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Daily Category  (E-governance)

Chapter Proceedings

Context:

The Mumbai police have begun “chapter proceedings” against Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.

Chapter proceedings:

  • Chapter proceedings are preventive actions taken by the police if they fear that a particular person is likely to create trouble and disrupt the peace in society.
  • These proceedings are unlike punitive action taken in case of an FIR with an intention to punish.
  • In chapter proceedings, the police can issue notices under sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure that the person is aware that creating nuisance could result in action against him. 
  • Chapter proceeding is not a legal term. All the sections related to preventing of crime fall under a single chapter, it was colloquially called “chapter proceedings” and has since been used to refer to actions of this nature.

Sections:

  • A notice is issued to a person under section 111 of the CrPC whereby he is asked to present himself before the Executive Magistrate.
  • The person has to explain why he should not be made to sign a bond of good behaviour.
  • If the Executive Magistrate is not satisfied with the answer, the person is asked to sign a bond of good behaviour and produce sureties vouching for his/her good behaviour.
  • A fine amount is also decided in accordance with the crime and the person’s financial capability which the person would have to pay if he violates the conditions set in the bond.
  • The section states that any person who disseminates information that could lead to ill will among communities and castes should be served this notice.

Options to appeal against the notice:

  • On receiving the notice under section 111, a person can appeal the notice before the courts.
  • In 2017, the Bombay High Court mentioned that “chapter proceedings cannot be initiated on the basis of an incident of trivial nature”.
  • In 2018 the Mumbai sessions court also mentioned that chapter proceedings cannot be used with the purpose of punishing a past offence.

Use of chapter proceedings:

  • When an ACP receives information that any person is likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb public tranquillity or do any wrongful act that may probably occasion a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity he may in the manner hereinafter provided, require such person to show cause why he should not be ordered to execute a bond.
  • There is no need for even an FIR against a person for issuing a notice under section 107 of the CrPC.

Source: Indian Express

Allotment of Symbols to Political Parties

Context:

The upcoming Bihar assembly elections are being pitted as a contest between the lotus, arrow, hand, and hurricane lantern but the voters can also expect to see a myriad of other symbols like chapatti roller, dolli, bangles, capsicum on the ballots as they go out to vote.

Types of Symbols:

  • As per the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order, 2017, party symbols are either “reserved” or “free”.
  • The eight national parties and 64 state parties across the country have “reserved” symbols whereas the Election Commission also has a pool of nearly 200 “free” symbols that are allotted to the thousands of unrecognized regional parties that pop up before elections.
  • If a party recognized in a particular state contest in elections in another state, it can “reserve” the symbol being used by it, provided the symbol is not being used or bears resemblance to that of any other party.

Procedure for allotment of symbols:

  • The order, first promulgated in 1968, mandates the Election Commission to provide for specification, reservation, choice, and allotment of symbols at parliamentary and assembly elections, for the recognition of political parties.
  • The party or a candidate has to provide a list of three symbols from the EC’s free symbols list at the time of filing nomination papers in order to get a symbol allotted.
  • When a recognized political party splits, the Election Commission takes the decision on assigning the symbol.

Significance of symbols in elections:

  • The symbols are crucial campaigning tools to connect with the voters in a vast and diverse country like India, where several nondescript and small political parties try out their luck in state elections.
  • The symbols have become a crucial part of the electoral process ever since India held its first national polls in 1951-52.
  • Nearly 85 % of the electorates were illiterate at that point and the visual symbols were allotted to parties and candidates to help them identify the party of their choice.
  • The Election Symbols Order also provided for resolution of disputes in cases involving splits in recognized parties or merger of two or more political parties.

Source: The Indian Express

Data Governance Quality Index (DGQI) 

Context:

A survey named Data Governance Quality Index (DGQI) was conducted by Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office (DMEO), Niti Aayog.

  • Objective: To assess different Ministries /Departments' performance on the implementation of Central Sector Schemes (CS) and Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS).

Details:

  • Department of Fertilizers has been ranked third out of 65 departments/ministries based on its performance in the implementation of central schemes.
  • It is in second place among 16 economic ministries/departments.
  • Department of Fertilizers under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has been ranked 2nd amongst the 16 Economic Ministries / Departments and 3rd out of the 65 Ministries / Departments with a score of 4.11 on a scale of 5 on the Data Governance Quality Index (DGQI).
  • The effort of DMEO, Niti Aayog to bring out such a report card of the Ministries / Departments is highly appreciable.

Calculation Method:

  • In the survey, an online questionnaire was prepared under six major themes of DGQI --  data generation; data quality; use of technology; data analysis, use, and dissemination; data security and HR capacity, and case studies.
  • The questionnaire was then shared with Ministries / Departments, which are implementing CS / CSS schemes. Inputs have been collected from 65 Ministries / Departments implementing 250 CS / CSS schemes and their scores were accordingly calculated.
  • Weights were assigned to the themes and sub-weightages to each question within every theme to arrive at final DGQI scores ranging between 0 to 5 for every scheme.
  • To avoid straightforward irrelevant comparisons, ministries/departments were classified into six categories: Administrative, Strategic, Infrastructure, Social, Economic, and Scientific.

Significance:

  • It will improve the implementation framework of government policies, schemes, and programs to achieve the desired goals.
  • The DMEO has undertaken a DGQI exercise: self-assessment based review of data preparedness levels across ministries/departments to produce a DGQI scorecard.
  • Accordingly, a survey was initiated to assess the data preparedness of ministries/departments on a standardized framework to drive healthy competition among them and promote cooperative peer learning from best practices.

Source: PIB

Vodafone case, and the Hague Court Ruling

Context:

The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled that India’s retrospective demand of Rs 22,100 crore as capital gains and withholding tax imposed on Vodafone Group for a 2007 deal was “in breach of the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment”.

  • The court has asked India not to pursue the tax demand any more against Vodafone Group.

About the case:

  • In 2007, Vodafone had bought a 67% stake in Hutchison Whampoa for $11 billion. This included the mobile telephony business and other assets of Hutchison in India.
  • Later, the Indian government for the first time raised a demand of Rs 7,990 crore in capital gains and withholding tax from Vodafone, saying the company should have deducted the tax at source before making a payment to Hutchison.
  • Vodafone challenged the demand notice in the Bombay High Court, which ruled in favor of the Income Tax Department.
    • Subsequently, Vodafone challenged the High Court judgment in the Supreme Court, which ruled that Vodafone Group’s interpretation of the Income Tax Act of 1961 was correct and that it did not have to pay any taxes for the stake purchase.
  • The same year, the then Finance Minister, circumvented the Supreme Court’s ruling by proposing an amendment to the Finance Act, thereby giving the Income Tax Department the power to retrospectively tax such deals.
    • Once Parliament passed the amendment to the Finance Act in 2012, the onus to pay the taxes fell back on Vodafone. ???????
  • The Act was passed by Parliament that year and the onus to pay the taxes fell back on Vodafone. The case had by then become infamous as the ‘retrospective taxation case’.

Retrospective taxation:

  • It allows a country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items, or services, and deals and charge companies from time behind the date on which the law is passed.
  • Countries use this route to correct any anomalies in their taxation policies that have, in the past, allowed companies to take advantage of such loopholes.
  • Governments use a retrospective amendment to taxation laws to “clarify” existing laws.
  • Apart from India, many countries including the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Australia, and Italy have retrospectively taxed companies.

