The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

Is the law reformative or retributive?

December 2012 was the month of shock and dismay. A horrifying incident broke all boundaries of restraints and silence and led men and women to highlight the supremacy of democracy and change.
A countrywide protest and demonstrations forced the government to take a punctilious stance against sexual assault, rapes and gang rapes and child rights. Nirbhaya is now forever etched in the minds of the people and so is the crime of the juvenile who was one of the rapists of Jyoti Singh, a medical student. Her only fault was that she was returning from a night show with a male friend. Her rapists’ reasons were that she fought back and asked for it because women of our proud country do not wander around with men before marriage.

In the event of the brutal gang rape in Delhi, not only, the new amendments were made under sexual offences of criminal law, but the criminal scope of juveniles was also widened through Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

What was the need to introduce the new Bill?

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 was passed in the wake of public fury on the release of the juvenile after serving a maximum of three years of imprisonment. Maneka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Child Development first introduced the amendment bill in the Parliament. The Union Cabinet approved the draft law by overriding the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee. It took almost fifteen months for the Rajya Sabha to pass the bill after the Lok Sabha. Observers believe that the Bill was hastily passed by the Parliament to calm the public anger and their sentiments.

The juvenile delinquency is a behavior not uncommon to the subject matter of criminology and sociology. But there always had been an effort to ameliorate the actions and behavior of young offenders. A belief is that the rehabilitation and care and protection of children can make their lives better. Therefore, the juvenile laws aim to protect the children found to be in conflict with the law.

The protection of child rights in India has a history since colonial times.

Under the Apprentice Act, 1850 and The Reformatory Schools of 1897 an attempt was to keep children with petty offences away from the adult criminal judicial system and to provide them reformatory institutions. Post Independence, the Children’s Bill, 1960 was passed in Parliament following the 1959 UN Declaration. It was the first central legislation on the subject of children’s rights when found in conflict with the law. Prior to this, each state had a separate juvenile legal system.

In 1980’s India became a participant to adopt the rules of the Sixth and Seventh U.N. Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Juvenile Offenders, also known as Beijing Rules. It led to the enactment of first Juvenile Judicial Act in 1986. The Act extended the protection to boys below 16 years and girls below 18 years along with the establishment of Advisory and Children’s Boards and Children’s Fund.

The 1990’s were a period of series of developments like globalization. There was also a tendency to move towards restorative justice. It is in this light of global momentum, India ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1992 and enacted Juvenile Justice Act of 2000. It called for Juvenile Justice Board and defined a juvenile as a person (whether a boy or girl) below the 18 years of age.

The new 2015 Act, is now in place of Juvenile Judicial Act, 2000.

Populist opinion and media play a significant role in politics. What prompted the government to take a new step was not only the shame that it carried on its back as the “Rape Capital of India” but also a number of misleading suggestions by the media houses to ascribe juvenile as the “most brutal” amongst the five rapists. The final move came when PILs were filed against the juvenile seeking to try him in an adult court instead of Juvenile Justice Court, as the offender was just three months short of 18 years of age.

One of the PIL petitioners and SC lawyer, Shweta Kapoor, said “ Minds of juveniles are well developed and do not need care and protection of the society. Rather society needs care and protection against them”.

However, in the history of juvenile laws, the new act has faced more dissatisfaction and opposition than any other legislation introduced before.

One step forward, two steps back.  The JJ Act, 2015 is a regressive law and unsupportive of the international juvenile system.

Let’s take a look at the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 to understand its viability.

1) The bill mandates people between16 and 18 years of age will have an adult trial for heinous crimes like rape and murder, punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more (Section 2)

2) It gives authority to Juvenile Justice Board (which now includes a group of psychologists and sociologists) to decide whether a child between 16-18 years of age be tried as an adult.

3) The bill adopts some changes like the period of preliminary assessment of juvenile offenders is increased to 3 months to assess the capacity of child’s crime.

4) It introduces foster care system in India and makes adoption process of orphaned and abandoned children more efficient by adopting the concepts of Hague Convention and Inter-Country Adoption, 1993.

5) The proper implementation and juvenile cases are under the authority of National and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

6) The Act under the care and protection chapter includes many offences that did not appear in any other laws. These include kidnapping and abduction of children, giving of narcotic drugs, intoxicating liquor and tobacco products, illegal adoption or sale or procurement of children, use of children in militant or terrorist groups and offences against disabled children.

 

It is, however, important to note that the new law did not apply to the juvenile involved in Nirbhaya gang rape as it has a non-retrospective effect. CPI (M)’s Sitaram Yechury who walked out of the House in protest of the bill, also invoked this point.

