The ‘other’ reasons for backlog in courts

Government does not believe the shortage of judges is the lone reason for backlog of cases and pins the fault on a variety of causes, including shortage of public prosecutors, recurrent adjournments and improper application of rules.

The Ministry of Law and Justice made this submission before a Parliamentary panel where it also said cited the rejection by Supreme Court’s collegium of 30% of possible candidates and an increase in judges strength as the reasons for the continuing vacancy in higher judiciary.

However, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has not taken government’s justification of the vacancies kindly.

The Ministry’s reasoning on both the counts were detailed in a report tabled by the panel led by Congress MP Anand Sharma earlier this month.

There were claims that the shortage of judges in higher judiciary is the main reasons for delay in disposal of cases.

“The shortage of judges is not the sole reason for inordinate delay in disposal of case. Cases are delayed on account of improper investigation, lack of forensic laboratories. shortage of public prosecutors, recurrent adjournments and improper application of rules and procedures,” the Ministry said in its Action Taken Report to the panel.

To buttress the point, it said, Delhi and Gujarat High Courts have a higher number of judges per million of their respective population, but “they still have a high number of pending cases”.

On the vacancy front, the Ministry informed the panel that the approved strength of judges in High Court is 1,079 and there is a vacancy of 459 judges. It said no fresh appointments were made April 2015 and December 2015 when the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).

The Ministry also said the increase in strength of 173 judges of various High Courts as a reason for increase in vacancies besides the Supreme Court collegium rejecting “on average of 30% of recommendations”.

The panel was “not at all satisfied” with the Ministry’s reply. “The Department (of Justice) cannot evade its responsibility in ensuring that vacancies in higher judiciary are filled up in the shortest possible time by saying that other factors are also respobible for huge pendency in higher courts,” it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 26, 2017)

RBI becomes ‘Indian Entertaintment Bank’ in Rs 2,000 fake notes

Everyone knows the RBI prints currency in India but a young call centre executive stood perplexed in a SBI ATM in south-east Delhi early February after it dispensed off four Rs 2,000 notes issued by “Children’s Bank of India”.

If not more, the four notes he got from the ATM in Sangam Vihar had at least ten deviations in printing from serial number “000000” to the solemn promise of “guaranteed by Children Government” to “pay the barer two thousand coupens (sic)”.

The script did not end there as Rohith, the victim, immediately called police. Soon a Sub Inspector arrived to check the veracity of his claims and withdrew cash, the investigator was in for a rude shock as he too got a Rs 2000 note issued by “CBI” and not RBI with an inscription ‘Bharatiya Manoranjan Bank’ ((Indian Entertainment Bank).

note

The ATM dispensed off fake notes with a face value of Rs 2,000 on February 6 with at least ten variations, most of them hilarious, from the original. The incident came to light after Rohith withdrew Rs 8,000 from his account which had a balance of Rs 8,425.85.

The notes withdrawn by Rohith also had ‘churan label’ printed where the Ashoka Chakra should have been. In place of RBI seal, the letter “P.K” is used. It also “promise to pay the barer two thousand coupens” instead of “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of ₹2,000.”

Earlier, instances of discovery of Rs 2,000 notes without Mahatma Gandhi’s photo were there but authorities had said that those were “printing errors” and notes were “genuine”.

The Rs 2,000 notes were issued soon after the government announced demonetisation on November 8 last year. The issue of fake notes in ATMs raises questions about banks and firms filling money in such facilities.

Police has already registered a case of cheating and scanned through the CCTV footage to identify the last man to fill the cash in the machine. “Till now, there have been no other complaints. Probably, only a few notes were changed. We have to identify at which point the real notes were exchanged,” a senior police official said.

According to the FIR, Rohith immediately asked the ATM guard. Sources said the guard immediately informed his superiors following which the ATM was shut down.

The Sub Inspector, who arrived at the spot, also had asked locals about receipt of such notes but no one else had received such notes.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 23, 2017)

IS fin troubles could be aggravated: study

The Islamic State may not be earning like it did earlier with an estimate showing that its revenues have halved between 2014 and 2016 to USD 870 million, a latest study has claimed.