Bilateral Investment Treaty:

  • In 1995, India and the Netherlands had signed a BIT for the promotion and protection of investment by companies of each country in the other’s jurisdiction.
  • The treaty had then stated that both countries would strive to “encourage and promote favorable conditions for investors” of the other country.
  • Under the BIT, the two countries would ensure that companies present in each other’s jurisdictions would be accorded fair and equitable treatment and shall enjoy full protection and security in the territory of the other.
  • While the treaty was between India and the Netherlands, Vodafone invoked it as its Dutch unit, Vodafone International Holdings BV, had bought the Indian business operations of Hutchinson Telecommunication International Ltd. This made it a transaction between a Dutch firm and an Indian firm.
  • In 2016, the BIT between India and the Netherlands expired.

Permanent Court of Arbitration:

  • One of the major factors for the Court of Arbitration to rule in favor of Vodafone was the violation of the BIT and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
  • In 2014, when the Vodafone Group had initiated arbitration against India at the Court of Arbitration, it had done so under Article 9 of the BIT between India and the Netherlands.
    • Article 9 of the BIT:  Any dispute between “an investor of one contracting party and the other contracting party in connection with an investment in the territory of the other contracting party” shall as far as possible be settled amicably through negotiations.
    • Article 3 of the arbitration rules of UNCITRAL: Constitution of the arbitral tribunal shall not be hindered by any controversy with respect to the sufficiency of the notice of arbitration, which shall be finally resolved by the arbitral tribunal”.
  • In its ruling, the arbitration tribunal also mentioned that now since it had been established that India had breached the terms of the agreement, it must now stop efforts to recover the said taxes from Vodafone.

Source: Indian Express

Suspension of MPs

Context:

Recently, Eight Rajya Sabha MPs have been suspended for unruly behaviour in the House. The motion was passed by a voice vote.

Reason for suspension:

  • It is the role and duty of the Presiding Officer Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairman of Rajya Sabha to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly.
  • The suspension of the eight members comes a day after the Upper House witnessed massive unruly scenes by protesting Opposition members during the passage of two farm Bills.
  • In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker/Chairman is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House.

Rules under which the Presiding Officer acts:

  • Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business:
    • The Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any Member is grossly disorderly, may direct such Member to withdraw immediately from the House, and any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.
    • To deal with more recalcitrant Members, the Speaker make take recourse to Rules 374 and 374A.

Rule 374:

  • The Speaker may name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.
  • If a Member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the Member (naming such Member) be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.
  • A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”

Procedures in Rajya Sabha:

  • Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.
  • Unlike the Speaker, however, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member. The House may, by another motion, terminate the suspension.
  • The Chairman may name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing business. In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the Member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session.

Source: Indian Express

Owning Up to Criminalisation In Politics

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

In February 2020, the Supreme Court delivered a judgement on criminalisation in politics, which will have far-reaching implications for Indian Democracy.

This editorial discusses the far-reaching consequences of the court order.

2. THE FEB 2020 SC JUDGEMENT

2.1 Supreme Court 2020 verdict

  • In an order in February 2020, the SC ordered all political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The Apex court also ordered the political parties to state the reason that drove them to nominate suspected criminals over decent people.
  • This information is to be published in both local and national newspaper and the social media handles of political parties as well.
  • The court order mandates the publication of the information by political parties about the entire criminal history of the candidate either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.

2.2 Applicability of the Judgement

  • The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels and a failure to comply with the court's directives would “in contempt of this Court’s orders/directions.”
  • Hence, for the first time, the political parties and their leadership will have to publicly own up to criminalisation of politics, which they have been denying for all these years.

2.3 Earlier orders

  • Earlier orders state that
  1. each candidate shall submit a sworn affidavit giving financial details and criminal cases;
  2. each candidate shall inform the political party in writing of criminal cases against him or her; and
  3. the party shall put up on its website and on social media as well as publish in newspapers the names and details of such candidates

3. NEED FOR THE SUPREME COURT’S ORDER

3.1 Need for such an orderSupreme Court orders parties to publish criminal history of Lok Sabha, Assembly candidates

  • The SC Judgement observes that the number of Members of Parliament (MP) having pending criminal cases against them has been on the rise.
  • While 24% of the MP had criminal cases pending against them in 2004, the numbers rose to 30% in 2009 and in 2019, 43% of the MP had criminal cases pending against them.
  • India is the only democratic country with freedom of press where the problem of criminalization of politics exists at such a massive scale.

3.2 An ever present crisis

  • Presently, India is in the middle of a more immediate and more threatening crises viz.
    • the COVID-19 pandemic
    • the economic recession and slowdown due to the nationwide lockdown
    • the crisis of reverse migration of workers to villages
    • small businesses shutting down in many sectors
    • unprecedented levels of unemployment
    • a highly stressed banking and financial sector
    • the on-going border standoff with China
  • However, India also has an ever-present silent crisis, which requires immediate attention as well, viz. the steady criminalization and deterioration in politics over decades, with the deterioration declining in the last 16 years.
  • Politics dominates bureaucracy, and reins in business, civil society and the media, hence it is imperative that Governance is free of the “criminal” virus.

3.3 Bad Governance

  • The outcome of criminalisation in politics is bad governance.
  • Numerous surveys conducted year after year reveals that the Indian citizens are unhappy with the quality of governance.
  • The Indian citizens are given limited electoral choices and often have to vote for the lesser among evils.
  • The sorry state of affairs can be estimated from the fact that despite numerous parties forming government at the Union and State level, governance hasn't really improved, barring a few exception.
  • Use of money power to buy MLAs and MPs makes a mockery of voters, election process and outcomes.

4. UNDERSTAND THE PERSISTANCE OF PROBLEM

4.1 Effect of court orders and judgements

  • The Apex court has issued several judgements and directives to address the issue of rising criminalisation in politics and several laws have also been passed but to no avail.
  • Lack of Enforcement - One of the most important reason that court orders and legislation has not beehttps://www.insightsonindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/On_crime_and_politics.pngn able to keep criminalisation of politics in check is lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
  • Ambiguity over penalty - The consequences and penalty in case of a failure to comply with the court orders is also not clear and so it is with the February 2020 judgement.
  • The Court Order in this context is a welcome step but still candidates with serious criminal charges are still able to contest elections.
  • There have been many arguments against the Court order but the Court has dismissed several petitions calling for a ban due to legal and technical constraints.

4.2 Lack of political will

  • The political system is unwilling to change the law or the system and politics presently is in the hands of those who want power for its own sake.
  • A political leader being held responsible for giving ticket to large numbers of tainted candidates with pending criminal cases is going to act as a deterrent for other political parties.

4.3 Ultimate power lies with the citizens

  • The problem with fake news, trolling, and fanciful claims will continue to reduce transparency and drown out the little that citizens can do.
  • Ensuring prosecution and increasing public pressure is certainly going to help.
  • Mahatma Gandhi taught us to confront the real issue to solve the problem and on closer inspection, we will find that the top leadership of the political party is equally responsible for fielding tainted candidates.

5. GOING FORWARD

5.1 Way Forward

  • The courts should clearly state the penalties to be awarded in case of non-compliance with court orders.
  • The law enforcement Agencies should act with vigour to ensure that the guilty are prosecuted.
  • The top political leadership should be held responsible for non-compliance of the court orders.
  • There is little hope of any change without such bold and drastic steps.

5.2 More Vigilant

  • The law enforcement agencies should be more vigilant to ensure compliance. This includes:
    • monitoring the affidavits of candidates
    • working with the Election Commission to ensure that information is promptly available on their websites
    • widely circulating this information to voters through the social media tools     
  • The Supreme Court judgement also requires that the details of such tainted candidates with cases pending against them should be promptly put up on their websites, and on their social media handles, along with proper reasons for giving them ticket.
  • Monitoring political parties for compliance with this directive also needs to be done.

