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MAKING IT HAPPEN: REVIVING ECOSYSTEM OF RAMNAGAR

Anil Swarup

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Ramnagar I is a coastal Block in Purba Medinipur district of West Bengal. It is vulnerable to coastal erosion. On account of climatic events of Bay of Bengal, it experiences periodic shocks in the context of livelihood.

There were two primary issues that were plaguing the villages near the sea in Ramnagar. First set of these issues related to anthropogenic activities on the beach and indiscriminate driving, motorcycle racing and unauthorised constructions destroying the mangroves to set up hotels and restaurants. The second one was the changing livelihood landscape as people chose to leave traditional occupations, like fishing and moved towards other options like menial work in the hotels.

The first issue was slowly eating into the ecosystem. Sand from the beaches as well as the flora and fauna on such beaches were gradually disappearing. This threatened the very sustainability of the region. Tourism hotspots like Tajpur, Shankarpur and Digha also stared at the alarming prospect of losing attractive species like Red Crabs, which caught the attention of Indian and foreign tourists alike.

Tomojeet Chakraborty, a West Bengal Civil Services officer took over as Block Development Officer (BDO), Ramnagar in 2012. He was disturbed by what he saw. He, along with his team, initiated discussions with the villagers of the seaside village, Tajpur Jaldha and other adjoining areas. He forged an alliance of men and women (primarily fisherman) from Tajpur and those in the adjoining villages to take care of their beach and the Red Crab. Under the aegis of Talgachhari 2 Gram Panchayat, this effort was institutionalised. Using the powers vested in the panchayat bodies under West Bengal Panchayat Act of 1973, access to the beaches was regulated and orders under Section 144 of CrPC were promulgated by the appropriate authority. These initiatives helped the local community. The endeavour was christened as ‘Mission Red Crab ‘. Steep fines were imposed to disincentivise the use of beach for racing and other activities detrimental to beach species and ecosystem.

This initiative was unique. Gram Panchayat was being used as a rallying point. The local population was in the forefront of this line of action. Government was seen as playing a supportive role. It made a world of a difference. Tomojeet as BDO was a firm believer in community’s role in addressing the environmental issues. Squads of local villagers with rotational deployment was planned. Block administration and police played the role of facilitator. These efforts produced the desired results and the red crabs started breeding back. The flora and fauna on the beach also revived as was tourism in the area

Unauthorised construction was still a bane. It required concerted effort to bring it under control and to prevent it from swallowing the coastline. On account of development of the region as a tourism hub, land was increasingly in demand. Increasing demand was also because of this area evolving as landing centre and auction centre for the fish. Consequently, incidence of unauthorised and illegal construction had become rampant. This was a major cause for concern for the administration at that point of time. Many such activities adversely impacted ecologically sensitive areas such as beaches and backwaters. This hastened environmental degradation.

Four hotels, flagrantly violating the norms, were located in the area. Two of these even started doing business on ecologically sensitive tract of land cutting into the coastline. The West Bengal Panchayat Act of 1973 empowered the Panchayat Samity, i.e., intermediate Panchayat at the level of Block, to sanction building plans. Tomojeet invoked powers under Section 114A of this Act and issued show cause notices to the hotel owners. This regulatory provision of law existed for long but was never explored in the State of West Bengal and rarely in other parts of the country because for Panchayati Raj institutions the focus was on developmental role and not on regulatory one. Tomojeet, a civil engineer by education and an executive magistrate by profession, had interest in the legal framework and explored the powers vested under Section 114A for entities undertaking construction without sanctioned plan. A keen battle ensued. A section of hoteliers was up in arms against the young bureaucrat and tried their best to impede the proceedings. Even though these hoteliers were given reasonable opportunity of being heard, they chose to ignore the notices and tried to evade through other means of putting pressure on Tomojeet. He and his team did not relent. After protracted proceedings, interspersed with litigations, decisions made by Tomojeet were upheld. Four big hotels were demolished despite all efforts to derail the process.

Eventually, when all channels of legal appeals were exhausted by the hoteliers, the administration moved towards taking the steps to carry out and implement its own orders. These efforts were hailed by all, including the Government as it led to establishment of the rule of law and, more importantly led to restoration of the ecology. This in turn sent a strong message and many unauthorised construction and temporary structures were rolled back. Local communities now had space to thrive. Local sheds were set up and tea joints run by villagers came up. The attraction of tourists for Red Crabs and pristine beach increased, resulting in direct increase of income for the local populace. The mindless destruction of mangroves was thwarted and the ecosystem slowly started recovering naturally. This was further assisted by afforestation.

Coastal ecosystem has a big influence on weather systems and the livelihood of the villagers. The initiatives taken by Tomojeet made its impact felt in the improvement of livelihood opportunities. It may also be worthy of mentioning that in three successive years, i.e., 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 the Ramnagar I Panchayat Samity won the award for being the Best Panchayat Samity in the country as evaluated by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Union Government of India. Tomojeet and his team demonstrated that officers can make it happen. It requires some vision, empathy, grit, determination, planning and taking stake holders on board.

A section of hoteliers was up in arms against Tomojeet Chakraborty, a West Bengal bureaucrat. Even though these hoteliers were given reasonable opportunity of being heard, they chose to ignore the notices and tried to evade through other means of putting pressure on Tomojeet. He and his team did not relent. After protracted proceedings, interspersed with litigations, decisions made by Tomojeet were upheld. Four big hotels were demolished despite all efforts to derail the process.

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Policy & Politics

Making it happen: ZIIEI initiative of Aurobindo Society

Anil Swarup

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It was March 17th 2018. In my capacity as Secretary, School Education, Government of India I visited Agra to launch Innovative Pathshaala- a series of booklets for the teachers comprising experiential and activity-based lesson plans mapped with the State Board. The event was organized by Sri Aurobindo Society and HDFC Bank’s initiative, ‘Zero-Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives’ (ZIIEI). There were education officers and teachers from many districts of Uttar Pradesh and I could sense a lot of positive energy and the collective zeal to bring about a transformation in school education. ‘Rupantar’, a nation-wide education transformation programme of Sri Aurobindo Society was on show.

What I saw was just a glimpse of a bigger change that was being attempted through the power of zero-investment innovations in education. These were innovations developed and contributed by the teachers from length and breadth of the country as a part of the ‘Zero-Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives’ (ZIIEI) under inspired leadership of Sambhrant Sharma.

ZIIEI started its journey from Uttar Pradesh in the year 2015-16. The aim was to bring the best practices and zero-investment innovative ideas of the teachers to the forefront. Since then, ZIIEI has travelled a long distance. With more than 20 lakh teachers oriented towards zero-investment innovation ecosystem, accessing experiential-activity based teaching content digitally and impacting around 2 crore students with innovative and best teaching practices, ZIIEI has moved beyond the peripheries of an initiative, it has become a mass movement in education.

The movement has been acknowledged and appreciated by the President of India. The Vice President of India too went on to state, “Teachers lead students on the path of becoming self-reliant. I am glad to know that Sri Aurobindo Society’s education initiative ZIIEI is giving the confidence to the teachers to experiment with new ideas.”

In early 2016 when the teacher started attending the one-day training session in all the 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, they assumed that another long-drawn lecture would be delivered to them. However, to their surprise, instead of telling the teachers what to do, ZIIEI team members asked for inputs and zero-investment innovations from them to improve the quality of education. When there’s no cost involved there is no barter, no favours, only free flow of optimism and collective efforts takes place. As mentioned in the Process Monitoring Report on ZIIEI submitted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), ZIIEI reflects an approach where engagement with all stakeholders in planning, strategizing and implementation process, has resulted in better outcomes

ZIIEI aims to develop joyful, engaging and experiential teaching- learning environment in classrooms. Teacher training sessions ZIIEI programme provided the much need platform and support for innovation in education but there still remained a gap in regular practice of zero-investment innovations. To bridge this gap and make everyday teaching – learning a joyful process, ZIIEI programme developed “Innovative Pathshaala”- the teaching tool for teachers. Each subject specific book, mapped with the respective State board, is a repository of innovative teaching methods based on zero-investment ideas published in the state specific Innovations Handbook/Navachar Pustika. These books give teacher the choice to deliver any topic using different types of activities. Innovative Pathshaala booklets have been distributed in more than 5,000 schools, and more than 20 lakh users access experiential teaching content in Innovative Pathshaala App.

