 that, “The Appellant was admittedly a police official at the time of the incidence and the arms and ammunitions used for the commission of the offence, were placed in his possession under the sanction accorded by the Competent Authority. The Appellant being in authorised possession of the weapon, cannot be said to have used an unlicensed weapon, as prohibited under Section 5 of the Arms Act. It appears that the Trial Court was swayed by irrelevant considerations such as illegal use of the weapon, and lost track of the objective of the Statute, which has been enacted to provide a licensing/regulatory regime, to enable law-abiding citizens to carry arms, and also to prohibit the possession, acquisition, manufacture, etc. of certain categories of firearms, unless authorized by the Central Government. In other words, illegal use of a licensed or sanctioned weapon per se does not constitute an offence under Section 27, without proving the misdemeanor under Section 5 or 7 of the Arms Act. At best, it could be a ‘misconduct’ under the service rules, the determination of which was not the subject of the trial.”

As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 31 that, “In light of the afore-stated discussion, we find that the order of the Trial Court in convicting the Appellant or of the High Court in maintaining such conviction under Section 27 of the Arms Act, is unwarranted and unjust. Accordingly, the Appellant is acquitted of the charge under Section 27 of the Arms Act.”

Most significantly, the Bench then holds succinctly in para 35 what forms the cornerstone of this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment that, “Adverting to the facts of the case in hand, we are of the considered view that at this stage, the sentence awarded to the appellant is no longer in degree to the crime which he has committed. Remitting the Appellant to the rigors of imprisonment at this juncture of his life would not serve the ends of justice due to following mitigating factors:

a. No motive or element of planning has been proved by the Prosecution in the present case which indicates the possibility that the offense could have been committed on impulse by the Appellant. Hence, the culpability of the offender in such situations is less than that which is ascribed in premeditated offenses as the commission of planned illegal acts denotes an attack on societal values with greater commitment and continuity in comparison to spontaneous illegal acts.

b. Even though the factum of injury may not have a direct bearing on a conviction under Section 307 IPC, the same may be considered by a Court at the time of sentencing. No doubt, the offence committed by the Appellant squarely falls within the four corners of Section 307 IPC, but fortunately neither the complainant nor any other person was hurt by the untoward act of the Appellant.

c. Appellant has already undergone a sentence of 3 months and 19 days. Additionally, despite the occurrence taking place in 1999, there is no indication that Appellant has been involved in any untoward activity before or after the incident. This highlights the Appellant’s good character and indicates that the incident can be interpreted as an isolated lapse of judgment. Further, the Appellant’s clean post-incident behaviour suggests that he is rational individual who is capable of responding to the social censure associated with the offence. Hence, the passage of a long time period coupled with a clean record, both before and after the incident is definitely a factor that calls for mitigation of sentence.

d. Barring this particular incident wherein he was under the influence of alcohol, the Appellant had an unblemished service record with sixteen good citations in his favour. This indicates that he was a valuable member of society than the present criminal incident might lead one to assume. This is not to say that courts should draw up a social balance sheet when sentencing, but only to take these positive social contributions as a factor for mitigation of sentence.

e. Lastly, it is to be noted that the Appellant was suspended in the year 1999 and has also been subsequently dismissed from service in the year 2007. Hence, this should also be considered as a reasonable factor for mitigation because the dismissal and the consequent loss of social security benefits such as pension, also construes as a form of social sanction.”

Finally, the Bench then aptly holds in para 36 that, “Consequently and for the afore-stated reasons, the criminal appeal is partly allowed. While the conviction and sentence awarded to the Appellant under Section 27 of the Arms Act is set aside, his conviction under Section 307 IPC is maintained. The sentence under Section 307 IPC is however reduced to the period already undergone. Since, Appellant is on bail, his bail bonds are discharged.”

