Two day International Conference on Cooperative Federalism concludes today

Two day International Conference on Cooperative Federalism concludes today 
The two day International Conference on “Cooperative Federalism: National Perspectives and International Experience” concluded here today. The conference provided a platform to identify the best practices from other countries and come out with recommendations including changes in the institutional mechanisms to foster cooperative federalism in the Indian context. This was the first conference in the country where the subject of cooperative federalism was discussed at the international level. In addition to the senior policy makers and Government officials from Central and State governments, academics and practitioners and thinks tanks in India and international experts from Australia, Ethiopia, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa and Canada also participated in the Conference. 

While delivering his valedictory address, Shri Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog said that the decision of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to replace the Planning Commission by NITI Aayog is a landmark decision and a milestone. He said that under the PRAGATI initiative of the Prime Minister, regular meetings are held with State Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries of the states via video conferencing and the progress made on various projects specially infrastructure projects is discussed. These discussions lead to the progress on these projects, he added. He said that after the first meeting of Governing Council of NITI Aayog held on 8th February, 2015, three sub-groups of the CMs were formed to appraise Centre on three issues namely centrally sponsored schemes, skill development and Swachh Bharat. On all three of these, the reports have been submitted, he added. The states have now power of decision making, he said. As we move forward, the states will be the masters of their fate, he said. He also said that different states have different priorities and this should be kept in mind while making schemes.

Speaking on competitive federalism, Shri Arvind Panagariya said that NITI Aayog is playing a role in this direction and particularly in the area of ease of doing business. He also said that survey of entrepreneurs is being done to ascertain the areas where entrepreneurs see the improvement has been made or not. He also said that Central government is welcoming the states who want to make changes in their laws. He also said that a model law on land leasing is being framed with the discussions with the states. We now need tenancy laws from owner as well as tenant’s point of view, he added.

Ms Naini Jayaseelan, Secretary, Inter State Council said that this is the first time that such conference is being held. She also said that for the first time a separate chapter has been devoted to cooperative federalism in the 14th Finance Commission. She said that this conference has provided a platform to understand various practices from the international experts that can be replicated in the Indian context and can help in the maximisation of common good. She said that the recommendations from this conference will be presented before the Prime Minister at the Conference to be held in March this year.

Shri Arun Maira, former Member, Planning Commission, Shri S. Narayan, former Union Finance Secretary, Shri G K Pillai, former Union Home Secretary, Shri Navneet Wasan, former DG, Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) and National Investigation Agency, Shri Nitin Desai, Chairman, Institute of Economic Growth, shared their views on the different sessions chaired by them on various themes including Institutions, mechanisms and processes to facilitate Cooperative Federalism, Fiscal Federalism with a focus on Institutional and Legal Mechanisms and on key social sectors namely Health and Education and Horizontal and Vertical cooperation on Internal Security and Crime and Green Federalism.

The experts emphasised upon the involvement of locally empowered governments and said that the capacity to govern at local levels must be strengthened. They also emphasised upon the lateral coordination for better coordination. Attention should be given on root level at the platforms of cooperation, speakers emphasised. The speakers also shared the experiences and practices being followed at international level.

The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh had inaugurated the International Conference on “Cooperative Federalism: National Perspectives and International Experience” yesterday. He had said that this International Conference aimed to enrich our national pursuits for Cooperative federalism with successful case studies practiced in other parts of the world. 

Union Home Minister approves New Prison Manual 2016 
The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh has approved the new Model Prison Manual consisting of 32 chapters which aims at bringing in basic uniformity in laws, rules and regulations governing the administration of prisons and the management of prisoners all over the country.

The key revisions in the new Manual include the following -

(i) Access to free legal services

A new chapter on legal aid (Chapter XVI) has been incorporated in the Model Manual. Article 39A of the Constitution calls for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of society and seeks to ensure justice for all. The additions include:

§ Appointment of jail visiting advocates;

§ Setting up of a legal aid clinic in every prison;

§ Legal literacy classes in prisons;

§ Constitution of under-trial review committee and provisions to ensure legal services for under-trial prisoners who have undergone half of the maximum sentence for that offence.

(ii) Additional provisions for women prisoners 

Safety and reformation of women prisoners are of utmost importance in prison administration. Health of women prisoners has also been recognised as a focus area warranting special attention. With this in mind, the following have been provided in the revision:

§ Comprehensive health screening for women prisoners, including tests to determine presence of sexually transmitted or blood-borne diseases, mental health concerns, existence of drug dependency, etc. This is drawn from the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Female Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders adopted by the UN General Assembly (UN Bangkok Rules);

§ Sensitising the staff and imparting training relating to gender issues and sexual violence;

§ Educating women about preventive health-care measures;

§ Enabling proper counselling and treatment for those suffering from psychological disorders;

§ Focussed after-care and rehabilitation measures to ease women’s re-integration into society;

§ Restrictions on certain kinds of punishments being awarded to women, for instance, punishment by close confinement should not be awarded to pregnant women, women with infants, etc.;

§ Counselling programmes focussed on women, especially those who have been victims of abuse and focus on removing any further damage that imprisonment may have on a female inmate.

