CLAT: Way to Legal Education

Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) : Way to Legal Education

The concept of National Law Universities to act as a pace-setter and testing ground for bold experiments in legal education came up because the pattern of legal education at traditional Universities was not found to be satisfactory. In course of time, fourteen National Law Universities were established to achieve excellence in legal education. These Universities are national in the sense that substantial number of seats in all these

Universities are filled-up by students from all over India and the academic staffs are also recruited on all India basis. Till 2007 each National Law University conducted tests separately in different Centers spread all over the country and thousands of students after their 10+2 examinations took those multiple admission tests at considerable expense and with lots of inconvenience. In order to avoid the hardship faced by the candidates in appearing in a number of tests for admission to different individual Universities initiative was taken for conducting a Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for admission to different National Law Universities. However, only eleven out of the fourteen National Law Universities are part of CLAT. Continue reading “CLAT: Way to Legal Education”

Ignorance of Law is not an excuse

Ignorance of Law is not an excuse, is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content. This principle has its origin from the Legal Maxim Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat, which means “ignorance of the law does not excuse” or “ignorance of the law excuses no one”.

Presumed knowledge of the law is the principle in jurisprudence that one is bound by a law even if one does not know of it. It has also been defined as the “prohibition of ignorance of the law”. The concept comes from Roman law, and is expressed in the brocard ignorantia legis non excusat. The essential public character of a law requires that the law must apply to anyone in the jurisdiction where the law applies. Thus, no one can justify his conduct on the grounds that he was not aware of the law. Continue reading “Ignorance of Law is not an excuse”

Rights of a Consumer…!!

Author: VS Warrier

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (in short, ‘the Act’), is a benevolent social legislation that lays down the rights of the consumers and provides their for promotion and protection of the rights of the consumers. The first and the only Act of its kind in India, it has enabled ordinary consumers to secure less expensive and often speedy redressal of their grievances. By spelling out the rights and remedies of the consumers in a market so far dominated by organized manufacturers and traders of goods and providers of various types of services, the Act makes the dictum, caveat emptor (‘buyer beware’) a thing of the past.

The Act mandates establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Centre as well as in each State and District, with a view to promoting consumer awareness. The provisions of this Act cover ‘goods’ as well as ‘services’. The goods are those which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers. The services are in the nature of transport, telephone, electricity, housing, banking, insurance, medical treatment, etc.  Continue reading “Rights of a Consumer…!!”

Chhattisgarh sterilization massacre

Time to re-evaluate medical standards

Raghavi Viswanath

The recent incident in Chhattisgarh calls for a serious re-evaluation of the Government’s approach to family planning. As part of the State’s sterilization program, laparoscopic tubectomies were performed on 83 women in the Bilaspur district in a span of merely five hours. All these operations were performed by a single doctor. According to several reports, the women were operated on the floor of a dilapidated clinic. As per the governmental guidelines pertaining to sterilization operations, doctors are not supposed to perform more than 30 operations in a day with three laparoscopic instruments and not more than 50, regardless of the number of instruments.

When the women were admitted, most of them complained of vomiting and fever. However, doctors are still unsure of the cause of death. While the Government alleged medical negligence on the part of the doctor, other authorities claimed that the medicines provided were adulterated. The National Human Rights Commission and the High Court took suo moto cognizance of the tragedy and an enquiry commission was instituted to look into the matter.

The appalling incident has diverted the focus of public institutions towards the systemic flaws in the State’s approach to family planning. This incident is one in the line of many deaths that have been caused due to faulty sterilization operations. Incidents such as that in Kaparfora, Bihar, in 2012, where 53 women were sterilized in two hours in a school and Malda, West Bengal, in 2013, where unconscious women were dumped in an open field after sterilization, show scant regard for women in the approach to sterilization ((Das Abhijit, India’s latest sterilization camp massacre, The BMJ, dated 1st December, 2014, available at http://www.chsj.org/uploads/1/0/2/1/10215849/bmj.g7282.full.pdf, last accessed on 19th January,2015)).

India introduced family planning in the wake of the global propaganda surrounding the phenomena of population explosion in the 1950’s.The following decade saw the Government embark on aggressive sterilization programs that did reduce the population from around 2.3% to 1.6%. However, the national sterilization campaign was abandoned in the 1970’s itself after reports of forced sterilizations. The government’s approach towards family planning was strongly condemned for violating people’s freedom to choose and stigmatized the concept of family planning (though not as stringently as China’s one-child policy). Ever since, India has not shown any progress, with respect to population control and is fast on its way to becoming the most populous nation by 2030.

Between 2009 and 2012, the government paid pecuniary compensation to nearly 568 families of women who had lost their lives as a result of faulty sterilization operations ((Jason Burke, India mass sterilization: women were ‘forced’ into camps, say relatives, The Guardian, 12th November, 2014 available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/12/india-sterilisation-deaths-women-forced-camps-relatives accessed on 19th January,2015)). Such state sterilization camps are conducted on a large-scale and several health workers are roped in to convince women to undergo the surgery. These workers also receive cash benefits. Moreover, in poverty-stricken states, women are offered cash incentives and disincentives. For instance, in 2012, the Madhya Pradesh, the Chief Minister announced incentives such as DVD players for surgeons and women who accepted sterilization ((Supra, see note 1)).

In the instant case, all women who had agreed to undergo the procedure were paid Rs.1400. The payment itself is a form of coercion. This reflects the lack of regard that Governments have for the reproductive rights that women are entitled to. Most states followed a target-based approach. For instance, Chhattisgarh set a target of 180,000 women to be sterilized by the March of 2015. Such unwritten targets compel doctors and other officials to coerce women into undergoing sterilization as opposed to other, possibly safer, methods of contraception. Moreover, surgeries such as abortion are made available only if the women agree to undergo sterilization. Most women are not even informed of the available methods of contraception. Instead, priority is affixed to sterilization, which is viewed as a full-proof method substantiated by the fact that it accounts for 72% of the use of modern contraception methods.