To sum it up, the Apex Court thus makes it distinctly clear in this leading case that the illegal use of licensed weapon is per se not an offence under Section 27 of the Arms Act unless misdemeanor under Section 5 or 7 of the Act is proved. Of course, all the Courts whether they are Trial Courts or High Courts must always abide by what the three Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice AS Bopanna have held so clearly, categorically and convincingly also in this noteworthy case! There can be just no denying it!

Even though the factum of injury may not have a direct bearing on a conviction under Section 307 IPC, the same may be considered by a Court at the time of sentencing. No doubt, the offence committed by the Appellant squarely falls within the four corners of Section 307 IPC, but fortunately neither the complainant nor any other person was hurt by the untoward act of the Appellant.

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Policy & Politics

Musings of a BSF officer’s daughter

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An important part of being raised as a BSF officer’s kid was to get acquainted with the vagaries and challenges of a borderman’s job and to learn about their life-threatening situations along India’s international borders in states and union territories afflicted with insurgency and terrorism.

The task of protecting the borders stretched to the protection of villages in those areas from the enemy’s nefarious designs and activities.

In border areas, phenomena such as cross-border shelling and infiltration were routine and seldom shocked or demoralized a borderman’s family. Bordermen knew places they were posted to quite well. In several instances, their understanding was better than that of the locals, having researched every nook and corner, ditch, tunnel and ridge and topographical feature.

My father, Late Shri RS Mehta, who retired from the Border Security Force (BSF) as an Inspector General (IG), belonged to one of the first batches of officers to join the force. As a result, right from the time of BSF’s founding in 1965, he was passionately involved in the process of giving the force a shape, identity and a clear direction in over three decades of service. He held many key positions in the organization up to, and including, the Commanding Officer of a battalion.

During his very eventful career with the force, he conducted several counterterrorism operations in Jammu & Kashmir as well as planned and executed many counter-insurgency operations in the Northeastern part of India. These experiences were to later come in handy when, as a senior officer, he was instrumental in formulating many protocols and policies relating to securing the Nation’s borders.

My father used to tell us that bordermen had clearly defined protocols to deal with residents of border villages. A key part of their duty was to maintain an excellent rapport with the local population to win its faith and confidence. Moreover, in certain areas of the country, this also involved making sincere attempts to expedite the integration of the locals into the national mainstream.

I recall my father narrating his experience during his tenure as a young Commanding Officer (CO) posted at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, where he was instrumental in organizing several sports and cultural programmes for the villagers. He would always encourage them to wholeheartedly participate and excel in such events organized by BSF to become model citizens. Various prizes, certificates of merit and goodies were given to participants to build strong linkages. Papa also mentioned his efforts to work closely with Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) and Tehsildars to provide to the border villages basic facilities such as schools, dispensaries, etc., and to resolve any immediate problems that they might be facing.

Undeniably, the rapport that a borderman shares with the local population can hardly be replicated by the police or other law-enforcement agencies. In a similar vein, inhabitants of rural habitations secured by BSF feel inclined to provide security-related information, updates on border activity and other intelligence inputs.

I chanced to accompany my father to one of his border inspection tours of a remote area in Jammu & Kashmir. Certain pockets in the mountainous regions of Gul and Kishtwar were becoming host to terrorist camps. Our convoy comprising four to five vehicles swerved through the ravines of the majestic Himalayas. In a lonely spot, just by the waterfall, seeing an elderly lady walking by herself, Papa asked the driver to stop for a breather, rolled down his window and asked her, “Amma, sab theek hai na?” (Hope all is well?). To which she replied, “Ethe bus butte he butte ne!” Once the convoy started moving again, I asked my father what she meant and he laughingly told me that her evasive answer implied that there was nothing to tell as there were “only pebbles and more pebbles” in that area.

When we halted for the night at a BSF base camp, we were informed that there were many interceptions of our wireless network by the miscreants who had even challenged the inspecting officer to locate their camp and visit them for a cup of tea! Thanks to his knowledge of the culture and traditions of the area, and other information related to the region, it was possible for my father to deduce that local herdsmen, with their routine cross-border travels and nomadic way of life, had allied with the enemy. Consequently, they were providing strategic support to the miscreants from across the border.