The financial troubles could be aggravated if the coalition forces manage to capture Mosul, dubbed “commercial capital” of the IS, it warns. Mosul in Iraq is under the control of the IS.

The study ‘Caliphate in Decline: An Estimate of Islamic State’ s Financial Fortunes’, however, warned that the decline in revenues may not have an immediate effect on its ability to carry out terrorist attacks outside its territory.

“While hurting Islamic State finances puts pressure on the organisation and its state-building project, wider efforts will continue to be necessary to ultimately defeat it,” said the study by The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in UK’s Kings College and EY, a multinational professional services firm.

According to the report, the IS’ annual revenue has nosedived since 2014 — from up to USD 1.9 billion in 2014 to a maximum of USD 870 million in 2016. There are no signs yet that the group has created significant new funding streams that would make up for recent losses and with the current trends continuing, the IS’ “business model” will soon fail, it said.

“A careful examination of what is known about Islamic State finances reveals that the group’s loss of territory, coupled with an increasingly effective anti-Islamic State coalition, has severely undermined the group’s finances, leading to a dramatic decline of income,” the study said.

The report said by November 2016, the IS had lost 62% of its mid-2014 “peak” territory in Iraq and 30% in Syria. From a revenue perspective, this means fewer people and businesses to tax and less control over natural resources such as oil fields.

Acknowledging that it is impossible to say exactly how much money the IS has at its disposal, it said the most significant sources of revenue — taxes and fees, oil, and looting, confiscations, and fines — are closely tied to its territory.

The report is optimistic that about the further decline of IS’ revenues. With global coalition forces are trying to recapture Mosul, it said it will have a “significant detrimental effect” on its finances. It, however, warned the possibility of overcoming financial and military setbacks.

(Feb 19, 2017)

DeMo will not have solved B’Money prob: Book

The objectives may be “laudable” but demonetisation will not have solved the problem of black economy, says Prof Arun Kumar, an expert on black money, in his new book.

Kumar, who pegs India’s black economy at 62% of GDP or Rs 93 lakh crore at 2016-2017 prices, says that the programme was imposed on the country with “little or no forethought” subjected hundreds of millions of Indians, especially the poorest of the poor, to “unnecessary distress”.

In ‘Understanding the Black Economy and Black Money in India’ released recently, he says, “it must be understood that the black money the government was targeting is only about one per cent of the black wealth held in the country and only 3.5 per cent of the black income generated in 2016.”

black-economy-cover

Arguing that even if the government managed to suck out all the black cash in circulation, he says, it would not have much effect on the black economy and It does not stop these activities from continuing. Moreover, 80% of the demonetised notes was not black money but rather white money used by businesses and citizens.

“It is unlikely that black marketeers and other generators of black money will suffer because the biggest fish were able to quickly convert whatever black cash they had into white…In other words, despite the massive exercise of demonetization, the total amount of black cash that has been demobilized is very small,” Kumar says.

At the same time, he says since demonetisation was announced, “unemployment has risen, investment has fallen, banks

are facing difficulties and the crisis in agriculture has been aggravated in spite of a good monsoon” and all this “leads to the emergence of recessionary conditions” in the economy.

Kumar also predicts that illegal activities, black markets and real estate scams, the production of spurious drugs, capitation fees

and various other components of the black economy “will carry on” after a brief hiatus.

Criticising the various governments’ voluntary income disclosure schemes, he says that all these programmes proved to be “counter-productive” and it shows a lack of imagination on the part of the authorities.

“No government has shown the necessary guts and will to tackle corrupt big businessmen, corrupt members of the executive and corrupt political leaders, especially those belonging to their own parties, without which the problem of the black economy will never be solved.

(Feb 14, 2017)

Women: Just 7.1% in Indian police

India may take decades to achieve the target of having 33% women in police, if one goes by the snail pace at which forces are recruiting the fairer sex.

The country added only 12,040 women to its police forces in a year taking their total to 1.22 lakh as on January 1, 2016 in a force that has a sanctioned strength of 22.80 lakh. At present, there are 17.31 lakh personnel.

The ‘Data on Police Organisation 2016’ by Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), which was released recently, showed that the proportion of women in comparison to actual strength is just 7.10%. When compared to 2015 report, there is an increase of 10.86% in women personnel in the force.