Such incidents also highlight the poor quality of medicines within the public health system and the proliferating adulteration businesses in the pharmaceutical sector. In most hospitals, basic disinfectants are also out of supply and are watered down to cut costs. Additionally, the patient’s medical history is not examined, there is no medical equipment to perform the surgery and the post-operative environment is not conducive to recuperation ((Das A, Rai R, Singh D. Medical negligence and rights violation Economic Political Weekly 2004 Aug 28; 39(35): 3876-9)).

Another aspect of this program is its highly prejudiced approach where women are forced to shoulder the burden of the family as opposed to men. An explanation for this attitude can be in the traditional regressive notions that chastise men who undergo such operations. Tubal ligations, as a proportion of total annual sterilization operations (male or female) have increased from 71% in the early 1980s to 98% in 2013 ((Supra, see note 3.)).

From a medical perspective, sterilization is not full-proof and a woman may conceive even after undergoing the operation. Therefore, negligence charges cannot be affixed upon the doctor merely on the grounds of the operation. The Supreme Court, in its judgment in Ramakant Rai v Union of India ((Supreme Court, Civil Writ Petition No. 209/2003))and Devika Biswas v Union of India ((W.P. (C) 81 of 2012)), laid down certain guidelines in order to bring about uniformity in the surgical procedures adopted by the medical professionals. However, these directives have been incessantly violated. In response to these directives, the Government came up with the Family Planning Insurance Scheme in 2005 where it directed the Union of India and States/UTs to ensure enforcement of the union government’s guidelines for conducting sterilization procedures. This scheme covered the indemnity allowances for doctors and medical professionals up to a monetary limit of Rs 2 lakhs and as well as the damages that victims of medical negligence in sterilization operations are entitled to. This initiative created the much required safeguard for doctors, in order to encourage them to perform these operations without fear of litigation.

The fundamental right to health ingrained in Articles 14, 15, 21 and 47 of the Indian Constitution protects all citizens from such deplorable practices in the medical field. Additionally, woman have the right to voluntary sterilization services that are not coercive, unsafe or violent under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1980), the International Conference on Population and Development Cairo (1994) and the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing (1995) ((Shri Ramakant Rai & Health Watch UP and Bihar v Union of India and Others (SC 2003), Supreme Court, Civil Writ Petition No. 209/2003)).

It is imperative for an independent grievance redressal body to be instituted in order to assess adherence to the judicial directives and ensure that people can lodge complaints against coercive measures used against them. The State should also undertake to conduct camps to inform people about the various options available for contraception as well as the socio-economic need for family planning for the State to be support the growing population. This is the only means to facilitate accountability and culpability.

CLAT 2015 to be held on May 10, 2015

Common Law Admission Test which is popularly known as CLAT for admission to the under graduate and post graduate courses offered by the National Law Schools for the academic year 2015 – 16 will be held on May 10, 2015. Initial admission notification with respect to CLAT 2015 will be published by the CLAT Core Committee on December 25 on the official website www.clat.ac.in.

Admissions to under graduate and post graduate courses by the National Law Schools or National Law Universities are done only through CLAT Examination conducted by the Core Committee. Students planning to pursue their career in law shall apply for the CLAT online within the prescribed time schedule.

Age restriction remains unchanged for CLAT

As reported in the Times of India, the 20 year age limit to appear in Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) remains unaffected by the Allahabad High Court judgment of May 2014, in which the court had noted there can be no such restriction since Bar Council of India (BCI) had already scrapped maximum age limit for undergraduates.

CLAT to go online

The Common Law Admission Test popularly known as CLAT for the academic year 2015 – 16 under the supervision of Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University (RMLNLU) will be conducted online. Common Law Admission Test is an all India entrance examination conducted on rotation by National Law Universities (NLUs) for admissions to their under-graduate and post-graduate degree programmes.

Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University (RMLNLU) will conduct this year’s Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) exam online. This year onwards, right from filling up the forms to the final fee submission, everything will be online. This step is taken in order to ensure efficiency and transparency in the examination process.

Combating Cyber Crimes against Women

Aman Ahmad, Student of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia

Cyber Crime is a global phenomenon and with the advent of technology, cyber crime against women is on the high and it has been posing as a major threat to the reputation of a women. India is among the very few countries to enact the IT Act, 2000 to combat cyber crimes that are on the rise but issues regarding cyber crimes against women are still untouched by this act. The act has termed certain offences such as hacking and publishing of obscene materials on the net as punishable offences but the act lacks to mention specific offences against women which in turn has left a loophole in the legislation. There are various cyber crimes that happen against women, some of them are:

  1. Cyber Stalking.
  2. Cyber Pornography.
  3. Cyber Defamation.
  4. Harassment via e-mails.
  5. Morphing.

Cyber Stalking

It is one of the most talked about cyber crimes in the net world. Cyber stalking involves following a person’s movements across the Internet by posting messages (sometimes threatening) on the bulletin boards frequented by the victim, entering the chat-rooms frequented by the victim, constantly bombarding the victim with emails etc. Cyber Stalking usually occurs with women, who are stalked by men, or children who are stalked by adult predators or paedophile. It is believed that Over 75% of the victims of cyber stalking are females.

Cyber Pornography

It is another great threat to the females throughout the world. Internet has provided a medium for the facilitation of crimes like pornography. Cyber porn as it is popularly called is widespread. Almost 50% of the web sites exhibit pornographic material on the Internet today. There have been quite a few cases relating to Cyber pornography in the country.

Cyber Defamation

It is a common crime that is being committed against women. It occurs when defamation takes place with the help of internet.

Harassment via e-mails

This concept is similar to harassment via letters and includes threatening, blackmailing, bullying and even cheating via e-mail.

Morphing

It is editing the original picture by unauthorised user or fake identity. It was identified that a female’s pictures are downloaded by fake users and again re-posted or uploaded on different websites by creating fake profiles after editing them. This amounts to the violation of I.T. Act, 2000 and attracts sec. 43 & 66 of thesaid Act. The violator can also be booked under the Indian Penal Code. Internet is filled with morphed photos of celebrities.

