Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has expressed serious concern over the rising incidents of sexual assault and, taking suo motu cognizance of media reports in this regard today, issued notices to Centre, States and UTs calling for reports on SOP to deal with such cases and use of Nirbhaya Fund.

The Commission has observed that there is a dire need for all the stakeholders to come together to work jointly to get rid of this evil.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has further observed that the largest democracy of the world, which has adopted the longest written constitution and has a rich cultural heritage of gender equality, is today being criticized for having the most unsafe environment for women. The incidents of rapes, molestation, gender-based discrimination and other such atrocities against women have, unfortunately, become routine media headlines.

The Commission has said that these incidents indeed involve violations of the human rights of the victims. It is well awake to the seriousness of the issue. Being the apex body for the protection and promotion of human rights at the national level, it considers its intervention into the matter necessary to understand as to where the state agencies and other stakeholders are lacking on their part and what can immediately be done.

There have been constitutional and statutory provisions to ensure that the women are not subjected to any kind of discrimination and harassment but there is an alarming trend indicating that things are getting worse amounting to a violation of right to life, liberty, dignity and equality of women across the country.

Recently, a number of such cases have been reported by the media wherein, the women have been subjected to sexual abuse, utmost cruelty and inhuman treatment by the perpetrators showing grave disrespect towards law. There have been instances where the incidents have been reportedly, occurred due to gross negligence by the administration and the law enforcing public agencies.

In Telangana, a 26-year-old veterinarian was reportedly, brutally gang-raped and killed by four accused persons. The culprits not only outraged the dignity of the victim but also killed her and burnt her body. As per media reports, the brother of the victim had approached the Shamshabad police station at around 11.00 PM reporting that his sister is unreachable for the last two hours but his worries were shrugged off by the police personnel and after occurrence of the incident, the FIR was also registered after delay. Though the accused have been arrested but had the timely action been taken by the police, the gruesome incident could, perhaps, be stopped. In another incident, a 25-year-old law student was also reportedly gang-raped by a group of armed men, in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

In another media report, carried today on 02.12.2019, a 6-year-old girl was and strangled with her school belt in Tonk district of Rajasthan on 01.12.2019. The victim was reportedly missing since the previous day. The police have not made any arrest in this case. There have been number of such cases occurred across the country during the recent past. All these incidents have indicate that making stringent laws and funds for the victims alone cannot change the scenario unless the police officers are specially trained and their attitude towards women’s issues also changes.

There seems to be a lack of “Standard Operating Procedure” (SOP) to deal with such kind of incidents and panic situations. It is alleged that whenever anyone goes to a police station for help after disappearance a major or minor female member, the answer of the police officials generally remains that she might have gone with someone. This humiliating and stereotype mindset is needed to be changed. There is need to effectively address the core issue as this serious challenge has not only created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in our society but has also badly tarnishing the image of our country.

Through media reports, the Commission has also come to know that the amount made available under the “Nirbhaya Fund” has been reduced and also not being appropriately utilized by the state governments. A news report, carried today on 2.12.2019 reveaLS that since the year 2014, the UT of Chandigarh has been given a sum of rupees 7.46 crores under Nirbhaya Fund but the administration has spent only 2.60 crore out of it. Mere announcements of schemes, making of laws and formation of funds are not going to serve the purpose unless these are properly implemented.

The Commission, knowing that the subject is being looked into by various fora, has issued notices to the Chief Secretaries of all the State and UTs calling for a report within 6 weeks about the status of Nirbhaya Fund in their states including the details about availability of the fund and the money spent, during last 3 years.

The Commission has also issued notices to the Directors General of Police of all the states and UTs calling for their response within 6 weeks about the Standard Operating Procedure and the best practices adopted by them to deal with the matters relating to sexual abuse and atrocities against women including the details of the action taken against the police officers/officials found insensitive and guilty of negligence towards issues related to women.

