‘Detention beyond release date violates article 21’: Supreme Court grants Rs 7.5 Lakh compensation to convict kept in prison in excess of sentence period - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

Policy & Politics

‘Detention beyond release date violates article 21’: Supreme Court grants Rs 7.5 Lakh compensation to convict kept in prison in excess of sentence period

Published

on

While fully, firmly and finally espousing with full zeal the legal rights of even the convict which cannot be violated by not even the State itself, the Apex Court has in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Bhola Kumar vs State of Chhattisgarh in Criminal Appeal No. 937 of 2022 (Arising out of SLP(Crl.)No.2426 of 2022) and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 589 delivered on May 9, 2022 but uploaded recently minced just no words whatsoever to hold that when a convict is detained beyond the actual release date it would be imprisonment or detention sans sanction of law and would thus, violate not only Article 19(1) (d) but also Article 21 of the Constitution of India. (Para 17). The Apex Court has clearly directed in this leading case the State of Chhattisgarh to pay compensation to the tune of Rs 7.5 lakhs as compensation to a rape convict who was kept in prison beyond the period by the State holding that it is vicariously liable for the act/omission committed by its officers in the course of employment. The Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice CT Ravikumar minced just no words whatsoever to hold unambiguously that, “When a competent court, upon conviction, sentenced an accused and in appeal, the sentence was modified upon confirmation of the conviction and then the appellate judgment had become final, the convict can be detained only up to the period to which he can be legally detained on the basis of the said appellate judgment.” The Bench also made it clear that, “Court can grant appropriate relief when there is some manifest illegality or where some palpable injustice is shown to have resulted. Such a power can be traced either to Article 142 of the Constitution of India or powers inherent as guardian of the Constitution. Referred to A.R. Antulay V. R.S. Nayak (1988) 2 SCC 602. (Para 19).”

At the outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice CT Ravikumar for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and himself sets the pitch in motion by first and foremost putting forth that, “This Special Leave Petition is filed assailing the judgment and order dated 19.7.2018 of the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur in Criminal Appeal No. 110/2015 whereby and whereunder the conviction of the petitioner under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (for short ‘IPC’) was confirmed, but the sentence therefor, was reduced from 12 years to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment. Notice was issued on 04.03.2022. However, the said order and the subsequent order dated 21.03.2022 would reveal that it was, in truth, a limited one. Leave Granted, accordingly. A short prelude may be profitable for a proper consideration of the limited question (which we intend to go into) viz., whether the appellant is entitled to compensation for being kept in prison beyond the period of sentence and thereby sustained deprival of personal liberty.”

To start with, the Bench while citing the most relevant case law mentions in para 1 that, “While parting with the decision in Rudul Sah’s case Rudul Sah vs. State of Bihar & Anr. (1983) 4 SCC 141, this Court made a fervent hope-

“This order will not preclude the petitioner from bringing a suit to recover appropriate damages from the state and its erring officials. The order of compensation passed by us is, as we said above, in the nature of a palliative. We cannot leave the petitioner penniless until the end of his suit, the many appeals and the execution proceedings. A full-dressed debate on the nice points of fact and law which takes place leisurely in compensation suits will have to await the filing of such a suit by the poor Rudul Sah. The Leviathan will have liberty to raise those points in that suit. Until then, we hope, there will be no more Rudul Sahs in Bihar or elsewhere.” (Emphasis added) That was a case where Rudul Sah, despite being acquitted by the Court of Sessions, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, on 03.06.1968 was released from the jail only on 16.10.1982, idest, more than 14 years since his acquittal. A Habeas Corpus petition was then filed before this Court seeking his release on the ground that his detention in the jail is unlawful. Ancillary reliefs were also sought for. When the said writ petition was taken up on 22.11.1982, the learned counsel for the State of Bihar informed this Court that the appellant was released from the jail. Though the prayer for release from the jail had become infructuous, this Court went on to consider the writ petition in regard to the other reliefs sought for and held that his detention after his acquittal was wholly unjustified. Thereupon, this Court held: “Therefore, the State must repair the damage done by its officers to the petitioner’s rights. It may have recourse against those officers.” It is thereafter that the said writ petition was disposed of in the aforesaid manner and with the fervent hope extracted above.”

As we see, the Bench then acknowledges in para 2 that, “True that the appellant cannot be said to be another Rudul Sah inasmuch as his case never ended in his acquittal, but only in confirmation of conviction with reduction in period of imprisonment. Nonetheless, his case, to be unravelled hereinbelow, would reveal continuance of contumacious act on the part of a State Government (of course, its officials) in keeping a convict in incarceration beyond the period of sentence of imprisonment, unmindful of the final verdict of the Court. Such an act is injudicious and indefensible when his/her continued confinement is uncalled for in connection with any other case. This kind of levity cannot be viewed with laxity and it is time to consider it on the legit. Freedom of movement can be curtailed or taken away by imprisonment or detention ordained after due process of law and in accordance with law. Imprisonment or detention sans sanction of law would violate Article 19(d) as well as the right under Article 21, of the Constitution of India.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “In the case on hand the appellant Bhola Kumhar was made to stand the trial for the offence punishable under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (for short, “IPC”) and Sections 3(ii)(v) and 3(1) (xii) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. He was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of 12 years and to pay a fine of Rs.10,000/- for the conviction for offence punishable under Section 376 IPC. He took up the matter in appeal and in Criminal Appeal No.110/2015 the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur confirmed the conviction, but reduced his sentence of 12 years rigorous imprisonment to 7 years imprisonment. Further, it was ordered to compensate the victim in terms of the provisions under Section 357 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, by paying Rs.15,000/within a period of six months. The sentence to pay fine of Rs.10,000/- and in default, to undergo imprisonment for one more year was ordered to remain as it is. The orders dated 4.3.2022 and 21.3.2022 passed in the SLP are reflective on the disinclination to interfere with the conviction and the sentence imposed therefor, but indicative of inclination to make a probe on the question as to why the appellant was detained in custody exceeding the period of judicial custody in terms of the judgment of the High Court dated 19.07.2018.”

As it turned out, the Bench then observes in para 4 that, “When the matter came up for consideration on 04.03.2022 , this Court condoned the delay in filing the Special Leave Petition and took note of the submission made by the learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant (in fact, Amicus Curiae) that despite suffering the full sentence in terms of the judgment impugned, the appellant was not released. This Court passed the following order:-

“Learned senior counsel for the petitioner submits that the petitioner was convicted for offence punishable under Section 376 IPC and sentence for 7 years R.I. by the High Court under the impugned judgment dated 19.07.2018 and despite the petitioner has undergone the full sentence in terms of the judgment impugned, still he has not been released and it appears that the Superintendent Central Jail, Ambikapur, Surguja (C.G.) has not updated their jail records as it reveals from the certificate placed on record.

ISSUE NOTICE, RETURNABLE ON 14.03.2022.

Copy of the petition be served additionally to the Standing Counsel for the State of Chhattisgarh.””

Be it noted, the Bench then notes in para 5 that, “On 21.03.2022 this Court passed the following order:-

“The records indicate that the petitioner had undergone 10 years 03 months and 16 days of custody as revealed from the custody certificate dated 09th November, 2021 and the High Court while upholding conviction, reduced the sentence to 07 years rigorous imprisonment (RI).

The submission of the counsel for the petitioner was recorded by this Court on 4th March, 2022 that despite the petitioner has undergone full sentence of 7 years RI in terms of the judgment impugned by the High Court, still he has not been released and after the notice of the present petition came to be served, the concerned authorities have released the petitioner on 16th March, 2022. This may not be the end of the matter. What is being reflected to this Court needs a further probe.

