In a major setback to the West Bengal State Government led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Calcutta High Court in a learned, latest, laudable and landmark judgment titled Susmita Saha Dutta Vs The Union of India and Ors. and other connected matters in WPA(P) 142-149 and 167 of 2021 has outrightly rejected State Government’s argument that police can’t be held responsible for post-poll violence due to Election Commission of India’s (ECI’s) Model Code of Conduct. The Calcutta High Court made it clear that, “Constitutional obligations of the State do not get vested in the Election Commission during the process of elections.” It must be mentioned here that acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal delivered the lead judgment whereas Justice IP Mukerji, Justice Harish Tandon, Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Subrata Talukdar delivered separate but concurring judgments. Not a single Judge dissented which clearly implies that the State Government’s arguments failed to cut ice with any of the Judges who were hearing this case!
To start with, in the lead judgment authored by the Bench of Acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court – Rajesh Bindal first and foremost points out in para 1 that, “The extraordinary jurisdiction of this Court has been invoked by the residents of the State seeking to preserve the constitutional values and the democratic set up. Civil liberties and fundamental rights are sought to be protected. The preamble of our Constitution provides for India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic securing to all its citizens’ liberty of thought, expression and political rights. The dignity of the individual, which is spoken of in the Preamble of the Constitution of India is a facet of Article 21, thereof (Ref. Joseph Shine Vs. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 39, Para 107).”
As we see, the Bench then puts forth in para 2 that, “The allegations in the petitions are that the people who supported the political parties other than the ruling party in the recently concluded Assembly Elections in the State (year 2021), have been made to suffer at the hands of the supporters/workers of the party, which came in power. The courts have a duty to adjudicate whenever violation of fundamental rights is alleged. The following discussions will make the position clear.”
SCHEDULE OF ELECTIONS
Needless to say, the Bench then states in para 3 that, “Elections to the State Assembly were conducted in eight phases, starting from March 27, 2021. Last date of polling was April 29, 2021. Result was declared on May 02, 2021.”
FACTS OF THE CASES: WPA(P) 142 OF 2021 FILED ON 04.05.2021
While elaborating on the facts of the case, it is then stated in para 4 that, “The present writ petition filed was first in the series, interalia, praying to combat the post-poll violence and take corrective as well preventive action. Direction was also sought to open Control Room so as to enable the victims to lodge their complaints online or over telephone. As an interim measure direction was sought to the respondents to help the post-poll violence victims. The result of the Assembly polls was declared on May 02, 2021. The present writ petition was filed immediately thereafter. It was mentioned in Court on May 04, 2021. It is alleged in the petition that till the date of filling of the petition there had been 14 victims of post poll violence. The victims were not even able to go to the police stations to lodge their complaints. Even though the incidents occurring across the State were well within the knowledge of the police but there had been no punitive or preventive action.
WPA(P) 143 OF 2021 FILED ON 06.05.2021
The present petition was filed by different set of persons praying for a direction to the respondents to take immediate steps to stop ongoing post-poll violence. The prayer was also made for an independent and impartial investigation of the offences by constitution of a special investigation team. Direction was sought to the Union of India to deploy adequate central forces in the disturbed areas and to provide compensation to the families of the sufferers. The aforesaid petition was mentioned for immediate listing on May 06,2021to appear in the cause list on May 07, 2021. The petitioner in this petition claimed that he is a practising lawyer of this Court. It is alleged in the petition that the situation in the State post Assembly Elections is alarming. 11 persons have died in various incidents. Many had to leave their houses to save their lives. After the declaration of result, the activists of the ruling party ransacked and looted the houses of the supporters of the opposition parties and they were killed and assaulted. It is further pleaded that after the elections, same sort of violence always occurred in West Bengal. The State used to take steps to control the same but this time it was a mute spectator. Number of photographs as appeared in print media along with news of the victims have been annexed.
WPA(P) 144 OF 2021 FILED ON 07.05.2021.
The present petition has been filed by an advocate practising in this Court in public interest raising the issue of post-poll violence. She had contested the election in the recently concluded State Assembly polls from Entally constituency. She also claimed herself to be a social-worker, who had been raising various social issues by filling public interest litigations. She sought to expose the cause of economically weaker sections, who were affected in the postpoll violence in her constituency. It is pleaded that at the instance of the goons belonging to the party in power, the houses of her supporters have been looted and vandalized. She had filed complaints to the police on May 03, 2021. However, no action was taken by the police. In fact, the complaints filed by her were sent by the police to the goons of the ruling party who in turn harassed the aggrieved persons. They were pressurised to withdraw the complaints. This establishes that the police is hand in glove with the ruling party goons. The prayer was made for a direction to the police to immediately take action and stop the atrocities. Time-bound investigation be made of the offences already committed. Number of photographs of the persons affected were also annexed.
WPA(P) 145 OF 2021 FILED ON 10.05.2021
The present petition, again filed in public interest, raises the issues regarding violence in which number of workers of the opposition parties including the main opposition party suffered physically as well as damage to their properties. It is alleged that properties of number of them were even set on fire. The Office of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad was set on fire on May 04, 2021 and the persons present there were assaulted. In the past few days, murder, assault, rape, ransack and vandalism of houses of the workers of the main opposition party had become common in the State. List of nine persons, who were murdered in different areas immediately after the elections, was given. Despite wide reporting of the post-poll violence the State agencies are collectively keeping silence, hence, failing to discharge their constitutional duty. The victims were not even allowed to lodge their complaints as they were threatened with implication in false cases in case they dare to lodge complaints. Even women and children were not spared. The prayer has been made that the respondents herein be directed to submit the details of the FIR registered, arrest made and the steps taken to control the violence. The prayer has also been made for independent and impartial investigation by constituting a Special Investigation Team. Direction was sought to the official respondents to deploy Central and State forces to enforce law and order. The petitioner also sought protection as he apprehended threat to his life having espoused the cause of the affected persons.
WPA (P) 146 OF 2021 FILED ON 10.05.2021
In another petition filed in public interest raising similar issues, the facts narrated are that assembly polls were held in the State of West Bengal in eight phases starting from March 27, 2021 and the last date of poling being April 29, 2021. On May 02, 2021, the result was declared. The Trinamul Congress was the winning party. The main opposition party was Bharatiya Janata Party. Immediately thereafter, the violence broke. The houses and vehicles of the workers of the opposition parties were attacked and ransacked. Their party offices were set ablaze. Number of persons were killed, beaten up and even sexually assaulted. Number of photographs as appeared in the print media were annexed. Prayer was made to the Central as well as the State government to deploy more forces to maintain law and order, appoint an independent committee to conduct free and fair investigation, to provide protection to the petitioner from retributive action of rioting mob, direction to the police to register FIRs in all cases. Number of photographs of the affected persons were annexed.