The whole idea of providing a stringent punishment to the juvenile that began with the demands of Nirbhaya’s parents was rather fruitless and created hurdles for the young offenders who will now face an adult trial. But the proponents of the bill believe that it’s a measure to scare them with harsher punishment to bring a change.

Book Review: Imperium by Robert Harris

The Roman Republic has always had an unusual place in the pages of world history. Indeed, we attribute a great deal of importance to the Roman culture that stands as an example to modern society. From it’s political structure of self-governance and bicameralism to the idea of “innocent, until proven guilty; its principles are known for shaping the ideas of citizenship, justice and politics.

Thus, Robert Harris’s endeavor, by tapping into the exciting period of Roman History produced his most famous novel The Imperium. First, of the trilogy, the novel traces the political journey of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great statesman, orator and advocate.

Harris has a brilliant knack for turning insipid events of history into a stimulating fictional drama. Though Harris wrote the novel, the narration is in first-person by Tiro, Cicero’s slave but also his secretary and confidante. Cicero was an astute thinker and his composition of books, letters and speeches are the finest works of literature in Roman history. Tiro, the inventor of shorthand, remained loyal and always by his side. He described his life with Cicero as “ exciting, then astonishing, then arduous, and finally extremely dangerous.”

Cicero was considered a self-made man of his time. Often, there is a great admiration for a person with grit and perseverance. He cleverly outmanoeuvred his rivals to succeed to the most powerful position in Roman politics- the consul.

Not everyone is born successful. Even Cicero had to struggle with his health and stutter. With the professional help of Apollonius Molon, the Greek rhetorician, he became one of the powerful orators in Roman history.

A philosopher and an orator, Cicero’s fame was not unknown to the Romans. His sharp memory of remembering names, his public affection for his daughter Tullia, and his idea of fair justice were simultaneously on par with his insecurities, jealousy and his ruthless ambition.

According to Tiro, Imperium is “the power of life and death as vested by the state in an individual” and Harris emphasized on how power politics requires a man, who without a credible background had to risk his principles to reach the high level of political power of Imperium.

Cicero believed in the Roman judicial system, and as the book records, Cicero was determined to bring justice to the people who were cheated and robbed by Gaius Verres (governor of Sicily), which gained him the reputation of people’s champion. But at the same time, he was also afraid to ruin his image in the eyes of the Romans. His motive, in the end, was to achieve consulship, even if he had to defend the corrupt Marcus Fonteius, the former governor of Further Gaul.

However, Harris clearly shows that a true politician needs to be shrewd and pliant. Throughout the novel, Cicero found himself tangled between different social circles.

Despite all the efforts and endurance in collecting the evidence and witnesses against Verres, Cicero knew that the only way to win the case was to gain the support and friendship of Pompey. He even manipulated the Senate and the Romans to pass the two important laws Lex Gabinia and Lex Manilia in favor of Pompey. It eventually led to the fall of Roman Republic.

Such was the power of the aristocracy that the Roman Republic stood only for its name. Though each Roman class had voting rights, only the high-class aristocrats had a say in elections. The political system of Rome did not guarantee equal participation. What made Cicero popular amongst the people was his achievement without any aid, great wealth, powerful family and or a commanding army.

Cicero’s brothers, friends and Tiro- all played an instrumental role in his political career. But an exceptional and always a forgotten character in history is Cicero’s wife, Terentia. Though he married her only for money to become the senator, she was both supportive and critical of his tactics. Cicero often had to prove himself to her and twice in the book (the idea of short speech during Verres’ prosecution and her idea to form an alliance with the aristocrats to outplay Crassus and Catiline) had helped him surmount his struggles.

In the words of Tiro, “Cicero did not always emerge as a paragon of virtue” but his voice was so impactful that it was essential, to tell the truth about his dangerous and tactful venture in Roman politics.

Harris did a great job to prove the words of Tiro. His persuasive style creates a profound link between the story and its readers. A fast paced novel as this is sure to woo even to those who are uninterested in studying history.

Mexico: A Beginning of the Debt Crisis in 1980’s

1980’s was a watershed period for the Latin American economies especially Mexico that faced major financial and economic crisis from the late 1970s to 1980s. It is often known as the period of lost decade due to defaulting on sovereign debt by Latin American countries.

The crisis culminated due to mismanagement of fiscal and monetary policies of different government regimes of Mexico that proposed such policies.

