18th August Current Affairs
August 25, 2021
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August 25, 2021
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19th August Current Affairs

Criminal justice reforms
(GS-II: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions)
In News:
A group of experts under the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed “serious concerns over the slow pace of reforms in the criminal justice system to ensure speedy justice”.
Current concerns/challenges:
The delay in disposal of cases was leading to human rights violations of the under-trials and convicts.
Despite the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms, there had been hardly any changes on the ground.
Court orders convicting a person are also taking years to implement.
Suggested Reforms:
Special laws and fast-track courts could replace certain offences under the Indian Penal Code in order to reduce the piling up of cases at every police station.
Digitisation of documents would help in speeding up investigations and trials.
The construction of new offences and reworking of the existing classification of offences must be guided by the principles of criminal jurisprudence which have substantially altered in the past four decades.
The classification of offences must be done in a manner conducive to management of crimes in the future.
The discretion of judges in deciding the quantum and nature of sentence differently for crimes of the same nature should be based on principles of judicial precedent.
Criminal law in India:
The Criminal law in India is contained in a number of sources – The Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Criminal Justice System can impose penalties on those who violate the established laws.
The criminal law and criminal procedure are in the concurrent list of the seventh schedule of the constitution.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay is said to be the chief architect of codifications of criminal laws in India.
Need for reforms:
• Colonial era laws.
• ineffectiveness.
• Pendency of cases.
• Huge undertrials.
Committee For Reform In Criminal Law:
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has constituted a national level committee for reform in criminal law.
The committee has been constituted under Ranbir Singh and several other members.
The committee would be gathering opinions online by consulting with experts and collating material for their report to the government.
Previous committees:
Madhav Menon Committee: It submitted its report in 2007, suggesting various recommendations on reforms in the Criminal Justice System of India (CJSI).
Malimath Committee Report: It submitted its report in 2003 on the Criminal Justice System of India (CJSI).
What are detention centres for foreigners?
(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
In News:
Assam’s detention centres for foreigners and those declared such by specific tribunals have been renamed as transit camps.
Please note:
The State currently has six detention centres and they have 181 inmates, 61 of whom are declared foreign nationals and 121 convicted foreign nationals awaiting deportation. Two of these centres house 22 children along with their “foreigner” mothers.
What are detention centres?
They are places designated to keep illegal migrants (people who have entered a country without necessary documents) once they are detected by the authorities till the time their nationality is confirmed and they are deported to the country of their origin.
Detention centres were set up in Assam after the Union government authorized the state to do so under the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act, 1946 and the Foreigners Order, 1948.
Foreigners Act, 1946:
It replaced the Foreigners Act, 1940 conferring wide powers to deal with all foreigners.
The act empowered the government to take such steps as are necessary to prevent illegal migrants including the use of force.
The concept of ‘burden of proof’ lies with the person, and not with the authorities.
The act originally empowered the government to establish tribunals which would have powers similar to those of a civil court.
Amendments (2019) to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 empowered even district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
Gujarat anti-conversion law
(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
In News:
Gujarat Government has defended its new anti-conversion law in High Court saying marriages cannot be tool for “forceful conversion”.
What’s the issue?
The HC is hearing two petitions that have challenged the newly enacted amendment in the law, which deals with forcible religious conversion through marriages.
During the hearing, the Court observed that the amended law keeps a sword hanging over interfaith couples because it has created an impression that interfaith marriages are not permissible in the State.
Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021:
It proposes punishment of 3-10 years in jail for forcible or fraudulent religious conversions through marriage.
It amends the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003.
The amendment aims to reduce the “emerging trend” where women are “lured to marriage” for the purposes of religious conversion.
Issues with the new law:
The amended law has vague terms which are against basic principles of marriage and right to propagate, profess and practice religion as enshrined in the Article 25 of the Constitution.
The law even allows distant family members to file a criminal complaint.
Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:
The Apex Court of India in its several judgements has held that the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefit do not hold water.
Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case of Allahabad High Court 2020: The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21).
Need of the hour:
There is a need for uniformity: Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions everyone has the right to freedom of religion including changing their faith. Since it is a state subject, the Centre can frame a model law like Model law on contract farming etc.
States while enacting anti-conversion laws should not put any vague or ambiguous provisions for the person who wanted to convert of his own will.
The anti-conversion laws also need to include a provision to mention the valid steps for conversion by minority community institutions.
People also need to be educated about the provisions and ways of Forceful conversions, Inducement or allurement, etc.
Supreme Court Collegium
(GS-II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)
In News:
The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended to the government nine names for appointment as judges in the court, and in the process, scripted history by naming Karnataka High Court judge B.V. Nagarathna, who may become India’s first woman CJI a few years from now.
Key Recommendations:
The Collegium has for the first time, in one single resolution, recommended three women judges. It has thus sent a strong signal in favour of the representation of women in the highest judiciary.
It has also continued the recent trend of recommending direct appointments from the Supreme Court Bar to the Bench of the court.
It has also recommended six judicial officers and a judicial member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal for appointment as judges of the Telangana High Court.
Who appoints judges to the SC?
In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the appointments are made by the President of India.
The names are recommended by the Collegium.
Eligibility to become a Supreme Court judge:
The norms relating to the eligibility has been envisaged in the Article 124 of the Indian Constitution.
To become a judge of the Supreme court, an individual should be an Indian citizen.
In terms of age, a person should not exceed 65 years of age.
The person should serve as a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years or the person should be an advocate in the High court for at least 10 years or a distinguished jurist.
Is the collegium’s recommendation final and binding?
The collegium sends its final recommendation to the President of India for approval. The President can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the President, then he/she is bound by that recommendation.
Common criticism made against the Collegium system:
• Opaqueness and a lack of transparency.
• Scope for nepotism.
• Embroilment in public controversies.
• Overlooks several talented junior judges and advocates.
Reforms needed:
A transparent and participatory procedure, preferably by an independent broad-based constitutional body guaranteeing judicial primacy but not judicial exclusivity.
It should ensure independence, reflect diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.
Instead of selecting the number of judges required against a certain number of vacancies, the collegium must provide a panel of possible names to the President to appointment in order of preference and other valid criteria.