Having understood the root of the problem, the force could carry out combing operations in the region, freeing it of the anti-national forces and, thus, cleansing the area of any terrorist camps.

It would not be wrong to say that the rigorous training of a borderman, his vast experience at the border in different terrains and familiarity with the people living in border villages, make him fit to fulfill his role of securing areas not just along the border but also beyond.

Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a notification to widen BSF’s jurisdiction for seizure, search and arrest up to 50 kilometres from the international border in the states of Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.

On October 11, 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India announced that it was amending a 2014 notification related to the jurisdiction of the BSF to exercise its powers in states that are on the international border. This notification replaces a 2014 order under the BSF Act, 1968, which also covered the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya. It also specifically mentions the two newly created union territories of J&K and Ladakh. The BSF can carry out search and seizure operations to check and combat smuggling, illegal entry of migrants and other nefarious activities.

The Central Government’s decision to thus extend the area of jurisdiction of the BSF is, therefore, a welcome step. It will enable our bordermen to carry out combing and search operations in more areas and help the state governments concerned in weeding out anti-national elements to greatly reduce threats to national security. Further, having a centralized chain of command makes the BSF well-equipped and competent to handle issues relating to border security and to also secure the areas adjoining and adjacent to the borders.

As someone rightly noted a long time ago, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

The author is a practicing advocate at the Delhi High Court 

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Policy & Politics

Closure report can’t be filed merely because informant did not supply adequate materials for probe: SC

The three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, while setting aside closure reports against some accused in a murder case did not shy away from remarking that a ‘fair investigation is a necessary concomitant of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India’. The court observed that it is the statutory as well as constitutional duty of the police to investigate on receiving report of the commission of a cognizable offence.

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In a recent, remarkable and righteous decision titled Amar Nath Chaubey vs Union of India [SLP (CRL.) NO. 6951 of 2018] delivered just recently on December 14, 2020 has maintained that a closure report cannot be filed merely on the ground that the investigation was not possible as the informant had not supplied adequate materials to investigate. The three-judge Bench of Apex Court headed by RF Nariman and also comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Krishna Murari while setting aside closure reports against some accused in a murder case did not shy away from remarking that, “A fair investigation is a necessary concomitant of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.” The Court observed that it is the statutory as well as constitutional duty of the police to investigate on receiving report of the commission of a cognizable offence.

To start with, the ball is set rolling in the opening para 1 of this notable judgment wherein it is observed that, “One Shri Ram Bihari Chaubey, the father of the petitioner, was shot dead at his residence in Village Shrikanthpur, Chaubepur, Varanasi in the State of Uttar Pradesh, on 04.12.2015 at around 7.15 AM. An F.I.R. No. 378/2015 under Sections 302, 147, 148 and 149, I.P.C. was registered the same day at Chobepur Police Station at 11.15 AM. Four unknown assailants were stated to have come on a motor cycle. Two of them entered the residence and shot the deceased, while the two others waited outside, after which they all escaped.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then observed in para 2 that, “The petitioner, son of the deceased, approached the Allahabad High Court complaining of the lackadaisical manner in which the police was investigating because some powerful personalities were also involved. The investigating officers were also being changed with regularity seeking a mandamus for a proper inquiry into the murder of his father including by the C.B.I. The High Court called for a progress report and also required the Chief Secretary to file his affidavit in the matter. The petitioner is aggrieved by the impugned order of the High Court dated 17.05.2018 disposing the writ petition, accepting the contention of the police that the investigation would be concluded expeditiously and report will be submitted before the competent court within a period of eight weeks.”

