1.Supreme Court (SC) has formed a committee on prison reforms headed by former SC judge, Justice Amitava Roy. Discuss the challenges of prisons in India and suggest some solutions. (GS Paper-1, Social Issues) (250 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Discuss challenges of prisons in India
· Suggest some measure to reform Indian prisons
Reference- Current Affairs
While marginal reforms have taken place, these have not been enough to ensure that prison conditions are in tune with human rights norms.
- There is a concern about growing numbers of prisoners and the woeful incapacity of governments to build more and larger prisons.
- The ratio between the prison staff and the prison population is approximately 1:7. In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.
- About 67% of total inmates were undertrials, which has further complicated the problem.
- The incarceration in any form is uncivilized, especially when it is so long drawn out and when the objective of criminal punishment should be one of reform rather than wreaking vengeance on a perpetrator of crime.
- For poor and marginalized, it is also difficult to get bail, which leaves them no option but to stay in jails and wait for courts final order.
- Prison structures in India are in dilapidated condition. Further, lack of space, poor ventilation, poor sanitation and hygiene make living conditions deplorable in Indian prisons.
- Another complaint against prisons is the brutality and venality of prison officials, again common across the world.
- Putting a ban on clubbing together juvenile offenders with the hardened criminals in prison and enacting a comprehensive and protective legislation for the security and protective care of delinquent juveniles.
- Segregation of mentally ill prisoners to a mental asylum.
- The conditions of prison should be improved by making adequate arrangements for food, clothing, sanitation and ventilation etc.
- Lodging of under trial in jails should be reduced to bare minimum and they should be kept separate from the convicted prisoners
There is a belief that improving prison conditions, there is likely to be an attendant impact on the incidence of crime. This accounts for the reluctance of many criminal justice administrators to employ or enlarge non-prison alternatives such as community service.
2.Article 110 of the Constitution of India states that the decision of the Speaker of Lok Sabha is final. Is Speaker’s certification of a Bill as Money Bill subject to judicial review? (GS Paper-2, Polity) (250 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Introduce with Article 110.
· Present situation on the matter
· Recent controversy and answering the “unquestionable finality” part.
· Way forward
Reference– Laxmikanth/ Current Affairs
Article 110 of the Constitution of India deals with the provisions related to the Money Bill. Article 110(3) empowers the Speaker of Lok Sabha to certify whether a bill is a Money Bill or not. His/her decision shall be final in this regard and it is also immune from judicial review.
- The Supreme Court in the past refused to review the power of Speaker under Article 110(3) of Indian Constitution as seen in Saeed Siddiqui vs. State of UP (2014) case. The Supreme Court has cited that Articles 122 (for the Parliament) and 212 (for state legislatures) prohibit courts from inquiring into proceedings of the Parliament and examining their validity.
- A PIL Jairam Ramesh vs. Union of India in the Supreme Court has again questioned the Lok Sabha Speaker’s authority under Article 110(3) of the Indian Constitution of declaring Aadhar Bill as Money Bill. The Supreme Court justified the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill in Parliament, but noted that the decision of the Speaker to classify a bill as money bill is amenable to judicial review.
- Indian Constitution does not explicitly bar judicial review on the Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision. The Supreme Court has on multiple occasions’ exercised judicial review over other decisions of the Speaker of Lok Sabha. For instance, in Kihoto Hollohan vs. Zachillhu case, the “final” decision of the Speaker regarding disqualification of members of the House under Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, has been held to be subject to judicial review.
Therefore, similar norms must also be applied on crucial issues such as Money Bill. Also, a separate parliamentary committee may be constituted with members from both the Houses of Parliament to determine whether a bill is Money Bill or not.
This provision under Article 110(3) of the Indian Constitution opens up a wide scope of misuse of power at the hands of the Speaker, which is against the functioning of a healthy democracy. Guiding principle of Indian law is Constitutional supremacy, not parliamentary supremacy. Moreover, checks and balances are important in the functioning of our democracy, especially in cases related to Money Bill, where Rajya Sabha does not have much role to play.
