The Hunger Index and the Second Richest
In September 2022, the Indian tycoon Gautam Adani who ascended the wealth rankings at lightning speed was declared the second richest person in the world. At the start of 2022, Adani was ranked 14 in the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. His ascension to the 2nd position was at such a fast pace that he took over Mukesh Ambani in February this year and outshined Bill Gates and France’s Bernard Arnault in the past two months. He is in a bid to swallow all small and big businesses of the land, has taken over prime airports, has stakes in big news agencies of the country, is eying all the major food businesses and has his eye on many overseas trade companies. All this happened while the country has been faring very poorly in the Global Hunger Index in recent years. In the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 2021, out of 116 countries, India has slipped to the 101st position. It was in the 94th position in 2020 and is now lagging behind its neighbours Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
As per the GHI India’s undernourishment parameter has deteriorated. According to OXFAM India, an NGO working for child development and empowerment of women, children born between 2015 and 2019 are more malnourished than the previous generation. A scheme called POSHAN (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment) was launched in 2017 to tackle the alarming situation of under-nourishment in children, pregnant women and lactating mothers but has languished due to poor implementation of the scheme. While India is flaunting having the second richest person in the world, the need of the hour is to take control over the growing undernourishment situation of the country.
Legal Desk Roundup of September 2022
New CJI brings flurry of activity
- The new Chief Justice of India, UU Lalit who is at the top job for a very short period of two months before he retires, has brought with him a flurry of activity, with many cases that had previously been unheard now being taken up and new constitutional benches being set up to take up important cases. Cases include the CAA appeals, UAPA bails and others.
Madrasa survey – modernization or impending crackdown?
- Madrasas have been subjects of both legal and political scrutiny from 2021 onwards, beginning with the Assam case where state funded madrasas were abolished and turned into schools. While the appeal against the judgement is pending in the Supreme Court, the situation has worsened further, with many madrasas being arbitrarily demolished in the state in the name of terror funding, with little proof.
- Now, with the UP government setting out on a madrasa survey of all unregistered madrasas, there is further anxiety due to the history of targeting of madrasas.
- While the question of modernization and standardization is justified, the obvious question remains – do only madrasas and minority institutions need these processes, while mainstream schools still reveal staggeringly poor standards? Should there not be equal treatment of all institutions that make up India’s education system rather than picking and choosing only those institutions that are run by minorities?
Hijab in the Supreme Court
- While the SC has thankfully turned down a plea seeking uniform dress code in schools across the country, the hijab case itself goes on in the highest court. While young students wait with uncertainty, the hijab case has thrown up many constitutional questions, and has almost certainly become a litmus test for the doctrine of religious freedom.
- A study carried out by PUCL Karnataka has revealed the consequences of the Karnataka HC hijab order, showing that many thousands of girls were forced to skip their exams or even drop out entirely, and that the order violated Right to Education without Discrimination, Right to Equality, Right to Dignity, Right to Privacy, Right to Expression, Right to Non-Discrimination and Freedom from Arbitrary State Action.
EWS case continues
What is the fundamental foundation of reservation and affirmative action? Is it to counter-act historical oppression and marginalization, or can it have an economic basis? The provision of EWS is being debated in the highest court, with legal scholars such as Prof Ravi Verma Kumar and Dr Mohan Gopal pointing out the legal flaws of the EWS provision. The case deals with the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, which provides for 10% reservation to the economically weaker sections (EWS), excluding Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The 8 lakh income ceiling is also up for hearing, with the suitability of the ceiling in question.
Teesta Setalvad gets bail
Teesta Setalvad, the social activist who has been a beacon of hope for many of the survivors of pogroms such as Gujarat 2002, and secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace was sent to jail earlier this year in June and recently got bail in the SC. The Gujarat Police accused her of fabricating documents to implicate government functionaries in Gujarat 2002.
Gyanvapi case, a Pandora’s box
In accepting to hear a suit filed by five women seeking permission to pray at Gyanvapi Masjid complex, a Pandora’s box has been opened further, which had been closed with difficulty – or perhaps not – in the aftermath of the Babri case and the Places of Worship Act 1991. There are multiple pleas against the validity of the Act as well, pointing towards a dangerous trend of creating commotion over settled matters of ownership of minority religious places.
Siddique Kappan gets bail, remains in jail
- Siddique Kappan, the journalist arrested on his way to Hathras in 2020, where a Dalit girl had been gang-raped and murdered, has finally managed to secure bail in the Supreme Court, which took a balanced approach to granting bail in a UAPA case. Usually, bail is denied citing Section 43D(5) of the UAPA if the court sees that the case is prima facie true. However, Justice Lalit asked how raising one’s voice for a victim could constitute to such a heinous crime.