Of course, the Bench then observes in para 3 that, “We have heard the learned counsel for the petitioner, for the State of Uttar Pradesh and for respondent no.5. On 29.06.2017 charge sheet was submitted against one Raju alias Nagender Singh son of late Ramji Singh, Ajay Singh and Shani Singh both sons of Narayan Singh, citing 21 witnesses. The charge sheet stated that the name of respondent no.5 had transpired during investigation as having conspired in the killing after which Section 120B I.P.C. was also added. The charge sheeted accused Raju alias Nagender Singh confessed that apart from the others named by him, respondent no. 5 in conspiracy had the murder planned and executed. The investigation was thus kept pending against Manish Singh, Dabloo Singh and respondent no.5. The police in the case diary noting dated 17.02.2017 recorded that on basis of confidential information from the police informer, that respondent no.5 had given a “supari” of Rs. Five lacs for murder of the deceased. Political rivalry existed between the deceased and respondent no.5 on account of assembly elections as also panchayat elections. It further contained noting that the real person behind the incident was respondent n. 5 based on very confidential information, having serious ramifications. The case diary noting dated 06.04.2017 records that the police party went to landmark tower to arrest Ajay Singh and Shani Singh. Respondent no.5 demanded the production of arrest warrant against the concerned persons and required the investigating officer to give in writing that the suspect was being taken for interrogation. Raju alias Nagender Singh after intensive interrogation disclosed that with co-accused Ajay Singh, he had gone to meet respondent no.5, disclosing the manner in which the murder was committed by him and his accomplices. The case diary noting dated 29.06.2017 records that investigation against Dabloo Singh and Manish Singh and respondent no.5 were in progress. Respondent no.5 vide Annexure P.5 letter no. 4/2017 wrote to the Principal Secretary that he was being falsely implicated and the matter be properly investigated, if required from the C.B.I.”

While further elaborating on the progress of the case, the Bench then elucidates in para 4 that, “The Sub-Inspector of Police submitted a progress report before the High Court on 11.10.2017 that the investigation up to that date revealed the involvement of Ajay Singh, Raju alias Nagender Singh, Shani Singh, Manish Singh, Dabloo Singh and respondent no.5 as a conspirator. Charge sheet had been submitted against Ajay Singh, Raju alias Nagender Singh and Shani Singh and investigation with regard to Dabloo Singh, Manish Singh and respondent no.5 is still pending. It further stated that raids were conducted for arresting others including respondent no.5. From the material collected during investigation it was apparent that the murder was committed due to political rivalry by hatching a conspiracy effectively with the help of respondent no.5 and that the police were trying to collect more credible materials. Another affidavit was filed on 16.05.2018 before the High Court, by one Shri Devender Chaubey, the In-charge Chief Secretary, disclosing that respondent no.5 had 24 criminal cases against him including under Section 302 IPC. In five cases final report had been filed in absence of credible evidence. In nine cases respondent no. 5 had been charge sheeted but was acquitted. Five criminal trials are still pending against respondent no.5. He had also been put behind bars under the provisions of National Security Act by order dated 11.11.1998. It concluded that the allegations against respondent no.5 were under investigation.”

To be sure, it is then revealed in para 5 that, “This Court issued notice in the present matter on 07.09.2018. On 20.01.2020, this Court directed the Director General of Police, U.P. to file an affidavit with regard to the status of the investigation vis-à-vis respondent no.5. An affidavit was filed by the D.G.P. on 22.02.2020 stating that there was no cogent evidence against respondent no.5 despite discreet efforts. Investigation of the case was therefore closed on 30.01.2019 and report submitted in the concerned court along with other police papers on 04.06.2019 with regard to accused Ajay Singh, Shani Singh, Raju alias Nagender Singh only and no further investigation was pending against any person. The trial court summoned the complainant for evidence on several dates, but the complainant had not appeared.”