********************************************************************

Women in Police: 1,22,912

Maharashtra – 21249

Tamil Nadu – 14,224

Rajasthan – 7,692

Uttar Pradesh – 7,589

West Bengal – 6,768

Bihar – 6,710

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However, one would be surprised to know that police forces across the country added only 38,433 women in the past five years since 2011 even as government repeatedly gives its commitment to increase the women representation to 33%.

The 2016 report, like in the previous years had reiterated that the availability of adequate women in police is possibility to reduce the vulnerability of women becoming victims of crime.

“If there is an overall shortage of women police personnel then how can country meet the new challenges in form of increased crimes against women, emphasizing the need to bring women police to front line duties. It is essential that women are visible at the cutting edge level of public interface,” the report once again questioned.

Among the states, Tamil Nadu has the highest representation of women at 12.99% (14,280 out of 1,09,948) followed by Maharashtra 12.07% (21,249 out of 1,76,044). In numbers, Maharashtra has the highest number of policewomen in the country.

The largest state of Uttar Pradesh has just 7589 women police personnel in a 1.81 lakh-strong force, which is just 4.17 per cent. Karnataka has just 6.14% (4,354 out of 70,934) women in police forces.

The number of women officers in senior positions is also very low. While there are 484 officers in the rank of Director General, Special Director General and Additional Director General, only 29 are women. Of the 539 Inspectors General, only 38 are women while only 25 out of 385 Deputy Inspectors General are from the fairer sex.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 17, 2017)

From Rs 8.5L in ’87, Jaya assets grew to Rs 63.51 cr in ’96

Jayalalithaa possessed assets worth Rs 8.5 lakh in 1987 but in next nine years, it rose to Rs 63.51 crore while she could have legitimately earned only 9.91 crore.

This surge in wealth during 1991-96, which is proved as disproportionate to known sources of income, prompted the case against Jayalalithaa, the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, and her close aide Sasikala.

Jayalalithaa’s assets had swelled to Rs 113.73 crore in April 2016, according to an affidavit she filed while filing nominations for the Assembly elections.

She became the owner of four pieces of land and building, including the Poes Garden in Chennai, through the execution of the Will of her mother N R Sandhya, an actress who died in 1971. She was also in possession of three cars, company shares and a property.

jaya8

The assets of Jayalalithaa in 1987 were worth only Rs 7.5 lakh besides a bank balance of Rs one lakh and certain items of jewellery.

When she assumed office of Chief Ministership in 1991, both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala had assets worth Rs 2.01 crore. The assets in 1991 included properties acquired in the name of Jaya Publications, Sasi Enterprises and Namadhu MGR, which had been floated by the duo with themselves as partners, according to Supreme Court judgement.

But since July 1, 1991 when Jayalalithaa assumed power, the court noted that there was a “sudden spurt” in the acquisition of assets. During this period, she and her aide floated several firms in the names of Sasikala and her relatives V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi.

Thirty-two such firms were cited in the order but between July 1, 1991 and April 4, 1994, there were no business activities at all in many of these companies. Activities were more in the nature of acquiring assets like lands, machinery and building, which were not production oriented.

Jayalalithaa amassed Rs 66.65 crore during this period even as trial court later had said prosecution could only prove assets worth Rs 63.51 crore.

Of this, the value of the disproportionate assets was that of Rs 53.60 crore as the her income from known sources like rental income, interest derived from deposits, agricultural income, loans and salary she received as Chief Minister worked out to be Rs 9.91 crore in 1996.

Interestingly, the court had then said the assets belonged to Jayalalithaa as the other accused had no sufficient means to acquire such assets in their names and it established that the assets were actually acquired by the former.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 15, 2017)

Now, anganwadis under Aadhaar net

Aadhaar is casting its web wider with the Government now making the unique identification number mandatory for ‘anganwadi’ workers for drawing their honorarium.

The workers, who are government’s frontline warriors in fighting malnutrition and child hunger, will face hurdles from April if they are not Aadhaar enrolled. Also, women and children who are availing supplementary nutrition programme under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) also need to have Aadhaar number by April 2018.

