Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rights of people to criticize judiciary-Hon'ble Mr. Justice Markandey Katju

people have a right to criticize the judiciary as the people were supreme in a democracy, and all authorities including Judges were servants of the people

Six in ten brides have used dirty tricks to get engagement ring on their finger

 Six in ten brides have used dirty tricks to get engagement ring on their finger


Sixty per cent of married women have used underhand tactics in an effort to get engaged, a startling new survey has revealed.

Of the 3,600 brides polled, a third admitted to bullying their partner into proposing by threatening to leave him.

Seventeen per cent sent themselves flowers from a fake admirer, and 10 per cent deliberately get pregnant or falsely claimed to be expecting.

Researchers, who questioned women aged between 16 and 50 who had wed during the previous year, found that 60 per cent had used underhand tactics.

Eighteen per cent said they took matters into their own hands, by asking their partners to marry them.

Young women aged between 16 and 20 were found to be the worst offenders with 62 per cent resorting to dirty tricks. Of these, 32 per cent became, or pretended to be pregnant, to entice their boyfriends into engagement.

The survey, commissioned by UKTV channel Really to mark its 'Up The Aisle' season, revealed that nearly a third of women did not enjoy their wedding day as much as they thought they would, and a staggering 62 per cent of couples did not have sex on their wedding night.

Tiredness was cited as an excuse by nearly half of brides, while excessive drinking stopped 31 per cent of newlyweds from consummating their marriages.

Over a quarter of the women questioned said their one regret about their wedding day was their choice of groom.

Really channel head Clare Laycock said: 'Our findings highlight the sometimes shocking and bold lengths that some of us will go to in order to have our dream wedding.'

The poll also suggested that such underhand tactics may not lead to marital bliss with 26 per cent of all couples rowing on their honeymoon.

Money worries were cited by 29 per cent of brides as the cause of the first marital argument, while nine per cent blamed the groom's inappropriate wedding day behaviour.

Other triggers included issues over infidelity and the presence of an ex-partner to the wedding.

Four in ten women said they attached too much importance to the wedding itself rather than a happy start to married life with their partner, though nearly a third said the first day of their marriage was more enjoyable than the wedding ceremony and celebrations.

One in five women admitted that with hindsight, they would have scaled down their nuptials as they proved too stressful. The same number say they forgot to relax and enjoy the day because they were so stressed about arrangements.

Sexual harassment at workplace bill-GHRS, SIFF, CRISP seminar press conference-p7 news-22aug10

Sexual harassment at workplace bill-GHRS, SIFF, CRISP seminar press conference-p7 news-22aug10

(videos are in BLACK & WHITE )

PART 1/2




PART 2/2


Global norms on sexual harassment are necessary

Global norms on sexual harassment are necessary

Sunila Awasthi, partner, AZB & Partners

Sexual harassment policies at the workplace, usually relegated to the recesses of companies’ voluminous employment policies, if they exist at all, have come to the centre stage again with two recent embarrassing exits of senior CEOs of reputed multinational companies—Penguin and HP. While the two incidents occurred abroad, the occurrences should raise questions about whether Indian companies are equipped to deal with issues related with sexual harassment at the workplace.

The fact is that human resources departments in the industry have still to realise the importance of framing sexual harassment policies. In little more than a decade, the Indian workplace culture has changed dramatically as more and more women have entered, and continue to enter, the once male-dominant workplace.

In 1997 the Supreme Court of India handed down a landmark judgment which it said, in exercise of the powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, will be treated as the law of the land until the parliament enacts a statute to deal with sexual harassment at workplace. The Indian parliament, unfortunately, has yet to enact such a law. And unfortunately, in the absence of such a law, that Supreme Court judgment, in the case of Vishakha & Others vs State of Rajasthan, has hardly had any impact.

Any attention to issues relating to the work environment, including sexual harassment, has only been because of global best practices brought to India through the HR policies of Indian entities of large multinational companies. It is probably the first time that corporates have started explicitly declaring zero-tolerance for sexual harassment at the workplace in the company policy applicable to all employees.

Although the SC judgment of 1997 gave a wide definition of what constitutes sexual harassment at workplace, it isn’t difficult to assess what that is. An often ignored but interesting fact about such harassment is that when it occurs it does so because of the way people behave in the context of the larger societal culture. Identifying and specifying what is appropriate workplace behavior would make it easier for corporates and employees to stem inappropriate behaviour from the beginning. Indian corporates need to look at the issue from a socio-cultural perspective. A cultural shift has been the movement of an educated and skilled workforce from small towns and semi-urban areas to the metros due to rising work opportunities there.