Be it noted, the Bench then observes in para 6 that, “We have considered the matter. The F.I.R. was registered on 04.12.2015. Eight investigating officers have been changed. Respondent no.5 suo motu sought impleadment in the writ petition filed in the High Court. An investigation which had been kept pending since 04.12.2015 was promptly closed on 30.01.2019 after this Court had issued notice on 07.09.2018. The affidavit of the Director General of Police, U.P. not being satisfactory, on 26.10.2020 this Court required the respondents to file copy of the closure report stated to have been filed before the court concerned. The affidavit filed by the Circle Officer, Pindara, Varanasi dated 31.10.2020, pursuant to our order dated 26.10.2020 encloses the closure report dated 02.09.2018, the supervision note of the Superintendent of Police, Rural dated 17.12.2018 and the closure report dated 30.01.2019 submitted in court. We have gone through the same. It simply states that there was no concrete evidence of conspiracy against respondent no.5 and that the informant had not placed any materials before the police direct or indirect with regard to the conspiracy. As and when materials will be found against respondent no.5 in future, action would be taken as per law. No credible evidence was found against Manish Singh and Dabloo Singh.”

While slamming the police investigation and the closure report, the Bench then, more significantly, without mincing any words states upfront in para 7 that, “We are constrained to record that the investigation and the closure report are extremely casual and perfunctory in nature. The investigation and closure report do not contain any material with regard to the nature of investigation against the other accused including respondent no.5 for conspiracy to arrive at the conclusion for insufficiency of evidence against them. The closure report is based on the ipse dixit of the Investigating Officer. The supervision note of the Senior Superintendent of Police (Rural), in the circumstances leaves much to be desired. The investigation appears to be a sham, designed to conceal more than to investigate. The police has the primary duty to investigate on receiving report of the commission of a cognizable offence. This is a statutory duty under the Code of Criminal Procedure apart from being a constitutional obligation to ensure that peace is maintained in the society and the rule of law is upheld and applied. To say that further investigation was not possible as the informant had not supplied adequate materials to investigate, to our mind, is a preposterous statement, coming from the police.”

Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to state squarely, simply and straightly in para 8 that, “The police has a statutory duty to investigate into any crime in accordance with law as provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Investigation is the exclusive privilege and prerogative of the police which cannot be interfered with. But if the police does not perform its statutory duty in accordance with law or is remiss in the performance of its duty, the court cannot abdicate its duties on the precocious plea that investigation is the exclusive prerogative of the police. Once the conscience of the court is satisfied, from the materials on record, that the police has not investigated properly or apparently is remiss in the investigation, the court has a bounden constitutional obligation to ensure that the investigation is conducted in accordance with law. If the court gives any directions for that purpose within the contours of the law, it cannot amount to interference with investigation. A fair investigation is, but a necessary concomitant of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India and this Court has the bounden obligation to ensure adherence by the police.”

Briefly stated, para 9 then while citing a recent relevant case law states that, “In Manohar Lal Sharma vs. Principal Secretary and ors., (2014) 2 SCC 532, this Court observed as follows:

“24. In the criminal justice system the investigation of an offence is the domain of the police. The power to investigate into the cognizable offences by the police officer is ordinarily not impinged by any fetters. However, such power has to be exercised consistent with the statutory provisions and for legitimate purpose. The courts ordinarily do not interfere in the matters of investigation by police, particularly, when the facts and circumstances do not indicate that the investigating officer is not functioning bona fide. In very exceptional cases, however, where the court finds that the police officer has exercised his investigatory powers in breach of the statutory provision putting the personal liberty and/or the property of the citizen in jeopardy by illegal and improper use of the power or there is abuse of the investigatory power and process by the police officer or the investigation by the police is found to be not bona fide or the investigation is tainted with animosity, the court may intervene to protect the personal and/or property rights of the citizens.

26. One of the responsibilities of the police is protection of life, liberty and property of citizens. The investigation of offences is one of the important duties the police has to perform. The aim of investigation is ultimately to search for truth and bring the offender to book.

xxx xxx xxx

39. … In the rare and compelling circumstances referred to above, the superior courts may monitor an investigation to ensure that the investigating agency conducts the investigation in a free, fair and time-bound manner without any external interference.””

