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On June 5, the Supreme Court of India in a significant ruling, held that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 would not hinder a divorced Muslim woman’s right to maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Prior to delving into the importance of this judgment, it is imperative that the gamut of events, triggered with the Shah Bano verdict, be explained. In 1985, the Supreme Court in Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, upheld the maintenance claim of Shah Bano, a divorced Muslim woman of 60 years, under S.125 of the CrPC; the Section provides for relieft to a wife (among others), “unable to maintain herself”. However, this judgment created a huge outcry from the Islamic orthodoxy in India. The Rajiv Gandhi-led Government in power, passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, to appease the outraged sentiments. The Act, quite ironically, curtailed the rights of Muslim women rather than protecting them. It limited the Muslim husband’s responsibility to maintain his divorced wife to the period of iddat. Over the past decade, the Act has challenged over various grounds of Constitutional validity. The apex Court’s decision in Daniel Latifi v. Union of India was instrumental in clearing the fog of confusion. The Court in that instance, gave a liberal interpretation of the Act,(specifically S. 3(1)) in so far as the “fair and reasonable” provisions to the divorced Muslim woman shall include maintenance for her future extending beyond the iddat period.

Earlier this month, the two judge-bench comprising Justic Arijit Pasayat and D.K. Jain in the case of Iqbal Bano v. State of Uttar Pradesh overruled the Allahabd High Court’s order on the same matter; the H.C had held that the divorced wife is not entitled to maintenance under the CrPC in lieu of the existing Act of 1986. There were questions raised as to whether the divorce effected was proper; to which the Court answered in the negative. While the Act only deals with divorced women the CrPC, in the opinion of the Hon’ble Court, is of broader ambit.  A relevant passage from the judgment is quoted below:

Under the 1986 Act the husband has two separate and distinct obligations, viz. to a make a reasonable and fair provision for his divorced wife [for her residence, food, clothes and other articles], and to provide maintenance for her. Though it may look ironical that the enactment intended to reverse the decision in the Shah Bano case it actually codifies the very rationale contained therein.

 A judgment is certainly a step in the correct direction to secure the rights of divorced Muslim women unable to maintain themselves, and relieve them of their plight perpetrated by legal instruments such as the Act of 1986.

Till a while ago, I thought that the Gujjars are going to get away with all the damage that they have caused. The railways alone have suffered losses of upto 200 crores. Rajasthan roadways of about 50 crores and not to mention the lives of about 27 people.

Col. Bainsla, the Gujjar leader may finally have to pay the price for all the damage that the community has caused.

Well not anymore! The state machinery has finally decided to crack the whip on the Gujjars by registering cases against the leaders for murder, destruction of property and conspiracy. Looks like the government was waiting for the exact moment to put these things in place. Earlier when the ‘peace accord’ was reached, Col. Bainsla the Gujjar leader apologised for all the damage the Gujjars had caused and stated that it was required to attain an end but meant no harm to people. Well, he just will have to pay for it now.

These are the moments I cherish the most. You finally see the law taking its course. Short lived it may though be, but it brings some satisfaction. I just hope this does’nt turn into another mockery and sham.

Yesterday, while observing World Environment Day, the Government announced the setting up of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. The high-level advisory body has been constituted to “coordinate National action plans for assessment, adaptation and mitigation of climate change”. The move comes at a crucial juncture after the Inter-Government Panel on Climate Change had submitted its Fourth Assessment Report in April, 2007; the G8 summit to be held later this month is also expected to deal extensively on the issue.

 

“Climate Change”, a term used in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC), pre-supposes an involvement of the human element in contributing to, say, a specific instance like global warming. India, with its significant population count is no doubt a contributor, albeit lesser in degree, to greenhouse gas emissions, industrial and automobile fuel-pollutants and consequently, to global warming. Furthermore, it is extremely critical that the ideal of sustainable development be attained as the problem of rapidly vanishing forest belts (along with it, natural resources of water, minerals etc) in India cannot be ignored anymore.Ours being an agrarian economy, climate change is of all the more concern in that ever-rising temperatures and depleting irrigation sources can be fatal to the agro-sector.

 

The PM’s Council, therefore, has a significant role in shaping the future course of activities to tackle the problem of climate change. GreenhouseGases Online has annexed a very informative slideshow on Climate Change Mitigation and the Kyoto Protocol on their website. The Presentation may be viewed here:
http://www.ghgonline.org/sacpress2003/mitigatekyoto/sld001.htm

 

On Saturday night, the Government of Rajasthan enforced the National Security Act in eleven of its districts. Most of the news reporters have talked about its imposition but none about its implications. One needs to understand that the Act is basically a ‘preventive detention’ act, one of the greatest legitimate ills in our country. I use the word legitimate because it is a violation that is given sanction to in the Constitution of our country.