Let the counsel for the State file an affidavit and tender an explanation as to why the petitioner was detained in custody exceeding the period of judicial custody in terms of the judgment impugned of the High Court dated 19th July, 2018. At the same time, the State may also collect the data from all over the State and furnish a report to this Court of such of the incident of which reference has been made in the present petition.

Copy of this order may also be sent to the Secretary, State Legal Services Authority, Chhattisgarh for taking appropriate steps and compliance report.” (Emphasis added).”

To be sure, the Bench then observes in para 6 that, “In compliance with the said order dated 21.03.2022, an affidavit was filed by the Superintendent of Central Jail, Ambikapur, purportedly to explain the reason for detaining the appellant in custody exceeding the period of judicial custody. We find no reason to accept so-called justification and we will explain the raison d’etre for our disinclination and also for our inclination to grant compensation.”

Quite significantly, the Bench points out in para 12 that, “Thus, it is evident that in the State of Chhattisgarh, the Madhya Pradesh Prison Rules, 1968 is in force and thereunder the term ‘sentence’ takes the meaning sentence as finally fixed on appeal, revision or otherwise and it includes an aggregate of more sentences than one and committal to or detention in prison in default of furnishing security to keep the peace or good behaviour. As stated hereinbefore, in the instant case the Court of Special Judge the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Jashpur, which tried the appellant convicted him for the offence punishable under Section 376 IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 12 years and to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000/- and in default of its payment to undergo additional one year rigorous imprisonment. In the appeal, while confirming the conviction, the High Court reduced the sentence to rigorous imprisonment for 07 years under Section 376 IPC and retained the order of payment of fine of Rs.10,000/- as it is. Additionally, it was ordered that the appellant should compensate the victim in terms of the provisions of Section 357 Cr.P.C. by paying Rs.15,000/-. In the aforesaid circumstances, the indisputable position is that the sentence finally fixed on the appellant was 7 years of rigorous imprisonment. It is true that he was also to suffer one more year of imprisonment in default of payment of fine. But, what is disturbing us is the purposeful omission to make any mention about the period of remission to which the appellant was entitled to in the affidavit dated 24.4.2022. This requires to be taken seriously not solely due to the applicability of the afore-mentioned Prison Rules but on account of certain other aspects as well. Whatever be the actual period of remission to which the appellant was entitled to, the factum is that his entitlement to remission is indisputable in the circumstances mentioned above. Going by the custody certificate the period of jail remission as on 9.11.2021 was 2 years, 5 months and 26 days. It is pertinent to note that the deponent of the affidavit dated 24.04.2022 who himself issued the Custody Certificate, did not dispute the entitlement of the appellant for remission. What exactly was the period of imprisonment undergone by the appellant with remission was not mentioned at all in the said affidavit though in the order dated 21.03.2022 this Court recorded that going by the records the appellant had suffered, 10 years, 3 months and 16 days of custody as per the Custody Certificate dated 9th November, 2021. Add to it, even going by the affidavit dated 24.04.2022 the appellant had suffered imprisonment in excess of what was he was to suffer legally. In paragraph 17 of the said affidavit what is stated :

“That the total sentence undergone by the petitioner (excluding the remission period) is 8 years 1 month and 29 days.” (Emphasis added).”

Frankly speaking, the Bench then concedes voluntarily in para 17 that, “We are not oblivious of the fact that the appellant herein was held guilty in a grave offence. But then, when a competent court, upon conviction, sentenced an accused and in appeal, the sentence was modified upon confirmation of the conviction and then the appellate judgment had become final, the convict can be detained only up to the period to which he can be legally detained on the basis of the said appellate judgment. When such a convict is detained beyond the actual release date it would be imprisonment or detention sans sanction of law and would thus, violate not only Article 19(d) but also Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This is what was suffered by the appellant for a very long period. Considering the fact that the appellant is a youth, this long and illegal imprisonment beyond the period of sentence, taking into account the long and illegal deprivation of the right to move freely and thereby, the violation of right under Article 19 (d) of the Constitution of India, the violation of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and the mental agony and pain caused due to such extra, illegal detention, we are of the view that the appellant is entitled to be compensated in terms of money.”

Most remarkably, the Bench then deems it apposite to hold in para 18 that, “We are aware that the present proceeding is not one under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. It is one under Article 136 of the Constitution. We are of the view that reference to Section 386 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (for short ‘Cr.P.C.’) would be apposite. Clause (a) thereof, deals with appellate powers available in an appeal from an order of acquittal whereas clause (b) deals with appellate power in an appeal from conviction. Clause (c) deals with the appellate power in appeal for enhancement of sentence and clause (d) deals with the appellate power in an appeal from any other order. Now, clause (e), unlike clause (a) to (d), does not say as to what particular nature of appeal that the power to make any amendment or any consequential or incidental order that may be just or proper may be passed in invocation of the power thereunder. The conclusion that can be reached in the absence of such specific mention is that the power specified under clause (e) would be available, of course in appropriate cases falling under any of the four categories of appeals mentioned under clauses (a) to (d). Our view is fortified by the fact that the twin provisos under clause (d) carry restrictions in the matter of exercise of power under clause (e), with respect to enhancement of sentence and infliction of punishment. According to us, the power thereunder can be exercised only in rare cases. In this case, we found that the appellant was kept illegally in prison far in excess of the legally permissible period of incarceration despite coming to know about the appellate judgment of the High Court dated 19.07.2018. As noted above, he was released only on 16.03.2022, which is much beyond the permissible period of sentence in terms of the said judgment dated 19.07.2018. In other words, he served out the period of permissible period of imprisonment on the basis of the judgment dated 19.07.2018. The appellant is a youth and he suffered long and illegal deprivation of fundamental rights besides the mental agony and pain on account of such extra, illegal detention. Is it not a case inviting a consequential or incidental order that may be just or proper. In the decision of Ambica Quarry Works Vs. State of Gujarat (AIR 1987 SC 1073), this court held that ‘all interpretations must subserve and help implementation of the intention of the Act’. This possession is applicable while interpreting any provision in any statute especially when the power under that provision is conferred to pass orders that may be just or proper.”

Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 19 that, “It is also apposite to refer to the decision of this court in A.R. Antulay V. R.S. Nayak [(1988) 2 SCC 602] in the context of this case. Going by the same this Court can grant appropriate relief when there is some manifest illegality or where some palpable injustice is shown to have resulted. Such a power, going by the decision, can be traced either to Article 142 of the Constitution of India or powers inherent as guardian of the Constitution. Without making any observation as to his civil remedy, we think it only just and proper to pass an order granting compensation to the tune of Rs.7.5 Lakhs (Rupees Seven Lakhs and Fifty Thousand) to be paid by the State holding that it is vicariously liable for the act/omission committed by its officers in the course of employment. We also make it clear that while holding the State vicariously liable as above the State must have recourse against the erred officer(s). The appeal is disposed of in the above terms. Pending applications, if any, stand disposed of.”

Of course, this most commendable judgment by the top court deserves to be emulated by all the courts in similar such cases without fail. There has to be zero tolerance absolutely for illegal detention. If this is not ensured strictly then we will see the State and police violating the legal rights of the convict, the accused and the undertrials with impunity which cannot be allowed somehow to go unhindered, unchecked, unaccounted and unpunished at any cost and under any circumstances!

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.

Policy & Politics

REMEMBERING GORKHA CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT

Published

on

Under the leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi ji as our nation commemorates ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav,’ we take a solemn moment to remember all those brave hearts who sacrificed their lives so that we could live in a free country. The struggle for Independence attracted active participation from all the communities across the nation, however the contributions of smaller communities, especially those from North East India have remained relatively unknown. All that is changing, thanks to the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ commemoration as envisioned by Modi ji, more and more people are coming to know about the freedom fighters from smaller regions and communities too.

