News & Events
in this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competitions
- The Government must heed the spirit of Supreme Court order and help prevent misuse of sedition law
In a substantial blow in favour of free speech, the Supreme Court has effectively suspended the operation of the sedition provision in the country’s penal law. “All pending trials, appeals and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under Section 124A be kept in abeyance”, it has said in an order that will bring some welcome relief to those calling for the abrogation of Section 124A of the IPC, which criminalises any speech, writing or representation that “excites disaffection against the government”. The Court has recorded its hope and expectation that governments at the Centre and the States will refrain from registering any fresh case of sedition under Section 124A of the IPC, or continuing with any investigation or taking any coercive measure under it. The hope and the expectation arise from the Union government’s own submission that it has decided to re-examine and reconsider the provision as part of the Prime Minister’s efforts to scrap outdated laws and compliance burdens. Perhaps, realising that its order may not be enough to deter thin-skinned and vindictive governments and politically pliant police officers from invoking it against detractors and dissenters, the Court has given liberty to the people to approach the jurisdiction courts if any fresh case is registered for sedition and cite in their support the present order, as well as the Union government’s stand.
That the sedition law is being persistently misused has been recognised years ago, and courts have pointed out that the police authorities are not heeding the limitation imposed by a 1962 Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on what constitutes sedition. The Court had upheld the section only by reading it down to mean that it is applicable only to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence”. In practice, the police have been using the broad definition of sedition to book anyone who criticised the Government in strong and strident language. The question now before the Court is whether it ought to overrule a decision rendered by a five-judge Bench 60 years ago. If it chooses to do so, and strikes down Section 124A as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech, it may help the larger cause of preventing misuse of provisions relating to speech-based offences. However, the Government may choose to prevent such a situation by amending it so that the offence is narrowly defined to cover only acts that affect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the state, as reportedly recommended by a panel of experts. When the Government submitted that it was revisiting the provision on its own, it was expecting only an indefinite postponement of the hearing on the constitutional validity of Section 124A, but it must now heed the spirit of the order and take effective steps to prevent its misuse.
2.Engage, not dismiss: On India’s response to WHO’s COVID-19 deaths report
MAY 12, 2022 00:06 IST
UPDATED: MAY 12, 2022 10:55 IST
Excess deaths measures are a robust way to estimate pandemic impact
The release of a report by WHO that estimates excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic to be nearly 10 times the reported COVID-19 death toll of 4.8 lakh in India between January 2020 and December 2021, the highest for any country, is not surprising. The pandemic did not just contribute to a surge in disease-related mortality, especially of the aged and the infirm, but also disrupted health systems that could have resulted in many other avoidable deaths. A robust estimation of the excess deaths was necessary to understand the pandemic effect in India where death registration after occurrence is not universal across States and medical certification of deaths is quite low in number. The Government has strongly denied the numbers and dismissed the methodology by saying that the WHO approach is based on modelled estimates and not actual data. It countered it by finally releasing the Civil Registration System report for 2020 (two days prior to the release of the WHO report) and saying that the cumulative increase in the number of deaths in 2020 was only 4.74 lakh, lower than the corresponding number for 2019. While most deaths — close to two thirds — occurred during the second wave in India from March to June 2021 (and later in some States such as Kerala), and therefore the late release of the CRS 2020 report does not entirely negate the WHO estimates that are based on registered deaths data available from “sub-national” units, there is indeed a discrepancy for 2020 data.
The WHO estimates for States were based on CRS registration data obtained by news organisations — the bulk of them by The Hindu. For 2020, cumulatively, the excess deaths estimations (close to 5.5 lakh for 12 States) for most such States for which data were obtained, match the CRS 2020 calculations (5.3 lakh). Discrepancies are quite high for those States where CRS data were only partially or not available earlier. A case in point is Uttar Pradesh where death (8.73 lakh in 2020 vs 9.45 lakh in 2019) and birth registrations (48.5 in 2020 vs 51.3 lakh in 2019) fell significantly and therefore skewed the overall country-wide excess deaths numbers. But without the release of the Sample Registration System data, it is difficult to believe that in States such as U.P., there has been an increase in registration levels even while there is a decrease in actual birth and death registration. The NFHS-5 2021 interviews show that death registration in 2020 was lower than previous years as opposed to the Government’s claims based on CRS 2020. The Government must not dismiss the WHO estimates and should instead look at undertaking its own exercise on excess deaths based on registration data in the CRS/SRS. After all, other methods, including surveys, have corroborated the fact that there was a high under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic.
