ICICI and HDFC not Indian banks

ICICI and HDFC not Indian banks

The government on Friday said ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank cannot be called Indian-owned banks after a debate over the nationality of India’s top two private sector lenders.

“At best, the two can be called as Indian-controlled banks,” said R P Singh, secretary of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, who had been asked by the two banks to clarify the matter.

US Commission Names 13 Nations for Violating Religious Freedoms

US Commission Names 13 Nations for Violating Religious Freedoms

A new report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has named 13 countries for severe violations of religious freedom. For egregious violations of religious freedom, the commission cites Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. Leo says the panel also recommends other countries, including Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba and Egypt be put on a watch list for close monitoring of serious violations of religious freedom. Other countries on the watch list include India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.

The commission is recommending the U.S. State Department officially designate the 13 nations as countries of particular concern, a move that could lead to sanctions against them. The commission says if the U.S. is concerned about countering extremism, religious freedom must be a critical component of America’s diplomacy, national security and economic development. Leo says the Obama administration has been insufficiently engaged in promoting freedom of religion or belief abroad. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor says that he does not think the report has any basis in fact. The commission criticizes prior Democratic and Republican administrations for not making religious freedom a top foreign policy priority. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent panel created by the U.S. Congress and funded by the government.

Kushboo case: morality and legality

Kushboo case: morality and legality

Consensual heterosexual relation between adults, including pre-marital sex, is no offence except in cases where the partners are liable to be charged for adultery, ruled the Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan (Wednesday, 28th April 2010). It said the courts attach a lot of importance to personal autonomy and a person indulging in an immoral act need not necessarily be a culprit in the eyes of law. Morality and criminality are non co-extensive according to the law.

Justice Chauhan, writing the 41-page judgment for the Bench, said, “While it is true that the mainstream view in our society is that sexual contact should take place only between marital partners, there is no statutory offence that takes place when adults willingly engage in sexual relations outside the marital setting, with the exception of `adultery’ as defined under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code.”

Section 497 provides, “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case, the wife shall be punishable as an abettor.”
The SC said in the present social milieu, some view pre-marital sex as an attack on the centrality of marriage while a significant number see nothing wrong in it. This conflict of opinion on morality did not make pre-marital sex an offence, it ruled.

“Notions of social morality are inherently subjective and criminal law cannot be used as a means to unduly interfere with the domain of personal autonomy,” it said. The Bench also did not understand the uproar over its comments on pre-marital sex and live-in relationships saying the apex court had in 2006 held that a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of opposite sex did not amount to any offence with the obvious exception of adultery. It said there was an urgent need for reactionary forces to tolerate unpopular opinions expressed on sensitive issues by writers, authors and other persons and not hound them by instituting complaint cases against them. “It is not the task of criminal law to punish individuals merely for expressing unpopular views. The threshold for placing reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression is indeed very high and there should be a presumption in favour of the accused in such cases,” the Bench said.

The court quashed 23 complaints cases against South Indian actress Khushboo, for her remarks on prevalence of pre-marital sex in cities. The court said Khushboo’s remarks did provoke a controversy since the acceptance of pre-marital sex and live-in relationships was viewed by some as an attack on the centrality of marriage. “While there can be no doubt that in India, marriage is an important social institution, we must also keep our minds open to the fact that there are certain individuals or groups who do not hold the same view. To be sure, there are some indigenous groups within our country wherein sexual relations outside marital setting are accepted as a normal occurrence,” the SC said.

Kushboo case: morality and legality

Kushboo case: morality and legality

Consensual heterosexual relation between adults, including pre-marital sex, is no offence except in cases where the partners are liable to be charged for adultery, ruled the Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan (Wednesday, 28th April 2010). It said the courts attach a lot of importance to personal autonomy and a person indulging in an immoral act need not necessarily be a culprit in the eyes of law. Morality and criminality are non co-extensive according to the law.