The sacrifices and contributions of the Indian Gorkha community towards our freedom struggle and nation building is immense, sadly majority of the people across our nation are unaware of the sacrifices made by our Gorkha ancestors. As a Member of Parliament from Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency, which is the heart of Gorkha community in India, and being a Gorkha by ethnicity, here is my humble attempt at highlighting some of the icons from Indian Gorkha community whose contributions in the history of India’s Independence remains relatively unknown among the general population.

INA CAPT. RAM SINGH THAKURI – HIMACHAL PRADESH

Among the very many celebrated Gorkha Freedom Fighters, perhaps the one with the most iconic contribution, yet the least known, remains Capt. Ram Singh Thakuri of Himachal Pradesh.

Call it a coincidence or destiny, Capt. Thakuri was born on the 15th of August 1914 to a Gorkha family in Khaniara village, Dharamshala, HP. In 1924, he had joined the 2/1 Gorkha Rifles as a unit musician. He was a talented young man, who was proficient in many fields including football, athletics, and wrestling. In the Second World War, his Battalion was shipped overseas to Singapore. In 1942, Singapore fell and the Allied forces surrendered to the Japanese. This is when Capt Ram Singh Thakuri joined the Indian National Army (INA). Soon he became very popular due to his musical talents, so much so that Netaji himself took a note of his talents. Netaji an astute military strategist understood the power music could have on the morale of the soldiers asked him to raise a marching band for the INA.

Capt. Thakuri didn’t let Netaji down, as he produced some of the most well know songs from India’s freedom movements like Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja, Sare Jahan se Accha, Inquilab Zindabad, Hind Sipahi, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment marching song “Hum Bharat ki Ladki Hai,” and others.

The Azad Hind Government had strongly felt that a National Anthem was required which would connect all Indians through a common thread of music. While some had favoured the great poet Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s ‘Vande Mataram’ as the national anthem, some others felt it wasn’t inclusive enough. It was Capt. Lakshmi Sahgal who introduced Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Jana Gana Mana’ to Netaji, by having it performed at INA women’s wing meeting, which Netaji had attended. Following which, Netaji instructed Capt Ram Singh Thakuri to re-compose the music of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s version of Jana Gana Mana in a martial tune to which INA soldiers could march to.

In one of his interviews, Capt. Thakuri fondly recalled Netaji instructing him, “the song should have such an indelible impact and force that the Cathay Building [in Singapore] should ‘break’ into two parts and the sky should become visible.”

While Capt Abid Ali and Mumtaz Hussain rewrote Gurudev’s “Jana Gana Mana” to “शुभ सुख चैन – Subha Skhuh Chain ki Barsha Barse”, Capt. Ram Singh Thakuri gave music to it.

Subha Skhuh Chain ki Barsha Barse was adopted by the Provisional Free Government of India (Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind) led by Netaji as the Qaumi Tarana – National Anthem. “Subha Sukh Chain” was played as the national anthem of free India first time on 11 September 1942 at Hamburg, when on October 31, 1943, when the INA came to power, the orchestra led by Capt. Thakuri played the Qaumi Tarana, the Cathay Building did indeed reverberate thunderously.

The music of Capt. Thakuri’s ‘Qaumi Tarana’ became a base on which our current national anthem “Jana Gana Mana” is set. In 1944, Capt. Thakuri was decorated by Subhas Chandra Bose with a gold medal for his contribution. Capt. Thakuri also received a violin and a saxophone as personal gifts from Netaji.

Capt. Thakuri was especially invited to play the ‘Quami Tarana’ when Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru unfurled the Tiranga from Lal Quila on the 15th of August, 1947, he had used the violin presented to him by Netaji, who had told him, “you will play this violin when India gets her Independence”.

Sadly, after Independence, the brave INA Freedom Fighters were neglected by the then governments. Capt. Thakuri was appointed as a DSP with the Provincial Arms Constabulary (PAC) band of Uttar Pradesh Police, and he continued to serve our nation through his music till his last days.

PUSHPA KUMAR GHISING – DARJEELING

The Naval Uprising of 1946 is among the lesser-known moments of the Indian Freedom Movement, but perhaps it is the most significant. This is when the Indian Navy soldiers staged a revolt against the British in Karachi and Bombay. Inspired by the Indian National Army over 20000 mutineers joined the Freedom Fighters from Karachi to Calcutta, taking

over the 78 ships afloat and onshore establishment. This had inspired other servicemen in the army, air force and even the civilians to join the protests.

[Pushpa Kumar Ghising during his Navy days]

During the rebellion, navy personnel Puspa Kumar Ghising from Darjeeling fought with at least three British soldiers and managed to take control of the Bombay naval ammunition dump alone. The weapons from the ammunition dump were used by the rebelling Indian sailors to hold back the British for 5 days. However, on the fifth day, the leaders from the Indian National Congress had intervened and coaxed the sailors to lay down their arms. Ghising and his friends were arrested and taken to the Mulundi Jail where he was court-martialled but acquitted during the trail.

He resigned from the Navy on September 8, 1946, and plunged into the independence movement.

Even though the Naval Uprising has not been given due importance in the history books, unlike the other important incidents in the Freedom Movement, however, many contemporary historians attribute Naval Uprising as the pivotal movement that hastened the British decision to quit India.

In recognition of Ghisingh’s role in the Independence movement, the government

felicitated him with the Tamra Patra on August 15, 1989.

HELEN LEPCHA – SIKKIM AND KURSEONG

Helen Lepcha was born in 1902 in South Sikkim and is perhaps the only female freedom fighter from Sikkim. The family migrated to Kurseong in search of better education and livelihood prospects. During the floods of 1920 in Bihar, Helen Lepcha worked as a volunteer, providing tireless service to the victims, this brought her to the attention of Mahatma Gandhi, who later named her as Sabitri Devi in honour of her service to the people. Helen Lepcha worked with the coal workers from the coalfields in erstwhile Bihar and among the workers in United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), strengthening the Freedom Movement and participated in the non-cooperation movement in 1921. She was arrested for “inciting the people against the government” and sent to jail for three months and a further house arrest later that year.

[Helen Lepcha – hero who helped Netaji]

When Netaji was kept under house arrest in Giddhey Pahar in Kurseong from 1939-40, Helen Lepcha played a vital role in smuggling in and out coded messages, ultimately laying the foundation for Netaji’s escape later right under the nose of the British authorities from Calcutta to Germany.

In appreciation of the immense contributions during the freedom movement, the Government of India honoured her with a Tamra Patra the citation.

MAJOR DURGA MALLA – UTTARAKHAND

Born on 1st of July in 1913 at the Doiwala village in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand, Durga Malla joined the Gorkha Rifles in 1931 at the age of 18. In 1942, at the height of the 2nd World War, a group of Indian soldiers led by Durga Malla decided to breakaway and form the Indian National Army under Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. Durga Malla was one of the key figures responsible for the formation of the INA, as he was largely responsible for encouraging fellow Gorkha soldiers to quit the British and join the INA. Seeing his dedication towards the Freedom of India and his military talents, he was promoted to the rank of Major by Netaji, and posted in the intelligence branch of INA, where he performed exemplarily often taking risky missions that helped INA march forward.

