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Legally Speaking

In search of a woman Chief Justice of India

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Though justice is usually portrayed as a woman, it has in general been embodied by men. The Supreme Court of India is also one such example. It has a strength of 34 judges including the Chief Justice of India. But it has only two women judges and one of them is going to retire within a few days. Even after 70 years of its existence, the top court could not have a woman Chief Justice. There have been very few women judges in the Supreme Court up till now. Justice Fathima Beevi was the first woman judge of the Supreme Court of India who was appointed in 1989. The second woman judge was Justice Sujata V Manohar who was elevated to the Supreme Court in 1994. The third woman judge, Justice Ruma Pal came to the Supreme Court in the year 2000. After her retirement, it was Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra who came to the Supreme Court in 2010. In 2011, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai was appointed to the Supreme Court. Justice Bhanumathi was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2014. Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee came to the Supreme Court in 2018. All these women judges have made a great contribution to the Indian judicial system by delivering wonderful judgments on a variety of significant issues relating to public, private law and governance.

Surprisingly, the judge-makers of our country could not find a woman judge or academician who may become the Chief Justice of India even after seven decades of the establishment of the Supreme Court. The reason is very simple. First, a lack of will power, and second, the formality of seniority convention. The Chief Justice of India is appointed on the basis of the seniority convention and no lady judge reaches in that zone of consideration because of the lack of seniority. For reaching the top position in the apex court, a judge needs a fairly long tenure of eight or nine years. Only two times this seniority convention has been breached in 1973 and 1977 during the tenure of Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The legal fraternity had criticized such judicial supersessions strongly. But thereafter the seniority convention has been consistently followed in the appointment of the Chief Justice of India and there does not seem to be any apprehension of its dilution in the future as the Supreme Court has also approved this seniority convention in the second judges’ case in 1993. So, the Supreme Court collegium may consider bringing a woman judge to the Supreme Court who can have a long tenure of service so that she can become the Chief Justice of India after a few years as per the seniority convention. Bypassing the seniority convention is neither possible nor desirable as the judicial supersessions cause irreparable damage to judicial independence and give an unwanted opportunity to the executive to control the judiciary. Only the timely appointment of a woman judge with having long tenure is the best solution to give India the first woman Chief Justice. And for this purpose, the Supreme Court collegium should take initiative. As the ultimate decision making-power pertaining to the elevation of the judges in the Supreme Court lies upon the Collegium, it becomes a moral responsibility of the Collegium to undertake this task.

Post-1993, the judiciary has snatched the judges’ appointment power from the executive through constitutional interpretation. Before 1993, the Prime Minister and the Union Law Minister were very powerful in making judicial appointments. But now judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium which is headed by the Chief Justice of India and consists of four of his senior-most colleagues. This collegium is the actual judge-maker. The central government has little say in judicial appointments. Its main job is to implement the decisions of the collegium. However, it has some scope to delay judicial appointments. The decisions of the collegium are made by consensus. If two or more judges oppose the Chief Justice’s proposals, the collegium cannot finalize the names and the President is also not bound to accept such recommendations. The Chief Justice of India has no veto power in judicial appointments. He has to build a consensus among all his colleagues and finalize the names accordingly. The President of India is bound to act as per the recommendation of the collegium if it decides the names by consensus. However, the President, as aided and advised by the Prime Minister, has an option to return the recommendation of the collegium once for its reconsideration but thereafter the President is bound to accept the collegium’s recommendation if it reiterates its view. In other words, the collegium has the final say in judicial appointments.

The present Supreme Court collegium is headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde. Its other members are: Justices N V Ramana, R F Nariman, U U Lalit, and A M Khanwilkar. As of now, the Supreme Court has four vacancies and five more judges will retire by the end of this year but the collegium headed by Chief Justice Bobde has not made even a single appointment to the Supreme Court. As per media reports, there is some deadlock in the collegium and it has not made a consensus on a few names of Chief Justices of High Courts who are eligible for elevation to the top court as per the seniority rule. Chief Justice Bobde will retire next month. The last time a Chief Justice of India retired without recommending a single appointment to the Supreme Court was in 2015 during the tenure of Chief Justice H L Dattu when there was an unprecedented deadlock between the central government and the judiciary on the issue of National Judicial Appointments Commission, popularly known as NJAC. After Bobde’s retirement, Justice N V Ramana is likely to become the Chief Justice of India as per the order of seniority.

It is not that brilliant women High Court judges are not available in the country. There are many brilliant women lawyers and judges who, if elevated soon to the top court, can become the Chief Justice of India after a few years as per the seniority rule. The biggest issue is to include them in the seniority circle so that they could come to the top after a few years. I think this is a great opportunity for the collegium to give India its first woman Chief Justice of India. It is not a difficult task. It requires a strong commitment to the cause of women’s empowerment in the judiciary. In addition to this, the Supreme Court needs more women judges also. There should be at least four to five women judges in the Supreme Court given the state of underrepresentation of women judges in the country. The Court decides many important issues which can be properly be adjudicated by the women judges. Some brilliant women lawyers can also be considered for the judgeship in the top court. There is no dearth of brilliant women lawyers in the country. Justice Indu Malhotra is the first woman advocate who was directly elevated to the Supreme Court. This trend of making appointments from the bar needs to be continued in the future also.

Notably, when it comes to the question of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court from the High Courts, seniority and regional representation are also major criteria that the Supreme Court Collegium considers but there is no such fixed rule and precedents are always there where judges have been directly elevated to the Supreme Court by relaxing the seniority norm. In absence of any institutional representation in form of reservation, the women representation continues and probably will continue to be skewed in ratio. The fact that 70 years of independence could produce only handful of women judges in the Supreme Court needs to be analysed carefully. It is not like that diversity has not been a considerable factor in the Collegium resolution. Collegium has always kept diversity as one of the factors before elevating a judge to the bench, ensuring there is equitable representation of the High Courts from different regions, as well as of different religion. However, on the gender-inclusivity front, the Supreme Court has not been able to contribute much. A joint reading of article 124 (2) (appointment of judges) and the Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (1993) will patently show that the provisions of appointment or elevation of judges are gender-neutral, however, the pragmatic reality of gender-ratio of women judges in Supreme Court might turn the contours of article 124 (2) gender exclusive. It not deniable fact that half the Indian population consists of women, in this scenario, the fact that there is no women CJI so far denies them their census(al)-equality. Therefore, the fact that article 124 stays mum on the concept of reservation in the Supreme Court, it cannot be taken as an impediment for the Indian Parliament to bring a required change and eventually provide for the institutional representation to the gender-diversity of India.

The other way of securing women representation would be the judicial will-power to do so. There are no written rules that stop the collegium to appoint a High Court judge or a practicing lawyer or a distinguished academician to the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the final choice of judges depends on consensus within the collegium. If all the collegium members decide that it is time to recommend a woman judge’s name for the Supreme Court, it can do so and a woman judge can also be appointed to the Supreme Court at this time. So, all this depends on the will power of the collegium which has a conclusive power in judicial appointments. Parliament too has been actively involved in this question, in 2020, DMK MP P.Wilson had raised this question in the Parliament, that the Supreme Court is having a diversity deficit and is not able to represent the diversity of Indian society. In a reply send by Law Minister Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad to MP P.Wilson, the Law Minister quite categorically said that the provision dealing with judicial appointment (Article 124) does not provide for reservation. Additionally, Mr. Prasad also said that Centre has been entreating upon the need to give consideration upon suitable candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, minorities and women while making appointments to High Courts. However, in the end, the central government will have no option but to act on the collegium’s recommendation. And there is no reason to assume that the central government will not appreciate this idea that promotes women’s empowerment. So, now the ball is in the collegium’s court. I think the time has come when the Supreme Court collegium should give India a future woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Last year, Attorney-General K K Venugopal had also said that there has never been a woman CJI. It indicates that even the government wants to see a woman as CJI in the near future. Hope the learned judges who are members of the collegium would understand the sentiments of the people and will make history to give India the first CJI. No more delay please dear judge-makers.