Despite objections from a section of activists and concerns raised over security of bio-metrics collected, government is continuing with extending the Aadhaar to PDS and cooking gas. On February 9, government made Aadhaar mandatory for availing subsidised food grains from the ration shops with a view to better target Rs 1.4 lakh crore subsidy under the food security law.

anganwadi

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has issued a notification last week on anganwadis, which says the workers and helpers need to furnish “proof of possession” of Aadhaar number or under Aadhaar authentication.

“Any Anganwadi Worker or Anganwadi Helper, who does not possess the Aadhaar number or has not yet enrolled for Aadhaar, shall have to apply for Aadhaar enrolment by March 31, 2017…The Anganwadi Workers and Anganwadi Helpers shall be paid honorarium only through Aadhaar seeded bank accounts with effect from April 1, 2017,” the notification dated February 6 said.

If they are not in possession of Aadhaar, they will have to produce Aadhaar enrolment ID slip or a copy of the request made for Aadhaar enrolment should be produced for drawing the honorarium. They can also produce bank photo passbook, Voter ID card, ration card or Kisan Photo Passbook, passport, driving license and PAN card among others.

The ‘anganwadis’ provide six services — supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services. There are at least 25 lakh women working in around 13.42 lakh operational anganwadis.

The notification also said, “individuals desirous of availing the supplementary nutrition programme offered at the anganwadi centres are required to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication with effect from April 1, 2018.”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 14, 2017)

Vacancies in police forces at 24%

Police forces in the country added 10,565 personnel to its work force in 2016 compared to the previous year but vacancies continued to be on the rise, a latest government report showed.

The vacancies, especially in the Constabulary that accounts for 67.16% vacant posts, have left the forces in a situation where there is only 180 personnel for a lakh population, when the standard set by United Nations is way above at 220 police per lakh population.

The latest ‘Data on Police Organisation’ released recently showed that there are 5.49 lakh vacancies as on January 1, 2016 in police forces across the country at a time there were 22.80 lakh sanctioned positions. There are 17.31 lakh personnel as against 17.21 lakh personnel as on January 2015 and 17.22 lakh on January 2014.

An analysis of yearly reports prepared by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) showed that there was an increase of 7,039 vacant posts in 2015 and 2016.

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As on Jan 1, 2016

As on Jan 1, 2015

As on Jan 1, 2014

As on Jan 1, 2013

Sanctioned Strength

22.80 lakh

22.63 lakh

22.83 lakh

22.09 lakh

Actual Strength

17.31 lakh

17.21 lakh

17.22 lakh

16.60 lakh

Vacancy

5.49 lakh

5.42 lakh

5.60 lakh

5.48 lakh

* Figures rounded off/ Source: Data on Police Organisation/BPRD

********************************************************************

Police personnel complain that they are working without a break for days and it is affecting their social life. A study sponsored by BPRD itself earlier had highlighted the plight of police which said, 75 per cent of police personnel claim they rarely manage to get a weekly off while Inspectors acknowledge that their subordinates work more than 11 hours a day.

The report showed that Uttar Pradesh continue to have the highest number of vacancies but has improved its record — while it has 1,81,958 vacancies as against 1.99 lakh earlier. The situation in Karnataka has worsened as the vacancies increased from 33,307 in 2015 to 39,276 and ranking second compared fourth in 2015.

West Bengal, which had 45,430 vacancies, has managed to bring down it to 33,630 while Bihar also had an impressive record — 29,479 vacancies as against 41,696 earlier.

Of the vacancies, the highest is in Constabulary — 3.68 lakh posts of Constables are vacant and it account for 67.16% of the total vacancies. Compared to 2015, the number of vacancies among Constables have risen by 7,111.

The vacancies in the post of Head Constables is 1.05 lakh while there are 26,007 posts vacant in the rank of Assistant Sub Inspector, 37,681 in Sub Inspector and 6,870 among Inspectors.

In the state intelligence apparatus, there are 9,486 vacancies as against 11,102 earlier. The number of sanctioned posts had however come down in 2016 by 574. The report said 90% of these vacancies are in the lower ranks between Constables and Inspectors.

There are 5,361 vacancies in Special Task Forces (STF) formed in states to fight insurgents and terrorists. While the sanctioned strength is 23,699, the actual strength is 18,338.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 14, 2017)

NATGRID: Inadequate allocation could impact counter-terror o

Inadequate allocation and subsequent delay in projects cleared for NATGRID, an integrated intelligence grid connecting databases of core security agencies, could impact counter-terror efforts, an official document has warned.