[Major Durga Malla – the INA Hero]

It was during one such intelligence gathering missions that he was arrested on the 27th of March, 1944 near Urkhul in Manipur. He along with fellow INA prisoners were kept in a prison at the Red Fort as a prisoner of War. There, the British tried to persuade him to renounce INA and offered him that his life would be saved if he did so. But he flat out refused to bow before the British. When all tricks and coercions failed, the British brought his wife Smt. Sharda Devi to get him to denounce INA, but instead he told his wife, “Sharda, I am sacrificing my life for the freedom of my motherland. You need not be worried and distressed. Crores of Hindustanis will be with you after my death. The Sacrifice I am offering, shall not go in vain. India shall be free. I am confident, this is only a matter of time.”

On 25th August 1944, he was sent to the gallows.

Today, his statue adorns the premise of our Parliament, marking the contribution of Gorkha community towards our Independence.

SUBEDAR NIRANJAN SINGH CHHETRI – MANIPUR

Among the illustrious Gorkha community that has produced so many heroes for our nation, the honour of being the 1st Gorkhali to have martyred for our motherland goes to Subedar Niranjan Singh Chhetri ji, from Manipur.

When the great Manipuri hero Jubraj Tikendrajit Singh decided to resist the British incursions into Manipur, 39-year-old Niranjan Chhetri of Tikuamoh, who was an ex-army sipahi of the 34th native Infantry, joined the native force of Manipur led by Bir Tikendrajit and Thangal General. His past experience as a soldier and bravery was evident, and he was appointed as Subedar by Jubraj Tikendrajit himself.

[Subedar Niranjan Singh Chhetri – the 1st Gorkha Freedom Martyr]

Following the war, he was tried by the Chief Political Officer, Manipur Field Force and was hanged to death by the British on June 8th, 1891. His last words were, “My birthplace is my Motherland, I am ready to die for this land, and I am ready to kill for this land, but I am not ready to accept surrender and subjugation of my own land”.

For decades, his sacrifice had been relegated to the pages of history. However, under

Hon’ble Chief Minister N Biren Singh ji the history and legacy of this legendary Gorkha

Freedom Fighter is finally being brough to light. On March 7th, 2021, CM N Biren Singh ji unveiled the statue of Saheed Subedar Nirajan Singh Chhetri, he acknowledged the role played by Subedar Niranjan by writing, “Immensely glad to unveil the statue of Saheed Subedar Niranjan Singh Chhetri, one of the heroes of Ango-Manipur War, 1891. His bravery, patriotism & sacrificial spirit for the motherland were unparalleled. He was hanged to death by the British on June 8,1891 for his role in the war.”

Chhetri – the 1st Gorkha Freedom Martyr]

DALBIR SINGH LOHAR – ASSAM

Dalbir Singh Lohar from Assam joined the freedom movement in 1921 during Gandhi ji’s visit to Dibrugarh. He was a labour leader and one of the most prominent Freedom Fighters from Assam, who led the Civil Disobedience Movement in Dibrugarh from the front. He was imprisoned between 1930-31 for his participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement, along with other Gorkha freedom fighters from Assam like Bhakta Bahadur Pradhan, Anantalal Sharma.

In 1939, Assam saw the historic strike at the Asia’s oldest refinery and the birthplace of oil industry in India in Digboi, Assam. Dalbir Singh Lohar was one of the key leaders of the strike called by the non-unionised Digboi Oil Refinery workers. Citing tensions with Germany, the British crushed the Digboi strike with an iron hand sending down eight platoons of Asssam Rifles to crush it. All the prominent leaders like Dalbir Singh Lohar were issued Quit Digboi, Quit Lakhimpur, and finally Quit Assam within 72-hours’ notice by the British.

[Dalbir Singh Lohar – the people’s leader from Dibrigarh]

He was again arrested during the Quit India Movement called by Gandhi ji, and all the Gorkha freedom fighters like Bhakta Bahadur Pradhan, Anantalal Sharma and others and kept in separate jails. However, they soon became the symbols of working-class people’s resistance against the British government.

After Independence, Dalbir Singh Lohar went onto become the first MLA of Gorkha ethnicity to be elected from the Digboi Assembly, by winning the 1951 election with a landslide margin. He continued to serve the working-class people all through his life.

These are only a few, whose contributions I have highlighted today, there are hundreds of others who have played a significant role towards ensuring our Independence, but due to the paucity of space, accommodating them all is not possible.

As can be seen, the Gorkhas no matter which state they were born in, have played a significant role in our Freedom Struggles, and I am hopeful that as we celebrate the “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” more people across the nation will come to know about heroes like them.

Jai Hind

*Raju Bista is the Member of Parliament from Darjeeling and National Spokesperson for BJP

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

SHINDE VS THACKREY – DISSENT OR DEFECTION…?

Adv. Manjunath Kakkalameli

Published

on

On 21 June 2022, an unprecedented political movement took place in Maharashtra and once again pop-up the 10th Schedule or anti defection law.

Initially Shinde faction case was seeming like usual case of Anti defection but as it took root of the case, it got wider scope to decide few questions of law accordingly,

On 25th of June, Maharashtra Speaker Zirwal issued disqualification notices under the 10th Schedule to Shinde faction after the party sought their disqualification from the state assembly for the wants of non-joining of party meeting even after issuance of whip. Now the notice has been challenged before hon’ble Supreme Court stating failure to attend a party meeting or expression of disagreement with certain policies of the party cannot be a ground to disqualify under para (a) or 2(b) of tenth schedule of the Constitution, however, multiple petitions have been filed by the both the parties before Supreme Court on various ground and is pending before the court for considering whether the matter be referred to Constitutional Bench or not.

Since the Thackrey led MVA Government had majority & the act of rebel Sena leader Shinde has aided to dis- Stabled the government, in such a case does the act of team Shinde fall under the “act against the party”? if yes then right to dissent has no meaning. Because the team Shinde neither voted against the party or has given up their membership. The act of Shinde team seems to be against party policy & not against the party therefore, the friction between right to dissent & Anti defection has taken place.

Right to freedom of speech & expression vs Right to dissent –

The question of law rises here in the present case is whether right to dissent, with voice of majority fall under the ambit of right to dissent or not, if yes then whether the Tenth schedule violating the Basic Structure of the constitution. Because when we call right to dissent is right to freedom of speech & expression, it would gross violation of art. 19 (1) a of the constitution & when there is violation of any provisions of the fundamental rights would be violating the basic structure of constitution & when any law is against the basic structure of the constitution is deemed to be void.

During the hearing of the Shinde’s petition Senior Counsel Harish Salave strongly stressed on Voice of Dissent and Voice of Majority and Minority tyranny and said that voice of dissent can not be suppressed in a democracy.

In Kihota Hollohon Vs Zachilhu and Others, 1992 SCC Supp. (2) 651, the Tenth Schedule was challenged on the ground that, it violates the democratic rights of elected members of Parliament and the Legislatures of the States. It violates the freedom of speech, freedom of vote and conscience of a member. Rejecting the plea, the Apex Court held that, the provisions of Tenth Schedule do not suffer from the vice or subverting democratic rights of elected members of Parliament and the Legislatures of the States. It does not violate their freedom of speech, freedom of vote and conscience. In India the freedom of speech of a member is not an absolute freedom. The provisions of the Tenth Schedule do not purport to make a member of a House liable in any ‘Court’ for anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or State Legislature. It cannot be said that Article 105 or 194 is a source of immunity from the consequences of unprincipled floor crossing. That’s why the provisions of paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule do not violate any rights or freedom of elected members of Parliament or State Legislatures under Article 105 or Article 194 of the Constitution, and is thus constitutionally valid.

Inner Party democracy –

In any democratic set up voice of dissent that too when supported with Majority should be accepted along with voice of consent. Disaccord be accepted with accord, in true sense that would be the beauty of a democratic set up.

Till date it has been observed that any dissent against a party policy deemed to be anti-defection but mere dis agreement with party policy or every disaccord cannot be held as voice against party.