ZIIEI has emerged as the largest programme in terms of the number of teachers receiving support and the number of States in India in which the programme directly operates.

The assessment report submitted by KPMG (India) on ZIIEI programme states that ZIIEI has successfully instilled high motivation in teachers, empowered them to become torch-bearers of transformation in education and enabled them to change their roles from ‘passive’ followers to ‘active’ contributors.

Boosted with high motivation and realization of their true potentials, lakhs of teachers share their innovative ideas with ZIIEI team members. All the ideas are evaluated by following a stringent, transparent and rigorous process. The potential ones are short-listed, and compiled in State specific Innovation Handbook/Navachar Pustika. The ideas in Navachar Pustika aim at creating a holistic environment for students, with equal emphasis on New-Age Teaching Techniques, Community Participation, Simplified Language Learning to Nation Building, and Health-Sanitation-Nutrition of the Students.

In 2016, the first Innovation Handbook/Navachar Pustika was launched. The growth, acceptance and significance of the programme is evident from the fact that 53 Innovations Handbooks/Navachar Pustika have been launched so far. Thus, for most of the States/UT’s at least two editions have been released.

The teachers look up to Navachar Pustika as the testimony of their efforts and significant contribution in making education better. Teachers whose ideas are selected in Navachar Pustika are recognized and felicitated at the National Conference & Workshop organised by Sri Aurobindo Society and HDFC Bank. Around 1,500 innovative teachers from all the States/UT’s and numerous education officers have received award from top leadership at the Central government. These annual events have become an integral part of bringing all the stakeholders in education and policy-makers at a common platform

The Covid-19 global pandemic has changed the way we used to perceive teaching and learning. The world is swiftly moving to digital platforms and our teachers need to acquire the skills to make their online classes as engaging and experiential as their physical classrooms. Aligning with the new needs, Innovative Pathshaala has developed teaching material for the teachers which can be used online and offline in classrooms. With the focus on learning outcomes, online training sessions are being organized for the teachers of 300 districts. These 300 districts will soon have Role-Model Schools which will be center of excellence and inspiration for others.

The efforts under ZIIEI and Innovative Pathshaala are in alignment with the vision of National Education Policy -2020. Through ZIIEI, Rupanatar is playing contributing role as a catalyst in bringing a positive change in education.

Aurobindo Society has demonstrated that even in the complex terrain of school education, impact can be created and that impact can be scaled through public-private partnership. They have made-it-happen and the impact what they have managed through Rupantar is clearly visible.

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

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Policy & Politics

The scepticism about ‘electronic evidence’ in India

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Technology has always been a double-edged sword which can be used for both good and bad, this equivocal nature of technology has been rightly expressed in the fitting words of Christian Lous Lange, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”. The leakage of WhatsApp chats in recent times has shed some light on the concept of electronic evidence and its admissibility both in a civil and criminal trial in India. Legal provisions dealing with the admissibility of electronic evidence in India should be critically examined as the leakage of WhatsApp chats at the investment stage even before the commencement of trial has been an issue. Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, talks about a specific legal framework governing the admissibility of electronic evidence in India, in regards to various judicial instances, Indian courts have exemplified perceptiveness towards electronic evidence in India which further apprehend its admissibility.

In the modern era, the usage of electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, computers, etc. is prolific. Moreover, these devices generate data to a great extent, originating a call for digital evidence in any investigation. Electronic evidence can turn out to be very significant if the evidence is analysed appropriately via forensics after being identified.

The admissibility of electronic evidence is not a present-day theory, it goes back with time but the evolution and innovation in the prevention of the production of evidence have changed for good concerning the fact that usage of electronic evidence is at surge. The introduction of the Information Technology Act 2000 concerning technology laws, led to various amendments to

the specific legal frameworks namely Indian Evidence Act 1872, Indian Penal code 1860, etc. which made electronic evidence admissible in India.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE

Electronic or digital evidence is the data stored within electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, etc., and can be extracted by forensic experts to use it as a piece of admissible evidence in the courtroom. Section 3 of the Indian Evidence defines evidence as “All the statements which are allowed in the court to be presented before it by the witnesses and have a connection with the matter of fact for further inquiry” Digital evidence plays a significant role in the modern world, keeping in mind the prolific usage of electronic devices. With the surge in the amount of data generated by digital devices, there is a high prospect of the discovery of electronic evidence. Accumulation of important data on a digital platform which can be presented as significant evidence in the court comes with a lot of security concerns. The major concern of the investigators is the preservation of digital evidence in a secure state with an assurance that that data is authentic, untouched, unaltered, and stored in a hard drive.

EVOLUTION AND INNOVATION OF ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE IN INDIA

The first half of the 20th century pretty much relied on paper but with time people shifted from paper to bits, due to the increase in the usage of digital communication methods over time the amount of data stored in digital form adequately increased. The shift from paper to digital data gave rise to an essential use of this information by bringing it to the court, but there was an expository question to the integrity of the digital evidence as alteration, malicious modification, destruction of the electronic evidence was at ease in the latter half of 20thcentury. The evolution of technology and information security prompted some methods for scrutinizing digital evidence, namely Checksum, One-way hash algorithm, Digital signature, etc, bearing some advantages and disadvantages. On Oct 17th, 2000 the Information Technology Act was enacted by the Indian government roused from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law(UNICITRAL) which resulted in various amendments to some specific legal statutes concerning digital evidence. In a recent case of Anvar P.K. v. P.K.Basheer and ors., the Supreme Court of India overruled the judgment of another notable case, State v. Navjot Sandhu by redefining the application of sections 63, 65 & 65B of the Indian Evidence Act which further enlightened the evidentiary value of electronic evidence in India.

LEGAL FRAMEWORKS REGULATING DIGITAL EVIDENCE IN INDIA

The introduction of the Information Technology Act, 2000 elucidated the electronic form of evidence stating it as an electronic record, section 2(1)(t) of the IT Act defines “Electronic Record” as the data generated or stored, an image or sound stored that is sent from one end and received on another in an electronic or digital form. The term ‘electronic record’ was included in the term ‘evidence’ under the Indian Evidence Act followed by the amendment in Section 92 of the Information Technology Act. Steering court proceedings to utilize electronic evidence as an essential piece of information requires specific provisions, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, regulates digital evidence in India.

• Section 45A of the evidence act talks about the opinion of the investigator who examines the electronic evidence as a relevant fact referred to under section 79A of IT Act 2000.

• Section 47A of the Indian Evidence Act states that the opinion of the certifying authority that issued the digital signature certificate will be a relevant fact when comes to the relevancy of an electronic signature.

• Electronic evidence must comply with the criteria stated under Section 65B to be deemed as an admissible piece of evidence in the courtroom. The paper on which the information of electronic record in printed or a form of media containing the information of such record will be admissible in any legal proceeding if the conditionsmentioned under section 65B(2) are fulfilled.

According to Section 65B of the Evidence Act, “The Data stored in an electronic record, whether it be the contents of a document or a conversation printed on paper, or stored, recorded, or copied in optical or magnetic media generated by a computer will be considered as a document and will be admissible as evidence without any further proof of the document.”

ADMISSIBILITY OF ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE IN INDIA VIS-À-VIS THE JUDICIAL INSTANCES

In the case of Anvar P.K. v. P.K. Basheer & Ors, as per the court, the certificate specified in Section (65)(B)(4), is required and does not come with an alternative. It is a unique clause that takes priority over the general requirements of Sections 63 and 65. The case of State (NCT of Delhi) v. Navjot Sandhu was overturned to the extent that the certificate was now deemed necessary. In the same matter, it was stated that an oral admission on the substance of electronic evidence is irrelevant unless the electronic evidence’s authenticity is in dispute, as stated in Section 22 of the Evidence Act.

Further in the case of Sanjaysinh Ramrao Chavan v. Dattatray Gulabrao Phalke & Anr., “As the voice recorder is not submitted to inspection, there is no sense in emphasizing the translated version,” the court said, referring to the decision in Anvar PV’s case. The translation is questionable since it lacks a source. The two most important aspects of electronic evidence are the source and authenticity.” In Tomaso Bruno and Anr. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the relevance of electronic evidence and scientific procedures in the evidence-gathering process was demonstrated in this case. Procedural and electronic evidence under Sections 65A and 65B are admissible, as per the court.