5.3 Vigilance by voters

  • The voters of this country also need to be vigilant towards use of money and muscle power to win elections.
  • Showering money, gifts and other inducements is a common sight during elections.
  • Any change will be far slow and insignificant until the people of this country realise that the leaders who bribe us for votes cannot be trusted.
  • Fortunately, a large and ever growing number of voters and organisations are joining in this work of cleansing politics.

6. CONCLUSION

6.1 Dramatic Changes

  • There will not be any immediate drastic changes out of the court's order.
  • The quality of candidates will be same as ever.
  • Political campaigns will resist developmental issues and may continue to be more and more personal and even abusive.
  • Money and muscle power will continue to be abused and horse trading of MLAs post-election in hung assemblies will continue to be practiced.

6.2 Insignificant changes required

  • All the steps mentioned above; however insignificant they seem are necessary.
  • More than a dozen on Supreme Court judgments on electoral reforms since 2002 are in response to citizen initiatives while the political system has not undertaken even a single initiative to address this concern.
  • The citizen of this great nation should strive until the power finally reaches the masses as envisioned by the framers of Indian Constitution.

6.3 Upcoming Bihar Elections

  • The Court judgement will be first implemented in the upcoming Bihar Elections to be held in October 2020.
  • To ensure a positive change in the present situation we need to take the steps discussed in this editorial, beginning right from the Bihar elections.

No Question Hour during the Monsoon Session

Context:

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats notified that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session of Parliament this year. Since the beginning of the current Lok Sabha, around 15,000 questions have been asked in Lok Sabha.

  • Opposition MPs have criticized the move, saying they will lose the right to question the government.

Question Hour:

  • During Question Hour (one hour) Members of Parliament ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries. 
  • MPs have used this parliamentary device to shine a light on government functioning.
  • With the broadcasting of Question Hour since 1991, Question Hour has become one of the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.

Zero Hour:

  • While Question Hour is strictly regulated, Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation. Zero Hour does not find mention in the rules of procedure.
  • The concept of Zero Hour started organically in the first decade of the Indian Parliament when MPs felt the need for raising important constituency and national issues.
  • The opportunity for MPs to raise national issues without an advance notice became available at 12 pm and could last for an hour until the House adjourned for lunch. This hour popularly referred to as Zero Hour and the issues being raised during this time as Zero Hour submissions. 

Regulation of Question Hour:

  • Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with Question Hour. The presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
    • For example, usually, Question Hour is the first hour of a parliamentary sitting. In 2014, to prevent the disruption of Question Hour Rajya Sabha Chairman shifted Question Hour in the House from 11 am to 12 noon. 

kind of questions:

  • As per the Parliamentary rules, questions have to be limited to 150 words. Questions have to be precise and not too general.
  • Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
  • Presiding officers of both the Houses finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.

Frequency of Question Hour:

  • In 1952, Lok Sabha rules provided for Question Hour to be held every day. Rajya Sabha had a provision for Question Hour for two days a week.
  • After a few years, this was changed to four days a week. Then from 1964, Question Hour was taking place in Rajya Sabha on every day of the session.
  • Now, Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session.
  • However, there are two days when an exception is made these are:
    • The day the President addresses MPs: There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses. The President’s speech takes place at the beginning of a new Lok Sabha and on the first day of a new Parliament year.
    • On the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget: Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.

Time for questions:

  • In 15-day advance, Ministries receive the questions so that they can prepare their ministers for Question Hour.
  • Governments officers can pass notes or relevant documents to support the minister in answering a question.
  • When MPs give answers about government functioning, they prefer the responses to such queries in writing. These questions are referred to as unstarred questions. The responses to these questions are placed on the table of Parliament.
  • MPs can also ask a question to a minister at a notice period shorter than 15 days.

Limitations on the number of questions:

  • In Lok Sabha, until the 1960s, there was no limit on the number of unstarred questions that could be asked in a day.
  • Now, Parliament limit the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day.
  • The total number of questions asked by MPs in the starred and unstarred categories are then put in a random ballot. From the ballot in Lok Sabha, 20 starred questions are picked for answering during Question Hour and 230 are picked for written answers. 

Source: Indian Express

Mission Karmayogi

Context:

Union Cabinet has approved Mission Karmayogi for Civil Services Capacity Building. The program is in line with India's vision of how a civil servant should be tomorrow. 

  • Mission Karmayogi is a national program to lay the foundation for the capacity building for civil servants so that they remain entrenched in Indian culture while learning from best practices across the world.
  • Objective: To prepare Indian Civil Servants for the future by enabling them to become more creative, innovative, professional, progressive, constructive, imaginative, transparent, proactive, energetic, and technology-enabled.

Mission Karmayogi:

  • It aims to focus on capacity building of individual civil servants as well as institutional capacity building. 
  • Under the Programme an Integrated Government Online Training-iGOT Karmayogi Platform will be set up.

Key Action Points:

  • The National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building will: 
  • Prescribe the Annual Capacity Building plan for all departments and services.
  • Monitor the implementation of the Capacity Building Plan.
  • Will ensure efficient service delivery
  • Promote Technology-Driven Learning Pedagogy
  • Strengthen Common Foundations and remove department silos.
  • Set benchmarks in learning for public servants. 

Benefits:

  • Mission Karmayogi will make civil servants more efficient, responsive, and accountable to the needs of the citizens by ensuring that the right person with the right competencies is in the right position.

Mission Karmayogi comprises the following institutional framework:

  • A Public Human Resources Council: It will be comprising of Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, HR practitioners, thinkers, global thought leaders, and Public Service functionaries under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister. 
    • The council will serve as the apex body for providing strategic direction to the task of Civil Services Reform and capacity building.
  • Capacity Building Commission: It will be set up to ensure a uniform approach in managing and regulating the capacity building ecosystem on a collaborative and co-sharing basis.
  • Special Purpose Vehicle for owning and operating the digital assets and the technological platform for online training.

Source: PIB

Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP)

Context:

A booklet on “Best Practices in Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP)” has been released by the Union Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.

Details:

  • The book provides information about various ‘good practices’ followed in land records modernization across national policy framework and in nine study states namely Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, etc. 
  • It also covers the gaps in the implementation of different processes (registration, mutation, survey, settlement, land acquisition), technological initiatives, and legal and institutional aspects.  

Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP): 

  • In 2008, the government had merged two Centrally Sponsored Schemes naming Computerisation of Land Records (CLR) and Strengthening of Revenue Administration & Updating of Land Records into a modified Scheme named Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP).
  • It is an initiative of the Department of Land Resources (DoLR), Ministry of Rural Development. 
  • The State Governments/UT Administrations will implement the program with financial and technical support from the Department of Land Resources, Government of India.
    • The district will be taken as the unit of implementation, where all activities under the program will converge.

Key objectives:

  • Updated land records, Automated and automatic mutation, 
  • Integration between textual and spatial records, 
  • Inter-connectivity between revenue and registration, 
  • To replace the present deeds registration and presumptive title system with that of conclusive titling with title guarantee.

The DILRMP has 3 components:

  • Computerization of land record
  • Survey/re-survey
  • Computerization of Registration.

Benefits to land modernization:

  • Property owners will have free access to their records without any compromise in regard to the confidentiality of the information. Real-time land ownership records will be available to the citizen
  • Free accessibility to the records will reduce interface between the citizen and the Government functionaries, thereby reducing rent-seeking and harassment.
  • Land modernization will permit e-linkages to credit facilities.
  • Citizens will get market value information on the website.
  • Certificates based on land data (e.g., domicile, caste, income, etc.) will be available to the citizen through computers.
  • Information on eligibility for Government programs will be available, based on the data.

