ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By SAHRDC

Institutionalising the Police State

The Jammu and Kashmir government has cleverly used the Supreme Court's order on revamping police legislation to bring in the J&K Police Bill 2013 that has several arbitrary and draconian provisions. While demanding revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the state government is attempting to bring in a law that gives the police huge powers over citizens without protecting the latter's rights.

Notifying Farming as an Essential Service

The Government of India is considering a proposal to notify farming as an essential service. This is ostensibly to bring drought relief to farmers suffering from a weak monsoon - a laudable goal indeed. However, if farming is deemed an "essential service", farmers and farm workers could lose many of their political and civic rights because the government can then invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act to ban strikes by agricultural workers, leaving them without collective bargaining power.

Moving Constitutional Borders

The Border Security Force (Amendment) Bill which seeks to expand its powers along with those of all the other armed forces and the Intelligence Bureau is unconstitutional and violates the spirit of India's federalist system. This is akin to creating a centralised police force that can use excessive force with no repercussion and can all too easily resort to heavy-handed tactics to control rather than protect a population.

An International Trojan Horse?

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill has been drafted to meet India's obligations to the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force on combating money-laundering and terrorist fi nancing. However, the powers it will confer on the government could be easily abused to permit prosecution of mass organisations or non-governmental organisations working in communities allegedly associated with banned groups. There are many other concerns and it is essential that the Bill be referred to a standing committee of Parliament before it is considered for enactment.

Not a Very Intelligent Attempt at Intelligence Reform

Intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau and National Technical Research Organisation are notorious for their abuse of civil liberties and also have a pathetic record of effectiveness. A private member's bill, the Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011 which is meant to set things right, however contains ambiguous provisions that hold immense possibilities for abuse of powers. It also hands out near total control over the agencies and their accountability bodies to the prime minister and the executive.

Judiciary's Skewed Vision of Natural Justice

The natural justice content of the Indian Constitution provides an illusory comfort as the judiciary tends to adopt an overly constricted interpretation of natural justice, merely equating it with statutory law. This analysis emphasises that to safeguard citizens' rights, the courts must engage with all facets of the law and adopt an expansive and meaningful reading of natural justice.

Guilty by Association?

The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Arup Bhuyan vs State of Assam has rejected the doctrine of "guilty by association". It argues that members of a banned organisation cannot be treated as criminals unless they actually resort to violence, incite people to violence, or create public disorder or disturbance of public peace by violence. A summary of national and international case laws to support this judgment is presented here. The government is off the mark in wanting to have the judgment reviewed by a larger bench of the Court.

A Step in the Wrong Direction

The tension between national investigations and international interactions on human rights concerns was brought to the fore in the recent exchange between the Supreme Court and the Citizens for Justice and Peace about the latter forwarding letters written to the Special Investigation Team on the Gujarat killings to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. How appropriate was the Supreme Court's ire towards Setalvad and the CJP? And did CJP have to acquiesce to the Supreme Court's direction?