WPA (P) 147 OF 2021 FILED ON 10.05.2021
Another petition was filed in the series of petitions raising hue and cry on behalf of the persons who are sufferers in the post poll violence. The petitioner claimed that there were number of murders and damage to the property of the workers of the losing political parties. Besides annexing photographs of the workers, whose house were damaged and who were caused grievous injuries including the weaker sex, the petitioner has also annexed a compact disk containing videos of such violence as collected from various social and digital media. No action was taken by the ruling party or its leaders either to condemn or take corrective steps. Prayer was made to secure life and property of the affected persons, proper judicial investigation of the incidents of political violence. The persons, who had been displaced on account of threat to their life and property, be restored to their own houses.
WPA (P) 148 OF 2021 FILED ON 12.05.2021
In yet another petition filed, similar issues were sought to be raised. In addition, it is pleaded that on account of post-poll violence, thousands of residents of the State living close to the neighbouring State of Assam had to migrate to that State. Their houses and business establishments were damaged. Some of them were raised to the ground. The news was termed to be fake by the party in power. National Commission for Women expressed shock over gang rapes at various places in the State. It was further pleaded that the intent to unleash the violence was to create a fear factor in the mind of the residents of the State, not to spare any other party except one in power. As a result the democratic setup in the state itself is in danger. The State authorities have failed to discharge their duty despite intimation. As the State machinery had kept its eyes closed to the large scale violence after the assembly polls, it cannot be trusted for carrying out investigation. The same need to be handed over to some independent agency. Further grievance raised was that the police is not registering the complaints. The prayer was for calling upon the official respondents to show cause as to why they failed to register the complaints. It is pleaded that about 80,000 persons had to migrate from the state to the neighbouring state of Assam because of post poll violence. Steps be taken to reinstate the victims to their native places. Prosecution of the persons involved in the offence, deployment of Central Forces for restoration of law and order in the State, payment of adequate compensation to the victims and the investigation by some independent central agency, are the other reliefs claimed.
WPA(P) 149 OF 2021 FILED ON 12.05.2021
The present petition was being filed by the widow of a person, who was murdered on May 03, 2021 in post-poll violence. Though other petitioners have also joined along with her. The allegations are similar in nature. It states that about 20 persons have died in post-poll violence. Many of the victims are not even in a position to reach out to the Courts or lodge complaints with the police. On May 03, 2021, late husband of the petitioner No. 1 was working in field when some workers of the party in power threw bombs targeting her husband with a view to kill him as he was a worker of the Indian Secular Front. He died on way to hospital. Number of examples were given, where houses of the workers of different political parties than the party in power were attacked, ransacked, damaged and looted. The pleadings in the case do not pertain only to the main opposition party. Names of the persons who had attacked the victims or damaged their properties have specifically been mentioned in the petition. It further pleads that the Chief Minister had declared compensation for the victims of political violence. However, no such scheme had been published and nothing has been paid. Investigation be got conducted by constituting a Special Investigation Team. The victims should be compensated. The prayer was made for independent investigation of the crime after registration of the FIRs. Police reinforcement in the affected areas and rehabilitation of the affected victims were also prayed for.
WPA (P) 167 OF 2021 FILED ON 03.06.2021
another petition has been filed by none else than a candidate who contested the recently concluded State Assembly election from Beliaghata Constituency with Bharatiya Janata Party ticket and a practicing advocate in Alipore District Court. He also sought to espouse the cause of the persons who were made to suffer in post-poll violence. He pleaded that all his supporters who are mostly belonging to economically and socially weaker sections of the society were terrorised and traumatised. On the day the counting was taking place, he along with some of his supporters had gone to the Netaji Indore Stadium. 10 to 15 motorcycles of his supporters were parked in front of his house. Before he could return, after the result was declared, the goons of the party in power gathered in front of the house of the petitioner and started abusing. They were involved in stone pelting as well. Though the petitioner was not present, however, his family members were there. At around 03:00 P.M., they broke the CCTV camera, threw bombs in front of his house and started damaging the bikes of his supporters, which were parked outside his house. One of these was set ablaze. As a result, even the petitioner’s house also caught fire. Photographs have been annexed. The petitioner called the Beliaghata Police Station but with no response. The petitioner had to take shelter at some other place to save his life. Similarly in the same fashion, the houses and properties of his other supporters were also damaged and looted. The goons were carrying the banners and flags of the party in power. Prayer was made for appropriate protection and deployment of security forces in the area and constitution of a special investigation team for independent investigation of crime.”
Most damningly, the Bench after listening to all the sides minced just no words to state it quite upfront in para 79 that, “In the case in hand, the facts, as have been discussed in the preceding paragraphs are even more glaring as the incidents are not isolated to one place in the State. Rather the violence which erupted after polls and declaration of results was state-wide. Number of persons had died. The women were raped. The house of certain persons who had not supported the party in power were demolished. Their other properties were damaged. Their belongings were looted including the chattels. Allegations are also that the complainants are being threatened to withdraw their cases. Number of cases of murder are sought to be claimed as natural death without recording FIRs and the investigations of cases as per procedure established by law. Number of persons are alleging that they were forced to leave their houses and villages and had not been able to come back because of threat. Social boycott and closure of their business establishments are the other allegations. The matters are pending in this Court and are being taken up on regular basis but still in spite of the fact that three months have lapsed no concrete action has been taken by the State, which could inspire confidence except filing affidavits and placing on record thousands of papers. In number of cases pertaining to murder, rape and other crime against women, the cases are sought to be closed without registration of FIRs or no response given to the committee. Apparently to favour the accused, FIRs have not been registered under proper provisions of law. Accused in number of FIRs have been named as workers/supporters of ruling party in the State. The allegations of the petitioners are that in registration of cases and investigation thereof of the police is slow as main allegations are against the supporters and workers of the ruling party. In number of cases FIRs were registered only after the committee pointed out those. There are some FIRs registered against the supporters/workers of political parties not in power. These are claimed by them as false cross cases. Even they will not be able to allege bias against the State if investigation of their cases is also held by an independent agency or monitored by SIT. It should and will inspire confidence of the people in rule of law. The allegation is of police inaction. Report submitted by the Committee throws some light on this and the police having not properly responded to all the issues raised and trying to downplay the same, it certainly needs investigation by an independent agency. Even comparison of data pertaining to crime during previous corresponding period will also not come to the rescue of the State as the pattern of the crime can change and the period thereof. Further there are definite and proved allegations that complaints filed by the victims of post poll violence were not registered. Such types of incidents, even if isolated are not good for healthy democracy.”
