Since the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament in December 2019, thousands of people around the country have taken to the streets to voice their concerns against its introduction. The same has been met with a ruthless crackdown by the State. Various states have either arrested the protestors or imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or used other coercive measures, thus ending in police brutality and custodial violence, as well as internet shutdowns. Through the sub-themes mentioned below, we aim to re-address the lacunae infesting the policy for maintaining law and order in India.
i. Employing Section 144 of CrPC rationally
Amid the chaos of the CAA-NRC protests, Section 144 of the CrPC has been used by several State governments to handle law and order situation. Interestingly, the government has employed Section 147 consistently during peace-time. In the case of Varanasi, Section 144 was imposed for 359 days in 2019. The imposition of Section 144 during every religious festival and VIP visits indicates that the provision has been mismanaged by the government. With this being the situation, it is questionable whether the provision allows too much power in the hands of the State. In light of this, authors are encouraged to comment on the various aspects of Section 144 or suggest potential reforms.
ii. Exploring Viable Solutions to Curb Police Brutality and Custodial Violence
Nation-wide protest against CAA and NRC have exposed the police’s heavy-handed approach towards the protestors. Several causalities throughout the nation are alleged to be due to the disproportionate and indiscriminate force applied by the police. In some states, reports indicate of custodial torture and ransacking of homes. Custodial deaths are on the rise as 427 people have lost their lives in police custody between 2016 and 2019 as opposed to 282 between 2013 and 2015. Accordingly, a survey indicates that 83% of the police personnel believe that violent approach towards criminals to extract confessions is good for society. The enactments governing the police are still based on the British polices and have poor accountability mechanisms. Recently, the Supreme Court called for police reforms pursuant to which the NITI Aayog presented its recommendations. In amid such deliberations, the police violence continues. Authors could discuss various facets of the problem of police brutality and custodial violence. Since the issue has already been documented profoundly in the literature, authors are encouraged to discuss under-covered issues that are related to police brutality and custodial violence in India.
iii. Internet Shutdowns
India has witnessed the highest number of internet shutdown across the globe. The number has increased drastically with the internet shutdowns across India during the CAA-NRC protests and in Kashmir, in particular. Despite its consequences on the economy, health care and general living of the public, the government is frequently resorting to shutdowns to maintain law and order. The approach of the government towards the shutdowns neither sits well with its obligations under Part III of the Constitution nor its treaty obligations under international law. The judicial approach towards the shutdown is positive but inadequate. Kerala High Court in Faheema Sharin v. the State of Kerala relied upon a UNGA Resolution to hold that ‘right to internet’ as a fundamental right. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that the internet acted as a medium to exercise one’s fundamental rights and formulated safeguards for ensuring transparency and accountability in the shutdown process. However, the Court did not hold ‘right to use the internet’ as a fundamental right. It also chose to not determine the constitutionality of the 158-day shutdown in Kashmir. With shutdowns, there is always an issue whether internet shutdown is a proportionate action taken by a government in the legitimate service of protecting “national security” or “public order”. In this light, we invite authors to comment on specific aspects of internet shutdowns in India.
iv. Countering the Rise of Encounter Killings
In India, the guise of encounter killings has been traditionally associated with national security offences, and in areas of active conflict. Nonetheless, such killings are increasingly becoming a regular feature in regular law enforcement operations. For example, according to government figures, UP Police has conducted over 3,000 encounters since 2017. In these, at least 103 people were killed. In case of UP, Supreme Court had the principle of self-defence as provided under the IPC (u/s 96-106), at times, has been misunderstood by the police, and thus, they go up to the extent of justifying extrajudicial killings in the name of self-defence. Both NHRC and the UN have expressed concerns over the situation. The Hyderabad encounter of December shows that valourisation of the encounters by the media, and, by the public (in case of the recent is another troubling aspect of this problem. Ultimately, there seems to be lack of a concerted effort on multiple fronts – legal, institutional as well as societal. Authors are encouraged to analyse the roots of this problem and suggest potential solutions including a suitable judicial approach and reformation of institutional setup in the administration.
v. Post-NRC Setup: Reforming the Foreigners Tribunal, Detention Centers and Related Issues
While the way NRC has been implemented in Assam has drawn severe criticism, the problems associated with the tribunal hearing the grievances are more alarming. The Foreigners Tribunal is said to be riddled with incompetent judges, flawed procedure and, consequently, suppressed fair-trial rights. Gauhati High Court’s approach towards the due process violations has also been surprisingly troublesome. In sum, executive as well judiciary have been accused of encouraging the tribunal to rule against the suspected immigrants. Another consequence of the NRC has been setting up detention centers. Countries that have previously set up detention centers for illegal immigrants have failed to prevent human rights abuses in centers. Although the guidelines floated by the Ministry of Home Affairs discuses human rights aspects, there seems to be no obligation or accountability for the protection of human rights in these centers. In this context, authors are encouraged to discuss either of these two post-NRC issues in their pieces. Authors could also go beyond these two issues and discuss anything else that is relevant to the sub-theme.
1. Submissions must adhere to our standard guidelines which can be accessed here.
2. Submissions will be judged on the following criteria: Originality of the idea, contribution towards to the literature on the issue, and the language employed. We prefer to publish under- covered or novel perspectives to the issue.
3. Since our blog posts are typically under 1500 words, authors are encouraged to write on a specific aspect of the sub-theme as opposed to a comprehensive approach. For instance, a post exclusively analysing the right to the internet in the context of India’s international obligations will be preferred over a post summarising the problem of internet shutdowns in India.
4. The above-mentioned sub-themes are indicative in nature and authors at liberty to write on any other issue that relates to the current ‘law and order’ problems in India.
5. Deadline for sending entries for the Symposium is March 15, 2020. In case of queries (related to sub-themes, submission procedure etc.), write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Note: Although this call is exclusively for the symposium articles, our regular submissions on rolling basis remain open.