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Bengaluru: Nearly 80 percent students demand eggs in mid-day meal, finds opinion poll

After the circular released by the Commissioner of Education Department of Karnataka, opinion was sought from the students on whether they want egg, peanut bar or banana as the protein source in their mid-day meals.

27 Jan 2023

Mid-day meal

Bengaluru: More than 38.37 lakh students of primary and high school students chose eggs as their protein source in their mid-day meal amid the “Satvik” food controversy, as per the data given by the education department.

After the circular released by the Commissioner of Education Department of Karnataka, opinion was sought from the students on whether they want egg, peanut bar or banana as the protein source in their mid-day meals.

The opinion was taken from the students in the different zones, where almost 80 per cent of students demanded eggs in their meals.

Around 38.37 lakh students are studying in Classes 1 to 8 in Karnataka, among whom almost 80 per cent of students demanded eggs. Other 2.27 lakh students asked the government to provide peanut bars and Bananas, according to the survey of Education Department.

Students mainly in the Belagavi division followed by Bengaluru and Kalburgi along with the Mysore division chose eggs for their meals to fulfil their nutrition demands especially when there is a discussion about “Satvik” food in schools.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

Bengaluru: Nearly 80 percent students demand eggs in mid-day meal, finds opinion poll

After the circular released by the Commissioner of Education Department of Karnataka, opinion was sought from the students on whether they want egg, peanut bar or banana as the protein source in their mid-day meals.

Mid-day meal

Bengaluru: More than 38.37 lakh students of primary and high school students chose eggs as their protein source in their mid-day meal amid the “Satvik” food controversy, as per the data given by the education department.

After the circular released by the Commissioner of Education Department of Karnataka, opinion was sought from the students on whether they want egg, peanut bar or banana as the protein source in their mid-day meals.

The opinion was taken from the students in the different zones, where almost 80 per cent of students demanded eggs in their meals.

Around 38.37 lakh students are studying in Classes 1 to 8 in Karnataka, among whom almost 80 per cent of students demanded eggs. Other 2.27 lakh students asked the government to provide peanut bars and Bananas, according to the survey of Education Department.

Students mainly in the Belagavi division followed by Bengaluru and Kalburgi along with the Mysore division chose eggs for their meals to fulfil their nutrition demands especially when there is a discussion about “Satvik” food in schools.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

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Karnataka DCD reverses the order on ban of contraceptives to minors, claims no such order was ever issued

Bhagoji T Khanapure has now stated that a notice to pharmacists have been issued for counselling minors that buy condoms, oral contraceptives

25 Jan 2023

karnataka

On January 20, the Karnataka Drug Control Department (KDCD) had reportedly issued a circular prohibiting the sale of contraceptives and condoms to anyone under the age of eighteen. The contentious directive, which spurred many debates about undesired pregnancies and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), was quickly reversed.

More fittingly, KDCD categorically denied ever issuing a circular forbidding pharmacists from selling condoms, oral contraceptives, and antidepressants to minors.

Earlier, media reports had indicated that the above-mentioned order was issued after state pharmaceuticals controller in-charge Bhagoji T Khanapure was cited as saying, "The state government is promoting condoms to prevent sexually transmitted illnesses and for population control. However, it is not suitable for teenagers or school children."

According to the Bangalore Mirror, Khanapure claimed unequivocally that a circular was issued stating explicitly that contraceptives should not be sold to underage minors. "We have not issued any circular to that effect," Khanapure later stated. This has been misreported in the media." Refuting the claims on the ban, the DCD said that there is no ban on contraception and that it has merely issued a notice to pharmacists, directing them to counsel minors buying the said materials.

The circular was reportedly issued following the discovery of condoms, contraceptives, cigarettes, and whiteners in the backpacks of school students in November of last year when a surprise check to prevent children from bringing cell phones to class left Bengaluru school officials taken aback as in addition to cell phones, authorities discovered condoms, oral contraceptives, lighters, cigarettes, and whiteners in the backpacks of kids from Classes 8, 9, and 10 standards. This case led to concerns about health, addiction, and future of the kids.

Opposition by experts

Soon after the claimed directive was issued, experts and pharmacists condemned it, claiming that it would only lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

Some argue that the prohibition will be ineffective because condoms and contraception are available at all retailers, not just pharmacies. According to a New Indian Express report, they are also over-the-counter sale items that do not require a prescription.

Some pharmacists also stated that it is difficult for them to distinguish between consumers who arrive dressed in civic attire and those who do not. Khanpure added that the ban did not only apply to condoms and contraception, but also to cigarettes.

Tanushree, a certified Comprehensive Sex Educator (CSE) working in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), voiced grave concerns about the DCD's decision in Karnataka. Tanushree stated, as reported by Outlook, that while there is a legal ambiguity in the event of two consenting kids engaging in sexual activity, regressive judgements cannot serve the objective of prohibiting adolescents or teenagers from engaging in harmful sexual practices.

"Not only can barrier methods (male or female condoms) prevent pregnancy, but they also prevent the spread of STDs or STIs. Our greatest chance is to engage with children and encourage safer sexual practices, as well as to empower minors to make decisions about their own bodies" Tanushree was quoted saying.

Apurva Vivek, a Jharkhand-based lawyer, started her own group, Hashiya, to promote safe abortions in the state. As reported by Outlook, Vivek took a firm stand against the prohibition. "Why do you despise women so much?" she inquired. "I don't believe this ban was given any thought. It is now widely accepted that restricting access to contraception does not prohibit individuals from having sex; it only prevents safe sex. It'll be a bag of worms that none of us will know what to do with. Pregnancies in adolescence, maternal fatalities, unsafe abortions, school dropouts, STIs, and other consequences will all skyrocket. Why do we continue to punish women's bodies in order to satisfy our moral compass? If we are so disturbed by young people having sex, why don't we make comprehensive sex education available in schools? I also wonder what directions pharmacies are going to receive in case the minor requesting contraceptives is a married girl," she added pointing to the problem of child marriages in India. "Will they be asking for a marriage certificate along with the proof of age?" Vivek asked, as reported by Outlook.

Was this the right move?

According to the National Family Health Survey-5, Karnataka has a 5.4 percent adolescent pregnancy rate, while India has a 7% teen pregnancy rate. Teenage pregnancies are also greater in rural India, at 8%, than in urban India, at 4%.

India has recently surpassed China as the world's most populous country. The above-mentioned Karnataka DCD judgment is frightening and dangerous because it constitutes a potential threat to population control. Such decisions undermined prior governments' efforts to promote and use condoms, contraception, and safe sexual behaviors at the highest levels.

The issuance of this order by the Karnataka DCD was a knee-jerk reaction to finding condoms in the bags of student during the surprise search. Sex is, and has been, a “taboo” in India. On a daily basis, multiple news is reported of minors getting pregnant and being forced to opt for unsafe abortions or taking gruesome steps after the child is born. In a country where people are fighting for getting appropriate access to sex education and information, such steps further hamper the efforts that are being made. Just like the ban on porn, the government, through the ban on condoms and contraceptives, has targeted and buried the wrong issue.

The Indian government and Indian education system is already doing a poor job at educating the younger generation on issues related to intercourse, consent, safe sex - this ban would have further distanced them from even having access to contraceptives, resulting in more unwanted pregnancies and opting for unsafe abortion methods.

As always, this ban, which was levied by a man, would have more consequences for the women than the men involved, as the women will have to suffer through shame, isolation, and even drop out of schools.  This ban is also a classic example of how we are failing to adopt with changing times. It is essential that such steps are nipped in the bud, and instead, our focus shifts on providing appropriate education to the younger generation and teaching them about good/bad touch. Instead of asking pharmacists, who are not fully equipped with the required knowledge to counsel minors on sex, the Karnataka government should be encouraging the students to initiate conversation around sex with actual counsellors.

 

Related:

How diverse and inclusive is the Indian judiciary?

Celebrating the Republic @ 74!

Patriarchy and Virtue: Why is the outlawed practice of the Two Finger Test still in practice in India?

Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC

Kerala HC: “Even if a woman wears a ‘provocative dress’ that cannot give a licence to a man to outrage her modesty”

Karnataka DCD reverses the order on ban of contraceptives to minors, claims no such order was ever issued

Bhagoji T Khanapure has now stated that a notice to pharmacists have been issued for counselling minors that buy condoms, oral contraceptives

karnataka

On January 20, the Karnataka Drug Control Department (KDCD) had reportedly issued a circular prohibiting the sale of contraceptives and condoms to anyone under the age of eighteen. The contentious directive, which spurred many debates about undesired pregnancies and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), was quickly reversed.

More fittingly, KDCD categorically denied ever issuing a circular forbidding pharmacists from selling condoms, oral contraceptives, and antidepressants to minors.

Earlier, media reports had indicated that the above-mentioned order was issued after state pharmaceuticals controller in-charge Bhagoji T Khanapure was cited as saying, "The state government is promoting condoms to prevent sexually transmitted illnesses and for population control. However, it is not suitable for teenagers or school children."

According to the Bangalore Mirror, Khanapure claimed unequivocally that a circular was issued stating explicitly that contraceptives should not be sold to underage minors. "We have not issued any circular to that effect," Khanapure later stated. This has been misreported in the media." Refuting the claims on the ban, the DCD said that there is no ban on contraception and that it has merely issued a notice to pharmacists, directing them to counsel minors buying the said materials.

The circular was reportedly issued following the discovery of condoms, contraceptives, cigarettes, and whiteners in the backpacks of school students in November of last year when a surprise check to prevent children from bringing cell phones to class left Bengaluru school officials taken aback as in addition to cell phones, authorities discovered condoms, oral contraceptives, lighters, cigarettes, and whiteners in the backpacks of kids from Classes 8, 9, and 10 standards. This case led to concerns about health, addiction, and future of the kids.

Opposition by experts

Soon after the claimed directive was issued, experts and pharmacists condemned it, claiming that it would only lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

Some argue that the prohibition will be ineffective because condoms and contraception are available at all retailers, not just pharmacies. According to a New Indian Express report, they are also over-the-counter sale items that do not require a prescription.

Some pharmacists also stated that it is difficult for them to distinguish between consumers who arrive dressed in civic attire and those who do not. Khanpure added that the ban did not only apply to condoms and contraception, but also to cigarettes.

Tanushree, a certified Comprehensive Sex Educator (CSE) working in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), voiced grave concerns about the DCD's decision in Karnataka. Tanushree stated, as reported by Outlook, that while there is a legal ambiguity in the event of two consenting kids engaging in sexual activity, regressive judgements cannot serve the objective of prohibiting adolescents or teenagers from engaging in harmful sexual practices.

"Not only can barrier methods (male or female condoms) prevent pregnancy, but they also prevent the spread of STDs or STIs. Our greatest chance is to engage with children and encourage safer sexual practices, as well as to empower minors to make decisions about their own bodies" Tanushree was quoted saying.

Apurva Vivek, a Jharkhand-based lawyer, started her own group, Hashiya, to promote safe abortions in the state. As reported by Outlook, Vivek took a firm stand against the prohibition. "Why do you despise women so much?" she inquired. "I don't believe this ban was given any thought. It is now widely accepted that restricting access to contraception does not prohibit individuals from having sex; it only prevents safe sex. It'll be a bag of worms that none of us will know what to do with. Pregnancies in adolescence, maternal fatalities, unsafe abortions, school dropouts, STIs, and other consequences will all skyrocket. Why do we continue to punish women's bodies in order to satisfy our moral compass? If we are so disturbed by young people having sex, why don't we make comprehensive sex education available in schools? I also wonder what directions pharmacies are going to receive in case the minor requesting contraceptives is a married girl," she added pointing to the problem of child marriages in India. "Will they be asking for a marriage certificate along with the proof of age?" Vivek asked, as reported by Outlook.

Was this the right move?

According to the National Family Health Survey-5, Karnataka has a 5.4 percent adolescent pregnancy rate, while India has a 7% teen pregnancy rate. Teenage pregnancies are also greater in rural India, at 8%, than in urban India, at 4%.

India has recently surpassed China as the world's most populous country. The above-mentioned Karnataka DCD judgment is frightening and dangerous because it constitutes a potential threat to population control. Such decisions undermined prior governments' efforts to promote and use condoms, contraception, and safe sexual behaviors at the highest levels.

The issuance of this order by the Karnataka DCD was a knee-jerk reaction to finding condoms in the bags of student during the surprise search. Sex is, and has been, a “taboo” in India. On a daily basis, multiple news is reported of minors getting pregnant and being forced to opt for unsafe abortions or taking gruesome steps after the child is born. In a country where people are fighting for getting appropriate access to sex education and information, such steps further hamper the efforts that are being made. Just like the ban on porn, the government, through the ban on condoms and contraceptives, has targeted and buried the wrong issue.