Resultantly, it is then envisaged in para 80 that, “In our opinion, the heinous crime such as murder and rape deserve to be investigated by an independent agency which in circumstances can only be Central Bureau of Investigation. It is for the reason that in number of cases, the State had failed to register the FIRs and opined the same to be not the cases of murder. In some cases, even after registration of FIR, the observation by the State is that these may result in ‘no case’. This shows pre-determined mind to take investigation into a particular direction. Under such circumstances investigation by independent agency will inspire confidence to all concerned. Only the cases which have been mentioned in the report of the Committee pertaining to murder and rape shall be referred to CBI. We have chosen this option because as the from the facts of the cases, which have been briefly discussed above, these fall in the category of rare cases and the reasons for which this large scale violence has occurred in State.”
Adding more to it, it is then stated in para 81 that, “As far as other cases are concerned, there are allegations that the police had not registered number of cases initially and some were registered only after the Court had intervened or the Committee was constituted. These allegations were found to be true on the basis of the material placed on record. A number of FIRs were registered by the State suo-moto after the Court had intervened. In some the allegations pertained to the incidents which had taken place immediately after the result of the State Assembly Elections was declared whereas, in some, FIRs were registered belatedly for the incidents which had taken place about a month ago. The petitioners apprehend that seeing the conduct of the police, there may not be fair investigation. To install faith of the people in rule of law and considering the extraordinary circumstances with which the State and the Court is faced with, we propose to constitute a Special Investigation Team headed by Suman Bala Sahoo and Soumen Mitra and Ranveer Kumar, all IPS officers of West Bengal cadre, as the members thereof. The working of the SIT shall be overviewed by a retired Hon’ble Judge of Hon’ble the Supreme Court, who shall be requested to take up the assignment after taking his/her consent. He will be required to only review the working of the SIT and ensure that it is moving on a right track. Any report(s), pleadings or applications shall be filed in court only by and under the signatures of the Head of SIT.
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The idea being to inspire confidence regarding the independence of system being followed for investigation of cases.”
Finally and far most significantly, it is then held in para 82 that, “In view of our aforesaid discussions, we direct as follows:
i) All the cases where, as per the report of the Committee, the allegations are about murder of a person and crime against women regarding rape/attempt to rape, shall be referred to CBI for investigation. The Committee, NHRC, any other Commission or Authority and the State shall immediately hand over entire record of the cases entrusted to the CBI for investigation. It is made clear that it shall be the Court monitored investigation. Any obstruction in the course of investigation by anyone shall be viewed seriously.
ii) For other cases, as have been referred to in the report of the Committee, Special Investigation Team is constituted for monitoring the investigation. The team shall be headed by Suman Bala Sahoo, and Soumen Mitra and Ranveer Kumar, all IPS officers of the West Bengal cadre, shall be its members The SIT shall be entitled to take assistance of any other officer/police officer or any institution or agency for carrying out fair investigation of the cases. It is made clear that it shall be Court monitored investigation. The State shall spare their services for the purpose, as and when required and shall not take any adverse action against them without specific permission of the Court. The working of the SIT shall be overviewed by a retired Hon’ble Judge of Hon’ble the Supreme Court, for which separate order shall be passed after taking his/her consent. His/her terms of appointment shall be decided later on.
iii) Notice issued to Rashid Munir Khan, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Suburban Division, Kolkata vide order dated July 13, 2021, to show-cause as to why proceedings for contempt be not initiated against him, shall be dealt with later.
iv) As the core issue regarding the post-poll violence and the action required to be taken thereon has been resolved with the directions for proper investigation of cases by the CBI and the SIT as referred to above, the matters now shall be placed before the Division Bench for dealing with other issues in the report and further proceedings.
v) The application bearing CAN No 4/2021 in WPA(P) 142 of 2021 filed by the Partha Bhowmick and Jyotipriya Mallick for impleading as parties to the proceedings, is rejected as they are neither necessary nor proper parties to the proceedings for the issues being dealt with by this Court.
vi) The sealed cover (Annexure – I) submitted by the Committee along with its report, second autopsy report of Abhijit Sarkar, DNA analysis report as submitted by the Director Command Hospital, Kolkata and any other sealed cover pertaining to the case, lying with the Registrar General of this Court shall be handed over to the authorised officer of the CBI against proper receipt. Any documents/material therein, which is not relevant to the cases to be investigated by the CBI shall be handed over by it to the head of the SIT.
vii) Immediate action shall be taken by the State to pay compensation to the victims of crime as per the policy of the State, after due verification. It shall be direct bank transfer in their accounts. The same will not debar them to claim further compensation under any law or scheme of the Government, for which the victims shall be at liberty to avail of their appropriate remedies.
viii) We direct the CBI and the SIT to submit its status report in Court within six weeks from today.
ix) The CBI or the officer heading the SIT shall be entitled to file application for any further direction to enable them to carry out investigation expeditiously and in a fair manner. Such an application shall be listed before the Division Bench, as per roaster.
x) All the authorities in the State or any other agency, if requested, are directed to cooperate with the CBI and the SIT in conducting fair investigation of cases.
xi) It is further directed that in case CBI or SIT finds any case to be not related to post poll violence, the same shall be transferred to the officer incharge of the concerned police station for further proceedings. Entire record pertaining to the same shall be handed over to the concerned officer against proper receipt.
xii) It is made clear that any observation made in this order is only for the limited purpose of deciding the issue whether investigation is to be handed over to CBI and Special Investigation Team. Nothing observed shall be construed as an expression of opinion on the merits of the cases.”
As an aside, it is then stated in para 83 that, “Adjourned to October 04, 2021. To be placed before the Division Bench, as per roster.”
