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HP High Court’s gift to daughters of freedom fighters on Independence Day

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HP High Court on Wards of Freedom Fighters in Himachal PRadesh

Shimla: The State High Court of Himachal Pradesh on August 14, 2018, struck down a 1984 policy of the State, which discriminated against the married women. The policy did not consider the married women at par with the married sons and specifically excluded them from reservation being provided to “wards of freedom fighters” category in Govt. Jobs in the state of H.P.

The occasion is apt to echo the four decade old illuminating words of one of the greatest Judges of our Apex Court, Hon’ble J. Krishna Iyer where he said:

If a married man has a right, a married woman, other thing being equal, stands on no worse footing. This misogynous posture is a hangover of the masculine culture of manacling the weaker sex forgetting how our struggle for national freedom was also a battle against woman’s thraldom.

In the year 1984, it was decided by the state of H.P that 2% reservation in services be provided to the children/grandchildren of freedom fighters belonging to the State of H.P. in direct recruitment to all services/posts i.e. Class-I to IV including all Public Sector Undertakings/ Boards/Corporations. As per Scheme, the benefit of the reservation was applicable in respect of sons/grandsons, daughters/ granddaughters of Freedom Fighters. The married daughters/ granddaughters of Freedom Fighters were excluded from the scheme.

The issue of this exclusion was taken up and judicially reviewed by the bench of Hon’ble J.Sanjay Karol and J. Sandeep Sharma on a petition by Letter petitioners Ms Rekha Sharma and Ms Geeta Sharma, daughters of late Shri Het Ram Sharma (a Freedom Fighter).

The court appointed Advocate Deven Khanna as Amicus Curie who made submissions on behalf of the married daughters of freedom fighters (petitioners).

The stand of the state as reflected from the affidavit filed in 2017 was that;

So far as the question regarding giving reservation quota to the married Daughters/ granddaughters of Freedom Fighters is concerned, it is submitted that status of a married woman has to be construed in consonance with the general understanding of the word family as well as a status of married woman in the society. After marriage, a married woman loses the status of being a member of the parent’s family.

On an Affidavit dated October 10, 2017, filed by the Deputy Secretary (GAD) in the Court it was stated:

According to common knowledge and general understanding, the married daughter does not constitute to be a part of the family in its real sense. A daughter of a freedom fighter after her marriage, gets herself transplanted into the family of her husband and cannot, therefore, be claimed to be a part of the family in its real sense of the freedom fighter her father at least for anything relating to her children.

The State effectually took a stand that after solemnization of marriage; daughter severs her relationship with her parental family, for she gets “transplanted” into the family of her husband, and as such, cannot claim herself to be part of family of a Freedom Fighter.

It was argued on behalf of Married daughters (petitioners) that exclusion of a married daughter is plainly an act of hostile discrimination which is violative of the fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The condition which has been imposed by the State does not prescribe financial dependence and does not exclude married men.

It was argued that the contrary the purpose here is to give benefit to the family of freedom fighter for their services, family here includes married daughter as much as married son,if we look at the classification made by the state between a married man and married daughter, it does not bear any connection with the object of the policy which seeks the benefit of the family members, hence this violates the basic rights.

It was stated that Discrimination law now sees as its focus the redressal of structural and institutional conditions, that have been historically responsible for subordination on the basis of gender roles. Gender roles here being married daughter considered dependent on her husbands family and losing her identity as it was prior to marriage.

It was further submitted by the amicus that discriminatory treatment, in this case, causes substantive disadvantage to women on grounds of their sex in public employment which is violative of article 16.

It was stated by the amicus:

It is the duty of the State to “not perform” an act which would discriminate on grounds of sex., there is also a positive obligation on the State to perform an act which would remove such existent discriminations.

The Court discussed a Plethora of judgments which had carved out a landscape of principles against gender discrimination in recent years.

Finally, the court struck down the policy to the extent it discriminates against married women and was contrary to the constitution.

The Court speaking through Hon’ble J. Karol came down heavily on the line of defence adopted by the state while striking down the unconstitutional part of the policy, the court held:

“******We find the stand adopted by the State to be absolutely archaic and disappointing..
::…..We notice that, under the instant Policy, the object and purpose of providing reservation is to confer the benefit upon the wards of the Freedom Fighters. Stand taken by the State that daughter gets transplanted into the family of her husband, in view of what the Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed, noticed by us supra, is not in tune with the changing times. The primary object and purpose of the Policy is not to confer benefits only on the male members of the Freedom Fighters. It is to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the Freedom Fighters, by giving employment to their wards.

