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Policy & Politics

Extra-judicial killings can never become an instrument of state policy

In a democracy, we must remember the rule of law is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.

Aprajita Singh

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The Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v. State of Maharashtra [(2014) 10 SCC 635] observed that this “encounter” philosophy is a criminal philosophy,

One of the characteristic features of modern NationStates is the monopoly over the power of coercion-namely through instruments of police and the army. These instruments are envisaged to uphold state sovereignty, ensure rule of law and in general to maintain law and order both within and outside the nation.

However, what if these very instruments are used for sinister ends, for political gains. What happens then? .Do we have recourse to something that protects our liberties and ensures that Rule of Law doesn’t wither in extreme and strenuous situations, like demand for instant but illegal and immoral justice. (The case in Telangana and Uttar Pradesh)

This article without going into the procedural aspects and legal provisions aim to gather a perspective on why Extra-Judicial killings in the Indian context are increasingly finding Legitimacy in the eyes of the people. How it augers for a country like India that takes pride in calling itself the world’s largest democracy governed by Rule of Law.

The rule of law has rightly been accorded space in the Basic Structure Doctrine by the Supreme Court. Rule of law is the fundamental principle of governance of any civilized liberal democracy. It is the Anti-Thesis of Arbitrariness. The fundamental premise of Rule of Law is that every human being, including terrorists and the worst criminal, are entitled to basic human rights and Due Process.

The first and foremost question that comes, therefore, in mind is why Encounters are illegal or Extra-Judicial. Article 21 of the Constitution states that “No person can be deprived of his/her life and liberty except by procedure established by law”. Hence, a nation governed by rule of law must operate within the boundaries prescribed the law of the land, and no law in India prescribes Encounters as a form of Justice. This means that a fair criminal trial, judgment based on evidence, an opportunity to the accused be heard, appeal provisions to rectify the trial court’s verdict, etc. are necessary before a person is punished. Fake or staged encounters empower the police to play the role of a judge and executioner and leads to a direct violation of Article 21 as the procedure established by law is not followed in such a case. They are outside the four walls of law, and therefore extra-judicial.

The basic reason for the rising cases of encounters are first, a slow-moving and inefficient criminal justice system, Secondly-the police which is still governed by archaic law of colonial past, a lack of democratic sensibilities among the police in our country, Thirdly-Bulwarks of democracy like National Human Rights Commission and Constitutional Courts not taking a stand on such issues and the last and maybe chief reason –Rising legitimacy being provided to such actions by populist cries for an instant but illegal justice.

Snail’s pace of our Criminal Justice System

There is no denying the fact that our Criminal Justice System is in urgent need of reform in its entire entirety. The criminal justice system involves Investigation, Prosecution, and then finally adjudication by the courts. One cannot by-pass process for the sake of populist pressure or cries for an instant but illegal justice by the public. There have several such attempts in the past like the IPC 1860, CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 1973, and the INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT that dates back to 1872. However, comprehensive legal reform requires careful consideration and a great deal of deliberation.

In 2003, the JUSTICE MALIMATH committee had come up with some significant far-reaching reforms; some of the suggestions became part of the criminal law. JUSTICE VERMA committee came up with significant reforms on crimes related to women.

The death penalty is also one of the areas that need to be looked into as far as the criminal justice system is concerned. Justice Kurian Joseph stated, “Death Penalty is freakishly imposed”. The doctrine of “Rarest of the rare case” has been arbitrarily and inconsistently used. The SC in Bachan Singh Case (1980) had upheld capital punishment but with a rider that it should be used only in rarest of the rare case. The Law Commission 262nd report has also held that the rider of “rarest of the rare” has failed to prevent the judges from arbitrarily sending a guilty to the hangman.

Therefore, what we need careful deliberation with all stakeholders like the Bar and Bench, Police, and common citizens to reform our criminal justice

Police: Governed by Archaic law, a remnant of colonial past

The police in India is generally viewed as an agent of coercion, which does not auger well for any country, let alone a democracy governed by rule of law. It can become an agent of change with well-intentioned and robustly implemented reforms. The problem in the Indian context is that Police in India don’t view brutality as abhorrent to citizen’s liberties and rights. To them, it is part of the game. A little brutality to them does not harm, not realizing it creates a culture of impunity and violation of liberties of the citizens by the state. As Professor Rajeev Bhargava in his article “Police Terror and the Threat of Law (The Hindu) said correctly-”That local policemen think of themselves as sovereigns in their little territory, executors of “laws, they invent on the go.”

The Law Commission in its 273rd Report has recommended that burden lies on the police to show they are not involved when someone dies in police custody. Numerous expert bodies like the National Police Commission (1977-81), Ribeiro Committee (1998), Malimath Committee (2002-2003), and Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) have made genuine, well-intentioned recommendations for police reforms but not to much avail. These need to be implemented. It is a sorry state of affairs that it took 11 years for Tamil Nadu to pass a law to give effect to the judgment in Prakash Singh Case (2006) and that several states still stand in contempt of SC, is a manifestation of the absence of political will for such reforms. There is no questioning the fact that “Covenants without the sword are nothing but words”

(Thomas Hobbes In Leviathan”), enforcement of law requires the use of force. However, rule of law requires constraints on excesses, deployment of force must be consistent with the dignity of the citizen, guaranteed Under Article 21. The police need to uphold professionalism, clean its ranks of the corrupt and the inefficient and liberate the state.

Bulwarks of Democracy Constitutional Courts and the National Human Rights Commission not taking a stand

According to the NHRC’s last Annual Report, 2017- 18, 164 deaths were resulting from police encounters that year. If the NHRC has to shed its “Toothless Tiger” tag (Former Chief justice of India HL DATTU while presiding over the institution had remarked that it is a “toothless tiger’), the time is now. Human Rights are not gifts from the state to be governed by its conveniences. These are sacrosanct and foundations of dignified human existence. Any violation of human rights, even that of a heinous crime or innocent citizens needs to be protected.

While Constitutional courts have tried to protect our very basic rights under article 21, yet here we are, again, where it is reported that daily 5 deaths take place in custody in India. It is no doubt a product of continued institutional apathy towards police reform, it also evident that the judiciary’s approach of only passing directions/ guidelines have proved to be a failure. More often than they are implemented in letter, than in spirit. Often implemented at discretion and conveniences of the government in question. This can be seen in various guidelines of the Constitutional Courts.

In PUCL V/S State of Maharashtra (2014) a two-Judge Bench of then CJI RM Lodha and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman (2014) stated that Is a society governed by rule of law, extra-judicial killings must be properly and independently investigated so that justice may be done. The Supreme Court in Public Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, while commenting on the legitimacy of encounters, observed as follows –

“if the version of the police with respect to the incident in question were true there could have been no question of any interference by Court. Nobody can say that the police should wait till they are shot at. It is for the force on the spot to decide when to act, how to act, and where to act. It is not for the Court to say how the criminals should be fought.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees, “right to live with human dignity”. Any violation of human rights is viewed seriously by this Court, as a right to life is the most precious right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. The guarantee by Article 21 is available to every person and even the State has no authority to violate that right … …

this Court has stated time and again that Article 21 confers sacred and cherished right under the Constitution, which cannot be violated, except according to the procedure established by law. Article 21 guarantees personal liberty to every single person in the country which includes the right to live with human dignity.”

