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Bail or Jail; High Court of Tripura Grapples With Drug Menace

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Chief Justice of Tripura High Court Sanjay Karol

Tripura –Tripura, a small 10,039 sq km state, is encircled on three sides by Bangladesh and is three hours by train from its capital Dhaka and main port city Chittagong. An increase in drug/substance abuse has been noted in this small state. It is seen that hard drugs are being smuggled into the state from Bangladesh and Burma. Indian made cough syrup is peddled in Bangladesh while the Burmese Ya ba tablets come to Tripura.

Ya ba is an amphetamine, and the tablets are mostly manufactured in Myanmar. Ya ba tablets typically are consumed orally. Users also heat tablets and inhale the vapours (also called ‘chasing the dragon’). These hard drugs are lethal and addictive. Drug mafia/dealers are equipped with hard drugs, other contraband and are connected to their counterparts in the neighboring countries.

Recently the High Court of Tripura in “Haricharan Versus State of Tripura”, while grappling with this serious problem of drug abuse in the State, passed an important order in a case allegedly involving drug mafia, dealing in huge commercial quantities of contraband. The Court took a serious view of the failure of ‘the investigating agencies’ and also of the ‘lower judiciary’ of the State for disregarding the settled law w.r.t bails. The order gives elaborate interpretation and explanation of the sections of the criminal procedure code and of the NDPS Act 1985.  The order further explains the concept of default bail and when the default bail principles, can and cannot, be invoked.

Facts

On 29th September 2018, based on a piece of secret information, police conducted search and seizure operations and from the dwelling house of accused recovered commercial quantities i.e 289 Kgs. of dry ganja, concealed in different drums.

Further investigation revealed that arrested persons were carrying on the illegal activity of the commercial sale of the contraband substance in an organized manner and operations had been going on for over a considerable period of time.

Under instructions from the DGP, a statement with regard to the status of the cases under the provision of the NDPS Act and release of the accused persons (of 2018) was called for and furnished to the Hon’ble Court.

The police told the Hon’ble Court in a statement that a total of 433 cases were registered in 2018 and cases were pending beyond 90 days in 278 of them. A total of 65,364 kilograms of cannabis, 3096 grams of heroin and 1, 88, 099 bottles of cough syrup were seized, the police added.

After going through this report, Hon’ble J. Karol speaking for the court, was shocked and expressed his concern:

“A shocking state of affairs with regard to the manner in which investigation is being carried out by the agencies. Also, it reveals that out of 660 persons arrested in connection with the crime relating to psychotropic substance, 435 persons stand enlarged on bail.

“What are the reasons for grant of bail; is it what is commonly termed as a default bail; is it that the Public Prosecutor conceded to the grant of bail; is it that the Public Prosecutors did not oppose the same; is it that the Courts have passed the orders without following the settled principles of law; or is it that innocent stand falsely implicated. If so, then why no action, in accordance with the law, stands taken against the erring persons by the authorities.”

The Court noted that prevalent situation, was extremely alarming, with regard to production, trafficking and use of contraband substance within the State of Tripura. The Court lamented that even after the alarming state of affairs, day in and day out the question of grant of bail under the provisions of the Act was arising for consideration and that too, despite the law being fully settled.

The lower Courts in the state while dealing with the bail applications were passing orders dehors to the settled principles of law. Specifically, Section 37 of the Act, which imposes a restriction on the right of the accused to seek bail was not being correctly interpreted and applied.

The Court also observed that,

“What is shocking is that in none of the orders, be it a grant of ad-interim bail or extension thereof, did the Court ever consider the factors relevant for grant of bail as envisaged under the Act. It does not even refer to the provisions of Section 37 of the Act, much less record its satisfaction with regard thereto. In fact, even the basic ingredients for deciding the application of bail, any which way, were referred to or discussed. In a most cryptic and unseasoned manner, orders rejecting/granting bail stands passed or extended from time to time.”

Can an illness of a mother or a child in a case of this nature, alone, be a ground for grant of bail? Certainly not.

Hon’ble J. Karol went on painstakingly to elaborate on different principles of law that got attracted in the case, for example, the Court stated:

“Liberty is a greatly cherished value in the life of an individual, however, it is a controlled and restricted one and no element in the society can act in a manner by consequence of which the life or liberty of others is jeopardized, for the rational collective does not countenance an anti-social or anti-collective act.”