….The primary object to provide employment to wards of freedom fighters is to recognize the outstanding services rendered by them to the Nation during the struggle for Independence and thus their wards are given benefit towards employment by making reservation to them under the category of “Wards of Freedom Fighters”. In our considered view, Daughters and Granddaughters, even if married, would be eligible for public employment.

…The action of the respondents by not giving reservation to married women and not allotting them Wards of Freedom Fighter Certificate, is illegal and arbitrary and an example of colorable exercise of power, for marriage does not have and should not have a proximate nexus with identity. The identity of a woman, as a woman continues to subsist even after and notwithstanding her marital relationship.

The time has, therefore, come for the Court to affirmatively emphasise that it is not open to the State, if it has to act in conformity with the fundamental principles of equality which are embodied in Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution, to discriminate against married daughters by depriving them of the benefit of the reservation, which is made available to a son irrespective of his marital status.”*******(excerpt is from the judgement in CWPIL 114 of 2018)

The Court also took note of the fact that the policy was an old policy, passed before the guarantees of sex equality under Articles 14 and 15 had an adequate expansion through various judgements of the apex court. The Court also referred to conflicting opinions passed by its previous benches.

The present case strengthens the fight for equality and strikes at the Differential treatment of men and women on the basis of presumed “gender roles” between the sexes, it exposes that discrimination results from conscious, chauvinistic Mindset and sometimes a product of social, economic, and cultural structures and institutions that create “patterns of exclusion”.

This significantly advances Indian sex discrimination jurisprudence, not only because of what the Court held i.e “that the policy discriminates against married women”, but also because how it was expressed, Justice Karol commenting on the stand of the state observed:

It is certainly not in tune with the changing times. In fact, it is out of sync with the constitutional values and principles. The predominant mindset of male chauvinism is all-pervading.

The language here is highlighting the impact of discrimination, because such practices end up reproducing existing social inequalities and hierarchies, and are the cause of stereotyping a particular gender into set roles. The need is to change the mindset and spread the constitutional morality of equality and freedom, to counter the chauvinism prevalent in the society at large and to provide a level playing field for all to prosper.

The case is a victory for women rights movement and an example of the justice system coming to the rescue of fundamental rights, against, biased and prejudicial laws which have a legacy of discrimination and are nursed by misogynistic mindsets of our society.

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Farmers Welcome SC Order to Stay Implementation of Farm Laws But Suspicious About Formation of Committee

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stay on farm laws

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of three contentious farm laws passed by the Centre Government, which has led to huge protest from hundreds of farmer groups. The stay implies that the Centre Government can’t take any executive actions based on these laws till further order. 

“The implementation of the three farm laws (1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; (2) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and (3) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, shall stand stayed until further orders,”

said the order passed by a panel headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A Bobde on Tuesday.

Further, the MSP system would continue as it was before the enactment of the laws.

“As a consequence, the Minimum Support Price System in existence before the enactment of the Farm Laws shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected, i.e., no farmer shall be dispossessed or deprived of his title as a result of any action taken under the Farm Laws,”

the order said.

With this order, the SC hoped to end the ongoing impasse over the contentious farm laws.

The farmers who have been protesting for over the last 45 days, welcomed the SC’s order.

However, at the same time, the Apex Court ordered the formation of a committee to listen to both sides and make recommendations to the court. The committee, which would comprise of Agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, Bhupinder Singh Mann, Dr Prmod Kumar Joshi, former director of National Academy of Agricultural Research Management), and Anil Ghanwat from Shetkari Sangathan, was asked to submit its report in the court within two months.

The CJI, in its order, speaking about the purpose of this “extraordinary” order, said,

“While we may not stifle a peaceful protest, we think that this extraordinary order of stay of implementation of the farm laws will be perceived as an achievement of the purpose of such protest at least for the present and will encourage the farmers’ bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.”

Though a stay on the implementation of laws was welcomed by protesting farmers, several unions said that they would not accept this committee and the protest will continue. They said the Government is trying to form this committee through the Supreme Court. This committee, they said, included persons who have already been justifying the farm laws. They said the purpose of this committee is nothing more than creating a diversion. The protest would be armed up and only a repeal of laws would be accepted, the unions said. 