The Indian government and Indian education system is already doing a poor job at educating the younger generation on issues related to intercourse, consent, safe sex - this ban would have further distanced them from even having access to contraceptives, resulting in more unwanted pregnancies and opting for unsafe abortion methods.

As always, this ban, which was levied by a man, would have more consequences for the women than the men involved, as the women will have to suffer through shame, isolation, and even drop out of schools.  This ban is also a classic example of how we are failing to adopt with changing times. It is essential that such steps are nipped in the bud, and instead, our focus shifts on providing appropriate education to the younger generation and teaching them about good/bad touch. Instead of asking pharmacists, who are not fully equipped with the required knowledge to counsel minors on sex, the Karnataka government should be encouraging the students to initiate conversation around sex with actual counsellors.

 

Related:

How diverse and inclusive is the Indian judiciary?

Celebrating the Republic @ 74!

Patriarchy and Virtue: Why is the outlawed practice of the Two Finger Test still in practice in India?

Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC

Kerala HC: “Even if a woman wears a ‘provocative dress’ that cannot give a licence to a man to outrage her modesty”

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Contested impact on India’s orphans leave young abandoned: Covid-19 pandemic

The need for a comprehensive legal framework that protects all orphans is the need of the hour

24 Jan 2023

Covid OrphanImage: Reuters

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats children, said Nelson Mandela during the launch of the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s fund.[1] There are two sides to this statement. One is how the society in general treats the children, and what rights does it give them. The second side is how society’s most powerful agent- the state- treats children. The Latin maxim parens patrie is of significance in this context. It refers to the power of state to the intervene against an abusive or negligent parent. For children who have been abandoned or who saw the death of their parents, it is the state that becomes the natural protector.

Out of the approximate 147 million orphans in the world, 30 million orphans are there in India.[2] UNICEF states that there are three distinct kinds of orphans- paternal orphans i.e., those who lost their father; maternal orphans i.e., those who lost their mother; double orphans i.e., those who lost both their parents. The passing of a parent(s) brings significant changes to a child's life, including potential changes in living arrangements, influenced by factors such as cultural customs, decisions made by guardians or caregivers, and existing plans for raising the child after the death of a parent(s).[3] Education plays a crucial role in shaping both personal growth and the advancement of a nation. It is the primary tool in instilling cultural values in children and is the most powerful force in moulding them into responsible, intelligent, and capable citizens. The loss of a parent can negatively impact a child's educational enrolment and this can particularly impede the transition from primary to secondary education, as spending on education is significantly reduced.[4] In this context, this article presents an overview of what framework guides the orphan protection regime in the country.

Legislative Framework

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) is the prime legislation dealing with children and another legislation that is part of the regime is the Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960(Orphanages Act).

The JJ Act

The JJ act mandates that whoever is handed over a child who appears or claims to be abandoned or lost, or a child who appears or claims to be an orphan without family support shall within twenty-four hours (excluding the time necessary for the journey), give information to the Childline Services or the nearest police station or to a Child Welfare Committee or to the District Child Protection Unit, or hand over the child to a child care institution registered under this Act. Not reporting such fact is an offence. (Section 32)

Under JJ Act, “orphan” means a child—

(i) who is without biological or adoptive parents or legal guardian; or

(ii) whose legal guardian is not willing to take, or capable of taking care of the child;

To counter the abandonment of children, which is prevalent in the country, the JJ Act stated that those parents, who for physical, emotional and social factors beyond their control, wish to surrender a child, shall produce the child before the Child Welfare Committee and the Committee will decide as to whether child should be with parents or with a legal guardian or be sent to a specialised adoption agency or to a children’s home if the child is below 6 years of age. (Section 35)

The act also forms a Child Welfare Committee for each committee which will look after the welfare aspects and the Juvenile Justice Board for looking into the aspects of those children who are in conflict with the law. (Section 27)

While the JJ Act is designed to provide a legal framework for protecting the rights of children, it is not sufficient to solve all the problems faced by orphans in India.

Orphans in India face a wide range of challenges, including poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, and discrimination. The JJ Act does not address all of these issues and does not provide a comprehensive solution for addressing the needs of orphans. Additionally, the implementation of the JJ Act is often inadequate, and there are reports of abuse and neglect in institutions for children. Furthermore, the JJ Act focuses mainly on children in conflict with the law, and not on children in need of care and protection, which are the majority of the orphan population.

Orphanages Act

The Orphanages act empowers the state governments to monitor orphan homes and child care institutions. For this purpose, the state government can form a board and that board will be the authority to frame rules and regulations for the orphanages and child care centres to follow. The boards also have the power to issue certificates without which the centre is not supposed to run. (Section 5, 15).

Additionally, the Constitution, in the form of Directive Principles, directs that state shall secure, with its policy, that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.[5]

The Bill that never saw light- THE ORPHAN CHILD (PROVISION OF SOCIALSECURITY)BILL, 2016

The Orphan Child Bill, 2016 was a private member bill in the Lok Sabha, and had progressive provisions such a 3% reservation for Orphan Children within educational institutions and in posts and services under the Central Government.[6] The bill was however very loosely worded without any particular framework. For example, it stated that the central government shall have initial Orphan welfare fund with corpus of Rs. 2000 Crore rupees and more money from the ratio as decided by the states and the centre mutually be added to the fund. This was merely directory and in that too, there were no directions as to how to arrive at the ratio of contributions of state and the centre, to the fund.[7]

One important aspect of this bill is that one of the provisions mandated the conducting of a census every decade, of orphan children followed by the formulation and adoption of a National Policy for welfare of Orphan Children based on the findings of the census.[8]

Covid-19 and Specific effects on Orphan Children

Supreme Court, in its suo moto matter dealing with the social and economic impacts pf the Covid-19 pandemic within child protection homes, asked the government to “help” the children affected during the pandemic.[9] The union government has launched a website called Bal Swaraj under the aegis of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to record the orphan children and provide them care. The Bal Swaraj portal does not show the statistics of ‘Covid Care and Children’ while it shows the statistics of ‘Child in Street Situations’. However, a Ministry of Women and Child Development’s press release, which countered the Lancet Journal’s finding that there are 19 lakh children who were orphaned due to Covid-19, presented the Covid affected Children members, i.e., the statistics of those who lost their parents. The ministry data was released on March 2, 2022 and by then 1, 42, 949 children admittedly lost one parent and 10386 children lost both their parents, according to this data. The government launched the started a PM CARES- Children scheme provides support to these children through a ‘convergent approach’, gap funding for ensuring education, health, monthly stipend from the age of 18 years, and a lump sum amount of Rs. 10 lakhs on attaining 23 years of age.  While the numbers contained in the union government press release reflect in the numbers that are registered on the portal Bal Swaraj, NCPCR figures on a sworn affidavit to the Supreme Court (June 2021) underestimates the total and states that only 30,071 children are orphaned. The exact data of how many children may have been orphaned is not just vague and certain, but the situation is exacerbated due to any lack of a framework to effectively maintain a database of those children who need protection.[10]

Being an orphan can lead to multiple forms of discrimination, as they may not have the same access to resources and opportunities as those who come from a traditional family structure. They may also face emotional and psychological trauma due to the loss of their parents. Furthermore, if the orphan is also from a marginalised group such as a depressed caste group or other minority groups, they may experience discrimination on that basis as well. This can create a compound effect, as they may not only face discrimination for being an orphan, but also for their caste, or identity status. This can make it even more difficult for them to access education, employment, and other resources necessary for success.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on orphans, as it has disrupted their access to education, healthcare, and other essential services. Many orphans live in institutions or group homes, which have been forced to close or limit access as a result of the pandemic, cutting off their access to the support systems they rely on. Additionally, the economic downturn caused by the pandemic has led to increased poverty and food insecurity for many families, further exacerbating the challenges faced by orphans.

The pandemic has also made it difficult for international adoption and foster care processes to take place. This can prolong the time an orphan has to spend in an institution. Furthermore, the pandemic has limited the ability of social workers, volunteers and other helping professionals to check on them, increasing the risk of abuse and neglect.

Conclusion

While the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic may be a special or rare situation, the lack of specific protections for orphans under the JJ Act necessitates a separate framework for orphans in general. Such a comprehensive legislation would ensure that the government and other organisations take responsibility for the welfare of orphans and other vulnerable children and provide them with the necessary resources and support to help them succeed in life. It would also ensure that the rights of these children are protected, and that they are not subjected to abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

 

[1] Nelson Mandela, Launch of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Mahlamba Ndlopfu, Pretoria South Africa, 08 May 1995, http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS250&txtstr=Mahla

[2] Shreya Kalra, Why India's adoption rate is abysmal despite its 30 million abandoned kids,  Business Standard, October 30, 2018, https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/why-india-s-adoption-rate-is-abysmal-despite-its-30-million-abandoned-kids-118103000218_1.html

[3]KELLY, J.B. (2007), Children's Living Arrangements Following Separation and Divorce: Insights From Empirical and Clinical Research. Family Process, 46: 35-52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2006.00190.x

[4]Gertler, P., Levine, D.I. and Ames, M., 2004. Schooling and parental death. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(1), pp.211-225.

[5] Article 39(f), Indian Constitution.

[6] Section 7

[7] Section 6

[8] Section 4

[9] Writ Petition (c) No.6 of 2021.

Contested impact on India’s orphans leave young abandoned: Covid-19 pandemic

The need for a comprehensive legal framework that protects all orphans is the need of the hour

Covid OrphanImage: Reuters

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats children, said Nelson Mandela during the launch of the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s fund.[1] There are two sides to this statement. One is how the society in general treats the children, and what rights does it give them. The second side is how society’s most powerful agent- the state- treats children. The Latin maxim parens patrie is of significance in this context. It refers to the power of state to the intervene against an abusive or negligent parent. For children who have been abandoned or who saw the death of their parents, it is the state that becomes the natural protector.

Out of the approximate 147 million orphans in the world, 30 million orphans are there in India.[2] UNICEF states that there are three distinct kinds of orphans- paternal orphans i.e., those who lost their father; maternal orphans i.e., those who lost their mother; double orphans i.e., those who lost both their parents. The passing of a parent(s) brings significant changes to a child's life, including potential changes in living arrangements, influenced by factors such as cultural customs, decisions made by guardians or caregivers, and existing plans for raising the child after the death of a parent(s).[3] Education plays a crucial role in shaping both personal growth and the advancement of a nation. It is the primary tool in instilling cultural values in children and is the most powerful force in moulding them into responsible, intelligent, and capable citizens. The loss of a parent can negatively impact a child's educational enrolment and this can particularly impede the transition from primary to secondary education, as spending on education is significantly reduced.[4] In this context, this article presents an overview of what framework guides the orphan protection regime in the country.

Legislative Framework

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) is the prime legislation dealing with children and another legislation that is part of the regime is the Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960(Orphanages Act).

The JJ Act

The JJ act mandates that whoever is handed over a child who appears or claims to be abandoned or lost, or a child who appears or claims to be an orphan without family support shall within twenty-four hours (excluding the time necessary for the journey), give information to the Childline Services or the nearest police station or to a Child Welfare Committee or to the District Child Protection Unit, or hand over the child to a child care institution registered under this Act. Not reporting such fact is an offence. (Section 32)

Under JJ Act, “orphan” means a child—

(i) who is without biological or adoptive parents or legal guardian; or

(ii) whose legal guardian is not willing to take, or capable of taking care of the child;

To counter the abandonment of children, which is prevalent in the country, the JJ Act stated that those parents, who for physical, emotional and social factors beyond their control, wish to surrender a child, shall produce the child before the Child Welfare Committee and the Committee will decide as to whether child should be with parents or with a legal guardian or be sent to a specialised adoption agency or to a children’s home if the child is below 6 years of age. (Section 35)

The act also forms a Child Welfare Committee for each committee which will look after the welfare aspects and the Juvenile Justice Board for looking into the aspects of those children who are in conflict with the law. (Section 27)

While the JJ Act is designed to provide a legal framework for protecting the rights of children, it is not sufficient to solve all the problems faced by orphans in India.

Orphans in India face a wide range of challenges, including poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, and discrimination. The JJ Act does not address all of these issues and does not provide a comprehensive solution for addressing the needs of orphans. Additionally, the implementation of the JJ Act is often inadequate, and there are reports of abuse and neglect in institutions for children. Furthermore, the JJ Act focuses mainly on children in conflict with the law, and not on children in need of care and protection, which are the majority of the orphan population.

