The Hindu Important Articles 03 May 2018
# SC tells HCs to set up panels to monitor POCSO Act trials
Supreme Court shocked by high rate of pendency of child sexual assault cases
Shocked by the high rate of pendency of child sexual assault cases, the Supreme Court directed High Courts to set up panels of its judges to regulate and monitor trials under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The Supreme Court, which had ordered a review of the backlog under POCSO, found that States such as Uttar Pradesh have over 30,000 cases pending despite the child protection law coming into existence as early as 2012.
Many States have not yet even set up Special Courts to try POCSO cases as mandated by the law.
In February, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra found the implementation of POCSO in a shambles and decided to review the issue. The Bench was hearing the case of rape of an eight-month-old child in the National Capital.
The PIL petition filed by Alakh Alok Srivastava said child rapists should be awarded the death penalty.
Though the government was initially against the death penalty in child rape cases, saying “death penalty is not an answer for everything,” the rape of an eight-year-old in Kathua proved to be the last straw and the government recently promulgated an ordinance allowing courts to pronounce death penalty to those found guilty of raping children up to 12 years of age.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, for the government, informed the court about the ordinance. She submitted that it warrants investigation to be completed in two months and courts to dispose of appeals in six months, ensuring speedy justice to victims. But the court said the POCSO statistics showed that children and victims in many States were still waiting in the corridors of courts for justice.
The Bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, issued a series of directions which supplement the ordinance. These include: the State police chiefs should constitute special task forces to investigate cases, High Courts should ensure that they are tried and disposed of by the designated Special Courts under the Act; POCSO judges will give no adjournments and make every effort to fast-track trial, witnesses should be produced in court on the day of the hearing and high courts should make every effort to provide a child-friendly atmosphere in tune with the spirit of the Act.
# 11 struck dead by lightning in three districts
Six casualties in Guntur; hopes of paddy, mango farmers dashed at many places
Heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning killed 11 persons in three districts of Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday.
Six deaths were reported from Guntur district and five from Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.
In Guntur district, a massive cloudburst killed six persons, four of them agriculturists, besides causing heavy loss of property. Kondepati Venkat Rao (50) and S. Madhavi (35) died while working in the farm at Pusuluru village in Pedanandipadu mandal. Gutupalli Gopi was also struck by lightning at his field at Pedamakkena village of Sattenapalli mandal. Vejendla Ratna Kumari of Ananthavarampadu village in Vettichrukuru mandal, Kasam Kumari of Rajupalem village and another farmer from Bellamkonda were the other victims.
According to the Vizianagaram police, Pilli Yellamma (62), a daily wage labourer from Nadimintibonda of Balijipet, was killed on her way home. Reddi Simhachalam of Venkataramanapeta in Parvatipuram mandal, died on the spot.
China Ammoru (30), a fisherman from Kondajupalem of Bhogapuram mandal, and another fisherman from Tippalavalasa of Pusapatirega mandal were the other two victims.
Visalakshi (60) from Faridpet of Etcherla mandal in Srikakulam district died on the spot while returning home from the fields.
Cattle was also at the receiving end of nature’s fury. Lightning strikes killed two buffaloes at Mandadam village of Thullur mandal and banana plantations in over 200 acres were uprooted at Uddandrayunivaripalem.
Guntur District Collector Kona Sasidhar placed the entire administration on high alert. A toll free number 1800-425-4099 had been activated.
In East Godavari district, rains coupled with gales dashed the hopes of the mango farmers. Paddy harvest is halfway through and the first crop of mangoes is yet to enter the market.
Several low-lying areas of Visakhapatnam city, particularly the One Town area, Jnanapuram and Chavulamadum came under water after the downpour.
Visakhapatnam Special Correspondent adds: Coastal Andhra Pradesh and parts of Rayalaseema will experience thunderstorm with squally winds in the next 24 hours.
Strong surface winds from south-westerly direction with speed reaching 45-50 Kmph is likely to be persist along and off North Coastal Andhra Pradesh and South Coastal region of the State.
Three fishermen missing
Meanwhile, three fishermen from Pedda Jalaripeta area of Visakhapatnam, who ventured into the sea in the morning, had not returned till late in the night.
The Coast Guard and the marine police launched a search.
# Taj Mahal turning brown and green, says worried SC
Asks govt. whether it has expertise to conserve monument
The Taj Mahal was yellow and now turning brown and green, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta found from photographs handed over to them by noted environmental lawyer M.C. Mehta in open court on Tuesday.
Mr. Mehta said the upkeep of the UNESCO World Heritage site was in a shambles. River Yamuna, which used to flow nearby, has dried up. Encroachments and industries have cropped up in the neighbourhood of the white marble mausoleum. CCTVs hardly work. The government merely views the Taj as a money-making venture.
“Perhaps you do not care,” Justice Lokur addressed Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni.
Looking at the photographs repeatedly, Justice Lokur wondered whether the Taj Mahal in its present discoloured form would end being the “eighth wonder of the world.” Justice Lokur asked the government whether it has or not the expertise to conserve the 17th century monument.
“Even if you have the expertise, you are not utilising it,” the court observed. It urged the government to get help from international conservation experts, if required, to restore the monument to its pristine glory.
The court observed that foreign dignitaries are still given a tour of the Taj Mahal. This would surely mean that the government is interested in its preservation.
Mr. Nadkarni submitted that the maintenance is done by the Archaeological Survey of India. He said there were also expert bodies like the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which has worked to preserve an ancient fort in Goa.
“These photographs show a lack of will… when was the last time you visited the Taj?” Justice Lokur asked the government lawyers. When they replied that it has been over a decade, Justice Lokur replied, saying “well, you better go and take a look again.” ASG Mehta, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, said the State could assure the court that steps to protect and preserve the monument would be accelerated.
# Soon, you can make calls, browse while flying in India
Telecom Commission approves proposal by TRAI
Flyers on board an aircraft will be able to make calls and remain connected to the Internet while travelling through the Indian airspace in the next three to four months.
The Telecom Commission, which is the highest decision-making body in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), on Tuesday gave its nod to a proposal by regulator TRAI.
This will also be applicable to communication on ships.
Gateway in India
“The in-flight connectivity has been approved. It was decided to accept the TRAI’s views except that the satellites used for providing services should be the Department of Space-approved satellites and the gateway should be in India,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said.
The regulator had recommended that the onboard Internet traffic be routed to a satellite gateway on Indian soil as it provides an effective mechanism for legal interception and monitoring.
Ms. Sundararajan, who also heads the Telecom Commission, said the department would now work towards creating the licence framework for a separate category of in-flight connectivity (IFC) service providers. These would be charged a licence fee of Rs. 1 per annum.
# PM hits back, throws Rahul a challenge
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday challenged Congress president Rahul Gandhi to deliver a speech in any language of his choice for 15 minutes, without reading from a piece of paper.
Speaking at Santhemarahalli in the border district of Chamarajanagar in poll-bound Karnataka, Mr. Narendra Modi’s dare was to counter Mr. Gandhi’s challenge to allow him to speak for 15 minutes in the Lok Sabha on the irregularities of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre. Mr. Modi said it would be an achievement in itself if Mr. Gandhi could speak for 15 minutes.
# PM’s dare to Rahul
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took on Congress president Rahul Gandhi during a rally on Tuesday, daring him to deliver a speech in any language of his choice for 15 minutes, without reading from a piece of paper. Speaking at Santhemarahalli in the border district of Chamarajanagar, Mr. Modi was countering Mr. Gandhi’s challenge to allow him to speak for 15 minutes in the Lok Sabha on irregularities of the Union government.