The Bench issued a set of 16-point guidelines to be followed for a thorough, effective, and independent investigation into every encounter death.

Apart from making registration of FIR mandatory, the Bench made it clear that the involvement of NHRC is not necessary unless there is serious doubt about the independent and impartial investigation, although information of the incident without any delay must be sent to NHRC or the State Human Rights Commission, as the case may be. Point No. 11 says that if on the conclusion of an investigation, the evidence shows that death had occurred by the use of firearm amounting to an offense under the IPC, disciplinary action against such officer must be promptly initiated and he is placed under suspension. Guidelines to focus on aspects such as the role of a judicial magistrate over which it has superintendence and control.

In July 2016 in the case of Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association, where the Supreme Court was dealing with more than 1500 such killings in Manipur, Justice MDAN B LOKUR observed, “Scrutiny by courts in such cases leads to complaints by the state of its having to fight militants, insurgents, criminals and terrorists with one hand tied behind its back. This is not a valid criticism, since, and this is important, in such cases it is not the encounter or the operation that is under scrutiny, but the smoking gun that is under scrutiny. There is a qualitative difference between the use of force in an operation and the use of such deadly force that is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly; one is an act of self-defense, while the other is an act of retaliation”.

The Apex Court has held in Om Prakash v. State of Jharkhand that “it is not the duty of the police to kill the accused merely because he is a criminal.” It was further stated that ‘encounters’ amounted to “state-sponsored terrorism.”

In Sathyavani Ponrai v. Samuel Raj, the Supreme Court has held that a fair investigation is mandatory under Articles 14, 21, and 39 of the Constitution of India and that it is not only a constitutional right but a natural right as well. Further, in Nirmal Singh Kahlon v. the State of Punjab, the Court observed that the right to investigation and fair trial applies to both, the accused and the victim under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

There is a reason why the judiciary is called the weakest branch, all the noble words and intentions of the court order does not automatically translate into reality. This needs money and power of immediate implementation, neither of which courts have. Constitutional courts must re-orient their guidelines to focus on aspects such as the role of a judicial magistrate over which it has superintendence.

Courts and NHRC have also shown a lenient approach towards such incidents. One must remember that in case of serious and heinous crimes, the rule of law does not disappear; it is the very foundation of democracy. Our commitment to Human Rights and the Rule of law is tested during these times. Mob justice is no justice at all; support for police killing will not make society more just. When law enforcers short circuit the due process, the damage to state institutions is severe and long lasting. It dents the credibility of Rule of Law, in effect weakens democracy.

Political Class: Satisfying Domestic Constituencies and Populist Cries For Instant Justice

Political class also needs to remember that upholding Rule of Law is not the sole responsibility of the Judiciary, as elected representatives they even have greater responsibility to cultivate a culture of obedience to Rule of Law. They are role models, to whom citizens should look up to; they should not promote the feudal culture of breaking the law, as it brings home the message of impunity. The foundational principle of the justice system is repetitively, relentlessly and ruthlessly trampled by the continuous reproduction of the narrative that ‘since the deceased was a criminal, it was alright for the police to bypass the rule of law’. Social institutions, whether it is media, films, education, or religion, have been often used to reproduce such narratives which compel the need for brave masochistic male protagonists to take law and order in their own hands to eradicate the evil criminals allegedly for the ‘greater good of society’.

Once a collective consciousness regarding demonstrative justice is manufactured, the question of actual justice is pushed into cold storage. The failure to address and fix the gaps in the criminal justice system is compensated by a socially and politically sanctioned quick fix vigilante justice system. This system of vigilante justice supersedes the rule of law and instead of bringing the wrongful actions of the police to judicial accountability, the criminal acts are often praised and the offenders are given promotions and celebrated as heroes. In cases where efforts are seen to be taken by various responsible stakeholders to raise public opinion, the question of which authority will conduct a fair investigation remains unresolved forever.

Political masters at times themselves are involved for such wrongdoing for reasons well documented by the NHRC.

What, according to the NHRC, are the reasons for fake encounters?

In NHRC’s view, false encounters are, at times, staged by police officers because there is pressure by the political masters to show quick results by means fair or foul. The public, particularly the educated middle class, also do not mind if the police take the law in their own hands and become executioners, particularly concerning the dreaded criminals, says the NHRC’s 2011 manual for human rights for police officers.

The second reason cited by the NHRC is that the police dilemma is compounded by the slow moving the criminal justice system in the country. Trials drag on interminably for years and the outcome remains uncertain, particularly in respect of the criminals enjoying money and muscle power. Hence the pressure on the police for the short cut, and extra-legal methods.

Justified by the police and political leaders on two grounds-Salus populi est suprema lex (the people’s welfare is the supreme law) and salus res publica est suprema lex (the safety of the nation is the supreme law).

Conclusion

Rule of Law is not a meaningless ritualistic legal slogan promiscuously chanted at seminars and workshops and university lectures. Rule of law is not a phrase to be used in only legal jargon; it is a way of life in modern liberal democracies. Rule of Law in essence embodies a lofty concept, a commitment to certain principles and values. It is a salutary reminder that “wherever law ends, tyranny begins” Rule of Law symbolizes the quest of civilized democratic societies. It is to be upheld by all, especially WE, THE PEOPLE. It is the very basis of a civilized society, civilized nation. In its absence, there will be complete Anarchy and Chaos, where MIGHT BECOMES RIGHT, Rule of Law will become Rule of Whims and Fancies of Rulers. It will lead to, as KAUTILYA said “MATSYANYAYA”(Big Fish Eating Small”). We must recall what the Supreme Court said in SALWA JUDUM CASE (2011) -” The primordial value is that it is the responsibility of every organ of the state to function within the four walls of constitutional responsibility. That is the ultimate Rule of Law”. The only true foundation on which the Rule of Law can rest is its willing acceptance by the people of each country until it becomes part of their way of life. Therefore, we should strive to instill the Rule of Law temperament, Rule of Law culture at home, in the schools and universities.

Aprajita Singh is Assistant Professor, School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies.

Policy & Politics

Making things happen: Scarcity management, the Solapur way

Tukaram Mundhe and his team proved that it-can-happen because they made-it-happen, setting an example for others to follow.
The Solapur approach can be extremely useful in the implementation of recently announced Jal Jeevan Mission by Government of India.

Anil Swarup

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The district administration focused on the issue of development and strengthening of existing water sources. The main strategy being recharging of wells/ borewells. Of the 6,400 drinking water sources, recharging was undertaken before the monsoon of 2015-16.

Solapur has been a perennially water-scarce district. It lies in the rain shadow region of western Maharashtra. Ironically, despite being in the semi-arid zone, Solapur has the dubious reputation of having the largest number of sugar factories in Maharashtra. Sugarcane and sugar mills have created a vicious circle of unscientific farming practices that have led to disastrous consequences. 

