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Policy&Politics

Karnataka HC Orders Rs 5 Lakhs Compensation To Man Wrongly Arrested

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It has to be stated right at the very outset that a Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Suraj Govindaraj of Karnataka High Court in an extremely laudable, landmark, learned and latest judgment titled Ningaraju N v. Official Liquidator Of M/S India Holiday (Pvt) Ltd in Company Application No. 96 of 2022 in Company Petition No. 26 of 2008 pronounced recently on July 7, 2022 has directed the State Government to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs to one Ningaraju N for wrongful arrest based on alleged confusion in his identity. It merits mentioning here that the Karnataka High Court has explicitly held that whenever warrant is issued, whether bailable or non-bailable, the arresting officer is required to ascertain the identity and be satisfied that the person proposed to be arrested is the same person as against whom the warrant has been issued. We thus see that the Karnataka High Court has made it indubitably clear by this learned judgment that when a person suffers because of being wrongly arrested then the State is certainly liable to pay a suitable compensation to him/her to compensate for the loss suffered by him/her as a consequence of such wrongful arrest! Very rightly so! It must be also mentioned here that this Company Application has been filed under Rules 6 and 9 of The Companies (Court) Rules 1959, with prayer being made to drop the proceedings.

At the outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by a Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Suraj Govindaraj of Karnataka High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This application has been filed for dropping the proceedings against Sri N.G.N. Raju S/o. Ningegowda on the ground that he is not the Ex-Director of the Company in liquidation as mentioned in CA.No.1382/2011. This Court in its earlier order dated 26.05.2022 dealt with the said issue and on verification it has been found that the applicant in C.A.No.96/2022 is not Raju N.G.N., who is the Ex-Director of the Company in liquidation.”

While taking potshots at the arbitrary and whimsical manner in which the arrest took place, the Bench then observes in para 2 that, “It is rather shocking that a person has been arrested without ascertaining whether he was the person who was required to be arrested and that the warrant had been issued against him. Though the arrestee had disputed that he was the person named in the warrant and the applicability of the warrant to him, his identification was not cross-checked and verified resulting an innocent person being arrested.”

Needless to say, the Bench then underscores in para 3 that, “The Right to Life and Liberty Guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is of paramount importance. By arresting a person whose arrest was not authorized there is a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

While expressing serious reservation over the shoddy manner in which arrest had been made, the Bench then notes in para 4 that, “The only reason why the applicant had been arrested is that the name of his father was similar to the name of the person named in the warrant. I’am unable to comprehend as to how the name of the father being similar or even identical would have any role to play in the arrest, extrapolating the same logic if the arrest warrant has been issued for one brother, another brother or maybe even the sister could be arrested, merely, because the father name is identical.”

To be sure, the Bench then observes in para 5 that, “What is of primary importance is the identity of the person who is to be arrested and not any other aspect like the name of the father, though the same may have a corroborative role.”

Without mincing any words whatsoever, the Bench then stipulates in para 6 that, “Whenever any warrant is issued bailable or non-bailable, it is but required for the arresting officer to ascertain the identity of the person proposed to be arrested and be satisfied that the person proposed to be arrested is the same person as against whom a warrant has been issued.”

Quite notably, the Bench then lays bare in para 7 mentioning that, “In the present case though the arrestee had categorically stated that he was not the person named in the warrant, the arresting officer has not verified the same instead the arrestee has been arrested and produced before this Court, thereby causing harm and injury not only to the liberty of the arrestee but also to the reputation of the arrestee which are in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then directed in para 8 that, “If Guidelines or Standard Operating Procedure are already issued to cater to this situation, training in this regard to be provided to all arresting officers.”

While adding more to it, the Bench then further directs in para 9 that, “If not issued the Director General of Police is directed to issue suitable Guidelines and/or Standard Operating Procedure as to what are the steps to be taken by the arresting officer before arresting a person including the verification of identity. The same to be issued within 4 weeks from the date of receipt of the copy of this order. Registrar (Judicial) is directed to forward a copy of this order to the Director General of Police, Government of Karnataka, immediately.”