The National Security Act, 1980 was imposed under Section 3 (2) which says that if the State government is satisfied that with respect to any person that with a view to preventing  him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the  State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance  of Public order, it may impose the Act. In the case of Rajasthan, it was imposed to supposedly prevent the clash between the Gujjars and the Meenas.

But the point is, was the imposition of such a harsh legislation really required? Earlier the District Commissioner of Bharatpur imposed section 144 of the Cr. PC (Prohibition of an Act to prevent public order etc…). Apparently the situation was brought under control in the said district. Our governments have this knack of bringing in the harshest legislations without any understanding of its implications to personal liberty. Such actions more or less have stood the test of time and cannot even be challenged in Court. When there were other options available, then why did the Rajasthan government bring in the NSA? In SR Bommai v. Union of India, the Court held that introduction of emergency powers under the Constitution can be questioned in the Court. The same reasoning should be applied to the NSA.

Preventive Detention in India has unfortunately stood the test of time and its going to be extremely difficult for it to be repealed now. In AK Gopalan’s case, the Court justified preventive detention in the name of maintaining public order. This was later upheld in ADM Jabalpur v. Sivakant Shukla where the Maintenance of the Industrial Security Act (MISA) was upheld. But the point again to be understood is that ‘preventive detention’ under the Constitution was meant to be for the protection of the State and not against some actions ensued by caste wars. The Gujjars and the Meenas may fight, but that doesn’t mandate preventive detention. Executive action without any checks and balances is a toll for destruction of the democratic order. Unbridled powers leads to abuse that violate the very ethos within which they are framed.

I am however given to understand that there have not been many arrests under the NSA in Rajasthan. The gujjars are destroying state property in the State of Rajasthan. Perhaps starting curfews and imposing laws like Section 144 of the code of criminal procedure would have helped more than imposing preventive detention law.

There is a meeting of the Gujjar leaders with the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje tonight. Hope the meeting ends amicably and the fighting can come to an end.

 – Sachin Pilot, Gujjar leaders meet Rajnath Singh

– Gujjars call for a Delhi bandh on Monday 

 

 

As negotiations on the proposed nuclear co-operation agreement between India and the United States enter a critical third day, it is extremely important to analyse and understand the impact that the deal, if it comes through, will have on the Indian civilian and strategic nuclear power programmes. The background to the present round of talks had already been sown in July 2005 when both countries had agreed to co-operate on the issue of supply and use of nuclear energy for civilian, peaceful purposes. The consensus arrived at, was hailed as historic and India was said to benefit immensely from the subsequent deal. However, later developments in this regard has witnessed a paradigm shift in the demands and objectives that the United States seeks to attain from this deal; a stand which the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has referred to as “shifting goal-posts”.

In 2005, at the time of agreement, the U.S had agreed to a policy of non-intervention in any of India’s strategic nuclear programmes as regards the design, development or testing of any nuclear weapons. The deal focussed primarily on the issue of nuclear fuel for civilian purposes and supply from the U.S and the N.S.G (Nuclear Suppliers Group) for the same; this subject to India’s conformity to fuel and reactor norms as specified by the IAEA. However, in late 2006, the U.S. Congress passed the United States- India Peaceful Atomic Energy Co-operation Act, now popularly known as the Hyde Act. The Hyde Act, which received an overwhelming approval in the Congress, has completely redefined the context in which the deal is to be passed. The Act puts a cap on further testing of nuclear weapons by India; in the event of a breach through such testing, co-operation would be suspended. Furthermore, the question of civilian nuclear energy co-operation seems to be a half-way house. India, if one were to understand the terms of the Act, is barred from reprocessing its spent fuel; a limitation on an apparent sovereign right of the nation. Not only is it a restriction on such a right, it shall also result in the piling up of radioactive spent material.

If the 123 Agreement currently in the process of negotiation were to come through in its modified context, India would be subject to terms and conditions entailed in the Hyde Act. Already the U.S legislation has received heavy flak from various political organisations within India. Questions, even those concerning a rethinking of the entire deal has been put forth. Therefore, the present state-of-affairs are critical in shaping the future course of nuclear technology development in India.

In a forum for Greater Co-operation between India and the U.S in New Delhi, Nicholas Burns, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs had stressed on the isolationist policy India had adopted vis-a-vis nuclear power (civilian and strategic) and had emphasized on a “compromise” of sorts with the Hyde Act to ensure rapid development on spheres of civilian nuclear technology. What the Under-Secretary seems to forget is the fact that the isolationist stand had been thrust upon India after Pokhran in ’74 and ’98 by US-driven policies of sanctions and other restrictions.

As the world is gradually moving towards a dilution of polarity, with more “Superpowers” emerging in the scene, such a lop-sided agreement cannot be encouraged. To reiterate, India should push for equality within the field of nuclear co-operation and must not push through in haste with the 123 Agreement.