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Q.1) Introducing stringent punishments such as death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12, is not the answer to address the increasing sexual violence against women and children. It is the improvement of criminal justice system which should be taken into consideration. Analyse the statements. (GS – 1)

Introduction:

  • Recently, an ordinance was passed to provide stringent punishment to those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12.
  • The new ordinance seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
  • The significant move came amid the nationwide outrage over the series of incidents of sexual assault of minor girls, like the one in Kathua.

“rarest of rare case”:

  • Death penalty in India is given for the rarest of rare cases. The criteria for a crime being “rarest of rare case” has not been defined.
  • India also opposed a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, as it goes against Indian statutory law and the sovereign right of every country to determine their own legal system.
  • As a result, many countries refuse to handover indian fuguites because of the presence of capital punishment in India.

The following are the provisions of the ordinance:

  • Rape of a child below 12 years: death sentence, imprisonment for life or a minimum sentence of 20 years.
  • Rape of a girl below 16 years: minimum 20 years imprisonment but extendible to life imprisonment
  • Gang rape of a girl below 16 years: imprisonment for life.
  • Investigation of all cases of rape should be completed within two months.
  • The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months.
  • A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases.
  • Establishment of more fast-track courts to deal with rape cases,
  • Appointment of more public prosecutors
  • Police stations to be equipped with special forensic kits

Consequences:

  • Awareness about the plight of children.
  • Might act as a deterrent.
  • Social stigma attached to death penalty
  • Children would be more aware and vigilant
  • Speedy trial and justice

Way Forward:

  • Certainty of the punishment rather than its severity should be focused upon.
  • There is a general lack of obedience to law because of the delays and the perceived corruption in the Judiciary. There is a need for judicial reforms.
  • The authorities should focus on carrying out proper investigations and legal processes so that the criminal does not escape due to loopholes in the law or for lack of evidence.
  • A simultaneous effort should be taken to sensitise the future generation about gender equality.

Q.2) What is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)? Critically comment on its implications and provide a way forward.  (GS – 3)

Introduction:

  • Recently, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was revoked in Meghalaya and restricted in parts of Arunachal Pradesh after 27 years. The AFSPA gives power to army and central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without Centre’s sanction. As per Section 3 of the AFSPA, it can be invoked in places “where the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.” Tripura withdrew AFSPA in 2015 .In 2017,  Home Ministry gave up its power and asked the Assam government to take a decision on continuing AFSPA in the State. At present, AFSPA is enforced in Manipur,Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

Recent Changes:

1)The Centre has revoked The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya.

2)In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA has been reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam.

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

Against AFSPA:

1) Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy committee(2004-05), appointed to review AFSPA, recommended repealing of the Act.It said that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and the Central forces.

2) Rights groups in the north-east and Jammu and Kashmir have been demanding withdrawal of the AFSPA as they claim the law gives “sweeping powers” to the security forces to act against civilians.

3) Irom Sharmila recently ended her 14 years fast and took to the democratic route of elections to work towards repealing AFSPA

Why insurgency in the North East?

1) Multiple insurgent groups with varied demands

2) Porous international borders provide arms and ammunitions and escape route

3) Connected to mainland through a narrow siliguri corridor

4) Difficult terrain

5) Lack of infrastructure

Terrorism in the rest of the country:

1) Maoism in the red corridor

2) Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, similar to AFSPA is in place.

3)Sporadic terrorist incidents throughout the country- for example: 26/11 Mumbai attacks, attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, Amarnath Yatra attacks in 2017 etc

Implications:

1)Focus on development in the areas.

2)Increased trust of people on the government

3)Resources allocated to infrastructure

4)Peace talks with insurgent groups

5)Withdrawal in other areas if positive changes take place.

Way Forward:

1) Experience has shown that AFSPA has only been counterproductive. Constant presence of armed forces has led to hostility and misuse of power.

2) A recent enquiry by the Supreme Court revealed that all the encounters were fake and carried out to achieve personal ends.

3) AFSPA  hinders development and alienates people. The recent act is a step in the right direction.

4) It should be supplemented by various efforts to bring about socio-economic development of the region.

5) Community people should be roped in to reduce and tackle terrorism so as to bring about inclusive growth.

Conclusion:

  • The Home Ministry should timely conduct a “security audit” in the Northeast and chalk out a plan to reduce the number of Central armed police force personnel deployed there and state police must be entrusted responsibility for regular law and order and patrolling duties. This will help in gradual withdrawal of AFSPA act and ensuring peace and security in disturbed areas.

Q.3) Write short notes on:

a) ‘Columbian exchange’ in History

Introduction:

  • The Columbian Exchange was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, and ideas between the Americas and the Old World in the 15th and 16th centuries, related to European colonization and trade following Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage.
  • Invasive species, including communicable diseases, were a byproduct of the Exchange.
  • The term was first used in 1972 by American historian Alfred W. Crosby in his environmental history book The Columbian Exchange.

Significance:

  • The changes in agriculture significantly altered and changed global populations.
  • The most significant immediate impact of the Columbian Exchange was the cultural exchanges and the transfer of people between continents.
  • The new contact between the global population circulated a wide variety of crops and livestock, which supported increases in population in both hemispheres.
  • Traders returned to Europe with maize, potatoes, and tomatoes, which became very important crops in Europe by the 18th century.

b) Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP)

Introduction:

  • NITI Aayog has recently launched the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP), on the occasion of International Women’s Day today.

Salient features:

  • Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) aims to address the bottlenecks faced by both aspiring and established women entrepreneurs by streamlining information across government and private sector schemes and initiatives.
  • It builds an ecosystem for women across India to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale-up innovative initiatives and chalk-out sustainable, long-term strategies for their businesses.  
  • The platform aspires to substantially increase the number of women entrepreneurs who will create and empower a dynamic New India.
  • These aspirations are manifest in the three pillars on which WEP is built:
    • Ichha Shakti (motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to start their enterprise),
    • Gyaan Shakti (providing knowledge and ecosystem support to women entrepreneurs to help them foster entrepreneurship) &
    • Karma Shakti (providing hands-on support to entrepreneurs in setting-up and scaling up businesses).
  • WEP is to operate within a broader framework of industry collaborations and partnerships, which cut across sectors in the economy.
  • From providing unique services such as credit evaluation of women-led startups by CRISIL and potential equity investments through an INR 10 crore fund established by DICE Districts, the WEP opens up avenues of growth and opportunity for women entrepreneurs.
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