Tougher isn’t better

Since the punishment for rape and the punishment for murder are now the same, a rapist will have no incentive to spare his victim’s life, especially since her testimony would be the most important piece of evidence against him. 

death penalty for rape

Reactionary law reform has always been an easy way for governments to appear tough on crime, and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 is no different. It betrays a lack of thought on the likely impact, and only serves to endanger the lives of future victims.

The five state reports of the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore (CCL-NLSIU), on the functioning of special courts under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 have demonstrated that one of the main causes for the low rate of conviction under the Act is the appalling lack of infrastructure and manpower in the criminal justice system. Most districts continue to try cases of child sexual abuse in regular sessions courts, designated as “special courts” for the sake of compliance, and most such cases are tried by “special” public prosecutors who are simultaneously trying cases under the NDPS Act, or, in some cases, anti-terror legislation. Investigations are regularly botched up by an understaffed, poorly trained, overburdened police force which has little to no forensic support, and is often sympathetic towards the accused. Instead of addressing these issues which prevent the proper implementation of the law, as it exists, on the ground, the ordinance has, instead, added to the burden of a dysfunctional system.

CCL-NLSIU’s reports have demonstrated that the timelines for completion of the investigation, for recording of evidence, and for completion of trial are never adhered to because functionaries in the system (police, prosecutors and judges) find them impractical given their case load and the facilities they have to work with. In fact, these timelines were found to have been adhered to only in cases where the accused was acquitted because the victim and other witnesses turned hostile. The rate of conviction was highest in cases which took over two years to complete, because, practically, it takes that much time to record the evidence of all the witnesses. In light of this, the fact that the ordinance reduces the time given to the police to file a chargesheet, and to the court to decide appeals against sentencing, displays a complete lack of understanding about the issues on the ground and a disturbing disregard for whether a law is implementable.

The POCSO and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (CLAA) changed the sentencing regime for sexual offences by introducing mandatory minimum sentences, thresholds a judge did not have discretion to breach even if she felt there were mitigating circumstances that warranted it. As a result, an “anchoring effect” is seen, whereby even if there are aggravating circumstances, judges award only the mandatory minimum sentence. For instance, minimum sentences were awarded in 54.94 per cent cases in Delhi, in 75 per cent cases in Assam, 72.05 per cent in Maharashtra, and 39.39 per cent in Andhra Pradesh. Another effect of high mandatory minimum sentences is that judges, in order to avoid awarding what they view to be a disproportionate sentence, prefer to acquit the accused. Therefore, enhanced mandatory minimum punishments in the ordinance are likely to be counterproductive.

Along the same lines, the ordinance has anchored its enhanced mandatory minimum sentences and death penalty on age, without considering the issues that arise with age determination. The reports of CCL-NLSIU have shown that given the unavailability or unreliability of age-related documents in most parts of the country, reliance is placed on ossification tests to prove the age of the victim in cases under the POCSO. Since an ossification test cannot pinpoint an exact age, and operates with a margin of plus/minus two years, a majority of judges add two years to the upper age limit to conclude that the victim is not a minor. For instance, if the ossification test states that the victim was 14-16 years old, judges ordinarily add 2 years to 16, and conclude that the victim was 18 years old at the time of the incident, and therefore acquit the accused. The same issue is likely to arise when considering whether the victim was below the age of 16 or 12, especially if the judge does not believe the enhanced sentence (or the death penalty) is warranted.

But most importantly, the introduction of the death penalty for the rape of children under the age of 12 is likely to put future victims (and there will be future victims because the death penalty has been shown to be no more a deterrent than a life sentence) at grave risk. Since the punishment for rape and the punishment for murder are now the same, a rapist will have no incentive to spare his victim’s life, especially since her testimony would be the most important piece of evidence against him.

The government needs to invest in combating the rape culture that condones and encourages rape — by age-appropriate sex education at all levels, by aggressive advertisement campaigns to increase awareness and stimulate conversations about gender bias, everyday sexism, misogyny, stereotypes, consent and equality, and by making concerted efforts to change the way society raises its sons and daughters. Unless we, as citizens, can tie these issues to the goals and gains of electoral politics, no political party will invest in these long term, and potentially expensive, efforts.

Source: Indian Express

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In a first, Modi govt changes collegium’s recommendation on HC judge’s appointment

The Supreme Court collegium had recommended Punjab & Haryana High Court judge Ramendra Jain be made permanent, but Modi govt only extended his term by six months.

