Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues.
General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Preventing the misuse of Section 498A of the IPC
The Supreme Court on July 27, in the matter of Rajesh Sharma and Ors v State of UP and Anr, delivered a judgment, announcing a set of guidelines to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the IPC.
What is Sec 498A?
In 1983, ‘Section 498-A of the IPC was introduced with avowed object to combat the menace of harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband and his relatives. Background:
In order to contain violence against women within the family, the operation of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code was weighted against husbands and their birth families, and automatically presumed the complainant to be an innocent victim.
Progressive discrimination was deemed necessary in a country which recorded a dowry death every hour, on average, and where violence against women has been regarded as normal.
However, both the Supreme Court and the Women and Child Development Ministry have acknowledged that the law has been misused too often to be ignored, and moved to ensure that innocent men and their relations are spared the threat of summary arrest.
There were opinions that complaints under section 498A were being filed on the basis of personal vendetta. The conviction rate of cases registered under Section 498A IPC was also a staggering low at 15.6%.
The SC Bench said Section 498A (dowry harassment) of the IPC had come under much abuse and dowry complaints were being filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues.
The automatic assumption of guilt has been seen as a problem, with police proceedings, seizure of passports and issuing of Interpol notices precluding any chance of a compromise.
Family Welfare Committees – In order to prevent the perceived misuse of the criminal law of cruelty against women, welfare committees, consisting of paralegals, volunteers, social workers, retired persons, wives of working officers and other citizens, who are found suitable and willing, have been put in place to scrutinise a complaint by a woman before the police take cognisance of it.
The SC wants the establishment of family welfare committees in every district, to which all complaints are to be referred. Its members would have to interact with the complainant and the accused, and submit a report within one month.
The police must ensure that every complaint under Section 498A is referred to the welfare committee, which within one month will prepare a report, give its opinion and send it back to the police. Till the report of the committee is received there will be no arrest.
Minister Maneka Gandhi has asked the National Commission for Women to be accessible to men who claim to be falsely accused.
Issues with the verdict:
Establishment of family welfare committess can be seen as virtual privatisation of the policing function. That the members of the committee will be given remuneration makes it a parallel justice dispensation system. Only after the report of the welfare committee is submitted, can the police perform the policing function.
By creating the Family Welfare Committee, the court creates one more layer between the victim and the justice system, and as a result, her access to justice is compromised.
By far the most devastating impact of appointing welfare committees drawn from the civil society is their potential to become non-state vigilante groups. It has happened with the gau rakshaks, who have received recognition by law to perform the functions of cow protection.
Low conviction rates exist across the board, in relation to all crimes. To isolate crimes against women is to miss the point that the criminal justice system is in need of serious repair.
The judgment has relied upon the data of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) of 2005, 2012 and 2013. Relying on the figures of the number of people arrested, convicted and acquitted, it comes to the conclusion that since the conviction rate is low, most of the cases registered under 498A are “false”. This data does not give a clear picture as there can be a number of reasons for acquittal, such as poor investigation by the investigating officer, settlement through mediation, or intimidation of witnesses and the complainant herself.
Given that the woman in question may fear severe bodily harm, the period of one month seems to be far too liberal.
Besides, the court has prescribed that bail applications must be decided on the date of application. Since bail is a right, courts may be more inclined to grant rather than withhold, which could again increase the risk to the complainant.
Before coming to the conclusion that women misuse the law, the court ought to have called for expert evidence and requisitioned the services of women’s studies centres which exist in all universities.
While the working of Section 498A was tilted in favour of women as a progressive intervention, a course correction is seen to be required in the interest of equality before the law and the prevalence of misuse. However, the law must retain its progressive bias in favour of wronged women, without inadvertently wronging men. In practice, it will prove to be a tough balancing act — an impossible feat, in the absence of police reform and progressive change in societal mindset where women are still made to feel inferior to men at every step.
Connecting the dots:
In a recent verdict, the Supreme Court proposed establishment of family welfare committees to scrutinize complaints made under Section 498A of the IPC. What necessitated the court’s intervention? Also discuss the issues associated with court’s verdict.
Section 498A of the IPC must retain its progressive bias in favour of wronged women, without inadvertently wronging men. Critically analyze.
