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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 18 November 2022


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 18 November 2022


Contents

  1. Lesser Convictions in POCSO Act
  2. The prevalence of Freebies during elections

Lesser Convictions in POCSO Act


Context

  • According to a think-tank analysis of cases in e-Courts across the country under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act of 2012, 43.44% of trials end in acquittals, with only 14.03% ending in convictions.
  • Furthermore, the accused were known to the victims in 22.9% of the 138 detailed judgments examined.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Issues related to children

Mains Question

The rhetoric about harsh punishments should not divert our attention away from the problems associated with the POCSO Act’s implementation thus far. Discuss in relation to the POCSO (Amendment) Bill 2019. (150 words)


The Act for the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO):

  • About: It is the country’s first comprehensive law dealing specifically with child sexual abuse, enacted in 2012, and administered by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
    • Its goal was to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornographic violations, as well as to set up Special Courts for such cases.
    • The Act was amended in 2019 to increase the penalties for certain offences in order to deter abusers and promote a dignified upbringing.
  • Important provisions:
    • Gender equality legislation: According to the Act, a child is “any person” under the age of 18.
  • Non-reporting is illegal: Anyone in charge of an institution (excluding children) who fails to report a sexual offence involving a subordinate faces punishment.
    • There is no time limit for reporting abuse: A victim may report an offence at any time, even years after it has occurred.
    • Confidentiality of the victim’s identity: The Act prohibits the disclosure of the victim’s identity in any form of media unless authorised by the Act’s special courts.
  • Concerns: o This type of abuse is on the rise, especially since the Covid-19 outbreak, when new forms of cybercrime have emerged.
    • A lack of awareness or knowledge on the part of minor girls, boys, parents, and society in general.

Key Findings

  • The Justice, Access, and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI) Initiative at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy collaborated with the World Bank’s Data Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) initiative to conduct the analysis, titled “A Decade of Pocso.”
    • Furthermore, the accused in 96% of POCSO cases was a person known to the victim, according to data provided by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) in 2021.
    • In Andhra Pradesh, acquittals were 7 times more common than convictions, and in West Bengal, they were 5 times more common.
    • However, in Kerala, the difference between acquittal and conviction is not as great.
    • With 13.54 cases per 100,000 people, Delhi had the highest number of POCSO trials in 2018.
    • The University of Pennsylvania has the most cases pending, accounting for more than three-fourths (77.77%) of all lawsuits filed between November 2012 and February 2021.
    • The police’s slow pace of investigation and the delay in depositing samples with the Forensic Science Laboratories are two major reasons for the high number of pending cases.

Way ahead

  • Educating children about the legislation and its provisions in the future.
  • Sensitization and training programmes
  • Execution of the Fast Track Special Court Scheme
  • A child protection policy based on the zero-tolerance principle for child abuse.

The Prevalence of Freebies During Elections


Context

Recetly the Himachal Pradesh election has seen some freebies skit by the parties.

Relevance

GS Paper – 2: Government Policies & Interventions

Mains Question

“Over the years, freebies have become an integral part of Indian politics.” While some initiatives, such as Public Distribution Schemes and MGNREGA, have become critical components of India’s growth strategy, freebies undermine the fundamental framework of macroeconomic stability.” Discuss. (250 Words)


Background

  • Sometimes ago, the SC decided to form an expert body comprised of representatives from all stakeholders to examine freebies in depth and make recommendations.
    • The beneficiaries, those opposed to freebies, the central government, state governments, opposition parties, the finance commission, the RBI, Niti Aayog, and others were among the stakeholders mentioned by the Supreme Court.

2013 Supreme Court decision on the issue of freebies (S Subramaniam Balaji vs Tamil Nadu)

  • The Supreme Court ruled that promises made by political parties and candidates in their manifestos could not be considered corrupt under the Representation of the People Act.
    • It also does not violate the principle of a level playing field (Article 14).
  • The Supreme Court had declined to intervene in the government’s schemes for providing goods at no cost.
    • The Supreme Court ruled that the distribution of such goods was directly related to state policy directive principles (DPSP).
  • It did, however, observe that freebies shake the foundation of free and fair elections to a large extent and directed the EC to develop guidelines for the same in consultation with all recognised parties.
    • In 2013, the EC was directed by the court to develop a model code of conduct (MCC).
  • The Election Commission welcomed the Supreme Court’s suggestion to form an expert panel to discuss the issue of freebies. However, the ECI stated that it cannot be a part of the body.

