18/11/2019 : The Hindu Newspaper Self Analysis Notes
SC discusses ‘voluntary code of conduct’ for Cabinet Ministers
The court is examining if additional restrictions should be put on public functionaries’ right to free speech and expression.
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether Cabinet Ministers at both the Central and State levels should have a “voluntary model code of conduct” which addresses their private and public activities.
- The five-judge Bench is examining if “greater restrictions” should be imposed on the right of free speech and expression of high public functionaries to protect the citizen’s fundamental right to lead a dignified life.
- The court had to consider this issue post the filing of two separate petitions against the statements of Cabinet ministers.
Need for the code of conduct:
- Considering the special position of public office that one holds, such persons holding public offices can be thus subjected to better and meaningful public scrutiny. The code of conduct should reflect constitutional morality and values of good governance.
- The cabinet minister’s personal views are also bound to find larger traction in public life as compared to any other individual. Hence, there is a need to regulate.
- The Union Ministry of Home Affairs already has a code of conduct for Ministers, which is essentially concerned with financial discipline. At present, the code of conduct for ministers at the Centre and states includes the declaration of assets and liabilities. Ministers also can’t be part of any office of profit or associate with the conduct and management of any business, among others. This code is too narrow and inadequate and does not address the private and public activities of the ministers in general. Hence, there is a need for a separate code of conduct.
Code of conduct unnecessary:
- The SC has taken a consistent stand in the past against the invocation of any further restrictions on the free speech of citizens, and public men should be no exception.
- The earlier guidelines were silent on many aspects of governance. Therefore, there was a need to revisit the existing guidelines, such as the use of official vehicles, giving media interviews, etc.
- Aspects such as a minister’s conduct on social media, rules to be followed while making a recommendation, travel sanctions and restrictions on using official bungalow for party work, receiving gifts from foreign dignitaries in India and abroad, and attending private events need to be considered in the code of conduct.
- The government should frame the code of conduct for Cabinet Ministers, with the Cabinet head ensuring a collective responsibility for the activities of the individual ministers.
- UK’s ministerial code framed in 2015 can serve as a template for the new code of conduct.
Marriage not ‘good enough’ to quash rape FIR: Delhi HC
Delhi High court’s judgment on the question of ‘is marriage a “good enough” reason to quash an FIR for rape if both the offender and the victim decide to settle the case’.
- The Delhi High Court has ruled that the offence of rape falls under the category of “heinous and serious crime” which cannot be quashed even if the parties have settled their dispute or got married.
- The High Court has noted that even when there is a settlement, the view of the offender and victim will not prevail since it is in the interest of society that the offender should be punished to deter others from committing a similar crime.
- The Court also referred to a judgment of the Supreme Court which said that heinous and serious offences involving mental depravity or offences such as murder, rape and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed though the victim or the family of the victim have settled the dispute.
Significance of the judgment:
- The verdict will have significant implications on a large number of rape cases in India.
- A large chunk of the rape cases in India is reported against those who were known to the victim.
- The latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that of a total of 32,559 cases of rape reported across the country in 2017, in one-third or 10,553 cases, the victim and offender were either friends, online friends, live-in partners or separated spouses.