At the same time, the SC was undeterred with these statements and said there is nothing that can stop it from forming a committee. The SC asked the farmers to cooperate with the committee.

On the other hand, the Government was more concerned about that other political parties would think of the stay as a “political victory”.

Further, the Government has also expressed apprehension about security breach due to the tractor rally planned by protesting farmers on the Republic Day.

K.K. Venugopal, Attorney General, told the court that there are reports that the farmers’ bodies may take out a tractor rally on January 26, 2021, disrupting the Republic Day Parade and celebrations However, the same was stoutly denied by Dushyant Dave, learned senior counsel appearing for a few of the farmers’ bodies on the ground that at least one member of the family of each of the farmers from Punjab is in the Army and that they would not disrupt the Republic Day celebrations.

The Court, in its order, said that several rounds of talked between farmers and the Government have failed and there was no solution in sight.

“The situation on ground is: (i) that senior citizens, women and children are at site, exposing themselves to serious health hazards posed by cold and covid; (ii) that a few deaths have taken place, though not out of any violence, but either out of illness or by way of suicide,”

the order said.

The court also lauded the farmers for carrying on the agitation peacefully without any unwanted incident.

Further, the Court orders also mentioned separate petitions filed by individuals/residents of the NCR complaining of blockade of roads/highways leading to Delhi and terming it an infringement of the fundamental rights of other citizens to move freely and to carry out trade and business.

Stay on 3 Farm Laws and Formation of Committee: Read Full Order of Supreme Court

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Inflation, Increased Cost of Food Items, Ration, Crumbling Health Infrastructure, and 100 Gram Sugar: Govt’s Diwali Gift to People

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hp govt's gift on diwali 2020

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh Government has collected over Rs. 86 crores in the name of the COVID-19 relief fund, but only Rs 25 crore was spent. It was stated by Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a senior CPI (M) leader. It’s a shocker considering negligible relief measures and the state of health infrastructure crumbling amid a pandemic. The unpreparedness of the state government to deal with community spread of coronavirus is coming to light as its COVID-19 hospitals have begun to run out of beds in isolation wards. Two major medical facilities -Indira Gandhi Medical College & Hospital and DDU Hospital in Shimla- are packed to their full capacity. 

What’s not shocking is that Chief Minister did hail the Prime Minister, exactly as he was told, claiming that the nation is out of COVID-19 crisis. It suggests that the Chief Minister is little aware of the surge in cases and over 400 COVID-19 deaths, of which 93 were reported during the last 12 days of November month. Yesterday, the state has reported over 700 cases with six deaths, which is alarming.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves all praise for his dynamic leadership as he is successfully steering the Country amid all troubles and difficulties. He has successfully brought the Nation out of Covid-19 crisis,” 

said Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, while addressing a public meeting at Sihunta under Bhatiyat Assembly Constituency on Wednesday. 

Talking about the real situation and relief measures, the state Government became a laughingstock and was being trolled on social media after it announced 100 gram sugar and 500-gram rice per person to all ration cardholders as a Diwali gift. If that was not enough, according to a media report, this quota has still not reached the depots. There is a possibility that it would reach the cardholders only after Diwali.

The reason behind this backlash is not only that 100-gram sugar is too trivial to be called a gift or relief, especially amid a pandemic when common people, especially those falling in middle and lower-income groups, are faced with unemployment and economic crisis.

While the people were hoping for relief from their elected government, inflation was on the rise. Currently, prices of food items including vegetables and other essential commodities have also witnessed a huge increase. Further, cut in subsidy on electricity, hike in bus fare, increase in property tax, rise in diesel and petrol prices etc. have put additional burden on the commoners. 

Then there were other issues like relaxation in garbage collection fee for the period of lockdown. Sadly, the public did not get any relief even in garbage bills despite staging protests. 

Meanwhile, Ministers made news for spending tax money on buying luxury vehicles and VIP numbers. 

Oppositions, Congress and CPI (M) have also targeted the government over its failure to provide any considerable relief to the people when it’s most needed. As per oppositions, the current government has no control over the market or inflation.

Chauhan also raised the issue of thousands of vacant posts of doctors, para-medical staff, nurses etc. at medical facilities across the state. He said that of the total 1000 posts of lab technicians, 700 were still vacant. He said that the government did not prepare for a community spread despite having a time of eight months during the lockdowns. It was due to this lackadaisical attitude of the government that currently IGMC and DDU hospitals have run out of space in isolation wards, he said.