The Commission has also considered it necessary to call for a detailed from the Secretary, Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, giving details about the schemes/guidelines initiated by the union government and status of their implementation, including Nirbhaya Fund, by the States/UTs. The response is expected within 6 weeks.

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has sought response from the Bar Council of India on a plea seeking measures for women lawyers such as safety in courts, maternity benefits and the old age pension.

The bench issued notice to the BCI and its chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra on the PIL, filed by advocate Indu Kaul, which listed out incidents of sexual harassment against women lawyers in different court premises including the Delhi High Court and the trial courts.

The plea sought formulation of social security measures by the apex bar body in coordination with state bar councils to ensure that women lawyers are strengthened.

“The chamber blocks in the court premises have no police person deployed. Male and female rest rooms which have common wall are often found poorly lit which again makes it vulnerable for lady advocates when they use the facility,”

The petition said their safety and security ought to be made the “first priority” in the legal profession where gender disparity cannot be “overlooked”.

“Gender disparity cannot be overlooked in the legal profession where any successful lady advocated is attributed motives for her success which can be as hurting as her character assassination. Safety and security ought to be made the first priority. Lady advocates will withhold themselves from contesting elections of bar associations and bar councils as her male colleagues envy her success from the very first day,”

It further said that as per BCI Model Scheme, at the retirement age of 60 years, a lady lawyer’s position becomes pitiable as her practice diminishes due to poor health and her family still nourishes the impression that being an advocate she must be capable of earning her livelihood. Through social security measures there must be a provision for pension when she opts out of active practice.

It also mentioned the death of Darvesh Yadav, the first woman chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Bar Council who was shot dead by a male colleague in the premises of Agra district court last month. Instead of compensating Yadav’s family out of its own Advocate Welfare’ Fund, issued a press release demanding the compensation from the State Government.

The plea also submitted,

“Bar Councils from different states and BCI collect a huge amount of money on the sale of Advocates’ Welfare Stamp affixed mandatorily on every Vakalatnama irrespective of the fact that the case is criminal, jail petition, of women, old and indigent persons and/or PIL. … BCI as a statutory body is bound to formulate social security measures for providing financial assistance which is a part of it as a body corporate to bear the corporate social responsibility.”

(Source: PTI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Krishna S Dixit, J. dismissed a petition in limine, filed against an order of the Senior Civil Judge; on the ground of insufficiency of provisions of law and inability of the petitioner to support the legal contentions.

The petitioner herein was a party in a final decree proceeding arising out of a suit for partition and is aggrieved by the dismissal of his obstructor application under Order 21 Rule 97 and 101 read with Section 151 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 to re-adjudicate the rights of the parties. Hence, this petition.

Issue: Whether a Hindu widow, on contracting marriage, is divested of the property that has been vested in her by way of succession to the estate of the deceased husband?

The petitioner was represented by H.V. Manjunatha and  R. Manjuladevi who contested that respondent had contracted second marriage after the death of her first husband and therefore, she was divested of the property inherited from the deceased husband upon remarriage. Hence, there was a need for fresh adjudication of rights qua the respondent.

The Court’s conclusion consisted of a two-fold observation. Firstly, for an obstructor’s application, accrual of an independent cause of action which obstructs the execution of a decree is required. Secondly, contentions have to be supported by provisions of law or rulings, which the petitioners failed to do. It was held that a widow cannot be deprived of property by mere remarriage, subject to any just exceptions. A widow is the full owner of the property (Section 14 of Hindu Succession Act, 1956) and therefore such stipulations do not align with the intent of the legislature to bring gender equality.

High Court laid emphasis on Cherotte Sugathan v. Cherotte Bharathi, (2008) 2 SCC 610 and noted that the contested Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856 also stood repealed by the Parliament which further elucidated on the above-mentioned question of law. In light of the aforesaid rationale, the Court dismissed the petition in limine.[A.N. Amruth Kumar v. A.N. Vanitha, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 683, decided on 13-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Sharad Kumar Sharma, J. allowed a writ petition which was preferred against the action of the respondent of not extending the benefits to the petitioner which were available to the dependents of freedom fighter under various schemes floated by Government of India and State Government as well under the Act called as “Uttar Pradesh Public Services (Reservation for Physically Handicapped Dependents of Freedom Fighter and Ex-Servicemen) Act, 1993” on the premise that the petitioner would not be entitled to the benefit because she happens to be granddaughter (daughter’s daughter) of the deceased freedom fighter and would not be covered in the definition of family.

