Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability and institutional and other measures.
General Studies 3:
Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate
‘Modernisation of Police Forces’ scheme: A step towards police reforms
The Union Cabinet recently approved a Rs. 25,000 crore outlay for upgrading the internal security apparatus in States. An umbrella scheme, ‘Modernisation of Police Forces’, has been cleared, with the government projecting this as “one of the biggest moves towards police modernisation in India”.
Features of the scheme:
The Centre’s contribution will be of about 75%, with the promise that gaps in police transport, weaponry, communications, and forensic support among others will be met.
The funds are to be rolled out over the next three years, with the Centre contributing Rs. 18,636 crore and States Rs. 6,424 crore along the lines of the established police “modernisation” model.
Under the scheme, Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeastern States and those affected by Maoist violence are to receive special focus.
Will it help deal with the issue of maoism?
With reference to Naxalism, the annual report of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), 2016-17 notes that there has been a reduction in violent incidents and violence-related deaths since 2013. But, a Central paramilitary force, not the State police, is at the forefront against Naxal groups. Further militarising of police could only increase violence. Instead we need to consider alternative strategies not solely reliant on coercive force.
Issue of rising encounters sidelined:
The issue of encounters as a legitimate crime-fighting strategy, irrespective of the strictures of the Supreme Court, hasn’t been raised. Governments and the police have become glaringly opaque in their responsibility to account for deaths caused due to police action. The state needs to be reminded that it is bound to register a First Information Report and initiate a criminal investigation into any encounter killing by the police. Unaccounted deaths at the hands of the police are violations of the right to life.
Poor capacity to utilize the funds:
The underutilisation of existing funds in the broader context of state capacity to absorb such a significant tranche is an issue. The 2013-14 MHA guidelines on modernisation funds mandate that every State and the Centre furnish a utilisation certificate for the full amount of modernisation funds released yearly. The Finance Ministry stresses that unless the certificates account for the full amount of funds sanctioned, no new funds will be released. Considering that only 14% of modernisation funds were spent in 2015-16, one would advise a tempering of the excitement around this infusion of funds until the previous year’s accounting is done. Not only are modernisation funds underspent, on average, but also only about 3% of Central and State Budgets are spent on policing.
Technical reforms rather than accountability reforms being stressed:
“Reform” geared towards technical and infrastructural advancement is being made, but reform which demands greater checks and balances is resisted and violated.
Less than 10 States provide security of tenure to their police chief and key field officers.
Only five States provide for independent shortlisting of candidates in the process of appointing police chiefs; everywhere else, directors general of police are handpicked by Chief Ministers.
Serving police and government officers are adjudicating members on police complaints bodies even though these are supposed to be independent from the police department.
Supreme Court Guidelines:
The directives issued by the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh Vs. Union of India case, 2006 includes:
Constitution of a State Security Commission (SSC) to check the political interference and review the performance of the police.
Transparency in the process of appointment of the DGP.
Separation of the law and order and investigative functions
Establishment of a complaints authority are the more important among them.
Ensure that police officers are provided with a minimum tenure security.
Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers.
The police reform to aspire for is to move beyond armour plating to accountability and the upholding of the law as measures of police effectiveness. The SC directives in this regard needs to implemented in true spirit by the states, and the centre must facilitate such transformation.
Connecting the dots:
An umbrella scheme, ‘Modernisation of Police Forces’ has been launched by the central government. Discuss its provisions. While the scheme will surely bring in technical and infrastructural reforms, the much-needed police reforms regarding ensuring checks and balance stays sidelined. Critically analyze.
General Studies 1:
General Studies 2:
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Striking down of Section 375(2) of the IPC
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Independent Thought v. Union of India, WP (C) 382 of 2013, has struck down a clause in Section 375 when it ruled that sexual intercourse with a minor wife is rape and a case can be registered against the husband on her complaint.
In the aftermath of the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape, India’s laws on sexual assault were overhauled. The legal reform, however, left one area untouched: Marital rape.
Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC, says if a girl child between 15 and 18 years of age is married, her husband can have non-consensual sexual intercourse with her, without being penalised under the IPC.
In 2013, the Criminal Law Amendment Act raised the age of consent for sexual intercourse for girls, from 16 to 18 years. However, the exception clause retained the age of consent for married girls as 15 years, depriving married girls between the ages of 15 to 18 of legal protection against forced sexual intercourse.
Conflict between Section 375(2) and other laws:
These include the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (18 years), Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (18 years), Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (18 years).
The clause was against the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act which considers sex with children — those below 18 — as rape.
The discrepancies have created an unnecessary and artificial distinction between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child.
The government’s stand:
The government had argued that the exception clause was necessary to “protect the institution of marriage”. “Otherwise, the children from such marriages will suffer,” claiming that the country’s socio-economic realities cannot be ignored.
“Economic and educational development in the country is still uneven and child marriages are still taking place. It has been therefore decided to retain the age of 15 years under Exception 2 so as to give protection to husband and wife against criminalising the sexual activity between them. It is also estimated that there are 23 million child brides in the country. Hence, criminalising the consummation of a marriage with such a serious offence such as rape would not be appropriate and practical,” the Centre had said.
The apex court held that the exception clause will henceforth be “meaningfully” read as: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 18 years of age, is not rape.”
It found that the age of consent being 15 years for a married female, was inconsistent with existing laws as well as arbitrary, unfair, and violative of the right to life of the minor under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The court held that the exception clause to rape took away the right of a girl child to bodily integrity and reproductive choice. It had even the effect of turning a blind eye to trafficking of the minor girl children in the guise of marriage.
The court slammed the government for trying to “somehow legitimise” the exception clause. Instead of attempting to effectively implement and enforce the anti-child marriage law, the government diluted it by creating artificial distinctions. The government had urged the court not to tinker with the exception clause as it was introduced keeping in view the age-old traditions and evolving social norms.
Significance of the verdict:
The court ended the decades-old disparity between Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC and other child protection laws.
Focusing on the right of health and choice of young girls (between 15 to 18) the Court has corrected a legislative gap which had nullified Parliament’s 1978 move to protect young girls by making the age of consent to marry 18 years.
Issue of marital rape- Still not resolved:
The Supreme Court was categorical that its verdict does not pertain to the other contentious aspect of the exception clause: Marital rape of women above 18 years. The Court did not address the issue of marital rape. It restricted itself to reading the second exception to Section 375, IPC.
The judgment must be seen as landmark one as it strikes a blow in favour of the rights of an adolescent and sends the welcome message of equality across the various contradictory laws on this subject. It is high time a similar progressive step is taken to solve the issue of marital rapes.
Connecting the dots:
By striking down Section 375(2) of the IPC, the Supreme Court has ended the decades-old disparity between Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC and other child protection laws. Discuss.
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