The formal education system does not provide the requisite exposure to changes in lifestyle and behaviour that have occurred and continue to do so, due to increasing cosmopolitanism. For example, in interactions between men and women, what is ‘cool’ for someone brought up in an urban environment may be discomforting for a person not raised in such an atmosphere. Sometimes there is no recognition of the fact that comments about colleagues’ appearance and attire are inappropriate.

‘Couple of incidents of cruelty sufficient for divorce’ – Delhi HC

The Delhi high court has ruled that, a couple of incidents of cruelty by the spouse may be sufficient ground for divorce.

The High court has lined that while allowing the plea by a woman who has been living separately for 21 years.

The court observed that it is not necessary to narrate each incident of harassment to prove mental or physical cruelty to get divorce.

"Sometimes two or three incidents may be sufficient to prove the cruelty committed by the spouse. Many a time’s mental cruelty is more severe than physical cruelty.

"It is not necessary for the party to narrate each incident against the other spouse to constitute such conducts as cruelty," Justice Aruna Suresh said.

The High Court turned down the trial court's verdict disallowing the woman's plea on the ground that the allegations levelled by her were "quite general in nature".

The woman had sought divorce on the ground that her estranged husband had subjected her to mental and physical cruelty on several occasions while living together.

The High Court said "the matrimonial bond between the parties has been ruptured beyond repair because of mental and physical cruelty caused by the estranged husband".

The trial court was criticised for not appreciating the allegations by the woman.

"Trial Court did not properly appreciate the uncontroverted statement of the woman when it observed that the allegations of beatings, mental torture, pain and agony suffered by her were quite general, the appreciation of evidence by the Trial Court is not in the correct perspective on facts and circumstances of the case and evidence adduced on record," the court said.

It said there was enough evidence to indicate that to meet his demands for liquor, the accused physically and mentally tortured the woman.

"Even before this court, he made it clear that he would divorce her only after he was given half share in the house (which she had purchased)," the Judge said.

The court noted that behaviour of the husband towards the woman throughout the fifteen years of their living together has been unreasonable and torturous and his ill behaviour could be safely construed as grave.

"There is evidence to indicate that there was cessation of sexual intercourse, neglect of the woman and the family, his indifferent attitude towards the family and his assertion that she is unchaste, are factors which constitute mental or legal cruelty," the court said.

The couple had got married in 1974. The woman continued to stay with her husband till December 1989 in the hope that his behaviour might improve.

Social evils and the law!

Social evils and the law!

22 Aug, 2010

The Supreme Court’s diktat (?) to the government to take a re-look at the anti-dowry law - Section 498A of Indian Penal Code—on the grounds that it is increasingly being misused by women to lodge false complaints against husbands and their relatives brings to the fore the central dilemma in laws seeking to remedy social evils. How does one achieve the fine balance between meeting desired goals without going overboard so that legitimate rights are not trampled upon? In the context of laws against dowry, and more importantly dowry deaths, how can the state ensure that women who are ill-treated on account of un-fulfilled dowry demands receive the protection they deserve without going to the other extreme and risking its misuse so that innocent parties are denied due protection under the law.

Expressing concern over ‘a large number of complaints that are not bona fide’, the Court observed it is a ‘Herculean task’ to find out the truth in a majority of the complaints and urged the legislature to make suitable changes in the law after taking into account public opinion. Even if one were to take the Court’s statement about exaggerated complaints with a pinch of salt - remember the same apex court (but a different bench) had not long ago held that a husband and his relatives cannot be prosecuted for ‘cruelty’ towards the wife merely because the mother-in-law or other family members had kicked her – the fact is the laws, as they stand today, leave considerable scope for abuse.

The central question, therefore, is how does one reconcile the cardinal principle of our system of common law jurisprudence - ‘better that ten guilty escape than that one innocent suffer’ – without sacrificing the progress that has been made (thanks to such laws) in fighting a social evil like dowry?

To be sure, dowry deaths have not disappeared. On the contrary! According to data complied by the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,276 women committed suicide following dowry disputes in 2006. Even if this number is juxtaposed against increased reporting of such incidents, that’s an average of six dowry-deaths a day! A notorious statistic for a country that claims to be an emerging economic giant!