It is also to be kept in mind that individual liberty cannot be accentuated to such an extent or elevated to such a high pedestal which would bring in anarchy or disorder in the society. The prospect of greater justice requires that law and order should prevail in a civilized milieu. Liberty is to be secured through process of law, which is administered keeping in mind the interests of the accused, the near and dear of the victim who feel helpless and believe that there is no justice in the world as also the collective interest of the community so that parties do not lose faith in the institution and indulge in private retribution.

The Hon’ble Justice further held:

“The amplitude of the power of the Constitutional Court be it under the Constitution or the statute (Cr.P.C) is wide enough to correct any illegality, either on the asking of the State or on its own motion. Even the Court cannot be unmindful of the fact that such power is being exercised in a case where allegedly the accused is involved in dealing with a huge quantity of contraband substance. Under all circumstances, the Court has to strike a balance vis-a-vis the liberty of an individual and the societal rights.”

The Court also gave a difference between default bail and the provisions under Sec. 37. of the Act. In Special cases, covered by section 37 which deals with instances of huge commercial quantities or bringing drugs in the country from foreign jurisdictions, etc, the principle is:

“Negation of bail is rule and its grant an exception”.

It is settled law, as laid down by the Apex court, that when bail has to be granted in cases where the offense have happened under section 37 of the NDPS Act 1985 then the Court must, on the basis of the record produced before it, be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that;

  1. The accused is not guilty of the offenses with which he is charged and
  2. That he is not likely to commit any offense while on bail.

At the time of considering an application for bail, the Court must take into account certain factors such as

  • The existence of a prima facie case against the accused,
  • The gravity of the allegations, position, and status of the accused,
  • The likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice and repeating the offense.
  • The possibility of tampering with the witnesses and obstructing the Courts
  • The criminal antecedents of the accused.

After going through various Apex court decisions with respect to the law regarding Bails, Menace of Drugs, Non-Compliance of Mandatory Provisions of The Act, , Principles of Liberty and also after noting the failures of the investigating agencies and of the Courts below, which had granted bail to the accused on the ground that “his mother was ailing and that he has a young daughter”, the Court ultimately found that the orders of granting ad-interim bail did not fulfil “the twin test” laid down by the Supreme Court (Supra) nor was it in accordance with the law and  hence deserved to be quashed.

However, the Court also noted that this does not mean that in every case registered under the NDPS Act, the learned Public Prosecutor must necessarily oppose the bail. The above-mentioned case was a special case of a ‘drug mafia’, dealing in huge commercial quantities of contraband, certainly, they can’t be equated with the small-time offenders. It goes without saying that when Section 37 is not attracted then provisions of criminal Procedure Court will apply, here the principle that prevails is:

“Bail is a rule and jail an exception”.

 

The Order of the Hon’ble Tripura High Court is very detailed and is a ready reckoner for anyone who wants to understand the law regarding Bails.

(The post was first published in https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/ )

Deven Khanna is a Lawyer, practicing at High Court of Himachal Pradesh, other H.P Courts/Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India, he is an alumnus of a National Law School. For any queries related to the articles, he can be contacted at 7018469792 or at khannadeven@gmail.com. The personal blog is at https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/

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PIL Filed in HP High Court Re-Ignites Quest for Recognizing Pahari (Himachali) as Hill State’s Official Language

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pil in hp high court for himachali pahari language 3

Shimla- November 10, 2021, Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday passed an order concerning a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to recognize Pahari (Himachali) as an official language of the state. The petition also sought effective steps on the part of the government to preserve and promote the Pahari language in the State as its culture and language give it a distinct identity. 

The Public Interest Litigation was filed by Arsh Dhanotia with a prayer that the state be directed to declare Pahari (Himachali) as one of the official languages in the State of Himachal Pradesh in any script and also promote further research towards a long-term formal Pahari (Himachali) nuclear language structure and nuclear Tankri script.

Bhawani Pratap Singh Kutlahria, the advocate for the petitioner, argued in the court that the State Government be directed to promote Pahari (Himachali) and other local languages as the medium of instruction in primary and middle-level schools as per the New Education Policy, 2020. On behalf of the petitioner, he also prayed the court to direct the state government to include Pahari (Himachali) language as a separate category for the 2021 Census and simultaneously undertake an awareness campaign to create awareness amongst the masses, especially the youth of the State who speak Pahari (Himachali), to get it marked as their mother tongue in the upcoming Census.

A bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Sabina while disposing off the PIL stated,

“The direction as has been prayed for, cannot be issued to the State Government until and unless it is established on record that the Pahari (Himachali) language has its own script and that a common Pahari dialect is spoken throughout the State of Himachal Pradesh.  We, however, set the petitioner at liberty to approach the Department of Language Art & Culture to the Government of Himachal Pradesh with his demand for undertaking research to promote a common Pahari (Himachali) nuclear language structure and nuclear Tankri script. If the petitioner approaches the respondents-State through its Additional Chief Secretary (Language Art & Culture) to the Government of Himachal Pradesh) for the prayer made in the Civil Writ Public Interest Litigation, it would be for the said authority to consider the same in accordance with the law.”

Additionally, the petition had emphasised that Sanskrit, which is the second official language of the state, had only 936 speakers according to the 2011 census and Pahari (Himachali) dialect chain which is spoken by more than 40 lakh people was being neglected and has not been made an official language even after having so many speakers.

The petition also highlighted works of Former Chief Minister Late YS Parmar and Former Education Minister Late Narain Chand Parashar towards the promotion of the Pahari (Himachali) language.

What’s Pahari (Himachali) Language, How Many Districts It Covers

It is to be noted that according to the petitioner, Pahari (Himachali) is a combined term used for the Western Pahari dialect chain spoken in Himachal Pradesh and majorly includes Kangri, Mandeali, Chambeali, Kulvi, Mahasu Pahari and Sirmauri. According to him ever since the creation of Himachal Pradesh, there has been a demand for recognition of Pahari (Himachali) under the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and it is also officially listed with 37 more languages as a language which is in significant demand to be included in the scheduled languages category.

In his plea, he also stated that the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha in 1970 and 2010 have also passed resolutions concerning the promotion and development of Pahari (Himachali).

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Himachal’s Snow Covered Area Has Decreased, Poses Big Threat to State Economy’s Lifelines: Report

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Himachal Pradesh's Snow Covered area decreasing

Shimla-The area under snow cover in Himachal Pradesh has declined by 18.5% according to a recent report published by State Centre on Climate Change (SCCC) and Space Application Center (ISRO) Ahmedabad. The report revealed this decreasing trend for the five major river basins in the State.

As the report points out, the high altitude regions of Himachal Pradesh receive precipitation mainly in the form of snow during the winter season. One-third of the geographical area of ​​the state is covered by a thick blanket of snow during the winter season. Rivers like Chenab, Beas, Parvati, Baspa, Spiti, Ravi, Sutlej and its tributaries flowing through Himachal are dependent on snowfall in winter. These rivers mainly feed into the Indus water system and a decline at this rate rings a death knell for water and also food security for millions of people from Himachal to Kashmir, the plains of Punjab, the food bowl of the country.

Using images and data received from satellites, the report states, that the winter precipitation was mapped in all the basins from October 2020 to May 2021 (a period of two years). The findings indicate that there has been an average decrease of 8.92 percent in Chenab basin, 18.54 percent in Beas basin, 23.16 percent in Ravi basin, 23.49 percent in Sutlej basin compared to last year. The ice covered area of ​​Chenab basin was 7154.11 sq km in 2019-20, which has come down to 6515.91 sq km in 2020-21. Similarly, Beas basin was reduced from 2457.68 to 2002.03 square kilometer, Ravi basin from 2108.13 square kilometer to 1619.82 square kilometer and Sutlej from 11823.1 square kilometer to 9045 square kilometers. Overall, the snow covered area was reduced from 23542 square kilometer to 19183 square kilometer in the entire Himachal.

basin wise snow cover in himachal pradesh

Figure Source: Hindustan Times

Sutlej Basin covers 45 per cent of the total geographical area of Himachal and it is the longest river of the state. It flows for around 320 kms here, passing through Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Solan and Bilaspur districts, along its course. The above study shows that the maximum reduction in snow cover has occurred in the Sutlej basin. An area of ​​4359 square kilometers under snow cover has decreased for the whole state, of which more than half of the Sutlej Basin.

Just two years ago another study had indicated that more than half of glaciers in Sutlej Basin are set to vanish by 2050. Yet another study also showed that the Sutlej basin has the highest 562 number of glacial lakes. These lakes stand the risk of sudden outbursts, which then causes flash floods downstream as the valley has already experienced. So, while the crisis that is unfolding, be it deglaciation, lake formation or reduction in area under snow cover, it seems that the Sutlej river basin is more vulnerable to these changes.