In the recent case, Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal and others, a three-judge bench led by J. RF Nariman resolved the uncertainty surrounding multiple interpretations of Section 65(B)(4) and rejected Shafhi Mohammad’s decision, supporting the position that a certificate issued under this section is not an option among several, but a necessity.

Various other judgments have also addressed the requirement of the severe criteria stated in section 65B of the Evidence Act. The Delhi High Court supported the necessity of section 65B in Dharambir v. CBI, noting that they are for the development of the law.

In a recent Supreme Court decision, the conflicting viewpoints on section 65B of the Evidence Act were ultimately resolved. In 2014, the Supreme Court, in the case of Anvar P.K. v. P.K Basheer and Ors., took a positivist approach and concluded that, under the existing legal frameworks, section 65B is indeed required, and courts must implement the criteria outlined in the Section. If any modifications are anticipated, the Legislature must take the lead rather than the courts, which just obey the procedures declared by the law.

THE FUTURE OUTLOOK OF COURTS TRANSITIONING INTOTECHNOLOGICAL COMMUNISM AFTER THE PANDEMIC

The Covid-19 crisis has come to a head concern that has sparked debate for ages. Even though the concept of e-courts has been debated for some time, the Indian judicial system has not been able to keep up with it on a digital platform. Linked with a cycle of re-designing and simplifying court tactics, the Indian judiciary, both in its physical and virtual structures, is looking forward to a bright future in terms of the development and resolution of some of its long-standing concerns. While our nation is struggling with a national health and financial emergency, it is essential to think outside the box and reform the perspective of work culture and a high time now for the courts to accept the prevailing innovation. On the contrary technology will have a significant impact on future of Indian judiciary and legislature, since the technology that is yet to be discovered will evolve and restructure the way of living our lives.

CONCLUSION

The major point of contention in regards of electronic evidence is to ensure its authenticity, veracity, genuineness, and dependability for it to be accepted in court. Following the Supreme Court’s judgment in Anvar’s case, which established the standards for admission of electronic evidence, Indian courts have been expected to use a uniform approach and implement all available precautions for admitting and valuing electronic evidence.

It is now a well-established fact that any electronic evidence, even if it is a secondary evidence, must adhere to the provisions of Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act; it is typically inadmissible in a court of law without a certificate. Electronic gadgets can turn out to be extremely useful in investigations, but their usefulness is contingent on their compliance with the regulations of the Indian Evidence Act.

The laws regulating digital evidence in India made it clear that just including e-evidence in the legislation would not assist the case, the procedural issues that arose as a result of the usage of e-evidence should be addressed as soon as possible. Law, along with everything else, must evolve to keep up with the technological advancements. While nations like England have recognized this issue and implemented certain adjustments to their laws which resulted in electronic evidence being more effective. Although the courts have addressed the issues occasionally, it is the Legislature that should intercede for good.

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Policy & Politics

IMPACT OF ARTIFICAL INTELLIGENCE IN TRACKING AND COMBATING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

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Artificial Intelligence can be a very powerful tool in regard to monitoring and controlling Covid-19 situation across the country. Man-made brainpower (artificial intelligence) is an inventive innovation which is useful to battle the Coronavirus pandemic. This innovation is useful for appropriate screening, following, and foreseeing the current and future patients. The significant uses of this man-made intelligence are intended for early identification and conclusion of the infection.AI is utilized for the advancement of medications and antibodies, and the decrease of the responsibility of medical services laborers. Today, man-made intelligence advancements and devices assume a vital part in each part of the Coronavirus emergency response:understanding the infection and speeding up clinical examination on medications and medicines identifying and diagnosing the infection, and foreseeing its evolution,assisting in forestalling or easing back the virus\’ spread through reconnaissance and contact tracing,responding to the wellbeing emergency through customized data and learning,monitoring the recuperation and working on early notice apparatuses.

To assist with working with the utilization of artificial intelligence all through the emergency, strategy producers ought to energize the sharing of clinical, atomic, and logical datasets and models on collective stages to help artificial intelligence specialists construct viable instruments for the clinical local area and ought to guarantee that scientists approach the fundamental processing limit. The initial not many long stretches of 2020 have significantly changed the way we carry on with our lives and do our day by day exercises. Albeit the far reaching utilization of modern robot pivot and self-driving business vehicles has not yet turned into a reality, the Coronavirus pandemic has drastically sped up the reception of Man-made brainpower (artificial intelligence) in various fields. We have seen what could be compared to two years of advanced change compacted into only a couple of months. Regardless of whether it is in following epidemiological pinnacles or in executing contactless installments, the effect of these improvements has been practically prompt, and a window has opened up on what is to come. Here we examine and talk about how man-made intelligence can uphold us in confronting the continuous pandemic. In spite of the various and evident commitments of man-made intelligence, clinical preliminaries and human abilities are as yet required. Regardless of whether various procedures have been created in various states around the world, the battle against the pandemic appears to have discovered wherever a significant partner in artificial intelligence, a worldwide and open-source instrument equipped for giving help with this wellbeing crisis.

Coronavirus might be viewed as the primary flu pandemic to be spread in our hyper-associated world. It has demonstrated to be a wonder that fundamentally and quickly impacts many layers of our general public. In spite of the numerous control measures embraced to restrict Coronavirus transmissions, like the end of boundaries and the presentation of times of lockdown, we are seeing upwards of 116 million affirmed cases and multiple million passings in 235 unique nations, as revealed by the World Association Wellbeing (WHO) toward the finish of February 2021. Genuine worries about medical care frameworks’ ability have emerged because of the extraordinary interest for wellbeing administrations, particularly concerning distraught states. In this situation, techniques ready to accelerate demonstrative methodology, improve observing and following abilities, foresee the transformative phases of the virus just as its consequences for society, and reproduce the aftereffects of a regulation system, a clinical convention, or another particle, can address a progressive achievement in the advancement of the world in confronting these sensational occasions.

Before the world was even mindful of the danger presented by the Covid (Coronavirus), computerized reasoning (artificial intelligence) frameworks had identified the flare-up of an obscure kind of pneumonia in Individuals’ Republic of China (in the future “China”). As the episode has now turned into a worldwide pandemic, computer based intelligence devices and advancements can be utilized to help endeavors of strategy producers, the clinical local area, and society everywhere to deal with each phase of the emergency and its outcome: location, anticipation, reaction, recuperation, and to speed up research.AI devices and procedures can help policymakers and the clinical local area comprehend the Coronavirus infection and speed up research on medicines by quickly breaking down huge volumes of exploration information. Computer based intelligence text and information mining instruments can uncover the infection’s set of experiences, transmission, and diagnostics, the board measures, and examples from past pestilences.

Profound learning models can assist with anticipating old and new medications or medicines that may treat Coronavirus. A few organizations are utilizing artificial intelligence to recognize medicines and foster model vaccines.Dedicated stages or fora permit the solidification and sharing of multidisciplinary mastery on artificial intelligence, including globally. The US government for instance has started a discourse with worldwide government science pioneers that incorporates utilizing computer based intelligence to speed up examination of Covid writing made accessible utilizing the Kaggle stage.

Admittance to datasets in the study of disease transmission, bioinformatics and atomic demonstrating is being given, for example through the Coronavirus Open Exploration Dataset Challenge by the US government and accomplice associations that makes accessible more than 29 000 scholastic examination articles for Covid and Coronavirus.

Registering power for artificial intelligence is likewise being made accessible by innovation organizations like IBM, Amazon, Google and Microsoft; people giving PC preparing power (for example Folding@home); and by open private endeavors like the Coronavirus Elite Registering Consortium and simulated intelligence for Wellbeing.

Inventive methodologies including prizes, open-source coordinated efforts, and hackathons, are speeding up research on artificial intelligence driven answers for the pandemic. For instance, the Unified Realm’s “CoronaHack – computer based intelligence versus Coronavirus” looks for thoughts from organizations, information researchers and biomedical analysts on utilizing simulated intelligence to control and deal with the pandemic.

To battle falsehood – the Coronavirus “infodemic” – interpersonal organizations and web search tools are utilizing customized man-made intelligence data and instruments and depending on calculations to discover and eliminate tricky material on their foundation.