Post World War II, Mexico followed an economic policy based on Import Substitution Model (a model that focused on internal development strategy by limiting the imports and encouraging regulated domestic markets in the country). Thus, from 1954 to 1972, Mexico claimed to have an era of Stabilizing Development (SD) or Mexico Miracle. It was a period of high economic growth and low inflation (3.5%). The major economic policies were introduced under President Miguel Alemán Valdés’s (1946-52) to maintain an overall price stability and a fixed exchange rate (fixed at 12.5 pesos per dollar). It allowed an economic structure that included private capital accumulation to stimulate industrial expansion along with high growth rates of agricultural output.

The high economic stability underwent a radical change under the presidential administration of Luis Echeverría Álvarez (1970-76). Under his regime, expansionary fiscal policy increased public spending in social development projects. In the succeeding five years, general government employment doubled and the share of total public sector spending in GDP jumped from 20.5 percent to 30 percent.

However, according to macroeconomic principles, as much as expansionary fiscal polices increase the aggregate demand that in turn helps in increasing the employment rates in the economy and high economic growth, if undeterred at the full capacity of the economy, it can cause high rates of inflation and fiscal deficit. Consequently, inflation rose above 20% in 1973-74 and another side effect of the fiscal policy was the crowding out. Since the government spending concentrated in the public sector, it led to a negative impact on private investment that slumped from 14 percent of GDP (at 1970 prices) in 1971 to 12.7 percent in 1975. The situation worsened with the disequilibrium of the balance of payments that led to a current account deficit of $4.4 billion in 1975.

Thus, Álvarez’s economic policies were a complete failure. Under his regime GDP grew at only 3.1%, slightly less than 3.7% under previous governments. An expansionary fiscal policy with high spending on education and other productive projects helps in long-term productivity. But the government failed to make such projects, as the priority was more on state-owned enterprises. The deterioration of the balance of payments led to a sixty percent devaluation in the peso at a fixed exchange rate of 12.5 peso per dollar.

Mexico was predominantly an agricultural economy with phases of industrial expansion undertaken by the government and a net importer of oil but this changed under President Lopez Portillo.

Years Real GDP per capita growth Inflation Current Account Deficit
1954-72 3.7% 3.5% -1.5%
Post 1972 3.1% 20% -2.9%

Source: IMF

In 1976, due to several unstable economic pressures, President Lopez Portillo replaced the political regime of Álvarez. To overturn the economic situation, Portillo made an arrangement of a stabilizing program of fiscal austerity with the IMF under Extended Fund Facility over the next three years (1976-79).

Positive Impact of IMF Intervention Pre 1976 1979
Fiscal Deficit (%of GDP) 9.9 6.7
Inflation (%) 27.2 20
Current Account Deficit $4.4 billion $2.2 billion

Source: IMF

The IMF intervention helped Mexico regained its reputation as one of the promising developing countries. The main reason for this positive impression was the two oil shocks in 1970’s and the discovery of oil reserves in Mexico. This placed Mexico in an advantageous position because in the period of oil shocks, Mexico became the primary exporter of oil. Moreover, the developed countries like the US encouraged by Mexico’s successful stabilizing program and economic growth extended bank loans to Mexico.

However, Portillo’s administration entered in an economic quagmire where rampant corruption and mismanagement prevailed and soon buoyed by the oil wealth, the IMF program was dropped and replaced by new expansionary fiscal policies. This was one of the first mistakes in the policy implementation due to the over optimistic picture of oil revenue wealth that eventually led to a fiscal deficit.

The new policy continued the Álvarez’s Public Expenditure-Led Growth (PELG) plan that entailed large development plans to increase real government spending. It also stimulated private sector investment from 11.7% to 14.1% in 1981.

The expansionary fiscal policies led to following changes:

Years From 1976 To 1981
Real GDP per capita (in US $) 4,973 6,467
Real GDP growth rate (%) 6.82 0.91
Inflation 27.20 28.61

Source: IMF

Though the policy reform led to some changes, it didn’t bring about a structural economic change. The inflation began to increase from 1978 and reached to high levels of 28.61% in 1981.

By early 1981, the share of Mexican oil market and export prices of oil began to decline, as the world economy entered a recession. This led to a sharp increase in the interest rates on short-term loans in contrast to near zero interest rates that the US commercial banks offered Mexico earlier. However, without analyzing the risk of borrowing more loans, the national oil company, PEMEX in the hope of continued demand for high quality of oil exported it without lowering down the prices.

The increase in fiscal deficit was offset by the reluctance of the banks to lend money and borrowed only at high interest rates. From 6.7% (in GDP), the overall fiscal deficit grew to 14.7% in 1981. By the end of 1982, the foreign debt grew to $81 billion. Inflation increased with an annual rate of 100 percent and real per capita GDP declined 8.1 percent.

