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Assault in Jails: Inform Us on Steps Taken, SC to Centre

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Incidents of attack on foreign prisoners have "international ramifications", Supreme Court today said asking the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government to apprise it of steps to ensure that assaults similar to the one on Pakistani inmate Sanaullah Ranjay do not recur.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and S J Mukhopadhya also voiced displeasure over the pace of progress in investigation into the death of Ranjay at Kot Balwal Jail in Jammu.

"Such incidents have international ramifications. The Government has to tell us that about the certain steps that have been taken and are being contemplated to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future," the court said and asked the Centre and the state government to file affidavits.

"Look, such incidents have happened in Pakistan and in India. In so far as Pakistan is concerned, we have no control and so far as India is concerned, we have got the control. You must tell us about the steps taken to ensure that such incidents do not happen again," it said.

The court, after perusing the affidavit filed by Jammu and Kashmir government, expressed unhappiness there was "not a single word" about investigation into Ranjay's death though 72 days had passed since the incident.

"You must have held some preliminary inquiry. What are the findings. This (affidavit) is nothing as it does not give as to what had happened? How it happened? It does not even say the date on which the FIR was lodged.


SC notice on proposed bodies for plaints against cops

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The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central and and state governments on a petition seeking direction to set up Police Complaint Authorities (PCA) to deal with public complaints related to law enforcers.

The authorities comprising competent and independent people were mandated by the apex court by its 2006 verdict related to police reforms.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen issued notice as senior counsel Colin Gonsalves pointed to the court the "poor state of the implementation of the directions of the apex court for pushing police reforms".

The petition was filed by Sarfraj Mulla, Kavesh V. Gosavi, Abdul Allbaksh Gaffar Shirogod and Khalil Tannub Mohammed, who were all allegedly ill-treated by Goa Police, urging the court to direct all states and union territories to set up a PCA each and make it functional within three months.

The petitioners urged the court to direct the central government to frame model rules to be adopted by states and union territories on establishing the proposed complaint authorities.

They alleged that they were "tortured by the police, stripped naked, racially abused and maliciously prosecuted" by Goa Police.


Legal fees are on the house

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Corporate Social Responsibility has entered India's legal corridors. Top law firms and lawyers are doing pro bono so that they can give back to society.

A man phones a lawyer and asks, "What's your fee for answering three simple questions?" The reply is: A thousand dollars. "Whoa! That's very expensive, isn't it?" exclaims the man. "It certainly is, now what's your third question?" asks the lawyer.

Expensive legal fees have been the butt of many jokes but not all lawyers are the sharks they're made out to be. There are a number of socially aware and generous souls who are increasingly lending their expertise for pro bono work. Short for the Latin term pro bono publico, 'for the public good', pro bono means a case is taken up for free or the rates are deeply discounted. I n India, traditionally, pro bono legal work was carried out by lawyers who had dedicated themselves to helping society. Take senior advocate Colin Gonsalves who, in the early 1980s, co-founded the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) to provide free legal access to the needy. Since then HRLN has expanded the scope of its legal offerings to include filing PILs, legal clinics and advocacy. Pune-based advocate Asim Sarode set up Human Rights and Law Defenders in 2002, which won accolades for providing free legal service to prisoners.

Yet, given the need for proper legal help for a diverse section of society — ranging from NGOs to social entrepreneurs; from sex workers to child labourers; and from battered women to helpless prisoners — even the PM, in his address at the Bar Council's centenary celebrations earlier this year, urged lawyers to take on more pro bono cases.

Cyber-platforms such as the international Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation and i-Probono are already helping connect law firms with social projects. Then there are organisations such as Ashoka which, through its 'Law for all' initiative, ensures that Ashoka Fellows (social entrepreneurs) have access to the most appropriate law firms. "In addition to meeting regulatory hurdles, this initiative also aims at providing emergency support to Ashoka Fellows, who given the nature of their work sometimes face threats and intimidation from vested interests," says an Ashoka spokesperson.


Inside India's Female Sterilization Camps

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Sumati Devi knew before she arrived at the grimy government clinic in northern India that she would be paid to be sterilized. She didn’t know that she would lie on an operating table with bloody sheets, that the scalpel used on her would be stained with rust, or that she was supposed to get counseling on other birth control methods before consenting to have her fallopian tubes cut and tied. The main reason Devi agreed was that the $10 she received—about a week’s wages for a poor family—would help feed her three children. “I did it out of desperation,” says Devi, 25, as she lies on the concrete floor recuperating at the clinic in Bihar state. “We need the money. Health officials came to our home. They told us it would be best.”

India carries out about 37 percent of the world’s female sterilizations. Quotas set by state governments and financial incentives for doctors contributed to 4.6 million women being sterilized last year, many for cash and in the unsanitary conditions Devi encountered. Vasectomies accounted for just 4 percent of all sterilizations. “Women are the easiest prey, whether it’s government officials or their husbands asking them to undergo the operation,” says Kerry McBroom of New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network, which provided the lawyer for an ongoing court case against the government that was filed last year. The lawsuit documents the brutal practices at sterilization camps, where large numbers of women are gathered to have the procedure, and calls on the Supreme Court to issue guidelines to prevent abuse.

Only about half of Indian couples of child-bearing age practice modern birth control methods, United Nations data show. The government doesn’t pursue the costly option of teaching often-illiterate women how to use contraceptives. One in five babies born worldwide is Indian, straining supplies of land, food, and water. “A fast-growing population affects everything: the economy, the environment, quality of life,” says Vishwanath Koliwad, secretary general of the Family Planning Association of India, an advocacy group.


A Lahori’s take on Delhi

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Pakistani journalist, development professional and blogger Raza Rumi’s first book ‘Delhi By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller’ (HarperCollins India, 2013) is his “humble effort to write on a complex city such as Delhi and its past.” It is, he says, “not an academic treatise or a history book but a Pakistani's effort to reclaim his roots and shared heritage”. Available in bookshops across the region now.

South Asia Justice Trbunal formed

At the end of a two-day Indo-Pak seminar on ‘Judicial Activism, Public Interest Litigation and Human Rights’ held last week in Karachi, participants agreed to establish a South Asia Tribunal of Justice through a Peoples’ Network.

Advocates Colin Gonsalves (India) and Faisal Siddiqui (Pakistan) were nominated as focal persons for the Peoples’ Network that will raise cross-border issues of public interest, like human rights violations, minority rights, missing persons’, and terrorism.

Indian delegates included senior advocates Colin Gonsalves, Mukul Sinha, Prashant Bhushan, Nijhari Sinha, and Justice Former Judge, Supreme Court of India and currently Chairman, West Bengal Human Rights Commission A.K. Ganguly.

Prominent Pakistani delegates included Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid who is also a member of the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners; Justice (retd) Rashid A. Razvi, Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Chairman Mohammad Ali Shah.

The Indian delegates invited the Chief Justice of Pakistan to visit India.

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HRLN is a division of the Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC is a non-profit legal aid and educational organization, registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860, Indian Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 1976.