2. When courts fail sexual assault victims


2. When courts fail sexual assault victims
  • The Supreme Court on Friday sought the assistance of Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, the central government’s top lawyer, on the subject of courts imposing extraneous bail conditions for sex crime offenders which impinged upon the dignity of the victim and trivialise the crime.
  • The bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and BR Gavai was hearing a petition by nine women lawyers against a recent bail condition set by the Madhya Pradesh High Court that asked the accused to visit the residence of the victim and “allow” her to tie a rakhi on him. The High Court had also asked the accused to gift the woman Rs 11,000 “as a customary ritual usually offered by brothers to sisters” on Rakshabandhan.
  • The petitioners challenged the bail condition, which they argued defeated the very purpose of granting bail as it directed the alleged perpetrator to establish contact with the victim. They said the court failed to appreciate that in most case of sexual assault, the prosecutrix turns hostile mostly due to intimidation or under pressure. The bail condition amounts to the gross trivialisation of the trauma suffered by the complainant and results in further victimisation by making the accused visit her residence, the petitioners argued.
  • Petitioners said such extraneous bail conditions are often made by lower courts — they cited 12 recent instances by several courts, including the Delhi HC — and sought the Supreme Court to issue a general declaration on all high courts and trial courts to not pass orders that victimise and trivialise the complainant.
5 THINGS FIRST

Today: Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen SK Saini on US visit; IPL (RR vs RCB, DC vs CSK); New Zealand goes to polls; Tomorrow: IPL (SRH vs KKR, MI vs KXIP); A decade-old UN arms embargo against Iran expires

1. Hathras: What UP Police’s three-layer security looks like
1. Hathras: What UP Police’s three-layer security looks like
  • The Uttar Pradesh police told the Supreme Court that it is providing a three-layer security to the family of the young Dalit woman who died after assault and alleged gang-rape by four upper caste men in the Hathras village. That security has also meant the family is heavily surveilled.
  • There are three levels of checks on the way to their house, TOI finds — at the entry to the village, around the victim’s house and then at the house itself. Newly-installed CCTV cameras record every movement. For added measure, cops posted outside the house make a note of every individual entering and leaving the house.
  • A local intelligence unit official records the video of the conversation media personnel have with the family. “We need to have a record of all statements the family makes,” the official said. The justification? “It is only for their safety. It is to ensure no one misguides the family into saying something. If they refuse, conversations will not be recorded.” Cops had earlier sealed off the district and even prevented opposition politicians from reaching the spot.
  • The family, meanwhile, says they want to move out of the village that has been their home for generations. “It would be impossible to stay on after all that has happened. It would be easier on us if we went somewhere else,” the victim’s elder brother told TOI. They are considering Delhi; “it would mean a lot if the government helped us move,” he says. “Being here will be a constant reminder of what happened to our sister,” the younger brother said.
  • The UP Police’s special investigation team that is investigating the related cases — the main investigation is being conducted by the CBI — is likely to seek a second extension to table its report. The SIT was scheduled to submit its findings on Saturday, after the 10-day extension of its original deadline of October 7.
3. What’s causing the deluge in peninsular India
3. What’s causing the deluge in peninsular India
  • A change in wind circulation and pressure patterns for October, that resemble those occurring during monsoons between June-September, could be the reason behind the deluge and the flooding in parts of Maharashtra, including Pune, Satara, Sangli, Solapur and Kolhapur districts — with total casualties climbing to 47 and 499,648 hectares of crops destroyed.
  • According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), October usually sees a breakdown of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) (a belt of converging trade winds and rising air encircling the Earth around the Equator) — which for the past few years hasn’t been happening with ITCZ developing even in October.
  • Added to that are the cyclonic storms forming over the Bay of Bengal, which earlier used to dissipate fast and not move much inland — in fact, another low pressure area is likely to form over central Bay of Bengal around October 19, leading to heavy to very heavy rainfall along coastal Andhra Pradesh (AP).
  • The region — AP, Telangana, Maharashtra and Karnataka — has seen torrential rains and massive flooding this week. In fact, the latest study by the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) says that India was the second worst affected country after China, with 17 floods every year, compared to China’s 20.
  • It said that between 2000-2019, 345 million Indians were affected by floods, with the country holding the grim record for the deadliest flooding — June 2013, which claimed 6,054 lives.
4. Life expectancy’s up, but hunger pangs remain
4. Life expectancy’s up, but hunger pangs remain
  • India has gained more than a decade of life expectancy since 1990 — up from 59.6 years in 1990 to 70.8 years in 2019. However, there are wide inequalities between states — ranging from 77.3 years in Kerala to 66.9 years in Uttar Pradesh. This according to the Global Burden of Disease report.
  • Now, the increase in ‘healthy life expectancy’ has not been as dramatic as the growth of life expectancy — 58% of the total disease burden in India is now due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), up from 29% in 1990, while premature deaths due to NCDs have more than doubled from 22% to 50%.
  • And the top five risk factors for deaths in the country were air pollution (an estimated 1.67 million deaths), high blood pressure (1.47 million), tobacco use (1.23 million), poor diet (1.18 million), and high blood sugar (1.12 million).
  • Also: India also ranked 94 among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020. And with a score of 27.2, the level of hunger was “serious”. This after the country ranked 102 out of 117 countries and 103 among 119 countries on the 2019 and 2018 indices, respectively.
  • Per the report, 14% of India’s population is undernourished. And more than a third of the country’s children were stunted — the proportion of children who have a “low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition” was 37.4%.
6. Will raising the marriage age for girls help them?
6. Will raising the marriage age for girls help them?
PM Narendra Modi repeated his independence day remark that the government will soon decide on the “ideal age of marriage for daughters”, which is currently 18.