So while it would be naïve to dismiss the contribution made by Section 498 (A) (cruelty to a woman by her husband/his relatives) and Section 304 B (dowry death) of the Indian Penal Code, given the rampant misuse of the law it is time to do some serious thinking on the changes required to retain the essence of these laws while reducing the scope for their misuse.

Today, for instance, all that is required to attract section 304-B is that the woman’s death must have occurred within seven years of her marriage, in other-than-normal circumstances. Suicide due to harassment by in-laws for non fulfilment of dowry demands amounts to death under non-natural circumstances. It is not necessary to produce direct evidence.

HC accepts that Dowry Act is being misused

HC accepts that Dowry Act is being misused

22 Aug 2010

BANGALORE: The High Court has strongly condemned the investigating officers for blindly registering cases of dowry harassment, without looking into the provisions under section 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

While quashing the criminal proceedings initiated against the petitioners under 498A of IPC at the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate, Bangalore, Justice Subhash B Adi observed that the police had not taken into consideration section 498A of IPC to know whether the allegation amounted to cruelty, the court observed.

To prevent unscrupulous persons from misusing the law, a scrutiny of the complaint at the inception stage is advisable, the court told the investigating officers.

"Before proceeding with the criminal complaint, the investigating officer or the court must look into the allegation to find out whether it makes out a prima facie case to proceed.

"In most of the cases, the police use 498A of IPC more for harassment rather than it's real purpose. The police must use its authority to subserve the purpose for which the provision is made instead of misusing it," the HC told the investigating officers.

It is a common feeling that irrespective of the involvement or nexus to the alleged offence, even friends and distant relatives are implicated. This happens, because of non-application of mind by the police to the contents of the complaint and the offence alleged, which results in harassment of a person who is unconnected with the alleged offence.

Scrutiny of the complaint is necessary at least to know what offence is alleged. Particularly in the case of offence under section 498A of IPC and offence connected with matrimonial disputes, due care is necessary. In some cases, without even allegation, entire family, relatives and friends are made parties, the court observed.

PO Raju, Susamma, Joman Raju and Jolly Raju, all residents of Pathanamthitta in Kerala, filed a criminal petition challenging criminal proceedings initiated against them by Yelahanka New Town police station in a dowry harassment case filed by Raju's wife Jayashree.

Jayashree had alleged that her in-laws, residing in Kerala, threatened her not to come to Kerala after her husband had left the house in Bangalore.

She alleged that her in-laws instigated her husband to leave her company. Jayashree filed a complaint in jurisdictional police station against her in-laws. However, the petitioner's counsel stated that the allegations in the complaint did not constitute cruelty within the meaning of section 498A of IPC. The court upheld the contention and quashed the proceedings.

New laws for women needed

New laws for women needed

The actual distance between Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha may barely be 100 yards, but the Lok Sabha has failed to walk the talk to make 33% reservation for women in Parliament a reality. Despite the Congress being supported by the BJP and the Left on the issue, spin doctors of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) have vetoed further progress on the historic Women Reservation Bill which was passed by Rajya Sabha.
Brinda Karat, senior CPI-M leader and one of the most vocal supporters of the bill, says lack of political will scripts India’s failure to make one third of seats in Parliament reserved for women. “So far as women reservation in Parliament is concerned, we are behind even Pakistan and Afghanistan which provide such rights to women. Even Nepal under the new constitution has proposed one third reservation for women,” she says.
The reservation for women in Parliament may not necessarily end gender bias in India, but globally, there has been a conscious attempt to give more representation to women in the decision-making process. Only recently, Rwanda superseded Sweden to emerge as the nation with the highest women’s parliamentary representation — 56.3 per cent women against Sweden’s 47.3 per cent, according to Sweden-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). The IDEA data has further shown that women constitute merely 19 percent of the members of parliaments around the world, though the recent move of more nations joining the quota bandwagon has confirmed that the number is bound to rise in coming years. What’s more, major political parties in about 50 countries have voluntarily set out provisions for women reservation in their own statues.
Though such moves may bound to empower women, the scenario in India is far more complex. As NC Saxena, member of Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council argues, inheritance laws are quite gender biased. “The issues relating to land rights to women have still remained unresolved. In many states, laws on inheriting properties are gender bias. Further, we need to resolve the issue of women’s rights over forests too,” he says.
In India, tribal women in most cases are more empowered than their counterparts in the general category. Minister of state for rural development Agatha Sangma who incidentally is the youngest minister in 15th Lok Sabha, says that women from North-East India are more empowered. “Because of the matrilineal system prevailing in many parts of North East, some level of empowerment of women is witnessed. But there is a long way to go. Political empowerment will finally act as a catalyst for economic and social empowerment of women”, she says.
The gender bias, however, is not a mere Indian problem. It’s a universal menace which is being addressed by various countries. As Brinda Karat argues, India urgently needs a few legistations to empower women. “Though India is a signatory of the ILO convention on home-based work, it has not yet backed up its signature through required legislation. There are millions of people mostly women working in unorganised home-based sectors, who are not covered by any legislation”, she says.
Has Indian women political leadership ignored other vital gender issues while ardently following Women Reservation Bill? The answer is a loud “yeah”.