Prakash Bhandari, an environmental researcher and activist and member of Himdhara Collective expressing his concern states that the situation in the Sutlej river basin is certainly indicative of a serious climate emergency and it is critical to look into the drivers of this both local and global.

“The Sutlej basin catchment is the largest and so the changes visible here are more significant. Many factors have worked together to create this crisis which should be studied closely. There is no doubt that global warming is contributing to these changes. But the local conditions also play a role in reducing or increasing its impact”, he says.

The upper reaches of the Sutlej Valley, especially areas like Kinnaur are geologically fragile, with sharp gradients and loose soil strata. Vegetation is in a very small area so the proneness to erosion. We have seen the catastrophic impacts of flashfloods and landslides over the last decade and a half, where crores worth of property has been damaged. This year saw a spate of landslides where lives were lost. “In such a sensitive and also strategically important area, changes in the landscape will have far reaching and irreversible impacts. More construction activities will lead to more deforestation, more erosion”.  

Construction of dams has been rampant in the Sutlej valley, a phenomena that started post independence and continues today. If all of the planned dams are built the Sutlej will be cho-a-cloc with more then 150, large and small projects. At the bottom of the valley in Bilaspur is the Bhakra Dam, built almost 6 decades ago, which has a size of 168 sq km and a storage capacity of 9.340 cubic km. Is. This is followed by the Kol Dam which extends for 42 km up to Sunni, which has a total storage capacity of 90 million cubic metres. Nathpa Jhakri Project which is 27.394 kms. is long. When a dam is built, a huge amount of water is stored. The debris of many villages, trees etc. also gets absorbed inside the dam. When water is stagnant, it receives heat from the Sun to form mist in the surrounding area by evaporation and simultaneously generates methane gas. The experience of the lake formed by the Kol dam at Tattapani in Mandi district shows that the area is experiencing heavy haze which was not there earlier.

“In the 30s and 40s, Shikari Devi and Kamrunag used to have snow on the peaks for about 6 months, which now could barely stop for only 2 months. The air route distance of Shikari Devi and Kamrunag is only 26 to 30 kms from Tattapani lake. At the same time, their distance is not much from the cement factories of Darlaghat, Sundernagar”, the elders in the area say. “Today, fog is prevalent and this has also made the area warmer”.

Due to the warming of the weather due to the clouds formed from the mist, the snow has started melting quickly. Apart from this the local crop patterns are affected. Post the 1990s, the Sutlej became a site for run of the river hydroelectric projects using extensive underground tunneling. This involves massive use of explosives for blasting through the mountains. Of the 23,000 MW worth of projects to be constructed in Himachal more than 10,000, a third are from this valley alone. Kinnaur continues to be a hydel powerhouse with 10 run of the river projects in progress and 30 more to be set up including two mega projects of 1500 MW and 1000 MW each. This paints a scary picture.

Interactive Sutlej River-Basin Map indicate Hydropower Station location

It is not just the hydro-electric dams but unplanned tourism and other development activities like mining, cement plants, road expansion and mindless construction across the high Himalayan regions have also add to the shift in local weather patterns, land use changes and thus the ecological crisis. But the reason why we should put the limelight on hydropower is that this is being pushed as “Green Energy”, in the name of climate change mitigation. As opposed to other forms of generating power, hydropower projects are said to cause lesser carbon emissions, which is why there has been a global push to shift to renewable resources. But the climate emergency in the Himalayas has put a question mark on ‘water’ as a renewable resource.

The question then arises that with all this data indicating a steady decline in river discharge and snow cover have our planners and policy makers not considered what will happen to these projects? Will they be able to generate the power they propose to? The people of Himalaya have to wake up to this wastage of public resources. Scarce funds should be diverted to better planning for securing local livelihoods by protecting the forest ecosystems and water sources for the future.