It goes without saying that this leading judgment is a damning indictment of the callous manner in which the law and order situation is handled ineptly by the state police. All the five Judges of Calcutta High Court have expressed their fuming resentment over the manner in which post-poll violence broke out and the way in which it was handled by the state police. Justice IP Mukerji in his separate but concurring judgment too minces no words to state in para 97 that, “What is very serious is that the state has not responded to the alleged offences of murder and rape tabulated as referred to in the judgment of the Hon’ble the Chief Justice (Acting). The offences are grievous, serious and heinous. It may be as a result of post poll violence. It may well be in the usual course of affairs. The fact remains that each of these offences needs serious investigation. That is the expectation of the people of this state. If this expectation is fulfilled, their faith in the rule of law and in the justice delivery system will be maintained and enhanced. Allegations have been made against the state alleging apathy towards investigation of these crimes. To dispel any doubt in the mind of the general people regarding fairness of the state machinery, the CBI should be entrusted with investigation of those specified offences regarding murder and rape under the supervision of the court. In this type of cases, it does not matter, in my opinion, which agency makes the investigation, the state or the CBI. If the offence is established, the wrong doers have to be brought to justice. Only then will the entire system be seen as fair, just and transparent by the ordinary people.”
Not a single Judge out of the five Judges who delivered this leading judgment has dissented which clearly speaks for itself! It is high time and West Bengal State Government led by CM Mamata Banerjee must accept this historic verdict with humility and act accordingly as directed. Of course, CBI and SIT must also pull up their socks and act promptly so that the truth comes out!
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Is it safe to rely exclusively on ‘extrajudicial’ confession?
Before dwelling upon extra judicial confession, it is incumbent to first of all understand what exactly confession is. It has not been defined anywhere in the Evidence Act. Stephen in his ‘Digest of the Law of Evidence’ (Article 21) defines it as: “A confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.”
According to Wigmore: “A confession is an acknowledgement in express words, by the accused in a criminal case, of the truth of the guilty fact charged or of some essential part of it. It is to this class of statements only that the present principle of exclusion applies.” Blackstone has mocked at confession as “the weakest and most suspicious of all evidence.” Bertrand Russel says in ‘Power’: “In India it is rampant……… For the taming of the power of the police one essential requirement is that a confession shall never in any circumstances be accepted as evidence.”
One can easily discern after going through the definition forwarded by Stephen that the words ‘suggesting the inference that he committed that crime’ fail to convey the real import. It is in this context that to clear the fog and see the true picture , we must also carefully read what was spelt out by Lord Atkin in Pakala Narayana Swami v Emperor, AIR 1939 PC 47 (52). He said that, “… no statement that contains self-exculpatory matter can amount to a confession, if the exculpatory statement is of some fact which if true would negative the offence alleged to be confessed. Moreover, a confession must either admit in terms the offence, or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute the offence. An admission of a gravely incriminating fact is not of itself a confession, e.g., an admission that the accused is the owner of and was in recent possession of the knife or revolver, which caused a death with no explanation of any other man’s possession is not a confession even though it strongly suggests that the accused has committed the murder. Some confusion appears to have been caused by the definition of confession in Article 21 of the Stephen’s Digest of the Law of Evidence, which defines a confession as an admission made at any-time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime. If the surrounding articles are examined it will be apparent that the learned author, after dealing with admissions generally, is applying himself to admissions in criminal cases, and for this purpose defines confessions so as to cover all such admissions, in order to have a general term for use in the three following articles confession secured by inducement, made upon oath, made under a promise of secrecy. The definition is not contained in the Evidence Act, 1872; and in that Act it would not be consistent with the natural use of language to construe confession as a statement by an accused suggesting the inference that he committed the crime.”
It is imperative to mention here that the Apex Court too has endorsed the landmark ruling of Privy Council which I have just cited in the landmark case of Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab, AIR 1952 SC 354. Justice Mahajan in this landmark case very elegantly elucidates that, “The confession must either admit in terms the offence or at any rate, substantially all the facts which constitute the offence. The admission of gravely incriminating fact, even conclusively incriminating fact is not by itself a confession. The statement that contains self-exculpatory (self-defending) or other matter cannot amount to a confession, if the exculpatory statement is of the same facts which, if true, would negative the offence alleged to be confessed. The statement which when read as a whole is of exculpatory character and in which the prisoner denies his guilt is not confession, and cannot be used in the evidence to prove his guilt.”
About confession, Phipson states that, “An unambiguous confession is in general sufficient to warrant a conviction without corroboration.” Confession is based on the latin maxim ‘habemus optimum testem, confitentem reum’ which literally means that, “We have the best witness, a confessing defendant.” In other words, it means that the confession of an accused is the best evidence against him.
Having dwelt in detail about what confession is, I must now divulge here what is well known that confession is divided into two classes: Judicial and Extra-judicial. Needless to say, a judicial confession is that which is made before the Magistrate or Court in the due course of legal proceedings. As for instance, a confession which is recorded under Sections 164 and 364 of the CrPC. A confession made to anybody other than a Magistrate or Court or any judicial body does not come within the purview of judicial confession. Let me add here that a confession which is neither made to a Magistrate nor in the course of legal proceedings and is made outside the court or before any person other than a Magistrate is an extra-judicial confession. In other words, confessions made to private persons, to police officers or to judicial officers in their private capacity fall within the realm of extra-judicial confession.
While it is true that a confession made to a Magistrate cannot be an extra-judicial confession but what we must not lose sight of is the fact that under certain circumstances even a confession made to a Magistrate can amount to an extra-judicial confession. As for instance, in R v Gopinath , 13 WR 69, it was held that a confession made before a Magistrate, in his private capacity is an extra-judicial confession. In Emperor v Sidheshwar Nath, (1933) 56 All 730, it was held that a confession made to a Magistrate while in the custody of the police is admissible. In State of Punjab v Harjagdev Singh, AIR 2009 SC 2693, it was held that an extra-judicial confession can be made to or before a private individual. It can also be made before a Magistrate who is not especially empowered to record confessions under Section 164 of CrPC or who receives the confession at a time when Section 164 is not applying. The Court also added that every inducement, threat or promise does not vitiate a confession.