Menial helpers and chatbots have been conveyed to help medical services associations, for instance in Canada, France, Finland, Italy, the US, and by the American Red Cross. These instruments help to emergency individuals relying upon the presence of manifestations.

Medical care associations are in a dire requirement for dynamic advancements to deal with this infection and help them in getting legitimate ideas progressively to stay away from its spread. Artificial intelligence works in a capable manner to impersonate like human insight. It might likewise assume an essential part in comprehension and proposing the advancement of an antibody for Coronavirus. This outcome driven innovation is utilized for legitimate screening, breaking down, forecast and following of current patients and logical future patients. The huge applications are applied to tracks information have affirmed, recuperated, and demise cases.

The extraordinary speed of endeavors to address the Coronavirus pandemic circumstance is utilized by large information and man-made consciousness (artificial intelligence). Different branches of artificial intelligence have been utilized in a few illness flare-ups prior. Artificial intelligence can assume a fundamental part in the battle against Coronavirus.

Computer based intelligence is in effect effectively utilized in the recognizable proof of illness bunches, observing of cases, forecast of things to come flare-ups, mortality hazard, analysis of Coronavirus, sickness the executives by asset assignment, working with preparing, record support, and example acknowledgment for concentrating on the infection pattern. A few utilizations of simulated intelligence that are accumulating a ton of interest and bringing trusts up in the battle against Coronavirus are as per the following:

MAN-MADE INTELLIGENCE IN EXPECTATION AND FOLLOWING

Computer based intelligence can be saddled for guaging the spread of the infection and growing early admonition frameworks by separating data from web-based media stages, calls, and news locales and give valuable data about the weak districts and for forecast of bleakness and mortality. Bluedot distinguished a bunch of pneumonia cases and anticipated the episode and topographical area of the Coronavirus flare-up dependent on accessible information utilizing AI. HealthMap gathers the openly accessible information on Coronavirus and makes it promptly accessible to work with the powerful following of its spread. As of late, the job of artificial intelligence in ID and determining of Coronavirus episodes by utilizing multitudinal and multimodal information was underscored.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN CONTACT FOLLOWING

Computer based intelligence can increase versatile heath applications where keen gadgets like watches, cell phones, cameras, and a scope of wearable gadget can be utilized for determination, contact following and proficient observing in Coronavirus.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN OBSERVING OF CORONAVIRUS CASES

Artificial intelligence procedures are applied for observing patients in clinical settings and expectation obviously of treatment. In light of the information got from fundamental insights and clinical boundaries, computer based intelligence might give basic data to asset designation and dynamic by focusing on the need of ventilators and respiratory backings in the Emergency unit. Artificial intelligence can likewise be utilised for anticipating the odds of recuperation or mortality in Coronavirus and to give day by day updates, stockpiling and pattern examination and diagramming the course of treatment.

Medical care associations are in dire need for dynamic advancements to deal with this infection and help them in getting legitimate ideas progressively to stay away from its spread. Artificial intelligence works in a capable manner to impersonate human insight. It might likewise assume an essential part in comprehension and proposing the advancement of an antibody for coronavirus. This outcome-driven innovation is utilised for legitimate screening, breaking down, forecast and following of current patients and logical future patients. The huge applications applied to track information have affirmed, recuperated, and demise cases.

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Policy & Politics

Analysing reservation and the ceiling limit of 50%

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INTRODUCTION

Recently Supreme Court struck down the Government of Maharashtra order in which it was decided to give reservation to Marathas. This particular decision of Maharashtra government was violating the well-established ceiling limit of 50%. After this parliament passed Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021. While debate was going on the bill, a statement was also made by one parliamentarian, Asaduddin Owaisi where he urge government to lift the cap of 50% on reservation quota. So some fair and reasonable question here need to be addressed. Can the State in the zeal of promoting backward class ignore all together the other? Doesn’t it violates the basic right to equality of rest of the community not the part of reservation?

The concept of ‘Reservation’ can be understood in the backdrop of the historical injustice that happened in past. The Indian society has unique social structure. This society is divided mainly in four class in the form of caste. Few caste or class did not get well resource due to this caste system so they could not got progress with time. They faced lots of exploitation and injustice. This injustice led to inequality in the society. Therefore to bring socio economic equality in our society different constitutional provision is there. The notion of reservation is bought to uplift the disadvantaged and downtrodden people. In order to secure socio-economic justice to the vulnerable class the provision of reservation is made in our constitution. After the advent of constitution the government of India started its initiative to provide reservation to backward classes in order to fulfil theircommitment.

Reservation is an affirmative action taken by state which implies enforcing equal opportunity. Affirmative action of state means that the policy and programme of state by which state machinery tries to redress the past injustice through the active measures to ensure employment and education for the disadvantaged class. United States favours members of disadvantaged group who have suffered within a culture/system in the name of positive action. Employment equity in Canada is positive action by state. In the same way the concept of reservation is affirmative action of state in India to bring equality in unequal. So we can conceive affirmative action is something to protect people from the present effects stemming from past discrimination. Although the positive action policies are controversial in nature but it pervades in one and other form. Some of the affirmative action are like gender quota, racial, religious and caste quota. The fundamental reason to take affirmative action in Europe was rampant slavery and segregation. In India the caste system led to backwardness, social exclusion, segregation, discrimination and exploitation of certain communities which necessitated affirmative action in India. The caste based reservation is unique kind of affirmative action that is taken by state to uplift the backward and downtrodden section of society. In this affirmative action, state provide reservation to backward section or class by reserving jobs and providing some special facilities for their uplifting.

Constitution of India gives the commitment and mandate for the protective discrimination. Constitution of India grantees the right to equality. Right to equality means that one shall be discriminated on the basis of caste, creed, class, sex, place of birth, race and religion. Everyone shall be equal in the eye of law. The preamble of constitution of India guarantees the equality in terms of status and opportunity. The part III of the Indian constitution deals with fundamental right. This part contains Article 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 which assures the right to equality under constitution of India. The specific application of article 14 is laid down in succeeding articles 15, 16, 17 and 18. Part IV of the constitution deals with Directive Principal of State Policy which is provides the guiding principle to the state. Under this part Article 46 is there which says that the state shall take special care of educational and economic interest of weaker section.

CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK

Article 14 of constitution of India states that ‘The state shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India’. Thus the article 14 uses two expression ‘equality before the law’ which is of English origin and the expression ‘equal protection of law’ has come from American constitution. Equality before law is a negative concept. It shall ensure that there is no special privilege in favour of individual. It implies that everyone shall be equal subject of the ordinary law of land and no person is above the law. Whereas, equal protection of law is a positive concept. It does not mean that identical law will apply to all people irrespective of their circumstances. It means equal treatment of people in equal circumstances. It implies that application of law without discrimination and also application of laws alike to all person similarly situated.

The article 15 is more specific then article 14 under constitution of India. It provides for a particular application of article 14. Clause 15(1) of Article 15 is general prohibition. It prohibits the state from discriminating between people on the ground or the basis of religion, caste, sex, and place of birth or any of them. So law would be invalid if it discriminates on any of these grounds. Whereas clause 15(2) is specific application of 15(1). Clause (3) of Article 15 is one of the exception of general rule laid down in in clauses (1) & (2) of article 15. It empowers the state to make special provision for women and children. According to this clause nothing in article 15 shall prevent the state from making any special provision for women and children. After the judgement of State of Madras Vs Champakam Dorairarajan clause (4) of article 15 was added. It is another exceptions to general rule laid down in clause (1) and clause (2) of article 15. It enable the state to make special provision for socially and educationally backward class of citizen or for the schedule castes and schedule tribes.

After the judgements of TMA Pai Foundation V State Of Karnatka & P.A.Inamdar V State Of Maharashtra in which court held that government can’t make provision for reservation in privately run educational institution, parliament inserted clause (5) of article 15. Parliament by 93rdamendment inserted article 15(5) in constitution of India to nullify all these judgement. According to this clause sate can make special provision for the advancement of any socially or educationally backward classes of citizens or for the SCs & STs in relate to admission in educational institutions whether it is aided or unaided by state. This clause mention one exception to this provision that minorities educational institution under article 30(1) is not included. This 93rdconstitutional amendment was challenged in Supreme Court of India and upheld by the court.