The rainfall pattern and its utilization has led to depletion of water resources. What was lost sight of was the correlation between rainfall, runoff, recharge and usage of water. Scarcity of water had been a recurrent phenomenon throughout the state and especially in Solapur. A holistic view of scarcity was taken by Tukaram Mundhe who took over as Collector of the District in 2014. He and his team analyzed the reasons behind it. Non-availability of water in the sources and data relating to water resources, transportation of water and its improper distribution, and quality of water were identified as primary causes of this perennial problem.

 After the most devastating droughts in the year 1971, the Government had come out with number of legislations and rules thereunder to counter the impact of the drought. The provisions mandated water management through a two-pronged approach:

 • Immediate measures to make water available to the people through requisition of private wells/borewells, pipelines, digging new borewells, special repairs, tankers etc (Proforma A measures)

 • Measures to prevent recurrence of scarcity condition such as well/borewell recharging, desilting of water bodies to increase storage capacity etc. (Proforma B measures) Over a period of time, the focus had been on immediate measures while the preventive and promotive measures had been totally ignored. This had aggravated the scarcity rather than preventing it. Tukaram Mundhe got an action plan prepared. 

The plan focused on implementation of long-term measures as in Proforma B vigorously. It was felt that unless the Gram Panchayat took up the development of sources (through recharging water sources, recharging ground water etc), the problem would not be taken care of. The regulation and development of sources were taken simultaneously. Government Rules mandated following steps to be taken in times of scarcity before making tankers operational, which is a last resort. 

1. Completion of piped water supply schemes (WSS)

 2. Special Repairs of piped water supply schemes

 3. Special repairs of Borewell 

4. Digging of new Borewell 

5. Temporary piped WSS 

6. Digging small wells in river beds/dams 

7. Desilting and Deepening of existing wells

 8. Private well requisition

 9. Water supply through Tankers/Tractors/bullock carts The first major step was identification of public drinking water sources. Once sources were declared as public sources, regulatory provisions of Groundwater Act came into play. In December 2014 about 3000 sources were declared as public drinking water sources. This number increased to 15533 by March 2016. These sources were being exclusively used for drinking water purposes like wells, jack-wells, borewell, hand pumps etc. 

It was soon discovered that non-availability of sources was far from the truth. Solapur had 1144 revenue village s a n d around 15500 drinking water sources. Thus, per village availability was in sufficient. However, the policy and its implementation had been focused on provision of more public drinking water sources. Hence, the strategy of providing more water sources was incorrect. Instead, the focus should have been on development and strengthening of existing drinking water sources so that the drinking water sources became functional.

 The District administration focused on the issue of development and strengthening of existing water sources. The main strategy being recharging of wells/ borewells. Of the 6400 drinking water sources, recharging was undertaken before the monsoon of 2015-16. Almost 5000 of these sources were recharged leading to water availability in these sources. 

The results were there for all to see. Had these water sources not been recharged, 127 tankers would have been required for each village and hamlets. Identification and recharging of drinking water sources in itself did not help in doing away with scarcity. It had to be in tandem with implementation of Ground water Act and its rules. The transportation infrastructure for water supply either did not exist or was dysfunctional. 13 of the 29 Regional Water Supply Schemes (RWSS) were dysfunctional in the District on account of nonpayment of electricity bills and non-maintenance of pipeline system. However, the real issue was not payment of electricity bill or non-maintenance of pipelines but the entire approach to the issue. 

These schemes were made operational only during scarcity situation for 2-3 months. Electricity bills were paid by government under scarcity head and were used as tanker feeding points to the villages, for which the RWSS was meant to supply the water. A decision was taken to make water available permanently through the RWSS to these villages. This was done as reforms and not as a dole. The villages covered under RWSS which had assured drinking water source were told that the scarcity measures would be provided if the scheme was accepted for the entire year for which electricity bills have to be paid. There was a lot of initial resistance. Ultimately the gram panchayats had to pay outstanding bills as the saw the benefit in doing so. These funds were utilized for special repairs of the pipelines and made the RWSS functional. No additional financial assistance was taken from the government. 

The transformation of non-functional to functional water supply schemes helped in reduction of tankers from 165 villages and hamlets. Reform of extension of distribution network was undertaken in the uncovered areas through extension of water supply schemes and commissioning of either the borewells or handpumps where piped water supply did not exist. Consequently, 35 villages and 92 hamlets were made tanker free. Finally, the water quality issue had to be addressed. Water was polluted primarily on account of industries or because of depletion of water source. Provisions of the Groundwater Act were implemented firmly to take care of errant industry. Gram Panchayat funds were utilised for water purification. The focus in the District was on revival of existing RWSS and that was found to be feasible and economical as against starting new schemes. 

The revival required just Rs 64.75 lakhs per village which was equivalent to the cost of supply of water by tankers every year and it provided a long-term solution. Tukaram Mundhe and his team proved that itcan-happen because they made-it-happen, setting an example for others to follow. The Solapur approach can be extremely useful in the implementation of recently announced Jal Jeevan Mission by Government of India.

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

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Policy & Politics

Why can’t Indian politicians and police contain crime?

Organised crime is rising. It is very essential to make our country’s police force smart and hi-tech.

Vijay Darda

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The new IPL cricket season is currently underway. People are glued to their television sets anticipating the fours and sixes from their favourite batsmen, but my eyes have been on a booming betting racket with transaction values in thousands of crores during the IPL this season. The Commissioner of Police Amitesh Kumar dropped a bombshell by conducting a surgical strike on bookies and hawala traders which have statewide ramifications from Nagpur to Mumbai. In my early days of journalism, during 1968-69, I worked as a crime reporter in Mumbai. I used to meet and interact with underworld dons right from Haji Mastan to the then biggies of the crime world.

 I also used to visit the hideouts of many dreaded criminals. I still keep an eye on crime news. Apart from my state, I have also seen brave and honest officers in uniform in other states of the country who have brought glory to the police force by their hard and honest work. Certainly Maharashtra has led the others in this respect. Didn’t we capture Ajmal Kasab of 26/11 fame? No doubt, the brave police officers can manage their respective states. However, the system cannot be transformed without changing the entire culture of policing. This responsibility rests with the state governments alone. The Chief Minister, Home Minister, DGP and CP of a state should decide that every type of crime that spreads in society, whether it is overground or underground, whether it is in water or in air, is a crime and needs to be eliminated! Do they not know where arms or gold is being smuggled?

 Where the dance bars are operating, where the drugs are being peddled? All that is required is political will. When politicians and police join hands to achieve some noble social mission, everything is possible. The tentacles of the criminal world cannot be unentangled as long as there is misuse of money in politics and there is no transparency in the postings and transfers of government officials. The wave of crime is moving from village to metropolis and acquiring a formidable shape. As long as you don’t improve the status of police, including at the mental, social and economic levels, you cannot expect them to do better. Is the cop not a human being? They are being made to work for 18 hours nonstop. They are seldom able to celebrate Diwali, Christmas and Eid with their family members. Despite being provided with quarters, they lack their own home. In such a situation, how will they be able to fulfil their duty? And yes, I do not know what is true and what is false, but when people say that there are many officials in Mumbai who have amassed illgotten wealth worth thousands of crores, then does not such a thing merit a discussion?