New Delhi: For possibly the first time since the collegium system was introduced, the Centre has unilaterally amended the recommendation of the judicial appointments body to apply its own writ, considered a violation of settled law and procedure.

Last month, the Supreme Court collegium had recommended that Punjab and Haryana High Court additional judge Ramendra Jain be made a permanent judge, but the Centre has only given him a six-month extension.

Jain was appointed as additional judge on 20 April 2015 for a two-year term and given a year’s extension last year.

The latest decision may further open the Modi government to allegations of overreach in matters of judicial appointments.

According to settled law as well as the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the set of rules that guides appointments to the higher judiciary, judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium.

“This is unconstitutional and highly arbitrary since the government has, in this case, virtually assumed the role of the collegium,” said a former Chief Justice of India about the Justice Jain episode.

“How could the government issue such an order when the Supreme Court collegium said he should be made a permanent judge? I don’t think the collegium met again, before the appointment was notified by the President, to amend its recommendation,” he added. “This is a very worrying sign and the Chief Justice of India and senior Supreme Court judges who constitute the collegium should have taken strong exception to such a blatantly unconstitutional diversion by the government.”

A senior SC judge expressed surprise over the move, saying, “How can the government on its own decide such a matter? As per settled law, the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium, if it has been reiterated, is binding on the government.”

“I don’t think there is any confusion that unless the Supreme Court collegium amends its recommendation, the Centre has no choice but to go by it. I hope the chief justice will do something to check this arbitrary action, possibly take it up on the judicial side suo motu,” the judge added.

A former secretary in the department of justice was also unequivocal. “I don’t understand how the collegium accepted this and allowed this to happen. This is patently unconstitutional,” the former secretary said.

“There must be some push-back from the Supreme Court because, in my view, this is just the beginning. The government is testing waters and unless the Supreme Court collegium puts its foot down, you can expect more of such things to happen,” the former bureaucrat added.

To emphasise the lack of precedent for the move, a former CJI recalled how, when a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court was hearing the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case, the tenure of several additional judges was about to end. “The government requested the bench to pass some interim order so as to allow these judges to continue, and the bench did so. The government didn’t go and extend their tenure on its own – it required an order on the judicial side to do so,” he added, “What has happened now is very surprising and unconstitutional, in my view.”

What the case is about

On 26 March this year, the Supreme Court collegium recommended that Justice Jain be appointed as a permanent judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

At the meeting where the decision was taken, the collegium said it was making the recommendation after “taking note of observations of the department of justice made in file relating to impending transfer of Mr Justice Ramendra Jain to Karnataka High Court”.

It asked the Centre to process the recommendation “expeditiously” in view of the fact that Justice Jain’s term was due to end on 19 April.

However, the Centre sat on the recommendation – something that is said to have become the norm of late, a fact noted with dismay by one of the most senior judges of the Supreme Court, Jasti Chelameswar, in his letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra last month.

ThePrint had first reported Chelameswar’s letter on 28 March.

After waiting for the Centre to act, the Supreme Court collegium reiterated its recommendation on 17 April, two days before Justice Jain’s term was to end. It also told the Centre that the issue of his transfer had already been dealt with on 12 July 2017, recording “specific reasons for retaining him in the Punjab and Haryana High Court”.

The Centre, however, ignored the recommendation, and extended Justice Jain’s tenure by six months, barely hours before his term was to end. Owing to the last-minute decision, the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court called some judges to the court in the evening to swear in Justice Jain for the extended term.

‘Interference in the judiciary’

Since assuming office, the Modi government has been accused of several attempts to control judicial appointments and transfers: From getting Parliament to pass the NJAC Bill, which was later struck down by the SC, to sitting on Supreme Court collegium recommendations without any explanation, and stalling the transfer of several judges.

There have been several appeals, including by Supreme Court judges, to CJI Dipak Misra to take action in this regard, but he is yet to.

In this light, Chelameswar’s letter to the CJI and his brother judges was significant. In it, he had underlined that “for some time, our unhappy experience has been that the government’s accepting our recommendations is an exception and sitting on them is the norm”.

He had also observed that “inconvenient” but able judges or judges-to-be were “being bypassed through this route”, saying the issue was “now ripe for the consideration of the full court… if this institution really is to be any more relevant in the scheme of the Constitution”.

