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Expert opinion: Death penalty to rapists changes nothing until investigation process turns effective

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Srinagar, Apr 24: Experts have questioned the recent ‘criminal law amendment ordinance’ approved by the President of India for providing death penalty to those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age.
The law was approved in the backdrop of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua and Surat and the rape of a girl in Unnao.
Jammu and Kashmir Government also approved an ordinance on Tuesday to allow courts to pronounce death penalty to child rapists.
However, in absence of Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) in Jammu and Kashmir, the experts decry the death penalty for child rape cases, as sought by the proposed ordinance.
POCSO Act aims to offer protection to children (individuals below the age of 18) from sexual violence including sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the inclusion of children in pornography.
Habeel Iqbal, a lawyer at Shopian Court, accused J&K government of “playing to the gallery”.
“They are pandering to populism. The government has failed to bring in a law on the lines of POCSO. The government has not formed the commission for protection of child rights, but is quick to resort to the decadent practice of death penalty,” he said.
Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor at Kashmir Times, said the death sentence would not act as a “deterrent” but will prove “counterproductive”.
“I completely oppose it. First, it goes against the basic humanitarian principles of justice. If there is a death penalty for rape, it will be followed by murders, as the rapist will try to wipe off the evidence,” she said.
Bhasin also pointed out that the cases of rape and sexual violence were more rampant than what was being reported.
“Majority of the sexual violence cases is perpetrated by those known to the victims. They don’t come out because of the stigma attached. The death penalty will further stop them from reaching out to the authorities and report the crime,” she said.
The senior journalist stressed that state responsibility should be more towards ensuring a fair “investigation and prosecution” process rather than making “stringent laws”.
“The prosecution in every case that comes should ensure that every victim has confidence in taking recourse to legal justice mechanism,” she added.
Rebecca Mammen John, a lawyer at Supreme Court, wrote on Facebook, “Cases collapse in India because of poor investigation. That’s hardly going to change because the government has announced that child rapists will be awarded the death penalty. No rich, powerful well-connected man has been awarded the death penalty. It’s the poor, badly represented prisoner who gets the harshest punishment.”
Supreme Court advocate, Vrinda Grover has been quoted by a national daily saying, “Far from reporting the crime, death penalty is going to deter the victim from reporting sexual assault when the offender is from the family or is known to them.”
“This will lead to the crime being suppressed and the victim being left completely helpless. Without strengthening the investigation process or the prosecution, creating an enabling environment both in the court and outside, and improving the conviction rate, the sentence is irrelevant.”
Global rights groups, the Amnesty International and the CRY also termed the Union Cabinet’s decision as a “Knee-jerk reaction” and said it could possibly be a “threat to the judicial process”.
In the aftermath of rape-and-murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua, ‘Save the Children’, an international non-governmental organisation that promotes children’s rights, in a statement said: “poor status of implementation of laws is an issue of urgent national concern”.
“While the Indian government has enabled progressive laws like Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 and the Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 but the poor status of implementation of such laws, as reflected in the cases of Kathua, Unnao and Surat, is an issue of urgent national concern,” the statement reads.
While Chief Executive Officer /Mission Director ICPS /Juvenile Justice, Hilal Bhat said that POCSO has not been extended to JK.
“The draft bill is ready and it will be implemented shortly,” Bhat added.


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Inclement weather forecast: Admin asked to remain alert

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jun 25: The state government has asked the divisional administration of Kashmir to remain on high alert in view of the inclement weather forecast for the next one month.
This follows the meeting chaired by Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan to review the preparedness of the administration after receiving July weather forecast report from India Meteorological Department.
As per the minutes of the meeting, Divisional Commissioner was informed that the administration has to be on high alert to meet the challenges arising out of the “adverse weather conditions, in order to prevent recurrence of the situation that was witnessed in September 2014 floods”.
“The chair reiterated that a mock drill/exercise in this regard needs to be done and there should be no let off by any officer in addressing this situation,” reads the minutes of meeting.
During the meeting, the deputy commissioners apprised Khan that basic groundwork like identification of vulnerable areas, identification of rescue centers and preparation of evacuation plan, has been conducted.
Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control told the meeting that the water holding capacity of river Jehlum, as compared to 2014 floods, has been increased and measures are being undertaken to further enhance the retaining capacity of flood spill channel.
“He requested that the Bailey Bridge temporarily constructed at the flood channel near Barzulla Bhagat needs to be removed in order to avoid any untoward incident in case the water level rises,” the minutes reads.
The district development commissioners have been directed to identify the low lying villages/areas, which may get inundated due to floods and caterogise them as per the threat of floods.
“DCs shall also identify rescue centers and buildings where the affected population shall be temporary relocated in the event of floods, and shall prepare evacuation plan for the purpose,” it reads.
Director Tourism, Kashmir, has been directed to liaise with the President JK Shikara Owners Association and direct him to provide Shikaras at a short notice in the eventuality of floods.
Director Meteorological Department, Sonam Lotus said it was difficult to predict on what day there would be rainfall. “But there will be rainfall in the month of July,” Lotus said.
Lotus however said people should not worry about any possibility of floods.

