A deepening crisis (The Hindu)
Protecting the girl child (The Hindu and The Indian Express)
Should Supreme Court proceedings be live-streamed? (The Hindu)
A deepening crisis
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of public spending on education.
(GS paper III)
- India still lags behind most countries in terms of its education spending. At around 3% of GDP, India’s expenditure on education is behind that of comparable economies. World Bank data for 2012 shows that countries like Brazil and South Africa were spending at least 6% of their GDP on education.
- In 1966, the Kothari Commission had said that India should aim at spending 6% of its GDP on education. More than half a century later, we are spending less than 3% of our GDP on education. D.S. Kothari’s recommendation gives us a symbolic measure of the importance given to education.
- During the Kothari commission report India was passing through a difficult period. Famines, wars and political uncertainty were taking their toll. The economy was stuck in sluggish growth, but now the conditions are different. By any standards, India is more prosperous today and people’s aspirations are higher.
- Despite the favourable social climate in India, education has failed to become a matter of national concern. Every year, the Union Budget indicates that it is not a high priority although it is loudly announced to be so.
- This year’s Budget is no different; it offers a marginal increase on different routine expenses and reduction on some. There is no sign of funds to enable institutional recovery after a prolonged period of damage caused by financial cuts in higher education. In elementary education, supply of funds for improvement in quality is no more certain. No funds are in sight to sustain the bold dream of making the Right to Education a sustainable reality.
- In the Budget speech, finance minister focuses upon the importance of teacher education. Teacher training constitutes a relatively invisible, low-status sector of the system. It seldom receives high-level attention; also the current popular term ‘public policy’ does not cover teacher education at all.
- The Justice Verma Commission’s report brought public attention to the dismal state of teacher education, especially the corruption that has seeped into the regulatory system put in place in the mid-1990s. Rampant commercialisation and rigid bureaucratic control combined to stifle any possibility of academic growth in teacher education.
Question on spending
- The Finance Minister made a special mention of the four-year integrated B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) programme as a way forward for achieving quality in teacher training. But the big question remained unanswered since the commission submitted its report is whether the Central government will spend the money the sector needs.
- Teachers for all levels are directly or indirectly affected by institutions of higher education. A nursery teacher needs to benefit from current knowledge in child psychology, and someone teaching language in primary classes must know how to leverage contemporary knowledge about how children learn reading or how to impart bilingual skills.
- The secondary teacher is directly affected by conditions in undergraduate colleges. If they have no science labs and adequate faculty, the graduates who opt for school teaching as a career can hardly do justice to the adolescents who choose to study science. These are reasons why the degraded state of undergraduate education limits the potential impact of training on a schoolteacher’s academic capacity.
- The Yash Pal report on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education presented a bleak picture of undergraduate education and offered recommendations for improving it. But for implementation of these recommendations, there is need of increased public spending. It is a legitimate question why India does not worry about its educational crisis or why it does not invest more public funds in education.
- The damage our institutional apparatus has suffered over the last three decades has begun to hurt our long-term national economic interests and social goals. There is urgent need to recognise the growing inequality and dissonance among youth are a consequence of malnourished institutional experience. The United Nations discourse of sustainable development should remind us that our national aspirations might get a jolt if we fail to prioritise education.
Question- India has failed to prioritise the education and the damages to our institutional apparatus have now begun to hurt long-term national economic interests and social goals. Analyse and suggest measures to sustainable development for education.
Protecting the girl child
(The Hindu and The Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of female genital mutilation in India.
(GS paper II)
- The courage of a group of Dawoodi Bohra women, who were subject to female genital mutilation (FGM) and recently began speaking about it publicly, has “shone a light” upon the often debilitating, secretive process in India, like never before.
- Belying the government’s admission to the Supreme Court that there is no data on the existence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in India, a new qualitative study shows that 75 per cent of 94 respondents interviewed had subjected their daughters to the practice.
Female genital mutilation (FGM)
- FGM refers to the practice of complete or partial removal of female external genitalia, apparently in an attempt to keep the sexual desires under control. The extent of the practice varies from country to country. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises four kinds of FGM.
- In India, the Bohras, not just Dawoodi Bohras but other sects too practise FGM. There are no authentic Indian statistics about the number of Indian victims, but activists say 80%-90% of Bohra girls are subject to the process, sometimes at the hands of ill-equipped traditional circumcisers attending childbirth. Only WHO’s Types 1 and 4 are practised in India, and is called khatna.