Even though Chapter XI of the IT Act, 2000 mentions various offences such as tampering with computer source documents (S. 65), Hacking with computer system (S. 66), Publishing of information which is in electronic form (S. 67), Breach of confidentiality and privacy (S. 72), etc. It does not mention any crimes specifically as against women.

The elementary problem which is associated with cyber crimes is the problem of jurisdiction because with the growing arms of cyberspace the territorial boundaries seem to vanish thus the concept of territorial jurisdiction will have to pave way for a new mechanism to solve the cyber crimes.

The women on the other hand are being discouraged due to various reasons, the most important being lack of strength to talk to the family about such problems. Majority of the women are facing harassment on the net because of the loopholes in the IT Act, 2000, lack of awareness and the problem implementation of laws. The women do not come out and speak about the problem they are facing to their families because they think that the families will not support them. This in turn boosts the confidence of the person harassing the women. The Act does not mention certain typical cyber crimes such as cyber stalking, morphing and email spoofing as offences. This creates another problem.

Women will have to know their rights and will have to come out so as to protect themselves from the predators who try and take advantage of the new age technology.

Importance of Non – Violence and Ethical Values

Aman Ahmad, Student of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia

Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood.

― Mahatma Gandhi.

From the First World War to the Second World War and to the latest, the war for the Gaza Strip, The world has seen the consequences of unethical values and violence. All of the world has seen destruction just for the sake of establishing hegemony. But we do not realise the fact that having a mere title is not as important as establishing mutual co-existence for all of us. That is where the importance of non – violence and ethics come to picture. There is not a single religion or a constitution or any other code of conduct in this world which teaches us to take human lives. Every religion and every other source for the code of conduct for humans have only been giving us ethical values and has been encouraging non-violence. A selfish and extremist human being draped in the cloth of democracy or unity has been coming to power and has been causing destruction from time to time. Extremism of any sort should therefore be discouraged in our lives because even a small start can have disastrous consequences throughout the world and it is time that all of us learn a lesson from the past. Condemning such acts and following the path of non-violencewill definitely lead us to a stronger and a better world. Therefore the most important task is to instil whole of the world with strong ethical values and teach them the importance of non-violence. But how can we do that? When seen from the global perspective there are deep values of nationalism throughout the world, there is extremism of all sorts that has been inculcated in all of us through persistent instruction which has ultimately resulted in friction between all of us which has led to a global tension. We will have to start this process of teaching the importance of non – violence and of ethical values from the adolescent age as it is when a person learns and imbibes ideologies and that is how ideas come out from a person and go on to become something big and have a global impact. Teaching non – violence will thus instil in a person, certain ethical values which will lead us towards peace which is the need of the hour. This is the bigger picture of teaching the importance of non – violence and ethical values, there are a lot of smaller benefits which ultimately lead to the above discussed benefit. One of the most important benefits of non – violence and ethical values is non – violence itself. There is a plethora of examples in the history books which state the consequence of violence. The loss of a human life is more than the loss of anything because it is the loss of humanity. So if a child is taught the importance of non – violence and is instilled with ethical values then there is no way that there will be a global problem because all of the major leaders for tomorrow are still at the learning age. Another importance of non – violence and ethical values is that the two qualities help develop an individual’s insight into reasoning which will help that individual distinguish between good and bad.

There is a need for all of us to realise that today we should lay emphasis not only on our needs but also on the needs of the majority and such an understanding can only be had by teaching ethical values alongside non – violence.

Elections in India and related Laws

Ipsita Mishra, Student of Law, NLU, Odisha

India is the largest democracy in the World. Since 1947 free and fair elections have been held at regular intervals as per the principles of the Constitution, Electoral Laws and System. The Election Commission of India has complete control over the elections. Election Commission of India is a permanent Constitutional Body. The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950 ((See http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/the_setup.aspx)).

Elections are conducted according to the constitutional provisions, supplemented by laws made by Parliament. The major laws are the Representation of the People Act, 1950, which mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which deals, in detail, with all aspects of conduct of elections and post election disputes.

Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners

The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament.

Election Machinery

The Commission has a separate Secretariat at New Delhi, consisting of about 300 officials, in a hierarchical set up. Two Deputy Election Commissioners who are the senior most officers in the Secretariat assist the Commission. They are generally appointed from the national civil service of the country and are selected and appointed by the Commission with tenure. Directors, Principal Secretaries, and Secretaries, Under Secretaries and Deputy Directors support the Deputy Election Commissioners in turn. There is functional and territorial distribution of work in the Commission. The work is organized in Divisions, Branches and sections; each of the last mentioned units is in charge of a Section Officer. The main functional divisions are Planning, Judicial, Administration, Information Systems, Media and Secretariat Co-ordination.
The territorial work is distributed among separate units responsible for different Zones into which the 35 constituent States and Union Territories of the country are grouped for convenience of management. At the state level, the election work is supervised, subject to overall superintendence, direction and control of the Commission, by the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, who is appointed by the Commission from amongst senior civil servants proposed by the concerned state government. He is, in most of the States, a full time officer and has a team of supporting staff.

At the district and constituency levels, the District Election Officers, Electoral Registration Officers and Returning Officers, who are assisted by a large number of junior functionaries, perform election work. They all perform their functions relating to elections in addition to their other responsibilities. During election time, however, they are available to the Commission, more or less, on a full time basis.

The gigantic task force for conducting a countrywide general election consists of nearly five million polling personnel and civil police forces. This huge election machinery is deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission and is subject to its control, superintendence and discipline during the election period, extending over a period of one and half to two months.

Budget & Expenditure

The Secretariat of the Commission has an independent budget, which is finalised directly in consultation between the Commission and the Finance Ministry of the Union Government. The latter generally accepts the recommendations of the Commission for its budgets.

The major expenditure on actual conduct of elections is, however, reflected in the budgets of the concerned constituent unit of the Union – State and Union Territory. If elections are being held only for the Parliament, the expenditure is borne entirely by the Union Government while for the elections being held only for the State Legislature, the expenditure is borne entirely by the concerned State. In case of simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Legislature, the expenditure is shared equally between the Union and the State Governments. For Capital Equipment, expenditure related to preparation for electoral rolls and the scheme for Electors’ Identity Cards too, the expenditure is shared equally.