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Legally Speaking

Poverty can be addressed through healing touch of law: MP HC issues directions for implementation of poverty alleviation schemes

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In a well-written, well-articulated, well-reasoned and well substantiated judgment titled Omnarayan Sharma Vs State of MP & Ors in W.P. No. 1930/2020 (PIL) that was delivered on July 6, 2021, the Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court has issued directions to the District Legal Services Authorities and the State Authority for ensuring implementation of poverty alleviation schemes promulgated under provisions of Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 and NALSA (Effective Implementation of Poverty Alleviation Schemes) Scheme, 2015. It must be apprised here that a Division Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice Sheel Nagu and Justice Anand Pathak have observed thus:

“Poverty, which is a Problem (Social Evil) can be addressed through Law (with its healing touch) as its solution to achieve the ultimate destination of Development.” It also must be mentioned here that the remarks came in a petition against alleged corruption and illegality committed by state authorities in construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission in Bhind District.

To start with, a Division Bench of Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice Anand Pathak who has authored this learned, laudable, latest and landmark judgment for himself and Justice Sheel Nagu first and foremost points out in para 1 that, “The present petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India has been preferred by the petitioner as Pro Bono Publico projecting himself to be a public spirited citizen and has raised the grievance regarding illegality and irregularity committed by the respondents, especially respondents No. 6 to 13 who according to petitioner have not undertaken any enquiry over the complaint of petitioner regarding corruption / illegality committed in construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission.”

To put things in perspective, the Division Bench then puts forth in para 3 that, “Precisely stated facts of the case are that on 31/12/2019, one Ramu Chaudhary, resident of village Etahar, District Bhind registered a complaint on Chief Minister Helpline Portal that Sarpanch, Secretary and other officers of the Gram Panchayat Ater, District Bhind have embezzled public fund in the name of construction of toilets but neither toilets have been constructed nor any amount for construction has been received by 93 beneficiaries. Despite making complaint by the petitioner on behalf of the beneficiaries to Collector, District Bhind no affirmative steps have been taken.”

While dwelling on the petitioner’s grievance, the Division Bench then enunciates in para 4 that, “It is the grievance of the petitioner that in other blocks of District Bhind also corruption and illegality have been conducted in construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission. Petitioner placed the list of beneficiaries (94 in number) vide Annexure P/3, who did not receive the benefits of toilets nor any amount. Petitioner also referred the screen shot of app. (Pandit Deendayal Shram Seva App) to demonstrate that allegedly amount has been received by the beneficiaries but in fact bogus papers have been prepared and amount has been siphoned off.”

As we see, the Bench then puts forth in para 5 that, “Learned counsel for the respondents/State opposed the prayer and placed certain documents on record. It is the submission of learned counsel for the State that immediately after issuance of notice in this writ petition (on 27/8/2020), CEO, Zila Panchayat, Bhind vide order dated 14/1/2021 (Annexure R/1) constituted a committee to look into the complaint made by petitioner. He also

referred the show cause notice issued by same authority to then Panchayat Secretary, Gram Rojgar Sahayak and other Secretaries, who worked at the relevant point of time including the then Supervisor.

Therefore, as per respondents, enquiry is under process. Learned Government counsel assured this Court that due enquiry would be conducted and if any illegality or irregularity is found then same shall be taken care of earnestly and consequent action shall be taken as per enquiry report.”

Needless to say, after hearing learned counsel for the parties and perusing the record as stated in para 7, the Division Bench then lays bare in para 8 that, “This is a case by way of Pro Bone Publico; whereby, petitioner as public interest litigant raised the question of alleged illegality and corruption brewing in the Gram Panchayat Etahar, Tasil Ater, District Bhind regarding implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission Scheme, which is a flagship scheme of Government of India to solve problems of sanitation and waste management in India by ensuring hygiene across the country. Primary object of this scheme is to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management. In the challenging period of COVID-19 Pandemic cleanliness and public hygiene assumed much significance. Therefore, it is the solemn duty of the District and Local Administration as well as local self government to look into the effective implementation of this scheme.”

Simply put, the Division Bench then envisages in para 9 that, “National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) under the provisions of Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 has framed certain schemes encompassing wide range of subjects and the compendium of the said schemes reflects one such scheme namely NALSA (Effective Implementation of Poverty Alleviation Schemes) Scheme, 2015. This scheme is built on the foundation that poverty is a multi dimensional experience and is not limited to the issues of income. Multi dimensional poverty includes issues like health (including

mental health), access to water, education, sanitation, subsidies and basic services, social exclusion, discrimination etc.”

Furthermore, the Division Bench then makes it clear in para 10 that, “Further, in identifying the specific scheme for implementation at the State and District Level, Legal Services Authorities as per NALSA are expected to be cognizant of the fact that various vulnerable and marginalized groups experience poverty in myriad and unique ways.”

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Be it noted, the Division Bench then points out in para 11 that, “To address this exigency faced by people the Scheme of 2015 as referred above has been conceptualized.

In the scheme, following topics have been discussed: Clause 4.-Objectives of the Scheme:-,

Clause 5.-Identification of Poverty Alleviation Schemes:-,

Clause 6.-Organization of Awareness Programmes:-,

Clause 7.- Legal Services Officers and Para-legal Volunteers:-,

1) Every District Authority and Taluka Legal Services Authority shall designate at least three panel lawyers as Legal Services Officers for

the purpose of this Scheme. 2) District Authorities shall constitute teams of PLVs under a Legal Services Officer to implement this Scheme and the Legal Services Officer will supervise and mentor the PLVs in his team to help the beneficiaries access the various schemes of the Govt.

3) District Authorities shall conduct specialised training programs for panel of lawyers, members working in legal services clinics, members of panchayats, law students and other para-legal volunteers to assist in the implementation of the Scheme, to sensitise them regarding the needs of persons belonging to socially and economically weaker sections and the benefits that they can avail through Poverty

Alleviation Schemes.

Clause 8.- Legal Assistance for Access to Poverty Alleviation Schemes

Legal assistance must be provided to all the Scheme Beneficiaries seeking access to Poverty Alleviation Schemes. Legal Services to be provided by Legal Services Officers or volunteers under this Scheme includes, inter alia:

1) Informing the Scheme Beneficiaries about each of the Poverty

Alleviation Scheme to which they are entitled, and the benefits

thereunder

2) Assisting the Scheme Beneficiary in procuring the documents

required for availing the benefits under any of the Poverty

Alleviation Scheme

3) Informing the Scheme Beneficiary of the name and address of the

designated authority or the officer to be approached for registration

under any of the Poverty Alleviation Schemes

4) Offering to send para-legal volunteers including from the legal

services clinics with Scheme Beneficiaries to the office of the

designated authority or the officer to be approached under any of the

Poverty Alleviation Schemes

5) Informing the Scheme Beneficiary of her option to register a

complaint with the Legal Services Officer or para-legal volunteer,

about any designated authority or officer under any of the Poverty

Alleviation Schemes who refuses to cooperate with the Scheme

Beneficiary in providing her access to the benefits that she is

entitled to under the Poverty Alleviation Scheme.

6) Maintaining a record of all the complaints received under sub-clause(5).

7) Providing Scheme Beneficiaries with the contact number, if

available, of the Legal Services Officer, and availability of the

Legal Services Officer on call during working hours for such Scheme

Beneficiaries to whom contact number is provided.

Clause 9.-Action by Legal Services Officers on complaints;

1) On receiving complaints under sub-clause (5) of clause 8, each

Legal Services Officer shall herself personally accompany the

Complainant Beneficiary to the office of the designated authority or

officer, and assist the Complainant Beneficiary in availing the

benefit that she is entitled to under the Poverty Alleviation Scheme.

2) In case the designated authority or officer fails to register the

Complainant Beneficiary in the Poverty Alleviation Scheme, the Legal

Services Officer shall submit a complaint to the District Authority.