General studies 2
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
General studies 3
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
In July 2017, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It was signed and approved by 122 of the 123 participant nations, representing two-thirds of the nations in the UN. The participants did not include any of the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries, which conspicuously boycotted the negotiations. Besides the United States and Russia, which are believed to have the largest nuclear arsenals, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea all have nuclear bombs.
The new agreement is partly rooted in the disappointment among non-nuclear-armed nations that the Nonproliferation Treaty’s disarmament aspirations have not worked.
What is the treaty about?
The negotiations aim to create “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”, citing deep concern over the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.”
The goal is to declare it illegal for any country to produce, possess, stockpile, deploy, and threaten to use, or use nuclear weapons.
The ban on the conduct of underground explosions envisaged under Article 1 is a breakthrough.
A paradigm shift in the discourse on global disarmament:
The adoption of the historic United Nations pact to ban nuclear weapons underscores a paradigm shift in the discourse on global disarmament. For the first time in the seven-decade effort to avert a nuclear war, a global treaty has been negotiated that proponents say would, if successful, lead to the destruction of all nuclear weapons and forever prohibit their use.
Foremost, the universal goal of total elimination of these weapons of mass destruction has been disentangled from the narrow focus on the maintenance of a deterrent by the nuclear weapons states against threats from one another.
While the treaty itself will not immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons, the treaty can, over time, further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use
The imperative, as the architects of the new treaty see it, is an immediate legal prohibition leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, given the impossibility of fashioning a humanitarian response to any future offensive.
Assistance for people exposed to extreme radiation and contamination of the environment has been spelt out explicitly under Article 6 of the current treaty.
The most central provision is Article 1(d) which categorically prohibits the use of nuclear weapons, or a threat to that effect, under all circumstances.
Moreover, the nuclear weapons treaty marks the completion of a process to enforce an international ban on all categories of weapons of mass destruction following the prohibition of biological and chemical arms.
Past attempts to prevent increase of nuclear weapons:
Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) 1963: Prohibited all testing of nuclear weapons except underground.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — signed 1968, came into force 1970: An international treaty (currently with 189 member states) to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. The treaty has three main pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) 1972: The United States and Soviet Union could deploy ABM interceptors at two sites, each with up to 100 ground-based launchers for ABM interceptor missiles. In a 1974 Protocol, the US and Soviet Union agreed to only deploy an ABM system to one site.
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) — signed 1996, not yet in force: The CTBT is an international treaty (currently with 181 state signatures and 148 state ratifications) that bans all nuclear explosions in all environments. While the treaty is not in force, Russia has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1990 and the United States has not since 1992.
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), 1974: A group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), 1987: A multilateral export control regime. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km. India officially became a member on 27 June 2016 with the consensus of the 34 member nations.
International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, also known as the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC), 2002: an arrangement to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles. The HCOC does not ban ballistic missiles, but it does call for restraint in their production, testing, and export. India joined the Hague Code on 1 June 2016.
The next round of the UN talks, scheduled in late June, will grapple with practical issues of defining the scope and reach of the treaty, as well as the number of ratifications required for its entry into force.
What is certain however is that once the pact becomes law, the growing stigma attached to nuclear weapons, as well as to states that flex their military muscle, will only further deepen.
The world’s nuclear powers, which boycotted the negotiations on the landmark agreement, have remained defiant ever since its adoption. Their continued resistance will no doubt jeopardise its effectiveness. But that does not take away from its sound basis in moral and legal principles. A convention prohibiting nuclear weapons will serve as a crucial impetus for fulfilling the disarmament obligations of the NPT. Its adoption will generate decisive momentum for nuclear weapons abolition, and it is thus vital that this be achieved. Irrespective of its future prospects, the passing of the new NPT has already challenged the very basis of nuclear deterrence and the nuclear order based on the old NPT. India and other nuclear weapon states would do well to track its progress—the future of their nuclear arsenals might depend on it.
Connecting the dots:
Adoption of the new treaty on prohibition of nuclear weapons in July 2017 by two-third of the UN nations is a breakthrough in many ways. Discuss.
Irrespective of its future prospects, the passing of the new NPT has already challenged the very basis of nuclear deterrence and the nuclear order based on the old NPT. Critically analyze.