Orphanages Act

The Orphanages act empowers the state governments to monitor orphan homes and child care institutions. For this purpose, the state government can form a board and that board will be the authority to frame rules and regulations for the orphanages and child care centres to follow. The boards also have the power to issue certificates without which the centre is not supposed to run. (Section 5, 15).

Additionally, the Constitution, in the form of Directive Principles, directs that state shall secure, with its policy, that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.[5]

The Bill that never saw light- THE ORPHAN CHILD (PROVISION OF SOCIALSECURITY)BILL, 2016

The Orphan Child Bill, 2016 was a private member bill in the Lok Sabha, and had progressive provisions such a 3% reservation for Orphan Children within educational institutions and in posts and services under the Central Government.[6] The bill was however very loosely worded without any particular framework. For example, it stated that the central government shall have initial Orphan welfare fund with corpus of Rs. 2000 Crore rupees and more money from the ratio as decided by the states and the centre mutually be added to the fund. This was merely directory and in that too, there were no directions as to how to arrive at the ratio of contributions of state and the centre, to the fund.[7]

One important aspect of this bill is that one of the provisions mandated the conducting of a census every decade, of orphan children followed by the formulation and adoption of a National Policy for welfare of Orphan Children based on the findings of the census.[8]

Covid-19 and Specific effects on Orphan Children

Supreme Court, in its suo moto matter dealing with the social and economic impacts pf the Covid-19 pandemic within child protection homes, asked the government to “help” the children affected during the pandemic.[9] The union government has launched a website called Bal Swaraj under the aegis of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to record the orphan children and provide them care. The Bal Swaraj portal does not show the statistics of ‘Covid Care and Children’ while it shows the statistics of ‘Child in Street Situations’. However, a Ministry of Women and Child Development’s press release, which countered the Lancet Journal’s finding that there are 19 lakh children who were orphaned due to Covid-19, presented the Covid affected Children members, i.e., the statistics of those who lost their parents. The ministry data was released on March 2, 2022 and by then 1, 42, 949 children admittedly lost one parent and 10386 children lost both their parents, according to this data. The government launched the started a PM CARES- Children scheme provides support to these children through a ‘convergent approach’, gap funding for ensuring education, health, monthly stipend from the age of 18 years, and a lump sum amount of Rs. 10 lakhs on attaining 23 years of age.  While the numbers contained in the union government press release reflect in the numbers that are registered on the portal Bal Swaraj, NCPCR figures on a sworn affidavit to the Supreme Court (June 2021) underestimates the total and states that only 30,071 children are orphaned. The exact data of how many children may have been orphaned is not just vague and certain, but the situation is exacerbated due to any lack of a framework to effectively maintain a database of those children who need protection.[10]

Being an orphan can lead to multiple forms of discrimination, as they may not have the same access to resources and opportunities as those who come from a traditional family structure. They may also face emotional and psychological trauma due to the loss of their parents. Furthermore, if the orphan is also from a marginalised group such as a depressed caste group or other minority groups, they may experience discrimination on that basis as well. This can create a compound effect, as they may not only face discrimination for being an orphan, but also for their caste, or identity status. This can make it even more difficult for them to access education, employment, and other resources necessary for success.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on orphans, as it has disrupted their access to education, healthcare, and other essential services. Many orphans live in institutions or group homes, which have been forced to close or limit access as a result of the pandemic, cutting off their access to the support systems they rely on. Additionally, the economic downturn caused by the pandemic has led to increased poverty and food insecurity for many families, further exacerbating the challenges faced by orphans.

The pandemic has also made it difficult for international adoption and foster care processes to take place. This can prolong the time an orphan has to spend in an institution. Furthermore, the pandemic has limited the ability of social workers, volunteers and other helping professionals to check on them, increasing the risk of abuse and neglect.

Conclusion

While the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic may be a special or rare situation, the lack of specific protections for orphans under the JJ Act necessitates a separate framework for orphans in general. Such a comprehensive legislation would ensure that the government and other organisations take responsibility for the welfare of orphans and other vulnerable children and provide them with the necessary resources and support to help them succeed in life. It would also ensure that the rights of these children are protected, and that they are not subjected to abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

 

[1] Nelson Mandela, Launch of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Mahlamba Ndlopfu, Pretoria South Africa, 08 May 1995, http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS250&txtstr=Mahla

[2] Shreya Kalra, Why India's adoption rate is abysmal despite its 30 million abandoned kids,  Business Standard, October 30, 2018, https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/why-india-s-adoption-rate-is-abysmal-despite-its-30-million-abandoned-kids-118103000218_1.html

[3]KELLY, J.B. (2007), Children's Living Arrangements Following Separation and Divorce: Insights From Empirical and Clinical Research. Family Process, 46: 35-52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2006.00190.x

[4]Gertler, P., Levine, D.I. and Ames, M., 2004. Schooling and parental death. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(1), pp.211-225.

[5] Article 39(f), Indian Constitution.

[6] Section 7

[7] Section 6

[8] Section 4

[9] Writ Petition (c) No.6 of 2021.

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UP school teachers abuse Dalit students daily, no police action yet

The police arrived at the spot to disperse the community members, however instead of filing suo moto complaint, said that no written complaint has been filed by victims

27 Dec 2022

dALITS
Image: Aijaz Rahi/AP

A few school teachers in a secondary school in Jaunpur’s Kasili village, in Uttar Pradesh have been accused of using casteist slurs on students belonging to Dalit community. A local news channel reported on this incident and even interviewed a few students who came forward and narrated their ordeal.

A few girl students came forward and said, “He calls us C****r repeatedly every day. He says that you should clean gutters and that people should spit on you (the community)”

Another girl said that the teacher has said that you (the community) will never improve, and while addressing a class of Grade 2 students, he said that I will beat you up like dogs and chase you away.

One of the parents told the news channel that the class teacher is the one who says things like (referring to their community), you are all dogs. Another woman said that one male teacher apologised while another female teacher called Kusum refused to apologise and instead ran behind us with a stick to chase us away while hurling caste abuses, when we came to complain to the school authorities.

After members from the community gathered around the school to protest against such casteist remarks by the teachers, the police arrived and assured that action will be taken and pacified the group. The Circle Officer, however, told the reporters that no written complaint has been given. The police could have filed a suo moto complaint after being cognizant of the incident.

 

 

 

Related:

Dalit family attacked; women beaten in Rajasthan’s Alwar

Dalit minor allegedly gang-raped multiple times in Karnataka; 4 booked

Zero reported deaths due to manual scavenging: Ramdas Athawale

UP school teachers abuse Dalit students daily, no police action yet

The police arrived at the spot to disperse the community members, however instead of filing suo moto complaint, said that no written complaint has been filed by victims

dALITS
Image: Aijaz Rahi/AP

A few school teachers in a secondary school in Jaunpur’s Kasili village, in Uttar Pradesh have been accused of using casteist slurs on students belonging to Dalit community. A local news channel reported on this incident and even interviewed a few students who came forward and narrated their ordeal.

A few girl students came forward and said, “He calls us C****r repeatedly every day. He says that you should clean gutters and that people should spit on you (the community)”

Another girl said that the teacher has said that you (the community) will never improve, and while addressing a class of Grade 2 students, he said that I will beat you up like dogs and chase you away.

One of the parents told the news channel that the class teacher is the one who says things like (referring to their community), you are all dogs. Another woman said that one male teacher apologised while another female teacher called Kusum refused to apologise and instead ran behind us with a stick to chase us away while hurling caste abuses, when we came to complain to the school authorities.

After members from the community gathered around the school to protest against such casteist remarks by the teachers, the police arrived and assured that action will be taken and pacified the group. The Circle Officer, however, told the reporters that no written complaint has been given. The police could have filed a suo moto complaint after being cognizant of the incident.

 

 

 

Related:

Dalit family attacked; women beaten in Rajasthan’s Alwar

Dalit minor allegedly gang-raped multiple times in Karnataka; 4 booked

Zero reported deaths due to manual scavenging: Ramdas Athawale

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1.9 lakh POCSO cases pending in Fast Track Courts: Ministry of Women and Child Development

In the ongoing Parliament session, the government provides state-wise details of cases registered, persons arrested, convictions and pending cases over the years

21 Dec 2022

PoscoImage: Shambhavi Thakur / https://www.newslaundry.com

On December 16, 2022, during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament, Lok Sabha Members Shrimati Kavitha Malothu (TRS), Shri Prathap Simha (BJP), Shri Venkatesh Netha Borlakunta (TRS), Dr. G. Ranjith Reddy (TRS), Shri L.S. Tejasvi Surya (BJP), Shri Sanganna Amarappa (BJP) and Dr. Umesh G. Jadhav (BJP) raised the question whether the Government evaluated/reviewed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act's implementation status in terms of the rise in instances reported under the Act year after year and the specifics of the remedial actions implemented.

The Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani, responded to the abovementioned question by informing the Lok Sabha that children are protected from sexual abuse under the POCSO Act, which was passed by the Indian government in 2012. Any person under the age of 18 is considered a minor according to the act. The POCSO Act of 2012 calls for the creation of Special Courts in order to guarantee a swift trial. With a view to deterring the perpetrators and preventing such crimes against children, the Act was further changed in 2019 to add harsher punishment, including the death penalty, for committing sexual crimes on children. The Ministry also proclaimed that the POCSO Rules, 2020, further safeguard children from exploitation, violence, and sexual exploitation.

The members of Lok Sabha furthered asked about the details of cases of POCSO that are registered, under-investigation, under-trial or sub-judice since the implementation of the Act, year and State/UT-wise. The government then provided the data maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau. As per the data provided-

Table1

Source: Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1835

*Cases Registered (CR), Total Cases For Investigation Incl. Pending Cases(TCI), Cases Charge sheeted(CCS),Total Cases Disposed off By Police (Cdop),Cases Pending Investigation At End Of The Year (CPIEY),Total Cases For Trial (CFT),Cases Convicted (CON), Conviction Rate (CVR), Cases Disposed Off By Courts (CDBC), Cases Pending Trial At End Of The Year (CPTEY), Persons Arrested (PAR), Persons Charge Sheeted (PCS), Persons Convicted (PCV) Under Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act During 2014-2021.

As is evident from the figures in the table above, the cases registered has seen a steady rise since 2014 until 2021 and so have the numbers in cases pending trial. While 52,308 cases were pending in 2014, more than 2 lakh cases were pending by the end of 2021 which is a massive number! Also the conviction rate has been more or less steady since 2014 at around 30%

In the following table, we have accumulated the highest and lowest number of cases registered, cases for trial, conviction rate and cases pending state-wise, over the years.

Table

Source: Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1835

The detailed answer can be read here.

As can be seen from the data provided above, the number of POCSO cases registered have been increasing over the years. When the government was asked about the reasons for the increase in number of pending cases along with the efforts made to bring down the same, the government provided that since October 2019, the Department of Justice has been putting into action a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to establish 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSC), including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts (e-POCSO), to handle open rape and POCSO Act cases. The plan was to implement the program in 31 States and UTs. The FTSCs were intended to be established for a period of one year, but the Cabinet has approved extending the program for a further two years (until March 2023) with a total expenditure of Rs. 1572.86 cr., of which the Central Share of Rs. 971.70 cr. will come from the Nirbhaya Fund. A total of 1,24,000 cases have been resolved by 733 FTSCs, including 413 exclusive POCSO Courts, as of October 31, 2022. More than 1,93,000 cases are currently outstanding in these FTSCs.

Brief about the POCSO Act: The POCSO Act, also known as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012, is gender-neutral and recognizes that both any child, irrespective of their gender, can be a survivor of sexual abuse. The Act significantly broadened the definition of what constitutes a sexual offense against a child and imposes harsh punishments for each of the acts enumerated. Additionally, it strengthened the definition of sexual assault to encompass both moderate and severe penetrative assault, along with non-penetrative assaults, and additional sanctions for people in positions of trust or power, such as government workers, faculty, and police officers.

 

Related:

Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC

BREAKING: SC stays Bombay HC’s controversial POCSO judgment

Groping minor without physical contact, not sexual assault under POCSO Act: Bombay HC

National commissions for women and child rights decry Bom HC POCSO judgment

 

1.9 lakh POCSO cases pending in Fast Track Courts: Ministry of Women and Child Development

In the ongoing Parliament session, the government provides state-wise details of cases registered, persons arrested, convictions and pending cases over the years

PoscoImage: Shambhavi Thakur / https://www.newslaundry.com

On December 16, 2022, during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament, Lok Sabha Members Shrimati Kavitha Malothu (TRS), Shri Prathap Simha (BJP), Shri Venkatesh Netha Borlakunta (TRS), Dr. G. Ranjith Reddy (TRS), Shri L.S. Tejasvi Surya (BJP), Shri Sanganna Amarappa (BJP) and Dr. Umesh G. Jadhav (BJP) raised the question whether the Government evaluated/reviewed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act's implementation status in terms of the rise in instances reported under the Act year after year and the specifics of the remedial actions implemented.

The Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani, responded to the abovementioned question by informing the Lok Sabha that children are protected from sexual abuse under the POCSO Act, which was passed by the Indian government in 2012. Any person under the age of 18 is considered a minor according to the act. The POCSO Act of 2012 calls for the creation of Special Courts in order to guarantee a swift trial. With a view to deterring the perpetrators and preventing such crimes against children, the Act was further changed in 2019 to add harsher punishment, including the death penalty, for committing sexual crimes on children. The Ministry also proclaimed that the POCSO Rules, 2020, further safeguard children from exploitation, violence, and sexual exploitation.

The members of Lok Sabha furthered asked about the details of cases of POCSO that are registered, under-investigation, under-trial or sub-judice since the implementation of the Act, year and State/UT-wise. The government then provided the data maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau. As per the data provided-

Table1

Source: Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1835

*Cases Registered (CR), Total Cases For Investigation Incl. Pending Cases(TCI), Cases Charge sheeted(CCS),Total Cases Disposed off By Police (Cdop),Cases Pending Investigation At End Of The Year (CPIEY),Total Cases For Trial (CFT),Cases Convicted (CON), Conviction Rate (CVR), Cases Disposed Off By Courts (CDBC), Cases Pending Trial At End Of The Year (CPTEY), Persons Arrested (PAR), Persons Charge Sheeted (PCS), Persons Convicted (PCV) Under Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act During 2014-2021.

As is evident from the figures in the table above, the cases registered has seen a steady rise since 2014 until 2021 and so have the numbers in cases pending trial. While 52,308 cases were pending in 2014, more than 2 lakh cases were pending by the end of 2021 which is a massive number! Also the conviction rate has been more or less steady since 2014 at around 30%

In the following table, we have accumulated the highest and lowest number of cases registered, cases for trial, conviction rate and cases pending state-wise, over the years.

Table

Source: Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 1835

The detailed answer can be read here.

As can be seen from the data provided above, the number of POCSO cases registered have been increasing over the years. When the government was asked about the reasons for the increase in number of pending cases along with the efforts made to bring down the same, the government provided that since October 2019, the Department of Justice has been putting into action a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to establish 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSC), including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts (e-POCSO), to handle open rape and POCSO Act cases. The plan was to implement the program in 31 States and UTs. The FTSCs were intended to be established for a period of one year, but the Cabinet has approved extending the program for a further two years (until March 2023) with a total expenditure of Rs. 1572.86 cr., of which the Central Share of Rs. 971.70 cr. will come from the Nirbhaya Fund. A total of 1,24,000 cases have been resolved by 733 FTSCs, including 413 exclusive POCSO Courts, as of October 31, 2022. More than 1,93,000 cases are currently outstanding in these FTSCs.

Brief about the POCSO Act: The POCSO Act, also known as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012, is gender-neutral and recognizes that both any child, irrespective of their gender, can be a survivor of sexual abuse. The Act significantly broadened the definition of what constitutes a sexual offense against a child and imposes harsh punishments for each of the acts enumerated. Additionally, it strengthened the definition of sexual assault to encompass both moderate and severe penetrative assault, along with non-penetrative assaults, and additional sanctions for people in positions of trust or power, such as government workers, faculty, and police officers.

 

Related:

Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC

BREAKING: SC stays Bombay HC’s controversial POCSO judgment

Groping minor without physical contact, not sexual assault under POCSO Act: Bombay HC

National commissions for women and child rights decry Bom HC POCSO judgment

 

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62% of dropped out Odisha children tribals, 53% said none conselled them to rejoin

15 Dec 2022

The Odisha government launched a Learning Recovery Programme to help students catch up on the education they have missed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme is designed to help students from standard 3rd to 9th to bridge the learning losses created due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

The Learning Recovery Programme is part of the Odisha government’s response to the pandemic and will be supported by Odisha School Education Programme Authority (OSEPA). The Learning Recovery Programme exemplifies the Odisha government’s commitment to providing quality education for all students. The programme was designed to ensure that all students can continue their studies and achieve their educational goals regardless of their background.

Together with its allies Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha and Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha, two state-level collectives, the Atmashakti Trust designed a campaign i.e. Education Cannot Wait, Act Now! started on the 15th of November, i.e., Birsha Munda Jayanti not only in Odisha but in 5 other states such as Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand where numerous activities were undertaken to raise awareness among the public, pluralize support and seek actions from the government on effective implementation of LRP as well as RTE.

The campaign came to an end on the 10th of December, International Human Rights day. From the beginning of the campaign, various activities such as fact-finding, consultation, recommendation collection, testimonials, village level resolution, pledge, press conference, sharing of findings with various stakeholders at the district level, dialogue with line departments, etc. Were conducted to sensitize the stakeholders on such an urgent issue of education.
Significant highlights of fact-finding conducted over 4 major areas such as LRP, RTE, drop out and migration are given below:

The Odisha government directed the LRP to be conducted in 54,446 government/ government aided schools, among 37,97,830 students of Class III-IX, by engaging 2,29,799 teachers in the 30 districts of Odisha. The campaign covered 13 districts of Odisha with 73 blocks and 1 ULB, along with 485 Gram Panchayats and 1404 villages.

As per the fact-finding report, 14.45 % of students do not know about LRP though it was started in September. 8.93 % of students interviewed said that no assessment was done in their school. 11.26% of students have not attended the baseline assessment for LRP in their school. 8.84% of students said that no learning recovery classes have started in their school. 6.69% of students have not received any LRP education materials.

It was found that 22.89% of students rate the LRP teaching methodology as average. 21.78% of students reported the absence of an activity calendar based on the Learning Outcomes (LO) in their school. 44.71% of students feel completely lost in education.

Then, 49.58% (2748) of students interviewed are finding difficulty in coping with their studies. 37% of students find the LRP learning unfriendly and difficult to read the LRP books provided by the school.

Similarly, as per the fact-finding on RTE status, 23.80% of schools are short of 1 teacher compared to the number of sanctioned posts in their school.

Similarly, 28.19%, 16.32%, & 6.64% of schools are short of 2, 3, and 4 teachers, respectively. 17% of schools are short of 1 classroom compared to the number of classes in the school. Similarly, 26.26%, 24.95%, 11.09%, and 5.54% of schools are short of 2, 3, 4, and 5 classrooms respectively.11.66% of schools don’t have drinking water facilities. 15.01% of schools are accessing non-drinkable water sources.

Further 11.24% of schools do not have separate kitchen sheds. 14.70% of schools don’t have toilet facilities. 20.61% of schools do not have separate toilets for boys and girls. 44.04% of toilets in schools lack water facilities.

The students do not use 30.07% of toilets in schools. 75.63% of schools don’t have playgrounds. 41.32% of schools don’t have a boundary wall. Parents mentioned that it is unsafe because of the absence of a boundary wall. 28.35% of schools do not have electrical connections. 88.13% of schools need repairing.

At the same time, 13.44% of School Management Committee (SMC) members never participate in monitoring the school work. 42.42% of schools do not have any special provisions for the disabled. 51.83% of schools do not have a complaint mechanism for lodging complaints for the disabled.

The fact-finding on drop out, which covered 1,921 schools, found that 244 students (Class-III-VIII) had dropped out of school. Out of the total dropout cases, 61.7% of students belonged to ST, 10%, 24.2, & 10% are from SC, OBC, and general categories, respectively. 52.5% of students said no teachers came and counseled them to rejoin school. 44.8% of the parents did not even try to send their children back to school. 50.2% of the respondents revealed that there were no from the SMC.

As per the fact-finding on migration, 152 students were found to have migrated multiple times, because of which they were out of school. 84.2% of the total respondents migrated temporarily, while 15.8% migrated permanently because of insufficient livelihood opportunities in the locality. 24% said they migrated because they had no other livelihood options.

Also, 16.4% of students said they are helping their parents with the household work, 15.8%, 11.8%, & 27.6% said they were working outside, supporting their parents at the work site, and other reasons, respectively. 55.5% of the parents take their children with them while migrating because no one is left in their homes to care for their children. Similarly, 17.6% and 26.6% said they need their children's support at the worksite for more income and other reasons, respectively.

*Senior manager-communications, Atmashakti Trust

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

62% of dropped out Odisha children tribals, 53% said none conselled them to rejoin

The Odisha government launched a Learning Recovery Programme to help students catch up on the education they have missed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme is designed to help students from standard 3rd to 9th to bridge the learning losses created due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

The Learning Recovery Programme is part of the Odisha government’s response to the pandemic and will be supported by Odisha School Education Programme Authority (OSEPA). The Learning Recovery Programme exemplifies the Odisha government’s commitment to providing quality education for all students. The programme was designed to ensure that all students can continue their studies and achieve their educational goals regardless of their background.

Together with its allies Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha and Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha, two state-level collectives, the Atmashakti Trust designed a campaign i.e. Education Cannot Wait, Act Now! started on the 15th of November, i.e., Birsha Munda Jayanti not only in Odisha but in 5 other states such as Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand where numerous activities were undertaken to raise awareness among the public, pluralize support and seek actions from the government on effective implementation of LRP as well as RTE.

The campaign came to an end on the 10th of December, International Human Rights day. From the beginning of the campaign, various activities such as fact-finding, consultation, recommendation collection, testimonials, village level resolution, pledge, press conference, sharing of findings with various stakeholders at the district level, dialogue with line departments, etc. Were conducted to sensitize the stakeholders on such an urgent issue of education.
Significant highlights of fact-finding conducted over 4 major areas such as LRP, RTE, drop out and migration are given below:

The Odisha government directed the LRP to be conducted in 54,446 government/ government aided schools, among 37,97,830 students of Class III-IX, by engaging 2,29,799 teachers in the 30 districts of Odisha. The campaign covered 13 districts of Odisha with 73 blocks and 1 ULB, along with 485 Gram Panchayats and 1404 villages.

As per the fact-finding report, 14.45 % of students do not know about LRP though it was started in September. 8.93 % of students interviewed said that no assessment was done in their school. 11.26% of students have not attended the baseline assessment for LRP in their school. 8.84% of students said that no learning recovery classes have started in their school. 6.69% of students have not received any LRP education materials.

It was found that 22.89% of students rate the LRP teaching methodology as average. 21.78% of students reported the absence of an activity calendar based on the Learning Outcomes (LO) in their school. 44.71% of students feel completely lost in education.

Then, 49.58% (2748) of students interviewed are finding difficulty in coping with their studies. 37% of students find the LRP learning unfriendly and difficult to read the LRP books provided by the school.

Similarly, as per the fact-finding on RTE status, 23.80% of schools are short of 1 teacher compared to the number of sanctioned posts in their school.

Similarly, 28.19%, 16.32%, & 6.64% of schools are short of 2, 3, and 4 teachers, respectively. 17% of schools are short of 1 classroom compared to the number of classes in the school. Similarly, 26.26%, 24.95%, 11.09%, and 5.54% of schools are short of 2, 3, 4, and 5 classrooms respectively.11.66% of schools don’t have drinking water facilities. 15.01% of schools are accessing non-drinkable water sources.

Further 11.24% of schools do not have separate kitchen sheds. 14.70% of schools don’t have toilet facilities. 20.61% of schools do not have separate toilets for boys and girls. 44.04% of toilets in schools lack water facilities.

The students do not use 30.07% of toilets in schools. 75.63% of schools don’t have playgrounds. 41.32% of schools don’t have a boundary wall. Parents mentioned that it is unsafe because of the absence of a boundary wall. 28.35% of schools do not have electrical connections. 88.13% of schools need repairing.

At the same time, 13.44% of School Management Committee (SMC) members never participate in monitoring the school work. 42.42% of schools do not have any special provisions for the disabled. 51.83% of schools do not have a complaint mechanism for lodging complaints for the disabled.

The fact-finding on drop out, which covered 1,921 schools, found that 244 students (Class-III-VIII) had dropped out of school. Out of the total dropout cases, 61.7% of students belonged to ST, 10%, 24.2, & 10% are from SC, OBC, and general categories, respectively. 52.5% of students said no teachers came and counseled them to rejoin school. 44.8% of the parents did not even try to send their children back to school. 50.2% of the respondents revealed that there were no from the SMC.

As per the fact-finding on migration, 152 students were found to have migrated multiple times, because of which they were out of school. 84.2% of the total respondents migrated temporarily, while 15.8% migrated permanently because of insufficient livelihood opportunities in the locality. 24% said they migrated because they had no other livelihood options.