 When I compare the police here with their counterparts abroad, the comparison seems pointless. They are way ahead of our police because of the kind of physical training they get, modern weapons they are equipped with, an impressive uniform they are provided with and they have no domestic worries. We cannot even dream of such a blissful situation here! The police forces abroad are free of political interference. I would like to point out that whether it’s London’s ‘Bobby’ or the cops of Israel, Europe, Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong or the US, they are free of corruption. No one can even think of bribing them the teeniest-weeniest bit! Those who indulge in corrupt practices are severely punished. 

London’s ‘Bobbies’ have acquired such an iconic reputation that tourists vie with each other to be photographed with them. Their statues are also found in souvenir shops. Let me narrate an anecdote from Singapore. A friend once came to the airport to receive me. When the flight was delayed, he decided to while away the time drinking beer at the airport. It was night and when we got out of the airport, the car stopped at an intersection and the constable waved a stick from afar and said, “You are drunk. Park the car on the side.”

 My friend tried to convince him that he had only drank one glass of beer, but the constable was in no mood to show leniency! Meanwhile, a female police officer stepped out of the car and came to us. She immediately recognized us, yet she got our challan deducted and asked us to hop into her car. That female officer was none other than my friend’s elder brother’s daughter. She dropped me at the hotel. On the way, I asked her why she hadn’t spared us. She said that the rule is uniform for one and all. “I would have lost my job and would not have been able to drive a car for the rest of my life,” she explained. “Now he will be produced in the court and the licence will be suspended for one year,” she said. I always wonder why politicians do not introduce this type of system in our country. We hardly come across such an instance of highest professional probity.

 For example, when the US President came to India and his security personnel did not follow the protocol, a Mumbai Police officer stopped their car. But this kind of thing is rather an exception here, whereas the need of the hour is that every state should have this type of smart, dynamic and law-abiding police officer. For this, it is necessary that the government takes necessary steps. Human rights organisations and the judicial system should help them. And at the same time, it is most important that there should be some effective coordination between the states because the network of criminals is spread all over the country. Especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab, the network of organised crime has deep roots. Strict coordination is necessary to eliminate it. 

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

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Policy & Politics

Impact of National Education Policy 2020 on legal learning

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Introduction 

There have been a lot of talks around the educational sector concerning the New Education Policy, released by the Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. With all the barriers in the education sector in view, the policy was introduced with the objective of progressive reform. A long-awaited discussion on the integrity of the education sector was knowingly triggered by the policy. The policy proposal has been seen as a review of the country’s current education landscape, including the legal education sector, along the path of its objectives. 

In addition to promoting the intelligent legal profession, legal education also serves as a link to legal education and is directly linked to the quality of the country’s rule of law. Where society trusts the law, the rule of law prevails and legal education acts as a medium to inculcate the values of law in the young generation. Concerning the importance of legal education for the country’s safety, peace and welfare, emphasis should be put on ensuring the quality of legal education. Several improvements and reforms have been made to the 2020 policy, which could have a large impact on legal education.

 Background 

The NEP 2020 is a very ambitious and relatively progressive guideline set out by the government of Modi, which will replace the policy of 1986. The 1986 National Education Policy concentrated on access to education for everyone, while the 2020 new policy focuses on flexibility while delivering quality education. The new strategy reflects on the values of multidisciplinary, innovative, critical thinking in order to promote this. The emphasis on life skills, ethics, and constitutional values has also been placed. Public education is promoted in order to minimize the complete privatization of the education sector. One of the most appreciated proposals in this policy is the introduction of the Right to Education until the age of 18. All these sweeping changes by the Indian Government will change the future of legal education significantly. 

Impact on Legal Education 

• Inclusion of ethics and constitutional values: Ethics, morality, and principles are based on legal education. Morality, justice, and principles are some of the most significant keywords in the life of any law student. These values were also the most key components of our ancient Hindu education system. In traditional legal education, emphasis has been placed on maintaining the importance of justice in a format. But the gravity for such values has been depreciating with the changing time and change in the legal profession. We have several cases of immoral, unethical professional behavior in the recent past, one of which is the recent case of Prashant Bhushan, where famous lawyers were charged by the supreme court for the offence of Contempt of Court. All these offences arise from the vacuum created by the lack of ethical and moral values in the profession, such as contempt of court. In the case of legal work, the lack of inclusion of ethical principles in legal education may be one of the key reasons for losing the integrity of the profession. There is a famous saying that education moulds the future of that profession. The current legal education system, however, emphasized access to education for all, but ignored the quality assurance aspect by inscribing ethical and moral values. One of the primary aims of this new draft of NEP is “to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st Century education while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems.” The policy also aims to provide legal education that is guided and informed by the constitutional ideals of social , economic and political justice. The importance of democracy, the rule of law and justice in the country will grow with the introduction of these values. 

The legal profession is considered to be one of the most prestigious professions of all; it is the responsibility of legal education to maintain the same. To fulfill that responsibility, it is important to state that ethical and constitutional values should be an integral part of legal education. A commendable reform was made in the 2020 NEP to include these values in the curriculum while recognizing the long-term objectives of legal education. 

• Multilingual education: Indian Constitution  acknowledges  22  languages.  India has even more languages than the number of states the country has, despite having just 22 languages in the Constitution. India’s multilingual existence provides the country with a distinctive character. Because of the variety of cultures and languages in the country, India has become popular throughout the world. A system of education at the foundation of any society. Society thrives on the educational sector’s development and growth. The drafted NEP 2020 is the prominent document in consideration of the same, when deciding the country’s future. The changes in the inclusion of various languages in the process of improving society. The policy stated that education in English and the language of the state in which the law school is located should be considered by the state institutions providing legal education. It has been speculated that by ensuring the ease of legal education at the comfort of law students, it will reform the education sector. It should be noted, witnessing the response to this initiative, that it will help to reduce the delay in legal outcomes due to the need for translation. 

• For global common good: Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian thinker, once stated on “learning in a non-competitive and non-hierarchical ecosystem and discovering one’s true passion without any sense of fear.” She emphasized the element of critical thinking to make education as a means of achieving education as a public good. The ability for critical thinking derives from the ability for cultural differences to stand out. The ability would ultimately create the common good of the nation. In order to ensure nation-building, community development, education is a necessary public good. We have a rather exclusive society, which is witnessed by incidents such as the exclusion of the transgender community based on their sex. Legal education may be a major factor in making this society inclusive. As a public good, education will work in the fresh air to make communities alive. Ensuring access to education to every section of the public will produce sensitive, creative, and upright citizens, on whom the society could rely on the aim of an inclusive society. 

The NEP policy draft can be seen as a medium to achieve this goal. The policy discourages the concept of stand-alone institutions, in the way of making the education a public good. In furtherance of the same, it states that “All institutions offering professional or general education will aim to evolve into institutions/ clusters offering both seamlessly organically, and in an integrated manner by 2030.” Through this initiative, multidisciplinary institutions will develop a holistic educational environment which, as a public good, will suffice for the purpose of education. 

