Allahabad to Prayagraj:
- The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet on Tuesday adopted the proposal to rename the historical city of Allahabad as Prayagraj.
- The State government said it was only restoring an old name to the city. Today, the BJP government had rectified the mistake made by Akbar”- spokesperson.
- Five hundred years ago, the name of the place was Prayagraj as it was at the Triveni Sangam [a confluence of three rivers].
Amendment to Hindu Marriage Act 1976:
- The Supreme Court has allowed a couple to go their separate ways without waiting for the mandatory “cooling-off” period of six months on learning that they have decided to part as friends.
- Hindu couples, who have mutually agreed to separate, need not wait any more for the mandatory “cooling-off ” period of six months before divorce.
- Previously, under the Hindu Marriage Act, once a couple moved a court of law for divorce, they had to wait for a minimum period of six months before the court actually passed a decree of divorce.
- Divorce by mutual consent was introduced as an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act in 1976. The waiting period under Section 13B was mandated to prevent couples from taking any hasty decision to end their marriage.
Property developer should display layout plan:
- The developer of a property should display at the site the sanction/layout plan under the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act of 2016, the Supreme Court has held.
- Keeping in mind the ground reality of rampant violations and the consequences thereof, it is advisable to issue directions for display of such sanction plan/layout plans at the site – enforcement of RERA [Real Estate Act of 2016]- SC
- sub-section (3) of Section 11 of the RERA requires the sanction plan/layout plans along with specifications, approved by the competent authority, to be displayed at the site. The provisions of the statute should be fully complied with.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Indian Constitution: Right to equality, Freedom and dignity
- Social justice and governance
Dumping an archaic law
The Supreme Court delivered series of land mark judgments this month, including Section 377, Sabrimala, and decriminalisation of the offence of adultery by holding Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) unconstitutional.
As previously: Adultery an offence
- India was one of the few countries in the world that still considered adultery an offence.
- The Indian definition of this crime was that it did not punish the erring spouses, but instead punished the adultering man, or rather ‘the outsider’, for having extra-marital relations with a woman who he knows to be married.
- It was only an offence if the husband had not consented to this relation, implicitly suggesting that the wife was the property of her husband.
- Hence, the husband was considered to be the “victim” of adultery and could file a case. The same recourse was, however, not available to the wife.
Moral wrong as crime
- For any act to be a crime, it has to be committed against society at large.
- The main argument for retaining the criminal provision was that the outsider should be punished for breaching the matrimonial unit and that the law should mandate punishment for such a moral wrong.
- This violation was seen as a crime against the institution of marriage, thus justifying it to be a breach of security and well-being of society, this argument was unanimously dismissed by the bench.
Observations of the SC
- The court observed that the issue of adultery between spouses was a private matter, and could be a ground for divorce under civil law.
- It did not warrant the use of criminal sanction against any party involved.
- Moreover, no justification can be given by the state for penalising people with imprisonment for making intimate and personal choices.
- Addressing the issue of making the penal provisions of adultery gender neutral, the court held that even then the matter was private, and anything otherwise would be a grave intrusion into the privacy of individuals.
- As the law previously stood, the victim would be the husband alone, whose property (i.e. the wife) was trespassed upon. The court dismissed this regressive patriarchal notion of women being “chattels” of their husband.
- The court held that Section 497, as it existed, denied women ownership of their sexuality and agency over their own relationships.
Rights violated by Section 497 of IPC
- The court relied on K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India to explain this deprivation of autonomy as a violation of their right to privacy and to live with dignity, thus violating their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The adultery provision also violated the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14. The fact that the commission of the offence would have been in the absence of the husband’s consent proved the inequality between the spouses.
- Section 497 consumed the identity of a wife, as an individual with rights as an equal partner to the marriage, tipping the scales to favour the husband.
Justifications given in support of Section 497
- Previous challenges to this provision claimed that exempting women under Section 497 from prosecution and being prosecuted was ‘protecting’ them.
- Also claimed, was in consonance with Article 15(3) of the Constitution that allowed the state to make laws for the benefit of women and children.
- This provision was made when bigamy was prevalent and Lord Macaulay, the drafter of the IPC, did not find it fair to punish one inconsistency of the wife when the husband was allowed to marry many others.