Even men aren’t safe from sexual harassment at workplace: Survey


Even men aren’t safe from sexual harassment at workplace: Survey

22 Aug, 2010, 12.25AM IST,ET Bureau

Bangalore is not just the Silicon Valley of India, it is also India’s shining star on the global business map, thanks to its infotech prowess. But did we know that behind the curtains, it is also a champion when it comes to sexual harassment cases at the workplace?

But so says an ET-Synovate survey conducted in seven cities to find out how India Inc was dealing with an issue, that has recently seen heads rolling at two top global firms in a span of a month. What’s surprising is that in the same city, half of who agreed that they have been sexually harassed at their workplace said they have been harassed by their female colleagues.

Only 32% said they were harassed by male colleagues at their workplaces. Again in the south, in Hyderabad, 29% of said they have been sexually harassed by their female bosses while 48% accused their male bosses.

The scene is different up north. In Delhi, the numbers are even, with 43% pointing a finger at their female colleagues and an equal number accusing their male colleagues of sexual harassment.

Be aware of what sexual harassment is and the related policies

Be aware of what sexual harassment is and the related policies

The Supreme Court’s Vishakha Judgement of 1997 is now seen as a landmark in legal guidelines for cases of sexual harassment at the workplace. This judgement was delivered after Bhanwari Devi a development worker in a Rajasthan state run programme tried to take a stand against child marriage and was gang raped by members of the Gujjar community for her interference. In response to a petition by women’s groups after this, the Supreme Court laid down that, “each incidence of sexual harassment of women at workplace results in violation of the fundamental rights gender equality and the right to life and liberty.

While highlighting the significance of the Vishakha Judgement, Delhi-based lawyer Aparna Bhat, points out that since there’s no law yet in India on sexual harassment at the workplace, the Supreme Court’s guidance provide the only guidelines on how such cases need to be dealt with. “However, though these guidelines are effective in dealing with cases of sexual harassment in the public sector and governmental organisations, in the case of the private sector a lot of grey areas remain. For private organizations having committees to look into cases on sexual harassment at the workplace is voluntary. Often there is lack of knowledge and awareness within the organization on such committees and policies even if they exist,” she says.

The lack of awareness on guidelines against sexual harassment at the workplace is a common complaint of women in various organizations—both private and public sector. “Organisations need to have a briefing session for new recruits - both male and female—on a code of conduct in the workplace. This will set the tone for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. There should be avenues for addressing complaints, checking on their veracity and for taking quick remedial action thereafter,” says Poornima Shenoy, president, India Semiconductor Association.

Besides a better legal framework, the need for women in senior positions to become champions for safety and security at the workplace is also necessary. “Legal provisions are necessary but not sufficient to address this issue. Until there are senior women in executive positions who can be role models and who are able to participate in defining recognition and resolution of such cases, women who are being harassed are unlikely to bring the cases to light,” says Gita Dang, founder director of HR consultancy Talent Advisory services.

With a larger number of women in India joining the workforce in different industry segments the definition of sexual harassment, too, is changing. The high-tech face of sexual harassment, for instance, is now having an impact on Indian offices. The women in the BPO industry have their own set of issues. In 2007, after a huge outcry from women’s organisations and the state women’s commission, the Karnataka government withdrew a controversial notification banning night shift for women employees. “The fact that sexual harassment is seen as a human rights violation is a positive step in the right direction.

It is also important that the employer is accountable for the safety of women at the workplace, following the Vishakha Judgement,” says Soma Sengupta, the founding director of Sanhita, an NGO that works as a resource centre on issues of sexual harassment of women at the workplace in eastern India. It also runs a helpline for women who are victims of such harassment. “We have women from all walks of life contacting us on the helpline with various kinds of problems. Such cases are on the increase these days,” Ms Sengupta adds.