Days later, another member of the Supreme Court collegium, Justice Kurian Joseph, also wrote to the CJI, underlining that the “very life and existence” of the apex court was under threat.

By not implementing the collegium’s recommendations, Joseph wrote, the government is sending a “strong message” to “all judges down the line not to cause any displeasure to the executive lest they should suffer”. “Is this not a threat to the independence of the judiciary?” he added.

“… It is the first time in the history of this court where nothing is known as to what has happened to a recommendation after three months,” he said.

“The government owes a duty to take a call on the recommendation as soon as the same is sent by the collegium. Failure to discharge their duty by sitting over on the recommendations of the collegiums…, in administrative law, is abuse of power…” Justice Joseph wrote.

“The dignity, honour and respect of this institution is going down day by day since we are not able to take the recommendations for appointment to this court to their logical conclusion within the normally expected times,” he added.

Both judges were referring to, among other issues, the Modi government sitting on the Supreme Court collegium’s recommendation to elevate Uttarakhand High Court chief justice K.M. Joseph and senior lawyer Indu Malhotra to the apex court, and senior Karnataka judicial officer P. Krishna Bhat – whose name was cleared twice by the Supreme Court collegium – as a high court judge.

A bench headed by Joseph had set aside the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand by the Modi government.

However, so far, the CJI has not spoken on the issue.

Source : The Print

Please save the judiciary from the judges as well, your lordships

The judiciary is under threat from within – from stretching jurisdictions, headline-hunting and its inability to put its own house in order.

Basu Bhattacharya’s 1971 film Anubhav, the first in his trilogy on marital discord, features Sanjeev Kumar as a workaholic editor and Tanuja as his lonely wife. After all is dusted and done through an intense two-and-a-half hours, with Dinesh Thakur completing the triangle of tension, comes a dramatic final exchange between the couple.

“You write editorials each day for everybody else’s problems. Will you write one for ours too?” Tanuja (ok, millennial, Kajol’s mom) asks Sanjeev Kumar.

Picture your eminent Supreme Court judges in a similar situation. This week saw them deliver a judgment of rare clarity, and bombast-free passion. Throwing out the Public Interest Litigations (PILs) demanding an independent inquiry into judge B.H. Loya’s death in Nagpur, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, writing for the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, lambasted the petitioners and their lawyers for making scurrilous allegations without a “tittle of proof”, scandalising and thereby undermining the entire judiciary.

Rejection of the petitions apart, the rage in the judgment came from wanting to save the judiciary from lawyers, activists, the media and other busybodies. It looks like everybody is beating on the judges and they are fighting back.

So can we also ask the judges a simple question echoing Anubhav’s Tanuja: you write judgments all the time to protect the judiciary from others. Will you write one on how to save the judiciary from the judges too?

I am being overly cautious in developing this argument, and I better be. Because, the judges said they were being large-hearted in sparing the very eminent Loya case lawyers and petitioners from criminal contempt. A mere editor may not get the same generosity going ahead. Facts, however, have to be stated, and debated.

This isn’t the moment to discuss the merits of the judgment itself. It is very well argued and stated with brevity not seen in most Supreme Court orders lately. In these polarised times, what you make of it also depends where you stand politically or ideologically. Journalist Barkha Dutt described the commentariat’s predicament brutally as being two rival poles, chamchas (sycophants) and morchas (activist fronts). It’s perilous to talk nuance as you will then be abused by both sides. It is enormously more troublesome, however, when the higher judiciary looks and sounds similarly polarised.

That’s the real threat to it, from within. That’s what the judges should be angry about. That’s why the judiciary needs saving from the judges. There are no individual villains here. Just that while it tries to shoo away what it sees as outside viruses, the institution itself is caught in an awful auto-immune disease. You know, when a body starts to eat itself.

You can’t but agree with the larger points made in the judgment. First, that PILs are being misused. People have made careers out of bringing political, individual and ideological fights to courts, wasting their time and contributing to delays. Second, that judges don’t lie — at least not four of them together. And third, that it is preposterous to say that one man controls the entire judiciary. It is an impossibility.