Executive Interference Barred

In the performance of its functions, Election Commission is insulated from executive interference. It is the Commission which decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or bye-elections. Again, it is the Commission, which decides on the location polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.

Election Schedule

The Commission normally announces the schedule of elections in a major Press Conference a few weeks before the formal process is set in motion. The Model Code of Conduct for guidance of candidates and Political Parties immediately comes into effect after such announcement. The formal process for the elections starts with the Notification or Notifications calling upon the electorate to elect Members of a House. As soon as Notifications are issued, Candidates can start filing their nominations in the constituencies from where they wish to contest. These are scrutinised by the Returning Officer of the constituency concerned after the last date for the same is over after about a week. The validly nominated candidates can withdraw from the contest within two days from the date of scrutiny.

Contesting candidates get at least two weeks for political campaign before the actual date of poll. On account of the vast magnitude of operations and the massive size of the electorate, polling is held at least on three days for the national elections. A separate date for counting is fixed and the results declared for each constituency by the concerned Returning Officer. The Commission compiles the complete list of Members elected and issues an appropriate Notification for the due Constitution of the House. With this, the process of elections is complete and the President, in case of the Lok Sabha, and the Governors of the concerned States, in case of Vidhan Sabhas, can then convene their respective Houses to hold their sessions. The entire process takes between 5 to 8 weeks for the national elections, 4 to 5 weeks for separate elections only for Legislative Assemblies.

Political Parties & the Commission

Political parties are registered with the Election Commission under the law. The Commission ensures inner party democracy in their functioning by insisting upon them to hold their organizational elections at periodic intervals. Political Parties so registered with it are granted recognition at the State and National levels by the Election Commission on the basis of their poll performance at general elections according to criteria prescribed by it.

The Commission, as a part of its quasi-judicial jurisdiction, also settles disputes between the splinter groups of such recognised parties. Election Commission ensures a level playing field for the political parties in election fray, through strict observance by them of a Model Code of Conduct evolved with the consensus of political parties. The Commission holds periodical consultations with the political parties on matters connected with the conduct of elections; compliance of Model Code of Conduct and new measures proposed to be introduced by the Commission on election related matters.

Advisory Jurisdiction & Quasi-Judicial Functions

Under the Constitution, the Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post election disqualification of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures. Further, the cases of persons found guilty of corrupt practices at elections which come before the Supreme Court and High Courts are also referred to the Commission for its opinion on the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and, if so, for what period. The opinion of the Commission in all such matters is binding on the President or, as the case may be, the Governor to whom such opinion is tendered. The Commission has the power to disqualify a candidate who has failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time and in the manner prescribed by law. The Commission has also the power for removing or reducing the period of such disqualification as also other disqualification under the law.

Judicial Review

The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of the India by appropriate petitions. By long standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls. Once the polls are completed and result declared, the Commission cannot review any result on its own. This can only be reviewed through the process of an election petition, which can be filed before the High Court, in respect of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures. In respect of elections for the offices of the President and Vice President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.

Media Policy

The Commission has a comprehensive policy for the media. It holds regular briefings for the mass media-print and electronic, on a regular basis, at close intervals during the election period and on specific occasions as necessary on other occasions. The representatives of the media are also provided facilities to report on actual conduct of poll and counting. They are allowed entry into polling stations and counting centres on the basis of authority letters issued by the Commission. They include members of both international and national media. The Commission also publishes statistical reports and other documents which are available in the public domain. The library of the Commission is available for research and study to members of the academic fraternity; media representatives and anybody else interested. The Commission has, in co-operation with the state owned media – Doordarshan and All India Radio, taken up a major campaign for awareness of voters.

International Co-operation

India is a founding member of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Stockholm, Sweden. In the recent past, the Commission has expanded international contacts by way of sharing of experience and expertise in the areas of Electoral Management and Administration, Electoral Laws and Reforms. Delegates of the Commission have visited Sweden, U.K, Russia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines in recent years. Election Officials from the national electoral bodies and other delegates from the several countries – Russia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nigeria, Australia, the United States and Afganistan have visited the Commission for a better understanding of the Indian Electoral Process. The Commission has also provided experts and observers for elections to other countries in co-operation with the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

New Initiatives by the Election Commission

The Commission has taken several new initiatives in the recent past. Notable among these are, a scheme for use of State owned Electronic Media for broadcast/telecast by Political parties, checking criminalisation of politics, computerisation of electoral rolls, providing electors with Identity Cards, simplifying the procedure for maintenance of accounts and filling of the same by candidates and a variety of measures for strict compliance of Model Code of Conduct, for providing a level playing field to contestants during the elections.

Problems faced

Increasingly money hungry elections leading to unethical, illegal and even mafia provided electoral funding.  The terribly high cost of elections in turn, has led to increased corruption, criminalisation and black money generation in various forms.

  1. With the constituents/electors being the same for all directly elected representatives from the lowest Panchayat level to the Lok Sabha level, there are competing role expectations and conflict of perception.
  2. With the electorate having no role in the selection of candidates and with majority of candidates being elected by minority of votes under the first-past-the-post system, the representative character of the representatives itself becomes doubtful or so to say their representational legitimacy is seriously eroded.
  3. Inaccurate and flawed electoral rolls and voter ID leading to rigging and denial of voting right to a large number of citizens.
  4. Problems in the conduct of elections:
    1. Booth capturing and fraudulent voting by rigging and impersonation.
    2. Flagrant use of raw muscle power in the form of intimidating voters either to vote against their will or not to vote at all, thus taking away the right of free voting from large sections of society and distorting the result thereby.
    3. Involvement of officials and local administration in subverting the electoral process
    4. Engineered mistakes in counting of votes
  1. Criminalisation of the electoral process
  2. Divisive and disruptive tendencies including the misuse of religion and caste in the process of political mobilization of group identities on non-ideological lines.
  3. An ineffective and slow process of dealing with election petitions, rendering the whole process meaningless.
  4. Fake and non-serious candidates who create major practical difficulties and are also used to indirectly subvert the electoral process.
  5. Incongruities in delimitation of constituencies resulting in poor representation.
  6. Problems of instability, hung legislative houses and their relation to the electoral laws and processes.
  7. Last but not the least, loss of systemic legitimacy due to decay in the standards of political morality and decline in the spirit of service and sacrifice in public life.