Achievements of DILRMP:

  • Computerization of Land Records has been completed (more than 90%) in 23 States/ UTs and substantial progress has been achieved in 11 States/ UTs.
  • Digitization of Cadastral Maps has been completed (more than 90%) in 19 States/ UTs and substantial progress has been achieved in 9 States/ UTs.
  • Computerization of Registration has been completed (more than 90%) in 22 States/ UTs and substantial progress has been achieved in 8 States/ UTs.
  • Integration of SRO with the Revenue Office has been completed (more than 90%) in 16 States/ UTs and substantial progress has been achieved in 8 States/ UTs.

???????Source: PIB

Online Audit of Gram Panchayats 

Context:

For the current financial year, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has decided to conduct an online audit of 20 % of the estimated 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country. It is the first such exercise.

Details:

  • Objective: To ensure accountability in the utilization of funds at the ground level.
  • The exercise of auditing, to be conducted through AuditOnline, an application developed by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
    • AuditOnline is an open-source application developed as part of the Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES) under the e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP) initiated by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

Coverage:

  • The audit will cover all Panchayats across the country in the next financial year 2020-21.
  • During the current year, about 50,000 panchayats can be taken up for online audit.
  • For 2019-20 the Books of accounts of  Panchayats will be audited with a focus on how they used Finance Commission grants.
  • For the year 2020-21, the Fifteenth Finance Commission recommended an allocation of Rs 60,750 crore for rural local bodies. It is almost the same as last year recommended by the Fourteenth Finance Commission.

Benefits:

  • Online audit, with the option of physical verification, assumes greater relevance given the pandemic and the lockdown.
  • In the new online process, the auditors will be able to see online all documents related to work approval, work pending, and payments.
  • Officials can even ask for additional documents such as photographs as proof of work done.
  • As some works are geo-tagged, auditors can do a sample check by visiting the site. An online audit can be also monitored at all levels: district-state-Centre.

Challenges:

  • Timely availability of records was a major issue in the offline system.
  • More than 15 % of Panchayats in various states have not closed their books of accounts for the year 2019-20. 
    • Completing and closing the accounts is a pre-requisite for the online audit.
  • In fact, while 100 % of Panchayats in Maharashtra and Haryana have closed their 2019-20 accounts, no Panchayat has done this in Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar. States like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are also low performers.

Source: Indian Express

MoU between NATGRID and NCRB

Context: 

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed between The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The objective is to access the centralized online database on the first information report (FIR) and stolen vehicles. By December 2020 the project aims to go live.

Importance:

  • Access: The MoU between the will give NATGRID access to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) database. CCTNS platform links around 14,000 police stations. All-State police are mandated to file FIR in the CCTNS.
  • Safeguarding from leaks: Presently, the security agencies directly contact an airline or a telephone company if they are on a suspect’s trail. The data is shared through international servers (Google). The NATGRID will also ensure that such sensitive information is shared through a secure platform, safeguarding information from leaks.
  • Information: The MoU enables the NATGRID to get information about suspects as mentioned in the FIR (his/her father’s name, telephone number, etc).
    • NATGRID will act as a link between both intelligence as well as investigation agencies.
  • Initiated at a budget of Rs 2,800 crores, NATGRID will be a medium for at least 10 Central agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) to access data on a secured platform.
    • The data will be procured by NATGRID from 21 providing organizations such as telecom, tax records, bank, immigration, etc.

Concerns:

  • Earlier the Civil Aviation Ministry and various airline companies had raised concerns regarding providing information to another agency (NATGRID). The airlines claimed that they already provide information to the Bureau of Immigration and the Customs authorities.
  • The deliberations with the airlines are still on and once NATGRID is operational, all agencies will have to route their requests through the secured platform.
    • However, the State police will not be part of the grid and they could directly contact the airlines or railways for information.
  • NCRB is only a repository and the data pertaining to FIRs of a particular police station are a State subject it does not violate any legal provisions as FIRs are shared with all the police stations.
  • NATGRID  was conceptualized in 2009. It seeks to become the one-stop destination for security and intelligence agencies to access databases related to immigration entry and exit, banking, and telephone details of a suspect on a “secured platform”.
  • The information accessed by one agency through NATGRID will not be accessible to other agencies. It will be an automated system and through this, the request will link directly with the concerned department. No two agencies would know about the request generated by the other.

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB):

  • NCRB was set-up in 1986 on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (NPC) and the MHA’s Task Force.
  • It works under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • It publishes Crime in India report.
  • Functions:
    • It is a repository of information on crime and criminals. It also assists the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
    • In 2009 NCRB developed CCTNS with an objective to create an integrated system for effective policing at all levels.

Source: The Hindu

Creating Order By Trampling On Law

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The killing of Vikas Dubey and the chain of events leading up to it bring back to the surface the governance or lack thereof in Uttar Pradesh and on police reform in general.

Many Indian states tolerate acts of impunity and selectively suspend the rule of law.

The editorial discusses how the use of strong-arm tactics by the state tramples the creation of law and order.

2. PREVALENT LAWLESSNESS

2.1 Thoki Raj

  • The present political regime in the state of Uttar Pradesh is colloquially known as “thoki raj", owing to the increasing number of encounters in the state.
  • Various reports have shown that as early as February 2018 the UP police were conducting four encounters a day, killing up to 40 people.

2.2 Increasing lawlessness

  • The increasing lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh was evident in the way anti-CAA protests were quelled by arbitrarily attaching people’s properties in ways that had no legal backing and prejudged guilt.

2.3 Use of the National Security Act

  • There is also an increasing tendency of the UP government to deploy the National Security Act against a variety of offenses as if using this Act were imposing a minor fine.
  • Creating order by trampling on law seems to be the new ideological raison d’etre of the state government of Uttar Pradesh.

3. EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS

  • The killing of Vikas Dubey has parallels elsewhere but is also unique in the context that he epitomizes both the banality and horror of UP politics.
  • He allegedly killed eight police officers with impunity and was accused of several heinous crimes.
  • However, he was an integral part of a social and political power structure and served the needs of his political masters.
  • Given that the present political culture considers the demand for the rule of law as cruelty and vengeance as humanizing, there is a big possibility of trivializing this encounter but we should not ignore three points:
    • Firstly, there is no place for extrajudicial killings in a liberal democracy.
    • Secondly, the excuses given for extrajudicial killings even if true are not justified. Judicial infirmity is often cited to justify extrajudicial killings but most of the time, behind judicial infirmity, lies political hand.
    • Thirdly, the assumption of supporting political strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order in the longer run must be questioned as diminishing violence cannot be achieved through extra-judicial means.

4. POLICE REFORMS

The entire episode of events in this recent incident calls for the long-pending police reforms as

  • Protecting the police from political interference
  • Investing in police training
  • Ramping up judicial infrastructure

However, no entity really intends to undertake police reforms for the following reasons:

4.1 Distrust towards the police

  • The police arguably is one of the most distrusted institutions of the Indian state.
  • Police reforms are deemed to create more trust towards the police in the eye of the public.
  • But there is also a fear that empowering or reforming the police amidst the prevalent environment of distrust in the police could also amount to giving more powers of repression to the police.
  • Disempowered groups already suffering at the hands of the police also fear an effective police force as they might lose even the little margins of negotiation they have.
  • The privileged sections of the society would rather have a negotiable system than an effective police force.

4.2 Police as a political tool

  • The police have a strange position in a democracy. It is often used as a tool of political power to channelize patronage.
  • The political establishment in power does not want to give up this strong tool of political power.
  • However, the stand of opposition to police reforms is also not clear.
  • The opposition not only aims to use the same political power one day when they sit in power, but the ad hoc rule of law structure, open to negotiation by community identity, money, violence, and connections, actually fragments power in a democracy.