Gehlot vs Pilot-

In 2019-20 Pilot group had a rebellion attempt against Gehlot and was facing disqualification by the Speaker C.P. Joshi, wherein it was challenged before the Rajsthan High Court and The Raj High Court had framed 13 issues, question of law. However, in a settlement all such disqualification notices were withdrawn and the issue of Inner party democracy and Voice of Dissent remain unanswered.

Whip versus Disqualification

Another important question of law is regarding Whip “Whether Whip as an instrument of party discipline only applied to the action expected out of legislators inside the house? In this regard I remember, A proposed solution that had created the controversy was suggested by Manish Tiwari, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha. The suggestion is relating to constitutional amendment to limit the scope of paragraph 2 (1) (b) of the bill. The Bill proposed by Manish Tiwari limits disqualification under Paragraph 2 (1) (b) to be a possible sanction only if the member dissents against a Whip issued in the following instances.

motion expressing confidence or want of confidence in the Council of Ministers,

motion for an adjournment of the business of the House,

motion in respect of financial matters as enumerated in Articles 113 to 116 (both inclusive) and Articles 203 to 206 (both inclusive),

Money Bill”.

The propositions made by Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2010 are similar to the recommendations made by the Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reform where it was suggested that disqualification must be imposed only in case of vote of confidence or no-confidence motions. By limiting the ambit of disqualification, this bill seeks to make the necessary change of creating greater room for policy expression, fearless debate and discussion in the Parliament. Such a law would liberate legislators from the whip imposing fear of losing their membership except in cases where the life of the government is threatened by a no-confidence motion, money bills and some crucial financial matters.

Dissent as Right to freedom of Speech & expression –

The Constitution (Fifty-Second Amendment) Act, 1985 which has since popularly come to be known as the Anti-Defection law, has been the subject matter of a controversy from the very beginning. It has been questioned on several grounds viz, that it is violative of the basic structure of the Constitution, that it is violative of the fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy, its violate democratic rights of the elected members of parliament and the legislatures of the State, and is destructive of the freedom of speech, right to dissent, freedom of vote and conscience, it violates the freedom under Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution.

Now considering the act of rebel Sena leader, CM Shinde and his group neither left the party at his will nor talked against party.

Because, considering entire facts on record, the act of Shinde Faction, Certain disagreements with Party Policy does not amount to Anti defection or all the dissent does not amount to anti defection same was observed in the case of In Balchandra L. Jarkiholi Vs B.S. Yeddyurappa 2011.

Delivering the dissenting judgement, Mr. Justice N. Kumar of the High Court set aside the impugned disqualification order of the Speaker and held that an act of no confidence in the leader of the legislative party does not amount to his voluntarily giving up the membership of the political party. Similarly, the act of expressing no confidence in the Government formed by the party, with a particular leader as Chief Minister, would not also amount to voluntary act of giving up the membership of the political party. Deserting the leader and deserting the Government is not synonymous with deserting the party. Dissent is not defection and the Tenth Schedule while recognizing dissent prohibits defection. Right to dissent is the essence of democracy, for the success of democracy and democratic institutions honest dissent has to be respected by persons in authority. which was later confirmed by hon’ble Supreme Court.

Therefore, if we believe in Democracy, should also believe in Right to Speech & Expression ensured as fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution of India, should believe in Party Democracy, & if Right to speech is recognized under party democracy then dissent is not defection. if dissent is not defection, then Para 2 (1) a of the tenth schedule of the constitution violating the Basic Structure of Constitution.

The Maharashtra Political crisis case has great potential to the hon’ble Supreme Court to decide the much waited and unanswered question of law ,which had paved multiple time in Indian politics , Would hope that the Supreme Court will constitute the Constitutional Bench with 05 or more judges and deliver another landmark judgment.

The Author is practising advocate at Bombay High Court.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

COURTS OUGHT NOT TO SUBJECT TO JUDICIAL SCRUTINY, WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY A PURELY POLITICAL BARGAIN

Published

on

Welfare measures are political bargains struck by a thinking electorate: The various ‘welfare measures’ (pejoratively called ‘freebies’ by the Petitioner), are political bargains between the ‘electorate’ and the ‘elected’. The ‘electorate’ is capable understanding the terms of this bargain and its implications, which is why we have constitutionally mandated ‘universal adult franchise’. Such decisions are neither justiciable, nor do they exist any judicially manageable standards for such determinations.

Judicial reassessment of such issues makes the court enter into political thicket: A judicial scrutiny of such bargains necessarily presupposes that the electorate is incapable of making an informed decision and makes the court enter into a political thicket, which this Hon’ble Court has refused to do repeatedly. This is because the judicial wing of the state has neither the expertise or the democratic mandate to dictate the terms of the political bargain between the electorate and the elected.

Restrictions envisaged limit right under Article 19(1)(a) and not covered by Article 19(2): The making of promises of welfare measures and the hearing of such promises are both protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Restriction on such speech does not fall under any of the eight heads of exceptions under Article 19(2). In any case, it is impermissible to restrict freedom of speech and expression by judicial directions and the same can only be done by way of a law passed by Parliament/legislature.

If court inclined to examine, it will be in fitness to first refer the matter to Constitution Bench to determine if such issues can be gone into by the Court. In case, this Hon’ble Court is still inclined to consider the legality of welfare measures, it is prayed that the preliminary issue of whether such issues can be adjudicated by Courts ought to be referred to a Constitution Bench.

Kindly see:

Public Interest Foundation v Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 224 where a Constitution Bench of this Court refused to issue directions barring election candidates with criminal antecedants on the ground that the said power was exclusively with Parliament (Paras 105-107, 118-119)

Asif Hameed & Ors. v. State of J & K, 1989 Supp (2) SCC 364 (Paras 17-19)

Welfare measures are in tandem with the socialist and welfare objectives of the Constitution and necessary for ensuring equality and achieving economic development

We have given ourselves a welfare/socialist state whose objective is to promote and achieve social/economic justice and equality, which is realized through welfare measures: The preamble to the Constitution is categorical about the nature of the Indian state (being socialist) and its objectives, which include, inter alia, social/economic justice and equality. These objectives find an echo in various directive principles of state policy such as Articles 38, 39, 39A, 41, 42, 43, 43A and 47 which inter alia, call for securing for citizens the right to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens and equitable distribution of material resources of the community for the common good.

Successful examples of Welfare measures include PDS for food, provision of night shelters for the homeless, free/subsidized education at the school and college level, free drinking water, mid-day meals and many more.

The Scandanavian Countries in particular that offer high amounts of social support in particular, free and equal access to social services, regardless of income or economic need. The essential elements of this modeal are large public sector, broad universal services, productive investment in health education and job training and strong work incentives with progressive taxation. These countries have some of the highest human development index in the world.

Welfare measures develop ‘capacity’ of the people, enabling them to contribute to economic growth: The characterization of ‘welfare measures’ as ‘freebies’ overlooks the fact that such measures are essential for developing ‘capacities’ of the people of the country and hence generate a workforce which can then contribute to economic growth. Given the vastly inequitable distribution of wealth in the country, but for government support, the majority cannot develop any ‘capacity’ to be able to generate wealth.

Our collective consciousness is replete with examples of poor children who have risen from the humblest backgrounds to achieve excellence in various fields. In many of these cases, this has been facilitated by because of the so called ‘freebies’ that have provided opportunities of earning and improvement in standard of living would be restrict to the very few at the top with the wherewithal to develop their ‘capacities’.

In any case, social welfare measures will not cause undue financial strain on the economy: This is because the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003 and such similar legislative measures at the state level that restricts the deficits that a government can run. Hence, all social welfare measures will be managed within this framework and the limits imposed thereby.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

Privacy implications in India of the overturning of Roe v Wade in the US

The journey from the winters of 1973 to the summer of 2022.