Now, some fact-checking. On the day this judgment was delivered, the morning’s papers reported the Bombay High Court imposing water-use restrictions for IPL matches in Maharashtra in response to an earlier PIL. Forget the worth of the water thus saved for the farmer by starving a playground. Is it really worth the honourable court’s time to pronounce on a PIL on a cricket league when it has many important cases? You must never impute motives to the judges’ actions even as you question their wisdom. The Loya judgment said PILs had become a “facade” for people seeking publicity. Would the judges look in the mirror and ask themselves if they haven’t been calling for the same temptation?

My colleague Maneesh Chhibber, who is a most avid and insightful watcher of the higher judiciary, has helped me compile a short list of the more interesting examples besides, indeed, the BCCI, which now has left the Supreme Court governing Indian cricket for more than a year with no end in sight. Recently the CJI, who now heads the cricket bench (heard any such in a constitutional democracy?) also admitted another PIL on the side, seeking to legalise betting and gambling in sports. Misra, before he became CJI, had ordered (on 30 Nov. 2016) that playing of the national anthem be made mandatory in cinema halls, only to rescind it much later. Each of these PILs made headlines. Nobody remembers the names of the petitioners. So why blame them alone for headline-hunting? Even the morning after the Loya judgment, 12 of the 43 cases on the CJI’s list were PILs.

A few more: the PIL to bring the Koh-i-Noor back from Britain, another to ban Santa-Banta jokes, to criminalise porn-watching (eating into court’s time since 2013), to make yoga compulsory in schools, and so on. Some of these were eventually dismissed. Why these were admitted, with such a huge pendency and so many citizens waiting on issues of individual liberty, is a question we ask.

The fact is, since the eminently noble idea of PIL as the citizen’s last resort originated in the mid-1980s, too many judges have extended its reach and range and in the process stretched their jurisdiction and powers. This often walks them into the executive domain of messy day-to-day governance with no exit.

In the capital, the court set up an empowered committee to improve air quality 20 years ago. It continues to date, having transcended the tenure of 18 CJIs; the air has only become more noxious. The same for the court’s committee on illegal constructions and encroachment in the capital. In both cases, the court can’t admit failure and dismount the tiger. But people blame it instead of the politicians and it suits them fine. PILs are being overdone, but not just by publicity-seeking activists. Judges are part of the problem.

The second principled point was, judges don’t lie. At least not four senior district judges together. Does the principle not apply to the four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court who have been raising some substantive points of judicial governance for months now? Is their word to be discounted as motivated and their concerns dismissed as misplaced while we take the four Maharashtra judges at their word? I am not stupid enough to insinuate the district judges are lying. I will have to be insane to believe the top SC judges are. Their questions need a response, debate and introspection.

This relentless stretching of jurisdiction, the judiciary’s tendency of headline-hunting through the same PILs it decries as pestilence, and its inability to get its own house in order has weakened the institution more than any outsiders. When the judges seem so divided, you would expect litigants and lawyers to go forum-shopping. More importantly, you will have the executive play games with you, holding back your own appointments while you try cleaning the air they breathe and run the game of cricket.

Some tension among institutions is healthy. But if one becomes too weak, another will muscle its way into its space. That’s exactly what is happening now. The top judges are squabbling, and the politicians are laughing.

Which brings us to the third key point in the judgment – that it is preposterous to say that one individual could control the entire judiciary. In principle, you can’t dispute it. In reality, we have seen that come to pass. Except that it wasn’t a man, but a woman, Indira Gandhi. The courage and spine of just one great judge, H.R. Khanna, then saved us from becoming like Erdogan’s Turkey today. India of 2018 needs not just one, but several such because the pre-eminent threat now isn’t just from outside, but from within.

Source : The Print

Rajinder Sachar (1923-2018) helped puncture the myth of Muslim appeasement in India

The former Delhi High Court chief justice chaired the committee that wrote a landmark report on the status of Muslims in India.

There are many reasons to remember Justice Rajinder Sachar, who died in Delhi at the age of 95, on April 20. He was a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, a civil rights activist proud of his socialist credentials, and a man whose instinct it was to take on the establishment. This trait was surprising as he belonged to a prominent political family: his father, Bhim Sen Sachar, was twice the chief minister of Punjab, for eight months in 1949, and then between April 1952 and January 1956.

