- SC on Power to punish for contempt
- CJI on special panels to probe ‘atrocities’ by police
- India U.S. JWG in defence industrial security
- India’s Foreign Secretary visits Sri Lanka
SC on Power to punish for contempt
The Supreme Court said that its power to punish for contempt under Article 129 is a constitutional power, which cannot be done away with even by any law.
GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Judiciary)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is contempt of court?
- What is the statutory basis for contempt of court?
- What are the kinds of contempt of court?
- What is not contempt of court?
- Highlights of the recent Judgment
What is contempt of court?
Contempt of court, as a concept that seeks to protect judicial institutions from motivated attacks and unwarranted criticism, and as a legal mechanism to punish those who lower its authority, is back in the news in India.
How did the concept of contempt come into being?
- The concept of contempt of court is several centuries old.
- In England, it is a common law principle that seeks to protect the judicial power of the king, initially exercised by himself, and later by a panel of judges who acted in his name.
- Violation of the judges’ orders was considered an affront to the king himself.
What is the statutory basis for contempt of court?
- There were pre-Independence laws of contempt in India.
- When the Constitution was adopted, contempt of court was made one of the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
- Article 129 of the Constitution conferred on the Supreme Court the power to punish contempt of itself.
- Article 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts.
- The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, gives statutory backing to the idea.
What are the kinds of contempt of court?
- The law codifying contempt classifies it as civil and criminal.
- Civil Contempt – when someone wilfully disobeys a court order, or wilfully breaches an undertaking given to court.
- Criminal Contempt – consists of three forms:
- words, written or spoken, signs and actions that “scandalise” or “tend to scandalise” or “lower” or “tends to lower” the authority of any court
- prejudices or interferes with any judicial proceeding and
- interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice.
- Making allegations against the judiciary or individual judges, attributing motives to judgments and judicial functioning and any scurrilous attack on the conduct of judges are normally considered matters that scandalise the judiciary.
- The rationale for this provision is that courts must be protected from tendentious attacks that lower its authority, defame its public image and make the public lose faith in its impartiality.
- The punishment for contempt of court is simple imprisonment for a term up to six months and/or a fine of up to RS. 2,000.
What is not contempt of court?
- Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court.
- Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.
- Truth as a defence against a contempt charge: For many years, truth was seldom considered a defence against a charge of contempt. There was an impression that the judiciary tended to hide any misconduct among its individual members in the name of protecting the image of the institution. The Act was amended in 2006 to introduce truth as a valid defence, if it was in public interest and was invoked in a bona fide manner.
Highlights of the recent Judgment
- The power to punish for contempt is a constitutional power vested in this court which cannot be abridged or taken away even by legislative enactment.
- Article 142 (2) states that “subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament” the Supreme Court shall have all and every power to make any order on punishment of any contempt of itself. However, Article 129 lays down that the Supreme Court shall be a court of record, and shall have all the powers of such a court, including the power to punish for contempt.
- The comparison of the two provisions show that whereas the founding fathers felt that the powers under clause (2) of Article 142 could be subject to any law made by the Parliament, there is no such restriction as far as Article 129 is concerned.
- It emphasised that the rationale behind the contempt jurisdiction is to maintain the dignity of the institution of judicial forums.
-Source: The Hindu
CJI on special panels to probe ‘atrocities’ by police
Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana said that he was in favour of forming standing committees headed by the Chief Justices of the High Courts to investigate complaints received from the common man of “atrocities” committed by the bureaucracy, especially police officers, in the country.
GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions and Historical Underpinnings, Government Policies and Interventions)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Torture as a part of Indian Police culture
- Report on Torture in India
- About the formation of panels to probe ‘atrocities’ by police
Torture as a part of Indian Police culture
- Torture is, in fact, an integral part of police culture all over the country and it would not be amiss to argue that this culture in India today is reminiscent of the brutality of the colonial police forces that we are so keen to forget.
- Official data also accept that police torture is a reality, but the quality of such data is always suspect.
