Opinion

Round The States

 

‘Love Jihad’ Law: Gujarat HC Puts Brakes

 

Gujarat High Court gives a ray of hope. It has stayed the operation of some sections of the anti-conversion law, saying it is to ‘protect people from unnecessary harassment.’ On Thursday last, dealing with two petitions challenging  the constitutionality of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, which penalises forcible or fraudulent religious conversion through marriage,  the court noted: “rigors of section 3,4, 4a to 4c, 5, 6, and 6a shall not operate merely because the marriage is solemnised by a person of one religion with another religion without force, allurement or fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriage for the purpose of unlawful conversion.”.  The sections deal specifically with prohibition of forcible conversion, laying down of punishment for violation with imprisonment of up to four years or seven years, declaring of the marriage as void, seeking prior permission of district magistrate in case of conversion and laying burden of proof on the person who has caused the conversion.

 

Brakes indeed have been put so far on the ‘love jihad’ law, which was passed in the Assembly in April to stop the “emerging trend in which women are lured to marriage for the purpose of religious conversion.” But it is no secret that the BJP-ruled State, like two others Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, has its own agenda, the intent is certainly not honest. The law stands challenged on grounds that it goes against basic principles of marriage and violates Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to propagate, profess and practice any religion, plus violates the right to privacy. And while the order is only interim, all eyes will be on the final verdict. But hope remains as the court rightly stated the law kept a “sword hanging” on interfaith couples and that it can’t be read (from the Act) that interfaith marriage is permissible.

Will there be light at the end of the tunnel?

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Setback For WB

It’s a major setback for West Bengal government. The Calcutta High Court seems to have  knocked down Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to size? On Thursday last, it ordered a court-monitored CBI probe into cases of murder and rape in aftermath of Assembly polls, much in line with what an NHRC panel, formed on its direction, had sought after its fact-finding mission. The panel submitted its report on 13 June, which Mamata trashed as ‘biased’ and  pursuing BJP’s line of ‘political vendetta.’ But the court has differed saying “there are definite and proved allegations that complaints by victims of violence were not registered.” It ordered setting up a SIT too to probe all other offences related to post-poll violence. Plethora of PILs were filed as hundreds are said to have been subjected to assault, made to flee their homes, and property destroyed. The BJP has hailed the verdict saying it “highlighted the politicisation, inaction and failure of the state’s police and administration”. The ruling TMC is contemplating going in for an appeal. But with both investigations to be court-monitored and CBI asked to file a report in next six weeks, there’s not much Mamata can do. But nothing can be put past the firebrand leader. Fear is that the TMC-BJP fight will get murkier.

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Naga United Govt

Nagaland yearns for an early solution. North Block would need to get its act together. No more dilly-dallying as Monday last political parties in this north-eastern State resolved to come together and form an all-party government. The reason: enable an early solution to the vexed Naga political issue (NPI) and achieve ‘an honourable and acceptable solution’. The decision to form the Nagaland United Government (NUG) was unanimously taken by ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) partners – Nationalist Democratic Progress Party (NDPP) and BJP and two Independent MLAs supporting it and signed by principal Opposition party, the Naga People’s Front. This is on lines of an all-party government, seen in 2015 when 8 Opposition Congress MLAs merged with then ruling NPF. The 5-point resolution adopted maintains they will aim at ‘promoting Naga peace talks with a positive approach’ in greater interest of ‘achieving peace’ and ‘move forward under a positive environment’, conducive towards ‘finding a political solution at the earliest time possible.’ How soon, is the big question, as the NPI has been hanging fire for decades: Recall, the NSCN(IM), firm on its demand for a separate flag and constitution of the Naga people, has been engaged with the Centre since 1997, signed the Framework Agreement on 3 August 2015; working committee of Naga National Political Groups (seven) too has held separate dialogues with Centre since 2017 and entered into “Agreed Position.” Talks were said to have concluded on 31 October 2019, but the final solution is still pending! Will Prime Minister Modi be able to deliver, what his predecessors couldn’t? It’s anybody’s guess.

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Releasing Caged Parrot

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seems to be at its wits end viz the CBI. Exasperated over the agency’s ‘stereotype’ defence mechanism before courts, it made ‘an attempt to release the “Caged Parrot (CBI).” Though it didn’t concede to a request for CBI probe into an alleged chit fund, while hearing a PIL on Tuesday last, it did issue 12-point instructions to change its structure to improve its functioning. It should be a statutory body such as Election Commission of India or CAG, it observed as it was dismayed over the agency ‘dragging its feet’, for conducting an inquiry on grounds that ‘resources and manpower available were restricted and it can’t conduct the same! Among others, the bench suggested separate budgetary allocations; its chief should have powers equivalent to a govt secretary; its Central Forensic Science Lab should be equipped with more modern facilities i.e. at par with FBI or Scotland Yard. It directed, one, CBI chief to send a proposal to the Centre within 6 weeks requesting a raise in the agency’s divisions, wings and staff and two, the Centre to pass orders on the issue within three months of receiving the proposal. Will it yield results or end up being a shot in the dark?

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Bihar ‘Taps’ Potential

Bihar has done wonders. From being among bottom five States viz rural tap water supply (with just 1.84% households having connections), it has moved up among the top four (86.96%) in two years since the launch of Centre’s Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). Of 4.73 crore tap water connections provided so far across the country, JJM figures show 1.46 crore are in Bihar i.e. every third new connection is in Nitish Kumar’s State. Interestingly the credit can’t go to the Centre! Bihar Water Resources minister claims 8.44 lakh tap water connections and not 1.46 crore were provided under the central scheme. The rest were thanks to Nitish’s schemes including Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal scheme. And if these numbers are discounted, the national figure will drop to 3.36 crore instead. Politics between JD(U) and partner BJP aside, Bihar has beaten states such as UP (1.96% now 12.29%), Assam (1.76% -16.69%), West Bengal (1.21%-11.13%) and joined the league of top-four States: Goa (100% connections), Telangana (100%) and Haryana (99.24%). What should make Bihar ecstatic is that it’s now ahead of the more-prosperous States such as Maharashtra (65.08%), Gujarat (84.06%) and Tamil Nadu (34.74%). For Bihar it’s literally water under the bridge. Guess, others should take a cue. —INFA

 

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