The letter of complaint shall describe the conduct of the designated

authority or officer who refused to register the Complainant

Beneficiary under the Poverty Alleviation Scheme, and circumstances of

such refusal and whether refusal was despite submission of all

necessary documents.

Clause 10.- Action by District Authority and State Authority on complaints:-

1) On receiving a complaint regarding the designated authority or

officer, the District Authority shall seek a report from the concerned

officer regarding the reason for denying the benefits under the

Poverty Alleviation Scheme to the complainant Beneficiary. In the

event that sufficient reason is not provided by the concerned officer

for refusal to register the Complainant Beneficiary in the Poverty

Alleviation Scheme or to provide benefits under the Poverty

Alleviation Scheme, the District Authority shall immediately

communicate to the superior officer in the department the details of

the refusal to provide access to the Poverty Alleviation Scheme.

2) If the superior officer, in the opinion of the District Authority,

also withholds the benefits under the Poverty Alleviation Scheme

without sufficient cause, the District Authority shall then

communicate the same to the State Authority.

3) On receiving such communication from the District Authority, the

State Authority may choose to further pursue the matter with the

concerned department or file appropriate legal proceedings to ensure

that the Complainant Beneficiary receives the benefit under the

Poverty Alleviation Scheme.

4) The District Authority, through para-legal volunteers or legal

services clinics, shall provide regular updates to the Complainant

Beneficiary about the status of the complaint.

Clause 11.-Evaluation of the Scheme:-

1)Every Legal Services Officer shall follow-up with each Scheme

Beneficiary who sought legal assistance under this Scheme and record:

a. if such person was able to register under the Poverty Alleviation

Scheme sought to be registered under and whether such benefits were

being received

b. any grievances experienced by the Scheme Beneficiaries in getting

registered and availing benefits under the various Poverty Alleviation

Schemes.

2) The District Authority shall compile the observations made under

sub-clause (1) for all the Legal Services Officers working under the

Scheme in the district and shall send a copy of such observations in a

complied document to the State Authority every six months.

3) The State Authority shall consolidate the compiled documents

received from all the District Authorities under sub-clause (2) and

hold a meeting every 6 months to review the functioning and

effectiveness of this Scheme. The minutes of such meeting shall be

recorded and published as a public document.

4) If in the meeting under sub-clause (3) the State Authority finds a

substantive or procedural defect in any of the Poverty Alleviation

Schemes which makes seeking benefits under the scheme a problem for

the Scheme Beneficiaries, such defect must be brought to the notice of

the Central Government or the State Government as the case may be for

improving the specific Poverty Alleviation Scheme and / or its

effective implementation.””

To be sure, the Division Bench

then observes in para 12 that, “Perusal of the whole scheme indicates

that certain responsibilities have been bestowed upon the State and

District Legal Services Authorities to train the legal and para-legal

volunteers for providing legal assistance for giving access to

beneficiaries to Poverty Alleviation Scheme and to act upon the

complaints if the benefits have not been extended to him/her or if any

authority refuses to cooperate with the scheme beneficiaries in

providing access to the benefits.”

As it turned out, the Division

Bench then states in para 13 that, “As referred in the Scheme of 2015,

poverty is a multi dimensional experience and it includes basic

services including sanitation etc. and when a duty has been cast upon

Legal Services Authority as per the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987

and Scheme of 2015 then if any complaint is received by the Legal

Services Officer from complainant / Scheme Beneficiary then such

complaint like the present one can be taken care of by the District

Authority as per Clause (9), (10) and (11) of the Scheme of 2015 by

the District Authority and even by the State Authority.”

Quite damningly, the Division

Bench then minces no words to state in para 14 that, “It is being

experienced by this Court that many complaints come regarding poor

implementation, corruption and / or irregularities in Schemes like

MGNREGA and Swachh Bharat Mission regarding construction of toilets or

non-grant of amount to the beneficiaries for construction of toilets,

etc. and by way of Public Interest Litigation, people seek Continuing

Mandamus from this Court, whereas, provisions of Act of 1987 and

Scheme of 2015 are apparently also available to address such

problems.”

Notably, the Division Bench then brings

out in para 15 that, “Clause 10(3) of Scheme of 2015 gives option to

choose between the Persuasion (with the concerned Department) or

Petition (to file appropriate legal proceedings). Here, appropriate

legal proceedings may include complaint before the Lokayukt, if it

comes under the purview of said Authority or private complaint against

the erring persons or to file a Petition on behalf of complainant

under Article 226 of the Constitution of India as Public Interest

Litigation. It can club cause of more than one beneficiaries also.”

In the present context, the

Division Bench then brings out in para 16 that, “Recently, Ministry of

Panchayati Raj, Government of India has undertaken steps in respect of

Online Audit and Social Audit of 20% Gram Panchayats’ in every Janpad

Panchayat and therefore, it appears that Government also intends to

make these Institutions more accountable which are having direct

bearing over day to day welfare of people at large. In pursuance

thereof, a circular has also been issued by Panchayat Raj Directorate,

Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal dated 17/2/2021 to all CEOs of Zila Panchayats

/ Janpad Panchayats to organize camps in this regard.”

Of course, the Division Bench then hastens to

add in para 17 that, “State Authority may contemplate about

preparation of one Software and Mobile Application ( Mobile App.) for

keeping a tab over the complaints received and their outcome. This

Software / Mobile App. may coordinate amongst the concern departments

so that complaints received over the said application (App.) would be

displayed all over. Concerned stakeholders and State Authority /

District Authority would be in a better position to proceed as per the

spirit of Act of 1987 and Scheme of 2015. State Authority even has

power to make regulations as per Section 29-A of the Act 1987 to

provide for all matters for which provision is necessary or expedient

for the purposes of giving effect to the provisions of Act.”

Quite scandalously, the Division

Bench then puts forth in para 18 in simple, suave and straight

language that, “Here, in the case in hand, it appears that certain

beneficiaries allegedly did not receive the benefits under Swachh

Bharat Mission about construction of toilets. As per the allegations,

neither toilets have been constructed by the concern authorities nor

amount has been transferred in their accounts and it is the

allegations that amount of 93 beneficiaries (or may be 94) has been

siphoned off by Sarpanch / Panchayat Secretary / Gram Rojgar Sahayak

etc. Allegations are prima facie serious in nature.”

Quite categorically, the Division Bench then

puts forth in para 19 that, “This Court cannot go into the

authenticity or otherwise of the allegations at this juncture

especially when CEO, Zila Panchayat is seized of the matter vide show

cause notices issued to erring officers / authorities in this regard.

Therefore, at this juncture, any observation would pre-empt the

controversy. However, Collector and CEO, Zila Panchayat, Bhind are

directed to look into the allegations with utmost promptitude and role

of concerned Sarpanch, Panchayat Secretary, Gram Rojgar Sahayak,

Supervisor and any other person involved in the transaction / or

having any responsibility under the Swachh Bharat Mission Scheme

failed or acted mischievously be enquired into in accordance with law.

If any conclusion has not been drawn in the enquiry up till now then

enquiry be conducted expeditiously within two months from the date of

passing of this order and outcome of the enquiry be intimated to the

office of this Court and office shall place the matter under the

caption “Direction” for perusal of this Court and even if conclusion

is drawn then consequential follow up action be informed to office of

this Court.”

Significantly, the Division Bench then

directs in para 20 that, “Before parting, this Court feels it

appropriate to give direction to the District Legal Services Authority

to update the contents of different schemes promulgated under the

different provisions of Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 including

the Scheme in hand i.e. NALSA (Effective Implementation of Poverty

Alleviation Schemes) Scheme, 2015 and ensure that in their respective

jurisdiction (District) Poverty Alleviation Scheme especially Swachh

Bharat Mission Scheme and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment

Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA), etc. are being properly executed and

intended beneficiaries get the benefits of the scheme and if any

authority refuses to cooperate with the beneficiary in providing him /

her access to the benefits that she is entitled to under any Poverty

Alleviation Scheme, then the responsible authority under District

Legal Services Authority (DALSA) shall proactively take care of the

situation by proceeding as per Clause 9, 10 and 11 of the Scheme,

2015.”

