Friday, February 19, 2016

Forest Rights Act, 2006

Recently, forest rights of tribals over their traditional lands in Ghatbarra village of Surguja district were taken away by the Chhattisgarh government to facilitate coal mining there. Do you support this policy? In the light of provisions of Forest Rights Act, critically comment. 

Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA) was a landmark legislation since it recognized individual and community rights of forest-dwellers over forest lands.
The acquisition of traditional lands by Chattisgarh government is unjustified due to– 
1. No provisions for revocation of title rights once they have been granted under FRA
2. Land diversion for developmental activities can be only implemented after the Gram Sabha’s permission
3. Is against SC orders cancelling earlier allocations
4. No plans for resettlement of displaced tribals due to land diversion were provided which is mandatory under FRA
This policy further needs to be seen in the light of Land Acquisition Act 2013 which provides for land-titles to forest-dwellers for the first time and hence may be against Art 300A provisions. Also, coal-mining in India is often of the open-cast type which causes deforestation and ecological loss.
In such a scenario, measures which can be taken to resolve future issues are – 
1. Amending Coal-Bearing Areas Act, 1957 to return land back to tribals after exhaustion as per Xaxa Committee recommendations
2. States in 5th Schedule Areas should enact comprehensive laws regarding mining , excise etc. alongwith PESA provision as per 2nd ARC recommendations
3. Adopt the Andhra Pradesh model in which only tribal-cooperative are allowed mining activities
4. Adopt less-polluting mining methods like tunnelling, block caving etc.
Hence, a balanced approach between development and forest-dweller welfare needs to be ensured. Mineral exploitation can be allowed but it should be within the auspices of FRA else the act would lose its meaning.

and more on:

Sedition law should stay, but its interpretation must be specific and not wide-ranging as in British era | Soli J Sorabjee

No fundamental right in our Constitution is absolute. Freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted on the grounds specified in Article 19(2). It is significant that during the debates in the Constituent Assembly the founding fathers, in view of their bitter experience of the application of the sedition law by the British colonial regime, deliberately omitted ‘sedition’ as one of the permissible grounds of restriction under Article 19(2) on freedom of speech and expression.
However sedition as a criminal offence remains in the IPC and provides for inter alia sentence of life imprisonment and fine upon conviction. Section 124A was challenged in the Supreme Court as violative of the fundamental rights of free speech guaranteed by Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution. The Federal Court of (British) India presided over by the distinguished Chief Justice, Maurice Gwyer, ruled that sedition law is not to be invoked “to minister to the wounded vanity of government … The acts or words complained of must either incite to disorder or must be such as to satisfy reasonable men that that is their intention or tendency”.
The Privy Council did not approve of the Federal Court judgment and placed a wide and literal interpretation of the section. According to the Privy Council any speech or writing which evinced disloyalty or ill feelings towards the government could be regarded as sedition and persons guilty of such acts could be prosecuted and punished for committing the offence of sedition. Our Supreme Court in its landmark decision in 1962, in Kedarnath versus state of Bihar, dissented from the view of the Privy Council and preferred the view of the Federal Court.
According to the Supreme Court, mere criticism of the government or comments on the administration, however vigorous or pungent or even ill-informed, does not constitute sedition. The Supreme Court limited the application of Section 124A (sedition) to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence. Incitement to violence is the essential ingredient of the offence of sedition.
That is our law, that is how Section 124A was interpreted and upheld as constitutional by a Constitution Bench. Therefore the question whether certain speech or acts constitute sedito Afzal Guru by commission of acts against the government or advocate its overthrow by violent means. If, and i repeat if, a person has said Hindustan murdabad, that the state is tyrannical and it is better to do away with it, necessary to overthrow it, that would constitute sedition. But these facts have to be established in a court of law by following proper procedure.
It is not for lawyers or political workers to prejudge the issue. An accused cannot be denied his or her fundamental right to fair trial by assaulting him or her or their supporters or their lawyers, as that would militate against the rule of law and also disrupt administration of justice by regular courts of the land. These basic principles must be kept in mind in all cases. Mob rule and mob justice cannot be permitted however strongly one may dislike the accused and his alleged statements. If that happens the very basis of a civil society is undermined and there is no vibrant democracy prevalent in our country. In my view Section 124A ‘Sedition’ as interpreted by the Supreme Court is necessary. Its misuse is no ground for its deletion.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