The pros

  • With 33.6% of India’s population born to teenage mothers, delaying the minimum age of marriage could also delay the onset of child-bearing, with the result that India’s projected population by 2050 — between 1.6-1.7 billion — could reduce by 25.1% according to a 2013 UN Population Fund review.
  • Apart from bringing gender parity in the age of marriage — minimum age for marriage for boys is 21 — raising the marriage age for girls could help reduce both the infant and maternal mortality rate, which is the highest in the world. According to experts, children born to teenage mothers tend to develop health problems even as a woman’s reproductive organs attain optimum size and function only by the age of 21 years.

The cons

  • Raising the age of marriage could result in criminalising sexual activity below that age, as currently the age of consent is 18 years.
  • According to legal experts, increasing the age of marriage for girls to 21 could mean that they have little or no say in their personal matters till they attain that age.
  • It may have little or no impact on preventing child marriages — for one, they are valid as long as the minors want it to remain valid and two, child marriage rates are declining, from 46% in 2005-6 to 26.8% in 2015-16, according to National Family Health Survey.
7. The sharpest 15-day declines in Covid cases & deaths
7. The sharpest 15-day declines in Covid cases & deaths
  • In the sharpest fortnightly dips in Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country, new infections fell by 18.4% in the first half of October from the previous 15-day period (September 16-30), while deaths fell by nearly 19%.
  • Cases in the first 15 days of this month have been the lowest fortnightly count since the second half of August, per daily data collated from state governments (see above graphic). It was also the second straight fortnight when cases declined.
  • The death toll has followed a similar pattern. Again, the death count had dropped for the first time in the second half of September, although the fall was just 0.2%.
  • The pandemic is on the wane, but with more than 1 million new cases and over 13,000 deaths during the fortnight, it’s far from over.
  • Friday’s count: Active cases dipped below the 800,000 mark for the first time since August 31. Daily cases remained above 60,000, at 62,587, while the death toll was 871, the highest in six days.
8. Smog-hit Delhi: Justice Lokur to monitor stubble burning
8. Smog-hit Delhi: Justice Lokur to monitor stubble burning
  • Former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur will head a one-man committee to monitor the practice of stubble burning in Delhi neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in view of the worsening air quality in the capital city, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
  • The air quality in Delhi has deteriorated with the onset of winter, reversing the relatively cleaner air during the pandemic lockdown. The air quality index in the city ticked 312 on Thursday, the worst in 8 months; it improved on Friday.
  • The burning of stubble by farmers in the neighbouring agri-states is not the only culprit — industrial pollution from factories in Delhi, vehicular pollution, dust from construction activities all play a part. Yet, the central government’s pollution monitoring database, SAFAR, shows the share of stubble burning in the total PM2.5 in Delhi has risen over the past few days — from under 2% on October 14 to 18% on October 16 (Friday).
  • According to the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre, there have been 4,585 cases of stubble fires in the state between September 21 and October 16; the corresponding figure last year was 1,388. The rise in crop fires comes even as the Punjab government has subsidised 23,500 crop residue machines this year. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute recorded 4,644 instances of crop fires between Oct 1 and 15 across UP, Haryana and Punjab; the corresponding figure last year was 2,647.

Additional read: What happens when Covid meets toxic air?

9. And the first captaincy casualty this IPL is…
9. And the first captaincy casualty this IPL is…
Karthik (left) and Morgan

  • … Dinesh Karthik. In a media statement, hours before their game against Mumbai Indians (MI) on Friday, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) said Karthik “wishes to handover” the leadership to Eoin Morgan “with a view to focus on his batting and contributing more to the team’s cause”. Karthik was bothered by his batting position this season as well.
  • The 35-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman had taken over the captaincy after the franchise parted ways with Gautam Gambhir after the 2017 season and had led them to the playoffs the next edition. However, this season (before Friday’s match) Karthik had managed just 108 runs at an average of 15.42. Morgan, the 2019 World Cup-winning captain, on the other hand, had scored 175 at 35.00.
  • Against MI, Karthik, coming in at No. 4, could manage just 4 off 8 balls, while new skipper Morgan made a fighting 39 off 29 balls batting at No. 5 to give the total some respectability. But it was another embarrassing defeat for the Knights.
  • The scorecard: MI 149/2 (de Kock 78 not out) beat KKR 148/5 (Cummins 53 not out, Chahar 2-18) by 8 wickets. Tournament page here
BEFORE YOU GO
10. Two unequal pandemic polls
10. Two unequal pandemic polls
  • Impoverished and landlocked South American nation of Bolivia holds a presidential election on Sunday, but apprehension rather than excitement is the prevailing mood. The ballot is a delayed re-run of a fraught and later annulled vote in 2019 that sparked off deadly protests and led to the resignation of leftist President of 14 years, Evo Morales.
  • Morales is now exiled in Argentina, but his chosen stand-in, former economy minister Luis Arce, is a frontrunner. Arce’s main challenger is centrist ex-President Carlos Mesa, who came second to Morales in last year’s vote. There are three other candidates.
  • A candidate needs at least 40% of valid votes in the first round and a ten-point lead to avoid a second-round run-off. But beyond the results, observers fear a repeat of the last year’s riots at the end of it all.
  • A vastly different election awaits the island nation of New Zealand on Saturday. Liberal icon Jacinda Ardern is expected to return as the Prime Minister, buoyed by her astute handling of the pandemic. But the proportional voting system could throw surprises. The challenger? Judith Collins, a centrist who admires former British PM Margaret Thatcher.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
Untitled (5)

Ghulam Nabi Azad. The senior Congress leader on Friday tweeted that he has contracted the novel coronavirus and has been under home quarantine.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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