3.Don’t just reform – remove: Even a changed sedition law will be misused. SC’s review must end in scrapping Section 124A
There’s never been a better moment than now for consigning to history a law that goes back to the 19th century and that free India should have never had on its statutes for so long. GoI has agreed that sedition law provisions need re-examination, and the Supreme Court has strongly restrained all authorities from filing cases under IPC Section 124A till the review is complete. The court has also rightly asked that bail be expedited for those already charged under these provisions. We should also note that Narendra Modi has added the considerable weight of his personality and office to these efforts. But all of this will amount to little if the review ends in merely “reforming” the law – sedition provisions must go.
These columns have long argued that a sedition law, in any form, is an ever-present threat to civil liberties, an invitation to authorities to misuse it, and a perfect opportunity for politicians in office to settle scores. Therefore, no matter how finely-grained a review is, and however sincere the intent of both SC and GoI to guard against misuse of a reformed law, there’s little doubt it will be misused. The problem lies in the dangerously vague concept of ‘sedition’. State and local authorities will always find a way to use it as a blunt instrument. And local courts, as is well-established, very rarely question FIRs based on such laws. Remember that quite a few attempts were made to fine-tune the law to prevent its brute-force application.
The 1962 Kedar Nath Singh judgment by SC attempted to narrow sedition’s application to instances betraying an “intention” and “tendency” to cause public disorder or endanger the security of the state. But words like “hatred”, “contempt”, “disaffection”, which were in the colonial era law and are still present in provisions, and words like “intention” and “tendency”, lend themselves to broad and subjective interpretations. Such subjectivity simply cannot be removed by tweaking the law. There was also the 1995 Balwant Singh judgment by SC that said mere sloganeering doesn’t amount to sedition. That, too, has had little effect. Slogans and now tweets and chants are seen as enough for slapping a sedition case. Therefore, the process underway now must end in erasing this blot on India’s democracy.
Sedition is of course not the only law that threatens civil liberties and is misused against critics of those in office. UAPA is a prime example of another law that needs a relook. Higher courts, and even some lower courts, have already made caustic observations on police use of UAPA as a tool of repression and harassment. Terrorism is cited as a justification for UAPA, but even granting that, the law needs to be pared down.
4. Marital rape is rape: Delhi HC verdict is a setback. But judiciary remains the best hope for gender justice
Delhi high court’s split verdict on criminalising marital rape is a setback for the legal battle to rid IPC Section 375 of the exception clause, which stipulates that “sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife” isn’t rape. Justice Rajiv Shakdher ruled the exception unconstitutional, terming it violative of Article 14, Article 15, Article 19(1) and Article 21. Justice C Hari Shankar upheld the provision noting that the exception carved for marital relationships was based on intelligible differentia and was reasonable.
The UK in 1991 and several post-colonial nations have criminalised marital rape leaving India in a strange club with the likes of Bangladesh, Nigeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. GoI must change tack. Its affidavit that the issue shouldn’t be “treated merely as a question concerning constitutional validity of a statutory provision” because of “far-reaching socio-legal implications for the country” was unfortunate. Such arguments reduce constitutionally guaranteed rights to abstractions. The reality is that fundamental rights have helped citizens discover agency, dignity and self-preservation.
Making consent immaterial in a marital relationship has the effect of reducing Article 14, which guarantees to every citizen equality before law and the equal protection of all laws, to a high-sounding principle without substance for an assaulted woman. It puts those wives on a weaker footing against husbands who repeatedly “rape” them knowing fully well that the law shields them. Seen in this light, arguments that marital rape cases will damage the institution of marriage are particularly tone-deaf. During the Supreme Court’s hearings to decriminalise adultery, GoI had termed it a threat to the sanctity of marriage. Given such arch-conservative posturing, neither executive nor legislature is likely to address marital rape. This makes the judiciary the best hope for gender justice. It must fast-track appeals against this verdict.
5.SC on sedition: A welcome step
It is now up to the Centre to finish its review of the law, but the SC, and Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, have made their position clear
This is a welcome decision, not only because sedition represented the most egregious of India’s colonial baggage but also because of the thousands of ordinary citizens who battled its stringent provisions for an ever-expanding array of offences (PTI)
In a historic order on Wednesday, the Supreme Court (SC) hit pause on the contentious Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which defines the offence of sedition, until review by the Centre of the sweeping provision, controversial for its indiscriminate use by governments across the land and ideological spectrum against dissenting voices and political opponents.
The top court passed three important directions: One, it said it will “hope and expect” governments to not register first information reports (FIRs), continue investigation, or take coercive measures under the law. Two, it allowed affected parties in fresh cases to approach courts for relief and asked the courts to consider pleas based on the apex court’s order as well as the stance taken by the government, which earlier this week acknowledged concerns about misuse and the need to safeguard civil liberties. Three, it asked all pending trials, appeals and proceedings under Section 124A be kept in abeyance. In effect, the offence of sedition in India has been put on hold, at least until the next date of hearing in July.