• Globally competitive and quality assessment: The policy ensures the inclusion of global education outreach in the education sector, which is a positive step towards India’s international recognition. The proposal for the establishment of a national assessment center, the PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), as a standard-setting body within the Ministry of Education indicates that the Government is keen to regularly monitor the education system. The set-up would assist states to ensure standardized assessments of quality. It is considered that legal education requires global competition. In order to achieve various social-economic responsibilities, legal education is required, such as creating future lawyers to establish justice globally. In the same way, in the most desirable move for educational policy, they are adopting global competition to ensure best practices and embracing new technologies for wider access to and timely delivery of justice.

 • Social relevance and acceptability: The law as a profession has been losing its relevance with the increase in the unethical actions of legal professionals. The profession has lacked social acceptability and trust, ultimately influencing the trust of the masses in the judiciary. To cover these lacunas, the NEP policy stressed the importance of social relevance and acceptability. The draft stated that the policy relies on the culture and tradition of people, including legal history, literature, and mythology, to accomplish these elements. It states that universities should include in the curriculum the history of jurisprudence, principles of justice, the practice of jurisprudence, and other fundamental values. The initial aim of legal education for budding lawyers would be sufficient to enforce. 

Conclusion 

To conclude, it is pertinent to mention that the new National educational policy drafted by the Ministry of Human Resource development possesses some of the desired reforms for the sector. It is the complete restructuring of the higher education system through the introduction of a multidisciplinary undergraduate programs. The policy itself tackles various aspects of the education system and if this policy is implemented with full potential, then the country might witness major growth in the educational sector. Talking about legal education, specifically, the above mentions provisions in the policy give an overview that the policy has focused on maintaining and retaining the esteem of legal education with long term goals. The educational programs for lawful examinations must reflect socio-social settings alongside, in a proof based way, the historical backdrop of legitimate speculation, standards of equity, the act of statute, and other related substance properly and enough. It cannot be denied that legal education needed this reform for the longest time, and now that we have a progressive policy, the proper implementation should be emphasized. By and large the NEP strategy on legal education, as the majority of its different arrangements is very similar to a castle in the sky- pleasing to fathom yet unrealistic to be figured out. It changes things scholastically and hypothetically, however to actualize them, in actuality, will be an extremely cumbersome undertaking. This system ought to be proceeded in its spirit to comprehend its points of interest. 

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Policy & Politics

Automated Facial Recognition System: Dawn of a new era in policing

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Recently on 11st August,2020, the hon’ble UK Court of Appeal (Civil Division) in a case titled ‘R. (Bridges) V. The Chief Constable of South Wales Police’, bearing Case No: C1/2019/2670 rendered a landmark judgement dealing with the interrelation of policing, right of privacy, data protection regime, human rights, public sector equality duty visà-vis the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFR). The hon’ble Court has made pertinent observations which would, undoubtedly, set the tone for its future development in India and worldwide. 

The case relates to two events on 21st December, 2017 and 27th March, 2018 at Queen’s street and Defence Exhibition at Motorpoint Arena respectively wherein the South Wales Police (SWP) had deployed AFR for the purpose of surveillance of the visitors/protestors. It was the case of the Appellant i.e. Mr. Edward Bridges that the Police Force had not taken sufficient steps to inform general public about the use of AFR at the area in question thus the same resulted in violation of provisions of different statues viz. section 43 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010 (EA Act), noncompliance of Surveillance Camera Code of Practices etc. thus resultantly it was an disproportionate and excessive invasion on the right of privacy of the concerned individuals. He further contended lack of legislative framework regulating the usage of AFR.

 The Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division (Lower Court) had dismissed the Appellant’s claim for judicial review challenging the legality of the use of AFR on the two events, however the Appellate Court i.e. Court of Appeal, after extensively discussing the international law on this subject, allowed the appeal and observed that the afore-said two events did in fact in violate the DPA, EA Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. The hon’ble Court observed in Para 152 of the judgement that ‘AFR Locate fails to satisfy the requirements of Article 8(2), and in particular the “in accordance with the law” requirement, because it involves two impermissibly wide areas of discretion: the selection of those on watchlists, especially the “persons where intelligence is required” category, and the locations where AFR may be deployed.’ Further, the Court went on to opine in Para 164 that ‘It is said that there is scientific evidence that facial recognition software can be biased and create a greater risk of false identifications in the case of people from black, Asian and other minority ethnic (“BAME”) backgrounds, and also in the case of women.’

 Likewise, in America also the use of AFR has drawn strong flak from various sectors for it being a tool of mass surveillance, lack of adequate statutory framework regulating the use of AFR, encouraging racial profiling etc. So much so that it has compelled several companies to temporarily put a moratorium on its use in America for some time until adequate law in this regard is enacted.

 India has also approved the implementation of AFR with the objective of having ‘A robust system for identifying criminals, missing children / persons, unidentified dead bodies and unknown Traced children/persons all over the country…Enhanced ability to detect crime patterns and modus operandi across the states and communicate to the State police departments for aiding in crime prevention’. The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), under aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), is the nodal agency overseeing its implementation and is posed to be the world’s largest database of Auto Facial Recognition System in 2021.

 Use of AFR: A double-edged sword 

Although, the AFR would result in more efficient and productive policing considering that its ability to screen mass gathering of people in matter of few seconds which would be very useful considering that India’s huge population, aid in early and timely identification of any miscreants/history shetters etc. It may be pointed out that the use of cameras for the purpose of surveillance is not something out of the blue; and it has been used and continues to be used in India and abroad at various public places such as Museums, Stadiums, Courts, offices and even at schools and colleges. The advocators of the AFR have often supported their use citing proof of documentary evidence in case of any untoward incident. The hon’ble High Court of Delhi in case titled ‘Daniel George V. Government of Nct of Delhi’, bearing W.P. (C) 7083/2018, is currently hearing a plea seeking removal/ban of CCTVs in Delhi schools and as of now to the best of author’s knowledge no stay has been granted by the Court.

 It is very likely that in India also AFR would have to withstand strict judicial scrutiny on several account of several legal, regulatory and policy issues accounts such as its apparent invasion on the right of privacy of an individual which has been time and again been recognized as a fundamental right under the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution (See for example Justice K. S. Puttaswamy V. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1 aka the Privacy case), its interrelation with the yet to be enacted Date Protection Bill, 2019, purported violation of Articles 14, 19, 21 of the Indian Constitution etc. In addition to this, several other pertinent legal questions would also arise as to whether surveillance by AFR/State would satisfy the triple test of legitimate state purpose, existence of corresponding law, proportionality as propounded by the hon’ble apex court in the privacy case, further, whether the use of AFR has the potentiality of turning India into ‘Orwellian State’ is also one of several factors which has to be looked into. Perhaps, one could in this regard take a cue from the recent hon’ble Supreme Court judgement in K. S. Puttaswamy v Union of India (Aadhaar case), (2019) 1 SCC 1, to understand some of the myriad legal and factual aspects which could be an obstruction in the successful deployment of the AFR in Indian sub-context. 