Industry is waking up to the menace of sexual harassment

Industry is waking up to the menace of sexual harassment

22 Aug, 2010, 12.29AM IST, Anirvan Ghosh, Mahima Puri & Neha Dewan,ET Bureau

The recent expulsions of Penguin’s Canada chief executive David Davidar and Hewlett-Packard’s global CEO Mark Hurd brought to focus the grave issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. While globally, there is a definite mechanism followed to counter the menace, corporate policies in Indian companies are now slowly beginning to take shape.

Industry is reinforcing the need for clear and stringent policies to deal with sexual harassment cases. Some of them were the import of globalisation, with foreign companies bringing in the same workplace laws into India for their Indian employees, while some companies introduced them to tune HR policies

At softdrink maker PepsiCo’s India offices, a sexual harassment policy is in place for the last six years now. According to Pavan Bhatia, ED-HR, PepsiCo India, the policy is based as per Supreme Court’s guidelines on sexual harassment. There is also a committee for the issue consisting of 12 senior management executives at Pepsi, in case someone lodges a complaint. The committee appoints at least five members to duly investigate the matter and takes decisions accordingly. Those found guilty can also lose their job at the company. “There are various ways that one can register a complaint. Either one can directly write a mail to the CEO, HR head or the functional head and we also have a Women’s Council, through which one can approach the management,” he says.

Similarly, LG Electronics India has a permanent committee of three females members on sexual harassment. While one representative is from the senior management, the other two are from mid-to-junior levels of management. Every year, the company invites volunteers to join the committee but also adds that it has not faced a situation where their services could be used. At least 25% of the company’s managerial staff are women, while at the manufacturing side, of the 1,500 employees, about 15% are females.

Although Maruti Suzuki claims to have had no instance of sexual harassment in the company for the last 25 years, they have formulated a robust Sexual Harassment Policy which will be announced to the company employees in the coming days. “This policy will comprehensively cover all the aspects of workplace discipline and safeguard employee interests,” says S Y Siddiqui, Managing Executive Officer-Administration (HR, IT, Finance and Corporate) at Maruti Suzuki India.

But despite such punitive measures being taken, there still is a lot of hesitation among victims to bring such cases to the fore. Supreme Court Lawyer Pavan Duggal highlights some concerning statistics. “For every 500 instances of harassment, only 50 get reported and only one gets registered as an FIR. I get many cases a month on this issue, particularly sexual harassment at the workplace, and indeed the number of cases has risen appreciably.”

Duggal recalls a case where some obscene pictures of a female employee were recently posted across the office by none other than her superior. “She first complained to him, having no other recourse, but he himself was the perpetrator. He also kept track of her office mail to know who she was attracted to, and all her personal details. He had no right to do that, and faces three years in jail with a Rs 5 lakh fine. That is, if he gets convicted,” he adds.

Govt asks police to stop misuse of dowry law – Misuse of 498a and dowry prohibition act

Govt asks police to stop misuse of dowry law - Misuse of 498a and dowry prohibition act

Sunday, Aug 22, 2010, 0:56 IST

In a move that may provide some respite to harassed husbands (and their families) facing false dowry harassment charges, the central government has asked the states to prevent misuse of the Dowry Prohibition Act and section 498A (cruelty for dowry) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In a note addressed to the state chief secretaries, the government has asked the police and courts to handle matrimonial disputes and complaints of harassment for dowry with utter care and caution. In cases of matrimonial disputes, the first recourse should be to mediate between the warring spouses and their families. They can file charges under Section 498A of the IPC only where conciliation efforts have failed, and when there is a prima facie case under Section 498A and other laws.

The note also quoted a 2005 Delhi high court judgement by justice JD Kapoor (now retired) saying that these provisions have lead to a large number of divorce cases, as when one spouse is arrested and sent to jail without any immediate reprieve of bail, the chances of salvaging the relationship dwindles, and the marriage, for all practical purposes becomes dead.

“All state governments/UT administrations are requested to take effective steps…to put to rest the allegations of misuse of section 498A of IPC,” the letter issued by ministry of home affairs in consultation with women and child development ministry (WCD) said.

Minister of state for WCD, Krishna Tirath, said that such remedial measures were based on complaints received by the ministry on alleged misuse of the law.