Before proceeding ahead, let me tell you that while I don’t deny that extra-judicial confessions are considered generally as weak evidence but still if found reliable courts can convict an accused based on it and there is nothing wrong with it. There are many such cases where conviction has been given to an accused based on extra-judicial confession. As for instance, it was held in State of UP v MK Anthony , AIR 1985 SC 48 that there is no inflexible rule of law or prudence that an accused cannot be convicted on the basis of an extra-judicial confession without corroboration, though it is considered to be a very weak evidence. It was also held that it can be sufficient to found conviction provided –
1. It comes from the mouth of witnesses who appear to be unbiased and not even remotely inimical to the accused;
2. There is nothing to indicate that the witness may have motive for attributing untruthful statement to the accused;
3. The evidence given by the witness is clear, unambiguous and unmistakably conveys that the accused committed the crime;
4. Nothing is omitted by the witness which may suggest different conclusion; and
5. The evidence passes the rigorous test of credibility.
In Piara Singh v State of Punjab, AIR 1977 SC 2274, the Supreme Court while convicting the appellants on the basis of extra-judicial confession and underlining its importance held that, “The learned Sessions Judge regarded the extra-judicial confession to be very weak type of evidence and therefore refused to rely on the same. Here the learned Sessions Judge committed a clear error of law. Law does not require that the evidence of an extra-judicial confession should in all cases be corroborated. In the instant case, the extra-judicial confession was proved by an independent witness (Sarpanch) who was a responsible officer and who bore no animus against the appellants. There was hardly any justification, for the Sessions Judge to disbelieve the evidence of the Sarpanch particularly when the confession was corroborated by the recovery of an empty cartridge from the place of occurrence.” In State of AP v Gangula Satya Murthy, AIR 1997 SC 1585, the Supreme Court held that minor discrepancies should be ignored in appreciating the evidentiary value of extra-judicial confession. In this case, the record showed a discrepancy as to the time of confession when the words were spoken and the time appearing in police records . The Court said that this should have been ignored. There could have been an error in recording a.m. for p.m. The Court also said that at any rate it was not proper to jettison an otherwise sturdy piece of evidence of an extra-judicial confession on such a rickety premise.
Be it noted, in the famous Nanavati case, a statement made by the accused Nanavati to the Chowkidar of the building immediately after the shooting when he saw his wife in objectionable state with another man, was held to be an extra-judicial confession and treated as a direct piece of evidence of the guilt of the accused. In Ratan Gond v State of Bihar, AIR 1959 SC 18, the Supreme Court accepted the extra-judicial confession made by the accused in the house of the Mukhia of the village before some villagers. Similarly, in Sivakumar v State by Inspector of Police, (2006) 1 SCC 714 (723) (para 41), the Apex Court accepted the extra-judicial confession made before a village headman.
While craving my readers indulgence, let me further mention here that the principles which would make an extra-judicial confession an admissible piece of evidence quite capable of forming the basis of conviction of an accused have been well highlighted by Supreme Court in Sahadevan v State of TN, (2012) 6 SCC 403, in which it has been pointed out that –
1. The extra-judicial confession is a weak evidence by itself. It has to be examined by the court with greater care and caution.
2. It should be made voluntarily and should be truthful.
3. It should inspire confidence.
4. An extra-judicial confession attains greater credibility and evidentiary value if it is supported by a chain of cogent circumstances and is further corroborated by other prosecution evidence.
5. For an extra-judicial confession to be the basis of conviction, it should not suffer from any material discrepancies and inherent improbabilities.
6. Such statement essentially has to be proved like any other fact and in accordance with law.
For my esteemed readers exclusive benefit, let me tell them that the Supreme Court has in many cases acquitted the accused whenever it found that the extra-judicial confession was not reliable or was weak or there was no corroboration or on any other ground which it considered as relevant for acquitting the accused. I will discuss some of them here of which I am aware and which I would like to also share with my readers. In Keshav v State of Maharashtra, (2007) 13 SCC 284(287) (para 9), it was alleged that the accused made confession to the wife of the deceased, who neither disclosed it to anyone nor lodged an FIR in that respect. The Apex Court held that the said extra-judicial confession was not reliable. In Polyami Sukada v State of MP, AIR 2010 SC 2977, it was held that the witnesses of confession did not inspire confidence. Their evidence was slippery. It was also held that conviction was not proper even if there was recovery of weapon on the basis of confession. But at the same time, the Apex Court also held that an extra-judicial confession need not be corroborated in all cases and conviction can be based solely on such confession. In Pakkirisamy v State of TN, AIR 1998 SC 107, it was held by Supreme Court that the extra-judicial confession of an accused cannot be taken into consideration in determining his guilt when it is not put to him in his examination under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
It is worth noting that in Jagta v State of Haryana, AIR 1974 SC 1545, the Apex Court held that, “An extra-judicial confession is, in the very nature of things a weak piece of evidence. There should be no difficulty in rejecting it if it lacks in probability.” In State of Karnataka v AB Nagaraj, AIR 2003 SC 666, it was alleged that the girl was killed by her father and step-mother in the national park. The confession was supposed to have been made during detention in the ‘Forest Office’ and there was no witness present. The evidence of extra-judicial confession was rejected. In Baldev Singh v State of Punjab, (2009) 6 SCC 564, the Apex Court held that the evidence of extra-judicial confession is generally of a weak nature. It was also held that no conviction ordinarily can be based solely thereupon unless the same is corroborated in material particulars and extra-judicial confession must be found to be reliable.
As pointed above, it is one of the most fundamental canon of criminal justice system that an extra-judicial confession to be reliable must be voluntary. Lord Parker, C.J., in Reg. v Smith, (1959) 2 Q.B. 35 at p. 39 held that, “It has always been the fundamental principle of the courts that a prisoner’s confession outside the court is only admissible if it is voluntary. In deciding whether an admission is voluntary the court had been at pain to hold that even the most gentle threats or slight inducements will taint a confession.” In State of Haryana v Jagbir Singh, 2003 (4) RCR (Criminal) SC 555, it was held by the Supreme Court that in order to make an extra-judicial confession reliable it must be shown that it was voluntarily made. Apart from the extra-judicial confession being voluntary, there are many other factors that needs to be taken into account to determine its genuineness. For example, it was held in Chattar Singh v State of Haryana, AIR 2009 SC 378, it was held by the Supreme Court that, “Whether the accused was a freeman when he confessed , one of the relevant factors. The value of the confession is determined by the veracity of the person to whom the confession is made and who appears to testify to it.” In Vinayak Shivajirao Pol v State of Maharashtra, AIR 1998 SC 1096 , confession of a military sepoy to his superior’s as to how he killed his wife and disposed off the dismembered parts of the body substantiated by recoveries, held to be capable of supporting conviction for murder without more.
It also must be brought out here that the extra-judicial confession may be either in writing or in oral as both of them are valid. Now when it comes to written confession the writing itself will be the best evidence but in case it is lost or is not available, then under such circumstances, the person before whom the confession was made can certainly be produced before the Court to depose that the accused made the statement before him.
It is imperative that before accepting extra-judicial confession on the basis of testimony of witness, the credentials of witness must be ascertained and examined properly. If witnesses are not reliable, it is not safe to rely on the extra-judicial confession made by the accused to them and on that basis alone convict the accused without any other evidence or independent corroboration. It is also imperative that the words used by those witnesses must be thoroughly examined before relying on them. In Heramba Brahma v State of Assam, AIR 1982 SC 1595, where a confession was made by an accused person to under trial prisoners who were awaiting trial for a heinous crime like dacoity which itself indicates that they were criminals and the High Court straightaway accepted their evidence without resorting to examining in minute detail the credentials of witness and without ascertaining in any manner the words used, the Supreme Court held that the evidence of extra-judicial confession was unworthy of belief and therefore liable to be rejected.