- The WHO estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
- The important developments have followed in the wake of this community coming forward with their personal stories- a broader and more intense dialogue against the practice has evolved, and the most committed followers of the practice from the community have retaliated.
- For example a newly formed association of women from the community who believe in the practice describe it as khatna to be a harmless cultural and religious practice of over 1,400 years that involves a tiny excision of the prepuce, which is the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris.
- Khatna is carried out on girls as young as seven years of age. These women insist that female circumcision and FGM are different things, while followers of the tradition say that the purpose is to achieve taharat or religious purity, those who do not subscribe to the practice believe that it is meant to curb the sexual urges of a woman.
- While Anti-khatna activists equate the practice to FGM. They point out that the “tiny excision” fits into the World Health Organisation’s definition of Type 1a FGM, which is the removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only. Further, new research in India suggests that much more damage is caused than a tiny excision. Besides excessive bleeding, infections and painful sex, psychological trauma, anxiety and fear are the less recognised side effects of FGM.
- Recently MP Shashi Tharoor released a study called ‘The Clitoral Hood: A Contested Site,’ on the occasion of ‘International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM on February 6’. The study noted that khatna is often done by the traditional cutters, some of whom have performed several thousands of procedures, a fact that would be consistent with the number of known cases of botched procedures.
- One mitigatory approach that anti-khatna activists demand is for traditional cutters to be educated about the harms of genital cutting, and be trained in alternative income-generating activities. Given that there are attempts to medicalise the procedure, activists have also called for the Indian Medical Association to emphasise that female genital cutting violates a fundamental code of medical ethics, which is to do no harm.
- On the one hand, these activists have engaged with the community and the clergy in a bid to bring the practice to an end in a reasonable manner. Simultaneously they have filed intervention applications as part of public interest litigation in the Supreme Court. This marks the first instance of an FGM case being lodged in the highest court of India, with hope that it may follow in the steps of Australia, where individuals have been convicted for FGM.
Question – Several cases in the Supreme Court today highlight the contention between the constitutional promise of religious expression and the freedom of the individual to pursue life, as one deems right. Critically analyse the statement along with recent incidents.
Should Supreme Court proceedings be live-streamed?
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue whether to Supreme Court proceedings should be live-streamed or not?
(GS paper II)
- As the proceedings in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha telecasted and live streamed for over 10 years now, which brought the awareness about the functioning of Parliament, all State Assemblies and our elected representatives. A demand for same has been rising from Supreme Court. The higher judiciary all over the world provides means for viewing their courtroom proceedings, which enhances the transparency in its working.
- In India Supreme Court Rules, 1966 are framed under Article 145 of the Constitution to regulate the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court. Recently an online petition was filed by Senior Advocate demanding live streaming of Supreme Court proceedings.
- IN FAVOUR
- The proponent argues that even Kautilya in his Arthashastra mentioned that, during that time, when judges delivered a judgment, they did so in an open court. While the Indian legal system is built on the concept of open courts, which means that the proceedings are open to all members of the public, the reality is different. Only on any given day, only a handful of people can be physically present and are allowed in the courtroom.
- The courts are now opting for digitisation, with online records of all cases, a provision for filing FIRs online, an automated system of case rotation, etc., there is still a need to push the bar much higher. In the light of these technological advancements, why shouldn’t millions of people be allowed to watch the rich deliberations that transpire in the halls of justice?
- It has to be noted that live-streaming is neither called for in all types of matters nor in all courts. The emphasis is to make those matters that are of great public importance available for all to see. Therefore, matters which have a privacy dimension, such as family matters or criminal matters, or matters with legal procedural intricacies, such as most trial court matters, are out of its scope.
- To promote transparency, live-streaming has been allowed for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha proceedings since 2004. Similarly, the recording of videos in the highest courts in Canada and Australia, as well as in some international courts, most notably in the International Court of Justice, shows that this exercise is neither novel nor so difficult.
- The right to information, access to justice, the need to build the right perception, along with the need to educate common people on how the judiciary functions are all strong reasons in favour of allowing live-streaming of court proceedings.