Also, 16.4% of students said they are helping their parents with the household work, 15.8%, 11.8%, & 27.6% said they were working outside, supporting their parents at the work site, and other reasons, respectively. 55.5% of the parents take their children with them while migrating because no one is left in their homes to care for their children. Similarly, 17.6% and 26.6% said they need their children's support at the worksite for more income and other reasons, respectively.

*Senior manager-communications, Atmashakti Trust

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

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Rajasthan Police files chargesheet in minor Dalit boy’s alleged murder by teacher

The Dalit boy was allegedly beaten ruthlessly by a teacher for drinking water from a Matka meant for the Upper Caste

07 Dec 2022

Dalit Boy
Image Courtesy: tv9hindi.com

Jalore Police has filed a chargesheet against the teacher who allegedly beat up a 9-year-old Dalit boy for drinking water from a pot meant for “upper castes”.

Indra Kumar Meghwal, who was allegedly beaten by his teacher,Chail Singh,died in August this year. The Rajasthan Police have now filed a charge sheet in the case. His family claimed that Meghwal was beaten by his upper-caste teacher at a private school when the teacher spotted the young Dalit child drinking water from a matki (earthen pot) intended for the (upper caste)teacher, and became enraged at the same. The child succumbed to his injuries later.

Chail Singh, the accused teacher, has been charged by the police under the Juvenile Justice Act, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and Section 302 of the IPC, which deals with murder.

The police have not yet discovered any evidence indicating that the boy was beaten up for consuming water from the matki, as told by the case's investigating officer,  Additional Superintendent of Police Deva Ram Choudhary to the Indian Express. The inquiry into the matki-related issue is still ongoing.

The chargesheet mentions that further investigation is being conducted on certain points of the case under Section 173 (8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

According to the chargesheet, as reported by the Indian Express, the accused Chail Singh had beaten up and injured deceased Indra Kumar in the school on July 20, on the basis of statements of eyewitnesses, the audio of the conversation between the accused and the father of the deceased in which the accused admits to hurting the deceased, and testimonies of other teachers of the school.

The chargesheet also states that Meghwal's doctors claimed that the formation of a blood clot had led to his death. The doctors said that a blood clot had formed in an artery that delivers blood to the brain near the neck, which caused an infection in the brain, ultimately leading to Indra Kumar's death. Additionally, the doctors also suggested that it's possible that the blood clot formed after the deceased suffered an injury. On the basis of this evidence, Chail Singh has been charged.

According to the Meghwal family's continuing claim, the young kid was beaten up for drinking water from the earthen pot. The complainant in the case and Meghwal's uncle, Kishore Kumar, said that they know with surety that Meghwal had been physically assaulted by the teacher for drinking water from the matki, as was reported by the Indian Express. The family further claims that videos of him discussing the incident just before he passed away are also available. If the cause of his death as a result of consuming water from the matki is not mentioned in the final investigation, the deceased's family will be wronged, says Kumar.

Brief background of the case

According to details available publicly, the 9-year-old Dalit boy was allegedly brutally thrashed by a teacher on July 20, allegedly for touching a pot of water which was apparently only meant for “upper caste”. The boy succumbed to his injuries on August 13 in an Ahmedabad hospital, after being taken to at least six other hospitals in the interim.

It has been alleged by the boy’s father, that when he returned from school, the boy had injuries to his ears and face. Upon being asked about the injuries, the boy told his family that he was beaten up by his teacher. According to the boy’s father, the brutal beating had led to haemorrhage, and the boy’s limbs had stopped working. Singh had also allegedly verbally abused him with castiest slurs.

The accused teacher, Chail Singh was arrested on August 13 after the child’s death and the police have taken statements of his classmates and other students present on that day.

CJP’s complaint to NCSC

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had filed a complaint with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) seeking greater protection for the family of the Meghwal. CJP’s complaint also seeks stringent action against the alleged perpetrator.

In the petition, CJP has highlighted the plight of the Dalit community living in India. While giving the detailed account of the offence, CJP has further emphasised on the need for providing further protection under the existing law to the victim’s family to ensure that they upper caste do not further harass the family into withdrawing their complaint.

CJP’s complaint states, “We are aware that an offence has already been registered and are simply urging that further protection under the existing law is also provided to the victim’s family.”The complaint lists provisions under Section 15 A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that provide for “protection of victims, their dependents, and witnesses against any kind of intimidation orcoercion or inducement or violence or threats of violence” as well as right of the victim’s family “to be heard at any proceeding under this Act in respect of bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of an accused or any connected proceedings or arguments and file written submission on conviction, acquittal or sentencing.”

CJP has urged the Commission to follow the example of the Hathras Rape case, wherein an alleged gang-rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman took place in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh. In the said case, a three-fold protection mechanism had been devised to protect the families of the victim from any kind of pressure. The struggles of many Dalit families who experience atrocities do not end with the crime perpetrated against them. Therefore, keeping in mind the gravity of the situation, CJP has urged the NCSC:

  • to immediately hold an investigation and inquiry into this matter with respect to the acts committed by the accused under the Indian Penal Code, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989;

  • to monitor the investigation undertaken by the Rajasthan Police and ensure that there is a fast-track trial and speedy delivery of justice;

  • to ensure that the deceased victim’s family receives the necessary relief;

  • to ensure that data on such monitoring is made public digitally and that progress in this case is also visible and made public electronically and digitally.

  • to take any other action as you may deem fit.

CJP’s complaint may be read here:

Related:

Hate Watch: Dalit boy dies after being allegedly thrashed by teacher; cops deny “caste angle”

NHRC takes suo motu cognizance of 9-year-old Dalit boy’s death

Minor Dalit boy killed, CJP moves NCSC for further protection for family

 

Rajasthan Police files chargesheet in minor Dalit boy’s alleged murder by teacher

The Dalit boy was allegedly beaten ruthlessly by a teacher for drinking water from a Matka meant for the Upper Caste

Dalit Boy
Image Courtesy: tv9hindi.com

Jalore Police has filed a chargesheet against the teacher who allegedly beat up a 9-year-old Dalit boy for drinking water from a pot meant for “upper castes”.

Indra Kumar Meghwal, who was allegedly beaten by his teacher,Chail Singh,died in August this year. The Rajasthan Police have now filed a charge sheet in the case. His family claimed that Meghwal was beaten by his upper-caste teacher at a private school when the teacher spotted the young Dalit child drinking water from a matki (earthen pot) intended for the (upper caste)teacher, and became enraged at the same. The child succumbed to his injuries later.

Chail Singh, the accused teacher, has been charged by the police under the Juvenile Justice Act, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and Section 302 of the IPC, which deals with murder.

The police have not yet discovered any evidence indicating that the boy was beaten up for consuming water from the matki, as told by the case's investigating officer,  Additional Superintendent of Police Deva Ram Choudhary to the Indian Express. The inquiry into the matki-related issue is still ongoing.

The chargesheet mentions that further investigation is being conducted on certain points of the case under Section 173 (8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

According to the chargesheet, as reported by the Indian Express, the accused Chail Singh had beaten up and injured deceased Indra Kumar in the school on July 20, on the basis of statements of eyewitnesses, the audio of the conversation between the accused and the father of the deceased in which the accused admits to hurting the deceased, and testimonies of other teachers of the school.

The chargesheet also states that Meghwal's doctors claimed that the formation of a blood clot had led to his death. The doctors said that a blood clot had formed in an artery that delivers blood to the brain near the neck, which caused an infection in the brain, ultimately leading to Indra Kumar's death. Additionally, the doctors also suggested that it's possible that the blood clot formed after the deceased suffered an injury. On the basis of this evidence, Chail Singh has been charged.

According to the Meghwal family's continuing claim, the young kid was beaten up for drinking water from the earthen pot. The complainant in the case and Meghwal's uncle, Kishore Kumar, said that they know with surety that Meghwal had been physically assaulted by the teacher for drinking water from the matki, as was reported by the Indian Express. The family further claims that videos of him discussing the incident just before he passed away are also available. If the cause of his death as a result of consuming water from the matki is not mentioned in the final investigation, the deceased's family will be wronged, says Kumar.

Brief background of the case

According to details available publicly, the 9-year-old Dalit boy was allegedly brutally thrashed by a teacher on July 20, allegedly for touching a pot of water which was apparently only meant for “upper caste”. The boy succumbed to his injuries on August 13 in an Ahmedabad hospital, after being taken to at least six other hospitals in the interim.

It has been alleged by the boy’s father, that when he returned from school, the boy had injuries to his ears and face. Upon being asked about the injuries, the boy told his family that he was beaten up by his teacher. According to the boy’s father, the brutal beating had led to haemorrhage, and the boy’s limbs had stopped working. Singh had also allegedly verbally abused him with castiest slurs.

The accused teacher, Chail Singh was arrested on August 13 after the child’s death and the police have taken statements of his classmates and other students present on that day.

CJP’s complaint to NCSC

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had filed a complaint with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) seeking greater protection for the family of the Meghwal. CJP’s complaint also seeks stringent action against the alleged perpetrator.

In the petition, CJP has highlighted the plight of the Dalit community living in India. While giving the detailed account of the offence, CJP has further emphasised on the need for providing further protection under the existing law to the victim’s family to ensure that they upper caste do not further harass the family into withdrawing their complaint.

CJP’s complaint states, “We are aware that an offence has already been registered and are simply urging that further protection under the existing law is also provided to the victim’s family.”The complaint lists provisions under Section 15 A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that provide for “protection of victims, their dependents, and witnesses against any kind of intimidation orcoercion or inducement or violence or threats of violence” as well as right of the victim’s family “to be heard at any proceeding under this Act in respect of bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of an accused or any connected proceedings or arguments and file written submission on conviction, acquittal or sentencing.”

CJP has urged the Commission to follow the example of the Hathras Rape case, wherein an alleged gang-rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman took place in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh. In the said case, a three-fold protection mechanism had been devised to protect the families of the victim from any kind of pressure. The struggles of many Dalit families who experience atrocities do not end with the crime perpetrated against them. Therefore, keeping in mind the gravity of the situation, CJP has urged the NCSC:

  • to immediately hold an investigation and inquiry into this matter with respect to the acts committed by the accused under the Indian Penal Code, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989;

  • to monitor the investigation undertaken by the Rajasthan Police and ensure that there is a fast-track trial and speedy delivery of justice;

  • to ensure that the deceased victim’s family receives the necessary relief;

  • to ensure that data on such monitoring is made public digitally and that progress in this case is also visible and made public electronically and digitally.

  • to take any other action as you may deem fit.

CJP’s complaint may be read here:

Related:

Hate Watch: Dalit boy dies after being allegedly thrashed by teacher; cops deny “caste angle”

NHRC takes suo motu cognizance of 9-year-old Dalit boy’s death

Minor Dalit boy killed, CJP moves NCSC for further protection for family

 

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TN: Six Dalit students allegedly made to clean toilet in govt school by headmistress

It was only after one of the students contracted dengue, that he revealed to his mother that he was bitten by mosquitoes while cleaning the toilet

02 Dec 2022

School

On the charge of allegedly forcing dalit students to clean toilets in the government school in Perundurai, near Erode, Tamil Nadu, the headmistress Geetha Rani has been suspended. However, the police are on the look out for her as she has absconded.

As has been claimed, six fourth-grade Dalit students in a government elementary school were allegedly forced to clean the toilet and the water tank with bleaching powder. After the horrible case was discovered, the school's headmistress was suspended in accordance with the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The police have filed a case under the Juvenile Justice Act and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. According to the inquiry that was held, it was revealed that the six students were told to clean the two toilets, one used by teachers and the other by students. Following this, the education department ordered the headmistress to appear before it, but she reportedly absconded. The Tamil Nadu police have initiated a search and arrest operation for the Headmistress of the government school as she is absconding.  

FIR Filed by One of the Parents:

The incident was uncovered after one of the victim students in the school was admitted to the Perundurai government hospital. According to the police, the student was diagnosed with dengue. While trying to ascertain how he got the disease, the boy revealed to his parents that he was asked to bleach the toilets by the headmistress. According to police, the child developed a fever after cleaning the restroom, as mosquitoes reportedly bit him during the task he was forced to do on November 21, 2022.

The violation, the mother says, came to light after her son had contracted dengue and was hospitalised recently. "When I asked him how he got dengue, my son said he was bitten by mosquitos when he handled bleaching powder and cleaned the toilet daily", she said, as reported by NDTV.

"Last week, a parent saw them coming out of the toilet with sticks and mugs. When asked, they said they cleaned the toilet, and that the headmistress asked them to do it. 40 children study in that class, and most of them are our scheduled caste children. She has asked only our children to do this," she added, as reported by NDTV.

