QUESTION : Write a note on prison reform and administration of criminal justice in India. It is said that Criminal Justice System in India has been in a state of peril. In the view of this , identify the major issues and suggest policy measures to reform CJS of India.
AN ACQUITTAL WITH NO GOOD, BUT THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Criminal Justice System
WHY IN NEWS?
The Tarun Tejpal acquittal in sexual harassment cases is based on preconceived notions of court and victim shaming. This decision involves legal and moral issues. It will deter women from fighting crimes against them.
- Tarun Tejpal is a former editor of a news magazine, who was charged with sexually assaulting an employee in 2013.
- The recent judgment of a trial court of Goa acquitted Tarun Tejpal.
- The court also held the investigating officer responsible for the lapses in investigation.
- Also, the Solicitor General of India said that the lower court’s judgment lacked sensitivity regarding crimes against women.
The acquittal has raised some serious question of law, judicial fairness and justice delivery.
MAJOR CONCERNS RELATED TO THIS JUDGEMENT :
- Lack of awareness of criminal laws by the court. There are some changes made in the Evidence Act as per the recommendations of the 172nd report of the Law Commission of India to protect survivor’s right to a fair trial. There are:
o The defense is not permitted to ask questions to a witness about the general immoral character of the victim and cite it as evidence.
o The Supreme Court has said that the purpose of cross-examining a survivor of rape is not to humiliate her.
o Therefore, questions about the past sexual life of the survivor should not have been permitted by the trial court.
- The court’s interpretation is stereotypical and shows the patriarchal mindset of the judiciary.
o The court has no right to judge anyone’s conduct, as every individual behaves differently under the different circumstances.
o In Aparna Bhat and Ors. Vs the State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. (2021), SC has specifically said that courts should not express any stereotyped opinion during proceedings or in judicial order about women.
o Therefore, the judiciary must be careful while creating standards based on preconceived notions about how a victim should behave.
- Only omissions that lead to conflicting versions of the incident made before the police and the court should amount to contradiction.
o It is not possible to share the same graphic details of the sexual assault.
o Therefore, if the statement given during the trial is substantially consistent, it should not be rejected by terming them as untrustworthy.
- The judgment is against the spirit of the law. Because anything such as the survivor’s husband’s name, her email address, etc. should not have been mentioned in the judgment.
o As per the Indian Penal Code, disclosure of identity of the survivor of rape by anyone is punishable under Section 228-A.
o Also, the Supreme Court in State of Punjab vs Ramdev Singh (2003) held that the name of the victim should not be mentioned in the judgments.
ABOUT CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM (CJS):
The Criminal Justice System (CJS) includes the institutions/agencies and processes established by a government to control crime in the country. This includes components like police and courts.
The aim of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is to protect the rights and personal liberty of individuals and the society against its invasion by others.
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.
CJS 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.
MALIMATH COMMITTEE REPORT :
Malimath Committee (2000) on reforms in the Criminal Justice System of India (CJS) submitted its report in 2003. It suggested 158 changes in the CJSI but the recommendations weren’t implemented.
The Committee had opined that the existing system “weighed in favour of the accused and did not adequately focus on justice to the victims of crime.”
- Rights of the Accused: The Committee suggested that a Schedule to the Code be brought out in all regional languages so that the accused knows his/her rights, as well as how to enforce them and whom to approach when there is a denial of those rights.
- Police Investigation: The Committee suggested hiving off the investigation wing from Law and Order.
- Court and Judges: The report pointed out the judge-population ratio in India is 10.5 per million population as against 50 judges per million population in many parts of the world. The ratio is 19.66 per million people as of 2017.
o It suggested the increase in strength of judges and courts.
- Witness Protection: It suggested separate witness protection law so that safety and security of witness can be ensured and they can be treated with dignity.
- Vacations of Court: It recommended reducing the vacations of court on account of long pendency of cases.
MADHAV MENON COMMITTEE :
Menon Committee on criminal justice reforms submitted its report 2007. The four member panel was set up to draft a national policy paper on criminal justice system.
- It favours the complete revamp of the entire criminal procedure system.
- It has mooted creation of a fund to compensate victims who turns hostile from the pressure of culprits.
- It suggested setting up of separate authority at national level to deal with crimes threatening the country security.
WHY NEED TO REFORM CRIMINAL LAWS ?
- Long Pending: The Indian Penal Code and its corollary laws, the Indian Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure, were all first enacted in the late 19th-century that have not undergone comprehensive revision.
- Colonial Hangover: IPC & CrPC were largely formalised to aid the colonial government in India, over 150 years ago. They are still rooted in colonial ideas despite amendments & judgements.
- Lacks Adequate recognition of Individual agency: IPC do not reflect the aspirations of a Constitution that gives primacy to liberty and equality.
- Still represent Victorian Morality: While it took 158 years for the courts to decriminalise homosexuality (section 377 of IPC) and adultery, there exists many provisions in the IPC that still echoes Victorian morality, which is especially true for women.
- Ignorant of modern-age crimes: New crimes need to be defined and addressed in IPC, especially concerning technology and sexual offences. Ex: digital technology facilitating gambling and betting
SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE THE CJS :
- Create Specialization of Judges
o We can’t make separate laws offence wise rather we must reform judicial system to respond to each and every offence in a reasonable time.
o Give training to judges in criminal laws
- Create Specialized Criminal Benches
o The way we have created special commercial benches we must create special criminal benches in HC and SC for the speedy justice to rape victims and accused.
o Research studies have shown that 90% of time is given to rich people and only 10% of time is given to poor people.