Author: Gagandeep Singh-From Himdhara (Environment Research and Action Collective)

Feature Images:  unsplash/@raimondklavins

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Himachal: Warnings of Delta Plus Virulence Fall on Deaf Ears, No Restriction on Visitors from Affected States  

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Delta plus in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Yesterday, the Centre government directed the state governments to take immediate measure in wake of the spread of more infectious Delta Plus variant.  As the Delta Plus variant is posing a threat of the third wave, the states were told to take steps like preventing crowds, increase testing, more focus on surveillance, contact tracing and put boosting vaccine coverage on a priority basis. Following it, Himachal Pradesh Government might have announced an alert over Delta plus variant, but there wasn’t any follow up on instructions passed by scientists and health experts to take strict restrictive measures ahead of the impending third wave. 

To make it worse, high rank officials and political leaders were seen flouting Covid-19 SOPs on several occasion, which sent wrong messages to the masses. The pictures and videos showing flouting of Covid appropriate behavior by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and Directorial General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, alongwith other staff for Anupam Kher is the most recent to mention. A group photograph and video of the same were widely circulated on social media and invited huge criticism from the people.  

So far, the state has not reported any case of the Delta Plus variant. But the neighboring states – Punjab, Haryana, and Jammu & Kashmir – reported their first cases yesterday. This puts the boarding areas, like in Una district, at a higher risk. Chief Secretary to HP Government, Anil Khachi, yesterday said samples have been sent for genome sequencing. 

Despite repeated warnings of Delta plus variant (B.1.617.2.1.), Himachal Pradesh has thrown its borders open to all and lifted all restrictions for inter-state travel in just one go. From June 23 onwards, the state government removed the condition for registering on the e-pass portal for visitors intending to enter the state. In the Cabinet meeting held on June 22, 201, the government first decided that e-pass restrictions would be removed from July 1, but later it changed the decision and instead implemented it immediately.

This haphazard decision is said to have come under huge pressure from the hospitality industry – the worst-hit sector, leading to financial crisis and mass unemployment among its stakeholders. Related associations had been approaching Chief Minister Jairam Thakur with their pleas to provide relief, but mostly faced disappointment. The stakeholders say the state government didn’t provide any significant relief, which is making the survival of the industry difficult.

Also Read: Read Eight Reliefs That Himachal’s Devastated Tourism Industry Seeks from HP Govt  

Also, stakeholder of the industry, especially hoteliers, had been demanding the removal of restrictions and conditions on the entry of tourists to Himachal so that they could fetch the remaining peak tourist season.

With its inability to offer relief, the HP Government took the chance to waive off restrictions in a haste.

At the same time, the state government has decided to conduct offline examinations for the undergraduate classes starting from July. A section of the students had been condemning the HP government for scheduling exams without vaccinating students. Some student bodies had been asking the government as to why online classes were possible but not online exams. 

The state government also waived off restrictions on timings for the opening of markets/shops.

As scientists and health experts warn of the virulence of the new variant and with neighboring states already on alert after reporting cases of the new variant, the HP government hasn’t even mentioned any intention to at least put a check on the visitor from the states where cases of Delta Plus are being reported. Carrying an RT-PCR negative report for visitors from such states/cities would have been a wiser step. 

Officially, the state is on alert, but no measures have been announced to check the entry and spread of the variant into the state. The state government does speak of preparing for the anticipated third wave, but there is hardly any long-term preventive strategy. The Covid appropriate behavior is hard to adopt when markets and tourist places are crowded with visitors.

Why Delta Plus is a Big Concern

The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled the Delta variant as ‘Variant of Concern’.

The Centre and scientific/medical institutes in India also agree with that Delta Plus as a variant of concern and could be the cause of impending third wave. Last Tuesday, based on the findings of INSACOG, the Union Health Ministry had alerted and advised Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh regarding the Delta Plus variant of COVID19.

INSACOG had warned that the Delta Plus variant has increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells, potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.

“Delta variant is more resistant to medication, treatment and vaccination. Therefore, people who have been vaccinated can still be affected by this variant and can go on to get a clinical illness, Archana Dhawan Bajaj, director, Nurture IVF, told a national English Daily.

“Neutralising antibodies against this variant post-vaccination seem to be nearly five times lower in people who have already been vaccinated than the other variants,” she said.

Further,  Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, ex-Head Scientist of Epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR, has also expressed concern over the reports that Delta Plus has reported pathophysiologic change and affecting different organs.  Dr Raman says that it could transfer from cell to cell and would more likely produce neurological symptoms as a common manifestation.

So far India has reported 51 cases of the Delta Plus variant.

Delta Plus variant is a variant of Delta with an additional mutation -B.1.617.2.1.

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