The Way Forward

 Enactment of a specific legislation on AFR would be correct way foreword which would inter-alia establish a central and a state authority to oversee its nationwide and state-wise implementation in a phased and controlled manner, detailed guidelines on the storage, preservation and security of data etc.

 Further, Standard of Procedure (SOP) on the use of AFR could also be prepared after taking into consultations the views of various stakeholders which could inter-alia enlists the manner and extent of publicity of usage of cameras at the proposed site, password protected access to data that too after written consent from a designated authority, automatic deletion of data after a specific period of time etc. The afore-said steps could to a certain extent ally the concerns of infringement of privacy bearing in mind that no fundamental right be it the right of privacy or any other is an absolute right and, if the situation so warrants, it must yield to compelling public and societal interest, thus what is required is a balance of two competing interest i.e. uses of AFR for better Policing vis-à-vis the fundamental rights of an individual.

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Policy & Politics

New Education Policy & gender: It’s time to have the ‘talk’

The Right to Education Act has brought some very positive changes especially in terms of gender
disparity in schooling. But critics have always pointed out the fact that Right to Education as a
Fundamental Right exists till primary schooling years, which is also one of the reasons for children
dropping out drastically after finishing their basic level of education. Therefore, secondary level
education should also be brought under the purview of Right to Education as a Fundamental Right.

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The New Education Policy (2020) is the much needed change for our education system.The policy not only aims at doing away with the current practice of rote learning, but also promotes a holistic development of the child. Giving the child a balanced exposure to academics, experimenting and learning as well as co curricular activities. The policy follows a developmental psychology perspective, which means introduction of certain concepts at a certain age will entail a better reciprocity and understanding from the child. It is based on the principles of equity, access, quality and affordability. The aim of the new policy is to put India at par with leading education systems across the world. 

The Right to Education, Constitutional mandate and India’s Educational Policies 

In Unni Krishnan’s case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court recognized the fundamental right of every child for free and compulsory elementary education up to the age of 14 years. This was later followed by an amendment in our Constitution, with insertion of Article 21-A, making elementary education a Fundamental Right. The Parliament also enacted the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act in 2009 keeping in mind the Constitutional mandate as well as the social construct of our country. Education is a fundamental right and holds the power to give a structure to an individual, therefore, this Act made provisions to make education accessible for all stratas of society, especially at the grassroots level.

 Speaking on the aspect of gender, the prime focus of majority of education policies has always been the “girl child”. It is evident because women, especially girls were in a worse position 50 years prior than today. It is not something to celebrate that we are in a less dire state, but it’s a beginning. If we view through a comparative lens, many households today don’t see girls as a burden, they want them to have a career, educate themselves although gender stereotypes still exist about women being only “homemakers” and caretakers of families, this change is indeed in a positive direction.

 The Act has played a pivotal role in increasing girl child enrollment in schools. According to the data collected by the World Bank from 1971- 2013 for primary school enrollment for girl child, the statistics show that there has been an improvement since the Act was implemented. For instance, the entitlement percentage was 47. 538% in 1971 and 91.599. And looking at the statistics from 2009 to 2013 it increased to 93.027%, which is a good sign. 

However, the Government policies have been focused towards retaining girl children in schools with schemes like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”, which is a policy with dual goals. Improving India’s child sex ratio and improving girl’s enrollment in schools. In short, the policy aims at celebrating girl child in the country, given the cruel practice of female foeticide that is still prevalent in some parts of our country.

 Questions of the “third gender” were considered too stigmatized to be discussed publicly, hence we see a lack of any policy framework at an educational level then. Today, with international awareness, social media platforms, people are initiating a discussion which has led to drafting of laws, various judicial precedents, recognition and dignity they deserve. The New Education Policy, 2020 is one of the pieces of legislation that has formally recognized gender dynamics at an elementary level, which is commendable.

 New Education Policy and the pertinent question of diversity and inclusion

 Coming to the aspect of gender and the new policy, I feel it will bring in more inclusivity especially for the third gender. Most importantly, it will help in debunking the prevalent gender stereotypes in the society. For instance, the policy lays down that skills like carpentry, coding will be taught from the 6th grade itself. Although it may seem like a normal course to many, but “girls” have never been associated with the art of carpentry, it has always been considered as a manly profession. By including it in the curriculum, girls will also be encouraged to take it up. 

Secondly, there is a wide scope for introduction to concepts like gender at a very young age itself. Because, in Para 2.5 of the policy there is a mention of trained volunteers from different social backgrounds and parts of the society. Gender activists from all communities have a huge scope to play a role in allowing the child to understand the difference between gender and biological sex at the earliest. The child is made aware of the spectrum of gender, will not have to deal with “gender dysphoria” or conflict of gender identity, at a later and crucial stage of their life. 

For instance, Ms. Kalki Subramaniam , a world renowned transgender activist , authored a book titled, “Teachers’ Guide to Gender non-conforming children.” in a regional language, for promoting better understanding of the concept of gender and how teachers can make a change in the lives of such students by being a source of support and comfort, rather than having an ignorant attitude. Many such activists can play a role in gender education. Another plus point here is that the policy also aims at reviving local languages and culture. Activists from a local region can come together, make textbooks in the local language and impart this essential knowledge, because it is the need of the hour. We as a society cannot shy away from the spectrum of gender, it is as diverse and beautiful as the rainbow. Therefore, we should aim at imparting quality gender education. 

Apart from imparting gender education, we also have immense scope for introducing sex education at a young age. Education is the right key to cure any curiosity that may arise when a child enters adolescence. 

Thirdly, I feel the policy focuses more on girl child and women. Given the dropout rates of girls from school in India, it aims to provide more support and comfort to girl children. The state of post pandemic education is a question of the near future, however, the pandemic has shown its effect on gender differently. In a recent study conducted by Young Lives, an organization based in the United Kingdom, found that girls from poor households were excluded from access to the Internet (a sample study conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana).

 In point three, the policy talks about curtailing the dropout rates at higher education levels. The statistics provided are not gender specific, but still worrisome. The retaining rates keep on decreasing with increase in educational level. The policy mentions that GER for Grades 6-8 was 90.7%, while for Grades 9-10 and 11-12 it was only 79.3% and 51.3%, respectively. A report by Times of India states that 57% of the girls drop out from schools upto Standard XI. 

Why is the issue so pertinent for females? The answer lies in our socio -cultural construct itself. Even today, in many parts of India it is not deemed fit for a girl to educate herself. The stereotypes and stigmas are too many, especially at the grassroots levels. Menstruation is one of the main reasons that leads to girls dropping out. A survey conducted by Swachh India, brought to light that 23 million Indian women drop out of school every year when they start menstruating. These statistics are alarming and should act as a wake up call for the society to talk openly about pertinent issues like menstrual health. The policy further talks about the safety of children in context of drug abuse, harassment with special emphasis on girl children.

 In furtherance of the above mentioned discussion, the policy also outlines the steps that the Government has to take, one of which is gender balance in admission to Higher Educational Institutions. This will allow for inclusivity at a higher educational level with lesser discrimination. 