- Create Infrastructure
o Creating infrastructure in indispensable to the speedy disposal of justice in rape cases
o What sort of Infrastructure
- Number of judges to be increased
- Technological aids and solutions for filling cases and other judicial processes
- Vacancies to be filled on time
- Increasing Human Resources in the form of para-legal resources
- Sensitization of people
o People must be sensitized to the gender issues
o Rape and sexual assaults on women should not be tolerated
o They should be sensitized about the ill effects of mob justice or retributive justice
The judgment sets a bad precedent. Though the law should be applied equally to everyone, it should not show lack of sensitivity towards the victim.
QUESTION : “The pandemic has significantly disrupted the higher education sector as well, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future. “ Critically analyse this given statement.
HIGHER EDUCATION AND COVID-19
Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Higher Education In India
WHY IN NEWS ?
The state of campuses of higher education institutes in India is bad during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- But there is still a lack of serious consideration for the safety of campuses, which may be among the most vulnerable sites for the spread of infection at the community level.
- There have been routine advisories for standard operating procedures, protocols issued at the apex level by the University Grants Commission (UGC), and at the State level by the respective Education Departments.
- But nothing concrete has been done on the ground.
VULNERABILITY OF CAMPUSES :
- Campuses house hostels, libraries, common rooms-cum-washrooms, canteens, auditoriums, gymnasiums, playgrounds, administrative offices, staff rooms, guest houses and staff quarters, besides classrooms and laboratories.
- They require resources to change and modify their current settings for COVID-19-appropriate behaviour.
- Reports of deaths of several teachers in prominent universities highlight the loss of the national intellectual capital and scholarship.
- Taking the ‘business-as-usual’ approach could lead to risking the lives of both students and employees on a very large scale.
INITIATIVES FOR CAMPUSES :
The UGC in its recent order listed guidelines for colleges to reopen post the lockdown. Key recommendations are
- State governments estimate and prepare for the required procurement of essentials, such as disinfectants and face masks, in each of their districts and zones in consultation with higher education institutes;
- Draw out a plan for distribution.
- Universities and colleges to ensure a sufficient supply of these items to students, faculty and staff.
- Higher education institutes set up on-campus facilities for the isolation of symptomatic persons and for quarantining .
o Alternatively, they could tie up with State-run hospitals or other approved premises, as suggested by local authorities, for providing essentials to quarantined or isolated persons.
- constituting a task force and setting up helplines .
- roping in counsellors and mentors for providing mental health support
- creating a team of well-informed volunteers trained in life skills, including the NCC and the NSS.
- Lack of means: However, the UGC did not mention the means and mechanisms for training the workforce for these specialised tasks. In the absence of that, such measures remain an empty efforts.
- Lack of funding: Explicit budgetary allocations for higher education institutes for COVID-19 management were found to be missing in the States’ annual budgets.
- The poor financial state of higher education institutes, especially State-run universities, combined with a lack of will on the part of State governments already overwhelmed by the vaccination drive, has exacerbated the situation.
- Possibility of shutdowns: This apathy on the part of institutes and policymakers (both at the Central and State levels) could endanger lives and may lead to a complete shutdown of academic activities in the time to come.
THE UNIVERSITY GRANT COMMISSION (UGC) :
- UGC is a quasi-independent body set up to discharge the responsibility of coordinating and maintaining standards in the fields of higher education.
FUNCTIONS OF COMMISSION :
- The union government attempts to fulfill its constitutional obligation for higher education mainly through the UGC.
- The UGC takes care of the general higher education in Arts, Science, Commerce and professional education provided in the faculties of the universities.
- Its functions in general, are confined to promotion, coordination, determination and maintenance of the standards of higher education.
IMPORTANT SCHEMES TO IMPROVE ONLINE EDUCATION SYSTEM :
- PM eVidya Programe:
o A programme for multimode access to digital/ online education.
- Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM)
o The objective is to ensure that every student in the country has access to the best quality higher education at the affordable cost.
- Integrated Online junction for School Education ‘Shagun’
o It is an overarching initiative to improve the school education system by creating a junction for all online portals and websites relating to various activities of the Department of School Education and Literacy in the Government of India and all States and Union Territories.
- Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) and UDISE+
o UDISE, initiated in 2012-13 for elementary and secondary education, is one of the largest Management Information Systems on School Education covering more than 1.5 million schools, 9.4 million teachers and almost 250 million children.
o UDISE+ is an updated and improved version of UDISE.
- NISHTHA : Teacher’s Training Programe
o To improve learning outcomes at the elementary level through an Integrated Teacher Training Programme.
- Education Quality And Inclusion Programe (EQUIP)
o A five-year vision plan aiming at ushering transformation in India’s higher education system by implementing strategic interventions in the sector over five years (2019-2024).
o Sets out to deliver further on principles of Access, Inclusion, Quality, Excellence and enhancing employability in Higher Education.
- Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)
o It is a centrally sponsored scheme launched in October 2013 that aims at providing strategic funding to higher education institutions throughout the country.
The UGC should direct State governments to generously provide financial assistance to higher education institutes for managing the COVID-19 crisis. The resources could come from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for the year 2021-22, which was released by the Department of Expenditure at the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs much before the normal schedule, in view of the extraordinary public health crisis.