More significantly, the Division Bench then further directs in

para 21 that, “It is further expected from the Authority and its

Office Bearers that they shall constantly organize awareness

programmes as well as training programmes for Panel Lawyers / Legal

Volunteers / Para-legal Volunteers as the case may be in a

constructive and proactive manner. The training must sensitize the

volunteers / activists to the notion that they have to act as Healers

of the Society looking to the great responsibility bestowed upon them

of Poverty Alleviation. Poverty, which is a Problem (Social Evil) can

be addressed through Law (with its healing touch) as its solution to

achieve the ultimate destination of Development.”

Most significantly, the Division

Bench then also directs in para 22 that, “In view of aforesaid

discussion, this Court summarizes the following directions:-

(i) If, any complaint is received regarding inaction, inappropriate

execution, corruption or any matter related thereto which comes under

the purview of Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 and NALSA (Effective

Implementation of Poverty Alleviation Schemes) Scheme, 2015 then

District Legal Service Authority (DALSA) shall proactively take care

of the situation by proceeding as per Clause 9,10 and 11 of the Scheme

of 2015;;

(ii) State Authority / District Authority may file appropriate legal

proceedings as per Clause 10 (3) of Scheme of 2015 by way of complaint

before the Office of Lokayukt as per relevant provisions or may file

Private Complaint against the erring persons or may file a petition if

subject matter requires so by way of a Public Interest Litigation

under Article 226 of the Constitution of India;

(iii) State Authority is requested to contemplate for framing of

suitable regulations as per the provisions of Act of 1987, especially

under Section 29-A for effective implementation of different schemes

of Government of India / State Government fall under NALSA (Effective

Implementation of Poverty Alleviation Schemes) Scheme, 2015. A further

request is made to contemplate about preparation of a Software /

Mobile Application (Mobile App.) for keeping a tab over the complaints

received and their outcome; and

(iv) District Authority and its Office Bearers are expected to

regularly organize awareness / training programmes for Panel Lawyers /

Para-legal Volunteers in a constructive and proactive manner to

sensitize them with the notion that they have to act as Healers of the

Society, looking to the great responsibilities bestowed upon them.

Secretary, SALSA shall coordinate and guide all such awareness /

training programmes.

Moving on, the Division Bench then

holds in para 23 that, “Consequently, petition is disposed of with a

direction to the respondents especially Collector and CEO, Zila

Panchayat Bhind to look into the matter and complete the enquiry, if

not already completed within two months from the date of passing of

this order and if any person is found guilty then consequential follow

up action shall be ensured in accordance with law. If the enquiry is

already concluded then Collector and CEO are directed to place the

enquiry report before the office of this Court so that same can be

placed before this Court for perusal.”

On a final note, the Division Bench while disposing of the petition as stated in para 24 then holds

in para 25 that, “A copy of this order be sent to Principal Secretary,

Panchayat Raj, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal as well as to

Member Secretary, SALSA, Jabalpur for circulation to all District

Legal Service Authorities (DALSA) for sensitization and implementation

of the concept as referred above by this Court.”

It merits no reiteration that the District Legal Services Authorities and the State Authority must

comply with this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment by a

Division Bench of Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court

comprising of Justice Anand Pathak and Justice Sheel Nagu so that

poverty can be addressed through healing touch of law as has been

directed also. All such measures if implemented honestly in letter and

spirit then it will certainly go a long way in emancipating the

‘poorest of the poor’ which is the crying need of the hour also! There

is no reason why they should not be implemented at the earliest. It

certainly brooks no more delay anymore!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

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Legally Speaking

TWAIL: Historical approach to understanding international law

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INTRODUCTION

Today, the ‘Third World’ country is the term first used by Alfred Sauvy in 1952 which now has come to denote a country which can be categorized as a ‘developing’ country. However, the origins of this term can be traced to the World War/Cold War period when Third World signified the countries who were non-aligned; neither part of the ‘free world’ nor of the ‘communist world’. Scholars vouching for the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) have stressed on the importance of using the original terminology of ‘Third World Countries’. Global South is another term frequently used as a synonym for Third World countries. The terms North and South emerged during the 1970s but till today no strict definition thereby questioning geographical preciseness of this term.

The Asian-African Conference held in Bandung organised by Egypt, Indonesia, Burma, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka in 1955 was where Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru rejected both sides in the ongoing cold war and propounded a principle of ‘non-alignment’. This led to the birth of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961. This along with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Group 77 shows the building momentum among the Third world countries against the supremacy of the First and Second world countries. Further a rebellious attitude was also shown by the Third World reflected in its calls for a New International Economic Order (NIEO).

TWAIL has undertaken study of international law, its global history, role of international lawyers within the international order, importance of social movements, indigenous people, migrants etc. with a background of such previous organisations who came together with a common agenda. TWAIL has stood as a check to the Eurocentric approach taken by international law over the years. And accelerated efforts to balance out the asymmetries of power. According to Gathii, “TWAIL is a discipline in transition, expansion, definition and internal contestation about the varied agendas of its scholars, all at the same time.” Balakrishnan Rajagopal’s work brings light to the resistance that TWAIL projects to safeguard interests of the third world.

TWAIL was born in 1996 at Harvard Law School when group of students came together to discuss whether if taken a third world approach to international law what might be the major obstacles. The group consisting of Celestine Nyamu, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Hani Sayed, Vasuki Nesiah, Elchi Nowrojee, Bhupinder Chimni and James Thuo Gathii coined the name of the group as ‘Third World Approaches to International Law’ (TWAIL). Antony Anghie and Chimni coined the terms ‘TWAIL I’ and ‘TWAIL II’: the former consisting of first generation post-colonial and the latter taking cues and developing further scholarship. The struggle of TWAILers II, III, IV and beyond – is to deal with the vestiges of ‘formal’ empire and expanding multi-dimensional forms of ‘informal imperialism’.

APPROACHES TO TWAIL

While discussing about the approaches within TWAIL, Gathii mentions critical, feminist, post-modern, Lat-Crit Theory (Latina and Latina Critical Theory Inc.), postcolonial theory, literary theory, modernist, Marxist, critical race theory among others. With these approaches what is studied is hegemony of dominant narratives along many axes– race, class, gender, sex, ethnicity, economics, trade, etc – and in inter-disciplinary ways – social, theoretical, epistemological, ontological and so on. Gathii discusses some coordinates; strictly refraining from calling them as principles as TWAIL scholarship has always been proposing for an ever-changing methodology and international order. It terms the coordinates as:

History matters: Importance here is given to how history has shaped the current geo-politics. Taking into account history, TWAIL scholars envision to build a south oriented framework for international order.

Empire moves: Imperialism cannot be only located in the country of the British. From local to national, public to private, ideological to material; Empire is traced in each of the components of nation and human life. This coordinate helps the TWAIL scholars to trace the colonial power and its fangs.

South moves: As the North moves, the South also is a term which is dynamic according to local specificities, regional trends, and larger changes to the global economic and political system.

Struggle is multiple: TWAIL is engaged is one fought on multiple fronts and on a diverse and shifting terrain. Thus, TWAIL is a discipline in transition, expansion, definition and internal contestation about the varied agendas of its scholars, all at the same time.

Struggle is here: TWAIL scholars, therefore, the struggle remains, and must remain, always there, and always here. It is, and must always be, about present ‘tactics’, and about a longer ‘strategy’.

CENTRAL THEMES OF TWAIL

As Karin Mickelson argues, history is the most fundamental element of a third world approach to international law. What is important to note here for TWAIL scholarship is the emphasis on seeing international legal history ‘as something alive than dead.’ Makau Mutua’s provocative thesis about redrawing the map of Africa because of the colonial illegitimacy of current borders is yet another example of seeing international legal history as relevant to and constitutive of the present rather than as a relic of the past. Antony Anghie’s book Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law, (2005) is the leading TWAIL text revising mainstream international legal history tracing of continuities of coloniality in modern international law.