4.3 Resistance to state

  • No one wants to give the state an actual monopoly over violence.
  • Criminals subvert the rule of law but some sections also see them as power nodes and often deploy them in resistance to the state.
  • Indian democracy survived not just because of a commitment to values, but because this de facto fragmentation of violent power was essential to it.
  • Police reform would mean subverting this entire moral economy of fragmented power.

4.4 Pitiful state of the police

  • It is also reported that in UP Police, more than twice as many policemen were killed on duty as the number of civilians killed by police in the year of study.
  • More shocking is the fact that most of the police deaths were not at the hands of criminals but a result of neglect and poor working conditions.
  • The police are visibly expected by society to publicly stage violence or be implicated in its structures by politicians and at the same time, they are also morally condemned for enacting the norm.
  • Political analysts suggest that the police are marginalized in a moral sense. They are asked to sacrifice and simultaneously condemned morally and legally.
  • The police is both central and marginal to the political order depending on the need of the political establishment.
  • Without a real constituency of police reform, the line between the criminal and the state will remain blurred.

5. FAKE ENCOUNTERS

5.1 Encounter culture

  • Encounters were widely practiced all over India:
    • by the Maharashtra Police to deal with the Mumbai underworld
    • by the Punjab Police against Sikhs demanding Khalistan
    • by the Uttar Pradesh Police during the present political regime
  • Last year, the police in Hyderabad killed four men in an encounter. The four men had allegedly raped and murdered a woman veterinarian.
  • Political commentators terms such encounters not as clashes but cold-blooded murder by the police.

5.2 Provisions of Article 21

  • Article 21 of the Constitution states, “No person will be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with the procedure established by law.”
  • Article 21 mandates the state to put a person on trial in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code before depriving him of his life.
  • The accused must be informed of charges against him and should be given an opportunity to defend himself (through counsel).
  • Only after undergoing this due process the accused is found guilty, must he be convicted and executed.

6. CONCLUSIONS

Fake encounters and extrajudicial killings circumvent the legal procedure mandated by Article 21 in its entirety. Hence, such encounters are completely unconstitutional.

The argument of judicial infirmity and the justification of such encounters by citing that no one will dare to testify against dreaded criminals who will again roam free, even if true will breed a dangerous culture giving impunity to the police to carry out on the spot justice.

Such culture and practices have no place in a democratic country like India.

Source: Indian Express

Owning up to criminalisation in politics

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

In February 2020, the Supreme Court delivered a judgement on criminalisation in politics, which will have far-reaching implications for Indian Democracy.

This editorial discusses the far-reaching consequences of the court order.

2. THE FEB 2020 SC JUDGEMENT

2.1 Supreme Court 2020 verdict

  • In an order in February 2020, the SC ordered all political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The Apex court also ordered the political parties to state the reason that drove them to nominate suspected criminals over decent people.
  • This information is to be published in both local and national newspaper and the social media handles of political parties as well.
  • The court order mandates the publication of the information by political parties about the entire criminal history of the candidate either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.

2.2 Applicability of the Judgement

  • The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels and a failure to comply with the court's directives would “in contempt of this Court’s orders/directions.”
  • Hence, for the first time, the political parties and their leadership will have topublicly own up to criminalisation of politics, which they have been denying for all these years.

2.3 Earlier orders

  • Earlier orders state that
  1. Each candidate shall submit a sworn affidavit giving financial details and criminal cases;
  2. Each candidate shall inform the political party in writing of criminal cases against him or her; and
  3. The party shall put up on its website and on social media as well as publish in newspapers the names and details of such candidates

3. NEED FOR THE SUPREME COURT’S ORDER

3.1 Need for such an orderSupreme Court orders parties to publish criminal history of Lok Sabha, Assembly candidates

  • The SC Judgement observes that the number of Members of Parliament (MP) having pending criminal cases against them has been on the rise.
  • While 24% of the MP had criminal cases pending against them in 2004, the numbers rose to 30% in 2009 and in 2019, 43% of the MP had criminal cases pending against them.
  • India is the only democratic country with freedom of press where the problem of criminalization of politics exists at such a massive scale.

3.2 An ever present crisis

  • Presently, India is in the middle of a more immediate and more threateningcrises viz.
    • the COVID-19 pandemic
    • the economic recession and slowdown due to the nationwide lockdown
    • the crisis of reverse migration of workers to villages
    • small businesses shutting down in many sectors
    • unprecedented levels of unemployment
    • a highly stressed banking and financial sector
    • the on-going border standoff with China
  • However, India also has an ever-present silent crisis, which requires immediate attention as well, viz. the steady criminalization and deterioration in politics over decades, with the deterioration declining in the last 16 years.
  • Politics dominates bureaucracy, and reins in business, civil society and the media, hence it is imperative that Governance is free of the “criminal” virus.

3.3 Bad Governance

  • The outcome of criminalisation in politics is bad governance.
  • Numerous surveys conducted year after year reveals that the Indian citizens are unhappy with the quality of governance.
  • The Indian citizens are given limited electoral choices and often have to vote for the lesser among evils.
  • The sorry state of affairs can be estimated from the fact that despite numerous parties forming government at the Union and State level, governance hasn't really improved, barring a few exception.
  • Use of money power to buy MLAs and MPs makes a mockery of voters, election process and outcomes.

4. UNDERSTAND THE PERSISTANCE OF PROBLEM

4.1 Effect of court orders and judgementshttps://www.insightsonindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/On_crime_and_politics.png

  • The Apex court has issued several judgements and directives to address the issue of rising criminalisation in politics and several laws have also been passed but to no avail.
  • Lack of Enforcement - One of the most important reason that court orders and legislation has not been able to keep criminalisation of politics in check is lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
  • Ambiguity over penalty - The consequences and penalty in case of a failure to comply with the court orders is also not clear and so it is with the February 2020 judgement.
  • The Court Order in this context is a welcome step but still candidates with serious criminal charges are still able to contest elections.
  • There have been many arguments against the Court order but the Court has dismissed several petitions calling for a ban due to legal and technical constraints.

4.2 Lack of political will

  • The political system is unwilling to change the law or the system and politics presently is in the hands of those who want power for its own sake.
  • A political leader being held responsible for giving ticket to large numbers of tainted candidates with pending criminal cases is going to act as a deterrent for other political parties.

4.3 Ultimate power lies with the citizens

  • The problem with fake news, trolling, and fanciful claims will continue to reduce transparency and drown out the little that citizens can do.
  • Ensuring prosecution and increasing public pressure is certainly going to help.
  • Mahatma Gandhi taught us to confront the real issue to solve the problem and on closer inspection, we will find that the top leadership of the political party is equally responsible for fielding tainted candidates.

5. GOING FORWARD

5.1 Way Forward

  • The courts should clearly state the penalties to be awarded in case of non-compliance with court orders.
  • The law enforcement Agencies should act with vigour to ensure that the guilty are prosecuted.
  • The top political leadership should be held responsiblefor non-compliance of the court orders.
  • These is little hope of any change without such bold and drastic steps.

5.2 More Vigilant

  • The law enforcement agencies should be more vigilant to ensure compliance. This includes:
    • monitoring the affidavits of candidates
    • working with the Election Commission to ensure that information is promptly available on their websites
    • widely circulating this information to voters through the social media tools     
  • The Supreme Court judgement also requires that the details of such tainted candidates with cases pending against them should be promptly put up on their websites, and on their social media handles, along with proper reasons for giving them ticket.
  • Monitoring political parties for compliance with this directive also needs to be done.

