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Australia to Witness New Intelligence Laws By Sweeping Older Ones

Australian intelligence laws to be reviewed

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Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne (L-R), China's PLA Lieutenant-General He Lei and Canada's Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2018.
Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne (L-R), China's PLA Lieutenant-General He Lei and Canada's Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2018. VOA
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Australia’s intelligence laws are to be reviewed in the most comprehensive overhaul of national security legislation in decades.

The review will take 18 months and will be led by a former spy chief. It will be the most comprehensive review of Australia’s intelligence laws since the 1970s. Much of its terms of reference are being kept secret but officials say the shake-up will look at how information is shared among the nation’s six security and intelligence agencies, as well with other law enforcement bodies.

Analysts say the review is long overdue with existing laws designed for a previous era. They say the review would likely address the main threats facing Australia; terrorism, cyber-warfare and influence by foreign powers.

Law books
Law books, Representational image, Pixabay

Australia’s federal Attorney-General Christian Porter says the overhaul will help to integrate the various agencies that keep the nation safe.

“The control, direction and coordination of all of these agencies, and the way they interact with non-intelligence agencies and state-based agencies, such as state police forces. It is looking at how we share information and whether or not that can be improved on.It is looking at the overall staffing and resourcing, so it has a very holistic approach, and the other thing it will look at is accountability and oversight,” said Porter.

The review comes amid rising fears in Australia over the influence of China in its domestic affairs.

Earlier this week media reports detailed allegations apparently contained in a top-secret report that China has attempted to influence Australia’s political parties for the past decade, as well as every level of government.

Beijing has previously accused Australia of being anti-China.

Last year the Australian government introduced new foreign interference laws into federal parliament, which, if passed, would put a ban on all overseas political donations. In January, Australian opposition Senator Sam Dastyari was forced to resign over alleged links to Chinese authorities.

Also read: More than 200 Commonwealth Games Athletes Seek Asylum in Australia and 50 go missing

Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Level remains set at “probable,” which means security agencies believe that individuals or groups have the intent and capability to carry out a terrorist attack in Australia. (VOA)

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Adultery Law Gets Scrapped: Another Progressive Step In India

Misra is stepping down as chief justice next week when he turns 65, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges. 

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A gardener works on the lawns of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India, Aug. 22, 2017. India's Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has presided over a string of verdicts in recent weeks that grant more rights to women, gay couples and religious minorities as he prepares to retire from the bench next month. VOA

The chief justice of  Supreme Court of India has presided over a string of recent rulings that grant more rights to women, gay couples and religious minorities, challenging deeply conservative Indian society before he retires next month.

In the latest decision Thursday, Chief Justice Dipak Misra and the rest of the five-member court struck down a 158-year-old law that treated adultery in certain cases as a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

The court called the law, which did not allow wives to prosecute adulterous husbands, unconstitutional and noted that a “husband is not the master of woman.” Adultery can still be grounds for divorce in India, the verdict said, but a criminal penalty violated women’s protection to equal rights under the law.

Accolades for ruling

The verdict was hailed by activists and left-of-center members of India’s Parliament.

“Excellent decision,” tweeted Sushmita Dev, a lawmaker and president of the opposition Congress party’s women’s wing. She said “a law that does not give women the right to sue her adulterer husband … is unequal treatment and militates against her status as an individual.”

India
Participants displays a rainbow flag and cheer as gay rights activists and their supporters march during a gay pride parade in New Delhi, India. VOA

Amnesty International India said the decision was “a progressive judgment” and the old law was a “remnant of a time when a woman was considered to be the property of her husband.”

The scrapped law allowed men to file charges against other men who had affairs with their wives. Women having affairs could not be prosecuted, but they also couldn’t file a complaint against cheating husbands.

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Gay couples, religious minorities

Earlier this month, the Misra-led court also struck down a colonial-era law that made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The 1861 law, a relic of Victorian England that hung on long after the end of British colonialism, was “a breach of the rights of privacy and dignity,” the court ruled. It added that “history owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries.”

On Thursday, the court also decided not to reconsider a 1994 decision that would have delayed proceedings in a case over the ownership of the site of a mosque that Hindu hard-liners demolished in 1992.

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Indian Muslim women talk while walking through a market in Ahmadabad, India. VOA

Fast pace for India

The court’s recent pace of decisions speaks to another feature of Misra’s tenure: expediting cases in a country where they routinely take decades to resolve.

There are 33 million court cases pending in India, government figures show.

Misra is stepping down as chief justice next week when he turns 65, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges.

Also Read: What Would Be The Outcome of The Judgement on Homosexuality with BJP at The Centre?

He joined India’s highest court in 2011. His 13-month tenure as chief justice has won him accolades from advocates of disadvantaged groups but drawn unprecedented criticism from other members of the bench.

In January, the four most senior justices held a news conference against Misra, who as chief justice controls the court’s roster and decides who will take which cases, listing a litany of problems that they said afflicted the court and risked undermining India’s democracy. Misra met with the dissenting judges, who continued on the bench. (VOA)