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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 10 March 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. A.P.’s Disha Bill sent for inter-ministerial consultation
  2. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railway Fares
  3. Mizoram awaits Centre’s direction on Myanmar refugees

A.P.’S DISHA BILL SENT FOR INTER-MINISTERIAL CONSULTATION

Context:

The Union government informed the Lok Sabha hat an inter-ministerial consultation for the Andhra Pradesh Disha (Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women and Children) Bill, 2020, had been initiated and based on the inputs, the Bill would be processed further.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Government Policies & Interventions on Issues related to women and children)

 

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill, 2019
  2. Various Laws regarding rape
  3. Steps taken by the government for women safety:
  4. Way forward

About the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill, 2019

Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2019 [Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill, 2019] amends relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973.

Provisions of the Disha bill:

  • A Women & Children Offenders Registry is to be established, operated and maintained by the Andhra Pradesh Government in an electronic form. This registry will be made public and will be available to law enforcement agencies.
  • Exclusive punishment of death penalty in cases relating to rape and murder of a woman where there is adequate conclusive evidence.
  • The judgment will have to be pronounced in 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence.
  • The Bill prescribes life imprisonment for sexual offences against children as the existing punishment for molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, 2012 ranges minimum of three years to a maximum of seven years of imprisonment.
  • In cases of harassment of women through email, social media, digital mode or any other form, the guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment. At present no such provision exists in the Indian Penal Code.
  • Exclusive special courts in each district of the State to ensure speedy trial. These courts will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.
  • Constitution of special police teams and appointment of the special public prosecutor in special courts. There is no such provision in existing laws.

Various Laws regarding rape

Under Indian Penal Code IPC

  • Section 375 of the IPC made punishable the act of sex by a man with a woman if it was done against her will or without her consent.
  • Her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested, in fear of death or of hurt is considered to be Rape
  • Sex with or without her consent, when she is under 18 years is considered rape.
  • Exception: Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.
  • Section 376 provided for seven years of jail term to life imprisonment

Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act of 1983:

  • Section 114A in the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 was inserted which presumed that there is absence of consent in certain prosecutions of rape if the victim says so. This applied to custodial rape cases.
  • Section 228A was added which makes it punishable to disclose the identity of the victim in Rape case

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2013 (Nirbhaya Act)

  • Parliament made the amendments on the recommendation of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, which was constituted to re-look the criminal laws in the country and recommend changes.
  • The 2013 Act, increased jail terms in most sexual assault cases and also provided for the death penalty in rape cases that cause death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state.
  • It also created new offences, such as use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism and stalking.
  • Unwelcome physical contact, words or gestures, demand or request for sexual favors, showing pornography against the will of a woman or making sexual remarks stalking was made punishable acid attack was increased to 10 years of imprisonment.

Steps taken by the government for women safety:

  • For sexual harassment at workplace– Vishakha guidelines by Supreme Court which provide measures to be taken by employers, Sexual Harassment of Women at workplace (prevention prohibition and redressal) Act 2013 by parliament, SHE Box by Ministry of Women and Child Development for online complaint.
  • For rape cases: Proposal of Justice Verma Committee was accepted to treat juvenile between 16-18 years age as an adult for committing heinous crimes. Recently, the government has brought amendments in POCSO act 2012 in which Rape of girl child below 12 years will be punished by death penalty
  • For domestic violence: Domestic Violence Act 2005 and Section 498A of IPC deals with cruelty by husband or relatives.
  • SWADHAR: A Scheme for Women in Difficult Circumstances, GPS tracking, ‘panic buttons’ etc., are being implemented at various stages and places.
  • Government is also planning to set up a dedicated National Mission on women safety to ensure specified actions by Ministries and Department

Way forward

  1. Strengthening criminal justice machinery: Strict enforcement of laws, setting up of fast-track special courts, strengthening of prosecution machinery, strengthening of Alternate Dispute resolution mechanism like Lok Adalat, implementing Draft National Policy for Women 2016 in letter and spirit etc.
  2. Encourage women to step up and speak to the relevant committee in the organization in case of any issues such as harassment and improper conduct and situation. Women should also be trained for self-defense.
  3. Gender sensitization of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police and the judiciary through periodic training as well as instituting gender-sensitization trainings in corporate companies.
  4. Development of a community-based strategy to tackle domestic violence and community policing initiatives such as Mahila Suraksha Samiti and Women State Committee to check crimes
  5. Adopting zero tolerance policy towards any form of harassment at the workplace. It should be embedded in an organization’s various policies and principles, such as the code of conduct.
  6. Civil society in collaboration with all sections of society should organize several grass root movements. Many movements like ‘Pinjra Tod’ and ‘One Billion Rising’ are contributing significantly via bottom-up approach for the cause of women safety.
  7. Moral education: Moral overhauling of the mindset of masses should be attempted through awareness and education.

-Source: The Hindu


PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMMITTEE ON RAILWAY FARES

Context:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways has suggested rationalisation of both freight and passenger fares.