Tapan Singh, learned counsel for the petitioner argued that petitioner since being daughter’s daughter was a member of the family of deceased freedom fighter, irrespective of the fact that she was married or not, that ought not deprive the petitioner of availing the benefit under the freedom fighter scheme on the premise that she is married granddaughter of the deceased freedom fighter, It was also argued that such practices were an encouragement to gender discrimination. While further citing Isha Tyagi v. State of U.P., 2014 SCC OnLine All 15982, the counsel highlighted how such law will lead to gender discrimination as grandson (i.e. son’s son) of the freedom fighter was included under the definition of the ‘dependents of the family’ of freedom fighter in that eventuality that granddaughter i.e. daughter’s daughter or son should also be entitled to the benefit under the scheme. It was vehemently averred that such discrimination for the compassionate appointment was violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. In Isha Tyagi, it was held that, “benefit of the horizontal reservation for descendants of freedom fighters shall extend both to descendants of a freedom fighter tracing their lineage through a son or through a daughter irrespective of the marital status of the daughter. Neither a married daughter nor her children would be disqualified from receiving the benefit of the reservation which is otherwise available to them in their capacity as descendants of a freedom fighter. Whether, in a given case including the present, an applicant is truly a descendant of a freedom fighter is undoubtedly for the authority to verify.”

High Court, observed that judgment in Isha Tyagi, is concurred by a Full Bench of Uttaranchal High Court as well and there was no contradictory remark on it. Thus, the law had been laid down by the judges who bar such discrimination. It was stated by the Court, that ratio of earlier judgments would be applicable in relation to an extension of the benefit of the daughter, granddaughter or grandson of the freedom fighter as they cannot be discriminated on the basis of gender discrimination.

Accordingly, the writ petition was disposed of with a direction that there cannot be any gender discrimination in relation to claim raised by the petitioner being the daughter’s daughter of the freedom fighter. [Ruchika Tomar v. State of Uttarakhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 483, decided on 01-05-2019]

Conference/Seminars/LecturesLaw School News

Tamil Nadu National Law School, Tiruchirappalli in collaboration with Oxford Human Rights Hub, Oxford University, United Kingdom is organised “International Conference on Affirmative Action and the Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality” from 22nd- 23rd September, 2018.

The inaugural session was successfully concluded with the Conference Convenors, Prof.Dr. Kamala Sankaran and Prof. Sandra Fredman welcoming the discussants and presenters, followed by the keynote address by Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee, Judge Supreme Court of India. The inaugural session ended with a closing address by the Conference Coordinator Mr. Rahul Hemrajani, Assistant Professor of Law, TNNLU. This conference brought together scholars, practitioners and students working in the fields of law, statistics, economics, sociology, anthropology, public policy, gender studies and other social sciences, to explore the link between AA policies that favour women in positions of leadership and achieving target 5.5. of the SDGs. There were six technical session in the conference with only four papers were presented in the seminar.

The sessions were chaired by eminent practitioners and jurists such as Prof. M.P. Singh, Chancellor, Central University of Haryana, Justice (Dr.) S. Muralidhar, Delhi High Court,Dr. Meghan Campbell, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, Ms. Dorothy Thomas, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, Chennai,Prof. Sandra Fredman, Rhodes Professor of the Laws of the British Commonwealth and the United States, University of Oxford. Also, the papers were presented by students and scholars across the globe.

The conference concluded with roundtable discussion on these issues. The conference have fostered a plethora of ideas, and we hope this will bring us all a step closer to achieving the goals we have set forth as a global community.