Published

on

June 24, 2022 witnessed perhaps one of the single-most momentous blowbacks to the notion of privacy, the consequence of which would certainly send ripples across the globe both on an ideological and a judicial-legal plane. On this day, the Supreme Court of the United States of America on this day overturned the watershed case of legal and feminist jurisprudence, Roe v. Wade of 1973 (“Wade”), effectively disrobing women in the country from exercising the erstwhile right to abort. The ramification of this ruling underlines a particularly interesting conundrum – in the wake of Big Tech collecting, storing, and processing personal data and information incessantly and sharing the same with law enforcement agencies (“LEAs”) as and when mandated, how can the most vulnerable and sensitive aspects of a person’s personal life be afforded protection to in the absence of adequate safeguards?

It is common knowledge that the tracking and storage of personal data and information accompany with it a saddening saga of squander and abuse – history is witness to this. With the over-ruling of Wade, it is now open season, wild-wild-west – the LEAs theoretically have a free hand to collect location data, forage through text messages and SMSes, dig through web-browser histories, online purchases, and personal e-mails, and use period-tracking apps surreptitiously to prosecute not only the users but also the intermediaries who may provision the said services.

The logical, unfortunate conclusion to the series of events that may potentially transpire hereon would be an absolute nightmare for all the people and families who were promised significant reproductive autonomy in the US for the past five decades. To chill reproductive freedoms, we may now even notice medical and health services providers track pregnant patients and LEAs exploit tools of surveillance to enforce existing abortion laws.

CALM BEFORE THE STORM?

If a report from Vice News were to be believed, accessing data troves in the US is an absolute breeze – for as meager as $160, one could access a week’s worth of data of the credentials and the geo-indicators of people who visited Planned Parenthood facilities (an American NGO which provides for sexual healthcare services). One possible reason why such a glaring infraction of personal privacy exists in the US in broad daylight is because of a ‘gray area of the law’. This gray area pertains to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, 1996 (“HIPPA”) which covers such data or information that is shared by the individual with a doctor. However, HIPPA does not secure any such data or information which is shared with a third-party. Hence, taking into consideration the possibility that third-party apps may share such data or information with yet another third party, the risk of abuse is glaring, to say the least.

There are two consequential takeaways for policymakers closer to home in India here. First and foremost, the guardrails for the protection and preservation of personal data and information in India are starkly lacking. And, second, in the absence of an omnibus privacy legislation, individuals and their data are at the mercy of private parties and the government to be exploited and be capitalized on.

Certainly, the Supreme Court of India did affirm that the Right to Privacy forms an integral part of the Right to Life and Liberty guaranteed by Law under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution – certainly no two thoughts about it. However, because of its delicate nature, the degree of safety and consideration that protection of medical data warrants is a notch above the safety standards mandated by the protection of general data. Taking into consideration the rapid growth of the Indian telemedicine market, the onus falls upon the Government to ensure that the prospective economic benefits of the proliferating market segment do not imperil the tenets of the Right to Privacy, especially that of health data. A nuanced and considered approach is the call of the day.

FLAWS IN THE INDIAN MEDICAL DATA POLICY FRAMEWORK

Perhaps the most pertinent issue in the framework as it stands today is the ambiguity in the understanding of ‘health data’ or ‘medical data’ and what it constitutes. Case in point, the Information Technology Act, 2000 (“IT Act 2000”), along with the Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011 (“SPDI Rules”), accords the status of sensitive personal data or information (“SPDI”) merely on such data which are either related to the physical, physiological, or mental health of an individual. However, the current legal framework does not require such data to be anonymized – hence, it is quite feasible for any entity (government or third-party) which is in possession of such un-anonymized data to ascertain who it pertains to and mine such data, thereby risking misuse.

Despite several administrative attempts, the foul of conceptual legislative clarity remains. For instance, let us take into consideration three frameworks that pertain to or which touch upon personal health data, namely – the ‘Strategy Overview: Making India a Digital Health Nation Enabling Digital Healthcare for all’ document of the National Health Authority, dated July, 2020 (“NHA Strategy Overview”), the draft Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act, 2018 (“DISHA”), and the draft Data Protection Bill, 2021 (“DPB”). In the NHA Strategy Overview, “personal health data” encompasses information and data relating to the medical conditions and subsequent treatments undertaken by a party. In comparison to the standards of the NHA Strategy Overview – where on the one hand, the DPB covers only information regarding the physical or mental health of the individual, on the other, the DISHA goes a notch up and deals with data extracted from body-part donations and data derived from medical tests and bodily examinations as well. The discordance and dichotomy in the data protection frameworks indeed are glaring. Worse still, none of them reflect upon the surveillance misuse that can manifest from the status quo!

It indeed is well established that policy frameworks conceptualize data in general, and medical data in specific, as an incorporeal, intangible resource and an effective enabler for economic progress. Data is predominantly understood as a resource (like oil), available for human extraction, and exists independent of the bodies producing it. The present-day health data policy framework in India is inordinately concentrated on the data and information that is collated and collected by primary healthcare service providers (like hospitals and medical establishments) or secondary healthcare service providers or healthcare-related service providers (like insurance companies). We today have smartwatches and mobile apps which gather data on and monitor a person’s activity levels, heart rates, sleep cycles, and daily moods, and which also can track period-cycles. Hence, the draft DISHA-DPB framework presents a thought-provoking policy and legal lacuna – with the growing use of these smartwatches and third-party apps, can the law protect from exploitation the digital footprint of an individual that is left behind?

Yet another species of unease that arises is the difficulty in dealing with the unfettered access to medical data and information that the government (both at the Central and the State level) and LEAs can procure either from third-party apps or from IoT devices. To cite an instance, it is common knowledge that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, both the Central as well as several State Governments used platforms and apps to track and contain the infection. What is perhaps not so commonly known is that for all the virtue and nobility that such contact tracing mechanisms may have brought about, they also institutionalized mass surveillance to a very large extent – one needs to understand that most of these apps often devolved into mechanisms of trickery by surveilling, monitoring and controlling the movement of individuals in the cloak of ‘lockdown enforcement’. Add to this, by way of the mandate provisioned in the proviso to Rule 6(1), and in Rule 6(2), of the SPDI Rules – sensitive personal data and information (including medical and health data) which is shared by an individual with third-party apps and platforms can legally be procured by LEAs without the explicit permission of the individual to whom such data belongs to. This gives rise to a certainly worrying trend, especially when you look at it from the privacy lens!

WHERE CAN WE GO FROM HERE: STEPS FOR THE TIMES AHEAD

In no uncertain terms, the pressing priority of the day in the Indian data-landscape is for lawmakers to cogitate considerately upon a definition of ‘health data and information’. A good starting point to fortress individual rights over their personal health would be to place digital health data and information collected by third-party apps and platforms, as well as by IoT devices, under the ambit of the draft DPB-DISHA framework.

Subsequently, legislative intent must deliberate over the fact that a certain category of health data is more intimate and sensitive than others (like, mental health issues faced by an individual vis-à-vis the height of that person) and may necessitate a higher degree of care and protection. Hence, to ensure that the individual possesses absolute and unqualified autonomy over such data of such a delicate character, a graded approach to health data is necessary.And lastly, lawmakers in India must take into account that in the wake of ‘data-sharing and interoperability’ practices, the policy-framework governing health data and information does not trade off privacy principles in the veneer of supposedly facilitating public welfare. Both healthcare service providers, medical insurance providers, and other healthcare-service providing third parties should enact protective policies which ought to be designed to keep a tight lid on sensitive personal health data and information and associated medical records and histories. Along these lines, to take a cue from the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), wherein data subjects have the ‘right to erasure’ as protected under Article 17 and Recital 65, GDPR – in India as well, individuals should also have the right to ensure that their sensitive personal data and information is erased if and where the said individual objects to the collection or processing of her/his health data and information.