5.3 Vigilance by voters

  • The voters of this country also need to be vigilant towards use of money and muscle power to win elections.
  • Showering money, gifts and other inducements is a common sight during elections.
  • Any change will be far slow and insignificantuntil the people of this country realise that the leaders who bribe us for votes cannot be trusted.
  • Fortunately, a large and ever growing number of voters and organisations are joining in this work of cleansing politics.

6. CONCLUSION

6.1 Dramatic Changes

  • There will not be any immediate drastic changes out of the court's order.
  • The quality of candidates will be same as ever.
  • Political campaigns will resist developmental issues and may continue to be more and more personal and even abusive.
  • Money and muscle power will continue to be abused and horse trading of MLAs post-election in hung assemblies will continue to be practiced.

6.2 Insignificant changes required

  • All the steps mentioned above; however insignificant they seem are necessary.
  • More than a dozen on Supreme Court judgments on electoral reforms since 2002 are in response to citizen initiatives while the political system has not undertaken even a single initiative to address this concern.
  • The citizen of this great nation should strive until the power finally reaches the masses as envisioned by the framers of Indian Constitution.

6.3 Upcoming Bihar Elections

  • The Court judgement will be first implemented in the upcoming Bihar Elections to be held in October 2020.
  • To ensure a positive change in the present situation we need to take the steps discussed in this editorial, beginning right from the Bihar elections.

Source: The Hindu

Digitising the State

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

In his 2015 visit to Silicon Valley, Prime Narendra Modi suggested that “digital platforms were advancing citizen empowerment and democracy that once drew their strength from constitutions”.

Presently, in India, there is a huge gap between digitization in the private and government sectors.

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that Aadhaar enabled Direct Benefit Transfer which is one of the elements of Digital India that has facilitated quick and targeted action.

At the same time, the COVID-19 crisis has also demonstrated that large parts of the Indian state continue to resist, underinvest in, and delay digitization.

This editorial analyses problem with government accounting and suggests ways to tackle this problem in line with CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) proposal of a new project and law called DATA (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act).

2. CURRENT ACCOUNT KEEPING BY THE GOVERNMENT

2.1 Problem with the Government’s current account Keeping

  • The Union budget has grown from a mere Rs 197 crore in 1947 to Rs 30 lakh crore last year.
  • For the previous fiscal year, the total government expenditure stood at more than Rs 70 lakh crore.
  • Despite that humongous change in total government budget the form and manner of account keeping have largely remained unchanged since 1947.
  • Manual transactions and manual payments often lead to manually entered data at different stages in different databases on different systems.
  • Manual account keeping makes that data unreliable and violates the principle of “single source of truth”.
  • Manual data-keeping also sabotages transparency and is against the spirit of good governance.

2.2 Problems with government computerization

  • Government computerization has often mechanized manual processes rather than “re-engineered processes”.
  • This had led to the creation of siloed IT systems with disparate databases.
  • Due to separate databases established in silos, these IT systems lack modern data sharing protocols for organic linking like APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).
  • Lack of data sharing leads to the following:
    • It makes fiscal data like salary expenditure across states incomparable
    • creates the problem of obscurity as large expenditures are booked under omnibus head called other
    • it makes data non-traceable as actual expenditure against temporary advances drawn or funds drawn on  contingent bills
    • it creates the problem of misclassification of data as grants in aid is classified as capital expenditure and bookings under suspense heads

3. DATA (DIGITAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY ACT)

3.1 About DATA

  • The CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General has proposed a three-phase transition to mandatory digital payments, accounting, and transactions for the government.
  • This has been done under a new project and law called DATA (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act)
  • It uses the COVID policy window for an empowering, elegant, and overdue reform with delightful consequences.
  • DATA recognizes that digitally empowered citizens require digital public utilities that not only provide e-services but make all government revenue and expenditure data electronic, machine-readable, granular, comprehensive, purpose linked, non-repudiable, reliable, accessible and searchable.

3.2 Starting and End Points of DATA

  • A starting point for DATA is that all entities receiving government funds in all forms of funding should have a common data standard
  • The endpoint of DATA is a single searchable website that ascertains total government funding by element and entity.

4. JOINING THE START AND END POINT OF DATA

Connecting the start and the endpoints of DATA requires three elements:

4.1 A 100% end-to-end electronic data capture

  • This is a fairly simple element.
  • It requires that all receipts and expenditure transactions including demands, assessment, and invoices should  be received, processed, and paid electronically

4.2 Data governance for standards across all government entities

  • This is a complex element.
  • Data standards are rules for describing and recording data elements with precise meanings and semantics that enable integration, sharing, and interoperability.
  • Advantages of prescribing data elements for all transactions
    • It will ensure standardization
    • It will clarify ambiguity
    • It will minimize redundant data
  • A defined data standard will also create protocols for integration across
    • different databases
    • entities receiving government funds,
    • entities collecting revenues on behalf of the government
    • entities discharging core functions on behalf of the government
  • The proposed standardization of government-wide data coupled with real-time data captured end-to-end will enable the following
    • use of cognitive intelligence tools like analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning,
    • it will also support the establishment of budget baselines, detecting anomalies, data-driven project/activity costing, performance comparisons across departments and agencies, and benchmarking

4.3 Technology architecture.

  • The third element of technology architecture.
  • It ensures that all IT government systems should conform to a prescribed open architecture framework (for instance, IndEA) while ensuring robust security and maintaining privacy.

5. ADVANTAGES OF DATA

  • It can help to recognize off-budget transactions (the last Union budget took steps towards this fiscal transparency and consolidation)
  • It will also lead to business continuity as electronic records cannot be lost or misplaced like files or paper records
  • It will lead to an incontrovertible audit trail.
  • DATA will also ensure that all government dues are duly collected and every single rupee is spent for the purpose it was allocated.

6. WAY FORWARD

6.1 Data Governance Authority

  • A Data Governance Authority would be required for Recurring operations.
  • The proposed three-year timeline is ample.
    • one year for standard-setting by the data governance authority
    • two years to ministries/departments of the Government of India and states
    • three years to all other recipients of government money such as local and autonomous bodies
  • The 12-month mandatory deadline for all government payments to go digital will be of great assistance to this project.
  • Presently, the bad behavior costs the RBI Rs 4,000 crore in bank agency commissions, as many parts of the government do not use the RBI’s free e-kuber system.

6. CONCLUSION

From the point of view of a citizen, a single source of truth that accounts for every single rupee of the public money would make the framers of the Indian Constitution proud of this 21st-century citizen empowerment innovation. Digitization of the Indian state proposed by the government and CAG imagines a giant leap in empowering our citizens.

Source: Indian Express

Police reform and the crucial judicial actor

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently a senseless act of police brutality gripped the public imagination due to the custodial death of a father-son duo in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu.

This editorial looks into the much necessary police reforms in India and the role of the judiciary in it.

2. CUSTODIAL DEATHS IN INDIA

2.1 Details of theThoothukudiCase

  • A father-son duo was arrested for an alleged violation of lockdown rules by opening their shops after permitted hours in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu remanded to judicial custody.
  • The police claim that the duo fell ill after being lodged in a sub-jail and breathed their last in a hospital.
  • The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court took suomotu cognizance of the incident and decided to closely monitor the progress of the statutory magisterial probe.
  • The Chief Minister has announced a compensation of ?10 lakh each.
  • Two sub-inspectors have been suspended and an inspector has been placed on compulsory wait.