Now coming to another moot question: “Does delay in recording evidence in any manner affect the authenticity of extra-judicial confession?” Delay in recording evidence certainly affects the credibility and authenticity of extra-judicial confession if it is not properly explained but if it is properly and satisfactorily examined then it does not make any difference and conviction can still be based on extra-judicial confession. In this regard, it would be pertinent to discuss what happened in Ram Khilari’s case. In Ram Khilari v State of Rajasthan, AIR 1999 SC 1002, the appellant was convicted under Section 302, IPC on the basis of extra-judicial confession made by him to one Ram Kishan , who was father-in-law of his sister. His conviction was rightly upheld by the Apex Court as there was just no reason to disbelieve the statement of Ram Kishan. It was held to be quite probable that the appellant might have thought that he could get shelter in Ram Kishan’s house and therefore informed him what happened. The delay of 20 days in recording evidence was satisfactorily explained by the investigation and therefore no interference was warranted in his conviction on the basis of extra-judicial confession.
It must be underscored that any Court before basing a conviction on extra-judicial confession alone must be very careful when it comes to the words used by the accused while interacting with the witnesses and must make ensure that fabrications, concoctions and exaggerations don’t creep in any manner as that can push an innocent accused to conviction which would certainly tantamount to a great travesty of justice. In Mulk Raj v State of UP, AIR 1959 SC 902, it was held by Supreme Court that though court will require the witness to give the actual words used by the accused, yet it is not an invariable rule that the court should not accept the evidence if actual words are not given. Macaulay in his ‘History of England’, Vol 1 on page 283 very rightly points out that, “Words may easily be misunderstood by an honest man. They may easily be misconstrued by a knave. What was spoken metaphorically may be apprehended literally. What was spoken ludicrously may be apprehended seriously. A participle, a tense, a mood, an emphasis may make the whole difference between guilt and innocence.” Therefore, it merits no reiteration that wordings make a huge difference and it is the bounden duty of all courts concerned to fully understand in which sense the words have been used before basing any conviction on the basis of extra-judicial confession alone! It also must be borne in mind that many times a witness acts in good faith but there is unintended tricks of memory due to which there is misinterpretation and because of which an innocent accused can wrongly be convicted on the basis of extra-judicial confession alone which at all cost must be prevented by all concerned courts as that would result in a grave miscarriage of justice! At the same time all courts must bear in mind what the Supreme Court held in Narayan Singh v State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1985 SC 1678 that, “It is not open to any Court to start with a presumption that extra-judicial confession is a weak type of evidence. It would depend on the nature of the circumstances, the time when the confession was made and the credibility of the witness who speaks to such a confession.” A balance thus has to be struck before a conviction or acquittal is recorded in such cases!
Rewiring Brain: Neuroplasticity
Researches reveal that learning any new language enhances brain’s functioning with respect to memory, attention, emotions, creative thinking skills and ability to multitask as it works on the grey as well as the white matter of the brain.
Until recently it was believed that our brains are hard-wired, just like computer or any other such equipment thus can never undergo changes and one has to remain with the type of brain he is born with. But researches show that the brain has the power to change itself. This idea of changes in brain’s function as well structure is termed as neuroplasticity. Earlier the Neuroscientists hold that neuroplasticity manifests in childhood only the research done in later half of the 20th century revealed that several aspects of brain can undergo alterations even in the adulthood. Moreover neuroplasticity insists don’t hold your brain as your in charge on contrary consider yourself as the in charge of your brain.
Rewiring your brain might sound complicated, but this is something very easy that can be done at home. Yes so here are some ways that would certainly help you to change the entire scene-
Play games- Yes, playing games is beneficial. Different games yield different benefits. Such as puzzle games improves brain connectivity, boosts problem solving while 3D adventurous games tends to improve memory, problem solving and scene recognition. Rhythm games like dance can help to improve the visuospatial memory as well as attention of the individual. Thus playing games can do miracles. Point to keep in mind that these effects emerge after about 16 hours of gameplay. But that shouldn’t be played at once.
Learning new Language- Researches reveal that learning any new language enhances brain’s functioning with respect to memory, attention, emotions, creative thinking skills and ability to multitask as it works on the grey as well as the white matter of the brain.
Music Therapy- A research from 2017 shows that music when combined with dance, gaming, exercise etc. helps in improving neuroplasticity. People associated with music have better focus and attention, better motor coordination and better visual perception.
Travel- if you enjoy traveling then there is one more reason to love traveling. It enhances cognitive flexibility, nourishes creativity and broadens world general view.
Enjoy relaxing moments- Take a break from work and give some time to brain for rest. This rest improves the creativity, helps to find out new solutions to the prevailing problems.
Meditation- Meditational practices strengthens the neural connections. Regular practice leads to good brain health, sustained focus and slackening mental stress. Calm brains have the power to hold overwhelming emotions and guards individual against unproductive worries.
Video Games- Playing video games undoubtedly harms our eyes and is being criticized for few problems associated to it but still it has various cognitive benefits such as motor coordination, spatial navigation, decision making, reasoning and resilience.
Psychologists as well as other experts use to stress that no changes are expected in brain after a certain point of age. But now this view has been discarded. As they now know that all this is possible at any point of age in entire lifespan.
All that one requires is just some time, dedication and patience. All the suggested activities may look quite simple but have huge impact.
Marriage can be registered through video conference: Special Marriage Act
The court also batted for a common marriage law so as to shift everything online to make registration of marriage and divorce easier in tune with evolving technology.
With the technological advancement, marriages can be registered under Special Marriage Act (SMA) 1954 through video conferencing said by Kerala High Court (Dhanya Martin V State of Kerala).
The observation was given by the two judges bench (Divisionbench) comprises of Justices A. Muhamed Mustaque and Kauser Edappagath. The observation was given while hearing the sets of petitions filed by person looking to solemnize their marriages under the Special Marriage Act through video conferencing.
The cases were referred by the single judge bench before the Division bench on 25th August, 2021. The Court held that it was only concern the way of identification of parties for the online registration of marriage and it is inclined to allow the matter. There is no difficulty to hold that in the era of technological advancement, marriage can also be registered without physical presence of the parties before the marriage officer. Therefore, marriage officer must be in a position to identify the parties through online video conference. The way to conduct such type of identification online has to be discussed.