The most recent clause under article 15 was clause (6) which has been added in our constitution through 103rd constitutional amendment act 2019. This clause (6) provides 10 percentreservation to economically weaker section from the upper caste of society for admission to central-government educational institutions and private educational institution except for minority educational institution whether aided or unaided by the state. Parliament also made certain criteria to define economic weaker section on the basis of family income and indicators of economic disadvantage. This amendment crosses the ceiling limit of 50% which was established by Supreme Court of India in Indira Sawhney Judgement.

Article 16 of the constitution gives the principle of equal employment opportunity which applies to access to jobs, conditions of employment, and relationships in the work place and the evaluation in performance. Article 16(1) of the constitution of India guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of employment or appointment to any office under the state for all the citizens. Clause (2) of article 16 says that no citizen shall be ineligible for or discriminated in respect of any employment or office under state only on the ground of religion, race, caste, caste, sex, descent, and place of birth, residence or any of them. So, State shall treat every citizen equally in matter of appointment and public employment. Clauses (1) & (2) of article 16 is general rule of equality of opportunity in matters of employment or appointment to any office under the state and that no citizen shall be ineligible for or discriminated in respect of any employment or office under state only on the ground of religion, race, caste, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them. Both clauses mandate the state that not to discriminate the citizens on mentioned ground only in respect of employment or office under the State. Clause(3) of Article 16 enable the parliament to make any law prescribing residence within the state as mandatory condition for particular class of appointment andemployment for the specified state under schedule 1 and any local or authority. It thus makes exception in appointment and employment and restricts clause (2) of article 16. A non-resident cannot be denied employment in any state.

Article 16(4) of constitution provides reservation to the backward class about whom state has the opinion that they have not proper representation in the service of the state. So two compelling circumstances under which state provides reservation under the clause 4 of article 16 is backwardness and inadequate representation in state services. The Article 340 of the constitution has the provision to establish commission for deciding the backwardness. Clause 4A of article 16 flows from its clause 4. Article 16(4A) of constitution provides reservation to SCs & STs which, in the opinion of state are not adequately represented in the services under the state. This reservation must be consistent with the efficiency in administration. 85th constitutional amendment act amended the Article 16(4A) by the substitution of “in matters of promotion with consequential seniority, to any class” in place of “in matter of promotion to any class”. This was challenged and court upheld its constitutional validity. Clause 4B of Article 16 was inserted by 81st amendment of constitution in 2000. This Constitutional Amendment allowed the State to carry forward unfilled vacancies from previous years to next year and to breach the 50% ceiling set on reservation for SCs, STs and OBC which could not be filled up due to non-availability of eligible candidates. Article 16(5) says that state is competent enough to make reservation for the religious office related to particular religion.

Article 46 of the constitution mandates the state to take special care for SCs, STs and weaker sections. It says that state take care economic and educational care of SCs, STs & economic weaker section and protect them from social injustice and all form of exploitation.

Constitutional string of Reservation can be called to Articles14, 15 and 16. Preamble of constitution of India guarantees the right to equality. This commitment can be seen through the articles 14, 15 & 16. These article provides the provision of reservation by which state takes affirmative action to bring equality.

EVOLUTION OF RESERVATION BY JUDICIAL PRECEDENTS

Supreme Court of India by its precedent shaped the modern reservation system. It started with case of ChampakamDorairajan case where court held reservation invalid. This judgement led to the first constitutional amendment. Then it went to many landmark cases like Balaji, Indira Sawhney, Ashok Thakur, M Nagraj, jarnail singh and many more cases. Here I am going to deal with detail discussion how today’s reservation system evolved through judicial precedent.

In the State of Madras Vs Champakam Dorairajan case, government of Madras by a government order madereservation in seats of State Medical and Engineering Colleges for different communities on the basis of religion, race and caste in certain proportion. This was challenged by respondent on the ground of violation of article 15(1) and 29(2) of the constitution. The government contended this reservation is made to promote social justice for all sections of people as required by Article 46. The Supreme Court of India held that the government order is void since it discriminates student on the basis of religion, race and caste instead of merit. Court held that fundamental rights cannot be override by directive principle of state policy.

To modify this judgement the parliament of India amended the article 15 through the first constitutional amendment and inserted clause (4) in this article.

In the Balaji V State of Mysore case, Government of Mysore order to reserve 68% seats in Medical and Engineering College for different communities under article 15(4). This order declared that every community except Brahmin community is socially and educationally backward. Reservation was made in favour of SCs, STs and Socially and Educationally Backward communities. This socially and educationally community was again divided into backward classes and more backward classes. This order was challenged on the ground it’s unconstitutional. In this case court held that the sub-classification of backward class into ‘backward class’ and ‘more backward’ class was not justified under article 15(4). Court held that backwardness dealt in article 15(4) must be social as well as educational and not either social or educational. Caste cannot be sole criteria to decide whether any class is backward class or not though caste can be relevant factor to decide backwardness. Court held that the order in which reservation of 68% for backward class is made is invalid since article 15(4) is enabling provision not exclusive provision for backward classes. Court pointed out that the special provision of reservation must be less than 50% and the extent of the special provision depends on relevant prevailing circumstances in each case.

In Devadasan V Union of India case constitutional validity of ‘carry forward’ rule was challenged. ‘Carry forward rule’ was a concept framed by government to regulate appointment of persons of backward classes in Government services. According to this rule if in any appointment was made in which there are not sufficient number of candidates belonging to SCs & STs available then that vacancies which remained unfilled would be treated unreserved and filled by new available candidates. Consequently 68% of the vacancies were reserved for SCs & STs. This was challenged in Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of India by majority of 4 to 1 stuck down the ‘carry forward’ rule on ground that it is unconstitutional. Court held that Article 16(4) of the constitution does not enable the state to make provision so as to deny reasonable equality of opportunity in matters of public employments for members of classes other than backward classes. Court pointed out that each year recruitment must be considered by itself. Court held that reservation for backward classes should not create monopoly for particular class or interfere with the legitimate claims of other communities. So the court concluded, reservation for backward class should not cross the ceiling limit of 50 percent and the extent of reservation would be determined by the prevailing circumstances in every particular case.

In State of Kerala V N.M.Thomas case, court made the observation that the application of measures to ensure equality of services for the unrepresented classes after satisfying basic needs of efficiency of administration does not violate the rule of equality under Article 16. Court held that article 16(4) is not the exception of article 16(1) but one of the methods of achieving equality embodied in article 16(1). It means that the State can make reservation to the extent of 80% in appropriate cases.

In A.B.S.K. Sangh (Rly.) V Union of India case, court upheld the validity of ‘carry forward rule’. In this case 17% reservation was made for SCs & STs candidate which was extended for 2 to 3 years. This led to the reservation quota 64.4 %. But the court held that this was not excessive as mathematical precision could not be applied in dealing with human problems. Justice Krishna Iyer pointed out that some extent will not affect the reservation but the substantial extent will void the selection. In this case majority permits the reservation beyond 50% but subject to judicial approval. Finally, court upheld 64.4% reservation on the ground that it is excessive.

In Indiara Sawhney V Union of India case, the government on Mandal commission report order to reserve 27% government jobs for other backward class provided creamy layer among them. This order was challenged on the ground that it violates the basic structure of the constitution. This order was upheld by the 9 judge bench of the Supreme Court by 6:3 majority. Court struck down the order of the government for reserving 10% Government jobs for economically backward classes among higher classes. Court also held that the extent of reservation should not exceed 50 percent. Court considered that in extraordinary situation like when people living in remote or in far flung areas who because of their peculiar conditions need a different treatment this rule can be relaxed. But in that case State must take special caution. The court reaffirmed the rule led down in Balaji and Devadasan and overruled the Thomas and Vasanth Kumar case. Court relied on the speech made by Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly where Ambedkar said “reservation must be confined to a minority of seats”. Court pointed out that the clause (4) of article 16 talks about adequate representation not about proportionate representation. If the member of SC & ST is selected on the basis of merit in the open competition then he will not be counted as reserve quota. The rule of 50% shall be applicable to reservation proper only not to relaxations or concessions, exemptions provided to backward classes. The court also held that the ‘carry forward rule is valid in which the unfilled vacancies are carry forward to next year is valid provided it should not crosses ceiling of 50%.

