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Deal signed for improvement of two northeastern states

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Agartala: To improve the infrastructure of two northeastern states Tripura and Mizoram, the government and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have signed an $80-million loan on Thursday.

“The loan is the third tranche of a $200-million financing facility under the North Eastern Region Capital Cities Development Investment Program and will be used for investments in water supply, solid waste management and sanitation in Agartala and Aizawl,” the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

“It will also support urban reforms, benefiting nearly a million people in the two cities,” it added.

Not only these two cities, previous programme tranches have provided assistance to three other cities in the northeast Shillong, Kohima, and Gangtok, the capital cities of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikkim, respectively.

Joint Secretary (multilateral institutions) in the department of economic affairs, Ministry of Finance, Raj Kumar, signed the agreement on Thursday on behalf of the Indian government

On the other side, Teresa Kho, country director in ADB’s India resident mission, signed on behalf of the ADB.

Whereas separate sub-project agreements were signed between central government officials and representatives of the governments of Tripura and Mizoram.

“The loan will support further investments to increase access to sustainable and improved urban services, with Aizwal and Agartala cities, selected for financing under the third tranche of the programme based on their progress on reforms and implementation performance under earlier tranches,” the Ministry statement said.

The third tranche loan from ADB’s ordinary capital resources has a 20-year term and it’s the responsibility of the Urban Development Ministry to implement the third tranche’s activities and overall programme, which are both due for completion by June 2019.

Manila-based ADB works to reduce poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members, including 48 from the region.(IANS)

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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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India
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.

India
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)