Andaman: US man’s family ‘forgives’ tribe for killing him after he illegally visited their island

The family of John Allen Chau, who was allegedly murdered by the indigenous Sentinelese tribe after he illegally entered their island in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, on Thursday said they had “forgiven” his killers, BBC reported. Meanwhile, Indian authorities said they were still attempting to retrieve Chau’s body from the protected island.

The Sentinelese are a negrito tribe who live on the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans. The inhabitants are connected to the Jarawa on the basis of physical, as well as linguistic similarities. Their numbers are believed to be less than 150 and as low as 40.

Based on carbon dating of kitchen middens by the Anthropological Survey of India, Sentinelese presence was confirmed in the islands to 2,000 years ago. Genome studies indicate that the Andaman tribes could have been on the islands even 30,000 years ago.

The Govt. of India issued the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956 to declare the traditional areas occupied by the tribes as reserves. It prohibited entry of all persons except those with authorization. Photographing or filming the tribe members is also an offense. The rules were amended later to enhance penalties.

But restricted area permits were relaxed for some islands recently. In a major step earlier this year, the Indian government excluded this island and 28 others in the Union Territory from the Restricted Area Permit or RAP regime till December 31, 2022. The lifting of RAP means foreigners can go to the island without permission from the government.

Why are they said to be vulnerable?

It is said they have made little to no advancement in the over 60,000 years and still live very primitive lives, surviving mainly on fish and coconuts.

They are very vulnerable to germs since they have not had contact with the outside world. Even a common flu virus carried by a visitor could wipe out the entire tribe.

Since the 1960s, there have been a handful of efforts to reach out to the tribe but all have largely failed. They have repeatedly, aggressively made it clear that they want to be isolated.

What is a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime?

RAP regime was notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963.

Under it, foreign nationals are not normally allowed to visit protected or restricted area unless the Government is satisfied that there are extraordinary reasons to justify their visit.

Every foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in protected or restricted area, is required to obtain a special permit from the competent authority having the power to issue such permits to the foreigner, seeking it.

Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are the exception and are not allowed to enter such areas.

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SC to direct states to implement draft witness protection scheme

The Supreme Court of India on November 19, 2018, said that it would direct all the states to implement the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

The SC bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer took the decision in response to the plea made by Attorney General KK Venugopal that the draft scheme, which has now been finalized, would be made into a law in due course, but till then the court should direct the states to start implementing it.

The issue of the witness protection scheme had cropped up earlier when the top court was hearing public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

During the hearing on November 19, advocate Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the government has finalized the draft witness protection scheme in consultation with NALSA, based on the inputs received from a majority of the states.

The advocate stated that the scheme has three categories of witnesses based on the threat perception, and suggested that the states should start enforcing it.

The petitioners, who are witnesses in cases related to Asaram, had sought a probe into the instances of alleged attacks and disappearances of witnesses in these cases.

The top court had in March 2017 questioned Haryana and Uttar Pradesh over the status of implementation of witness protection schemes till then and had directed them to provide security cover to witnesses in rape cases against Asaram, who is currently in jail.

While Uttar Pradesh has three such witnesses, Haryana has one.

Witness Protection Scheme-2018

  • To enable a witness to give testimony in a judicial setting or to cooperate with law enforcement and investigations without fear of intimidation or reprisal.
  • To ensure that the investigation, prosecution, and trial of criminal offenses is not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.
  • To promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who are involved directly or indirectly in providing assistance to criminal law enforcement agencies and the overall administration of Justice.
  • To give witnesses the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and Judicial Authorities with full assurance of safety.
  • To identify a series of measures that may be adopted to safeguard witnesses and their family members from intimidation and threats against their lives, reputation, and property.
  • In cases involving influential people, witnesses turn hostile because of the threat to life and property.  In such cases, witnesses find that there is no legal obligation by the state for extending any security.
  • The Supreme Court had held in an old judgment that it is the salutary duty of every witness who has the knowledge of the commission of the crime, to assist the State in giving evidence.
  • If the witnesses get threatened or are forced to give false evidence, it would not result in a fair trial.
  • Due to witnesses turning hostile, the conviction rate in murder and rape in India is just around 10 to 12 percent.
  • The first-ever reference to witness protection in India came in 14th Law Commission Report in 1958.
  • Organized crime has seen a huge jump in recent years and is becoming stronger and more diverse.
  • In the investigation and prosecution of crime, particularly the more serious and complex forms of organized crime, it is essential that witnesses, the cornerstones for successful investigation and prosecution, have trust in the criminal justice system.
  • Witnesses need to have the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities. They need to be assured that they will receive support and protection from intimidation and the harm that criminal groups may seek to inflict upon them in attempts to discourage or punish them from co-operating.
  • Hence, legislative measures to emphasize prohibition against tampering of witnesses have become the imminent and inevitable need of the day.
  • Even the Law Commission of India has recommended that witnesses should be protected from the wrath of the accused in any eventuality.