Elections in parts of the country have become synonymous with intimidation of voters specially poorer sections, rigging, booth capturing, violence against and even killing of candidates and political workers, connivance of officials at the polling stations and at times a complete hijacking of the polling process by unruly and criminal elements. Unfortunately, over a period of time local police forces have also allegedly become involved in the above by becoming partisan and by being guided by local loyalties, caste considerations, as well as by being easily bribed for connivance. What is disturbing are the sporadic allegations of even the central forces acting in a partisan way in some places. Reports of above irregularities in the conduct of elections have become so commonplace that these are not news anymore. Many suggestions have been made to address these issues and most relate to implementing our existing rules and laws effectively. But experience has shown that laws in a low accountability society like India are known more for violation than for any degree of compliance.

The Suggested Reform Options

The suggestions for reform can generally be placed into three broad categories.  The first category attempts to tackle the problems within the boundaries of the current electoral system.  The second category goes a bit further and takes a stand that the present electoral system itself needs to be modified. (The emphasis is on modification or reform and not on altering the basic framework of the system). Both of these categories have to be dealt with together because there is considerable overlapping between the two and we have to view reform suggestions as an integrated package and not piecemeal. There is a third approach which seeks to strike at the root of the problem which is that of the terrible high costs of elections and the question of finding legitimate funds for the purpose.  The suggestion is to cut down the costs drastically by following the Gandhian principles of decentralization of power down to the grassroots levels and building multitiers of Government from below in a bottom-up instead of the present topdown approach.  It is stated by those advocating this approach that the only way to conduct a meaningful electoral exercise in this country is to have direct elections only at local levels with the upper tiers filled by representatives indirectly elected by an electoral college consisting of the representatives manning the lower tiers.

A true democracy as advocated by Gandhi ensures that local, state and national representatives are accountable to the people for local, State and national matters respectively through effective transparency. Such one-to- one accountability may promote responsible politics and attract patriotic and competent professionals and social workers to politics. Our present system based on diffused accountability breeds corruption and attracts self-seekers to politics.  For this breed, interests of national development, welfare of the people and needs of god governance take lower priorities, if any.

The elected representative is too far removed from the people as there are an average of one million voters for each Lok-Sabha constituency spread over a large geographical area. To influence the choice of such a large and geographically dispersed number of voters, social action on the part of the candidate is totally inadequate. And, this creates space and scope for using both money and muscle power. It is no surprise therefore that the candidates have to spend huge amounts of money at the time of campaigning to “purchase” the votes of these distant voters. And this is done mostly through a host of intermediary brokers who become the link in this transaction. These huge election expenses breed huge corruption. This also means that the electors are in no position to hold the candidate accountable nor does the candidate consider himself accountable to these people.

Based on the Indian ethos, Gandhi had advocated a low-expense election system linked with watchdog councils and separate elected chief executives at each local level. He proposed a highly democratic and, what is more important, a highly accountable system. More thought out and more in keeping with the evolution of political culture in our country, many scholars have in recent years adapted these thoughts in their work and advocated a system of direct elections only at the grassroots of the Indian democracy. They propose that without in anyway interfering with the basic structure or features of the Constitution and while fully continuing the parliamentary system, some reforms be brought in the electoral system.  Direct elections should be held on the basis of adult franchise at the level of Panchayats and other local bodies. Panchayats and other local bodies could elect the zila parishads and they could together elect the State legislature. These three could elect the Parliament and in the last analysis the four of these could elect the President. The Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers could be elected by the Parliament and the State Legislatures concerned.  The President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers in order to be elected should each necessarily secure  no less that 50%+1 of the votes cast.  Once elected, the Prime Minister or a Chief Minister should be removable only by a constructive vote of no-confidence.

The fact that the directly elected representatives are all at the grassroots level where they are in contact with their electors on a daily basis, would mean that their accountability to the people will always be high. Corruption will not get the kind of boost and inducement that it gets presently because of an unaccountable remote representative doing what he pleases.

The representatives elected at the grassroots level will also have to win on a 50%+1 vote principle so that their appeal is more universal than parochial. They would then be truly legitimate representatives of their people.  In the alternative, at the lowest tier double-member or multiple member constituencies could be considered.  Local elections do not entail heavy costs. The cost to political parties of indirect State and national elections will be low. Since the national and State governments will handle only higher-level infrastructure and coordination, indirect elections backed by party primaries will facilitate emergence of the best leadership. The ills in the present “first-past-the-post” system will be eliminated because local governments will handle all social issues and State and national governments shall be accountable to local governments as advocated by Gandhi who will have elected them. This will nurture culture, education and values and gradually eliminate social discords. Also, this election process, it is claimed, has the greatest potential to bring public service spirited and sacrifice oriented people to the fore.

There are strong arguments in favour of this Gandhian model and it would be worthwhile that this option is studied deeply and debated widely.  Part II, however, discusses some reform options that may be possible and found necessary within the four walls of the existing system of elections.

Conclusion

If there is continuous community involvement in political administration punctuated by activated phases of well discussed choice of candidates by popular participation, much of unnecessary expenditure which is incurred today could be avoided. Considerable distance may not have to be travelled by candidates nor hidden skeletons in political cupboards tactically uncovered, propagandist marijuana skillfully administered nor violent demonstrations attempted. The dawn-to-dawn multiple speeches and monster rallies, the flood of posters and leaflets and the organizing of transport and other arrangements for large numbers would become otiose. Large campaign funds would not be able to influence the decision of the electors if the selection and election of candidates becomes people’s decision by discussion and not a Hobson’s choice offered by political parties” thus observed the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
We have miles to go before we can achieve this ideal goal. Till then, we have no way other than to follow the advice of the Chandogya Upanishad “Yadeva vidya karoti shradhaya upanishadhaha trivisham virothavathi.” It means that if we have faith and conviction and apply our knowledge with deep analytical skills, our action becomes strong and successful. The Indian Constitution does not provide for a formal referendum. But no one can prevent an informal referendum through modern electronic means (J.M. Lyngdoh). Let us therefore join our hands together to strengthen the noble efforts of the Election Commission aimed at curbing money power so that Indian democracy becomes “speaking truth to power, to make truth powerful and power truthful.”