In Chebrolu Leela Prasad V state of Andhra Pradesh case constitutional validity of government order in which 100% reservation was made in favour of schedule tribe candidates for the post of teachers in the schools in the schedule area of Andhra Pradesh was challenged. The issue raised in the case was weather the reservation to the extent of 100% is permissible under the constitution. Court held the 100 percent reservation to schedule tribe is invalid, unreasonable, unfair and arbitrary. Court said giving 100% reservation to schedule tribe has disadvantaged the opportunity for other community. The court pointed out the judgement of Indira Sawhney case and said that the main idea behind the reservation is adequate representation not proportionate reservation. So the notification issued by Andhra Pradesh government is arbitrary and unreasonable and it violates the Articles 14, 15 & 16 of the constitution.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE CEILING LIMIT OF 50% IN RESERVATION IN THE BACKDROP OF SUPREME COURT DECISION

The Supreme Court of India by its judicial pronouncement has made it clear that the state can make reservation as long as it does not crosses the limit of 50%. After the judgement of Champakam Dorairajan case parliament inserted the Article 15(4) to modify the judgement. In the Balaji case state made reservation under the clause (4) of article 15 exceeding the limit of 50%. Court held the reservation invalid and said that state cannot ignore altogether the rest of the society on the zeal of promoting the backward class. Finally the ceiling limit of 50% with certain exception was upheld in Indira Sawhneycase and affirmed the Balaji case and overruled the judgement of Thomas case. In the most recent case Chebrolu LeelaPrasad V state of Andhra Pradesh Supreme court of India again upheld the limit of 50%. Thus this 50% ceiling limit is constitutional rule but in exceptional circumstances like for far flung and remote areas this limit can be relaxed.

Our constitution has given us the right to equality as fundamental right. Right to equality means treating equals equally but treating unequal equally. Due to historical injustice to some backward classes they cannot be treated equally with rest of the society. Therefore to bring socio-economic equality in our society different constitutional provision is there. The notion of reservation is bought to uplift the disadvantaged and downtrodden people. But in numerous cases court held that reservation is about adequate representation not poverty eradication. The State would not be justified if in the zeal to promote the backward class the state will altogether ignore the rest of the society. If the state will compromise with the merit in admission in educational institution or in the employment in the Government jobs then it would affect badly the nation interest. Court in its decision held that the clause 4 of Article 15 is not exclusive provision but enabling provision to make special provision for backward classes. Clause 4 of Article 16 talks about adequate representation not about proportionate representation. The reservation exceeding 50% is unreasonable and unfair for the rest class. It would violate article 14, 15 and 16 of the constitution of India. However, in the extraordinary circumstances the 50% rule can be relaxed in favour of people living in remote areas of the country because of their peculiar conditions they need different treatment. In Union of India V Rakesh Kumar court allowed the reservation excess of 50% limit on the ground of extraordinary circumstances.

The parliament of India through 103rd constitutional amendment amended article 15 & 16 inserted Article 15(6) & 16(6) in our constitution and made provision of 10%reservation in favour of economic backward classes other than SCs, STs and OBCs. This will lead to crossing of 50% ceiling limit. There are number of petition has been filed against the amendment on the ground it violates basic structure of the constitution. Petitioner contention is that economic criteria cannot be sole basis of reservation. Supreme Court headed by Justice SA Bobde found that the petition has involved ‘question of law’ so it is transferred to 5 judge constitutional bench. In my eyes, the amendment violates the basic structure of the constitution. This amendment damages the constitutional identity of the Articles enshrined in the equality code. This constitutional amendment can be struck down by the Supreme Court if it affects the basic structure of the Constitution.

Right to equality is basic structure of the constitution. The provisions of reservation is to uplift the backward class and to bring them at the same level of the other class. But reservation should not be used to nullify the basic idea of equality. Rest of the people cannot be ignored in the zeal of promoting backward class. If merit will not allow to take admission in educational institution or in government services then it would seriously affect the interest of nation.

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Policy & Politics

Pride does not cometh before a fall: The LGBTQ+ community, religion and media

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center shows that about three quarters of U.S. Catholics have opined that society must be accepting of homosexuality and majority of Catholics in Western Europe are in favour of same-sex marriages, and yet, this has barely been reported. This poses the question: where does the problem lie?

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THE BAD:

As the LGBTQ+ community grew and collided with several religious beliefs of many religions, staunch believers in the religion resorted to forcing minors to conversion therapies or “gay cure therapy”. Conversion therapy is heavily criticised as being cruel and inhuman to the community. In Curbing deception – A world survey of legal restrictions of socalled ‘conversion therapies’ by ILGA, several extreme methods used in conversion therapy were identified, such as physical and sexual abuse, internment, electric shock therapy, hypnosis, hormone regimens, psychotherapy and religious counselling. It has been reported by the international LGBTQ organisation ILGA that these pseudo-scientific practices have a destructive effect on people’s lives from an early age and that the main reason for such practices still being accepted in the society is religion and prejudice.

Over the years, very few countries like Malta, Germany and Albania have actually banned conversion therapy taking the advice of several organizations like the WHO and psychologists. A few other countries like Canada, New Zealand and the U.K. have taken a step in the right direction in expressing their will to ban this practice. However, it is pertinent to note that, it is the 21st century and in this fastpaced world, these changes are not enough for the community to survive, much less, live. There have been several instances of people from the community being killed, tortured and even resorting to suicide because of conversion therapies all over the world but no serious action has been taken against this practice. Ironically, the countries that have taken a step towards banning this inhuman practice are facing the hurdle of religious groups from their country opposing the ban. Even recently, as Canada sought to ban the practice, the Catholic Bishops in the country expressed their objections to this and gender identity was even referred to as an “aggressive ideology” and against the moral fabric of the Canadian society. This is not just a view that has been taken by the religious followers of one religion in one country alone. Several religious groups all over the world believe that the LGBTQ+ community is merely a phase of children and can be cured if given the right atmosphere. One can only wonder if this is because of the lack of awareness or the rigid ideals of several religions on what is morally correct and wrong.

On one hand, psychologists around the world stood against conversion therapy stating that it is not effective and is also harmful to the community and on the other, religion has stood strongly against the community and encouraged people to cure it.

THE GOOD:

All negativity aside, the author would like to look into how religion, being an integral part of most peoples’ lives can actually contribute positively to fostering the needs of the community. Although some religions have shown express distaste regarding the community, several other religious groups have also promoted the marriage of same-sex couples in the past two decades, such as the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA). According to the 2019 Pew Research Center Survey, 66% of white mainline Protestants are in favour of same-sex marriages and a similar share of Catholics (61%) are as well. There have also been many instances of religion supporting the community in past few years. In May 2021, German Catholics offered blessings to same-sex couples in 100 different churches in the country, openly defying the ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’ which said that the Catholic clergy cannot bless same-sex couples as God will not and cannot bless sin. More than 230 German theologians signed a statement expressing their stance against the Vatican’s pronouncement. Recently, Catholic parishes in New York have also taken efforts to build gay-friendly Catholicism. In addition, Rev. Dawn Bennet, Nashville’s first queer Lutheran pastor was ordained in 2021 and preached against antiLGBTQ hate in Tennessee. Revisiting the relationship between religious freedom and the LGBTQ+ community, the author would like to conclusively state that religion can most definitely complement the community and help them grow in a society that is weighed down by empty hatred.

Through this article, the author is not looking to validate the recent efforts taken by various religious groups but only contour how religion can help the community thrive substantially, even if the society and the government aren’t willing to accept and include the community in an express manner. When one delves deeper into this, one would be able to identify that people’s religious and spiritual experiences and beliefs manifest at an individual pace at cognitive, affective, physical and behavioural levels with the help of various studies. Religious fundamentalism has been noted to influence negative attitudes towards the community in the past and a study has even shown that the rejection of homosexuality by religion could be understood by authoritarianism and traditional beliefs of gender. But, one needs to place reliance on the strong influence that religious fundamentalism has and comprehend that religion has the potential to positively shape attitudes as well.

THE UGLY:

 A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center shows that about three-quarters of U.S. Catholics have opined that the society must be accepting of homosexuality and majority of Catholics in Western Europe are in favour of same-sex marriages, and yet, this has barely been reported. This poses the question: where does the problem lie?