3. JUDICIARY AS A BEACON IN POLICE REFORMS

3.1 Custodial Deaths in India

  • The custodial deaths are a reminder of police brutality in India and how little development has been made in the domain of policing to unshackle it from its colonial heritage and reform it into a contributor and active participant of India’s democratic polity.
  • In cases regarding police brutality and custodial death, the only ray of hope and action comes from the judiciary and as in this case too the Madras High Court has taken suomotu cognizance of the incident and is closely monitoring the situation.
  • The constitutional courts in India have time and again issued directions to ameliorate the evil of police violence and custodial brutality in India.
  • The lack of police reforms by legislative and a tendency of the police to continue functioning in the traditional way has led some scholars to hail the Supreme Court of India as the only institution in India that is working towards police reforms.

3.2 Right to life and Right to know.

  • Some notable cases regarding issuing of directions by the judiciary are Joginder Kumar v. the State of UP (1994) and D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997), wherein the apex court issued guidelines to secure two rights with regard to any state action viz. a right to life and a right to know.
  • These guidelines by the Court intended to curb the power of arrest and make sure that the accused is made well aware of all critical information regarding his / her arrest and also convey the same to family and friends immediately in the event of being taken in custody.
  • These guidelines by the apex court were given statutory status only after a decade via the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008 and today are a part of the law.

3.3 Prakash Singh v. Union of India Case (2006)

  • In this case, the Supreme Court went ahead even further and pushed through new legislation to be passed by all States in India for governing police forces.
  • The most vital component of this new legislation was a robust setup for accountability that contemplated a grievance redress mechanism.
  • It took 11 years for the State of Tamil Nadu to implement this legislation (the law was passed in 2013 but came into effect only in 2017).
  • Several other states have still not implemented these guidelines and stand in the contempt of the apex court.
  • This paints a sorry picture of the lack of political will and how low the issue of police reforms ranks in the scheme of things.

4. WHY THE COURTS HAVE FAILED

4.1 Magistrate wielding the real power

  • While the courts have tried to tackle and arrest the senseless tradition of police brutality for over more than two decades, yet many reports estimate up to five custodial deaths per day in the country.
  • This is largely and undoubtedly due to the apathy and reluctance of the state institutions towards issuing police reforms.
  • The writer suggests that the judiciary’s approach of passing guidelines and issuing directions has proven to be a failure.
  • It is not the constitutional court but the ordinary magistrate, who is the judicial actor having real power to bring about substantial police reforms.

5. JUDICIARY MAKING EFFECTIVE REFORMS

5.1 Compensation claims and prosecutions

  • The judiciary is often considered as the weakest branch of the state because mere noble intentions cannot transform a court order into reality.
  • It requires money, resources, and the power of immediate implementation to put the words into action and the courts lack all the three.
  • Studies have shown that even though the apex court has struck down many criminal laws deeming them as unconstitutional, they continue to be employed by the local police in various corners of the country.
  • Instead of focusing their energies on passing more guidelines and orders, the courts must contend with the concrete cases that come their way and reveal the hardships a common man has to face against police violence in the way of getting justice, either through compensation claims or prosecutions.

5.2 Use of technology

  • The Judiciary has also shown increasing support for “scientific” investigations to keep the police violence under check.
  • The increasing support for techniques such as narcoanalysis, mandatory recording of all investigations, and issuing orders for installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside police stations shows the concern and acceptance by the court of the frequent use of physical violence by the police to obtain evidence.
  • There is a hope of delegitimizing and dismantling the traditional practices that rely upon the use of force as a means to extract truth as with the increasing use of technology by the police.

5.3 Culture of impunity

  • The judicial court's mush also sheds the institutional baggage which leads them to protect the supposedly vulnerable morale of police, as evident when the Madras Court cited the Thoothukudi incident as a case of “few bad apples” ruining a system’s reputation.
  • The writer suggests that it is the culture of impunity, which all the police officials experience, that drives a few of them to such brutality.
  • The writer suggests that instead of minimizing, the courts should look at the possibility of imposing monetary penalties at the district level, to give away the message than the actions of 'a few bad apples' must be seen as the failure of the police force itself.

5.4 Reforming the local magistrate

  • The apex court could strike an inspired move by reorienting their guidelines aimed to redefine the practices of magistrates as the courts exercise the power of superintendence over the magistrates when compared to other non-judicial actors and this can be more effective too.
  • This is because it is the local magistrate is the point of the first contact for a citizen with rights given to him by the Indian constitutional, something which the largest democracy takes pride in.
  • All arrested and detained individuals are to be produced before the local magistrate within 24 hours and hence any reform introduced at this level will be most effective.
  • Thoothukudi incident has brought the inexcusable lapses by the magistrate on the surface.
  • The laxity in remanding accused persons to further custody (both the police and judicial), is not the exception but the norm and should be taken into cognizance immediately.

6. CONCLUSION

The local magistrates are overworked and struggle with an ever-exploding docket. They are often in a rush to be done with “remand case”, rather than treat the accused with required courtesy and dignity which he/she is entitled to.

However, this is not the fault of the magistrate but the result of a systematic failure of which the courts are indirectly responsible for.

The courts can introduce much change without any legislative prerequisite if they focus their energies in the right direction and introduce reform in their own domain by striking the rod at the right place.

Source: The Hindu - https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/police-reform-and-the-crucial-judicial-actor/article31965573.ece

The BharatNet project

Context:

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has ordered the scrapping of a Rs 1,950 crore tender for the BharatNet project in Tamil Nadu. The department stated that the bidding conditions were “restrictive” and “discriminatory”. To connect all 12,524 gram panchayats of Tamil Nadu was the objective.

The BharatNet project

Objectives: To connect Indian villages with high-speed broadband connections through an optical fiber. It also aims at taking broadband connectivity to every nook and corner of the country by using optical fiber.

Features: 

  • BharatNet program was earlier known as National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN). NOFN program was launched in 2011.
  • Through the program, the government envisages providing a minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth at each Gram Panchayat. BharatNet will help in accessing online services by everyone, especially those in rural India. Services include e-governance, e-learning, e-banking, e-commerce, and e-health services.
  • BharatNet program is considered the biggest rural telecom project in the world. It is now an integral part of the Digital India initiative- the flagship program to empower citizens digitally and to bridge the digital gap between rural and urban India.
  • BharatNet project will provide broadband speed from 2 to 20 Mbps. The project is proposed to provide broadband connectivity for government institutions at the district level.
  • A broadband connection will be routed through an optical fiber. If it is not possible through optical fiber then wireless and satellite networks will be used.
  • There is also a provision to provide internet connections free of cost in schools, hospitals, and skill development centers.
  • In the 2020 budget, the government has proposed to allocate 6000 crores in 2020-21 to the ‘BharatNet’ program to link one lakh gram panchayats by providing Fibre to the Home connections (FTTH).

Status of BharatNet Project: Till date 1.3 lakh, Gram Panchayats have been with BharatNet optical fiber. Bharat Net is being used through BSNL, CSB, SPV, TSP, and ISP to provide WiFi service in Gram Panchayats. 

Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL):

  • BBNL is a special purpose vehicle, set up by the government under the Department of Telecommunications for the management, establishment, and operation of BharatNet.
  • BBNL was incorporated in 2012 as a PSU under the Companies Act 1956.

Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT):

  • DPIIT was established in 1995 and comes under the aegis of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It was reconstituted in the year 2000 with the merger of the Department of Industrial Development.

Optical Fiber Cable:

  • It is also known as fiber-optic cable and contains one or more optical fibers that carry electronic inputs.
  • Optical fiber is used for many services like providing high-speed data connection, long-distance communication, or providing digital audio connections between digital devices.

Way Forward:
Connecting every village with the internet is an ambitious idea of the government. The program has the potential to bring about a large-scale change in the lives of rural citizens of India. Such connectivity can have a profound impact on governance and the economy as well.

Source: Indian Express

Can online learning replace the school classroom?

