Srinagar, Apr 20: Government is actively considering amending the penal law to introduce death penalty to those convicted of sexually abusing children up to 12 years of age, the Supreme Court was informed on Friday.
The assertion of the Centre assumes significance following the public outcry for award of death penalty to such sexual offenders, including the assaulters of an 8-year-old girl who was gang raped and killed at Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir recently.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, hearing a PIL relating to the brutal rape of an 8-month-old child allegedly by her 28-year-old cousin, was given a copy of a letter by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Narasimha to apprise it that the Law Ministry was contemplating changes in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act.
The communication of a deputy secretary, addressed to the ASG, reads, “I am directed…to inform that the issues raised in the petition regarding amendment of provisions of the POCSO Act, 2012 so as to provide maximum punishment of death penalty for commission of offences of rape of children of 0-12 year of age group is under active consideration of the Ministry.
“The Ministry is sensitive to the plight of young children brutaly abused in the most horrific manner. The Ministry is proposing to amend the POCSO Act for introducing death penalty for the abuser in the cases of aggravated sexual assault against children.”
The ASG, however, had earlier opposed the submission of Alakh Alok Srivastava, who had filed the PIL in his personal capacity in the case, that sexual assaulters of children be sent to the gallows by saying that “death penalty is not the answer to everything”.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, took note of the Centre’s stand and fixed the PIL for hearing on April 27.
Srivastava had approached the top court after the horrific incident of rape of an 8-month girl child allegedly by her 28-year-old cousin on January 28 in a locality near Netaji Subhash Place in north-west Delhi had come to light.
The girl child had developed health conditions and underwent emergency corrective surgeries. The PIL had sought reliefs like proper medical care of the victim at AIIMS and award of Rs 10 lakh as interim compensation.
The plea has also sought the provision of death penalty in such cases and framing of guidelines that investigation and trial of cases involving rape of children below 12 years of age under POSCO Act, should be completed in six months from the date of registration of the FIR.
The top court, which had said it cannot direct Parliament to amend law, however, had asked the Centre to give details of pending cases of sexual assault against children across the country for taking a “national view” with an aim to figuring out how such trials could be fast-tracked.
The Centre had informed the court that the victim girl has been provided the due medical care and an FIR has been registered leading to arrest of her cousin who had already confessed to the crime before the police.
The police had said the accused had confessed to raping the baby under the influence of liquor.
The girl’s parents used to go out for work leaving their daughter in the custody of their sister-in-law. Since it was a Sunday, their sister-in-law’s son was at home, the police had said, adding that when the accused saw that his mother was not around, he allegedly forced himself on the baby.
When the girl’s mother returned home, she saw blood stains on the victim’s clothes and informed her husband, they said, adding she was rushed to a hospital where it was found that she had been sexually assaulted.
New political parties floated in Kashmir
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.
ECI issues notification for B’la, Jammu seats
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.
Police Chief asks cops to be ready for polls
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.