The injustice of exceptionalism
(GS-II: Remission policy for convicts, Bilkis Bano case etc)
Eleven men who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano were released this week from a jail in Gujarat. This calls into question the state government’s remission policy for convicts.
Argument: While the state government says, they have already completed 14 years of their imprisonment and have shown good behaviour in court and are therefore eligible for remission. Experts point out that remission for heinous crimes such as rape and murder is unjustified.
Previously, a Special Central Bureau of Investigation Court had sentenced the men to life imprisonment in 2008.
What is Remission?
In remission, the nature of the sentence is remained untouched, while the duration is reduced i.e. the rest of the sentence need not be undergone.
For example, if a person is sentenced to a term of 20 years, his sentence is now reduced to 15 years.
Argument against the release of convicts:
Ineligible for premature release: As in most States, Gujarat’s current remission policy (it adopted a new and revised remission policy for prisoners in 2014), makes those convicted of rape ineligible for premature release.
Against justice for the victim and minorities community
Some experts view remission of the accused as politically motivated
Argument for release:
Remission policy of 1992: However, the Supreme Court of India had earlier ruled that the remission question, in this case, would be governed by the remission policy of 1992 that was in force at the time of conviction which did not exclude those convicted of rape from executive remission.
The ground of Good behaviour: State governments have laid down behaviour/activities that can earn prisoners a certain amount of days as remission, which is then deducted from their sentence.
Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC): However, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is clear that life convicts have to undergo a minimum of 14 years of actual imprisonment before they can be considered for remission/premature release.
But in this case, the term of imprisonment of all 11 men was more than 15 years and therefore, the calculation of 14 years is irrelevant.
Power of Governor: State governments have also developed premature release rules that include the power to give effect to the Governor’s powers of remission under Article 161 of the Constitution.
Those powers are not governed by the CrPC and are often used to bypass the minimum 14 years of actual imprisonment requirement in the CrPC.
It deals with the Pardoning Power of the Governor.
The Governor can grant pardons, reprieves, respites and remissions of punishments or suspend, remit and commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the state extends.
Indian team deliberating on ocean diversity pact
(GS-II & III: International organizations, UN, UNCLOS, marine biodiversity, mining activity in ocean etc)
A delegation from India and other member countries of the United Nations is in New York to deliberate on a one-of-its-kind agreement to conserve marine biodiversity in the high seas, namely the oceans that extend beyond countries’ territorial waters.
The Indian delegation comprises officials from the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), the Center for Marine Fisheries and Research Institute and the Ministry of External Affairs.
Ocean diversity pact:
Legally binding instrument: The agreement will follow a resolution by the UN General Assembly in May and is expected to be the final in a series set in motion since 2018 to draft an international legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The high seas comprise nearly 45% of the Earth’s surface.
Rights of companies: A key aspect of the agreement is deciding on the rights of companies that undertake exploration for biological resources on the high seas.
To decide if companies have absolute rights on any discovery or extraction in these regions or should they share their gains, in terms of intellectual property and royalties with an UN-prescribed body.
Studies on sustainable utilization of deep-sea bio-resources: It will be the main focus.
There are companies already carrying out such exploratory activities though little was known about them.
Hence an international agreement that spells out obligations and permissible activities is important, Secretary, MoES said.
Uses of mining activity in the sea:
Fossil fuel resources
With advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering, several companies see potential in exotic microbes and other organisms. They could be used for drugs, vaccines and a variety of commercial applications
Importance of Sustainable oceans and seas:
The ocean surface and the water column beyond the EEZ are referred to as the high seas.
It is considered as “the common heritage of all mankind” and is beyond any national jurisdiction.
States can conduct activities in these areas as long as they are for peaceful purposes, such as transit, marine science, and undersea exploration.
(GS Paper 1)
The Bardhaman municipality, West Bengal has decided to erect a statue of an erstwhile maharaja in front of the landmark Curzon Gate in the city.
He served as Under-Secretary of State for India (1891-1892), and for Foreign Affairs (1895-1898), before being appointed Viceroy of India in 1899.
Of all the Viceroys of India, Curzon is possibly the most criticised — he is the man who partitioned Bengal in 1905, and triggered a wave of Bengali nationalism that contributed to the wider Indian national movement. He was also one of the more openly imperialist of viceroys, and a man who saw Britain’s rule over India as critical to the survival of the empire.
In 1900, Curzon famously stated, “We could lose all our [white settlement] dominions and still survive, but if we lost India, our sun would sink to its setting.”
Reforms by Lord Curzon:
Educational: Curzon brought in the Indian Universities Act of 1904,which brought all the universities in India under the control of the government.
Scientific: The Agriculture Research Institute in Pusa (Bihar – Bengal Presidency) was established.
Administrative: He instituted a Police Commission in 1902 under the chairmanship of Sir Andrew Frazer.
During the Curzon regime, the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) was established which covered roughly the areas of the upper course of the River Indus.
Military: Imperial cadet corpswas set up which became an instrument for the Indianisation of the army later.
Other reforms: He passed a law called the Ancient Monuments Act, 1904which made it obligatory on the part of the government and local authorities to preserve monuments of archaeological importance and their destruction an offence.