It is worth paying attention here that para 10 then discloses that, “The trial is stated to have commenced against the charge sheeted accused, and the informant summoned to give evidence. In the facts of the case, we direct that further trial shall remain stayed. The closure reports dated 02.09.2018, 17.12.2018 culminating in the report dated 30.01.2019 are partly set aside insofar as the non-charge sheeted accused are concerned only. Those already charge sheeted, calls for no interference.”

Now it is time to deal with concluding paras. Para 11 states that, “We hereby appoint Shri Satyarth Anirudh Pankaj, I.P.S. as the senior officer, State of Uttar Pradesh to carry out further investigation in the matter through a team of competent officers to be selected by him of his own choice. The State shall ensure the availability of such officers. The investigation must be concluded within a period of two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order, unless extension is required, and the final report be placed before this Court. The Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh shall do the needful.” The last para 12 then stipulates that, “List immediately after two months for further orders.”

In a nutshell, this latest, landmark, learned and laudable judgment leaves no room for doubt that closure report cannot be filed merely because informant did not supply adequate materials to investigate. The police must always follows this useful directive whenever it is confronted with such situations in future! It will in doing so certainly benefit its ownself as also the investigation process which has to be taken always to its logical conclusion by ensuring that the guilty is not spared and the innocent is not convicted or harassed in any manner! This is exactly what the Supreme Court also desires so by this commendable judgment as is clearly manifested also in it! Very rightly so!

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Policy & Politics

Inter country adoptions: Delhi HC issues directions for enabling parties to obtain certification from DM, foreign authorities and CARA

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In a progressive, powerful and path breaking development, the Delhi High Court has in a learned, latest, laudable and landmark judgment titled Rajwinder Kaur & Anr v Central Adoption Resource Authority in W.P.(C) 279/2019 and CM APPL. 40751/2021 and connected matters has commendably issued various directions for enabling adoptive and biological parents to obtain the required certification and no objection from District Magistrates, foreign authorities and Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) in relation with inter country adoptions. This was the crying need of the hour also! It must be mentioned here that this development came while the Court was dealing with three cases pertaining to international adoption of Indian children.

To start with, the ball is set rolling in this notable judgment authored by a single Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh first and foremost in para 1 wherein it is put forth that, “This hearing has been done in physical Court. Hybrid mode is, however, permitted only in cases where explicit permission has been taken from the Court.”

Simply put, the Bench then points out in para 2 that, “Vide order dated 9th November, 2021, in view of the absence of a proper status report filed by CARA and non-issuance of NOCs to the Petitioners, this Court had directed the presence of Ms. Tripti Gurha, member Secretary and CEO of CARA on the next date.”

As we see, the Bench then states in para 3 that, “Further to the last order, Ms. Tripti Gurha has appeared before the Court and ld. Counsel under instructions from CARA, has made submissions today. Ld. counsels for the Petitioners have also been heard.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 4 that, “Vide judgement dated 31st August, 2021, the following directions were issued:

96. In terms of the directions issued above;

a. The Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India shall file a report before this Court as to the manner and mode of creating a permanent mechanism to deal with inter-country adoptions under HAMA, both direct and indirect and place the said report before this Court within a period of two months.

b. There are several errors on the website of CARA in respect of HAMA adoptions. CARA shall carry out corrections in its website and place a report before this Court within eight weeks;

c. CARA shall also frame guidelines for the processing of NOCs for inter-country adoptions under HAMA and make available forms for this purpose on the portal. Let the draft guidelines and the timelines for activating the portal be placed on record by means of a status report within two months. Details of the special Committee constituted to deal with HAMA adoptions shall also be specified in the report;

d. A status report in respect of each of the writ petitions and the processing of grant of NOCs be also filed at least one week before the next date of hearing.””