Justice Chauhan, writing the 41-page judgment for the Bench, said, “While it is true that the mainstream view in our society is that sexual contact should take place only between marital partners, there is no statutory offence that takes place when adults willingly engage in sexual relations outside the marital setting, with the exception of `adultery’ as defined under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code.”

Section 497 provides, “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case, the wife shall be punishable as an abettor.”
The SC said in the present social milieu, some view pre-marital sex as an attack on the centrality of marriage while a significant number see nothing wrong in it. This conflict of opinion on morality did not make pre-marital sex an offence, it ruled.

“Notions of social morality are inherently subjective and criminal law cannot be used as a means to unduly interfere with the domain of personal autonomy,” it said. The Bench also did not understand the uproar over its comments on pre-marital sex and live-in relationships saying the apex court had in 2006 held that a live-in relationship between two consenting adults of opposite sex did not amount to any offence with the obvious exception of adultery. It said there was an urgent need for reactionary forces to tolerate unpopular opinions expressed on sensitive issues by writers, authors and other persons and not hound them by instituting complaint cases against them. “It is not the task of criminal law to punish individuals merely for expressing unpopular views. The threshold for placing reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression is indeed very high and there should be a presumption in favour of the accused in such cases,” the Bench said.

The court quashed 23 complaints cases against South Indian actress Khushboo, for her remarks on prevalence of pre-marital sex in cities. The court said Khushboo’s remarks did provoke a controversy since the acceptance of pre-marital sex and live-in relationships was viewed by some as an attack on the centrality of marriage. “While there can be no doubt that in India, marriage is an important social institution, we must also keep our minds open to the fact that there are certain individuals or groups who do not hold the same view. To be sure, there are some indigenous groups within our country wherein sexual relations outside marital setting are accepted as a normal occurrence,” the SC said.

Belgium bans burqa in public

Belgium bans burqa in public

Belgium’s lower house of parliament (Thursday,29th April 2010) banned burqa-type Islamic dress in public. Approval in the lower house was almost unanimous. But the measure faces a challenge in the Senate which will delay early enactment of the law. Christian Democrats and Liberals in the Senate questioned the phrasing of the law, which holds no one can appear in public “with the face fully or partly covered so as to render them no longer recognizable.” Both houses of parliament must approve the bill. Belgium faces early elections that may also delay passage of the Belgian anti-burqa ban — Europe’s first — by several months.

The law’s author, Daniel Bacquelaine, a Liberal, said a burqa is incompatible with basic security as everyone in public must be recognizable and clashes with the principles of an emancipated society that respects the rights of all. Like elsewhere in Europe, Belgium struggles with anxieties that visible signs of Islam erode national identity and that women in traditional conservative Islamic dress, such as the burqa, the chador and the niqab, signal a refusal to assimilate in western society. In Belgium, local rules ban the burqa, but enforcement is spotty and the new law would outlaw it on a national level.

Burqa-type Islamic dress that fully covers a woman and most or all of her face is not common in Europe. Last year, the city of Brussels fined only 29 women — down from 33 in 2008 — for wearing a burqa-type dress. In January, Denmark’s center-right government called the burqa and the niqab out of step with Danish values. It held off on a ban after finding that only two or three women in Denmark, a nation of 5.5 million people, wear burqas and perhaps 200 wear niqabs. In France, a nation of 65 million people, the government estimates 1,900 women cover their faces with niqabs, a scarf that exposes only the eyes, or sitars, a filmy veiled cloth thrown over the head to cover the entire face. France banned Muslim head scarves as well as Jewish skullcaps and Christian crosses from schools in 2004.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says the burqa “is not welcome” in France, but questions have been raised about the constitutionality of a ban. Although their ranks are growing, Muslims make up only small minorities in Western Europe. France has the largest Muslim population, an estimated 5 million, or 7.5 percent of the population, followed by the Netherlands with 6 percent, Germany with 5 percent, Austria with 4.2 percent, Belgium with 3 percent and Britain with 2.7 percent, according to a 2009 study of the Pew Research Center in Washington.