The Court added that the parties have recommended two methods of identification. First method is the physical presence of the parties before the commission; if they are living abroad. Second method is the modern gadgets for identifying the parties with reference to facial recognition and biometric identifications.
STATEMENT OF ASG
The Court also informed the R Suvin Menon; Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) that it would needed the Union Government help in framing a mechanism that would permit usage of modern data and technology for this purpose. The ASG raised the concerns regarding the misuse of data and limitations on usage of facial recognition even in criminal prosecutions, the Court states that such concerned can be addressed but positive purposes for technology must be encouraged.
The Court said that the technology must have some restrictions against a person, but also can be used for the interest of individual. We can maximise the positive aspects and limits the negative one. The Court high lightened the importance of ease of setting up of uniform marriage law for the online registration and divorce.
The Bench said that court should switch everything online. This is the only reason for the requirement of common marriage law. Every marriage should be compulsory registered either private or personal. The marriage should be covered under the public law. In the modern technology, people can’t still bank on the physical method of marriage registration.
Public Prosecutor appearing for the Kerala government Gopi Nathan opposed and said that there is no provision under Special Marriage Act to register marriages before solemnisation before a marriage officer. In view of the Information Technology Act, no such type of provision is needed said by the Court. The provisions of the IT Act, especially Sections 4, 5 and 6, are read into all relevant present statutes.
In the case of State of Maharashtra V Paful B Desai, the Supreme Court held that evidence could now be recorded by means of video conferencing. It means that victim or witness can reported their statement through online video conferencing.
The Bench said that court should switch everything online. This is the only reason for the requirement of common marriage law. Every marriage should be compulsory registered either private or personal. The marriage should be covered under the public law. In the modern technology, people can’t still bank on the physical method of marriage registration.
All-time high exports of engineering goods in August suggest pandemic may be behind us: EEPC India chairman
Reflecting strong demand from its key markets, engineering goods exports to 24 out of 25 top nations recorded positive growth in August, 2021 blowing past its previous monthly record of US$ 9.13 billion in July.
Unlike the previous months, exports to China registered the second largest export destination witnessing positive monthly growth in August 2021. Shipments to China rose 15% in August to reach US$ 613.3 million as compared to US$ 531.3 million in the same month last year.
Malaysia was the only country which saw a negative trend in import of engineering goods from India.
The US continued to be on top of the chart with August import of engineering goods from India growing 42% to US$ 1.3 billion as compared to US$ 916.5 million in the same month last year.
All the European countries for India’s top 25 engineering export destinations – Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, UK, Poland, Spain and France recorded high positive growth during August as well as on a cumulative basis this fiscal.
The share of India’s engineering exports to its top 25 nations accounted for 76.8% of India’s total engineering exports in April-August 2021. This significant high share is indicative of the dependence of India’s engineering export on the traditional markets.
India’s engineering exports was at its all-time monthly high for the second straight month in August. The robust performance of the sector resulted in the share of engineering goods in total merchandise exports during the previous month rising significantly.
Share of engineering in total merchandise export was 27.68% in August 2021 as against 25.82% in July, 27.19% in June, 25.44% in May, 24.83% in April 2021 and 25.36 percent in March 2021.
“In the month of August, engineering goods exports recorded more than 40% growth even when compared with the same month in 2019. It now seems that the pandemic is behind us. We are positively hopeful that as a result of a turnaround in global trade and policy support the sector would do better than expected in the full financial year,” said EEPC India Chairman Mr Mahesh Desai.
“The annual target of US$ 107 billion looks very doable even though the achievement till August fell a bit short of the target when calculated on a pro-rata basis,” he said.
During April-August period of 2021-22, India’s engineering exports have fallen short of the target set by about US$ 1.82 billion calculated on a pro-rata basis achieving 40% of the target against 42% of desired level for the full year.
Engineering exports crossed US$ 9 billion mark consecutively for the second time after the month of July, reaching an all-time high of US$ 9.21 billion in August.
Cumulative engineering exports during April-August 2021-22 stood at US$ 42.91 billion registering 66.18% growth over the shipments of April-August 2020-21 at US$ 25.82 billion.
Out of 33 engineering panels or product groups, 29 panels witnessed positive growth in exports and remaining four panels witnessed negative export growth during August 2021 vis-à-vis August 2020.
Exports of iron and steel recorded a continuous growth to the extent of 142% in August 2021 compared to the same period last year. In case of non-ferrous metals, sectors like Zinc and products exhibited negative growth in exports to the extent of 26% during the month of August 2021 vis-a-vis August 2020. All the remaining segments showed positive growth.
All the seven panels under Industrial machinery exhibited positive growth in August 2021 which led the total industrial machinery panel increase by 39% during August 2021.
Electrical Machinery and equipment which is a major engineering exporting sector for India experienced a growth in exports both monthly and on cumulative basis increasing to the extent of 26.8% from US$ 692.9 million in August 2020 to US$ 878.4 million in August 2021.
The automobile sector (combination of Two and Three wheelers and Motor vehicles and Cars) recorded consecutive massive jumps in exports to the extent of 57.5% primarily due to sharp jump in exports of Two and Three Wheelers by 72.4% and Motor Vehicles by 52.5% during August 2021.
Exports of Aircrafts and Spacecraft parts and products recorded 12.8% negative monthly growth while ‘Ship, Boats and Floating Bodies’ exhibited a monthly decline of 21.7%.
“The government has relentlessly supported the industry and we hope that the two key issues of high raw material prices and container shortage would also be looked into. The industry is awaiting proper rates under RoDTEP,” said EEPC India Chairman.
Centre provides a massive relief to the exporters
The government releases Rs 56,027 crore under various Export Promotion Schemes.
The Government of India has decided to budget Rs 56,027 crore in this Financial Year FY 21-22 itself in order to disburse all pending export incentives due to exporters. This amount includes claims relating to MEIS, SEIS, RoSL, RoSCTL, other scrip based schemes relating to earlier policies and the remission support for RoDTEP and RoSCTL for exports made in the 4th quarter of FY 20-21. Benefits would be disbursed to more than 45,000 exporters, out of which about 98% are small exporters in the MSME category.
The amount of Rs 56,027 crores of arrears is for different export promotion and remission schemes: MEIS (Rs 33,010 crore), SEIS (Rs 10,002 crore), RoSCTL (Rs 5,286 cr), RoSL (Rs 330 crore), RoDTEP(Rs 2,568 crore), other legacy Schemes like Target Plus etc (Rs 4,831 crore). This amount is over and above duty remission amount of Rs 12,454 crore for the RoDTEP scheme and Rs 6,946 crore for RoSCTLscheme already announced for exports made in this year i.e. FY 2021-22.