As it turned out, the Bench then discloses in para 5 that, “It is submitted by CARA’s counsel that pursuant to the judgement passed by this Court, the Adoption (Amendment) Regulations, 2021 (hereinafter “2021 Regulations”) have been notified w.e.f. 17th September, 2021. They have been framed specifically to lay down the procedure to be followed for adoption of children under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (hereinafter “HAMA”) by parents who desire to give their children in adoption to adoptive parents located in a foreign country. The said Regulations apply to all inter-country adoptions under HAMA, both amongst relatives and non-relatives. Under the said 2021 Regulations, there are broadly two categories:

• Category No.1 are those adoptions which were executed pre-2021 Regulations; and

• Category No.2 are adoptions undertaken post the coming into effect of the 2021 Regulations.”

Furthermore, the Bench then enunciates in para 6 that, “On behalf of CARA, it is further submitted that upon the 2021 Regulations coming into effect, various steps have been taken by CARA including:

(i) Appointment of an officer at the level of an Assistant Director as the Nodal Officer for dealing with HAMA-related adoptions;

(ii) Communications have been issued to all State Governments through the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Woman and Child Development, informing them of the 2021 Regulations coming into effect and seeking their cooperation in implementation of the same; and

(iii) Various webinars have been conducted by CARA to sensitize all stakeholders, since the first week of November, 2021.”

What’s more, the Bench then brings out in para 7 that, “On behalf of the Petitioners who are before this Court, it is submitted that no NOCs have been issued to any of the parties and the process of issuance of NOCs is at different stages.”

Needless to say, the Bench then specifies in para 8 that, “In W.P.(C) 279/2019, the Petitioners have appeared before CARA and requisite documentation has been submitted. The DM’s certificate has also been obtained by the Petitioners on 11th November, 2021 and has been submitted to CARA. Thereafter on 16th November, 2021, CARA has written to the relevant central authority in Spain seeking the required certification under Article 5 and Article 17 of the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in respect of Inter-country Adoption, 1993 (hereinafter “Hague Convention”). Copy of the said communication has been shown to the Court. This communication has however not been marked to the Petitioner. A copy of that said letter has now been given to the ld. Counsel for the Petitioner who may follow up with the Spanish authorities on the status of the said certification. Post the said certificate being obtained, it is assured to the Court that CARA would initiate steps to issue the NOC, expeditiously.”

Going ahead, the Bench then further specifies in para 9 that, “Insofar as W.P.(C) 10064/2019 is concerned, it is submitted by ld. Counsel for the Petitioner that the documents could not be submitted by the Petitioner to CARA as the counsel had met with an accident. Accordingly, the required documents have now been submitted to CARA and also to the ld. Counsel for CARA, in Court. Petitioner/Petitioner’s authorized representative to appear before CARA on 26th November, 2021, at 2:30 p.m., in this regard.”

Not stopping here, the Bench then further brings out in para 10 that, “In W.P.(C) 11168/2020, the adoption is by the paternal uncle (Chacha) of the child who is located in the USA. The Petitioner to accordingly appear before the Nodal Officer physically or through authorized representative to submit the requisite documents and obtain the NOC. The Petitioner/authorized representative to appear before CARA on 26th November, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then stipulates in para 11 that, “In both W.P.(C) 10064/2019 and W.P.(C) 11168/2020, the Nodal Officer shall meet the Petitioner/authorized representative and coordinate with the concerned District Magistrate in order to enable the Petitioners to obtain the verification from the concerned District Magistrate expeditiously. Upon the same being obtained, CARA assures the Court that it would take necessary steps in terms of the 2021 Regulations to move forward for issuance of the NOC. All communications either with the District Magistrate or with any foreign authority shall be copied to the authorized representative of the Petitioners, as also the Petitioners, so that the Petitioners are duly informed of the progress of the application for issuance of NOC.”