According to Vikrant Dayanand Shetty, “the ‘post’ in ‘postcolonial’ does not refer to ‘after period of colonialism’ or ‘triumphing over colonialism’ but to the ‘continuation of colonialism in the consciousness of formerly colonized peoples and in institutions imposed in the process of colonization.’” Examples of colonial continuities include, the composition of the UN Security Council, with five veto-wielding Permanent members; the weighted system of voting in the Bretton Woods institutions that gives the world’s richest economies the power to set the economic agenda of the former colonial countries; the rules of customary international law such as pacta sund servanda that bind former colonialized countries to comply with treaties even though they took no part in their formulation or formation; and the fact that self-determination retained the subordinate and dependent position of third world elites to their former colonial powers and to multinational capital interests.

Chimni analyses that, “Today, international law prescribes rules that deliberately ignore the phenomena of uneven development in favor of prescribing uniform global standards.” TWAIL recognises that the domination that US and Europe had over former colonies is in practice till date. In India, it can be seen in the fact that since the British left, we haven’t yet let go of the legal structure that the empire had built for us. India is also still in grips of the Macaulay’s system of Education. She has adopted the foreign terms like ‘secular’ in her constitution, ‘English’ as the official language, morals as per the Christian teachings. As India westernized, she also inherited such institutions which today can be called as the ghosts of the Empire. This has led to many TWAIL and other Indic scholars to question whether since independence has India ever been free. Chimni reiterates that the civilizing mission that the colonisers were on is the same mission with which they are using international law to rehabilitate and govern third world countries especially Africa; thus, legitimizing and justifying both the forms of colonial attitudes. He says, “humanitarianism is the ideology of hegemonic states in the era of globalization marked by the end of the Cold War and a growing North South divide.” This concept of the ‘civilizing mission’ has provided the moral basis of exploitation of the Third World. However, this exploitation, when administered by the colonial power, is legitimate because it is inflicted in self-defence, or because it is humanitarian in character and indeed seeks to save the non-European peoples from themselves. Less is discussed in mainstream international forum on the holocaust that the Victorian Empire committed on the citizens of India. Indian soldiers fought for the British in both World wars; 60,000 sacrificed their lives in world war I itself; she was the second largest contributor to Empire’s War in the 1940s; she bore the brunt of Churchill’s horrifying war policies which aggravated the already existing famine conditions. 5.4 million Indians according to Madhushree Mukherjee were killed amounting to war crimes justified under the garb of colonialism. She writes in her book ‘Churchill’s Secret War’, “if provisions protecting civilians had been in place before the war, the denial policy and the failure of His Majesty’s Government to relieve the famine could conceivably have been prosecuted as war crimes.”

CRITIQUES

TWAIL has failed to produce a single authority but has stirred the waters of international law with the ladle of colonial history. James Thuo Gathii also acknowledges the criticisms levelled against TWAIL on the basis of it being anachronistic, nihilistic and lacking methodological clarity. Secondly, its own critical attitude has been accused of being baseless. The absence of hierarchy and authority has given rise to flexible and fluid ways but has also proved as a disadvantage to organize the movement effectively. However, TWAIL is not a mere deconstructive and oppositional movement or network of scholars, but rather one that sees the potential of reforming if not remaking international law for the greater good. It also questions some third world countries and hence cannot be alleged to have been assuming innocence of these countries.

CONCLUSION

For the first time in history, emerging economies are counterparts on more than half of global trade flows, and south–south trade is the fastest-growing type of connection. South–south and China–south trade jumped from 8 percent of the global total in 1995 to 20 percent in 2016. Emerging economies, led by China and India, have accounted for almost two-thirds of global GDP growth and more than half of new consumption in the past 15 years. The founder of TWAIL Gathii has expressed that TWAIL-ers have transcended boundaries. There have been efforts from non-third world living scholars along with third world living scholars. He calls it a decentralized network which has been given exposure across not only in academies but also as course leaders, council members, etc. Some suggestions toward a new economic world order on the basis of TWAIL are to increase transparency and accountability of international institutions; increasing sensitivity towards problems of the third world; accepting that the solutions applied to western countries aren’t the exact solutions for third world problems; indigenous culture to be used to maximise the reach of international principles; Human Rights should be interpreted by keeping an account of the conditions of the third world countries; accepting that other than minority and acknowledged class there can be oppression of majority in such countries too; Ensuring Sustainable Development With Equity. Such suggestions to make international law more sensitive, equitable and far-reaching can be done only with the help of TWAIL. TWAIL scholars from and outside third world countries need to undertake this task and make the other side of the narrative aware of their side. Ramping up needs to take place since the third world countries are the future of tomorrow.

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Analysing Article 21, humans rights and individual freedom

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“Death must be beautiful. To lie on soft brown earth, with grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to the silence. To have no yesterday, no tomorrow. To forget life, to forgive life, to be departed.”

– Oscar Wilde

INTRODUCTION

The grimace compounding the affliction implicating faith & culture economizing on the despair from the clutches stands out to be a serene sojourn. The complacency in setting to work the health crisis nonetheless politics has doomed the fraternity squandering the attainment. People & their rights must be magnanimous at front & centre. Dignity in casualty is recognized around the world. The cremation of the dead bodies in Covid-19 is not an easy tribulation. The Hygiene Protocols ambling wrapping dead bodies to discerning handing over the bodies to the families increase the efficacy of transmitting body fluids. According to the World Health Organisation plebeians intimidated of their emancipations incarcerated are prone to getting tremendous exposure. The scale of devastation brought on by the second wave of Covid continues to snuff out lives, upend healthcare systems & dwindle the economy broke out with negligence, callousness evincing response as people reckoning with the grief of catastrophe that’s still unfolding.

Emotions Coexist as they aren’t linear or unitary bringing about guilt unobtrusive on some days & overbearing on others. Losing a beloved one is one of the extensively gruelling situations even under the best of episodes. Every congregation brings into the world its sermon to soothe the concussion, Hindus gathering to burn carcasses along the Ganges River to the Jewish folklore of amassing solace at shack during a seven-day mourning stint, Islamic legislation, as in many kith & kin surmises, the management of uneventful is the theme of distinct policies that strive at pledging the elegance and deference of the dead as well as for their living comrade. The disposition and swivel scale of the prevailing pandemic, however, has concocted miscellaneous qualms, asceticism, and straight rumours in Muslim-majority states as well as for Muslim communities around the realm. Oftentimes bar and the legal sorority have beefed up the liberties which are equated to dead soul from stature of the dead person to decent interment. Anticipating the incessant phenomenal pestilence “COVID 19”, the situation has become very catastrophic, and the conundrum of this dilemma makes it a more chaotic one. The horrendous and ungrammatical crisis of sufferers and dead bodies provoke the compunction of the very validity of rights that are functional to dead persons in the glimmer of the status quo.

STANDPOINT: HUMAN RIGHTS & FEDERAL LAW

Human dignity reinforces the right to life in portion the state has an optimistic obligation to insulate & respect life. The Rights are extensive, interdependent & mutually supplementary.

