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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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New political parties floated in Kashmir

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Mar 18: Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, several new political parties have been floated in Kashmir.
The Lok Sabha election in the state will be held in five phases beginning April 11. The restive Anantnag parliamentary constituency, comprising Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam districts, will go to the polls “in parts” in the third, fourth, and fifth phase. The assembly elections are expected to be held after that, although no announcement has been made so far.
For the last two weeks, several political parties have been created in a bid to make some changes in the political system of the state in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The representatives of these parties are either disgruntled leaders of the existing political parties or people, who claim to bring a change in the “corrupt system” of the state.
On last Thursday, Syed Najeeb Nakvi announced contesting the upcoming elections from Baramulla constituency.
He said that he will fight against “increasing alienation” of youth. Nakvi was former Congress member and aide of Taj Mohiuddin.
Former member parliament Abdul Rashid Shaheen, and Sequib Rehman Makhdoomi have launched their party ‘Jammu Kashmir Awami Conference’.
Shaheen said that he launched his part to “give a platform” to Kashmiris to raise their issues. “We have already witnessed violence over the years. People can raise their issues. We have to get united and provide a common ground to Kashmiris.”
Another political party by the name of ‘Tehreek-e-Insaaf’ too has been recently launched.
Syed Mohammad Rafiq Shah (Former MLC) has launched ‘JK Bachao Tehreek’.
Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal launched a political party on Sunday – the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM) – with a promise to “bridge the distance between New Delhi and Islamabad in order to resolve the Kashmir dispute”.
“I have not come here to engage in traditional politics,” Faesal said while launching party in Srinagar. The ceremony was held inside a park in a park here at Rajbagh, which was festooned with banners and white flags carrying Faesal’s pictures. “This party doesn’t belong to any particular religion or group. It is people’s party, and I invite all of you, particularly the youth, to join us,” he said.
There are also reports that some independent candidates of the last elections may also float their own parties in the coming days.
Earlier, several political parties were launched to participate in the electoral process of the state.
To become a recognised political party either at the state or national level, a party has to secure certain minimum percentage of polled valid votes or certain number of seats in the state legislative assembly or the Lok Sabha during the last election.
There have been fears that most of such parties are used to ’round trip’ the black money into white.
The Election Commission of India had found that some of the parties were “no longer in existence or functioning”.
The Election Commission of India’s latest data on political parties, registered till March 9, a day before the Lok Sabha elections were announced, reveal that the country is having a total of 2,293 political parties.
They include seven “recognised national” and 59 “recognised state” parties.
In fact, 149 political parties were registered with the poll panel between February and March on the eve of the announcement of the poll schedule.
Till February this year, the country had 2,143 political parties registered with the Commission.

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ECI issues notification for B’la, Jammu seats

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Jammu, Mar 18: The Election Commission of India (ECI) Monday issued notification for General Elections to Baramulla and Jammu Parliamentary Constituencies.
As per the notification, last date of filing nominations has been fixed on March 25, while the scrutiny of papers will be held on March 26 and the last date of withdrawal of candidature is March 28 up to 3 PM.
Similarly, as per the notification polling for the two seats will be held on April 11, 2019. The voting hours has been fixed from 7:00AM to 6:00PM.
Meanwhile, notification for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections was issued for other constituencies in the country as well setting in motion the high-voltage electoral battle where the BJP seeks to return to power amid opposition’s efforts to present a united fight to unseat it.
Polling would be held in 91 parliamentary constituencies spread across 20 states on April 11 under the first of the seven-phase general elections.
The Election Commission Monday issued a notification signed by President Ram Nath Kovind for the first phase of the election.
With the issuance of the notification, the nomination process has begun which would continue till March 25. Scrutiny of the nomination papers will be held on March 26 and the last day of withdrawing nomination is March 28.
By the evening of March 28, a clear picture on the number of candidates in each of the 91 constituencies will emerge.
All parliamentary constituencies in 10 states and Union Territories will go for polling in the first phase.
These include, Andhra Pradesh (25 seats), Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya (two seats each), Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep (one seat each), Telangana (17 seats) and Uttarakhand (five seats).
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal will see polling in all the seven phases.
In the first phase, eight west UP constituencies, two in West Bengal and four in Bihar will go for polls. UP has 80 seats, while West Bengal and Bihar have 42 and 40 Lok Sabha seats respectively.
The Jammu and Baramulla seats in Jammu and Kashmir will also go for polling in the first phase.
The election will pit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance against mostly different opposition groupings in various states, including of Congress, the Left and regional forces who are continuing to work out a grand alliance to minimise a division of votes against the saffron party.
The BJP has worked out a seat-sharing formula with some new allies and several old partners, by even making concessions in states such as Bihar. However, opposition parties are yet to do so in several states.
While the NDA hopes to make history by coming back to power for a second full term, the Opposition wants to unseat the Modi dispensation by raising questions on its performance on a host of issues, including economic growth, unemployment, corruption and social harmony.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had led the NDA to back-to-back wins in 1998 and 1999 general elections but he was at the helm for only one full term.
The BJP, which lost three state polls last year, believes its Lok Sabha campaign is back on track following decisions such as 10 per cent quota for the general category poor, money transfer to farmers and a populist budget.
What has injected further confidence into the NDA fold is the fronting of the nationalist plank in the poll campaign after the Indian Air Force’s strikes in Pakistan following the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Modi has launched an aggressive campaign accusing the opposition of coming together for the sole purpose of removing him from power, when he is working to “remove poverty, corruption and terrorism”.
He had led the NDA to a sweeping victory in 2014 as it won 336 seats, reducing then incumbent Congress to its lowest total of 44 seats.

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Police Chief asks cops to be ready for polls

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Jammu, Mar 18: To assess the police preparedness for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Director General of Police Dilbag Singh Monday visited District Bandipora and had an interaction with the personnel of Police and CAPFs.
He was accompanied by IGP Kashmir SP Pani and DIG North Kashmir Range M. Suleman Choudhary.
Singh, while interacting with the police and other CAPFs personnel deployed in the district, emphasised upon them to remain vigilant and ready for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
He said that with the announcement of schedule for the elections, responsibilities of all forces have increased and they have to focus on the security measures besides maintaining ‘law and order’.
“DGP said that J&K police alongwith other forces put in efficient efforts to conduct the Local Bodies and Panchayat elections in the state smoothly and now we have to remain extra vigilant and prepared for the Lok Sabha elections,” a police spokesperson said.

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