Study of Library Information on KSLU ’s Law Colleges Websites

Sri. Chidananda M & Smt. Ashwini N ((Librarian, JSS Law College, Kuvempunagar, Mysore & Librarian, NIE First Grade College, Vishweshwara Nagar, Mysore))

Internet and web is an effective source of information of the present day. There is no alternative or substitute to its abundance, utility and value. The creation of a homepage is necessary for library to be recognized and its services to be made available globally. Internet is bringing comprehensive changes in most of our daily activities like it is offering access to news, banking and insurance services, business opportunities, mails, educational facilities, entertainment and technology. In these days, internet is at our desktops, laptops, and mobile phones. This has changed the overall ways, means, mode, and methods of information dissemination. The thing which should be recognized is how fast the information can be sent to the end users. The fast growth and easy accessibility to Internet made libraries either now or in the near future have to develop their own homepages to meet the wide information requirements of their library users. The library professionals with the little knowledge of web can develop homepages by utilizing the services of web space providers.

Libraries are shifting their role from being custodians of collection based traditional information resources to being providers of access based digital information resources. Hence, the library websites have gaining importance. Libraries have to disseminate and facilitate access to variety of information to their users through their websites. Libraries also use their websites for disseminating information among users and to popularize library services. The richness of contents of library websites depends upon its collection, services, facilities, administrative support, updating policy, etc. These features collectively referred as content awareness of library websites. This indicates qualitative and quantitative aspects of information provided on the library websites. Evaluating library websites through content awareness is one of the methods for measuring usefulness of websites. The library professionals and the organizations are busy in acquiring, evaluating, selecting and disseminating information. For the effective dissemination of information the library may use newsletters, press releases, notice boards, websites, etc. to let patrons know what is new and available in the library.

Role and Importance of Library Websites

It should be clear to all of us that the contents of a library website are connected to the type of library represented. In this study, all are law libraries, so the mission of law library homepage is providing the services to its readers for their information needs. The law library homepage can support research in higher education through providing access to Internet, research tools, full text databases, e-resources, virtual observatory, etc. It can support user’s information requirement through Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC), online journals, e-archives, databases, repositories, etc. Selection of information resources can be reflected on the homepage through creating links to other relevant sites as well as creating links to full text electronic resources. Many librarians are assumed that the task of collecting e-resources is equally important to traditional/ print based collection development. It is in some ways more challenging in the changing nature of web resources. Providing access to information can be reflected on the web through internal search engines, online reference service, stable links to other Internet sites, access to the online catalog and other databases, basic information about the library hours, staff, collections, and timely updates. A home page of a library is an integrated interface designed to deliver detailed information about a library as well as to provide access to all computer based services offered by a library.

Objectives of the Study

The objectives of this study are:

  • To analyze the library information in college websites.
  • To verify which colleges are having their website and library information.
  • To examine the Web 2.0 technologies implemented.
  • To check the reveal of library services and facilities offered.

Limitations and Methodology of the Study

A checklist was developed for the data collection of present study. The checklist contains information in tabular form like, name of the college, URL, nature of links, collection, services, application of Web 2.0 technologies and so on. The websites of selected ninety two colleges were carefully analyzed and data has collected based on the checklist. The consolidated data were presented in tabular form for further analysis. The study is limited to the websites of colleges which are affiliated to Karnataka State Law University, Hubli and it covers only the websites which can be retrieved through Google search engine and by accessing the links/ URLs of the colleges as mentioned in the KSLU website.

Data Tabulation and Analysis

A plenty of information can be mentioned and made available in the library websites such as timings, presentation, video tour, videos, services offered, collection statistics, serials & periodicals information, article indexing service, rules, library staff details, special collections, new arrivals, OPAC, books list, library committee details, activities information, announcements, useful links, question papers, syllabus, newspaper clippings, gallery, visitors count, search option, gadgets, etc. The following charts contain data tabulated in a systematic way and various things of the websites are discussed below.

1

The information contained in the above mentioned Charts 1, 2, 3 & 4 are the data obtained by the checklist of the study. The checklist shows that only forty one colleges are having their website available to access out of the total ninety two colleges which are meant for the study. The rest of them are still not having their website at all. Some colleges have found their place for website in a group of campus like websites of other different colleges of the same institution. Some of the websites which are listed in KSLU page are expired and not accessible to the public. Only one college has a separate library website among forty one colleges. The twelve colleges contain library details in menu bar and five colleges have library details in sub menu bar and rests of them are having just a brief note of their library inside somewhere. Only five colleges have mentioned their library timings. Only three colleges have mentioned their services offered in the library. Only ten colleges have mentioned about their collection statistics. Only four college websites contain the information regarding journals/ reports they subscribed. Only three colleges have mentioned their library rules. Only thirteen colleges have given the details of their library staff. Only two colleges have OPAC/ library books list and only two college websites have useful links.