The children's parents have filed a complaint with the police. A case has been registered under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, besides invoking the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

As per a complaint filed by Jayanthi, the mother of a class five student, the "HM Ms Geetha Rani singled out only scheduled caste children to clean the toilet," NDTV reported. 

A similar incident was reported from Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur in December 2021 where during a visit to the Government High School in Iduvai village, Chief Educational Officer R Ramesh came across several Scheduled Caste (SC) students of classes 9 and 10 who alleged that they were beaten and made to clean toilets and water tanks, reported India Today.

Related:

Karnataka: Dalit teen tied to electricity pole and thrashed on suspicion of theft

Minor Dalit boy killed, CJP moves NCSC for further protection for family

Varanasi: Martial arts teacher allegedly rapes Dalit girl

UP: Dalit Student In Auraiya Beaten to Death For Spelling Error, Booked

Uttar Pradesh: Teacher allegedly breaks Dalit girl’s hand

TN: Six Dalit students allegedly made to clean toilet in govt school by headmistress

It was only after one of the students contracted dengue, that he revealed to his mother that he was bitten by mosquitoes while cleaning the toilet

School

On the charge of allegedly forcing dalit students to clean toilets in the government school in Perundurai, near Erode, Tamil Nadu, the headmistress Geetha Rani has been suspended. However, the police are on the look out for her as she has absconded.

As has been claimed, six fourth-grade Dalit students in a government elementary school were allegedly forced to clean the toilet and the water tank with bleaching powder. After the horrible case was discovered, the school's headmistress was suspended in accordance with the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The police have filed a case under the Juvenile Justice Act and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. According to the inquiry that was held, it was revealed that the six students were told to clean the two toilets, one used by teachers and the other by students. Following this, the education department ordered the headmistress to appear before it, but she reportedly absconded. The Tamil Nadu police have initiated a search and arrest operation for the Headmistress of the government school as she is absconding.  

FIR Filed by One of the Parents:

The incident was uncovered after one of the victim students in the school was admitted to the Perundurai government hospital. According to the police, the student was diagnosed with dengue. While trying to ascertain how he got the disease, the boy revealed to his parents that he was asked to bleach the toilets by the headmistress. According to police, the child developed a fever after cleaning the restroom, as mosquitoes reportedly bit him during the task he was forced to do on November 21, 2022.

The violation, the mother says, came to light after her son had contracted dengue and was hospitalised recently. "When I asked him how he got dengue, my son said he was bitten by mosquitos when he handled bleaching powder and cleaned the toilet daily", she said, as reported by NDTV.

"Last week, a parent saw them coming out of the toilet with sticks and mugs. When asked, they said they cleaned the toilet, and that the headmistress asked them to do it. 40 children study in that class, and most of them are our scheduled caste children. She has asked only our children to do this," she added, as reported by NDTV.

The children's parents have filed a complaint with the police. A case has been registered under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, besides invoking the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

As per a complaint filed by Jayanthi, the mother of a class five student, the "HM Ms Geetha Rani singled out only scheduled caste children to clean the toilet," NDTV reported. 

A similar incident was reported from Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur in December 2021 where during a visit to the Government High School in Iduvai village, Chief Educational Officer R Ramesh came across several Scheduled Caste (SC) students of classes 9 and 10 who alleged that they were beaten and made to clean toilets and water tanks, reported India Today.

Related:

Karnataka: Dalit teen tied to electricity pole and thrashed on suspicion of theft

Minor Dalit boy killed, CJP moves NCSC for further protection for family

Varanasi: Martial arts teacher allegedly rapes Dalit girl

UP: Dalit Student In Auraiya Beaten to Death For Spelling Error, Booked

Uttar Pradesh: Teacher allegedly breaks Dalit girl’s hand

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Life sentence of murder convict upheld by Madras High Court, victim class 9 girl who rebuffed his advances

The Court also said in its judgment that youngsters today, insecure and traumatised, are short on emotional quotient and are prone to taking extreme steps at the slightest of disturbance or rejection.

21 Oct 2022

Madras High Court
 

The Madras High Court recently upheld the conviction and life sentence handed down by a Sessions Court to a man who had murdered a class 9 girl by setting her ablaze, after she had rebuffed his advances Bar and Bench reported. [Balamurugan vs The State].

A bench of Justices Nisha Banu and Anand Venkatesh of the Madurai bench of Madras High Court said in its judgment that present day youngsters are short on emotional quotient and are prone to taking extreme steps at the slightest of disturbance or rejection.

Therefore, the Judges also called for reforms in the education system in the country by focusing more on young people's emotional quotient than their intelligence quotient, to prepare them for all emotional challenges that life throws at them.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by one Balamurugan, 28 years, challenging a September 2019 judgement of the Madurai Sessions court that had convicted and sentenced him to life imprisonment for killing a 14-year-old girl, a student of standard IX, by setting her ablaze in front of her school after she declined his proposal.

"This is yet another case where a man did not have the maturity to accept the rejection of love proposal made to the deceased and hence, decided to kill her in a gory fashion by pouring petrol on her and setting her on fire. This loathsome act was committed by the appellant with the only motive that the girl who did not reciprocate the love proposal made by him, should not live in this world and she should not have any relationship with anybody else in this world," the High Court said.

The Judges further held that the prosecution had produced a cogent dying declaration of the victim in which she had named the convict, and the eye witnesses, including her friends with whom she was walking towards an auto rickshaw to go back home.

The Court stated that this was yet another case where a man did not have the maturity to understand and respect a fellow human's choice.

"The present day youngsters fall too short on emotional quotient and even the slightest of disturbance and rejection, makes them take extreme steps without understanding its consequences. It is high time that our educational system starts focusing more on the emotional quotient than on the intelligence quotient," the Court said.

The Court also elaborated on how thoughtless the actions of the accused were.

"This case requires this prelude since a man aged about 28 years was going behind a girl, who was studying in 9th standard and was expecting her to react positively and get into a love affair and when it did not fructify, he chose to resort to a monstrous act of pouring petrol on the girl and setting her on fire. He did not realise that this foolish act will bring to an end his connections with the society to a grinding halt and will confine him to the prison for his life," it opined.

The Court further proceeded to say that the constant increase in such cases of men killing or assaulting women for refusing their proposals of marriage or love showed that men continued to consider women not as fellow human beings entitled to her wishes but merely as "chattel," whom they want to forcibly keep under their control.

According to the judgement, Balamurugan was an air-conditioning repair mechanic. He had harassed the victim on previous occasions and the girl had narrated the incident to her mother after which they had filed a police complaint against him. Balamurugan claimed before the police that he was in love with the victim.

On the day of the tragic incident, Balamurugan stopped the victim from getting inside an auto rickshaw with her friends to return home after school. He began verbally abusing her and after she reiterated that she was not interested in his proposal, he doused her with petrol and set her ablaze using the lighter.

The victim was rushed to a nearby hospital by the auto rickshaw driver. She succumbed to the burns at the hospital 10 days after the incident.

"In the considered view of this Court, we come to a categoric conclusion that the prosecution has proved the case beyond reasonable doubts with abundant evidence and there is absolutely no ground to interfere with the well considered order and judgment passed by the Court below," the Court said while rejecting Balamurgan's criminal appeal.

Advocate BN Raja Mohamed appeared for the appellant. Additional Public Prosecutor R Meenakshi Sundaram appeared for the respondents.

Related:

Whatever happened to ‘zero tolerance’ for child abuse by 'godmen' and priests?

What will it take to end child sexual abuse in India?

Life sentence of murder convict upheld by Madras High Court, victim class 9 girl who rebuffed his advances

The Court also said in its judgment that youngsters today, insecure and traumatised, are short on emotional quotient and are prone to taking extreme steps at the slightest of disturbance or rejection.

Madras High Court
 

The Madras High Court recently upheld the conviction and life sentence handed down by a Sessions Court to a man who had murdered a class 9 girl by setting her ablaze, after she had rebuffed his advances Bar and Bench reported. [Balamurugan vs The State].

A bench of Justices Nisha Banu and Anand Venkatesh of the Madurai bench of Madras High Court said in its judgment that present day youngsters are short on emotional quotient and are prone to taking extreme steps at the slightest of disturbance or rejection.

Therefore, the Judges also called for reforms in the education system in the country by focusing more on young people's emotional quotient than their intelligence quotient, to prepare them for all emotional challenges that life throws at them.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by one Balamurugan, 28 years, challenging a September 2019 judgement of the Madurai Sessions court that had convicted and sentenced him to life imprisonment for killing a 14-year-old girl, a student of standard IX, by setting her ablaze in front of her school after she declined his proposal.

"This is yet another case where a man did not have the maturity to accept the rejection of love proposal made to the deceased and hence, decided to kill her in a gory fashion by pouring petrol on her and setting her on fire. This loathsome act was committed by the appellant with the only motive that the girl who did not reciprocate the love proposal made by him, should not live in this world and she should not have any relationship with anybody else in this world," the High Court said.

The Judges further held that the prosecution had produced a cogent dying declaration of the victim in which she had named the convict, and the eye witnesses, including her friends with whom she was walking towards an auto rickshaw to go back home.

The Court stated that this was yet another case where a man did not have the maturity to understand and respect a fellow human's choice.

"The present day youngsters fall too short on emotional quotient and even the slightest of disturbance and rejection, makes them take extreme steps without understanding its consequences. It is high time that our educational system starts focusing more on the emotional quotient than on the intelligence quotient," the Court said.

The Court also elaborated on how thoughtless the actions of the accused were.

"This case requires this prelude since a man aged about 28 years was going behind a girl, who was studying in 9th standard and was expecting her to react positively and get into a love affair and when it did not fructify, he chose to resort to a monstrous act of pouring petrol on the girl and setting her on fire. He did not realise that this foolish act will bring to an end his connections with the society to a grinding halt and will confine him to the prison for his life," it opined.

The Court further proceeded to say that the constant increase in such cases of men killing or assaulting women for refusing their proposals of marriage or love showed that men continued to consider women not as fellow human beings entitled to her wishes but merely as "chattel," whom they want to forcibly keep under their control.

According to the judgement, Balamurugan was an air-conditioning repair mechanic. He had harassed the victim on previous occasions and the girl had narrated the incident to her mother after which they had filed a police complaint against him. Balamurugan claimed before the police that he was in love with the victim.

On the day of the tragic incident, Balamurugan stopped the victim from getting inside an auto rickshaw with her friends to return home after school. He began verbally abusing her and after she reiterated that she was not interested in his proposal, he doused her with petrol and set her ablaze using the lighter.

The victim was rushed to a nearby hospital by the auto rickshaw driver. She succumbed to the burns at the hospital 10 days after the incident.

"In the considered view of this Court, we come to a categoric conclusion that the prosecution has proved the case beyond reasonable doubts with abundant evidence and there is absolutely no ground to interfere with the well considered order and judgment passed by the Court below," the Court said while rejecting Balamurgan's criminal appeal.

Advocate BN Raja Mohamed appeared for the appellant. Additional Public Prosecutor R Meenakshi Sundaram appeared for the respondents.

Related:

Whatever happened to ‘zero tolerance’ for child abuse by 'godmen' and priests?

What will it take to end child sexual abuse in India?

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Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC

In a recent judgment by the Allahabad HC, a POSCO act was granted bail on the condition that he will marry the victim and give his name to their child. A legal resource that dives deep into a saga of erroneous jurisprudence

17 Oct 2022

POSCO

On October 10, 2022, a person accused of raping a minor girl, who was 17 years old, under the POCSO act was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on the condition that he marry her within one month and award her and his child all of his rights as wife and daughter. The prosecutrix and her father's stance that they had “no objections” to the accused's release on bail served as the foundation for the decision of the Bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh to grant him bail. The Court also noted the fact that the Girl had already delivered a child from the accused applicant.

In the facts of the present case, the prosecuterix stated that she was allegedly lured away by the accused-applicant in March 2022 when she was just 17 years old, according to charges made under Sections 363, 366, and 376 of the IPC and Sections 3/4 of the POCSO Act. After that, the prosecutrix gave birth to a girl.

The prosecutrix and her father stated before the court that they had no objections if the accused-applicant was granted bail as long as he married the prosecutrix in accordance with Hindu rites and rituals, had their marriage officially recognised, and granted all rights to prosecutrix and the child as his wife and daughter.

However, bail has been granted on condition that after he is released from jail on bail, he will marry the prosecutrix within 15 days of the date of release and have the marriage registered before the appropriate officer within a month of the date of the marriage. He will also give ‘full rights to the prosecutrix and his child as wife and daughter’.

The order can be read here.  

This present order comes after a plethora of judgments have been passed by various courts in the recent times, where the judges are finding creative ways to interpret provisions criminalising and penalising offence of sexual assault against women and children. These judgments leave the victim with no agency, apart from diluting substantively the notion of justice.