- Misconception in this reasoning was pointed out by the court — the law that takes away the right of women to prosecute, just as her husband had the right to proceed against the other man, could not be considered ‘beneficial’ and was, in fact, discriminatory.
- The court rightly explained: “Marriage in a constitutional regime is founded on the equality of and between spouses. Each of them is entitled to the same liberty which Part III [of the Constitution] guarantees.”
- Therefore, not affording both parties to a marriage equal rights and opportunities would be discriminatory and a violation of their right to equality.
- It is surprising to see that even after the verdict many have opposed this decision of the Supreme Court, most countries around the world have done away with this practice.
- While the struggle for equality in many other spheres still continues, the decision to scrap this archaic law is definitely a step in the right direction.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Indian Constitution : Elections, Parliament
- Democratic governance and society
Decriminalisation of politics: In Parliament’s court
- The issue of candidates facing criminal charges getting elected to Parliament and State legislative Assemblies is often raised, but initiatives to minimise the problem, if not eliminate it completely, have been rather slow.
- In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court has left it to Parliament to legislate on the subject, with regard to preventing such candidates from contesting elections.
Steps taken by Supreme Court
- Some important changes in the electoral laws — making it mandatory for candidates to submit an affidavit with full disclosure of criminal cases, if any, and details of their asset and income — were made mandatory by the judiciary.
- The court made it mandatory for political parties and candidates themselves to make public disclosure through print and electronic media.
- Providing an option to voters to exercise None of the Above (NOTA) in case they do not want to vote for any of the candidate contesting an election, was also introduced by the judiciary in 2003 on the basis of the PIL filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
- The court mentioned that it was not within its powers to disqualify politicians facing criminal cases from contesting election, but recommended that Parliament enact a strong law.
Concerns and challenges
- There is serious doubt whether this judgment would in any way help in making our politics cleaner than before. The chances of Parliament acting fast on this issue are dim.
- No political party is free of this problem. The use of muscle power along with money power is a weapon used by all political parties to maximise electoral gains.
- In such a scenario, any move to ban candidates with a criminal record from contesting elections would mean political parties inflicting self-harm.
- Public opinion too is not firm on this. A survey found that opinion was divided when people were asked whether they would be willing to vote for a honest candidate who may not get their work done, or a tainted candidate who could get their work done.
What data show?
- Data from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) indicate that 179 out of the 543 elected Members of Parliament in the present Lok Sabha have some kind of criminal case pending against them.
- While it is true that some of these may be of a frivolous nature, it is also true that many of these cases concern allegations of their involvement in serious crimes.
- In the case of over 100 MPs, the cases were of a very serious nature such as crimes against women and kidnapping.
- There seems to be very little improvement in this regard in the last five years.
- In the previous Lok Sabha (2009), 163 had criminal cases pending against them, many of which were of a serious nature.
- The profile of members of the Upper House is no better; of 228 members of the Rajya Sabha for whom data could be analysed, 20 have cases of serious crimes pending against them.
- Among the current ruling party’s MPs (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), 107 (32%) have criminal cases pending against them.
- Of them, 64 (19%) have cases of serious crimes pending against them.
- The Congress is only a shade better than the BJP; 15 MPs (15%) have criminal cases pending against them, of whom eight (8%) have cases of serious criminal offences pending against them.
- There is hardly any difference between the national and regional parties in this regard.
- In the Shiv Sena, 18 MPs (86%) have criminal cases pending against them, of whom 10 (48%) are alleged to be involved in serious criminal cases.
- Of all MPs, six each of the Nationalist Congress Party (55%) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (67%) have serious criminal cases pending against them.
- Going by the ADR’s estimates, there are more than 1,500 MPs and MLAs in Parliament and State Assemblies with criminal cases pending against them.
- While political parties raise concern about candidates with a tainted background contesting elections and getting elected, none of them come forward to set an example for others when it is time to act.
- The issue is far more important and serious than the attention being paid to it by the policy makers.
- While the Election Commission has limited powers to legislate on such laws, it is only Parliament which can legislate to bring about the desired change.