Revisit AFSPA

(The Hindu)

 

The global nuclear cloud is darkening

(The Hindu)

 

Harsher punishment for rape is not enough

(Live Mint)

Revisit AFSPA

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue centre decision to revoke Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Meghalaya and reduce its ambit in Arunachal Pradesh.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • The Centre has revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya since April 1st, earlier the AFSPA was effective in 20 km area along the Assam-Meghalaya border. In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam.

 

  • The Ministry has also relaxed the Protected Area Permit (PAP) for foreigners visiting Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. The PAP will be valid for five years, but residents from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China will not be allowed to visit these areas.

 

AFSPA

 

  • AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.

 

  • If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search a premise without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms. Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.

 

What is a “disturbed area” ?

 

  • A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

 

  • The Central Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area. A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette. As per Section 3, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.

 

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act where necessary, but there have been exceptions where the Centre decided to forego its power and leave the decision to the State governments

 

Background  

 

  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Centre revoked it in Meghalaya on April 1, 2018.
  • Earlier, the AFSPA was effective in a 20 km area along the Assam-Meghalaya border. In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam. Tripura withdrew the AFSPA in 2015. Jammu and Kashmir too has a similar Ac

 

Recent decision

 

  • The Centre’s decision to revoke the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Meghalaya and reduce its ambit in Arunachal Pradesh is welcome insofar as it signifies a willingness to reconsider the use of the special law as and when the ground situation improves.

 

  • In a rare intervention in a matter concerning internal security, in 2016 the Supreme Court had ruled that the armed forces cannot escape investigation for excesses committed in the discharge of their duties even in ‘disturbed areas’. It ordered a probe into specific cases.

 

  • In other words, accountability for human rights violations is sacrosanct and the legal protection offered by AFSPA cannot be absolute. During the Budget session, Union Minister of State for Home informed the Lok Sabha that the government was considering a proposal to make AFSPA more “operationally effective and humane”.

 

  • In 2005, a committee headed by former Supreme Court judge B.P. Jeevan Reddy was tasked by the then government with suggesting amendments to AFSPA. The committee recommended that the law be repealed altogether, and that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act be amended in a manner that would enable insurgency and conflict to be tackled legally.

 

Way ahead

 

  • The Centre should revisit the Jeevan Reddy committee report and can find ways of humanising AFSPA.

 

Question What is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)? Explain why there is demand for revocation of the act altogether?

 

The global nuclear cloud is darkening

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that nuclear cloud back to the global political agenda.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • The South Korea and North Korea agreed to hold the ‘2018 South-North summit’ on April 27 at the South’s Peace House in Panmunjom. The main question would include the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

 

  • Though, there is considerable optimism that this meeting will mark the beginning of the long-awaited rapprochement in the Korean peninsula, but the nuclear domain remains opaque.

 

Assessment

 

  • In the earlier times the then U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. and North Korea were in diplomatic contact and that denuclearisation was on the table, there was a flurry of activity. However, in recent weeks, though Pyongyang has announced that it is suspending further nuclear/missile tests and shutting its test site, there has been no indication that it intends to give up its nuclear arsenal.

 

 

  • The term ‘denuclearisation’ in relation to North Korea is being selectively approached for its semantic exactitude. While the U.S. and Japan seek the equivalent of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, South Korea appears to be prioritising the rapprochement and normalisation of inter-Korean relations even while keeping the nuclear strand on the agenda. China and Russia, which are regional stakeholders, will be monitoring the summit for its outcome.

 

 

 

  • North Korean leader, Mr. Kim would be cognisant of the global nuclear trajectory and the manner in which the U.S. has dealt with the weapons of mass destruction issue in Iraq, Libya and Iran. Thus, while verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation is a desirable objective for South Korea, Japan and the U.S., it is the critical survival shield for the Kim regime.

 

 

About Iran nuclear deal

 

  • The recent developments in relation to the Iran nuclear deal and Mr. Trump’s determination to jettison it since it is a “bad deal” have led to a darkening of the global nuclear cloud. As per the original 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the U.S. President has to certify every 120 days that sanctions need not be enforced against Tehran and that the nuclear weapon programme rollback compliance undertaken by Iran is proceeding satisfactorily.

 

  • United Nations-led external inspectors have certified that Iran’s compliance has been in keeping with the 2015 accord. The last such U.S. waiver was approved reluctantly by Mr. Trump on January 12. He had warned then that that would be the final endorsement by him of the deal, for he wanted more stringent conditions to be added to the current Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In short, the U.S. is changing the goalposts and the May 12 deadline is looming large.

 

  • The U.S. and Russia on the one hand and between the U.S. and China on the other becoming increasingly brittle. This has also affected the weapons of mass destruction domain. Consequently, many of the major nuclear-missile arms reduction treaties and verification protocols between the U.S. and Russia that go back to the Cold War decades and the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union have become moribund, and the subtext is causing the global nuclear cloud to become even darker.

 

  • Both the U.S. and Russia have embarked upon major nuclear weapon modernisation programmes and the decision to resurrect the nuclear-tipped cruise missile at sea has very destabilising implications.