For the longest time, deeply patriarchal notion that act of sexual assault rather than be seen as an act of violence and dominance by a man/ accused. Is something that ‘just happens’ to the woman/child/survivor or brought on because of dress or behaviour. An extension of this, is that the Survivor is treated as one who needs to be ‘saved’ or ‘redeemed’ through marriage, that too by the person who committed the crime.  Deeply prejudicial notions to independent agency and justice are also reflected within the judiciary. Often even in the past, in cases where the accused where convicted, the tone deaf language and approach used in the judgments shatters the objective behind such convictions.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012, often known as the POCSO Act, is gender-neutral and acknowledges that both boys and girls can be survivors of sexual abuse. The Act contains stringent penalties attached to each of the offenses mentioned and substantially enlarged the scope of what constitutes a sexual offense against a child. It also added penalties for those in positions of trust, such as public employees, academic staff, and police officers, and expanded the definition of sexual assault to include both mild and severe penetrative assault.

The amended law on sexual assault, 2013, (Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013), followed the nationwide outcry on the Nirbhaya mass rape and also known as the Nirbhaya Act, it amended the law around rape/sexual offences (sexual assault) under the Indian penal Code (IPC), Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Gender neutral, the amendments not only included within offences for sexual assault, offences like acid attacks, voyeuristic crimes, sexual harassment at the workplace but also re-define sexual assault/ rape from the arcane limited definition of ‘penetration.’

Both under POSCO and the Nirbhaya Act, while some judicial pronouncements have reflected this refined understanding of reality reflected in the new laws, every so often, a judgement or judgements pronounced even by India’s constitutional courts (High Courts or the Supreme Court) are reflective of the entrenched archaic and patronizing views even within the Indian judiciary.

The question that arises is, who has given the courts the power to suggest any compromise (marriage or any other) between the survivor and the accused?

Problematic judgments in cases of sexual offences against Women and Children:

1. In the year 2020, Madhya Pradesh High Court released a person, apprehended for outraging the modesty of a woman, on bail provided that he visits the house of the complainant and requests her to tie the Rakhi band to him "with the promise to protect her to the best of his ability for all times to come." This decision was given in a matter whereby the applicant as a neighbour had entered the house of the complainant and caught hold of the hand of the complainant attempting to outrage her modesty.

The court bail order stated: "(i) the applicant along with his wife shall visit the house of the complainant with Rakhi thread/band on 03rd August, 2020 at 11:00 am with a box of sweets and request the complainant Sarda Bai to tie the Rakhi band to him with the promise to protect her to the best of his ability for all times to come. He shall also tender Rs. 11,000/- (Rs. Eleven Thousand Only) to the complainant as the customary ritual usually offered by the brothers to sisters on such occasion and shall also seek her blessings. The applicant shall also tender Rs. 5,000/- to the son of the complainant-Vishal for purchase of clothes and sweets”

Pursuant to this, Supreme Court advocate Aparna Bhat and eight other women lawyers challenged this bail order before the Apex Court. The Supreme Court, while overturning the bail conditions in the present case, framed various guidelines. One of the guildelines were to ensure that bail conditions must precisely adhere to the stipulations of the Cr.P.C., and the order shall not represent patriarchal attitudes toward women. Any offer to the accused and victim for a compromise, such as getting married or mandating mediation, should be ignored since it is outside the court’s authority.

The petition filed by Aparna Bhat and others can be read here.

The order can be read here.

2. The Apex Court has often –though not always--looked askance at cavalier attitude of the lower courts and attempted course correction. It has been established in a plethora of judgments like the State of M.P v. Madanlal that compromise must never be brought into the picture while dealing with rape. But in the year 2021, the then CJI, Sharad Arvind Bobde, offered the POCSO accused a chance for bail if he agrees to marry the minor survivor. In the case of Mohit Subash Chavan v. State of Maharashtra was met with consternation and criticism after he reportedly asked the accused, a government servant, whether he would be willing to marry the victim, a minor, after she was raped. “If you want to marry we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her,” the then Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde had reportedly told the accused person’s lawyer.[1]

3. The controversial case of the Bombay High Court, single bench, Justice Pushpa V. Ganediwala when she acquitted a 32-year-old man of charges under Section 7 and 8 of the POCSO Act, holding that the offence of sexual assault was not made out because there was no “skin-to-skin” contact, bears mention. Sexual assault is defined in Section 7 of the POCSO as any non-penetrative sexual contact with the victim survivor, similarly generated outrage. In this case, the accused-appellant was accused of “pressing the breast” of the 12 – year-old prosecuterix, a fact that the prosecution demonstrated by adducing both circumstantial and direct evidence.

Despite this, however, the Court held that Section 7 conditions were not met because the survivor’s garments were not removed, and the appellant was unable to remove her underpants because she screamed, and bolted the room from the outside when the assailant accused sought to do so. The act of the appellant would, at best, be an act of “outraging the modesty of a woman” as defined in Section 354 of the IPC, according to the Court. The judge further stated that the punishment imposed under Section 8 of the POCSO, which prescribes a punishment for a term of 3-5 years and fine, for the offence outlined in Section 7 is “disproportionate” when compared to the gravity of the act and hence upheld the conviction only under Section 354, IPC. This order was, again, following sharp criticism and outrage, stayed by the Supreme Court.

The order can be read here.  

4. In another incident, the Madhya Pradesh High Court granted two-months bail to an accused in a rape case to enable him to ‘marry the victim’. The victim complainant had filed a rape case against the accused under sections 376 (2) (n) and 506 of the Indian Penal Code and sections 3(I), (W-II), 3(2)(V) and 3(2)(V-a) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Meanwhile, in another rape case in the year 2021, the Kerala High Court observed that when the magnitude of the rape is so grave and heinous to shock the sense of justice, a settlement between the victim and accused and a marriage subsequently between them should not be matters for consideration to quash the proceedings against the accused. This later judgement holds out some hope.

5 In the year 2020, Madras High Court judgment (Madurai Bench), the accused was granted bail after impregnating a minor girl as he said he was willing to marry the victim once she attains majority. The FIR in the case was filed under Sections 5(l), 5(n), 5(j)(ii) and 6 of the POCSO Act. The judgment noted that if the petitioner fails to register the marriage, the respondent police could proceed against him in accordance with the law. The accused told the court that he and the victim were closely related. According to him, they fell in love and had sexual relations.

Clearly, even Judges are not the ‘outside other’ but part of a very patriarchal society.  Judges come from the social location of caste, class (presumably upper) household within this. Still, given by serious attempts in the legislative process –influenced by voices from the women’s movement –to affect a shift and change in attitude, it is crucial that the agency and autonomy of the woman needs to be central to all interventions and judgments.

 

Love Relationship Angle in POCSO cases:

Even though, in the aims and objects of this Act, the “consent of the minor child” is not supposed to determine facts or application of the law, courts, while adjudicating have been giving age some consideration.

In a judgment passed by the Delhi High Court in the year 2020, in the matter of Dharmander Singh @ Saheb vs State, bail was granted to the accused while taking into account the potential for a reciprocal physical contact between the underage victim and the accused. The age difference between the two, the physical intimacy shared between the accused and the prosecutrix, as well as lack of brutality or violence were also taken in factor.

In a different instance, in the year 2021, the Meghalaya High Court ruled that although a minor's consent is not legally legitimate, it is nonetheless important to keep in mind while the court is debating a bail request. The said case was of a minor and a nineteen year old who were involved physically. The court had considered the factor of two teens in “romantic love” while granting bail to the accused.

In yet another "consensual" relationship case, the Calcutta High Court cleared the defendant by interpreting a POCSO Act clause so that it no longer applied to situations in which sexual activity was voluntary. In this instance, the high court noted that the Act was created to provide protection to innocent children from sexual offenses and that a strict reading of its provisions would only turn it into a weapon for exploitation of the legal system.

In the year 2021, the Madras High Court had observed that the POCSO Act is not meant to punish young people in love relationships. The court acknowledged that a statute intended to protect and bring justice to victims and survivors of child abuse can be abused while also dismissing the criminal charges brought against the defendants in this case. The court observed that a significant portion of cases brought under the POCSO Act appeared to be the result of grievances filed by the families of teenagers participating in romantic relationships, which was never the law's intended goal.

In February 2022, the Supreme Court had set aside the Jharkhand High Court’s order granting bail to an accused under section 376, IPC and section 6, POCSO. The Apex Court had opined that once prima facie it appears that the prosecutrix was a minor, the grounds that there was a "love affair" between her and the accused and the accused's alleged refusal to marry would be extraneous for bail.

Pursuant to this judgment, the Karnataka High Court, in August 2022, the Karnataka high court allowed a compromise in a case registered under POCSO considering that the girl who had been allegedly sexually assaulted had married the accused during pendency of the case and also had consented to quashing of the proceedings. The girl was 17 and the accused petitioner was 20 years old when her father registered a POCSO complaint on March 6, 2019. On October 11, 2019, the girl deposed that the acts between her and the petitioner were consensual. They submitted a memo before the high court stating that they mutually agreed to compound the offences alleged and got legally married on November 9, 2020, the very day when he was released on bail after 18 months in judicial custody.

It is the cases such as those listed and analysed here that reflect the contradictions India faces. The fact of each case and the application of the law, be it POSCO or the amended Law on Sexual Assault, the imbalance in understanding of not just the crimes listed but the societal and familial circumstances under which abuse and assault occur, renders a flawed result. Courts then, do not become the automatic—and necessary dispensers of justice – but the witting or unwitting perpetrators of existing attitudes towards women, girls and minors.

The “skin-to-skin” judgment created had, then, resulted in a massive outrage all over the country. 

In the year 2020, The Karnataka High Court noted that it was “unbecoming of an Indian woman” to sleep after she is “ravished”, while granting a pre-arrest bail to a man accused of rape, cheating and criminal intimidation. Prior to this, in the year 2017, the Delhi High Court had overturned a rape conviction against film director Mahmood Farooqui, ruling that a “feeble no” can signal consent, especially in cases where the alleged victim is well-educated.

There have been numerous judgments in the recent past wherein judges have given questionable solutions while dealing with cases of sexual offences. Taking forward the problematic patriarchal notion of attaching a woman’s honor and identity to her body, the judiciary has been prone to giving judgments wherein the accused is given the chance to “absolve” their crime by marrying the victim. Is this what the amended rape laws are country were legislated for? Is it not enough that the survivor has lost her autonomy once while they are being subjected to such crimes, to be once more dealt such a blow from institutions of judgement delivery?

Worse still, if examples these continue to be set, wherein punishment, conviction and or acquittal are at the mercy of attitudinal flaws among judges, less and less survivors or families may be willing to come forward with complaints. While the Supreme Court has often stayed some of the most baffling of such orders given by the high courts, there have been flaws in the apex court’s jurisprudence on this issue too. An urgent need of better judicial training and increased sensitivity when it comes to cases of sexual violence and assault cannot be under-emphasised. Crimes committed against children and women are on the rise and it is essential for us to ensure that everything is done to provide the survivors justice. 

The victims of sexual abuse have always been blamed by Indian society. Women have been questioned repeatedly about their behaviour, clothing choices, attitude, and when they plan to leave their homes. During trials too, judges have frequently reinforced this practice by questioning the victim and sometimes making remarks that stereotype particular behaviour and threaten to disrupt the trial.

Some evidence points to judges' handling of rape cases reflecting this outmoded perspective. The idea that women need protection and that an unintended pregnancy brought on by rape would wreck their lives is another important justification for using this strategy. The survivor's parents ultimately give in to pressure to maintain their social standing in order to protect the female's honor and dignity. Given also that marital rape is not a crime in India, solemnizing rape via marriage has negative effects such as marital rape and violence after marriage. It also gives accused rapists a way to evade the law. The shocking injustice committed by the courts is demonstrated by subjecting the sufferer to more emotional agony.

 


Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC

In a recent judgment by the Allahabad HC, a POSCO act was granted bail on the condition that he will marry the victim and give his name to their child. A legal resource that dives deep into a saga of erroneous jurisprudence

POSCO

On October 10, 2022, a person accused of raping a minor girl, who was 17 years old, under the POCSO act was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on the condition that he marry her within one month and award her and his child all of his rights as wife and daughter. The prosecutrix and her father's stance that they had “no objections” to the accused's release on bail served as the foundation for the decision of the Bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh to grant him bail. The Court also noted the fact that the Girl had already delivered a child from the accused applicant.

In the facts of the present case, the prosecuterix stated that she was allegedly lured away by the accused-applicant in March 2022 when she was just 17 years old, according to charges made under Sections 363, 366, and 376 of the IPC and Sections 3/4 of the POCSO Act. After that, the prosecutrix gave birth to a girl.