Rajinder Sachar’s anti-establishment streak first became visible when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was scheduled to have breakfast at the Punjab chief minister’s residence. Sachar senior, in an excited tone, broke the news to his son, presumably expecting him to be keen to share a meal with the charismatic prime minister. The son was not impressed. Let alone breakfast, Sachar said he would walk out of the house when Nehru’s entered. “Rajinder Sachar joined the Socialist Party at its inception in 1948,” recalled Prem Singh, president of the Socialist Party, which was revived in 2011, among others, by Sachar. “The Congress was consequently his ideological opponent. He would narrate this incident to us and chuckle and say, ‘It would have done me no harm to have breakfast with Nehru.’”

(Photo credit: HT).

The importance of the Sachar report

The delectable anecdotes and inspiring stories about Sachar’s fight for justice pale in comparison to the debate that was triggered because of the report he prepared as chairperson of the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee on the Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim community in India. Published in 2006, it became known as the Rajinder Sachar Committee report. It was a statistical and sociological marvel, praised all around for quantifying the socio-economic status of the Muslim community and its rich diversity.

In effect, the Sachar report punctured the myth of Muslim appeasement. No longer could anyone accuse the Indian state of favouring Muslims: the report showed that they lagged behind other communities, barring the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, on just about every socio-economic index. On some indices, such as education and government employment, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were actually ahead of Muslims by a margin. Muslims constituted just 3.2% of all officers in the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Foreign Service. The findings came as a shock to the nation.

The report also busted the stereotype of the Muslim community being a monolith. In a chapter titled The Muslim OBCs and Affirmative Action, the report showed that the community was as riven by caste as any, and that there were remarkable differences between North Indian Muslims and their counterparts in the South. Muslims had progressed in those parts of South India where they had been the beneficiaries of reservations for many years.

The third myth the report undermined was that Muslims were better off in the Left-ruled states. This was not true, it said, providing data to show that Muslims in West Bengal were lagging behind their counterparts in Gujarat. This embarrassed the Left to no end, and gave a propaganda point to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had been facing the heat for fanning the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and discriminating against Muslims. In fact, the report escalated the alienation of Muslims from the Left in Bengal. This became a factor in the Left’s defeat in Bengal in 2011, after 34 years in power.

Overnight, the report turned Sachar into a hero among educated Muslims, surprised as they were with the candour with which the report had described their experience. Abusaleh Shariff, member secretary of the Sachar Committee, told Scroll.in, “Muslims have often told me that for them, Sachar is third after Allah and the Prophet in importance. They look upon him as the saviour of their identity. I conveyed this to Sachar.”

A sense of empathy

It might seem an exaggeration to credit Sachar for the report on which six subject experts worked. For instance, the committee is said to have devised the category of a “socio-religious community” in India for statistical studies. That could not have been Sachar’s contribution. He could not have mined data to create a socio-economic profile of Muslims either. The report’s sociological insights can be ascribed to TK Oommen, formerly of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a scholar of great repute.

Shariff countered this. “…The flavour and authenticity of the report was all because of Sachar,” Shariff said. “[He] had an acute sense and understanding of the vulnerability of Muslims in public spaces. Underlying every chapter is the theme of vulnerability. It is this that makes the report so unique.”

Sachar’s empathy for Muslims came out of his own experience, Shariff said. During Partition, Sachar was separated from his family. He witnessed the horrific killings of Hindus in Pakistan, which prompted him to flee to India. On his way to Delhi, he saw the blood-curdling massacre of Muslims. It made him realise that a community’s vulnerability depends on whether it is in the majority or minority. “Instead of hating Muslims, a deep concern and love for Muslims was born in his heart,” Shariff said.

The chairperson’s acute sensitivity had the committee explain the “double burden” that weighs on Muslims – of being labeled “anti-national” and simultaneously signaled out for being appeased.

The report said:

“While Muslims need to prove on a daily basis that they are not ‘anti-national’ and ‘terrorists’, it is not recognised that the alleged ‘appeasement’ has not resulted in the desired level of socio-economic development of the community. In general, Muslims complained that they are constantly looked upon with a great degree of suspicion not only by certain sections of society but also by public institutions and governance structures. This has a depressing effect on their psyche.”

The Sachar committee also reported on the problems posed by markers of Muslim identity. It said:

“Markers of Muslim Identity – the burqa, the purdah, the beard and the topi – while adding to the distinctiveness of Indian Muslims have been a cause of concern for them in the public realm. These markers have very often been a target for ridiculing the community as well as of looking upon them with suspicion.”