Most notably, most laudably and also most remarkably, the Bench then minces just no words whatsoever in para 10 to explicitly, elegantly, eloquently and effectively hold that, “In the present case, the arrestee having been put to loss of liberty as also loss of reputation, I’am of the considered opinion that the State would be liable to compensate the arrestee for the same. The compensation is fixed at Rs.5,00,000/- (Rupees 5 Lakhs only), the said payment to be made within a period of eight weeks from today. The State is at liberty to recover the same from the Police Officers who had arrested the applicant.”

As a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 11 that, “In view thereof, C.A.No.96/2022 is required to be allowed and the same is allowed.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by directing in para 12 that, “Though the above matter is disposed, re-list on 1.9.2022 to report compliance with the above directions.”

No doubt, we thus see that the Single Judge Bench of Karnataka High Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Suraj Govindaraj has most commendably, cogently and convincingly ordered Rs 5 lakhs compensation to be paid to the person named Ningaraju N who was wrongly arrested due to the alleged confusion in his identity. It is high time and a statutory right to compensation must be enacted and if men in uniform are found to be indulging in maliciously framing any person due to which the person framed got wrongly incarcerated in jail for a number of years then those men in uniform must be not just dismissed from service but also be jailed and no bail should be given in such cases so that no men in uniform ever dares to take the personal liberty of any citizen of India for granted. If our country is able to ensure this for the benefit of citizens only then can we call ourselves free in the real sense!

There can be no gainsaying that the subject of “police” falls within the ambit of the State list under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution as enunciated in Article 246 of the Constitution. So it is definitely the job of the State government to ensure that the police in their respective State functions properly and if they fail in ensuring this then they are liable to pay compensation to the person aggrieved as we see the Karnataka High Court directing the State Government to pay so to the person named Ningaraju N who was wrongly arrested due to the alleged confusion in his identity. Of course, the State is at liberty to recover the amount from the men in uniform who were guilty of wrongly framing an innocent person and jailing him/her for no fault!

Unquestionably, it is high time and now a law must be enacted whereby it would be mandatory for the State Government to award a huge compensation of at least Rs 25 lakhs to any person who is wrongly incarcerated so that this growing tendency of wrongly framing an innocent person is checked to a large extent as early as possible. It cannot be glossed over that the United Nations had drafted and so also introduced the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1954 and after thoroughly going through each and every aspect on compensation, the ICCPR ultimately came into force on March 23, 1976. It must also be noted that India itself had ratified it and became a signatory to it on July 10, 1979. It also must be borne in mind that Article 9(5) and Article 14(6) of the ICCPR deal with a judicial remedy to victims of unlawful or wrongful arrest in the form of compensation.

It also cannot be glossed over that in August 2018, the Union Government had been submitted Report No. 277 on ‘Wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice) : Legal Remedies’ by the Law Commission of India. The report, among other things had suggested the formation of special courts to deal with claims of compensation within a specified timeframe. But we ought to remember in this context that asking a victim to approach a special court for compensation would be akin to engrossing them into another protracted round of legal battle which will only make them suffer further and waste money in hiring lawyers, attending court proceedings etc. This definitely has to be avoided so that the victim does not have to suffer interminably.

In a nutshell, we can thus very rightly infer from what we have discussed hereinabove that what must be done forthwith is to make mandatory awarding of prompt compensation to all those persons who have been wrongly incarcerated and those men/women in uniform who are found guilty of malicious conduct in framing innocents without any fault of theirs must be most strictly punished and not just suspended for a very short span of time for public consumption only and then again reinstated once the public anger subsides. This open sham as we see so many times must end once and for all so that those in uniform never dare to breach the personal liberty of any citizen of India! It also merits no reiteration that there must definitely be most exemplary punishment in such cases so that no men/women in uniform ever dares to take the fundamental right of any citizen of right to life and personal liberty as encapsulated in Article 21 of the Constitution for granted any longer! No denying it!

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Policy&Politics

Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals

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The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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Policy&Politics

India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability

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The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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Policy&Politics

India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border

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India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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Policy&Politics

ONLY 2-3% RECOVERED FROM $2-3 TN ANNUAL ILLEGAL TRADE THROUGH BANKING: INTERPOL

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Economic

Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital

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India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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