Humanitarian organisations especially the Red Cross (ICRC) evolved a compatriot & drudged knack in disaster supervision and tragedy riposte, catastrophe vindication, and humanitarian forensics. This experience is amassed from quite 150 years of operating in conflict zones and from an operative composure in additional 90 countries, mounting the ICRC to fetch effective recommendation and attend to state authorities & (NSAGs) in the retort to the getaway. UDHR ascribes kinsfolk subsist to be put up with autonomous and equal in dignity and rights” (Article1). These rights are “inalienable” to every person. The Human Rights Convention are for infractions of the treaties outlined in the testimony, while the assertions can be bought in by any victim of the violation a defunct person cannot do the same. The resolution 2005 on human rights & forensic science played up the primacy of distinguished human remains antidote, acclimating adequate composure & discarding similarly as of reverence for the clans’ desire. Geneva Convention 1949 certifies everyone to the dispute forthwith foster the deeds seized to patrol the annihilated – counteracting ill-treatment.” Even in modern days, international humanitarian legislation puts up to corroborate that even during the crossroads of war and conflict; the dead bodies of the combatants are not disdained out of vengeance and enmity. International Human Rights Law recognizes discretion on rights neither arbitrary nor discretionary based on scientific testimony. The convention I of Geneva (Article 17), Convention III of (Article 120), Convention IV (Article 130), Article 8 Additional Protocol II, Cairo Declaration Article 3 on Human Rights & other relevant legitimate instruments, furnish for the honourable entombment of the combatants and prisoners of war. The veneer of the lifeless person ought to be cherished even during the times of crusade & discord, there could be no justification to divest an individual who withers in the eternity of peace of the identical right of a respected burial and funeral rites, which the person would have otherwise been entitled to, if not for the pandemic.

According to Cal Health “Cremation” ensues in three strides the constriction of the core of a bygone human to its indispensable components via immolation, transferring or the body during incineration to elicit the system, processing of the remains after exile from the funeral courtyard. “In a country statute which stymies the establishment or upkeep in any one township of surplus than one crematory for the cremation of mortal cadavers cannot be bolstered as a police measure as against a cemetery association located near another crematory and in close proximity to several cemeteries and in a neighbourhood where there are, but irregular dwelling-houses and no buildings devoted to any business except that of burying the dead.”

PLUGGING GAPS OF CONSTITUTIONALITY: DIGNITY IN DEATH

The pestilence hasn’t only exemplified spirit, security and financial crisis, yet a crisis of conviction in the decisive crusade of humans. The Right to Life being an inclusive concept, affirms no soul shall be pillaged of life or liberation or property befitting mulled over the spectrum of Article 21 by insinuating the medication of cadavers in the additional terms – “The perspective of repudiation whacked by Article 21, whether such deprivation is permanent or temporary.” Life sans status is an icky debacle & verve that congregates cessation with dignity is a virtue to be yearned for and a juncture for celebration”.

Article 21, the kick pin of all other rights renders no soul ought to be knocked off of life or liberty by dint of the ‘procedure’ recounted in Article 21 has been skimmed into the ‘due procedure’ by the Supreme Court and implied treatment must be fair, just & reasonable. Over the epoch, the Supreme Court has deciphered Article 14 & 21 to entail myriad privileges within its ruffle.

The Apex Court adduced quoting that illustrated “life” in additional words: “Something more than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its forfeiture amplifies to all those limbs and faculties by which existence is relished. The overhead equally hampers the mutilation of the body by the amputation of an arm or leg, or the putting out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul articulates with the outer world” congruently conserving the term ‘life’ meant the freedom to dwell with grace & the analogous embargoing stalled drudgery. The Article flexures “some of the finer graces of benevolent refinement, which propels life worth living” & an intensified notion of cinch may credit “society” of the apprehensive person. Eventually, dignity isn’t the sole sleuth to a living man but after his demise was put as deposition by the Supreme Court has been overstepped in Satyama Dubey v. U.O.I.

Further, the court ratified the diverse undertakings stripped away by the Police and the local body for procuring an adequate crypt to an abandoned dead person, according to the pious morality to which he belonged. The petition was disposed of based on affidavits. The hegemonies, & culture, the indistinguishable compassion with which a living being is anticipated to be cared for, should also be magnified the ones who are dead”. Praxis and heredity stances are innate to the ultimate ceremony of an individual’s vivacity. The decent interring is sketched in Article 25 that waives for leeway of conscience & autonomous profession, practice and propagation of faith subject to civil declaration, righteousness & vigour in Part III of the Constitution. Regime edicts overriding canonical practices for lifeless torsi should in no way be deemed discriminatory but must be a commensurate standard to impede disorders and casualties on the pretext of the virus, while simultaneously assuring public protection and economic wellbeing of India.

Please read concluding on thedailyguardian.com

It is vital to think back that is ephemeral and is the modus Vivendi to steering the ragged waters of rash, individually but concurrently.

EPILOGUE

The contemporary catastrophe dissembles as a spur transgressing the rights of a lifeless person despite on fleek backing of the legal bracket. The Conclusions sound prettier than the present is as the crisis is deep & has led to reports of untold human grief. Death has taken its toll as the health system crumbles the lives could be saved however policy stiffness cropping up blazing pyres shaping the vicinity between the living & the dead. A two-pronged strategy effectuating even-handed botch vaccine allotment must be carried out & tapering off SARS COV 2 transmission whilst the vaccine is rolled out.

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Modern technology and challenges over privacy: An analysis

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INTRODUCTION

Privacy has always been concerned in this technical era. On one hand, where it has been simplified our life, on the other hand, it has always been questioned over Privacy. Once again the privacy concern has become a burning and sensational topic which is being discussed around the globe. Recently, an investigation by international media has revealed that more than 50,000 phone numbers across the globe have been targeted for hacking through the spyware called ‘Pegasus’, which has been developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group. Furthermore, Over 300 Verified phone numbers used by ministers, opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, businessmen, government officials, scientists, rights activists, and others, were targeted using this malware. 

It has once again called the regulations for surveillance in India. In India, Communication surveillance takes place primarily under two laws one being the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the other being the Information Technology Act, 2000. On one hand, The Telegraph Act deals with the interception of calls, while on the other hand, the IT Act deals with surveillance of all electronic communication. Although, it is also notable that India still lacks a comprehensive data Protection law to fill the gaps in the existing frameworks for surveillance. 

LAWS REGULATING SURVEILLANCE IN INDIA.

Telegraph Act, 1885 

Section 5 (2) of the Telegraph Act states that “On the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety, the Central Government or a State Government or any officer specially authorised in this behalf by the Central Government or a State Government may, if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct that any message or class of messages to or from any person or class of persons, or relating to any particular subject, brought for transmission by or transmitted or received by any telegraph, shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained, or shall be disclosed to the Government making the order or an officer thereof mentioned in the order….”

Under this provision, the government has been authorised to intercept calls only in certain situations like when it is in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offense. Moreover, an additional proviso under section 5(2) states that this lawful interception can’t take place against journalists provided that “press messages intended to be published in India of correspondents accredited to the Central Government or a State Government shall not be intercepted or detained, unless their transmission has been prohibited under this sub-section.”

Hon’ble Supreme Court while dealing in the case of Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (1996), finds the absence of procedural safeguards in the provisions of the Telegraph Act. In the same judgment, the Hon’ble court also laid down certain guidelines for interceptions. The court observed that authorities who are engaged in interception were not even maintaining adequate records and logs on the interception. Furthermore, the court also states that “Tapping is a serious invasion of an individual’s privacy. With the growth of highly sophisticated communication technology, the right to a sold telephone conversation, in the privacy of one’s home or office without interference, is increasingly susceptible to abuse. It is no doubt correct that every Government, howsoever democratic, exercises some degree of Subrosa operation as a part of its intelligence outfit but at the same time citizen’s right to privacy has to be protected from being abused by the authorities of the day”. The guidelines by the Hon’ble Supreme Court formed the basis of introducing Rule 419A in the Telegraph Rules in 2007 and later in the rules prescribed under the IT Act in the year 2009.

IT ACT, 2000

Furthermore, to address electronic surveillance, Section 69 of the Information Technology and Information Technology (Procedure for Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring, and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 were enacted. Under the IT Act, all electronic data transmissions are permitted to be intercepted. So, in terms of the Pegasus spyware, it may be legal. Both the IT Act and the Telegraph Act would have to be invoked by the government. Furthermore, in addition to the restrictions imposed by Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution, Section 69 of the IT Act adds another dimension that broadens it — interception, monitoring, and decryption of digital information “for the investigation of an offence.”

Significantly, it does away with the condition precedent established by the Telegraph Act, which requires “the occurrence of a public emergency in the interest of public safety,” broadening the scope of powers under the law.