In late 1982, Mexican Finance Minister Jesús Silva Herzog revealed the situation of the unsustainable debt crisis and that Mexico failed to service its debt to the lenders. The revelation brought out a bigger picture of the World debt crisis in 1982 and the incautious approach of the commercial banks to extend loans without considering the high risk of deficit involved. It also marked the end of new foreign lending and Import Substitution Model in Mexico.

Several efforts were made to leverage the economic situation that was marked by rising stagflation, high interest rates, and increased outflow of money from Mexico. Portillo responded by nationalizing the banks, introduced a system of exchange control, and devalued the peso by more than 260 per cent.

With the end of Portillo’s regime, the new President De La Madrid, restarted the structural reform program with IMF and with it Mexico’s economy set on a transition from ISM to the neo-liberal model of economy. Fiscal discipline was rigidly enforced and the consolidated public sector deficit relative to the GDP was halved from 17.6 percent to 8.9 percent. Drastic measures were taken to expand the export earnings and cut back the imports. This helped in trade surplus that rose to $12.8 billion.

Years From 1982 To 1985
Inflation (%) 98.87 63
Real GDP per capita growth rate -8.12 1.76

Source: IMF

However, such reform policies could not reduce the inflation rate that accelerated to 105% post 1985. The causes of the rising inflation were the contraction of domestic output and continued devaluation of the peso. Moreover, the situation worsened with another oil shock in 1986 and two earthquakes in Mexico post 1985. As the fiscal policies provided hardly any improvement in the economy, two Pacts- Pact for Economic Solidarity and Pact for Stability and Economic Growth were signed in 1987 to introduce a fusion of orthodox fiscal and monetary policy with income policy (limiting of the nominal wage increase to control the inflation) in short-term phases.

Hence, the economic changes along with the government policies moved Mexico to make a transition from inward-looking development strategy to outward and open market policies. The periodical fluctuation in the inflation and current account deficit rates show that poor policies of the government without considering the precautions and risks of the fiscal policies can have a negative impact on the economy along with the impression of distrust in foreign markets.

Bibliography

  • Buffie, Edward, and Allen Sangines Krause. “Mexico (1958-86): From the Stabilizing Developement to Debt Crisis.” Developing Country Debt and the World Economy (The National Bureau of Economic Research), 1989: 141-168.
  • International Monetory Fund. “The Mexican Crisis: No Mountain too High?” The Crisis Erupts 1982.
  • Gould, David M. “Mexico: Looking Back To Assess the Future.”
  • Kim, Kwan S. “Mexico: The Debt Crisis and Options for Development Strategy.” (The Helen Kellogg Institute of International Studies) September 1986.

The never ending Israel-Palestine conflict

The victory of Donald Trump, the 45th President of America, has opened doors for Israel’s expansion in the West Bank through the new Jewish settlement blocs.

The Israel-Palestine conflict has a history embroiled in religion, identity and territory and the recent announcement by Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu on the construction of 2,500 settlements is another approach to outclass the Arabs in West Bank.

To recap:

Jews have always believed in what they call a national homeland i.e. an independent Jewish state. This belief became a reality with the birth of Israel that began with the British handing over the disputed territory to the United Nations for peaceful negotiation between Jews and Arabs.

But the negotiations and the clear demarcated areas of Israel within Palestine did not sit well with the anti-British and anti-West Arab nations.

In the illusion of Arab rule in Palestine in 1948 (six-day) War, the Israelis having won the war found themselves in an advantageous position to further their borders till what came to be known as West Bank. A ceasefire line aka Green line divided the Jews in Israel and Palestinians in West Bank (under the control of Jordon- an Arab state) and Gaza Strip until the 1967 war. The war again gave Israelis the upper hand and allowed them to annex the West Bank.

Today, The plight of the 2.5 million Palestinians is their land in the West Bank.

The Oslo II Accord Agreement after the war separated the West Bank and Gaza Strip into three areas under:

  1. Complete Palestinian authority (80% of West Bank)
  2. Palestinians with limited autonomy (22% of the West Bank)
  3. Israelis settlements under Israel authority (60% of the West Bank)

source: Political Geography Now

                                                      Image source: Political Geography Now

The general view in the international circle is support for the notion of two-state resolution as a solution the Israel-Palestine Conflict and condemnation of the increasing population of Israeli settlements.

However, citing the biblical history of the Jews, Israelis claim the two religious towns Judea and Samaria as the reason for their strategic settling in the West Bank.