To find the answer to that question, one will have to delve into the subtle role played by the media in deepening the hatred against the community. Relying on the findings of a recent study, the author would like to throw light on how the news media coverage of LGBTQ+ rights and religion often highlights only religiously identified sources that stand against the community and this is contrasting to the support expressed by religious Americans. It was identified that several national and local media outlets had focused on the anti-LGBTQ sources more than the proLGBTQ sources.

While our earlier understanding in this article was that religion can shape attitudes, it is crucial to take into account that media can too. News could accidentally warp our perception of reality and this isn’t always for the better. One of the potential reasons for the ways that news affects our perception is through the hack of negativity-bias, which means that, when things of equal intensity are presented to a person, the things which are of negative nature will have a greater impact on the psychological state of the person as opposed to neutral or positive things. For example, when the City Reporter, an online news media based in Russia decided the publish only good news for just a day considering all the negative information surrounding people, it lost two-thirds of its readers. Through these factual scenarios, one can comprehend to an extent, if not fully, that media has thrived on feeding negative information to the public and, subconsciously it is what the public have craved for as well.

CONCLUSION:

Change cannot be seen in a day, but it is only pragmatic to note that there has been change. As several people struggle with accepting change, media has only furthered this aversion. Admittedly, religious fundamentalism has dismissed of homosexuality through the years and promoted conversion therapies. But, it is time for change and several majority religious groups like Christians, Muslims and Hindus are beginning to comprehend that homosexuality is not a disease and traditional gender norms cannot be placed complete reliance on in the 21st Century. As lay men in the society, we read the news on hate crimes and oppositions against the community and develop a negative bias. As the efforts of several religious groups go unreported, more religious groups fail to stand up for the rights of the community, and as media focuses on how religious groups have not stood up for the community, the LGBTQ+ community develops a negative bias against them. The lack of awareness has always contributed to the perception against the community. Media outlets, being our source of information have the responsibility to report news in a manner that focuses on both the good and the bad, without leaving out information for their benefit. People need to be taught about digital literacy in order to find reliable sources and understand how clicking on news regarding hate crimes will only show you more content that adds to the bias against the community. Only when people start to understand that there has been change in the past few years and acceptance is not far away, will the hate crimes stop and the bias be eliminated, and only when news becomes more objective rather than emotional will things begin to look less bleak for the community as well as the entire society.

To find the answer to that question, one will have to delve into the subtle role played by the media in deepening the hatred against the community. Relying on the findings of a recent study, the author would like to throw light on how the news media coverage of LGBTQ+ rights and religion often highlights only religiously identified sources that stand against the community and this is contrasting to the support expressed by religious Americans. It was identified that several national and local media outlets had focused on the anti-LGBTQ sources more than the pro-LGBTQ sources.

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Policy & Politics

Offence of extortion not made out in absence of delivery of property: Chhattisgarh HC

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While clearing the air on when the case of extortion is made out, the Chhattisgarh High Court in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Shatrughan Singh Sahu v. State of Chhattisgarh & Ors. in WPCR No. 133 of 2017 that was reserved on July 27, 2021 and then finally pronounced on September 7, 2021 has held in no uncertain terms that to make out a case of ‘extortion’ punishable under Section 384 IPC, the prosecution must prove that on account of being put in fear of injury, the victim voluntarily delivered any particular property to the accused. It must be apprised here that the single Judge Bench of Justice Narendra Kumar Vyas of Chhattisgarh High Court said unequivocally that if there were no delivery of property, then the most essential ingredient for constituting the offence of ‘extortion’ would not be available. Justice Vyas also made it clear that if a person voluntarily delivers any property without any fear of injury, then also an offence of ‘extortion’ cannot be said to have been committed.

To start with, the single Judge Bench of Justice Narendra Kumar Vyas of Chhattisgarh High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “The petitioner, who is an Advocate by profession, has filed the present writ petition (cr.) challenging the registration of First Information Report against him under Sections 384 and 388 of IPC on the basis of complaint filed by respondent No.5 Kuleshwar Chandrakar before the Police Station Rudri in connection with Crime No. 106 of 2015 on 9-10-2015 and subsequently, the Police has submitted the final report before the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Dhamtari, now the case has been transferred to learned Judicial Magistrate First Class, Dhamtari, bearing Criminal Case No. 1405 of 2015 (State vs. Shatrughan Saho).”

As we see, the Bench then enunciates in para 2 that, “Brief facts, as projected by the petitioner in the present petition are that the Government of Chhattisgarh has enacted the Shakambhari (Nal-Jal) Scheme for benefit of agriculturists by granting subsidy. The beneficiary farmers applied for irrigation instrument in the Department of Agriculture. As per scheme, the State Government is giving them instrument and subsidy after following certain procedure. The Rural Agricultural Extension Officer, Village and Post Bhatgaon, Tahsil Kurud, District Dhamtari, Agricultural Development Officer, Village and Post Charmudiya, Tahsil Kurud, District Dhamtari, Agriculture Sub Divisional Officer, Collectorate Dhamtari, Deputy Director Agricultural Collectorate, Dhamtari and respondent No.5/complainant Kuleshwar Chandrakar and Roshan Chandrakar, Proprietor of Shri Ram Bore-wells have committed gross embezzlement at the time of granting subsidy to the concerned agriculturists, therefore, the petitioner made a complaint before the Collector, Dhamtari on 3-3-2015 and 24-4-2015 with regard to corruption done by them.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “On 18-3-2015 the petitioner made a complaint before the Superintendent of Police, Dhamtari for registration of FIR against the corrupt employee/officers. Again, the petitioner along with other person namely Naresh Kumar has also filed a complaint before the Superintendent of Police, Dhamtari stating that the persons involved in the embezzlement under the Shakambhari (Nal Jal) Scheme threatened them to cause death. But the respondent authorities i.e., Collector and Superintendent of Police, District Dhamtari and Director of Agriculture Department Raipur did not take any action against the corrupt persons including the respondent No.5.”

As it turned out, the Bench then observed in para 4 that, “The Superintendent of Police has directed Rudri Police Station to enquire into the matter. Though the statements of persons namely Manik Ram, Tomar Sahu, Abhimanyu and Devendra Kumar have been recorded and all have supported the case, still Police has not taken any action against the erring officials. Being aggrieved, the petitioner has filed complaint under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C before the learned District and Sessions Court, Dhamtari for registration of offence under Prevention of Corruption Act. On 9-10-2015, the complainant Kuleshwar Chandrakar lodged FIR against the petitioner contending that the petitioner has demanded Rs.25,00,000/- by way of extortion. Police has registered the FIR without conducting any preliminary enquiry. Though the petitioner was present at his office along with other advocates on 9-10-2015, still he has been roped in crime number 106 of 2015 for committing alleged offence under Sections 384 and 388 of IPC.”

While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then brings out in para 5 that, “On 20-12-2015 the petitioner has submitted an application before the Police Station Rudri and prayed for an opportunity of defence and also submitted the representation on 24-12-2015 along with documents, but the same has not been considered. On 31-12-2015 when the petitioner was going to court, at that time four persons came in motorcycle and threatened the petitioner by pressing and compelled him to do compromise and withdraw the complaint. On 31-12-2015 the petitioner made a complaint before the Superintendent of Police, Dhamtari but no action has been taken. The Police on the strength of the FIR lodged by respondent No. 5, after investigation, registered the offence and final report has been submitted before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Dhamtari. Now the case is transferred to the court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Dhamtari and learned Magistrate registered the case bearing Criminal Case No. 1405 of 2015.”

Needless to say, the Bench then discloses in para 6 that, “On the above factual matrix of the case, the petitioner prayed for quashing of FIR registered against the petitioner in connection with Crime No. 106 of 2015 at Police Station Rudri, District Dhamtari for offence under Sections 384 and 388 of IPC.”

