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May 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         May 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2018


Combating feudal crimes

Jagdish N Singh

When will the notorious local gangs organizing their own courts, called khap panchayats, be a thing of the past? When will such gangsters stop committing crimes, such as murder, the threat thereof and social ostracization of individual non-conformists, in the name of defending the honour of a particular caste, clan or family ?One hopes soon.
Recently, the Supreme Court has made very appropriate observations and guidelines on dealing with such panchayats. Earlier, the apex Court had voiced its strong disapproval of these khaps, or village assemblies. It has already said that the life choices of individual adults, especially with regard to love and marriage, do not brook any sort of interference from any quarter. The High Courts of Punjab and Haryana and Madras have laid down guidelines to the police on creating special cells and 24- hour helplines to provide assistance and protection to young couples.
Now the apex Court has rightlyobserved that the khaps violate the liberty and dignity of individuals. This requires preventive, remedial and punitive measures. The Court has asked the police to establish safe houses for couples under threat. The Court has also empowered the police to prohibit such (khap) gatherings and effect preventive arrests. The Court has rightly ruled that deciding what is permitted and what is not is the job of civil courts, not of The Khaps reflect our old, entrenched social prejudices, feudal structures and patriarchal attitudes. They have no space in any civilised state. khaps.

The predicament of the disabled

Has the ground reality improved for the millions of our physically challenged after our Parliament passed the Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill in December, 2016. Knowledgeable sources say the number of disabled in India stands at around 2.68 crore or 2.21 per cent of the population Census 2011). The Disability Bill provides for imprisonment up to two years, along with a fine between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against the differently abled. It has increased the number of recognised disabilities from 7 to 21, including, for the first time, disability due to acid attacks and Parkinson's.
But the benefits of the Act are still to affect people's lives. Most states — barring Delhi, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — haven't even framed draft rights yet.
After the Bill was passed , there were plans to make at least 50 per cent of government buildings and at least 25 per cent of public transport disabled-friendly . But most of our buildings and transport continue to be inaccessible to the disabled people. Accessibility is a built-in feature for the metro. But most passenger trains continue to remain inaccessible.
However, the legislation is not without its advantages . It has given the disabled the confidence to take on the odds. There are several examples. In Jharkhand a threeyear- old girl with locomoter disability was refused admission by a school. When her parents complained this to the media, Chief Minister Raghubar Das intervened and made the authorities admit the girl .
When a Thalassemia patient in Chhattisgarh was denied admission to a medical college in August 2017 , the matter was taken to the Supreme Court . The Court ruled : "It is the duty of every institution to extend a helping hand to disabled persons."

Monopoly of the new affluent

One is eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court to hear a petition to exclude the affluent members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from the benefits of our job reservation policy . The petition, filed by Samta Andolan Samiti (Rajasthan), argues that the rich among the SCs/STs are "snatching away" the benefits of the original reservation policy from the really deserving and impoverished among these communities. In the process the "weak always remains the weak and the fortunate layers consume the whole cake."
In 1992, a nine-judge Bench of the court in the Indra Sawhney case, or the Mandal case, upheld the caste-based reservation for the OBCs and said the creamy layer of the OBCs (those earning a specified income) should not get the benefits of reservation. That ruling confined itself to the exclusion of the creamy layer among the OBCs only.
The Samta Andolan Samiti petition refers to the Constitution Bench's 2006 judgment in the M. Nagaraj case. Accordingly, the "means test [a scrutiny of the value of assets of an individual claiming reservation] should be taken into consideration to exclude the creamy layer from the group earmarked for reservation."

Live-streaming court proceedings

Eminent lawyer Indira Jaising deserves applause for having filed a public interest petition in the Supreme Court to live stream and video record cases of national interest.
One hopes the Court will approve of the prayers in her petition. This will enable ordinary citizens to hear firsthand arguments and concerns raised on matters of national significance in the court. It will inspire their confidence in the judiciary. Ours is a democratic era. The more an institution is transparent in its functioning, the better it is for the confidence of the people in the system. The higher judiciary all over the world provides means for viewing their courtroom proceedings.