The prosecutrix and her father stated before the court that they had no objections if the accused-applicant was granted bail as long as he married the prosecutrix in accordance with Hindu rites and rituals, had their marriage officially recognised, and granted all rights to prosecutrix and the child as his wife and daughter.

However, bail has been granted on condition that after he is released from jail on bail, he will marry the prosecutrix within 15 days of the date of release and have the marriage registered before the appropriate officer within a month of the date of the marriage. He will also give ‘full rights to the prosecutrix and his child as wife and daughter’.

The order can be read here.  

This present order comes after a plethora of judgments have been passed by various courts in the recent times, where the judges are finding creative ways to interpret provisions criminalising and penalising offence of sexual assault against women and children. These judgments leave the victim with no agency, apart from diluting substantively the notion of justice.

For the longest time, deeply patriarchal notion that act of sexual assault rather than be seen as an act of violence and dominance by a man/ accused. Is something that ‘just happens’ to the woman/child/survivor or brought on because of dress or behaviour. An extension of this, is that the Survivor is treated as one who needs to be ‘saved’ or ‘redeemed’ through marriage, that too by the person who committed the crime.  Deeply prejudicial notions to independent agency and justice are also reflected within the judiciary. Often even in the past, in cases where the accused where convicted, the tone deaf language and approach used in the judgments shatters the objective behind such convictions.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012, often known as the POCSO Act, is gender-neutral and acknowledges that both boys and girls can be survivors of sexual abuse. The Act contains stringent penalties attached to each of the offenses mentioned and substantially enlarged the scope of what constitutes a sexual offense against a child. It also added penalties for those in positions of trust, such as public employees, academic staff, and police officers, and expanded the definition of sexual assault to include both mild and severe penetrative assault.

The amended law on sexual assault, 2013, (Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013), followed the nationwide outcry on the Nirbhaya mass rape and also known as the Nirbhaya Act, it amended the law around rape/sexual offences (sexual assault) under the Indian penal Code (IPC), Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Gender neutral, the amendments not only included within offences for sexual assault, offences like acid attacks, voyeuristic crimes, sexual harassment at the workplace but also re-define sexual assault/ rape from the arcane limited definition of ‘penetration.’

Both under POSCO and the Nirbhaya Act, while some judicial pronouncements have reflected this refined understanding of reality reflected in the new laws, every so often, a judgement or judgements pronounced even by India’s constitutional courts (High Courts or the Supreme Court) are reflective of the entrenched archaic and patronizing views even within the Indian judiciary.

The question that arises is, who has given the courts the power to suggest any compromise (marriage or any other) between the survivor and the accused?

Problematic judgments in cases of sexual offences against Women and Children:

1. In the year 2020, Madhya Pradesh High Court released a person, apprehended for outraging the modesty of a woman, on bail provided that he visits the house of the complainant and requests her to tie the Rakhi band to him "with the promise to protect her to the best of his ability for all times to come." This decision was given in a matter whereby the applicant as a neighbour had entered the house of the complainant and caught hold of the hand of the complainant attempting to outrage her modesty.

The court bail order stated: "(i) the applicant along with his wife shall visit the house of the complainant with Rakhi thread/band on 03rd August, 2020 at 11:00 am with a box of sweets and request the complainant Sarda Bai to tie the Rakhi band to him with the promise to protect her to the best of his ability for all times to come. He shall also tender Rs. 11,000/- (Rs. Eleven Thousand Only) to the complainant as the customary ritual usually offered by the brothers to sisters on such occasion and shall also seek her blessings. The applicant shall also tender Rs. 5,000/- to the son of the complainant-Vishal for purchase of clothes and sweets”

Pursuant to this, Supreme Court advocate Aparna Bhat and eight other women lawyers challenged this bail order before the Apex Court. The Supreme Court, while overturning the bail conditions in the present case, framed various guidelines. One of the guildelines were to ensure that bail conditions must precisely adhere to the stipulations of the Cr.P.C., and the order shall not represent patriarchal attitudes toward women. Any offer to the accused and victim for a compromise, such as getting married or mandating mediation, should be ignored since it is outside the court’s authority.

The petition filed by Aparna Bhat and others can be read here.

The order can be read here.

2. The Apex Court has often –though not always--looked askance at cavalier attitude of the lower courts and attempted course correction. It has been established in a plethora of judgments like the State of M.P v. Madanlal that compromise must never be brought into the picture while dealing with rape. But in the year 2021, the then CJI, Sharad Arvind Bobde, offered the POCSO accused a chance for bail if he agrees to marry the minor survivor. In the case of Mohit Subash Chavan v. State of Maharashtra was met with consternation and criticism after he reportedly asked the accused, a government servant, whether he would be willing to marry the victim, a minor, after she was raped. “If you want to marry we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her,” the then Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde had reportedly told the accused person’s lawyer.[1]

3. The controversial case of the Bombay High Court, single bench, Justice Pushpa V. Ganediwala when she acquitted a 32-year-old man of charges under Section 7 and 8 of the POCSO Act, holding that the offence of sexual assault was not made out because there was no “skin-to-skin” contact, bears mention. Sexual assault is defined in Section 7 of the POCSO as any non-penetrative sexual contact with the victim survivor, similarly generated outrage. In this case, the accused-appellant was accused of “pressing the breast” of the 12 – year-old prosecuterix, a fact that the prosecution demonstrated by adducing both circumstantial and direct evidence.

Despite this, however, the Court held that Section 7 conditions were not met because the survivor’s garments were not removed, and the appellant was unable to remove her underpants because she screamed, and bolted the room from the outside when the assailant accused sought to do so. The act of the appellant would, at best, be an act of “outraging the modesty of a woman” as defined in Section 354 of the IPC, according to the Court. The judge further stated that the punishment imposed under Section 8 of the POCSO, which prescribes a punishment for a term of 3-5 years and fine, for the offence outlined in Section 7 is “disproportionate” when compared to the gravity of the act and hence upheld the conviction only under Section 354, IPC. This order was, again, following sharp criticism and outrage, stayed by the Supreme Court.

The order can be read here.  

4. In another incident, the Madhya Pradesh High Court granted two-months bail to an accused in a rape case to enable him to ‘marry the victim’. The victim complainant had filed a rape case against the accused under sections 376 (2) (n) and 506 of the Indian Penal Code and sections 3(I), (W-II), 3(2)(V) and 3(2)(V-a) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Meanwhile, in another rape case in the year 2021, the Kerala High Court observed that when the magnitude of the rape is so grave and heinous to shock the sense of justice, a settlement between the victim and accused and a marriage subsequently between them should not be matters for consideration to quash the proceedings against the accused. This later judgement holds out some hope.

5 In the year 2020, Madras High Court judgment (Madurai Bench), the accused was granted bail after impregnating a minor girl as he said he was willing to marry the victim once she attains majority. The FIR in the case was filed under Sections 5(l), 5(n), 5(j)(ii) and 6 of the POCSO Act. The judgment noted that if the petitioner fails to register the marriage, the respondent police could proceed against him in accordance with the law. The accused told the court that he and the victim were closely related. According to him, they fell in love and had sexual relations.

Clearly, even Judges are not the ‘outside other’ but part of a very patriarchal society.  Judges come from the social location of caste, class (presumably upper) household within this. Still, given by serious attempts in the legislative process –influenced by voices from the women’s movement –to affect a shift and change in attitude, it is crucial that the agency and autonomy of the woman needs to be central to all interventions and judgments.

 

Love Relationship Angle in POCSO cases:

Even though, in the aims and objects of this Act, the “consent of the minor child” is not supposed to determine facts or application of the law, courts, while adjudicating have been giving age some consideration.

In a judgment passed by the Delhi High Court in the year 2020, in the matter of Dharmander Singh @ Saheb vs State, bail was granted to the accused while taking into account the potential for a reciprocal physical contact between the underage victim and the accused. The age difference between the two, the physical intimacy shared between the accused and the prosecutrix, as well as lack of brutality or violence were also taken in factor.

In a different instance, in the year 2021, the Meghalaya High Court ruled that although a minor's consent is not legally legitimate, it is nonetheless important to keep in mind while the court is debating a bail request. The said case was of a minor and a nineteen year old who were involved physically. The court had considered the factor of two teens in “romantic love” while granting bail to the accused.

In yet another "consensual" relationship case, the Calcutta High Court cleared the defendant by interpreting a POCSO Act clause so that it no longer applied to situations in which sexual activity was voluntary. In this instance, the high court noted that the Act was created to provide protection to innocent children from sexual offenses and that a strict reading of its provisions would only turn it into a weapon for exploitation of the legal system.

In the year 2021, the Madras High Court had observed that the POCSO Act is not meant to punish young people in love relationships. The court acknowledged that a statute intended to protect and bring justice to victims and survivors of child abuse can be abused while also dismissing the criminal charges brought against the defendants in this case. The court observed that a significant portion of cases brought under the POCSO Act appeared to be the result of grievances filed by the families of teenagers participating in romantic relationships, which was never the law's intended goal.

In February 2022, the Supreme Court had set aside the Jharkhand High Court’s order granting bail to an accused under section 376, IPC and section 6, POCSO. The Apex Court had opined that once prima facie it appears that the prosecutrix was a minor, the grounds that there was a "love affair" between her and the accused and the accused's alleged refusal to marry would be extraneous for bail.

Pursuant to this judgment, the Karnataka High Court, in August 2022, the Karnataka high court allowed a compromise in a case registered under POCSO considering that the girl who had been allegedly sexually assaulted had married the accused during pendency of the case and also had consented to quashing of the proceedings. The girl was 17 and the accused petitioner was 20 years old when her father registered a POCSO complaint on March 6, 2019. On October 11, 2019, the girl deposed that the acts between her and the petitioner were consensual. They submitted a memo before the high court stating that they mutually agreed to compound the offences alleged and got legally married on November 9, 2020, the very day when he was released on bail after 18 months in judicial custody.

It is the cases such as those listed and analysed here that reflect the contradictions India faces. The fact of each case and the application of the law, be it POSCO or the amended Law on Sexual Assault, the imbalance in understanding of not just the crimes listed but the societal and familial circumstances under which abuse and assault occur, renders a flawed result. Courts then, do not become the automatic—and necessary dispensers of justice – but the witting or unwitting perpetrators of existing attitudes towards women, girls and minors.

The “skin-to-skin” judgment created had, then, resulted in a massive outrage all over the country. 

In the year 2020, The Karnataka High Court noted that it was “unbecoming of an Indian woman” to sleep after she is “ravished”, while granting a pre-arrest bail to a man accused of rape, cheating and criminal intimidation. Prior to this, in the year 2017, the Delhi High Court had overturned a rape conviction against film director Mahmood Farooqui, ruling that a “feeble no” can signal consent, especially in cases where the alleged victim is well-educated.

There have been numerous judgments in the recent past wherein judges have given questionable solutions while dealing with cases of sexual offences. Taking forward the problematic patriarchal notion of attaching a woman’s honor and identity to her body, the judiciary has been prone to giving judgments wherein the accused is given the chance to “absolve” their crime by marrying the victim. Is this what the amended rape laws are country were legislated for? Is it not enough that the survivor has lost her autonomy once while they are being subjected to such crimes, to be once more dealt such a blow from institutions of judgement delivery?

Worse still, if examples these continue to be set, wherein punishment, conviction and or acquittal are at the mercy of attitudinal flaws among judges, less and less survivors or families may be willing to come forward with complaints. While the Supreme Court has often stayed some of the most baffling of such orders given by the high courts, there have been flaws in the apex court’s jurisprudence on this issue too. An urgent need of better judicial training and increased sensitivity when it comes to cases of sexual violence and assault cannot be under-emphasised. Crimes committed against children and women are on the rise and it is essential for us to ensure that everything is done to provide the survivors justice. 

The victims of sexual abuse have always been blamed by Indian society. Women have been questioned repeatedly about their behaviour, clothing choices, attitude, and when they plan to leave their homes. During trials too, judges have frequently reinforced this practice by questioning the victim and sometimes making remarks that stereotype particular behaviour and threaten to disrupt the trial.

Some evidence points to judges' handling of rape cases reflecting this outmoded perspective. The idea that women need protection and that an unintended pregnancy brought on by rape would wreck their lives is another important justification for using this strategy. The survivor's parents ultimately give in to pressure to maintain their social standing in order to protect the female's honor and dignity. Given also that marital rape is not a crime in India, solemnizing rape via marriage has negative effects such as marital rape and violence after marriage. It also gives accused rapists a way to evade the law. The shocking injustice committed by the courts is demonstrated by subjecting the sufferer to more emotional agony.

 


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