IMPACT OF SURVEILLANCE

There are plethoras of examples in this world where personal data are misused for many different reasons. Many people and organizations are under surveillance which is vocal and takes active participation against the criticism of the ruling political party. These things make us understand the impact of surveillance on our freedom of privacy, freedom of speech, and expression and curtail our fundamental rights. Surveillance poses threat to press freedom. The World press freedom index published by Reporters without borders ranked India 142 Out of 180 countries in the year 2021. The press needs greater liberty on privacy and speech because these two enable good reporting. They secure journalists against the threat of government reprisal against honest reporting. 

A report on Privacy rights and protection was published by Forrestor, an American company in the year 2019, In India, the laws which allow the government to conduct surveillance over its citizens are very clearly undermining the laws related to the data privacy to its citizens. In the case K S Puttaswamy v. Union of India, the Hon’ble Supreme court of India held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right that comes under the domain of articles 14, 19, and 21 of the constitution but there is a lack of data protection law in India. In absence of this kind of law, it becomes just an executive order which allows the agencies to encroach on the privacy of their citizens. Also, it is very important to note that people who are under surveillance are unaware of the fact that agencies are monitoring them. In the absence of privacy laws, the security of journalists whose work criticizes the government and their safety is jeopardized. In the case of Ritesh Sinha v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Apex court held that the right to privacy is not an absolute right, it is also subject to restrictions as with other fundamental rights. It was asserted that the right to privacy is not absolute and must bow down to compelling public interest. We still need a number of judicial pronouncements to determine how the right to privacy operates in a practical scenario. Since there is a lack of Judicial pronouncement, the court relies on the German principle “test of proportionality”. This test is used by different countries for the determination of conflicting rights. The Hon’ble supreme court has applied this principle in various cases such as Chintaman Rao v. State of Madhya Pradesh, state of Madras V. V.G. Row, etc to balance between the rights and limitations. In this principle, there are four stages to determine the balance of rights and limitations. The legitimate goal stage, suitability, necessity stage, and balancing stage that help us to strike balance between the two. But this is only effective when a particular case comes under the cognizance of court. 

The Surveillance uproar the spread of Authoritarianism in the government system because the executive uses excessive power on the citizens and impacts personal lives. When it is carried out entirely by the executive curtails article 32 and article 226 of the constitution as it happens in secret and thus affected person is unable to show their breach of rights. This not only violates the ideals of due process of law but it is also against the requirement of procedural safeguards as held in the case of K.S Puttaswamy v. Union of India. 

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS 

To implement the ideals of due process of law and to satisfy the requirements of procedural safety and natural justice, there needs to be judicial observation. The judiciary is the competent body to determine whether specific instances of Surveillance are proportionate or not to balance the government’s objective and the rights of the individuals. The judicial investigation into the Pegasus hacking is important because the leaked database of targeted numbers includes the phone number of a sitting Supreme court Judges, which again raises the question of the Independence of the judiciary in India. 

In India surveillance reform is the need of the hour, the existing protections are weak and the proposed legislation related to personal data fails to consider surveillance of the citizens. We need greater transparency in our system, governmental agencies are only accountable to the government itself. For the protection of National security, the government is bound to do smaller infringements of Fundamental rights and surveillance reform should incorporate ethics of surveillance which includes the moral values of how surveillance regulates. The government of India is in process of enacting a law for the purpose of protecting of personal data of the citizens. There is an urgent need to include privacy as a fundamental right and to provide a defining mechanism to strengthen the rights of the citizens and to provide a remedy in case of violation. 

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Cinematograph Amendment Bill 2021: An analysis

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Cinematograph Act 1952 establishes Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), commonly known as the Censor Board. The Board is responsible for issuing certificates to films and has the power to deny their certificate (Section 5A). Section 6(1) of the Act empowered the Central Government to re-examine and cancel the certificate issued by CBFC. Supreme Court in the case of K.M. Shankarappa diluted the provisions of Section 6. The court held that the provisions of Section 6 are restrictive of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

The new Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 attempts to dilute the judgment of the Supreme Court and aims to get back its revisionary powers. This will provide extraordinary powers to the Central Government by creating one more level of Censorship. This year Central Government passed an ordinance, the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 which abolished the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The proposed bill also aims to convert this ordinance into regular law by placing it in legislation. FCAT was solemnly established to resolve the issues related to the certification of Films. With its abolishment, the filmmakers have to approach High Court in case the Censors Board denies providing certification or provides with some ratification. This will also increase the burden of High Courts. Ultimately, this leading to a delay in a Film release.

Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution says, “All Citizens shall have Right to freedom of Speech and Expression.” Article 19(2) of the Constitution empowers the State to restrict Freedom of Speech and Expression provided that the restrictions are legitimate. Supreme Court in K.M. Shankarappa v. Union of India held, “words contained in the main portion of Sub-section (1) of Section 6 of the Act and in the first proviso thereto are opposed to the basic structures of the Constitution and as such the words “or has been decided by” and “or as the case may be decided by the Tribunal” contained in the main portion of Sub-section (1) of Section 6 and the words “or to whom a certificate has been granted as the case may be” as contained in the first proviso to Section 6(1) of the Act, are unconstitutional as the same are violative of the basic structures of the Constitution.”Supreme Court in many of its Judgments has discussed the importance of Movies as a medium of Freedom of Speech and Expression. Supreme Court in the Rangarajan case regarded Movies as an effective medium to raise any general concern.The proposed amendment is an attempt to overutilize the powers provided under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

If the bill becomes an act then it will nullify the Supreme Court Judgment. The autonomy of the Censor Board will be deduced. The Central Government will have the power to strike down any certificate issued by CBFC. This also induces the concept of dual Censorship, limiting the Freedom of Speech and Expression. Justice Mudholkar in Sakal v. Union of India rightly said, “The freedom of speech and expression of opinion is of paramount importance under a democratic Constitution which envisages changes in the composition of legislatures and governments and must be preserved.” The abolishment of FCAT will further increase the backlog of High Courts and will lead to an unnecessary delay in the release of Films.

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Andhra Pradesh High Court issues guidelines for prompt transmission of bail orders

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Andhra Pradesh High Court

While granting bail to an accused under The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the Andhra Pradesh High Court in a cogent, composed, commendable and convincing judgment in Criminal Petition No. 3933 of 2021 delivered on July 22, 2021 has taken a very serious note of the significant delay in issuing the certified copies of the orders. A Single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Lalitha Kanneganti of Andhra Pradesh High Court minced just no words to make it pretty clear that, “Disposal of bail application without furnishing the order copy within a reasonable time will not place the accused in a better position.” Justice Lalitha also observed that despite the conscious recognition of several pending cases, it is difficult to issue the order copies within a short period due to staff shortage. She has rightly diagnosed the root problem which must be addressed now without any further delay!

Needless to say, we all saw how just recently the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana too did not lag behind in a notable case titled IN RE: DELAY IN RELEASE OF CONVICTS AFTER GRANT OF BAIL in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 4/2021 while taking took serious note of this major shortcoming or lacuna. CJI led Bench of Apex Court comprising also of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice AS Bopanna had expressed the Court’s willingness to evolve a system to electronically transmit bail orders directly to prisons so that prison authorities will not delay the release of prisoners awaiting a certified copy of the order. Accordingly, a scheme called “FASTER” which implies “Fast and Secure Transmission of Electronic Record” is being considered which will be used to communicate all orders to concerned jail authorities without waiting. This will certainly benefit the under-trial prisoners/accused and so has to be lauded in no uncertain terms!

To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 1 of this latest, learned, laudable and landmark judgment authored by a Single Judge Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice Lalitha Kanneganti wherein it is put forth that, “This petition is filed under Sections 437 and 439 of Code of the Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short ‘Cr.P.C.’) seeking regular bail to the petitioner/ A-2 in connection with Crime No.38 of 2020 of Mothugudem Police Station, East Godavari District for the offence punishable under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) r/w Section 8 (c) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (for brevity “NDPS Act”).”

