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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus] – 21st April 2018

  • IASbaba
  • April 21, 2018
  • 2
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 21st April 2018

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(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


Death penalty for rape of girls under 12

Part of: Mains GS Paper I, II- Social issues, Government interventions

Key pointers:

  • The Union Cabinet has approved promulgation of an Ordinance to provide death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance provides for stringent punishment of a jail term of minimum 20 years or life imprisonment or death for rape of a girl under 12 years.
  • In the case of a gang rape of a girl below 12 years, there will be a punishment of life in jail or a death sentence.
  • For the crime of a rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, which is expandable to imprisonment for rest of life.
  • Minimum punishment in case of rape of women has also been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
  • The Ordinance also provides for speedy investigation and trial which needs to be compulsorily completed within two months.

There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.

Article link: Click here


(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 1:

  • Social empowerment

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.

Dilution of Atrocities Act: A cause of concern

Introduction:

The Supreme Court, in its recent judgment in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, has stirred up a debate which is bound to impact the law and policy on the prohibition of the practice of untouchability and prevention of atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in India.

Reference article: Dilution of Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989: SC judgement

As per the data:

The empirical question of whether the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is really being misused by the filing of false cases (which is the basis for the judgment) needs to be addressed by looking at the available data.

  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data show that 5,347 false cases involving SCs and 912 false cases involving STs were registered in 2016.
    However, it should be noted that these constituted only 9% and 10%, respectively, of the total number of cases that were to be investigated by the police in that year.
    This would suggest that only about one out of 10 cases filed is false.
    Thus, there appears to be little evidence that the Act is being rampantly misused.
  • On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence to support the view that the SCs/STs are victims of rising crime each year.
    NCRB data show that in the past 10 years, crimes against SCs have risen by 51% (27,070 cases in 2006 and 40,801 crimes in 2016 were reported). Against STs it was by 13% (5,791 in 2006 and 6,568 cases in 2016 were reported).

Thus, there is much empirical evidence to support the stand that the Act needs to be strengthened — not weakened.

Inadequate enforcement:

Legislation on untouchability and atrocities against SCs/STs arguably constitutes a radical departure from the usual approach of the criminal justice system.
Unlike other offences, untouchability is an offence under the Constitution — Article 17 prescribes that ‘the enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law’. Despite the laws, it is generally accepted that Article 17 has not succeeded in achieving its mandate largely due to inadequate enforcement, in turn leading to low conviction rates and a huge pendency of cases.

Consequently, the legislative trend has been to progressively make the penal law tougher. In 2016, several amendments were introduced to strengthen the 1989 Act such as:

  • Including more acts as atrocities.
  • Increasing the quantum of punishment for the offences defined as atrocities.
  • Imposing an enhanced duty on public servants such as police officers who are required to enforce the Act.
  • Constituting special and exclusive courts to try offences under the Act.
  • Introducing time limits for investigation and trial.
  • Providing enhanced state machinery for arrest.
  • Investigation and trial.
  • Using presumptions to make convictions easier; and detailed regulation of the rights of victims and witnesses under the Act.

A study of the constitutional and legislative history relating to SCs/STs would reveal a unique jurisprudence that has evolved on the subject, which mandates a radically different and stronger approach to be adopted by the criminal justice system.
In this context, the recent decision by the Supreme Court might be seen to run counter to the legislative trend of making the untouchability and atrocities laws harsher and tougher rather than softer.

Way ahead:

The ruling on anticipatory bail is to be welcomed as protecting the accused from needless arrest and humiliation and to protecting human rights.

  • Ordinary police powers of registering a first information report and making arrests in cognisable cases should be whittled down in atrocity cases is a matter of deliberation.
  • False and frivolous complaints filed under untouchability legislation could also have been dealt with by other means which include directions for prompt investigation and prosecution of such offences by the police and others under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Conclusion:

The appropriate step would be to leave the task of maintaining a delicate balance between the enforcement of penal laws and the protection of civil liberties to Parliament, the body entrusted with the task of making our laws.

Connecting the dots:

  • Dilution of Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 by the Supreme Court goes against empirical evidence of crimes against scheduled castes and tribes. Discuss the need of Parliament to intervene so as to maintain a balance between the enforcement of penal laws and the protection of civil liberties.

ECONOMY

TOPIC:

General Studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Reforming private sector banks

Introduction:

The recent banking scams have underlined the issues of propriety and governance.
What started off as a problem with PSBs has come a full circle with the focus now shifted to private banks (ICICI case).
Any kind of financial crisis offers an opportunity for introspection where rules can be reformulated to bring them in sync with the new order.
It is necessary to continuously revisit systems, laws and practices and bring them up to date.

Concerns:

  • The banking scams have brought to focus not just the lack of transparency in the functioning of banks but also that of audit and inspection practices.
  • Also, the allocation of responsibility for identifying and ensuring remedial action is not clear and needs to be delineated now.

Clear lines of thought need to be put down and the new rules should be formulated so that there is less ambiguity in future.

Banks’ perspective

  • First, in a private bank who is to uphold the moral responsibilty- the CEO, or executive Board members or the non-executive Board members?
    Whenever there is a conflict of interest, it has to be clear as to which executives are to be held accountable.
    If it is the CEO who is accountable, then does that imply that none of his relatives can have any credit dealings with the concerned bank. This seems unreasonable.
    Way out:
    One way to get around the above problem would be to disclose the financial dealings of the relatives, if any, in the Annual Report or the bank’s web site.By making such disclosures upfront, the bank can ensure that no questions are raised in future.
    Hence greater transparency is the key to avoiding such ‘conflict of interest’ issues.
  • The performance of bankers has come under the lens. Can the central bank or the government have a say in the salary package of a private company? The answer is probably ‘no’ because in the private sector Boards take a call on this issue.
    This should be debated and the rules must be clearly laid out.
  • The tenure of the CEO is always open to debate. Allowing anyone to carry on for more than a term of say five years is a call taken by shareholders or Boards.
    But allowing such extensions also lead to creation of power centres affecting the grooming of second rung leaders.
    Ironically in PSBs, CEOs have short terms as they get their positions closer to retirement while in private banks they begin their tenures at an early age – and can often get a stint of more than a decade before they retire.

Regulator’s perspective

From the regulator’s side, the issues that need to be addressed are:

  • The responsibility of the Boards should be clear on issues of governance and any deviance from regulation or conflict of interest should be discussed at this level.
  • The presence of a nominee director of the regulator on the Board, though controversial, is justified as he is the ‘ear of the public’ and ensures that all compliances are in order.
  • When audit reports are carried out on banks, the lacunae or important findings should be made public so that everyone is aware of them. It can be put up on the web site of the regulator or the concerned bank.
  • As a practice of good governance, the regulators too should disclose on their web sites the names of the relatives of the senior officials who are employed with the regulated entities. This will add to transparency in operations of the system.

Conclusion:

It is the right time to take the necessary action in revising the rules and regulations concerning the functioning of banks, their boards and CEOs.
Rather than getting obsessed with moral issues, a practical way would be to strengthen the regulatory framework and review it every two years based on the banks’ response.

Connecting the dots:

  • The recent banking scams have underlined the issues of propriety and governance.
    What started off as a problem with PSBs has come a full circle with the focus now shifted to private banks. It is the right time to take the necessary action in revising the rules and regulations concerning the functioning of banks, their boards and CEOs. Discuss.

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