- The data on torture show that it is not only an integral part of India’s policing culture; in some investigations (such as terror cases), it is treated as the centrepiece.
- The fact is that the current laws facilitate such torture, such as through the admissibility of confessions as evidence under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which continues refurbished as the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
- Unfortunately, policing has also not mainstreamed the upgrade to newer technologies, like DNA analysis, which can directly impact law enforcement practices.
Tacit acceptance by law
- Additionally, Indian law creates conditions which further permit torture through the “back door”. While confessions before a police officer are not admissible evidence, to prevent the police from resorting to torture, other legal provisions have the effect of indirectly accommodating the use of torture in investigative practice.
- Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act permits the admissibility of statements before the police to the extent that they relate to the recovery of material objects, often called ‘recovery evidence’.
- Thus, investigators still have incentive to seek “disclosures”, and information implicit in a confession, as central to their investigation. Torture and falsification, by forcing an accused to sign on blank papers, are known abuses in the use of this provision.
Report on Torture in India
- Every day, an average of five people die in custody in India, with some of them succumbing to torture in police or judicial custody.
- 2019 was no better, as 117 people died in police custody while 1,606 deaths were recorded in judicial custody.
- And yet, there has not been a single conviction in the deaths of 500 persons allegedly due to torture in police custody between 2005 and 2018.
- The belief that a certain degree of fear and pressure is necessary to compel a suspect to cough up the “truth” is widely held by police officers. This emerged strongly in a 2019 survey of about 12,000 police personnel across India.
A report by the National Campaign Against Torture in 2019
- In 2019, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded 1,723 cases of death in custody.
- It noted that “most deaths in police custody occur primarily as a result of torture”.
- Of the 125 deaths in police custody, 93 (74.4%) were due to alleged torture or foul play while 24 people (19.2%) died under suspicious circumstances – such as suspected suicide (16 persons), illness (7 persons) and slipping in bathroom (1 person).
- Uttar Pradesh had the highest incidence of such deaths with 14 cases, followed by Tamil Nadu and Punjab with 11 cases each.
- The report also highlighted how while probing non-heinous crimes, police personnel in several states went to the extent of torturing the suspects to death.
Examples of Torture incidents
- The report said from acts like slapping, kicking with boots, beating with sticks, pulling hair, torture also includes barbaric methods like hammering iron nails in the body (as in the case of Gufran Alam and Taslim Ansari of Bihar), applying roller on legs and burning (as happened to Rizwan Asad Pandit of Jammu & Kashmir), and ‘falanga’ or beating with sticks on the soles (as with Rajkumar of Kerala).
- Sometimes, the police and jail staff even go to the extent of stabbing people with a screwdriver (as Pradeep Tomar of Uttar Pradesh was subjected to) or giving electric shock (as with Yadav Lal Prasad of Punjab and Monu of Uttar Pradesh). Often, private parts are also targeted. There have been instances of cops pouring petrol on private parts (as in the case of Monu of Uttar Pradesh) or applying chilly powder to them (in the case of Raj Kumar of Kerala)
- As part of torture, the report pointed to cases where the victims were forced to perform oral sex (as in the case of Hira Bajania and 12 others of Gujarat). Also, it said women continue to be tortured or targeted for sexual violence in custody.
- The report said most victims were from poor and marginalised sections and were targeted because of their socio-economic status.
About the formation of panels to probe ‘atrocities’ by police
- Chief Justice of India has said that he is in favour of forming standing committees headed by the Chief Justices of the High Courts to investigate complaints received from the common man of atrocities committed by the bureaucracy, especially police officers.
- Some police officers are in the spotlight for committing serious crimes.
- Recently, police officers in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, have been accused of causing the death of a businessman during a raid in a hotel.
- In Tamil Nadu, the CBI chargesheeted nine policemen for the custodial deaths of father-son duo P. Jayaraj and J. Benicks.
- There have been instances of district administration officers caught on video manhandling citizens during the lockdown.
- The Supreme Court had raised the issue of nexus between politicians in power and police officers.