ECI’s justifications

  • The EC is a constitutionally mandated body.
  • As a result, it may not be appropriate for the Commission to be a member of the Expert Committee, especially if the expert body includes Ministries/Government Bodies.
  • May disrupt the level playing field
  • The EC stated that elections are ongoing in the country.
  • As a result, any opinion/point of view/comment made during deliberations in a multi-member body may amount to pre-deciding the issue and disrupting the level playing field.

ECI’s position on freebies: as stated in various affidavits submitted to the Supreme Court

  • No authority to regulate or act
    • The EC previously stated that it lacks the authority to regulate or prosecute parties that make such election promises.
    • Offering or distributing freebies before or after an election is a policy decision made by the party in question.
    • Whether such policies are financially viable or have a negative impact on the state’s economic health is a question that voters must consider and decide.
  • On using its authority to freeze election symbols and cancel the registration of parties that promise gifts
    • State and national parties were recognised and maintained based on a single criterion: electoral performance.
    • Invoking such powers by ECI may result in parties losing recognition even before their electoral performance is demonstrated.
  • There is no precise definition of freebies in the current legal/policy framework.
  • Freebies can be lifesavers in difficult times.
    • What is irrational or a freebie for one group of people may be rational and necessary for another.
    • The benefits of cross-subsidization and situation/sector-specific reliefs in addressing the various vulnerabilities of society’s segments cannot be overstated.
  • Political parties may modify the ban on freebies.
    • Political parties can make such promises knowing that they will be prohibited or negatively commented on by the regulatory authority.
    • This may provide them with more publicity and mileage than actual post-election implementation.

The Advantages of Freebies in India

  • Freebies include not only unsustainable pre-election promises, but also a variety of services that the government provides to citizens in order to meet its constitutional obligations (Directive Principles of State Policy), such as the Public Distribution System (PDS), Free Covid Vaccine, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • The ‘Mid-day Meal Scheme’ was introduced by Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister K. Kamaraj in 1956, and it was later adopted as a national programme a decade later.
  • The original avatar of the current National Food Security Programme is NT Rama Rao’s promise of rice at Rs. 2 per kg in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Rythu Bandhu of Telangana and Kalia of Odisha pioneered what is now known as Kisan Samman Nidhi.
  • Upliftment of the Lower Class: Because states with lower levels of development have a higher percentage of their population living in poverty, such freebies are more useful in these states for upliftment of the lower strata.

Freebies’ Negative Effects

  • Drain on Public Spending: Most of the time, freebies result in an excessive and unnecessary drain on public spending, as well as an economic burden on states, as most Indian states are in poor financial condition and have limited revenue resources.
  • Revdi (Freebies) for One, Disaster for Another: In order to maintain internal fiscal balance, the government overcharges industrial and commercial contracts. As a result, the competitiveness of growing industries is reduced, resulting in slower industrial growth and higher commercial prices.
  • As a result, the question is not how cheap the freebies are for the recipients, but how costly they are for the economy, life quality, and social cohesion in the long run.
  • Subsidies and freebies put pressure on government revenues, resulting in an increased fiscal deficit and increased interest payments.
  • Unregulated populism by offering and distributing ‘irrational freebies’ during election campaigns frequently create bias in the minds of voters, particularly the underprivileged class, who are easily swayed by freebies and impact informed decision making to choose their representative.
  • Temporary Nature: Freebies occasionally undergo negative transitions from universal to optional, then to a halfway house via surcharges; these promises are only valid until incumbents face fiscal constraints and are forced to withdraw benefits.
  • Freebies on Private Goods and Services: Freebies on Private Goods and Services do not result in a tangible social benefit.
  • For example, free electricity distribution does not provide any collective social benefits and thus can be considered Private Goods.

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