JNU stir: Why ‘anti-nationalism’ is an empty abuse that has no place in a free society | SA Aiyer

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. The current rant against ‘anti-national’ slogans at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) highlights the abundance of scoundrels among Indian politicians and television anchors. The notion that there can be only one concept of what constitutes a nation, and that every other view is anti-national, is intellectually empty at best and authoritarian at worst.
Agitating students of JNU have called Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru (Kashmiris executed for murder) martyrs, and attacked the notion that India’s judicial system delivers justice. Some demand Kashmiri selfdetermination. Some even call for the break-up of India.
Gun vs Slogan
So what? You may disagree with these student slogans. But since when have students been a politically correct crowd mouthing patriotic hosannas? In all free societies, students have espoused all sorts of extreme positions, and must be free to do so. That is why they are called free societies.
Unfree societies are different. Communist China cracked down on Tiananmen Square and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt cracked down on Tahrir Square. But American students were at the very forefront of opposition to the Vietnam War. They rejected the government’s notion of patriotism.
Their right to dissent was not questioned even by those who condemned their views.
Oxford University is very establishment. But in 1933, the Oxford Union held a famous debate on the motion, ‘This house will in no circumstances fight for its King and country.’ The Union voted for the motion by 275 votes to 153. This ‘Oxford Pledge’ was later adopted by students at the universities of Manchester and Glasgow. This sent shock waves through Britain. The students were denounced as morons, cowards, anti-nationals and communist sympathisers.
But none dreamed of arresting the students for sedition. That puts in perspective the authoritarian interpretation of sedition by the NDA government. Worse is the ranting of media stars who ask in outrage how any student dare call for the break-up of India. They seem singularly ignorant of what a free society means.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) seeks to break away from Britain and form a separate Scottish nation. Are SNP leaders jailed for sedition? No. They have an honourable place in society, have been granted one referendum, and may soon get another.
Welsh nationalists also seek a separate Welsh country. Nobody dreams of jailing them.
In Canada, the Parti Québécois has long demanded independence for Quebec province, and this is treated not as sedition but a legitimate democratic demand. In Spain, the state of Catalonia has long had powerful secessionist parties, which in the 2015 state election won 47.8 per cent of the vote. The Spanish government strongly opposes Catalan independence, but doesn’t jail dissenters. France does not jail Corsican secessionists. The list goes on and on. Free societies do not jail non-violent secessionists.
India does. And that raises the question whether India wants to be a free society. And if not, why not.
Spain tolerates non-violent Catalans, but cracks down on terrorists using guns to create an independent Basque territory in the north. Britain cracked down on the Irish Republican Army (IRA), even as it gave legitimacy to the SNP. Free societies come down hard on those using or inciting violence, but bestow legitimacy on people advocating revolutionary change — even secession — through peaceful means.
Son of a Gun
They can hang a Maqbool Bhat for murder, but should not jail a JNU student leader for mere sloganeering.
India’s sedition law has been misused grossly for jailing a Tamil folk singer, sundry cartoonists, demonstrators against the Kudankulam power station, and even some people who simply ‘liked’ a Facebook post.
To me, these are all anti-national acts for which those in power should be held accountable. I reject the anti-national definition of the government.
In 1971, millions of Bangladeshis fled to India after a Pakistani Army crackdown. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) organised a trip for journalists to the refugee camps in West Bengal. I went for The Times. The PIB complained to my editor that I had asked “anti-national questions”.
I asked my editor what an anti-national question was. He had no idea. The PIB staff had urged us to ask questions like “Is the Pakistan Army bad?” and “Are you happy to get refuge in India?” I went much further. I asked whether the influx of refugees had caused job tensions with local people. Whether it had caused any Hindu-Muslim tension. And whether the refugees might abandon the camps and inundate Kolkata.
These questions, apparently, marked me as a traitor. The Times, sadly, played safe by not publishing my report. Then, two months later, the government organised a War Correspondents course for journalists, since a war with Pakistan was clearly coming. The Times nominated me for the course. The government rejected me, saying I was too anti-national to be trusted.
Ever since, I have seethed with rage at politicians, officials and media stars who define what patriotism is and condemn all others as anti-national. I know fully what is and what isn’t a free society. Patriotism is not merely the last refuge, but the first refuge of many scoundrels.