Relevance:

GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Infrastructure – Railways)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the Committee’s observations:
  2. The committee’s suggestions for Improving the Railways
  3. Recently in news: Privatization of Railways

Highlights of the Committee’s observations:

  • The losses incurred by the railways in passenger services purportedly due to the social service obligations which include pricing tickets at fares lower than costs and passenger concessions. The railways incur losses to the tune of Rs. 35,000-38,000 crore a year in the passenger segment.
  • Revenues from passenger services further deteriorated due to suspension of operations during Covid-19.
  • Noted the regular deterioration in Railways Operating Ratio (OR), which indicates how much the Railways spend to earn a rupee, helping to determine the financial health of the Railways.
  • Indian Railways’ ills are as multifarious as they are well-known: bureaucratic, obese structure with a misconceived perception of public-service-obligation, warped investment priorities, capacity crunch on arterial routes, strained terminals, irrational fare & freight structures.
  • The profits earned from freight business are utilized to compensate for the losses incurred on passenger and other coaching services, thereby adversely affecting both freight and passenger business.

The committee’s suggestions for Improving the Railways

  • Revisit social service obligations and resume services suspended during the pandemic.
  • Undertake “prudent adjustment” of passenger fares to reduce the burden on freight segments.
  • Make Fares Demand-cum-Market Driven for both passenger and freight trains.
  • The operational efficiencies of the railways in both freight and passenger business have to be leveraged to a greater extent so as to retain the customer base and enhance revenues.
  • The railways should strengthen their planning, management and monetary mechanisms to earn substantial non-fare revenues through various methods/sources, already intended and put in place.

Recently in news: Privatization of Railways

  • Ministry of Railways has kick-started the process to allow private players to operate certain trains on its network by inviting Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the operation of passenger train services on over 100 routes with 150 modern trains.
  • The project will bring private sector investment of about Rs. 30,000 crores, but private participation in passenger train operations will only be 5% of the total operations of Railways.
  • Fares in private trains will be competitive and prices on other modes of transport like airlines, buses have to be kept in mind while fixing the fares

Objectives of Privatizing Indian Railways

  • To introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance.
  • Reduce transit time.
  • Boost job creation.
  • Provide enhanced safety.
  • Provide world-class travel experience to passengers.
  • Reduce demand supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector.

-Source: The Hindu


MIZORAM AWAITS CENTRE’S DIRECTION ON MYANMAR REFUGEES

Context:

The Mizoram government has declined to provide details or number of Myanmar nationals who have crossed over since March 1 seeking asylum after the coup in the neighboring country.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India and its Neighborhood)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Myanmar nationals fleeing to India
  2. International Laws in relation with handling Refugees
  3. How refugees are treated / have been treated in India?
  4. What is the role of Indian Judiciary in protecting refugees?
  5. Way Forward

About Myanmar nationals fleeing to India

  • Mizoram’s government is awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on how to handle the foreign nationals who had fled fearing a military crackdown.
  • Myanmar nationals have entered Mizoram mostly wading across the shallow Tiau river that flows along much of the State’s 404 km border with the coup-hit country.
  • The border district authorities had initially put up some of the refugees in community halls, providing them food and security.
  • The terrain has made it difficult to prevent people from entering through wooded stretches of the border.
  • The affinity between the dominant Mizos of Mizoram and the ethnically related Chin refugees has also come into play.

International Laws in relation with handling Refugees

  • Even though the refugees are foreigners in the country of asylum, by virtue of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, they could enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms as nationals.
  • The 1951 Refugee Convention asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom, and the core principle of the convention is non-refoulement. (Refoulement means the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.)

How refugees are treated / have been treated in India?

  • India hosts over 2,00,000 refugees, victims of civil strife and war in Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Some refugees, the Tibetans who arrived between 1959 and 1962, were given adequate refuge in over 38 settlements, with all privileges provided to an Indian citizen excluding the right to vote).
  • The Afghan refugees fleeing the civil war in the 1980s live in slums across Delhi with no legal status or formal documents to allow them to work or establish businesses in India.
  • The Foreigners Act (1946) and the Registration of Foreigners Act (1939) currently govern the entry and exit of all refugees, treating them as foreigners without due consideration of their special circumstances.

What is the role of Indian Judiciary in protecting refugees?

  • Refugees have been accorded constitutional protection by the judiciary (National Human Rights Commission vs State of Arunachal Pradesh, 1996).
  • In addition, the Supreme Court has held that the right to equality (Article 14) and right to life and personal liberty (Article 21) extends to refugees.
  • India remains the only significant democracy without legislation specifically for refugees. A well-defined asylum law would establish a formal refuge granting process with suitable exclusions (war criminals, serious offenders, etc.) kept.

Way Forward

  • India still remains a non-signatory to 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which help define the legal obligation of states to protect refugees. Changing this would be a good start towards keeping our doors open for people in distress.
  • Any refugee, whose grant of asylum has been approved, should be given a formal recognition of his/her asylum status along with an identity document and a travel document.
  • Primary education should be offered on no-charge basis in government schools, while primary healthcare services available to Indian citizens should be offered as well.
  • Social sensitization remains key — institutions, private and public, should be encouraged to recognize UNHCR-issued refugee cards, in addition to foreign degrees or diplomas.
  • Outreach should be conducted through government welfare programmes and biometric initiatives like Aadhaar, in addition to a simpler registration process.

Click Here to read more about the Myanmar Army’s Coup d’état

-Source: The Hindu

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