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Parents should invest on quality education: Mirwaiz

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Srinagar, Jun 25: Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Tuesday urged the people of Kashmir to invest their resources on imparting quality education to their children so that a better tomorrow is built.
Addressing a function at Four Friends Public School Gili Kadal in Nowshehra here, Mirwaiz termed quality education as “major tool for the development and upliftment of nations.”
“No nation in the world can progress unless it makes imparting quality education to its children as its mission and aim as it is quite evident that western countries have touched new heights in progress and development by putting in its resources into education and research in various fields,” Mirwaiz said while addressing a galaxy of students, teachers, civil society activists and youth present.
Mirwaiz said that Kashmiri children are full of talent and can compete with other students at any level. “The only thing is that their talent needs to be exploited in a better way,” he said.
Mirwaiz stressed while imparting worldly knowledge to the children, moral and ethical values should be inculcated among the students and Islamic teaching should act as guiding principles and there should be no compromise on this front.
“When Kashmir was under the tight grip of illiteracy, darkness, poverty and atrocities on all sides around 120 years ago, the then Mirwaiz Alama Ghulam Rasool Shah laid the foundation of Islamia school and launched a large scale war against poverty and illiteracy in Kashmir and today the whole valley is reaping the benefits of the step taken by late Mirwaiz Shah in the shape of educational institutions that have come up in every area of the region which is a welcome step,” he said.

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War against corruption! ACB gets more teeth to take on influential people

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jun 25: The war against corruption has been intensified in Jammu and Kashmir after the Governor-led administration gave more powers to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to take on the corrupt high and mighty.
Last year, Governor Satya Pal Malik-led administration amended Prevention of Corruption Act Samvat, 2006 and Jammu and Kashmir State Vigilance Commission Act, 2011 and established the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to combat the menace of corruption in the state.
Under the new law, the government has deleted the clause of Anti-Corruption Bureau from the State Vigilance Commission (SVC) Rules, 2019. Under the earlier law it was mandatory for ACB to submit hourly reports to SVC.
“While exercising powers of supervision, the Commission shall not direct the Anti-Corruption Bureau to provide individual details of the cases or investigate or dispose of the case in a particular manner,” the rules say.
Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam has said the establishment of ACB would go a long way in doing away with the shortcomings and multiplicity of roles in the existing anti-corruption mechanism in the state.
“The ACB has been empowered. It is as powerful as CBI. The government has strengthened the ACB so that it acts against the powerful people,” he said.
For the last several months, the ACB has taken on the highly influential people in the state
The ACB sleuths recently raided J&K Bank offices after receiving the complaints of fraudulent appointments. The anti-graft body has also registered a case against the former chairman of the bank.
ACB is also probing into the allegations of large-scale irregularities in matters related to loans, finances and appointments in the bank.
It has also registered cases against deputy mayor Srinagar Municipal Corporation, J&K Bank and government officials for “illegal appropriation of subsidy with inflated project cost for establishment of CA storage at Lassipora, Pulwama.”
As per the official details accessed by The Kashmir Monitor, the anti-graft body has also registered a case against former commissioner and the senior town planner of Jammu Municipal Corporation for criminal misconduct, abuse and misuse of their official position as public servants while issuing illegal building permission.
The ACB also caught Block Development Officer Sopore red-handed while allegedly accepting bribe. A case has also been registered against Divisional Manager of State Forest Corporation (SFC) Udhampur on corruption charges.
The ACB also registered cases against several bureaucrats for allegedly being involved in corrupt practices.
Director ACB, Anand Jain did not respond to repeated calls.
However, a senior official said the ACB has more powers than any other anti-graft body of the country.
“The government has strengthened it by making necessary amendments in the rules. The recent action against influential people has unnerved tainted bureaucrats and politicians,” the official said.

Want to report corruption: WhatsApp or call this number
Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar, Jun 25: The J&K Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) Tuesday launched call and WhatsApp helpline number 9419678060 on which the citizens can report demands for bribe and corruption through social messenger and also through call.
“The motive of the ACB behind the announcing a WhatsApp and call helpline is to encourage citizens to report cases of corruption and bribe demands,” a spokesperson of the anti-graft body said.
While launching the helpline number in Srinagar, Anand Jain, Director, ACB said that WhatsApp has become a very popular medium of communication and people are more comfortable using it.
Moreover, he said, WhatsApp will also enable the complainant to post picture and videos of any complaints through electronic medium on real time basis.

 
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