(iii) Rights of prisoners sentenced to death 

The Supreme Court, in Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India and Others observed that “… the legal procedure adopted to deprive a person of his life or liberty must be fair, just and reasonable and the protection of Article 21 of the Constitution of India inheres in every person, even death-row prisoners, till the very last breath of their lives.” To this end, the Court laid down certain guidelines in respect of prisoners sentenced to death which have been echoed in the Manual recognising the necessity of ensuring the human rights of such prisoners. These have been incorporated in new Chapter XII (Chapter XI of the 2003 Manual) and broadly include:

§ Provision of legal aid to prisoners sentenced to death at all stages, even after rejection of mercy petitions;

§ Regular mental health evaluation for death row prisoners;

§ Physical and mental health reports to certify that the prisoner is in a fit physical and mental condition;

§ Procedure and channels through which mercy petitions are to be submitted;

§ Communication of rejection of mercy petitions;

§ Furnishing necessary documents, such as court papers, judgments, etc. to the prisoners;

§ Facilitating and allowing a final meeting between a prisoner and his family.

(iv) Modernisation & Prison computerisation 

Additions have been made to the Manual to encourage use of technology/ software systems where possible, including introduction of a Personal Information System for recording information relating to inmates (incorporated in Chapter V – Custodial Management). Also, any register required to be maintained by the prison authorities has also to be in an electronic form. In line with the Supreme Court’s directions in D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal and Ors provisions have been included (in Chapter II – Institutional Framework) for installation of CCTV cameras in work sheds, kitchens, high security enclosures, main gate, etc. of prisons to prevent violation of human rights.

(v) Focus on after-care services 

The Manual recognises that it is the States’ responsibility to devise and develop mechanisms for rehabilitation of released convicts (in Chapter XXII – After-Care and Rehabilitation). It is envisaged that special committees known as Discharged Prisoners’ After-Care and Rehabilitation Committees should be set up at the district or State level for planning and devising appropriate mechanisms for rehabilitation and after-care assistance to prisoners.

(vi) Provisions for children of women prisoners 

In R.D. Upadhyaya v. State of A.P. and Others the Supreme Court issued guidelines in respect of children of women prisoners. While acknowledging some positive steps taken in this regard, the Court noted that “a lot more is required to be done in the States and Union Territories for looking after the interest of the children” and went on to issue guidelines to ensure holistic development of children of women prisoners inside prisons and pregnant prisoners. While certain guidelines already found mention in the 2003 Model Manual, several States are yet to have adopted these. Additional provisions (in line with the Supreme Court guidelines) have been incorporated in Chapter XXVI – Women Prisoners (Chapter XXIV of the 2003 Manual) and include:

§ Provisions for holistic development of children, including provision of food, medical care, clothing, education, and recreational facilities;

§ Providing pre-natal and post-natal care to pregnant women offenders;

§ Taking care of nutritional requirements of children and provision of clean drinking water;

§ Ensuring a well-equipped crèche and a nursery school for children to be looked after.

(vii) Organisational uniformity and increased focus on prison correctional staff 

The organisational hierarchy set forth in Chapter III (Headquarters Organisation) has been streamlined with increased focus on the Correctional Wing, and engagement of professionally qualified counsellors/ psychiatrists for counselling needy prisoners, especially those suffering from substance-related addictive disorders.

(viii) Inspection of Prisons 

A new chapter on inspection of prisons has been incorporated as Chapter XXVIII providing for (a) informal inspections to be carried out by senior prison officers, and (b) formal inspection to be carried out by a designated Inspector Officer. The formal inspection (which is more detailed) covers aspects such as mess facilities, medical facilities, hygiene, high security enclosures, etc. and would be a thorough review of the prison. This could help identify existing issues and deficiencies which could then be remedied through appropriate action.

(ix) Other revisions 

§ Insertion of a new chapter on repatriation of prisoners (Chapter X) in line with the advisory issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the subject dated 10th August, 2015;

§ Bringing uniformity and clarifying provisions regarding remission (Chapter XVIII),

§ Usage of the commonly used terms ‘parole’ and ‘furlough’ in place of leave and special leave (Chapter XIX) and setting out in detail the objective behind parole and furlough and the procedure for the same;

§ Bringing medical services within the domain of the State Medical Services/ Health Department instead of the prison department (Chapter VII);

§ A more comprehensive and relevant security classification for high-risk offenders (Chapter XXV);

Shri Rajnath Singh in the National Seminar on Prison Reforms organized by NHRC on 13th -14th November, 2014 in his valedictory address committed to have a quick revision of the provisions of Model Prison Manual, 2003 in the light of recent Supreme Court judgments and International Conventions/Covenants like the recently revised Nelson Mandela Rules 2015, to which India is a party.

Accordingly, a committee to propose changes to the Model Prison Manual 2003 was constituted by Ministry of Home Affairs in the Centre-State Division on 11.12.2014 on the directions of the Union Home Minister. The committed was chaired by Shri Kumar Alok, Joint Secretary (CS), Centre State Division, MHA and consisted of representatives from BPR&D, NHRC, NALSA, prisons, legal and technical areas of the Ministry among others.

The Expert committee extensively reviewed the existing model prison manual and whole draft chapters were discussed by the members threadbare and the suggestions/modifications were incorporated in the draft chapters. This was also followed by peer review and extensive consultations to ensure that the new draft is aligned with the contemporary prison jurisprudence.

The new manual will be sent to the States/UTs for guidance soon. 

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