Exports in India have seen robust growth in recent months. Merchandise exports for April-August, 2021 was nearly $164 billion, which is an increase of 67% over 2020-21 and 23% over 2019-20. This decision to clear all pending export incentives within this financial year, will lead to even more rapid export growth in coming months.
For merchandise exports, all sectors covered under MEIS, such as Pharmaceuticals, Iron and steel, Engineering, Chemicals, Fisheries, Agriculture and allied Sectors, Auto and Auto Components would be able to claim benefits for exports made in earlier years. Benefits would help such sectors to maintain cash flows and meet export demand in international market, which is recovering fast this financial year.
Service sector exporters, including those in the travel, tourism and hospitality segments will be able to claim SEIS benefits for FY 2019-2020, for which Rs 2,061 crore has been provisioned. The SEIS for FY 2019-20 with certain revisions in service categories and rates is being notified. This support would have a multiplier effect and spur employment generation.
The apparel sector, which is a major labour-intensive sector, would get past arrears under ROSCTL and ROSL, and all stakeholders in the interconnected supply chains would be strengthened to meet the festive season demand in international markets.
Export claims relating to earlier years will need to be filed by the exporters by 31st December 2021 beyond which they will become time barred. The Online IT portal will be enabled shortly to accept MEIS and other scrip based applications and would be integrated with a robust mechanism set up by Ministry of Finance to monitor provisioning and disbursement of the export incentives under a budgetary framework.
A decision to clear all pending export incentives within this Financial Year itself despite other budgetary commitments arising out of the pandemic is with the objective of providing timely and crucial support to this vital pillar of Indian economy.
FIEO HAILS GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO DISBURSE ALL PENDING EXPORT INCENTIVES TO EASE THE LIQUIDITY AT MOST CHALLENGING TIMES: DR SAKTHIVEL
Welcoming the government’s decision of budgeting an amount of Rs 56,027 crores to disburse all pending export incentives due to exporters as claims related to different export promotion and remission schemes including MEIS, SEIS, RoSL, RoSCTL, other scrip-based schemes relating to earlier policies and the remission support for RoDTEP and RoSCTL for exports made in the 4th quarter of FY 20-21, FIEO President, Dr A Sakthivel said that such a move will help the sector in meeting the liquidity concerns and maintaining cash flow of the exports sector thereby further facilitating in addressing the export demand in the international market.
Benefits to be disbursed to over 45,000 exporters, specially those from the MSME sector has come as a booster dose for them as it would help them to be able to complete their booked order more efficiently, said Dr Sakthivel. Thanking the Hon’ble Prime Minister, the Union Commerce & Industry and Textiles Minister and the Union Finance Minister, President, FIEO added that the decision will lead to an even more rapid growth in exports in coming months.
FIEO Chief said that support to Service sector exporters, including those in the travel, tourism and hospitality segments, with certain revisions in service categories and rates being notified will not only have a multiplier effect but will also help in employment generation. Incentivising major labour-intensive sectors and all the stakeholders including those from the supply chain will help in strengthening their endeavours to meet the festive season demand in the international market.
Such support and handholding to the sector during these challenging times, when the whole exporting community is showing their commitment and resilience to perform impressively has definitely given a boost to the government vision of achieving USD 400 billion exports for the fiscal. Dr Sakthivel said that these announcements has further infused confidence in exporters that the Government is working hand in hand with exporters as promised by our Hon’ble Prime Minister.
Analysing a bill passed by Rajasthan Assembly that allows registration of child marriages
“Unity is meaningless without the accompaniment of women. Education is fruitless without educated women and agitation is incomplete without the strength of women.”
— Dr BR Ambedkar
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) charged on September 17 that the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which was passed by voice vote in the state Assembly to amend a 2009 Act on mandatory marriage registration within 30 days of the union, will legitimise child marriages.
Despite parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwaldefended the Bill by claiming that registering child marriage does not make it legitimate, the opposition staged a walkout. He also promised that anyone who organise child weddings, even after they have been registered, will face consequences.
JUDGMENT OF THE SC IN 2006
The minister further informed the House that the Supreme Court had ordered that all forms of weddings be registered in its 2006 decision in Seema vs Ashwini Kumar.
He claimed that registering child weddings does not legitimisethem, and that if a kid gets married, he or she will have the ability to dissolve the marriage once they reach adulthood.
WHAT DOES THE BILL STATE?
On 17 September, the Rajasthan Assembly passed the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which changes the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009, and requires parents or guardians to provide information on child marriages within 30 days after the wedding.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) questioned the need for child marriage registration and asked that the law be withdrawn. “How can they include child marriage in this Bill if child marriage is prohibited? All of this is done by Congress in order to create a vote bank.” If this measure passes, the assembly will have a bad day. Is it possible for the assembly to agree to legalise child marriages? We shall approve child weddings by a show of hands. The bill would write a dark chapter in the assembly’s history. Ashok, a BJP MLA.
WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT SAY?
Shanti Kumar Dhariwal, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, defended the legislation, saying, “The bill makes no mention of the legality of child marriage. According to the bill, only registration is required after marriage. This is not to say that child marriage is legal. The district collector can still take action against underage marriages if he or she so desires.”
Dhariwal further stated that the legislation now allows for registration at the District Marriage Registration Officer, Additional District Marriage Registration Officer, and Block Marriage Registration Officer levels. These officers will be able to monitor and review the work of registration. This will make it easier for the general public to register. This will bring simplicity and transparency to the work. He further said that the marriage registration certificate was a legal document without which widows would be unable to benefit from numerous government programmes. According to him, any or both parties in a marriage will be entitled to file for marriage registration and get a certificate as a result of the mandatory registration.
MARRIAGES IN INDIA
Although no comprehensive data is available, estimates show that at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 marry each year in India, making it the country with the most child brides in the world, accounting for a third of the global total. While the percentage of females marrying before the age of 18 has decreased from 47% to 27% between 2005-2006 and 2015-2016, it is still too high.
Multiple reasons, including greater maternal literacy, improved access to education for girls, robust laws, and migration from rural to urban regions, may be contributing to the reduction. Among the reasons for the shift include increased rates of girls’ education, aggressive government investments in teenage girls, and strong public messaging about the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes.
At the global level, child marriage is included in Goal 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” Under Target 5.3 “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”.
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