- The live- streaming will also present a hope for the Indian legal system to finally deliver on its promise to empower the masses, not be scared of them.
- The opponent argues that ‘the role of the judiciary cannot be equated with the roles of the legislature and the executive’. While broadcasting parliamentary proceedings may be good for ensuring accountability, this is not the case with the courts. Because the reason is simple, in democratic governance, the public is sovereign, and the public judges its representatives.
- But the public cannot judge the judges. Judges are accountable neither to the general public nor to the sovereign. They are accountable only to the rule of law and to the Constitution, as established by law.
- The unwanted public gaze caused by live-streaming will tend to make judges subject to popular public opinion and accountable to the general public. This has its inherent danger in a democratic set-up. While the impetus to act for the executive and the legislature lies in popularity, the courts have to carry out justice even if it involves one person against everyone else.
- As the Constitutional courts are meant to protect against the excesses that the legislature and the executive may commit against a minority. The individuality of judges is more likely to become a subject of public debate through live-streaming, creating problems of its own. The focus should be on the judgment delivered.
- It may also create practical problems, like there is a greater likelihood of lawyers aspiring to publicise themselves through their addresses to the Bench. Advocates debate on the premise of law and logic to assist the court in arriving at a just and rational conclusion. The more dispassionately one gets involved in this debate, the more the likelihood of fairer administration of justice. With live-streaming, there is a strong possibility that lawyers will tend to address not only the judges but also the public watching them. This will only hamper their objectivity.
- During hearings, judges make oral observations and ask questions which may not be a formal expression of what they are thinking. Many times, contradictory observations are made to elicit the version of rival parties. Live-streaming will do away with the medium of responsible reporting by those lawyers and journalists who are experts in the field. An irresponsible debate on an oral observation of a judge may make the judge conscious, and this will affect the normalcy of the proceedings.
- Instead of live-streaming, audio and video recordings of court proceedings would reform the administration of justice. These can be used at the time of review or appeal of a case, especially when the submissions of a lawyer are not properly recorded in the judgment, or a judge is acting in a whimsical manner. The Supreme Court had already passed an order in Pradyuman Bisht vs. Union of India (2017) directing all High Courts to ensure CCTVs and audio and video recordings in subordinate courts.
- The complicated view is that before thinking of cameras in courts, other fundamental reforms need to be effected. The live-streaming may not address the root problem for which other proposals may be better suited. As the advocators do not adequately account for the uniqueness of the Indian Supreme Court, its structure and processes, and the underlying problems that impede its effectiveness.
- U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts upon asking for the respond to proposal for the live telecast of proceedings before the Supreme Court, replied that while oral hearings are open to the public, they are designed for a specific purpose: to help judges reach good decisions. He argued that there is educational value of broadcasting court proceedings.
- But then, can judges be uninhibited in asking questions even politically incorrect ones which would enable them to improve the reasoning advanced in their judgments? He asserted that cameras would invite grandstanding on the part of lawyers and judges, as well as a tendency to play to the gallery. Cameras have been allowed in courts in many countries, but this typically occurs in trial and lower courts of appeal.
- While the logic employed by those arguing for live-streaming of Supreme Court proceedings has force, the Indian Supreme Court may well be unique in terms of the cases it takes on, and the logistics involved in setting up cameras within it.
- In the Indian Supreme Court on any given day is actually 12-13 panels of judges hearing cases simultaneously, and had more than 55,000 pending cases as of November 2017. It issues a far higher number of judgments than any comparable court. Given the pressure, the judgments issued tend to be hurriedly reasoned and poorly articulated.
- Lawyers and judges before the Supreme Court tend to rely extensively on an ‘oral’ culture where much less emphasis is placed on written briefs and documents or on thorough preparation in advance of hearings. Lawyers in India arguably get more time to argue their cases than in any other jurisdiction.
- More fundamental reforms need to be effected, these include greater reliance on written briefs and the significance accorded to them, page limits for briefs (and, perhaps, also for judgments), time limits for oral arguments (and for judges to issue judgments), and a greater emphasis on preparation in advance. The judiciary must also employ a press officer to liaise with the media, and issue simultaneously one or two page summaries of its judgments to facilitate greater public understanding.
Question – For ensuring better transparency and accountability, the Supreme Court proceedings must be live- streamed. Critically analyse and suggest your viewpoint.