- Also, earlier, the Supreme Court had orally referred to a disturbing trend, where police officials, who had sided with the party in power, are later targeted when another political dispensation comes to power.
-Source: The Hindu
India U.S. JWG in defence industrial security
India and the United States have agreed in principle to establish a Indo-US Industrial Security Joint Working Group, according to the Defence Ministry.
GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Indo-U.S. Industrial Security Joint Working Group (JWG)
- Back to the Basics: What are 2+2 dialogues?
- What is BECA?
- What is LEOMA?
- What is COMCASA?
Indo-U.S. Industrial Security Joint Working Group (JWG)
- The agreement to establish a Indo-U.S. Industrial Security Joint Working Group (JWG) between India and the U.S. was agreed to during the Industrial Security Agreement summit held between the two sides.
- This group will meet periodically to align the policies and procedures expeditiously that will allow the defence industries to collaborate on cutting edge defence technologies.
- Under ISA, the US side is expected to help in providing the necessary framework which will be useful in pursuing the co-development and co-production in the defence production centre.
- Both countries recently decided to work on co-developing air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This project is being done under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
Back to the Basics: What are 2+2 dialogues?
- 2+2 dialogue explained A ‘two plus two dialogue’ is a term — adopted in foreign parleys — used for installation of a dialogue mechanism between two countries’ defence and external affairs ministries. To put it simply, ‘two plus two dialogue’ is an expression used to indicate that two appointed ministers from each country, the ministers of defence and external affairs in this case, will meet up to discuss the two countries’ strategic and security interests.
- Important agreements under 2+2 dialogues: Following agreements will be discussed under 2+2 dialogues:
- The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement
- The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement
- The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement
What is BECA?
- The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence. For example, anyone who sails a ship, flies an aircraft, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cell phone relies on geospatial intelligence.
Significance of BECA:
- India can use the US’s advanced geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
- BECA will provide Indian military systems with a high-quality GPS to navigate and missiles with real-time intelligence to precisely target the adversary.
What is LEOMA?
- The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed between India and the US in August 2016. It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases: access supplies, spare parts and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
Significance of LEOMA:
- This is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation, since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.
- It will enhance the trust between India and US.
What is COMCASA?
- The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement was signed in September 2018. It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war. To explain in lay terms again, it is like WhatsApp or Telegram for the two militaries, which is safe and real-time communication is possible hassle-free.
Significance of COMCASA:
- India will get communication security equipment from the US which facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.
-Source: The Hindu
India’s Foreign Secretary visits Sri Lanka
India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla arrived in Colombo recently for a four-day visit to Sri Lanka.
GS-II: International Relations (Important Foreign Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What was the need for India’s Foreign Secretary visit to Sri Lanka?
- Agenda for India’s Visit to Sri Lanka
- India – Sri Lanka Relations
- Geopolitical Significance of Sri Lanka
What was the need for India’s Foreign Secretary visit to Sri Lanka?
- The visit is being seen as an attempt to reset ties that have been under a strain over Sri Lanka’s decision to cancel an MoU with India and Japan for Colombo’s East Container Terminal.
- Slow progress in a number of other proposals, including the Trincomalee oil farms, the Sampur power project (which is being converted to a solar project), and the development of the northern part of the island nation.
- In particular, India has been concerned by the perception that while Indian projects have taken inordinately long to be cleared, projects by China have been cleared even during the pandemic. E.g.,: The Sri Lankan government’s Parliament vote to facilitate the $1.4 billion China-backed Colombo Port City development. Also, the ruling Rajapaksa administration passed a Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission’, in Parliament, outlining proposed laws for the $1.4 billion Port City being built on reclaimed land at Colombo’s seafront.
Agenda for India’s Visit to Sri Lanka
- Assessing progress on a number of infrastructure and energy projects, and Sri Lanka’s need for economic assistance will be at the top of the agenda.