With Trump administration leading the White House, there are two points to look forward to:

First, what kind of foreign policy would initialize towards Israel.

Considering the pro-Israel stance of Donald Trump, the Israeli Prime Minister had enough push to declare the new settlement project in East Jerusalem of West Bank. Moreover, the new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman is not only against the two-state resolution but also actively involved in a settlement fundraising organization.

Second, there have been indirect hints of shifting the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. This can be a change from the earlier predisposition of the US government. The Embassy was established in Tel Aviv as an apparent defiance of the Israeli expansion in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, resented the Obama administration for their anti-settlement approach in the UN resolution. However, with the support of Trump, Israel can gain an unchecked position to the extent that can signify its regional power against neighboring Arab nations.

Along the tussle between Israel’s demand for greater autonomy in West Bank and slumping hope for Palestinian officials to build a developed state, the major obstacle is for both the settlers and Palestinians.

Most of the settlements are fully formed towns with well-structure houses and facilities of schools and universities. The policy of two-state cannot be completely achieved, as the existing settlements and their lifestyle is difficult to uproot. On the other hand, the Palestinians’ animosity could lead to mass protests and demonstrations and attract greater intervention from the neighboring Arab countries. Moreover, the Islamic elements already prominent in the Middle East could find it a winning opportunity to expand their conservative Islamic ideologies.

The delicate issue of Israel and Palestinians should be reflected cautiously especially from America’s point of view. Though Israelis claim religion aspect to justify their activities, it is necessary to maintain the international law and UN resolutions for peaceful governance.

 

The Post-truth Yellow Effect

Remember the game Chinese Whisper, aka broken telephone? It’s a game popular amongst school children where they form a line and pass a phrase to the last person in the line who then expose the phrase. Usually, the phrase distorts into a misleading jumble of words. Well, take that and turn it into the phenomena called as the Fake News.

Broadly, fake news circulated through social media is categorized as fallacious information with aggrandized headlines or a mix of true events and incorrect facts.

There is a sudden brouhaha about the perilous nature of fake news, especially after November 8th when Donald Trump became the 45th President of America. This stunning revelation is unbelievable but the notion of fake news is not. Also Known as News Satire, there are numerous genuine fake news websites and magazines meant as a parody for entertaining the people. But recently, the mainstream media is inundated with the Facebook, Twitter, and Google being demonized for the algorithm-based dissemination of fake news. This creates the problem of segregating facts from fiction.

However, the United States of America is not new to the fake news phenomena.

What started as a rivalry between two leading New York newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, and William Randolph Hearst, resulted in a term known as Yellow Journalism. The Yellow journalism in the late 19th century was an era of sensational, scandal-mongering and unethical publishing of news to increase the circulation of newspapers and readership. The term Yellow journalism was derived from the cartoon character “the yellow kid” illustrated by the cartoonist Richard F. Outcault.

Though sensationalized and fake news has a history since 1790’s, the few involved in the fake news phenomenon in social media today call themselves the new yellow journalists.

Pulitzer’s newspaper the New York World had gained popularity because of the yellow cartoon strips, but when Hearst entered the publishing business with his New York Journal, he enticed Outcault with greater pay. This turning point intensified the competition between the two major newspapers. However, the main game changer was the Spanish-American War in 1898. Yellow journalism acted as a catalyst in the conflict between Spain and America. America soon became involved in the cause of Cuban struggle for independence as the major newspapers covered fabricated stories to foment sympathy for the Cuban rebels.

By this time Hearst and Pulitzer had garnered popularity, fame, and money. Their thriving business got another boost with the sinking of Maine, a US battleship in Havana harbor. The competition that was soon taken over by Hearst’s New York Journal published rumors of Spanish hand in the incident. The exaggerated false claims eventually led to the war.

It is hard to deny that social media has come to play a greater role in our lives. According to the website The Statistical Portal, Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide with 1.79 billion monthly active users. Lately, these alleged yellow journalists ran sites like Lifezette, LibertyWritersNews.com, Conservative Tribune and others on Facebook.

With unbound information just one click away, it is not lack of knowledge but the lack of informed knowledge that needs consideration. The generation of “like, share and comment” typically prefers to read their daily news on social media. But instead of challenging the biases of people by providing different perspectives on similar issues, the social media news feed are designed to produce what people would want to see based on their opinions. Although Facebook and Google have employed measures to check misleading news, it is indispensable to discern between real and fake news. The only way is to review the news from credible sources.

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them” ~Galileo Galilei.