The Right to Education Act, has brought some very positive changes especially in terms of gender disparity in schooling. But critics have always pointed out the fact that Right to Education as a fundamental right exists till primary schooling years, which is also one of the reasons for children dropping out drastically after finishing their basic level of education. Therefore, secondary level education should also be brought under the purview of Right to Education as a Fundamental Right. 

In terms of employment, the policy states special attention will be given to employment of female teachers. It also aims at getting equitable representation of various groups in hiring if faculty, at the higher educational level as well. India has one of the lowest Women Labor Force Participation Rates, only 23.4 % as of 2019. Therefore, the special emphasis on female employment is a given. 

Fourthly, the policy specifically states that gender sensitization should be one of the topics that needs to be integrated in the curriculum. This will allow the children to develop a better understanding of the concept. Apart from this, the formation of topical clubs and groups can also be instituted for gender.

 For instance ,Gender Champions is an initiative at a higher educational level, by the University Grants Commission. The aim of establishing this committee is to make educational institutions more inclusive and open to having discussions about gender and societal expectations, stereotypes attached with each gender.

 Since the policy outlines the point of equitable and inclusive education at the school level, teachers can form small groups with an aim engage students in healthy discussions about issues like gender identity, menstrual health, sex education and the like. This will encourage children to become more self aware. As the teachers play a crucial role in shaping values, it is important to also integrate a training program for teachers that aims at gender sensitization and how they can aid students in understanding their gender identity better. 

Although, this may seem utopian at this point of time, given India’s social construct, it is not something that is impossible to achieve. It is a difficult change to bring about, but change can occur with time and Social activists, NGOs, and a driven population can play a big role in bringing about this change. 

The policy also aims to set up a Gender Inclusion Fund, which is a rather welcoming move. It aims for providing support to students from all genders and encouraging education for all. An important highlight is that the policy states that all authorities of the school should encourage inclusivity and dignity for all. Acceptance to all genders from authorities at the school level, will pave the way for a healthy educational experience for kids.

 The role of social counselors or school counselors shouldn’t be undermined. With proper mechanisms in place, they can be the guiding force in terms of gender awareness and also addressing and resolving issues that stem from lack of inclusivity. This has to be complimented with intensive gender sensitization training and sessions. Some children may identify as a non binary gender after becoming aware that such a phenomenon does exist, however this shouldn’t lead to polarization of attitudes towards these children, especially in a school setting. Which is why, school counselors or psychologists can pave the way for inclusion right at the school level by providing proper counseling, not only to the child, but the peers, parents and teachers as well. 

Conclusion

 To conclude, the New Education Policy can become the change India needs at present. The implementation of the policy is awaited, but it should be done ideally to achieve all the gias outlined therein. The policy reflects a holistic approach towards development through education, which is different from the model of education India is accustomed to.

 The analysis of the policy from a gender lens gives a hopeful image for an inclusive India. The policy rightly aims at bringing change from the elementary level, which will reflect positively in the society. The author understands that it is not easy to do away with gender stereotypes, especially in the Indian context as they have been prevalent since time immemorial. However, with changing trends and increasing awareness, the Indian landscape and societal construct is evolving each day. These stereotypes play different roles in different settings. It is easy for a writer like me and a reader like you to sit in an urban setup and term these practices or thought processes stereotypical, but at the grassroots level they have affected lives in a much more negative manner. This doesn’t imply that urban settings do not have any gender stereotyping. Each struggle needs to be acknowledged and education can become a leveler in this field. Only with right education and better implementation can we bridge this gap. Critically speaking, the policy doesn’t say much about boys or male gender. This isn’t an ideal situation either. Although boys have been at a fairly advantaged position in our social pyramid, they still deserve an equal recognition and policy consideration. Society has spared no one from its stereotyping tendencies. There have been unrealistic expectations set in our society from boys and men. They are made to believe that in baseless stereotypes like “Boys/ Men don’t cry” we are making our future men more devoid of emotions and understanding them. These stereotypes in turn nurture an insensitive attitude. Therefore, the solution also lies in the gender sensitization that the policy envisages. The policy also states that the Gender Inclusion Fund has been set up for girls and transgender students, though boys have a better retaining rate in school, this is no intelligible dofferentia to not include boys to be benefiting from the fund. If the fund says Gender inclusion, it shouldn’t exclude any gender, financial problems can exist for anyone despite their gender.

In Para 6.8 of the policy, there is a mention of how women shape society not only for the present generation but also for future generations, is also a stereotypical thought on the part of policy framers. It is not only women who shape society, as privileged it may sound for women, it is every person of the society that shapes the societal construct. Even though the policy makers don’t want the policy to seem gender biased, it seems so in certain provisions by insertion of the words like “especially the girl child.” It is rather sad that the word transgender appears only once in the entire policy, although the policy is aiming at being gender inclusive. But, when we compare the appearance of other gender terms, the transgender seems rather underrepresented. For instance, The policy outlines provision for taking care of sexual harassment, but again lays emphasis on girl child. What about the remaining genders?

 The policy is silent on that aspect. It is no hidden fact that sexual crimes against women have been increasing rapidly, this doesn’t mean the other genders have never faced it. Therefore, if we have a platform which is inviting inclusivity, the wording of this provision could also have been more inclusive as it is a matter of utmost sensitivity. 

There are drawbacks to every policy, but it is truly commendable that such level of inclusivity has been enviros ones at the ground level itself. If implemented correctly, the future looks nothing but bright. The children have an opportunity to learn and understand themselves and their peers, which will also increase their emotional intelligence quotient and help them have an open mind to newer spectrums of the world at large. 

Recommendations 

NGOs, Social activists have a huge scope to bring about change by impairing gender education. Various schools should keep this point in mind and invite various activists and NGOs working extensively in the field of gender for children to understand this concept in the best manner possible. 

The dropout rates at higher educational level can also be curtailed by two ways, one is through the legislative process, by making secondary education a Fundamental right as well. 

Secondly, the schools should compulsorily along counselors and keep track of students by their attendance rates. If they feel a need for an intervention, they can do so by counseling the child and their parents and understanding their problem. Bi annual gender sensitization programs for teachers, school administrators, caretakers have to be made mandatory for ensuring that no child is mistreated because of revealing his/ her/ their gender identity.

 People can conduct awareness drives at local level and educate the community about gender. This will be a form of social priming for the parents who feel that their child is different, or even in cases where they feel their child shouldn’t be educated further. Street plays, door to door awareness drives can help bring a change in societal perception towards education itself. 

The new policy comes with a lot of employment opportunities, be it in the form of counselors, special trainers, educators, this should be utilized in the best way possible for a successful implementation of the policy. 

The local/ state governments can play a bigger role than the Central Government by appointing volunteers who will keep check whether the policy is being implemented properly. Surprise visit to schools, stricter penalties for non compliance to the policy will aid in creating an inclusive experience at school.

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Policy & Politics

India’s foreign trade: Examining September 2020

Overall imports in April-September 2020-21 are estimated to be $204.12 billion,
exhibiting a negative growth of (-) 35.43 per cent over the same period last year.