He also said that, in an all-party meeting convened on March 21, CPI(M) had given the government 12 recommendations to effectively deal with the situation. The party had suggested that thousands of vacant posts should be filled at the earliest, all government buildings construction of which were completed should be prepared to accommodate COVID-19 patients. Similarly, at least four blocks of the under-construction building of IGMC should also be equipped with facilities to accommodate patients, the party had suggested. 

On November 8, 2020, the state unit of Mahila Congress staged a protest over a huge increase in prices of food items. They wore garlands of potatoes and onions and marched from the party headquarter to the Office of Deputy Commissioner, Shimla. Women alleged that the people have received no relief despite such a huge crisis. Instead, the current government is encouraging hoarding of essentials.

The opposition also said that the government has increased the rate of cereals provided through the public distribution system. This increase is Rs 5 for cereals and Rs. 9 for mustard oil. Vegetable prices have gone beyond Rs 50 during the festival season. It also said that the registration fees of vehicles have also been increased.

Sanjay Chauhan is of the view that to provide relief, the government should deposit at least Rs 7500 in the accounts of consumers and provide them with 10 kg ration per person for free.

He also said that recently the government has hiked the charges for electricity and installation of meters. The government has now withdrawn its notification restricting schools to charge only tuition fee and allowed them to charge full fees, including those pending for the period of lockdown, he said. This decision has come as a huge financial burden for parents and is causing mental harassment. 

The policies of the current government are only benefiting corporates, while other sections like labourers/daily wagers, small scale industries and businesses, shopkeepers, farmers are faced with financial crisis and unemployment due to lockdowns imposed in view of corona pandemic, Chauhan said. 

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Exam Fees in Govt Schools Hiked Amid Pandemic, Private Schools Allowed to Charge Full Fees Relaxed During Lockdowns

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himachal pradesh - private school fees during lockdowns

Shimla-Amid the pandemic and economic slowdown, the public had hoped for relief from the government; unfortunately, they are only receiving more financial burdens in form of hikes in bus fares, cut in electricity subsidy etc. Now, the Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education (HPBOSE) has decided to implement hike in examination fees on the students of government schools.

A student of class 10 will now pay Rs 600 as examination fee instead of the previous Rs 500. For the students of class 12, this fee has been hiked to Rs 850. Read complete notification below:

Another bad news for parents came after the government, citing orders of the State High Court, allowed private schools to charge all fees which were deferred during the lockdowns. Moreover, in its previous notification, the Directorate of Higher Education had only mentioned deferring the fee, and not waiving it of. This decision has led to distress among parents because pending fees of some of the schools would go in lakhs.

Also Read: Himachal: Private Schools Only Asked to Defer Fees During Lockdown, Not to Waive Off, Thanks to Helpless Edu Minister

Private schools are not funded by the government and they depend entirely on fees to meet their expenditures, the government said.  The state government had directed the schools to not cut salaries of teachers or fire them during lockdowns. However, despite the pandemic, the state government did not consider compensating these institutes. Similarly, bus fares were also hiked instead of compensating transporters.

Earlier, the state government had yielded to the pressure from parents to relax all fees except tuition fees as the educational institutes were closed and no facilities were availed by the students.

Further, it’s pertinent to mention that the Ministers of the state government are making headlines for allegedly wasting money on buying luxuries with the public tax money. Recently, Education Minister Govind Singh Thakur remained in news for buying a luxury vehicle amid pandemic even though he already had a Fortuner. Prior to that, the IPH Department has been in news for buying not only an SUV for a XEN but also purchasing a VIP number for Rs. 1 lakh.

At the same time, huge wastage of money was seen during the commissioning of the Rohtang Tunnel on publicity to claim the credit. Large hoardings with the faces of CM Jairam Thakur and PM Narender Modi can still be seen throughout the state publicizing commissioning of the Tunnel. Money was spent on installing LEDs across the state to live telecast the event. There is distress among the people over the debate that, amid pandemic, this money could have been used to provide the public with some relief, but instead, the government seems to be insensitive enough to put personal interest first.

Earlier, the government had hiked vehicle registration fee and cut electricity subsidy to generate resources. The vehicle registration fee was increased to 7-10% of the existing 2.5-4% in June.

Feature Photo: [email protected]

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