While elaborating on the prosecution version, the Bench then lays bare in para 2 that, “The case of prosecution is that on 03.09.2020 on credible information about illegal transportation of ganja, the respondent Police rushed to Daralamma Temple, outskirts of Polluru village of Chinturu Mandal and while conducting vehicle check at about 11.00 AM, they found a Bolero pick-up van bearing registration No.AP 24 TB 1550 coming from Donkarai proceeding towards Lakkavaram Junction. On seeing the police, the inmates of the said Bolero van tried to escape from the spot, but the police apprehended them and on search, they found 300 KGs of ganja. The police seized the contraband, registered the crime, arrested the petitioner and remanded him to judicial custody on the same day.”

As we see, the Bench then mentions in para 3 that, “Heard Sri G.Venkata Reddy, learned counsel for the petitioner and the learned Public Prosecutor for the respondent-State.”

While on the one hand, the Bench enunciates in para 4 that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner/A-2 submits that the petitioner has nothing to do with the alleged offence and in fact, the petitioner was engaged by A-1 on payment of Rs.15,000/- who accompanied him. Further the officer who acted as a gazetted officer while conducting the search and seizure is a veterinary doctor and the said doctor is not a competent person to act as a gazetted officer under Sections 42, 43 and 50 of the NDPS Act. Learned counsel for the petitioner further submits that the entire investigation is completed and the petitioner is languishing in jail from 03.09.2020.”

As against what is stated above, the Bench then points out in para 5 that, “On the other hand, the learned Additional Public Prosecutor submits that on 13.10.2020 charge sheet was filed.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then while taking a holistic view holds in para 6 that, “Taking into consideration the fact that the entire investigation is completed and charge sheet is filed and further the petitioner is languishing in jail from 03.09.2020, this Court deems it appropriate to grant bail to the petitioner. However, on certain conditions.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then further holds in para 7 that, “Accordingly, the petitioner/ A-2 shall be enlarged on bail on execution of self bond for Rs.2,00,000/- (Rupees two lakhs only) with two sureties for a like sum each to the satisfaction of the Court of the Additional Judicial First Class Magistrate, Rampachodavaram. On such release, the petitioner shall appear before the Station House Officer, Mothugudem Police Station, East Godavari District, once in a month till completion of trial.”

Be it noted, the Bench then envisages in para 8 that, “This Court having criminal roster from the last couple of months has noticed that in spite of best efforts by the Registry, there is significant delay in issuing the certified copies of the orders. This Court is conscious of the large number of cases pending before the Court, due to dearth of staff, it is difficult to issue the order copies within a short span of time. In cases, where the accused are entitled for statutory bail as they are languishing in jail for more than 60, 90 and 180 days, when default bail is granted, it was brought to the notice of the Court that there was considerable delay in dispatching the copy of orders. Hence, this Court feels that an alternative mechanism shall be evolved to address the plight of these undertrial prisoners/accused. Recently, the Hon’ble Apex Court has also taken a serious note of this issue.”

More significantly, the Bench then underscores in para 9 that, “Protection of personal liberty of an individual is undeniably a constitutional duty of this Court. Our criminal justice system always gives paramount consideration to the protection of the rights of the accused. Article 21 of the Constitution of India mandates that the personal liberty of an accused can be curtailed only after strict compliance with the procedure established by law. Sections 438 and 439 of Cr.P.C. ensures that the accused is not deprived of his personal liberty arbitrarily. The Hon’ble Apex Court in catena of cases has held that speedy adjudication process is one of the main facets that constitute the essence of access to justice and without it, access to justice as a constitutional value will be a mere illusion. Denial of this right undermines public confidence in the justice delivery system. It is also settled law that the right of an accused to have his bail application heard by the Court within a reasonable time has been entrenched as a constitutional liberty. At the same time, disposal of bail application without furnishing the order copy within a reasonable time will not place the accused in a better position. Mere emphasizing that an accused has an indefeasible fundamental right to bail itself is not sufficient without furnishing the copy of the order.”

Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this notable judgment is then elaborated upon in para 10 wherein it is held that, “This is high time the Courts shall address these issues with a progressive approach by adopting the innovative methods. Recently Andhra Pradesh High Court implemented a procedure whereby the concerned Court Masters are uploading the daily proceedings / orders / judgments on the same day. This Court deems it appropriate to issue the following guidelines.

(a) Parties/Advocates shall download the order copy from the High Court’s Website along with case details which are available in the case status information.

(b) While filing the memo on behalf of accused for furnishing sureties, the Advocate shall State in the memo that he/she has downloaded the order copy from the High Court’s Website. The concerned Administrative Officer / Chief Ministerial Officer of the Court shall verify the order from the High Court’s Website and make an endorsement to that effect and then shall place the same before the Court.

(c) The Public Prosecutor shall also obtain necessary instructions in this regard and assist the Court.

(d) The Presiding Officer on the same day shall dispose of the same and dispatch the release order to the concerned jail authorities forthwith through email or any other electronic mode.

(e) In cases of anticipatory bail, the burden to verify the authenticity of the copy is on the concerned Station House Officer and if necessary, he should obtain necessary instructions from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and complete the process on the same day expeditiously as per law.

(f) Registrar (Judicial) shall communicate copy of this order to (1) The Principal Secretary for Home Affairs, Andhra Pradesh; (2) The Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh; (3) The Director of Prosecution, who in turn shall sensitize the Police Officers / Station House Officers / Public Prosecutors and ensure implementation of this order.

(g) Registrar (Judicial) shall communicate copy of this order to all the Principal District Judges in the State, who in turn shall sensitize all the Presiding Officers and ensure implementation of this order.

(h) Registrar (Judicial) is further directed to circulate the copy of this order to all the Bar Associations in the State through the Principal District Judges, so that they can effectively address their clients’ cause.

(i) Registrar (Judicial) shall also issue a separate notification in this regard and the same shall be displayed in the High Court’s Website.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then makes it clear in para 11 that, “This order shall come into force from 26.07.2021.”

Furthermore, the Bench then also directs in para 12 that, “The Judicial Officers in the State shall bring to the notice of the Registrar (Judicial), the issues / hitches, if any, in implementing the directions of this Court. In case of anticipatory bails, the Police Officials shall bring to the notice of the Public Prosecutor, High Court about their difficulties in implementing the orders of this Court and the Registrar (Judicial) and learned Public Prosecutor shall place the same before this Court by the next date of hearing i.e. 31.08.2021.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then sought to make it clear in para 13 that, “These directions will be in force until further orders or suitable Rules are framed in this regard.

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It is needless to mention, if any clarification or modification is required for effective implementation, they will be examined accordingly on the next date of hearing.”

While adding a word of advice, the Bench then stipulates in para 14 that, “In spite of all odds, determined efforts are required for achieving the goal. Ways and means have to be found out by constant thinking and monitoring. It is the responsibility of all the stakeholders to uphold the public confidence in the justice delivery system by giving timely justice which includes furnishing the copies of orders/judgments.”

Finally, the Bench then holds in para 15 that, “Post on 31.08.2021.”

In summary, para 10 which forms the bedrock of this noteworthy judgment dwells on the guidelines that the Andhra Pradesh High Court have issued to implement a procedure whereby the concerned Court Masters are uploading the daily proceedings / orders / judgments on the same day. This is necessary also so that the undertrial prisoners/accused don’t keep languishing in jails even after they have been granted bail as we keep seeing also due to lack of implementation of such procedures as the Andhra Pradesh High Court has elaborated upon in this case. Even Supreme Court three Judge Bench led by CJI NV Ramana has expressed its concern on prisoners languishing in jail even after they have been given bail and so this need to be implemented at the earliest!

It brooks no more delay anymore! This is exactly the crux of this notable judgment also by a Single Judge Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice Lalitha Kanneganti. Copies of orders/judgments also must be furnished in time so that the faith of the people in the justice delivery system does not crumble!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate

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