Most crucially, what forms the cornerstone of this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment is then encapsulated in para 12 wherein it is held that, “From the facts that emerge in these three writ petitions, this Court notes that the main issue that arises for the applicants is the obtaining of verification from the concerned SDMs/DMs in terms of Schedules XXXIII and XXXIV of the 2021 Regulations. The second issue that arises is also as to the manner in which the coordination is to be effected between the adoptive child, adoptive parents, the relevant foreign agencies, CARA and the biological parents. In order to provide assistance and enable adoptive and biological parents to obtain the required certification and obtain no-objection from both District Magistrate as also the foreign authorities, CARA would consider implementing the following steps:

(i) Creation of a database of all SDMs/District Magistrates as also the State Adoption Resource Agencies and District Child Protection Unit who will need to be contacted for the purpose of verification and issuance of certificates;

(ii) Publication of such a database on CARA’s website;

(iii) Creation of a help desk at CARA which shall be available both physically and online. The help desk/helpline should have a 24- hour helpline, considering the time differences in different jurisdictions. This would enable adoptive parents to contact CARA as per their convenience. The feasibility of the same shall be reviewed by CARA and shall be submitted before this Court by way of a status report;

(iv) CARA shall also consider permitting advocates/lawyers to appear as authorized representatives to coordinate and facilitate the various formalities that are required to be undertaken;

Read concluding section on thedailyguardian.com

(v) Mechanism to be created to enable biological or adoptive parents to appear even virtually or be available telephonically, whenever CARA requires to contact them or interact with them;

(vi) All communications with foreign authorities or District Magistrates or any other parties made by CARA shall also be copied by an e-mail to the party concerned as also their authorized representatives so that the procedure being followed and the progress of the application is within their knowledge as well. This would also enable the parties concerned to follow up with the concerned foreign authority or with the District Magistrate for issuance of the certification.”

Be it noted, the Bench then lays bare in para 13 that, “Mr. Atul Nagarajan (Mb. No. 9811169087), ld. Counsel who is familiar with adoption matters and who is present in Court today, is appointed as an Amicus Curiae to assist the Court in these petitions. Mr. Nagarajan, may be provided with electronic copies of these writ petitions by the Court Master, to enable him to assist this Court.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then directs in para 14 that, “Let a status report in respect of the implementation of the above steps be placed on record within two weeks. In the status report, CARA shall also mention the details of the number of applications which are pending for inter-country adoption and the time period for which they have been pending with CARA. Steps taken qua each of the applications and their respective status shall also be placed before the Court. In the case of all inter-country adoption applications which are pending, CARA shall inform the parties concerned about the 2021 Regulations so that the said applications can also be processed towards issuance of NOCs.”

For sake of clarity, the Bench then also added in para 15 that, “In the meantime, all the ld. Counsels for the Petitioners as also the ld. Amicus Curiae may place on record their suggestions if any, in this regard.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then directs in para 16 that, “Let Court notice be issued to Mr. Kirtiman Singh, ld. CGSC, Union of India, with a copy of this order to enable him to obtain instructions from Ms. Preeti Pant, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. The Union of India to also place on record the status report in respect of the implementation of the 2021 Regulations.”

Of course, the Bench then hastens to add in para 17 that, “On the next date, the Nodal Officer for HAMA adoptions, at CARA, shall be present in Court.”

It is worth paying attention that the Bench then directs in para 18 that, “List these petitions on 20th December, 2021.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by making it clear in para 19 that, “These are part-heard matters.”

In a nutshell, this extremely commendable, cogent, composed, concise and convincing judgment by a single Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh of the Delhi High Court lays bare the steps to be taken for enabling adoptive and biological parents to obtain the required certification and no objection from District Magistrates, foreign authorities and Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) in relation with inter country adoptions. The same must be done at the earliest. This is the real purpose also of this learned judgment and so its implementation brooks no delay!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate

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