Following are some of the rights that the witnesses should be entitled to:

i) Right to give evidence anonymously

ii) Right to protection from intimidation and harm

iii) Right to be treated with dignity and compassion and respect for privacy

iv) Right to information of the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime

v) Right to secure waiting place while at Court proceedings

vi) Right to transportation and lodging arrangements

The scope of the Scheme

  • The Witness Protection scheme may be as simple as providing a police escort to the Courtroom, offering temporary residence in a safe house or using modern communication technology such as video conferencing for the recording of testimony.
  • In other more complex cases, where cooperation by a witness is critical to the successful prosecution of a powerful criminal group, extraordinary measures are required to ensure the witness’s safety such as anonymity, relocation of the witness under a new identity in a new, undisclosed place of residence.
  • The witness protection, especially in its practical operation, must, therefore, be viewed on a case by case basis in meaningful assistance to the witnesses.
  • In November 2017, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre as to why a draft scheme cannot be formulated for witness protection in the country when specific provisions in this regard were already there in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.
  • It had said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) could at least come out with a draft scheme for witness protection and had asked the Attorney General to give his suggestions on the issue.
  • The court had said that the witness protection scheme can be implemented for at least sensitive cases and that the MHA could come out with a comprehensive plan.
  • In April 2018, the Centre had informed the top court that it had framed a draft witness protection scheme and it was circulated among the states and Union Territories administration for comments.
  • The court had asked the Centre to finalize the scheme after getting a response from the states and Union Territories.
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PM Modi launches ‘Main Nahin Hum’ portal, says every effort of the people must be valued

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday underlined the importance of the people’s involvement and their social responsibilities for the success of any government initiative.

About ‘Main Nahin Hum’ portal and its significance:

  • The portal, which works on the theme ‘Self4Society’, will enable IT professionals and organizations to bring together their efforts towards social causes on one platform. The platform has been developed by MyGov.
  • The portal will also help the employees in identifying the volunteering opportunities for social causes and they can also collaborate with other employees on such projects.
  • In doing so, the portal is expected to help catalyze greater collaboration towards the service of the weaker sections of society, especially by leveraging the benefits of technology.
  • It is also expected to generate wider participation of interested people who are motivated to work for the benefit of society.

Since India has already become the third largest in terms of the start-up, social start-ups should become an intrinsic part of the ecosystem. Some of the areas which require participation are saving natural resources such as water, agriculture, climate change etc.

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Cabinet approves Adjudicating Authority for speedy disposal of benami cases

The government approved setting up of Appellate Tribunal and Adjudicating Authority for speedy disposal of cases related to benami transactions.

Earlier the cabinet had notified sessions courts in 34 states and Union Territories, which will act as special courts for trial of offenses under the benami transaction law. The rules and all the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act came into force on November 1, 2016.

Under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act of 1998, the government will appoint Adjudicating Authority Appellate Tribunal.

The officials will come from the existing posts at the same level from the Income Tax Department and the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

The Adjudicating Authority and Appellate Tribunal will be based in the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD).

Benches of Adjudicating Authority may sit in Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai, and the necessary notification in this regard will be issued after consultation with the Chairperson of the proposed Adjudicating Authority.

Benefits of the Tribunals:

The approval will result in effective and better administration of cases referred to the Adjudicating Authority and speedy disposal of appeals filed against the order of the Adjudicating Authority before the Appellate Tribunal.

It would provide first stage review of administrative action under the PBPT Act. Establishment of the proposed Appellate Tribunal would provide an appellate mechanism for the order passed by the Adjudicating Authority under the PBPT Act.

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