Tarun Nangia

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Major commodities/commodity groups which have recorded positive growth during September 2020 vis-à-vis September 2019 are other cereals (337.22%), iron ore (109.65%), rice (93.86%), oil meals (47.52%), carpet (42.89%), ceramic products & glassware (36.17%), oil seeds (35.69%), cereal preparations & miscellaneous processed items (33.57%), drugs & pharmaceuticals (24.38%), handicrafts excl. handmade carpet (21.82%), meat, dairy & poultry products (19.97%), Jute mfg. including floor covering (18.64%), cotton yarn/fabs./made-ups, handloom products etc. (15.39%), spices (11.44%), tobacco (11.09%) and RMG of all textiles(10.22%). 

India’s overall exports ( Merchandise And Services combined) in April-September 2020-21* are estimated to be USD 221.86 Billion, exhibiting a negative growth of (-) 16.66 per cent over the same period last year. Overall imports in April-September 2020-21* are estimated to be USD 204.12 Billion, exhibiting a negative growth of (-) 35.43 per cent over the same period last year. 

I. MERCHANDISE TRADE EXPORTS (including re-exports) 

• Exports in September 2020 were USD 27.58 Billion, as compared to USD 26.02 Billion in September 2019, exhibiting a positive growth of 5.99 per cent. In Rupee terms, exports were Rs. 2,02,694.07 Crore in September 2020, as compared to Rs. 1,85,642.32 Crore in September 2019, registering a positive growth of 9.19 per cent.

 • Major commodities/ commodity groups which have recorded positive growth during September 2020 vis-à-vis September 2019 are Other cereals (337.22%), Iron Ore (109.65%), Rice (93.86%), Oil Meals (47.52%), Carpet (42.89%), Ceramic products & glassware (36.17%), Oil seeds (35.69%), Cereal preparations & miscellaneous processed items (33.57%), Drugs & pharmaceuticals (24.38%), Handicrafts excl. handmade carpet (21.82%), Meat, dairy & poultry products (19.97%), Jute mfg. including floor covering (18.64%), Cotton yarn/fabs./made-ups, handloom products etc. (15.39%), Spices (11.44%), Tobacco (11.09%) and RMG of all textiles (10.22%). 

• Major commodities/ commodity groups which have recorded negative growth during September 2020 vis-à-vis September 2019 are Cashew (-44.25%), Gems & jewellery (-24.67%), Man-made yarn/fabs./made-ups etc. (-9.12%), Mica, Coal & other ores, minerals including processed minerals (-6.71%), Marine products (-5.41%), Leather & leather products (-3.36%), Tea (-2.27%) and Fruits & Vegetables (-1.44%).

 • Cumulative value of exports for the period April-September 2020- 21 was USD 125.25 Billion (Rs. 9,38,529.94 Crore) as against USD 159.16 Billion (Rs. 11,13,886.17 Crore) during the period AprilSeptember 2019-20, registering a negative growth of (-) 21.31 per cent in Dollar terms (negative growth of (-) 15.74 per cent in Rupee terms). 

• Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in September 2020 were USD 21.27 Billion, as compared to USD 19.00 Billion in September 2019, registering a positive growth of 11.94 per cent. Non-petroleum and NonGems and Jewellery exports in April-September 2020-21 were USD 104.51 Billion, as compared to USD 118.65 Billion for the corresponding period in 2019-20, which is a decrease of (-) 11.92 per cent. 

IMPORTS

 • Imports in September 2020 were USD 30.31 Billion (Rs. 2,22,708.15 Crore), which is a decline of (-) 19.60 per cent lower in Dollar terms and (-) 17.18 per cent in Rupee terms over imports of USD 37.69 Billion (Rs 2,68,891.09 Crore) in September 2019. Cumulative value of imports for the period AprilSeptember 2020-21 was USD 148.69 Billion (Rs. 11,14,686.58 Crore), as against USD 248.08 Billion (Rs. 17,35,550.99 Crore) during the period AprilSeptember 2019-20, registering a negative growth of (-) 40.06 per cent in Dollar terms and a negative growth of (-) 35.77 per cent in Rupee terms. 

• Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in September 2020 over the corresponding month of last year are: 

CRUDE OIL AND NON-OIL IMPORTS 

• Oil imports in September 2020 were USD 5.83 Billion (Rs. 42,812.35 Crore), which was 35.88 percent lower in Dollar terms (33.95 percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD 9.09 Billion (Rs. 64,815.60 Crore) in September 2019. Oil imports in April-September 2020-21 were USD 31.86 Billion (Rs. 2,38,995.70 Crore) which was 51.14 per cent lower in Dollar terms (47.60 percent lower in Rupee terms) compared to USD 65.20 Billion (Rs. 4,56,108.64 Crore), over the same period last year.

 • In this connection it is mentioned that the global Brent price ($/bbl) has decreased by 34.08% in September 2020 vis-à-vis September 2019 as per data available from World Bank.

 • Non-oil imports in September 2020 were estimated at USD 24.48 Billion (Rs. 1,79,895.80 Crore) which was 14.43 per cent lower in Dollar terms (11.85 percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD 28.61 Billion (Rs. 2,04,075.49 Crore) in September 2019. Non-oil imports in AprilSeptember 2020-21 were USD 116.83 Billion (Rs. 8,75,690.88 Crore) which was 36.12 per cent lower in Dollar terms (31.56 percent lower in Rupee terms), compared to USD 182.88 Billion (Rs. 12,79,442.35 Crore) in April-September 2019-20. 

• Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports were USD 23.88 Billion in September 2020, recording a negative growth of (-) 12.63 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports of USD 27.33 Billion in September 2019. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports were USD 110.05 Billion in AprilSeptember 2020-21, recording a negative growth of (-) 34.13 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and NonGold imports USD 167.08 Billion in April-September 2019-20. 

II. TRADE IN SERVICES EXPORTS (Receipts)

 • As per the latest press release by RBI dated 15th October 2020, exports in August 2020 were USD 16.44 Billion (Rs. 1,22,768.07 Crore) registering a negative growth of (-) 9.88 per cent in dollar terms, vis-àvis August 2019. The estimated value of services export for September 2020* is USD 16.34 Billion. 

IMPORTS (Payments) 

• As per the latest press release by RBI dated 15th October 2020 imports in August 2020 were USD 9.60 Billion (Rs. 71,662.62 Crore) registering a negative growth of (-) 20.06 per cent in dollar terms, vis-àvis August 2019. The estimated value of service import for September 2020* is USD 9.49 Billion. 

III.TRADE BALANCE MERCHANDISE:

The trade deficit for September 2020 was estimated at USD 2.72 Billion as against the deficit of USD 11.67 Billion in September 2019, which is a decline of (-) 76.66 percent. *Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for August 2020. The data for September 2020 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release. 

SERVICES 

• As per RBI’s Press Release dated 15th October 2020 the trade balance in Services (i.e. Net Services export) for August 2020 is USD 6.84 Billion. The estimated trade balance in September 2020* is USD 6.85 Billion. 

OVERALL TRADE BALANCE 

• Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade surplus for AprilSeptember 2020-21* is estimated at USD 17.74 Billion as compared to the deficit of USD 49.91 Billion in April-September 2019-20.

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