The United States’ decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (the regressive U-turn precedent to Wade) did ensure for certain one thing – that the frigidity of the winters of 1973 would certainly chill the spine of women fifty odd years after, in the summer of 2022. Trust, accountability, and transparency – at a time we need them the most are indeed the absolute, dire necessity of the moment.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

CODE ON WAGES: AN IMMACULATE REFORM?

Published

on

DA hike

No establishment which depends for existence on paying fees less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue. By living wages, it is meant more than the bare subsistence level- the wages of decent living” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The multiplicity of labour laws and their compliance burden has often been cited by domestic industries and foreign investors as an obstacle to investment. With the objective of increasing investor confidence and simplifying and rationalising the existing labour laws, the government announced an amalgamation of 44 labour laws into 4 codes, namely on (i) wages; (ii) industrial relations; (iii) social security and welfare; and (iv) occupational safety, health and working conditions. The Code on Wages 2019, the first amongst the four codes, was enacted to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This code consolidates four major legislations namely the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 which basically regulated the wages received by the workers.

Recently, it had been in news that the Government is eyeing to enforce these legislations shortly. In the backdrop of this development it becomes essential for one and all to become aware of some of the problematic elements of the Code and the Draft Central Wage Rules such that one may be prepared to deal with the same and if required devise appropriate ways to mitigate its effects.

AREAS FOR RECONSIDERATION AND IMPROVEMENT: FIXATION OF NATIONAL LEVEL FLOOR WAGE

In 2018, the Government of India constituted an Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. Anoop Satpathy for fixing the National Minimum Wage. In the final report titled Report of the Expert Committee on determining the Methodology for Fixing the National Minimum Wage of January 2019, the committee submitted its recommendations after considering the existing labour conditions, the guidelines of the Indian Labour Conference of 1957 and the Supreme Court case of Workmen v. Reptakos Brett & Co., and fixed the National Minimum Wage equal to Rs. 375/ per day, irrespective of the sector of employment, skill or whether the place of employment was rural or urban. However, the recommendation, was not incorporated in the Code and the National Floor Minimum Wage was fixed as low as Rs. 178 per day, perhaps less than even the existing wage rate at certain places.

Section 9 of the Code provides for the determination of a National-level floor wage, which would basically set a minimum benchmark for payable wages. For the purpose of making the quantum of wages reasonable as well as uniform this is a welcome policy measure introduced by the Government. In that regard, Rule 3 of the Draft Central Rules states, that the size of a general working class family would be deemed to be 4 members, wherein the earning member would be counted as 1 consumption unit, spouse as 0.8 and 2 children as 0.6 consumption unit each. This is where some problem creeps in to the Code. This calculation does not account for the elderly and other dependents who are generally present in an Indian family. Even as per the data available from the 2011 Census, the average household size in India was 5 (exact mean value 4.8). Thereafter, the said rule refers to a requirement of 2700 calories per day per consumption unit, which again is barely enough in consideration of the nutritional requirements. It is assumed that women will consume 20% less and children will consume 40% less than that assigned for a male member, thus making the law insensitive to women and static and unresponsive to the increasing nutritional requirements of growing children (a 14-year-old child may not have the same diet as that of 7-year-old child). Though this rule might not lead to nutritional deficiencies per se, yet provided the opportunity, it might neither contribute expectedly in improving the condition of health and malnutrition among women and children nor in improving the social status of women in the society.

Further, the method provided for calculating house rent as 10 percent of food and clothing expenditure disregards the realities of workers living in cities and the existing cost of living and might fail to ensure them liveable housing conditions. Lastly, the provision for setting aside 25% of minimum wages for expenditure on children’s education, medical needs, recreation and to meet contingencies, also appears to be insufficient, as the difference in cost rises to over seven times in urban centres, where the average expenditure in government hospitals is Rs 7,189 as against Rs 42,540 in private hospitals.

Observing the high costs of education, medical facilities etc. these days, the provisions do not seem adequate.

PERIODICITY OF FIXATION OF FLOOR WAGE

Rule 11(4) of the Draft Central Rules states, that the Central Government “may” revise the floor wage, ordinarily every five years and also “periodically” undertake to adjust the variations in the cost of living, in consultation with the Central Advisory Board. Use of these uncertain terms open scope for delay in the process of revision and can lead to interpretations and misinterpretations that may result in stagnation of floor wage rates in future and thus defeat the purpose of floor wage rates itself. Thereafter, even the period of revision of floor wages coincides with the period of revision of minimum rate of wages and since former is the point of reference for the latter, the periodicity of revision of floor wages should be shortened, for the expected realisation of its raison d’être.

BONUSES TO ALL

Initially the scope of guaranteed bonus (not linked to the performance of an individual) was restricted only to those employees who earned up to Rs 21,000 per month. The new Code refers to stipulation of a wage threshold by the appropriate government, and employees whose wages did not exceed this amount would be entitled to a guaranteed bonus which would be in the range of 8.33 percent to 20 percent, depending upon the allocable surplus available in the organisation. However, the Code provides that even those employees who earn above this threshold, would be entitled to receive a bonus (in the same percentage range) and the amount payable would be calculated as if their wage was such an amount, so determined by the government or equal to the minimum wage fixed by the appropriate government, whichever would be higher. Now this, would not only dilute meritocracy and add to an organisation’s cost burden but also lead to issues in compliance, for Companies having operations in different states of the Country, if the different state governments fix a different ceiling for payment of bonus. Thus, employees receiving the same pay might become eligible for different amounts of bonuses.

CODE SANS WAGE THRESHOLD

Obligations relating to payment of minimum wages have been extended to all employees that is individuals even in administrative and managerial roles, without any wage threshold, as per Section 5 of the Code. In comparison, the existing Payment of Wages Act currently extended only to those individuals whose wages did not exceed Rs 24,000 per month. Since no such wage limit has been contemplated by the Wage Code, these provisions might consequently be applicable even to senior employees, including even the one’s in the highest position in the organisation. This makes matters cumbersome and onerous for employers, especially when it comes to re-devising and structuring the pay and other benefit agreements of those senior employees, considering such arrangements generally involve claw back and other deduction provisions (which take away a substantial part of that which has been given to them), which may not be consistent with this law.

CONCLUSION

The Code on Wages, 2019 is no less, than a landmark in the Indian Labour industry, especially with respect to the extent of simplification it has brought with respect to the various enactments, by meticulously consolidating the same in one single enactment. The new Codes are about to be enforced shortly but yet there are certain aspects which are problematic and require reconsideration. Firstly, neither the quantum National Floor Wage corresponds with the guidelines of the Expert Committee nor does it acknowledge the ordinary Indian family size and structure and adequately account for the actual needs and requirements of its beneficiaries.