 

Way forward

 

  • India has urged nuclear restraint and universal disarmament since the 1950s and has been relatively muted after its May 1998 nuclear tests and the rapprochement with the U.S. over the nuclear issue that began in mid-2005. Given that it aspires to a seat at the global high table, India ought to make a credible and objective intervention that will burnish its profile as a ‘different’ nuclear weapon power one that remains committed to restraint and the elusive Holy Grail of nuclear zero. 

 

Question Explain how the upcoming China- India informal summit may be an opportune moment to bring the darkening nuclear cloud back to the global political agenda?

 

Harsher punishment for rape is not enough

(Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the assessment of recent ordinance to increasing the maximum punishment.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

 

  • Recently an ordinance providing the death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years of age and other stringent penal provisions for rape has been promulgated. The ordinance viz. The Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 2018, amends Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Indian Evidence Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

 

 

  • But whether or not it is going to deter potential criminals is an open question.

 

Salient Features of the Ordinance

 

  • Minimum Punishment for Rape made Ten Years.
  • Minimum punishment of twenty years to a person committing rape on a woman aged below 16.
  • Minimum Punishment of 20 years rigorous imprisonment and maximum Death penalty/Life Imprisonment for committing rape on a girl aged below 12.
  • Fine imposed shall be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses and rehabilitation of the victim.
  • Police officer committing rape anywhere shall be awarded rigorous imprisonment of minimum ten years.
  • Investigation in rape cases to be completed within two months.
  • No Anticipatory bail can be granted to a person accused of rape of girls of age less than sixteen years.
  • Appeals in rape cases to be disposed within six months.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • According to the Economists -criminal activity is a rational response to the pay-offs that confront the potential criminal. If the severity of punishment is high and the likelihood of being convicted is reasonable in the eyes of the criminal, he will be deterred from criminal activity. The likelihood of punishment is just as important as its severity, and this is an important reason why increasing the maximum punishment alone is unlikely to be a significant deterrent to rape.

 

 

  • While the overall rate of conviction in the country was 46.2% in 2016, it was around 20% in cases of crimes against women. Moreover, it has also been reported that the 99% of sexual assaults go unreported.

 

 

  • What does this mean for the potential criminal? It means that he likely knows, or has heard of people who have raped and gone scot free. Perhaps he himself might have committed a crime and realized the laxity of the police. These experiences determine his low expectation of being caught and undermine the deterrence effect of penalties. Therefore, the key factor in deterring crime is to change this perception, and work towards increasing the probability of conviction. That will require reforms on three fronts.

 

 

 

  • As the average citizen relies on the police to prevent crime, so police reform is the most important response. The first challenge is that of the police’s capacity to ensure law and order and investigate cases. India has around 135 policemen for 100,000 people, one of the lowest figures in the world. In order to achieve independence for the police and establish its accountability, the Prakash Singh and Ors v. Union of India and Ors judgement of the Supreme Court in 2006 laid down seven directives for states and union territories.

 

 

 

  • The reforms included constituting a State Security Commission (SSC) as a means to define the powers of the political executive and the police; rules for selecting the director general of police (DGP) and the security of tenure of the DGP and senior police officers; separation of police for the investigation and law and order roles; and an independent police complaints authority to inquire into complaints of the public against the police.

 

 

 

  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) published states’ status of compliance this month, and no state has fully complied with the recommendations in spirit. For example, while many states have SSCs, they don’t have binding powers. The DGPs continue to be selected at the discretion of the state government, and there are clauses allowing premature transfers, enabling political discretion. The separation of the investigative role of the police has not been done in several states.

 

 

  • The second reform has to be of the justice delivery system. The high pendency rate of our courts has become folklore, and since the Nirbhaya rape, the go-to response of the judiciary has been the setting up of fast-track courts to hasten the delivery of a judgement in a case of sexual assault. The original concept was to hire additional judges and establish new infrastructure to set up these courts.

 

  • But these courts don’t differ from the usual courts in any substantive way. Moreover, the pressure to dispose of cases faster has reduced the immunity of their judgements from challenge in higher courts, where cases again slow down and are often overturned, sometimes for not having followed due process. The practice of pulling away judges who are hearing regular matters to these courts also raises questions about whether the government is differentiating between victims.

 

  • And last but not least, a progressive mindset about sexual assault is the third change that is imperative. It is common for women to avoid reporting sexual assault for fear of the shame it would bring them. This conditioning allows criminals to go scot-free and punishes the victim. An increase in coverage of the feminist perspective helps, but it’s crucial for the fence-sitters to become vocal critics of regressive practices such as victim blaming, and reducing a woman to her sexuality

 

Way forward

 

  • The ordinance is seems to brought only to calm an enraged society, after the recent the outrage that followed the rape of two children, in Kathua and Unnao. The government need to fulfil its most essential duty of protecting the life and dignity of citizens as harsher punishment for rape is not enough.

 

QuestionThe Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 2018 seems to have limited effect, discuss. What measures can the government take to reduce the incidence of sexual assault against women?