Truth be told, the Bench then unfolds in para 7 that, “This Court issued notice to the respondents and in pursuance of notice, respondent No.5 has entered his appearance and filed his return. The State counsel has also filed their return in which they have stated that on the basis of complaint made by the petitioner, an enquiry has been conducted by the Additional Collector & Inquiry Officer, Dhamtari has submitted his report on 28-11-2016 wherein charges levelled against respondent No.5 and other Government officials have been found false and baseless. It has also been stated that the petitioner being an Advocate indulged in making complaint with regard to corruption under the scheme of the State Government and requesting for registration of FIR. It is further contended that the petitioner made another complaint before the Superintendent of Police, District Dhamtari, regarding corruption being made in the Rajya Poshit Sukshma Sichai Yojna by one Roshan Chandrakar which was enquired into and upon enquiry no incriminating was found for taking cognizance and the complaint of the petitioner was found to be false and baseless and copy of the report has been forwarded by the Incharge of Police Station, Dhamtari to the Superintendent of Police, Dhamtari on 7-2- 2015. He would further submit that the charges leveled against respondent No.5 are false and baseless, therefore, the petition filed by the petitioner deserves to be dismissed by this court.”

Simply put, the Bench then states in para 8 that, “Complainant/respondent No.5 has also filed his return in which he denied the allegations made by the petitioner and would submit that as per material collected by the Investigating Officer case under Section 384 and 388 of IPC is made out. It has been further contended that the petitioner is a habitual complainer and blackmailing the people and he has filed a complaint against the Officer of the Agriculture Department alleging certain irregularities and thereafter vide letter dated 24-10-2015 has withdrawn the same which clearly shows the conduct of the petitioner itself. He would further submit that prima facie the allegations leveled against him are made out, therefore, the writ petition, at this juncture is not maintainable and is liable to be dismissed by this court.”

Furthermore, the Bench then remarked in para 9 that, “The petitioner has filed his rejoinder on 24-6-2021 and would submit that at the time of incident, the petitioner was in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate to argue the criminal case and in this regard a copy of the order sheet thereof has also been annexed. He would further submit that he has been falsely implicated in this case as he was not present at the time of alleged incident, therefore, the story projected by the complainant is false, baseless and cannot be accepted at this juncture and would pray that the petition filed by him be allowed and the criminal proceeding be quashed. In support of his arguments, he has relied upon the judgments rendered by Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Haryana vs Bhajanlal reported in 1992 Suppl. (1) SCC 335.”

Significantly, the Bench then states in para 15 that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner would submit that from perusal of the FIR it is nowhere reflected that on extortion made by the petitioner, complainant/respondent No.5 has delivered any valuable property to the petitioner, as such, he has not committed offence under Section 384 of IPC. Even from perusal of the final report, it is clear that the documents submitted by the investigating agency regarding statements of the witnesses, none of the witnesses has stated that on extortion made by the petitioner by demanding Rs.25,00,000/- from respondent No.5. The respondent No. 5 has given Rs.25,00,000/- to the petitioner, as such, there is no ingredient of offence under Section 384 of IPC is made out.”

Of course, the Bench then points out in para 16 that, “It would be evident from the reading of Section 383 of the IPC that the ingredients of ‘extortion’ are; (i) the accused must put any person in fear of injury to that person or any other person; (ii) the putting of a person in such fear must be intentional; (iii) the accused must thereby induce the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property, valuable security or anything signed or sealed which may be converted into a valuable security; (iv) such inducement must be done dishonestly. The terms ‘dishonestly’, ‘illegally’ and ‘injury’ used in “Section 383 of the IPC” and in “Sections 24, 43 and 44 of the IPC” respectively. On a careful consideration of the above definitions and ingredients what appears is that if someone puts the others intentionally in fear to any injury and thereby, dishonestly induces that person who has been put into fear to deliver to the person any property or valuable security or anything signed or sealed or which may be converted into valuable security shall be liable to be punished for ‘extortion’.”

Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment is then stated in para 17 wherein it is put forth that, “Thus, what is necessary for constituting an offence of ‘extortion’ is that the prosecution must prove that on account of being put in fear of injury, the victim was voluntarily delivered any particular property to the man putting him into fear. If there was no delivery of property, then the most important ingredient for constituting the offence of ‘extortion’ would not be available. Further, if a person voluntarily delivers any property without there being any fear of injury, an offence of ‘extortion’ cannot be said to have been committed.”

While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then stipulates in para 18 that, “Hon’ble Supreme Court in R.S. Nayak vs. A.N. Antulay and another, reported in (1986) 2 SCC 716, has held in para 60 and relevant portion thereof is extracted as under:

“60. Before a person can be said to put any person to fear of any injury to that person, it must appear that he has held out some threat to do or omit to do what he is legally bound to do in future. If all that a man does is to promise to do a thing which he is not legally bound to do and says that if money is not paid to him he would not do that thing, such act would not amount to an offence of extortion. We agree with this view which has been indicated in Habibul Razak v. King Emperor, A.I.R. 1924 All 197. There is no evidence at all in this case that the managements of the sugar cooperatives had been put in any fear and the contributions had been paid in response to threats. Merely because the respondent was Chief Minister at the relevant time and the sugar co-operatives had some of their grievances pending consideration before the Government and pressure was brought about to make the donations promising consideration of such grievances, possibly by way of reciprocity, we do not think the appellant is justified in his contention that the ingredients of the offence of extortion have been made out.

The evidence led by the prosecution falls short of the requirements of law in regard to the alleged offence of extortion. We see, therefore, no justification in the claim of Mr. Jethmalani that a charge for the offence of extortion should have been framed”.”

Be it noted, the Bench then observes in para 21 that, “From perusal of the aforesaid judgment, it is apparent that the alleged offence under Section 384 of IPC has been quashed on the ground that no valuable assets have been delivered because of extortion, threaten, pressure created by the accused. In the present case also respondent No.5 has not delivered any valuable assets to the petitioner, therefore, the judgment referred to by respondent No.5 also support the contention of the petitioner and in that case also Madhya Pradesh High Court held that offence under Section 384 of IPC is not made out. Therefore, the judgments cited by learned counsel for respondent No.5 are distinguishable from the facts of the present case.”

Quite forthrightly, the Bench then holds in para 22 that, “From bare perusal of the FIR it can be very visualized that if we take the face value of the allegation made in the complaint, then also it can be very well seen that no offence under Section 388 of IPC is made out as respondent No.5 in his complaint has nowhere stated that on the basis of extortion made by the petitioner, respondent No.5 was put in fear of an accusation by the petitioner or he committed or attempted to commit any offence punishable with death and has delivered any valuable assets to the petitioner. When prima facie provisions of Section 383 of IPC is not made out, then the offence under Section 388 of IPC cannot be made out, because unless and until the ingredient of extortion is established, then only the alleged offence, prima facie, is said to have been committed by the petitioner. Since the ingredients of Sections 383 of IPC are not made out, the ingredient of Section 388 of IPC cannot be, prima facie, established, therefore, registration of FIR, prima facie, is nothing, but an abuse of process of law.”

To put it succinctly, the Bench then hastens to add in para 26 that, “From bare perusal of FIR it is crystal clear that no case of extortion is made out, therefore, offence under Sections 384 and 388 of IPC against the petitioner is not made out. The proceeding initiated by the complainant is nothing, but an abuse of process of law and on this count alone this court is quashing the FIR, therefore, no other ground is required to be dealt by this court.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then holds in para 27 that, “In view of above legal provisions, considering the facts of the case and from perusal of FIR, prima facie, no case is made out against the petitioner and criminal proceedings is manifestly attended against the petitioner with malafide, therefore, initiation of criminal proceeding is nothing, but an abuse of process of law.. Considering overall the facts and circumstances of the case, I am of the view that the petitioner has made out strong case for quashing of FIR. Accordingly, FIR No. 106 of 2015 registered at Police Station – Dhamtari on 9-10-2015 for alleged offence said to have been committed under Section 384 and 388 of IPC is quashed. Consequently, the criminal proceeding pending before the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Dhamtari is also quashed.”

As a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 28 that, “Accordingly, the instant petition is allowed. No order as to costs.”

Finally, the Bench then holds in para 29 that, “A copy of this order be sent to learned Judicial Magistrate First Class, for closure of the proceedings.”

All said and done, the inescapable conclusion that can be drawn from this noteworthy judgment is that the offence of extortion is not made out in absence of delivery of property. It is a no-brainer that the property has to be delivered in order to prima facie make a case of offence of extortion. It is also made amply clear that the victim too must be put in fear of injury before he/she delivers the property. To put it differently, if there is no fear of injury and property is still delivered then the offence of extortion cannot be prima facie said to be made out!

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