Secondly, use of uncertain terms with respect to the periodicity of wage revisions and coinciding periods of revision of National Floor Wages and Minimum Wage Rates can lead to misinterpretations and consequently result in stagnation and delay in the process of revision of wages. Thirdly, issues such as lack of wage threshold and lastly, provision for payment of bonus to all, adds further uncertainty in the law and results in increased costs for the employers, thereby defeating one of the very fundamental objective of introducing this Code itself, that is of increasing the ease of doing business in India and providing an employer friendly work environment to the investors.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

Delhi HC facilitates school admission

Published

on

While emerging as a very strong voice for the voiceless, the Delhi High Court in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Kamini Arya Through Perokar vs The State NCT Of Delhi in Bail Appln. 2165/2022 pronounced as recently as on August 3, 2022 has taken suo motu cognizance to facilitate admission of an 8 year old child to school which could not be facilitated for the reason that her parents were in judicial custody in a murder case since July 2021. It must be mentioned here that the Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Ms Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma minced just no words to espouse child’s cause while observing that, “The court is of the opinion that the child must get admitted in a school at the earliest so that shadow of no unpleasant happening falls upon the child’s life to darken her future.” It is also most pleasing to learn that the Delhi High Court in this notable case made it absolutely clear that the child, being an individual Indian citizen, enjoyed the Fundamental Rights including the Right to Education and that the welfare of child should not only be considered in cases dealing with family disputes but also like the present one.

At the outset, this most commendable, cogent, courageous, composed and convincing judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma sets the ball rolling most promptly by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 itself that, “The present application has been filed by the petitioner seeking interim bail for two weeks in FIR No. 323/21 registered at P.S. Mohan Garden under sections 302/365/292/397/411/120-B/201 & 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’). The petitioner and her husband, who is the co-accused in the aforementioned FIR, have been in judicial custody since 11.07.2021. The application has been moved by the mother of the child on the ground that she is concerned about the admission in a school of her child, who is about 8 years of age. It is stated that without her presence, she cannot be admitted in any school.”

No doubt, the grounds forwarded by the mother of the child are bona fide and worth considering seriously by the Court. The child is just about 8 years of age and so definitely the mother’s presence is inevitable to get the child admitted to school. This was considered seriously also by the Court!

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The interim bail application of the petitioner has been dismissed by the ld. ASJ, Dwarka Court, vide order dated 21.05.2022 wherein the ld. ASJ opined that the ground on which the petitioner has approached the court for bail, i.e. getting her daughters admitted to school, is not of such a nature which can be termed as a compelling circumstance or intolerable grief. The application was thus dismissed by the ld. ASJ.”

As it turned out, the Bench then points out in para 3 that, “The court is informed by the learned counsel for the applicant that the elder sibling of the child is studying in the secondary school branch of Co-Ed Pry. School, West Zone, New Delhi – 110059. It is prayed that the child in the present case may be admitted in Nursery Class in the aforementioned school.”

As we see, the Bench then discloses in para 4 that, “In the present case, it has come to notice of the court that the applicant, i.e. the mother of the minor child, is in judicial custody due to her alleged involvement in the murder of an old lady whose body parts were severed and disposed of in a drain.”

As things stand, the Bench then brings out in para 5 that, “During the course of arguments on the bail application a query was put forth by this court and the court was informed that the presence of the applicant/mother is not required for admission of the child in the school and the Aadhaar Card of the mother shall suffice. The same has been duly verified by the Investigating Officer (IO) who has filed a reply from the Principal of SDMC, Co-Ed Pry. School, West Zone, New Delhi – 110059, wherein it is stated that the child’s admission can be done without the Aadhaar Card if the child has a certificate bearing the child’s date of birth from any government institution. It is further stated that any local guardian of the child can also get him/her admitted in school.”

While unequivocally underscoring the huge importance of education in a child’s life, the Bench then opines in para 6 that, “In my opinion, education is the first step towards tackling social evils, especially poverty, inequality and discrimination. Every child, irrespective of caste, religion, sex, or economic background has been guaranteed right to education. An educated individual can make informed decisions, first for themselves, and then be able to contribute constructively towards the progress of the nation and society at large.”

While sending out the most simple, straightforward and strong message to all the Judges, the Bench then mandates in no uncertain terms in para 7 that, “Once it comes to the notice of the court that a child or an individual is deprived of a fundamental right, the courts have to ensure that the fundamental right is enforced and there is no impediment for any individual to enjoy the same. The court should not fail in its duty at any point of time in this regard.”

Most remarkably, the Bench then further adds in para 8 that, “Right to Education is a fundamental right guaranteed to every citizen under Article 21-A of the Constitution. A child must not suffer the consequences, on account of their parents having been in judicial custody for a crime which is yet to be adjudicated upon by the court. This court is duty bound to enforce fundamental rights of every citizen and in this case right to education of the child.”

Most forthrightly, the Bench then also unambiguously maintained in para 9 that, “The Constitution guarantees protection of independent identity and individuality to every Indian citizen. Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land and this court is bound to protect the rights of every individual enshrined and guaranteed by the same. Especially in the present case, where the right to education of a child is at stake, it is imperative that the court intervenes timely and upholds the right envisaged in the Constitution to protect the future of the child.”

Needless to say, the Bench then notes clearly in para 10 that, “This court is of the opinion that the child must get admitted in a school at the earliest so that shadow of no unpleasant happening falls upon the child’s life to darken her future.”

Most significantly, the Bench then state in para 11 what constitutes the cornerstone of this learned judgment that, “At the cost of repetition, it is opined that in the present case, the child is an individual Indian citizen and enjoys her own Fundamental Rights given to her by virtue of her being born in India, Right to Education is the child’s fundamental right. In the present unpleasant situation of the case, the court has to become the voice of the voiceless child. The parents are in judicial custody and the prime concern of the parents is education of the child. It is not only in cases dealing with family disputes that the rights and welfare of the child should be considered but also in the cases as the present one, the courts can become and act as the parent of the child and ensure that the child is not deprived of its Fundamental Right to Education. Depriving any child of education due to family circumstances should not be allowed to every extent possible. An educated child educates the entire family and becomes an asset to the nation.”

Quite forthrightly, the Bench then directs in para 12 that, “In the circumstances, at this stage, this court feels the need to exercise its discretionary powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and take suo-motu cognizance to facilitate the child’s admission in a school so that the child does not lose out on the current academic year i.e. 2022-23. It is therefore directed that the SHO concerned will get the child admitted to the school adjacent to the senior branch of the school in which the older sibling of the child is already enrolled and pursuing her education.”

Furthermore, the Bench then lays down in para 13 that, “The Principal of the school will extend full cooperation for the admission of the child. A compliance report will be filed within 10 days. The identity of the child and the school in question is not being mentioned in this order to protect the privacy and dignity of the child.”

What’s more, the Bench then aptly points out in para 14 that, “It is submitted by the counsel for the petitioner that the petitioner is satisfied with the relief that has been granted. Considering the petitioner was seeking bail only on the ground that she needed to fulfil her responsibilities as a parent and get her child admitted to school, permission is now sought by the counsel of the petitioner to withdraw the present application.”

As a corollary, the Bench then reveals in para 15 that, “In view of this order, the learned counsel for the applicant states that she is satisfied with the order and does not press her application at this stage. Permission is sought to withdraw the same.”

In this context, the Bench then quite ostensibly directs in para 16 that, “In terms of the above, the application is dismissed as withdrawn.” Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in final para 17 that, “Ordered accordingly.”

All told, it definitely merits no reiteration that all the courts must in similar such cases emulate what the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma of Delhi High Court has laid down so elegantly, eloquently and effectively in this noteworthy case! In essence, the Courts must definitely become the voice of the voiceless as we see so very ostensibly in this leading case. It also must be definitely underscored that the Courts must also prima facie ensure that the process itself does not become the punishment due to which the long term interest of the child gets jeopardised. No doubt, we saw how in this case the Delhi High Court so very commendably took suo motu cognizance to facilitate the school admission of the child whose parents are in custody and thus ensured that the paramount interest of the child to education is safely protected. Of course, it must be said that this is definitely the best way in which ideally all the Courts in our country must always act and not just turn away their face citing process, procedure etc! There can be certainly just no denying or disputing it!

Continue Reading

Trending