THE HINDU EDITORIAL : 5 August- 2017
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : 5 August- 2017
Dear Bankersdaily Aspirant,
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i) Punishing the victims
On July 27, 2017, the Supreme Court in Rajesh Sharma & Ors vs State of U.P. & Aanr, dealt another punishing blow to what has become a toothless anti-dowry law. When first enacted in 1961, the law sought to protect women from being killed or tortured in their marital homes by greedy husbands and in-laws. Thereafter, passionate advocacy by women’s rights activists resulted in the insertion of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, making the offence of dowry harassment cognisable and non-bailable, thereby bringing enormous relief to women who face virtually insurmountable obstacles in the public space, especially when taking complaints to the police or facing long-winded judicial proceedings. In a sense, Section 498A sought to level the playing field and further ensure the safety of women. However, as with all laws relating to women, the patriarchal, self-fulfilling argument that Section 498A had created a bunch of monstrous, disgruntled women determined to destroy family values and drag innocent husbands and in-laws to jail for their own nefarious purposes began to dominate the discourse.
Following this, the first attempt to dilute Section 498A came from a 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court which mandated a nine-point checklist before any arrests could be made under Section 498A. Then followed the latest Supreme Court judgment which has almost irretrievably diluted 498A and rendered it nearly unreachable to victims. This judgment mandates a family welfare committee in every district to scrutinise dowry harassment cases. Members of this committee can be social workers or “anyone interested in the subject” and may also be paid an honorarium. The police are expected to consider the recommendations of this committee before making any arrest. It is not difficult to predict how such committees will operate in our male-dominated districts. The Supreme Court has also done away with the need for the accused to make a personal appearance in court in addition to other forms of relief. Sadly, the victim remains ignored in the judgment. As a result of these constraints, thousands of genuinely distressed women will not be able to access justice. Women victims, it would appear, become victims only if they die. While still alive, getting justice is a Sisyphean impossibility.
Subject of debate
The 2014 and 2017 judgments of the Supreme Court diluting Section 498A are a compelling illustration of the fact that in the discourse relating to women’s issues, any movement which is even remotely progressive and seeks to empower women immediately becomes the subject of fierce controversy. Seven decades after Independence, Parliament remains unable to pass the constitutional amendment mandating 33% reservation for women in Parliament. No other legislation in the history of India, possibly the world, has been so fiercely resisted or pending for so long. Similarly, the impact of Section 498A, which was admittedly enacted to ensure the safety of women in their matrimonial home, should have been assessed to examine its effectiveness in preventing dowry deaths and cruelty to women in their matrimonial home. Perversely, but predictably, the attention of the judges, and indeed of a large section of society, is directed solely towards the alleged, perceived “misuse” of the section by “unscrupulous” women. Ironically, the concern is leavened by a crumb of concern about women, in this case the women who are “wrongly” arrested under Section 498A — the mothers and sisters-in-law. The judges observe that women who ought to use Section 498A as a shield are actually using it as a weapon against their unfortunate in-laws, going so far as to say “this court earlier noticed the fact that most of such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment, over trivial issues”, thus leading to “harassment of the accused”. This is a breathtaking assumption, and not based upon any substantial research whatsoever, nor do the judges quote such research.
The story from data
In fact, the statistics cited by the judges lead to a contrary conclusion. They note the earlier observation of Justice C.K. Prasad that in 2012 two lakh arrests were made under Section 498A, including 47,951 women. Although charge-sheets were led in 93.6% of the cases, the conviction rate was only 14.4%. Based on this, the judges conclude that the complaints were frivolous and “trivial”. The actual fact of the matter is that in 93.6% of the cases, the police — notoriously unsympathetic to women — found the complaints worthy of charge-sheets being filed. In other words, the complaints passed police scrutiny. Further, the low conviction rate of 14.4% is more an indictment of the agonising judicial process, which is time-consuming and drains women of their resources and resolve. Many just opt for settlement out of sheer frustration. In 2013, the conviction rate for rape was only 27.1%. Will the court now liberalise the penal provisions against rape? Money transactions are essentially only civil transactions. Yet, dishonour of a cheque is an offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. The widespread misuse of this section by usurious moneylenders and financial institutions has never been publicly debated. The judiciary and civil society do not appear to ever discuss misuse or “abuse” of other laws and offences, although abuse of any law is possible, and does in fact happen. It is only when any law relating to the empowerment of women is enacted, that hysterical debate ensues about misuse of such a law and the sufferings of the accused. In a just society, a penal provision should be reviewed only after fully protecting the perspective of the victim. A total of 24,771 dowry deaths have occurred in India from 2012 to 2014, averaging more than 20 dowry deaths every single day. Thus, Section 498A is not only relevant but also vital for the protection of genuine victims. Alleged, perceived, and sometimes even some genuine cases of misuse of this law should not endanger the huge number of women who are in genuine distress. It is time to remember that the object of the law and democracy require that our suffering women be protected and not that safeguards for accused be constantly created.