It said Rs 98.30 crore has been allocated to the NATGRID in 2017-18 for setting up a secure IT solution and creation of necessary physical environment for running of the programme.

Acknowledging that there was a “spurt” achieved this year in implementing the project, the ‘Output-Outcome framework for Schemes 2017-18’ warned that the forward movement could be “adversely impacted” and “delay the outcomes expected in counter-terror efforts” if there is no proper allocation and follow-up actions.

First proposed in 2008 after Mumbai attacks, the NATGRID project was revived last year. It is aimed at connecting databases of core agencies to generate actionable intelligence from data of 21 organisations. It will strengthen the counter-terrorism capabilities and assist in countering national and transnational crimes.

According to the document, an Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) solution is needed to augment capacities in NATGRID.

The document showed that Rs 52.63 crore out of Rs 60.29 crore allocated in revised estimates has been incurred despite court orders that could affect the implementation and it is expected that it would attain 100% expenditure.

Around Rs 100 crore would be needed in 2017-18 to fulfil contractual obligations on civil construction work in Delhi and non-fulfilment of “inevitable” liabilities could entail legal procedures for contract violation, it warned.

Of the Rs 32.06 crore required for work in Bengaluru office, Rs 22.93 crore is towards critical infrastructure and Data Centre support. The project will be delayed by at least a year if enough money is not allocated. In such a scenario, Delhi project will also miss the July 2018 deadline, as the contract has to be awarded along with Bengaluru.

On developing physical infrastructure, the document said NATGRID has sought Rs 70 crore under machinery and equipment out of which Rs 34 crore is for establishing links with agencies. Another Rs 16 crore is for payment to system integrator who will develop IT solution and another Rs 15.59 crore for OSINT besides Rs 4 crore for implementation of the second phase of Technology Lab.

If the allocations are not made as proposed by NATGRID, all these components of NATGRID project will need to be rescheduled as per fund availability and will delay project completion,” it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 13, 2017)

Walkout instead of walking into the Well: PJ Kurien

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien is happy that the Parliamentary debates have not seen erosion in standards but is peeved at Opposition MPs walking into the Well of the House to disrupt proceedings instead of walking out to register their protest effectively.

Kurien believes that there is a change in the character of the opposition now compared to the 1980s and 1990s when they used to oppose the government vigorously but indulged in disruption very rarely.

“During the 1980s or 1990s, the opposition used to oppose and debate the issues. They used to oppose the government vigorously, they would vote against the government at every given opportunity and they will walk out. However, they were rarely indulged in disruption. Disruption was less, blocking the business of the House was not common,” Kurien told DH in an interview.

He recalled that only on one occasion during Rajiv Gandhi’s Prime Ministership when a full session was a washout. “But now that has changed. Instead of walkout, now the House is disrupted, MPs rush into the Well of the House. Walkout is a Parliamentary instrument. But unfortunately, the MPs instead of walking out in protest, they walk into the Well (of the House),” he said.

“This is nothing but indiscipline. This is an unwelcome change. Also, we now see a lot of sloganeering also. Shouting slogans was not there in those times. Walking into the Well and shouting slogans, I would say it is unbecoming of MPs,” he said.

Kurien felt that MPs think that if they don’t indulge in sloganeering and all, their voice would not be taken seriously.

While acknowledging that there was no disruption in the first leg of Budget session in comparison to an almost washout of the Winter Session, he said MPs now understand that there is no point in disrupting proceedings every day. “But they have some compulsions some times and then disruption becomes a compulsion,” he said.

However, he dismisses the argument that disruption is also a Parliamentary weapon to put pressure on the government and making them change its mind, saying somebody getting angry is understandable but it cannot be a regular affair.

On the increasing trend of moving amendments to President’s Address to the Parliament, he said the amendments are moved largely because it shows that they are dissatisfied with the absence of mention of certain issues, which are dear to them.

“You should understand that the amendments are not a protest against the President but that the government should address their grievances and incorporate it in the address. Nobody should take it as a protest against the President,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 12, 2017))

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