India Insight

Smokers ignore India’s public smoking ban

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

It’s been nearly five years since India banned smoking in public places, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to Sugandha. The jeans-clad woman in her twenties is standing at a subway entrance in New Delhi as a man smokes a cigarette a few steps away, indifferent to how the fumes annoy passersby.

“We can’t say anything to anyone,” she said. “They won’t take it positively.”

That’s the state of things as the annual No Tobacco Day rolls around on May 31. In a country where efforts to ban people from spitting and urinating in public have met with little success, people still openly flout restrictions on smoking.

Khushbu, Sugandha’s bespectacled friend, said smokers are a nuisance. She aims stern, disapproving looks at them to shoo them away.

The Aruna Shanbaug case: SC rejects plea

SPAIN/UPDATE: The Supreme Court in its judgement on Monday rejected the euthanasia plea of Aruna Shanbaug, who has been lying in a vegetative state for 37 years following a sexual assault on her.

Euthanasia in various forms is legal in some countries with safeguards, but has been criticised.

There are instances when patients are mistaken to be in a vegetative state though they are conscious of their surroundings but unable to draw attention to their condition. This is described as the Locked-in Syndrome.

Rough justice as woman kills politician she accused of rape

An alleged rape and a violent stabbing left an Indian politician dead and a 40-year-old woman in police custody on Tuesday night, as Rupam Pathak reportedly took the law into her own hands to avenge 18-month-old sexual assault charges.
A file photo showing an incarcerated prisoner REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Bihar state legislator Raj Kishore Kesri was killed in his own home before an audience of dozens by a mother of two after charges first lodged in May 2010 against the four-time representative were reportedly dropped “under duress” from Kesri and his associates.

Pathak will almost certainly be sent to jail for her premeditated crime, after appearing to take what she considered the only option available to punish the man she says raped her.

A local school owner, Pathak was beaten by Kesri’s supporters after the stabbing, and as she was taken to hospital reportedly shouted: “Don’t take me for treatment. Hang me. I don’t want to live anymore. Nobody knows what I have been through.”

An easier end to unhappy marriages in India?

India’s cabinet this week cleared a proposal to amend the Hindu Marriage Act to allow “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a ground for divorce.

Hindu brides sit during a mass wedding ceremony in Noida December 26, 2009. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/FilesThe amendment had been resisted earlier and been pending for nearly three decades now. Other grounds for divorce, which can take anywhere from six months to 20 years, include cruelty, desertion and adultery.

The amendment, if approved by parliament, will make divorce easier for estranged couples, experts say, particularly in cases where a partner is deliberately delaying proceedings. Even family courts are notoriously ineffective and insensitive when it comes to separation, with judges often admonishing the woman to be more “adjusting” or offering advice thinly disguised as rulings.

Environmentalists cheer news of scrapping of power project

INDIA-VEDANTAEnvironmentalists are hailing news that India’s ministry of environment and forests has scrapped a proposed power plant by Larsen & Toubro in eastern India close to a nesting ground for endangered Olive Ridley turtles.

But Greenpeace is quick to point out that there are ports proposed near all of Orissa’s mass nesting areas, and that these should be denied permission, as well.

It is a tough fight, one that is pitting environmentalists, tribals and villagers against large companies and government agencies keen on tapping resources and building infrastructure to keep pace with India’s robust growth.

Moral brigade, media trials and law

In what is being seen as a significant judgement, India’s apex court recently dismissed all charges against south Indian actress Khushboo for her alleged remarks on pre-marital sex in a 2005 magazine interview.

KhushbooThe Supreme Court said her comments were her personal view and that she was entitled to express them.

Many in the country believe the verdict heralds a welcome but a difficult and slow change. Nevertheless, it reinforces our claim to democracy, secularism and above all freedom of speech and expression, of course with its riders.

INTERVIEW – Supreme Court lawyer on Khushboo case

Pinky Anand, counsel for actress Khushboo in the Supreme Court, spoke to Reuters about the case and how the verdict would have a far-reaching impact.

Role of the media in Jessica Lall case

The Supreme Court has upheld the life term for Manu Sharma who was convicted for the 1999 murder of Jessica Lall.

A lawyer holds a book of criminal law as he waits to enter the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai April 16, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta/Files

The case became a cause celebre for the media, helping it grab eyeballs in a decade when private news channels mushroomed in the country.

It even inspired a novel by diplomat Vikas Swaroop, the author of the book on which the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” was based.

Justice no longer delayed: Moily’s roadmap for reform

If Law Minister Veerappa Moily has his way, horror stories of years, even decades, spent waiting for a court verdict may soon be a thing of the past.

In an interview to a national daily this week, Moily said his ministry is planning to set up 5,000 new courts in the next three years, each working in three shifts to clear a backlog of  27.4 million cases pending in trial courts.

The Moily ministry’s roadmap for judicial reforms sees court cases resolved in just a year. At present, some cases drag on for 15 years or more.

Should Indian judges be above the law?

India’s law minister on Tuesday was forced to defer the introduction of the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill because of strong protests from the opposition as well as his own party members.

For once, they raised their voices in unison against the provision that while judges are required to declare their assets before a designated authority, they are protected from public scrutiny and questioning.

A hotly contested section of the Bill says: “no judge shall be subjected to any inquiry or query in relation to the contents of the declaration by any person”.

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