3.The Cultural significance of forests is to be very well understood in order to manage the forest areas of India. (GS Paper-3, Environment) (250 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Then discuss the cultural significance of forest with examples
Forests play a vital role in the life and culture of people around the world. The reverence and adoration of trees has a strong psychological and social foundation in most human cultures. The variety of cultural values and symbolic functions ascribed to forests are as numerous and diverse as the communities and cultures. Forests feature in all aspects of culture: language, history, art, religion, medicine, politics and even social structure.
Forests have been strongly interwoven with the cultural ethos of human civilizations. Even in today’s modern materialistic society, signs of such cultural bonds persist.
Forests have great spiritual significance for several communities. In a series of writings, Indian sages by living in forests contributed to development at vast treasure of knowledge. ‘Aranyakas’ are the part of Sanskrit literature describing wisdom and relations with forests.
In sacred groves are manifested a range of traditions and cultural values of forest throughout the world. Sacred groves are specific forest sites imbued with powers beyond those of human. They are often sites of ancestral burial where people can communicate with their ancestors. Trees within these groves are considered as sacred, housing spirits and providing links to ancestors.
In some areas sacred groves are the only intact forests remaining. Although many cultural traditions are disappearing with rapidly changing social and physical environment, sacred groves often remain as valued elements of cultural heritage. The groves are also often the site of ritual healings and location where villagers find particular plant medicine.
Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Forest Management
Millions of people live in or near forests and obtain part or all of their livelihood and food from forests. Forest is key to non-farm employment for the forest fringe communities. Over the years they have used harvesting methods that are ecologically benign which have ensured their sustenance and survival.
Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Medicine
Traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant and animal based medium, spiritual therapies and combination to diagnose, treat and prevent illnesses or maintain well being. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, it is estimated that over 70 percent of the population use traditional medicine to meet their primary health care needs.
The above discussion on the significance of forests makes it amply clear that the incessant depletion of our forest resources would have serious economic, ecological as well as cultural consequences. But dominance of economic mindset over sides the other aspects. Exploitation of forests for economic gain poses many problems, especially when other important values are ignored.
4.Discuss the role of religion in development of moral system. Apart from religion, what could be the basis of such a system? Explain. (GS Paper-4, Ethics) (250 words)
Structure of the Answer
· Briefly discuss role of religion in morality
· Explain why religion alone is not sufficient for moral system
· Other factors that develop such system
· Give examples to illustrate
Reference: Lexicon’s Ethics
Moral system is influenced by variety of factors like religion, family values, socialization process, peer group, schooling, society, customs, norms and so on. Religion is one of the important factors which influence moral system.
Religion is deeply embedded in society and has become a way of life. Attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviour of individuals are mostly influenced by religion. Thus, a moral system and religion are related to each other. But everything religious is not moral. Religion can be a source of morality.
So, for an autonomous and secular moral system to be built, we need to take into considerations other factors including religion. Kant’s deontological ethics is the best example, where human reason is the sole determinant of moral principles and duty is performed, not for the sake of heaven or to avoid hell, but for the sake of duty alone.
Moreover, religion can either be theistic or atheistic. Religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism and some Hindu traditions like Samkhya are atheistic, they propound a way of life which is essentially moral. Their tenets are embedded in human reason and positive human emotions like love, compassion and forgiveness.
By proclaiming ‘truth is God’, Gandhi suggests that ‘truth’ is the most cardinal value of life and prescribes satyagraha as a secular way of life. Hence, a life of earnestness, commitment and resolve can be characterized as moral as well as religious.
Again, since ancient times, God has been regarded as the fountainhead of all human values- moral, social and political. However, with persistent deliberations and scientific temper, humanity has come a long way, we have transcended the era of blind adherence to religious tenets.
Thus, as a critical moral aspirant, one shall seek justification and shall consider human reason and profound emotions- love, compassion and forgiveness, as the fountainhead of all human values.
Our Constitutional ideals are the embodiments of such a progressive world-view, whether one is a theist or an atheist, justice, equality and liberty can be equally and intrinsically sacrosanct for each one of us.
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