The report pointed out that Muslim men sporting beards or skullcaps were detained for interrogation from public spaces. Their religious markers rendered them suspect. Muslim women, in their interaction with the committee, complained that those who wore hijab found it difficult to find corporate jobs, and the ones in burqas were treated impolitely in public places. It spoke of the difficulties Muslims face in renting homes in non-Muslim localities, a factor that pushes them to live in community-dominated ghettoes. This, in turn, deprives their children access to good schools, most of which are located outside Muslim neighbourhoods.

It is perhaps an irony that a man like Sachar, who was instinctively anti-establishment, acquired nationwide fame for producing a report as chairperson of a government-appointed committee. For years, after retiring as chief justice of the Delhi High Court, he travelled to all parts of India as a member of fact-finding committees, unraveling and publicising civil rights abuses.

“People like Sachar belong to a generation that is fading away, a generation which made people aware of their civil liberties,” said Gautam Navlakha, a senior member of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights. “If Sachar is remembered only for the report on Muslims, it is because it was a very fine report. [But] it is also because there is glamour associated with heading a government committee. It is not so with civil rights groups, whose relationship with the government is adversarial.”

To his credit, Sachar was adversarial even when he was a member of the judiciary. He did not hesitate to bat for the people against the powerful political class. For instance, after the People’s Union for Democratic Rights and People’s Union for Civil Rights jointly prepared their report – Who Are The Guilty? – on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar and her colleagues filed a writ petition on the matter in the Delhi High Court. It came up for hearing before Sachar, who had not yet become chief justice. He promptly issued a notice to the police. But when the case came up for hearing again, the petitioners, much to their surprise, found that it had been transferred away from Sachar’s court.

Presumably, Sachar could not be trusted to do the state’s bidding, of being partial and unjust to the weak and vulnerable, reasons enough for him to be an inspiration to all of us, including brother judges.

Source : scroll.in

 

Only 8 per cent schools across the country comply with the provisions of the Right to Education Act

Justice Madan B Lokur, Supreme Court of India, has said that slow implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) risks depriving a generation of children of a basic human. Inaugurating the National Stocktaking Convention of the Right to Education Forum, speaking as chief guest, he highlighted the need of education for development and that, while India has a range of progressive legislations, “governments are lethargic in their implementation”.

school-children-480

While much effort has gone to frame the right to education, slow implementation risks depriving a generation of children of the basic human right to education. He regretted that quality of education in India is poor and said that improvement in learning outcomes is unlikely without filling existing vacant teacher posts.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Kishore Singh, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, emphasized the need for India to adhere to its international human rights obligations of delivering universal quality public education and stop profit making from education. Prof. Muchkund Dubey, former Foreign Secretary, Government of India, said that even after more than seven years, the implementation of the Act is very poor.
Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, Country representative UNICEF, said that the first cohort of children is finishing their elementary education after the enactment of the Act, so it is critical to look at education indicators like dropout rate during transition from primary and upper primary, grade specific learning levels so on so forth so that quality education is ensured. She congratulated the Forum for bringing these issues for discussion.

Mr Priyank Kanoongo, Member (RTE and Education), NCPCR, congratulating the forum said that education should be inclusive so that all children receive equal education. He said that with the joint efforts of the Forum and NCPCR, the improper pattern of CCE prescribed by CBSE has been withdrawn.

Mr Ambarish Rai, National Convenor, RTE Forum in the concluding session added that it is time for a National Campaign for Education to All Children across the country bringing together teachers, children, parents, civil society organizations and networks, SMCs and panchayats.

The National Stocktaking Report on the Status of Implementation of the RTE Act was shared on the occasion. Some of the highlights were:
·         Only 8% schools across the country comply with the provisions of the RTE Act; the share of compliant schools has indeed declined over the years.
·         India’s spending on education is less than 3% of GDP, compared to its obligation of spending 6%; India’s per capita spending on education is approximately four times less than the spending incurred by middle income countries.
·         Teacher vacancies continue; almost 20% of teachers in India are untrained.

The above deliberations came during the day long 8th National Stocktaking Convention held today on 27th March 2018 at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi. The Convention was organized by Right to Education (RTE) Forum, India’s largest civil society coalition working on Right to Education. The Forum has over 10,000 NGO members across 20 states.

The event brought together over 500 people from 15 states that gathered to discuss the status of education in the country. A National Campaign was launched by the Forum to make education a critical issue in the upcoming elections which will bring together teachers, community members, civil society organizations and activists.

Source : COUNTERVIEW