Findings and Suggestions

  • The majority of the colleges are not still having their websites. It is better to have their website immediately as it is an effective way of disseminating the information.
  • There is a lack of adequate information on the college website regarding academic activities and particularly the library details.
  • Some colleges are using parent institution website to upload their information which leads to confusion in certain issues. It is healthier if they have separate website for Law College. A link to its content in parent institution website shall be made available.
  • URLs of a few colleges under the study are expired and could not be retrieved. Immediate response should be taken by those institutions in reconstruction of their website.
  • Majority of the colleges are not having separate websites for libraries or at least a separate menu bar for library contents and they just have a brief note on library in somewhere inside. It is important for every institution to disclose their library identity and effective services offered by having a separate library website.
  • Most of the college websites are not revealed and implemented web2.0 / library 2.0 technologies in their practice. Application and implementation of library 2.0 technologies is very useful to the readers of the library.
  • Many colleges are not given importance in mentioning their details regarding library services, timings, collection statistics, serials/ periodicals list, library rules, staff details, library OPAC / catalogue / books list, various useful links, etc. to its readers. It is necessary for the readers of their library to know all these services and facilities offered at their library.
  • The list of open access journals is not available in majority of the college websites. There are plenty of e-journals and e-books available in the web and which can made utilized by the library users just by mentioning the links of the available information resources on the web in their websites.
  • The study revealed that the majority of the library websites are not provided useful and informative links. The libraries should mention the different types of information and update them regularly.
  • A few websites provided opportunity for user interaction in the form of feedback. It is the essential quality of the every library to get the feedback from its readers.
  • Majority of the websites are not well structured and some of the websites have dead links. The websites should be well structured, attractive and should offer a variety and wide range of information. The correct use of title can produces a good result in its usage.
  • Only a few websites have search facility. The websites should also provide simple and advanced searching facilities. The websites should not limit the links included in a text and should provide links to as many documents as possible online. The websites should also include the links to every webpage of the site so that visitors can navigate through the site with ease.
  • The websites should handle multimedia documents through multimedia interfaces. The libraries should provide multilingual interfaces in their websites for the different category of users. The websites should be compatible on all the major browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc. This is because the websites should be functional and accessible to users across the world using a variety of browsers and platforms.

Conclusion

The emerging information technologies and electronic communication facilities provide opportunities for libraries to play a prominent role in the support of teaching, learning and research than before. The object of the library homepage will depend on its parent organization and its clientele. The academic, public, and special libraries have different objects and sometimes local considerations shall impact the nature of a library’s object. In any case, library website designers must have a clear understanding of the library’s mission before embarking on construction of the site.  Though there is a growing number of ways and means of contacting users and disclosing the library’s services, the library website should be the initial point for searches and a virtual entrance to the library. Another issue is the homepage/website should tell the readers the most used information in a shortest possible way. It is revealed by the study that majority of the libraries are not using and implemented library 2.0 technologies like start pages, RSS feeds, social bookmarking sites, social networking sites, wikis, blogs, mobile technologies, etc. to promote their website to its optimum usage. The library websites should provide a collaborative forum for discussion and sharing of information for the library users.

Bibliography

  • Stewart M. Brower, Academic Health Sciences Library Website Navigation, (2004).
  • Carole A. George, User-Centered Library Websites: Usability Evaluation Methods, (2008).
  • X. Bao, Academic Library Home Pages: Link Location and Database Provision, 26 The Journal of Academic Librarianship 191-195, (2000).
  • Chris Jasek, How to Design Library Web Sites to Maximize Usability, (2004).
  • Akhandanand Shukla and Aditya Tripathi, Establishing Content Awareness Evaluation Criteria for Library Websites, 57 ALIS (2010).
  • Hemant Kumar Sahu, Role of the Library Homepage as a New Platform for Library Services, 3rd International CALIBER, PROC (2005).
  • http://www.kslu.ac.in/AffilColleges.aspx  (last visited Dec. 29, 2011) 

GOING BACK TO SQUARE ONE: SC shows red signal to Gay rights

Aastha Mehta

In a thought-provoking judgment on Wednesday, Supreme Court of India describes homosexuals as “miniscule fraction” of the population, a term which has not gone too well with those who have been fighting to get a voice in the mainstream, starting from agencies working for Gay rights to NGOs, and the all those who were directly involved with the outcome of the case.

The court has made certain observations which has shown how section 377 of IPC is constitutional, washing away the wave of hope which had come into the homosexual community by  the earlier Delhi judgment which gave gays and lesbians an opportunity, by declaring section 377 of IPC as unconstitutional to Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The earlier judgment was a step in the positive direction for the LGBT community, since it declared Section 377 as unconstitutional, thereby allowing the much-sidelined, tortured and depressed community to be able to stand up at par with the privileged class. But the recent decision has been a blow to the tolerant and liberal approach taken by the High Court of Delhi, bringing India again on the threshold of insensitivity, anguish and suffering of this community.

WHATS CHANGED? COMPARISON WITH DELHI HC JUDGMENT

The earlier judgment which legitimized the LGBT sexual rights rejected the arguments laid down in the affividavit of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which showed antiduvilian an anarchical thought process by justifying the retention of Section 377 by writing that deletion of the provision will increase delinquent behavior and will give unfetter license to the homosexuality (page 11 of Delhi Judgment). They also derogate sexuality as a disease, which needs to be curbed. Though the Supreme Court does not approve such an extreme stance taken in the earlier affividavit, nevertheless, it views homosexuality as a non-conforming behavior making, since the supreme court judgment does not rebuke the Home Ministry for morally-discouraging point of view, nor does it show its own opinion on the subject, making the judgment based on how Section 377 does not come in the way of fundamental rights.

HC can be considered as a pioneer for enlarging Article 21 to even include within its meaning, to retain one’s core identity, and projects right to privacy, dignity and autonomy important constituents of fruitful human life. It would be pertinent to quote the judgment wherein it say “Section 377 IPC denies a person’s dignity and criminalises his or her core identity solely on account of his or her sexuality and thus violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution”. Somersault has been the path which the apex court has conveniently taken, to avoid being a moral custodian an strictly dealing with the legal aspects of such an issue. Supreme court judgment has been singularly focused on whether it can strike down this provision which has been more than 100 year old, on the basis of some NGO reports, public-spirited individuals, and on the precedential value of foreign judgments wherein homosexuality has been accepted.