ii) Price of rapacity
In ordering that lease-holders should pay compensation to the extent of 100% of the price of the quantum of minerals they had illegally extracted, the Supreme Court has gone beyond a mere affirmation of the ‘polluter pays’ principle. It has also set a significant benchmark for stringent action against those who indulge in mining without environmental or forest clearance. Even the Central Empowered Committee had recommended compensation to the extent of 30% of the value of the iron ore and manganese ore illegally mined in Odisha, but the court has been firm about not compromising on the quantum of compensation. It is impossible to dispute the court’s reasoning that the defaulter or violator should bear the consequences of the illegality, and therefore cannot be allowed the benefit of “pocketing 70% of the illegally mined ore”. The mining companies tried every possible means of avoiding the tag that they had illegally mined iron or manganese ore. Some of them argued that they did not require environmental clearance as they had started operations prior to 1994, when the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification was first issued, and that unless there was an expansion, they did not require environmental clearance. Some said “illegal mining” was limited to mining activity outside the leased area, but the court has firmly ruled that any excess extraction within the leased area would also amount to unlawful mining. It has clarified that every renewal of a mining lease would require such clearance, even if there is no expansion, modernisation or increase in the pollution load. The apex court has been passing a series of orders on illegal mining activity, notably in Goa and Karnataka. It has often voiced concern over the extent to which mining laws are being flouted and how illegal mining is depleting the country’s natural resources. In this verdict as well, the court identified rapacious mining in Odisha as a cause for great concern. There appears to be no effective policy or effective check on mining operations, it has noted. In strong words, it has asked the Centre to revisit its National Mineral Policy, 2008, which “seems to be only on paper and is not being enforced, perhaps due to the involvement of very powerful vested interests or a failure of nerve.” It is clear that the country is already paying a heavy price for its failure to regulate mining operations in an effective manner in several parts of the country. It has become a source for corruption, excessive exploitation of natural resources and a scourge in the lives of forest dwellers and tribals. The petitioners before the court had stressed on the principles of intergenerational equity, the responsibility of every generation to conserve resources with subsequent generations in mind while exploiting nature. The court, understandably, has not set a limit for mining activities, but it has certainly flagged some issues for those in power to bear in mind.
Meaning: Perceptible; clearly identifiable.
Example: A cognizable claim.
Meaning: Too great to be overcome.
Example: An insurmountable problem.
Synonyms: Insuperable, Unconquerable
Meaning: (of speech or writing) continuing at tedious length.
Example: A long-winded question.
Synonyms: Lengthy, Long
Antonyms: Concise, Succinct
Meaning: Relating to or denoting a system of society or government controlled by men.
Example: A patriarchal society.
Meaning: Angry or dissatisfied.
Example: Judges receive letters from disgruntled members of the public.
Synonyms: Dissatisfied, Discontented
Antonyms: Pleased, Contented
Meaning: (typically of an action or activity) wicked or criminal.
Example: The nefarious activities of the organized-crime syndicates.
Meaning: In a way that cannot be retrieved or put right.
Example: Trillions of dollars were irretrievably lost.
Meaning: Examine or inspect closely and thoroughly.
Example: Customers were warned to scrutinize the small print.
Synonyms: Examine carefully, Inspect
Antonyms: Glance at
Meaning: A limitation or restriction; stiffness of manner and inhibition in relations between people.
Example: Time constraints make it impossible to do everything.
Synonyms: Restriction, Limitation and uneasiness
Meaning: Having or displaying a violent or ferocious aggressiveness.
Example: Fierce fighting continued throughout the day.
Synonyms: Ferocious, Savage
Antonyms: Gentle, Tame
Meaning: Evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of.
Example: The committee must assess the relative importance of the issues.
Synonyms: Evaluate, Judge
Meaning: In a manner contrary to what is expected or accepted.
Example: He was perversely proud of his parochial background.
Meaning: Having or showing no moral principles; not honest or fair.
Example: Unscrupulous landlords might be tempted to harass existing tenants.
Synonyms: Unprincipled, Unethical
Antonyms: Ethical, Honest
Meaning: Of little value or importance.
Example: Huge fines were imposed for trivial offences.
Synonyms: Unimportant, Insignificant
Antonyms: Important, Significant
Meaning: Concerning the essentials of something.
Example: There was substantial agreement on changing policies.
Synonyms: Fundamental, Essential
Antonyms: Insubstantial, Worthless.
Meaning: Not having any serious purpose or value; (of a person) carefree and superficial.
Example: Frivolous ribbons and lacy frills.
Synonyms: Flippant, Giddy, Silly and Foolish
Antonyms: Sensible, Serious
Meaning: Used to emphasize that a quality or fact, typically a bad one, is well known.
Example: The Company is notoriously difficult to contact.
Meaning: A formal charge or accusation of a serious crime.
Example: An indictment for conspiracy.
Synonyms: Charge, Accusation
Meaning: The action or practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest.
Example: The medieval prohibition on usury.
Synonyms: Loan – sharking, Extortionate money-lending
Meaning: A particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.
Example: Most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective.
Synonyms: Outlook, View
Meaning: Become aware or conscious of (something); come to realize or understand.
Example: His mouth fell open as he perceived the truth.
Synonyms: Discern, Recognize
Meaning: To state something as true; To publicly show your support for an opinion or idea.
Example: She affirmed her intention to apply for the post.
Synonyms: Assertion, Declaration
Antonyms: Denial, Refutation
Meaning: (of regulations, requirements, or conditions) strict, precise, and exacting.
Example: Stringent guidelines on air pollution.
Synonyms: Strict, Firm and Rigid
Antonyms: Lenient, flexible
Meaning: A result or effect, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.
Example: Abrupt withdrawal of drug treatment can have serious consequences.
Synonyms: Result, Upshot
Meaning: to reduce something in size or amount, especially supplies of energy, money, etc.
Example: Supplies are depleting fast.
Synonyms: Exhaust, Drain
Antonyms: Augment, Increase
Meaning: Aggressively greedy or grasping.
Example: Rapacious landlords.
Synonyms: Grasping, Greedy
Meaning: Cause great suffering to.
Example: Political methods used to scourge and oppress workers.
Synonyms: Afflict, Plague
Antonyms: Blessing, Godsend