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The COVID-19 epidemic in India has disrupted the education sector and there is an increasing trend in online classes.

This editorial discusses the impact and effectiveness of online learning on students.

2. THE DEBATE OVER ONLINE EARNING

  • The COVID-19 epidemic has disrupted this year’s academic calendar.
  • Schools are mass shut, classes have been suspended and exams are being cancelled all over the globe.
  • As a response to this crisis, schools have moved to online classes compelling students to use their electronic gadgets to attend lectures.
  • This move is entailed by a debate over increases screen time. It remains to be seen if the increased amount of screen time is helping students learn or impeding their progress.
  • Maharashtra has banned online classes from pre-primary to Class II.
  • Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have banned it until Class V.
  • Let us look at the pros and cons of online learning.

3. HAS ONLINE CLASSES INCREASED SCREEN TIME FOR STUDENTS

3.1 No it has not really

  • Some are of the opinion that children have anyways been hooked to screens even before the COVID-19 crisis, in a variety of forms including television, mobile, and computers and therefore, online classes have not caused any significant increase in screen time.
  • Research shows that the average daily screen time for children is eight to nine hours.
  • A case in point is also the fact that online classes do not entirely depend on screen and they include various other activities that can be done offline.
  • Yoga classes, painting, and crafts, science experiments that require ingredients easily available in a common household, cooking, etc. are some of the 'off-screen activities' that schools are integrating with online classes.
  • Hence, the screen time is interspersed with hands-on activities to creatively engage students.
  • Cancelation of classes altogether will hamper the development of the brain of the children. In the early years of life, the brains develop every day, and hence learning every day is crucial.
  • For the development of the brain, the young minds need the right kind of simulation, which only a teacher can provide as they have provided age-appropriate stimulation.

3.2 Yes it has not

  • Some experts are of the view that online learning is not a healthy way of learning.
  • As schools are shifting to online learning, it automatically implies long periods of screen time for the child, which can be harmful.
  • Keeping implications on health aside, online learning also drives the child to loneliness and isolation.
  • Children have to learn alone without their peers and in a sense, it is 'unsupervised learning' as the role of the teacher is also restricted in online learning.
  • While parents are busy with their daily lives, and the absence of the classroom environment, such unsupervised learning will certainly affect the learning process.
  • Another noteworthy disadvantage is that many children especially those in government schools are being deprived of education during the pandemic, as they do not have access to online facilities and are missing out on the lessons.
  • Even though some families might have access to digital technology, there might not be enough devices to accommodate the personal use of all the family members.
  • Adults working from home require a personal gadget most of the day hours and hence, online learning requires a household to have several gadgets to be distributed among all the family members, which is not feasible for a large section of the Indian society. 

4. EXPOSING CHILDREN TO SCREENS AT A YOUNG AGE

  • Exposing children to screens from a young age can hamper their overall development.
  • Light-emitting from the screen might negatively affect their vision and lead to permanent eyesight problems.
  • Online learning is also a passive activity and tends to make children lethargic and dampens their cognitive skills.
  • Exposing children to screen from a tender age, using videos to placate toddlers and other such parenting methods can lead to behavioural problems.
  • Schools should keep this in mind while designing the online curriculum.
  • The lessons should be designed in such a way that the child only spends a few minutes looking at a screen.
  • This can be done by integrating different activities into the lessons.

5. GUIDELINES ON ONLINE LEARNING

  • There has been a rush to jump to online classes without thinking thoroughly about the multiple issues surrounding online learning hence the courts have asked the government to come up with regulatory instructions and guidelines for online learning (Recently the Karnataka High Court has asked for guidelines on online learning).
  • The courts wish to inquire what online classes entail, what it means, how it is going to happen and what will be its impact.
  • In this regard, The Early Childhood Association (a think tank on pre-primary education) has prepared detailed guidelines that can be followed in online learning.
  • Governments should engage such NGOs, organizations, and think tanks to come up with a comprehensive guideline such that children are not deprived of learning yet are shielded from the ill effects on long periods of screen time.
  • Unfortunately, many of the balwadis and anganwadis (government-run crèches and day-care facilities) might be located in congested areas, which may be hotspots

6. REOPENING SCHOOLS

6.1 Reopening Schools in India

  • The entire conversation revolves around technology while it should be about screen time. Watching television also counts in screen time.
  • There is a need to focus on turning schools into a safe place where education can resume.
  • Education is much more than just information or content delivered to students via screens. Most of the learning in education takes place through social interactions in a school, with peers, with the teachers.
  • Online classes shave cut short the social interactions and it could have other kinds of developmental and cognitive impacts on the child and their development. x
  • It is high time that we started to talk about how the school actually can be made a space that is safe again, for children to come back to, rather than make a complete switch to online learning.

6.2 Schools already opening abroad

  • Schools are reopening abroad, but we cannot compare that to the situation in India.
  • The schools that have opened in these countries are taking the utmost precautions like using tissue boxes for every class.
  • Students can dump their used tissues in these boxes. However, the waste generated is so huge, and it will also require to be discarded safely.
  • Indian schools lack that kind of infrastructure. In addition, it is difficult to make children sit in the classroom wearing masks, without touching it or for them not to touch other children and their masks.

6.3 Schools post COVID-19 – Way out

  • During pandemics, schools can be opened in a staggered manner, with 50% students attending every alternate day.
  • This will help avoid crowded classrooms and give schools time to clean up their premises.
  • Temperature checks of teachers, students, and non-teaching staff should become mandatory.
  • Teachers should not give students any books to carry home.
  • Social distancing should be followed strictly by teachers and students.
  • Priority should be given to opening schools for marginalized and migrant children, as they might not have access to technology.
  • There is a large section of the population that is unable to access technology and that’s a huge concern like the families of migrant labourers.
  • It still remains to be seen if children are benefitting from online learning.

7. CONCLUSION

  • If we stop online education, even the children who have access to technology will lose out. So, stopping online classes is not a solution.
  • Instead, we need to work on providing technology to disadvantaged children.
  • Some non-government organizations are already working on these issues. They are providing smartphones, electronic tablets, and teaching children to make use of technology. We need more such initiatives.
  • We need to make it possible for the students to have a safe environment in schools even during a pandemic. We need to ensure that there is no shortage of teachers.
  • Itis not just about online instruction, but also about preparing action plans to deal with students who have lost out on education because of the pandemic. A majority of the students who were unable to access technology in this pandemic may become drop-outs.

Source: The Hindu https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CKZnzknv0ktqTijVLLlP65frEpNs4_Ui/view

SATYABHAMA Portal

Context:

SATYABHAMA (Science and Technology Yojana for Aatmanirbhar Bharat in Mining Advancement) Portal for Science and Technology Programme Scheme has been launched by the Ministry of Coal.

  • This portal has been designed, developed, and implemented by the National Informatics Centre.

Benefits of the portal:

  • In the present system where research proposals are submitted physically by the Scientists / Researchers, SATYABHAMA Portal allows online submission of project proposals along with monitoring of the projects and utilization of funds/grants.
  • The researchers can also submit progress reports and Final Technical Reports of the projects in the electronic format in the portal.
  • A User Manual is also available on this portal where the stepwise procedures for submission of project proposals have been highlighted.
  • The Portal is integrated with the NGO Darpan Portal of NITI Aayog.

NGO-DARPAN:

  • This platform provides space for an interface between Non-Government organizations in the country and key Government Ministries / Departments / Government Bodies.
  • Earlier it was an initiative of the Prime Minister's Office, to create and promote a healthy partnership between NGOs/VOs and the Government of India. Now it is an e-governance application offered by NITI Aayog to electronically maintain data and transparency regarding NGOs in the country.

Source: PIB