Appreciable is one very emotional and academic point which the High court has addressed, which unfortunately has not even been given a passing mention by the recent judgment. On the basis of commendable and reliable authorities, High Curt quoted Dr.Ambedkar’s words as reproduced in the book of Granville Austin “Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation” as follows “popular morality or public disapproval of certain acts is not a valid justification for restriction of fundamental rights under Article 21.” Elaborating further whether the public opinion of dejection and hatred for homosexuals should form a base for trampling rights of this community it said “Moral indignation, howsoever strong, is not a valid basis for overriding individual’s fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. In our scheme of things, constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view.” Such a stand would have been more welcome if it came from the apex court, which would have meant freedom from subjection and access to health care facilities especially for HIV/AIDS for this LGBT population.

Summarily the apex court avoided the question whether is it within the realm of state interest to criminalize homosexual conduct, which was tactfully not ventured into at all, by placing reliance on the case of Gobind v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1975) 2SCC 148 which in ratio decidendi laid that right to privacy is not an absolute right, although while quoting the judgment in verbatim, it also points out the obiter dictum which is one possibility which even the supreme court relied upon which is as follows, “ the question whether enforcement of morality is state interest sufficient to justify the infringement of fundamental privacy right need not be considered for the purpose of this case and therefore we refuse to enter the controversial thicket whether enforcement of morality is function of state”. (as held in Gobind case).

OBSERVATIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT DECISION

The decision fails to account for the plights of the this ignored community, which was the major argument used by counsels of the Respondents, and has gone into detail how Section 377 of IPC should be interpreted, in the light of constitutional provisions. One very important aspect of this decision is that court has used technical doctrines in interpreting the words of Section 377 by going to discuss doctrine of severability, interpretation of vague statues etc. and has finally come to the conclusion on the support of various decisions that possibility of abuse by authorities will not render a provision or an Act as unconstitutional. This has been laid down as an answer to the arguments of Respondents, when they went on to highlight how the police authorities have been arbitrarily using section 377 as a tool to harass homosexuals, and treating them at par with deviants and criminals. To quote the decision the court said “In our opinion, this treatment is neither mandated by the section nor condoned by it and the mere fact that the section is misused by police authorities and others is not reflection of the vires of the section.”

The judgment leaves us with a debate by saying that Legislature can definitely look into the desirability of amending this section, however it seems too early for the judiciary to take a stand on it by way of this judgment. It has also relied on Padma Sundara Rao (dead) and Ors v. State of Tamil Nadu an Ors. [2002] 255ITR 147 (SC) by saying that if a provision of law is misused and subjected to the abuse of the process of law, it is for the legislature to amend, modify or repeal it, if deemed necessary. This shows how under the garb of various legal strict doctrines, court has virtually closed the doors for homosexual rights, keeping it on the whims and fancies of Parliament to decide on the fate of Section 377 of IPC.

With regard to what Section 377 of IPC intends, Supreme Court has laid down that Section 377 would apply irrespective age and consent, and further goes on to say that Section 377 does not criminalize a particular people or identity or orientation, and merely identifies certain acts which if committed would constitute an offence. Such a prohibition regulates sexual conduct regardless of gender identity and orientation. (Page.77 of judgment) However, it seems surprisingly contradictory since on the same page of the judgment, the court admits the fact that there is no uniform test which can be culled out of to classify the acts as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” which are the precisely the words used in the section 377, which makes the statement that this section regulates the sexual conduct very weak, and even to some extent very illogical. When the bench itself has said that the interpretation of these words is difficult, it seems highly unlikely for the lowers courts to have guidance to what would constitute an act of “carnal intercourse” under this section. It leaves good amount of scope for interpretation for other lower courts, and at the same time for conflicting decisions also.

Lack of particulars and factual matrix by the Respondents has also been a major issue at which the court has turned the decision against their favor. Court has held that Respondents have failed miserably to furnish particular incidents of the torture or alleged discrimination meted out by the agencies or people in general towards the homosexuals, and indirectly has supported the arguments of the appellants (Page 21) that there is a dearth of tangible material on record for the Respondents to attack on the constitutionality of the provision. The reports and the affividavits which were placed before the court were thought to be too less and also “academic” for being considered as strong support for declaring the provisions as void. Therefore bench exercised “self restraint” and where guided by the presumption of constitutionality in the favor of the statute.

Dealing with the question which is of uttermost importance here is, whether Section 377 of IPC and Article 14 of the Constitution are in conflict, the court relied on landmark judgments which have given the true essence of this fundamental freedom, and has laid down that Article 14 is nowhere violated by Section 377. The contention of Respondents was that section 377 arbitrarily differentiates between heterosexual acts and homosexuals acts, without any rationality. It also was argued by them that homosexuality shouldn’t be seen as threat to morality or as criminal behavior. Court gave the reason that those who fall under the ambit of Section 377 cannot cliam that Section 377 is irrational, primary reason being that Section 377 merely defines he offence and prescribes punishment and does not discriminate by the wording of the statute against the homosexuals.

Court also discussed the right to privacy under Article 21 which was also resorted to show that this community’s personal choices and liberty have been compromised with, leaving them into the annals of depression and sidelining them from mainstream life. In stark contrast, the court heavily relied on cases which showed that right to privacy is not an absolute right and can be lawfully taken for prevention of crime or disorder or protection of health or morals or protection of rights and freedom of others [Mr.X v. Hospital Z, (1998) 8 SCC 296]. Subtle underlying point is that even the judiciary sees that such behavior might be affecting the majoritarian view of morality and has the potential to shake the roots of marriage as an institution.

Therefore the court has applied an interpretation which burdens the Parliament to “make or break history” and has crafted the judgment in such a manner that it focuses a lot on technicalities and little on the real sorrows of these people, who have suffered tremendously. Apex court has also turned a blind eye on the international principles of Yogyakarta which were used to justify homosexuality by Delhi High Court, and has stuck to the well-treaded beliefs, largely wrong about    LGBT community. Pondering upon the title of the article, I guess apex court has gone to the 42nd Law Commission Report which gave suggestion for retention of Section 377, primarily on the basis of the societal disapproval for such “queer” behavior as some put it, and therefore we have gone back to the times when societal reaction, moral policing and enforcing what is socially acceptable has again been predominantly affecting the judiciary.