- Indian Foreign Secretary is expected to raise concerns about the reconciliation process and promises of devolution of power to northern Sri Lanka, which have remained unfulfilled more than a decade after the end of the war on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.
- The visit of the Foreign Secretary will provide an opportunity to:
- review the bilateral ties
- review the progress of ongoing bilateral projects
- build on the ongoing cooperation to tackle COVID-related disruptions.
India – Sri Lanka Relations
- India and Sri Lanka share a maritime border and India is the only neighbour of Sri Lanka, separated by the Palk Strait.
- Both nations occupy a strategic position in South Asia and have sought to build a common security umbrella in the Indian Ocean.
- Both India and Sri Lanka are republics within the Commonwealth of Nations.
- In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, education, culture and defence.
- In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects has further cemented the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
- The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in 2009. During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Sri Lankan Government to act against terrorist forces.
- India’s consistent position has been in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights.
History of India-Sri Lanka relations
- India-Sri Lanka relations date back to over 2,500 years, with the Kingdoms in Sri Lanka engaging in continuous wars with occupying South Indian Kingdoms.
- According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles (such as the Dipavamsa), Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 4th century BCE by Venerable Mahinda, the son of Indian Emperor Ashoka. Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation.
- Tamils in Sri Lanka, had established Hinduism and Tamil language links with South India.
Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war
- In the 1970s–1980s, private entities and elements in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the state government of Tamil Nadu were believed to be encouraging the funding and training for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist insurgent force.
- In 1987, faced with growing anger amongst its own Tamils, and a flood of refugees, India intervened directly in the conflict for the first time.
- After subsequent negotiations, India and Sri Lanka entered into an agreement (13th amendment.)
- The peace accord assigned a certain degree of regional autonomy in the Tamil areas with Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) controlling the regional council and called for the Tamil militant groups to lay down their arms.
- Further India was to send a peacekeeping force, named the IPKF to Sri Lanka to enforce the disarmament and to watch over the regional council.
- Most Tamil militant groups accepted this agreement, however, the LTTE rejected the accord because they opposed a candidate.
- The result was that the LTTE now found itself engaged in military conflict with the Indian Army.
- The government of India then decided that the IPKF should disarm the LTTE by force, and the Indian Army launched a number of assaults on the LTTE, including a month-long campaign dubbed Operation Pawan to wrest control of the Jaffna peninsula from the LTTE.
- The Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, which had been unpopular amongst Sri Lankans for giving India a major influence, now became a source of nationalist anger and resentment as the IPKF was drawn fully into the conflict.
Geopolitical Significance of Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region as an island State has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to several major powers.
- Some examples that highlight Western interests in Sri Lanka’s strategic location are the British Defence and External Affairs Agreement of 1948, and the Maritime Agreement with USSR of 1962.
- Even during the J.R Jayewardene (1978-1989) and Ranasinghe Premadasa (1989-1993) tenures, Sri Lanka was chosen to build the Voice of America transmitting station (suspected of being used for intelligence gathering purposes and electronic surveillance of the Indian Ocean).
- It was the massive Chinese involvement during the Rajapaksa tenure that garnered the deepest controversy in recent years.
- China is building state of the art gigantic modern ports all along the Indian Ocean to the south of it, in Gwadar (Pakistan), Chittagong (Bangladesh, Kyauk Phru (Myanmar) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka).
- China’s string of pearl’s strategy is aimed at encircling India to establish dominance in the Indian Ocean.
- Post 2015, Sri Lanka still relies heavily on China for Port city project and for continuation of Chinese funded infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka.
- Although the Hambantota harbour is reportedly making losses, it too has potential for development due to its strategic location.
- Sri Lanka has a list of highly strategic ports located among busiest sea lanes of communication.
- Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port is the 25th busiest container port in the world and the natural deep-water harbor at Trincomalee is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world.
- Port city of Trincomalee was the main base for Eastern Fleet and British Royal Navy during the Second World War.
- Sri Lanka’s location can thus serve both commercial and industrial purposes and be used as a military base.
-Source: The Hindu