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Daily Category  (Governance)

Summit of Ministers of Justice of SCO

Context:

India Hosts Virtual Summit of Ministers of Justice of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Details:

  • It was the Seventh Meeting of Ministers of Justice of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Member State.
  • Minister of justice of 8 countries- India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan participated in the summit. 
  • The summit deliberated on areas of cooperation; emphasized the high relevance of mutual exchange of legal information on counteraction to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and acknowledged the need for cooperation in the ADR mechanism area, among others.

Key outcomes:

  • To strengthen the work on the implementation of the Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministries of Justice of the SCO Member States.
  • To continue the work on the implementation of the Action Plans of the working groups of experts on forensic activities and legal services for 2018-2020, as well as to develop Action Plans for 2021-2023.
  • Consider organizing exchange programs for representatives of the ministries (law and justice of the SCO member-states) to study the best practices in alternative dispute resolution.
  • To continue discussing the parties' positions on the issues of mutual legal assistance and development of legal services in accordance with national legislation.
  • Actively develop cooperation with the ministries of justice of the SCO observer and dialogue partner states.
  • Continue efforts to develop an online platform for the exchange of legal information, taking into account national laws.  

India’s initiatives in the field of Justice:

  • Pro Bono Legal Services to provide free legal aid to marginalized sections of the society.
  • 3.44 Lakh free legal consultations have been given to poor people through video conferencing under Tele-Law services.
  • e-Courts projects with Video-Conferencing facility and Virtual Courts as part of Government’s successful transformative change in process automation from the conventional brick and mortar court architecture.
  • Over 25 Lakh hearing through video conference, during the COVID19 pandemic, have taken place at various courts of India, out of which 9,000 virtual hearings have taken place at the Supreme Court alone.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):

  • It is a permanent intergovernmental international organization established in 2001.
  • It was formed in Shanghai (China) by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St. Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in 2002 and came into force in 2003.
  • In 2017 Astana, the status of a full member of the Organization was granted to India and Pakistan.
  • The organization has two permanent bodies i.e. the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
  • Members:  India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Observer states are Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia.

Goals:

  • Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states;
  • Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology, and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
  • Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security, and stability in the region
  • Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair, and rational new international political and economic order.

Source: PIB

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

Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)

Context:

The Centre’s move to corporatise the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has been strongly opposed by the federations of the workers from ordnance factories and allied units across the country.

Background:

  • In September 2020, an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) for Corporatization was constituted under the chairmanship of the Defence Minister.
  • Objective: To oversee and guide the entire process, including transition support and redeployment plan of employees while safeguarding their wages and retirement benefits.
  • The corporatization will result in the conversion of the OFB into (single or multiple) fully (100%) government-owned entities under the Companies Act, 2013 like other public sector undertakings.

Ordnance Factory Board (OFB):

  • The OFB, an umbrella body for the ordnance factories and related institutions, is currently a subordinate office of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
  • The organisation dates back over 200 years and is headquartered in Kolkata.
  • It is a conglomerate of 41 factories, nine Training Institutes, three regional marketing centres and five regional controllers of safety.
  • A major chunk of the weapon, ammunition and supplies for not just armed forces but also paramilitary and police forces comes from the OFB-run factories.
    • Their products include civilian and military-grade arms and ammunition, explosives, propellants and chemicals for missiles systems, military vehicles, armoured vehicles, optical devices, parachutes, support equipment, troop clothing and general store items.

The corporatisation of the OFB:

  • The corporatisation will result in the conversion of the OFB into one or more 100 % government-owned entities under the Companies Act, 2013 like other public sector undertakings.
  • While at least three committees on Defence reforms set by the governments between 2000 and 2015 have recommended the corporatisation, it had not been implemented till now.
  • The notion of corporatisation was listed as one of the 167 ‘transformative ideas’ to be implemented in the first 100 days of the government. 

Concerns:

  • One of the main apprehensions of the employees is that corporatisation would eventually lead to privatisation.
  • Another key concern has been that the corporate entities would not be able to survive the unique market environment of defence products that have very unstable demand and supply dynamics. They also fear job losses.

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

Disturbed Areas Act

Context:

President of India has given his assent to a Bill passed by the Gujarat Assembly which made some important amendments to The Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provisions of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act popularly known as the ‘Disturbed Areas Act’.

Disturbed Areas Act:

Notification:

  • Under the Disturbed Areas Act, a district Collector can notify a particular area of a city or town as a “disturbed area”. This notification is generally done based on the history of communal riots in the area.
  • Following this notification, the transfer of immovable property in the disturbed area can take place only after the Collector expressly signs off on an application made by the buyer and the seller of the property.
  • In the application, the seller has to attach an affidavit stating that she/he has sold the property of her/his free volition and that she/he has got a fair market price.

Reasons for amendment of the Act:

  • The Bill to amend the Act was brought in after a large number of complaints were received from MLAs and other people about individuals who had skirted the provisions of the Act by taking advantage of legal loopholes in it.
  • It was argued that this could potentially lead to the communal polarisation of a particular locality.
  • In the earlier version of the Act, the district Collector had to ensure, on the basis of an affidavit by the seller, that she/he had sold the property of her/his own free will, and that she/he had got the fair market price for it.
    • However, there were reports of anti-social elements selling and buying properties after either threatening people or luring them with higher prices, in areas marked as “disturbed”.

Key provisions:

Power:

  • The amended Act gives the Collector more powers to ascertain if there is a likelihood of “polarisation” or “improper clustering” of persons belonging to a particular community, thus disturbing the demographic equilibrium in the area. Also, the state government is now authorized to review a decision taken by the Collector.
  • A provision has been made for the creation of a special investigation team (SIT) or committee to probe these aspects.
  • In municipal corporation areas, the SIT will comprise the concerned Collector, Municipal Commissioner, and Police Commissioner as members. In areas other than municipal corporations, the SIT will have the Collector, Superintendent of Police, and Regional Municipal Commissioner as members.

An advisory committee:

  • The amended Act enables the state government to form an advisory committee that will advise it on various aspects of the DA Act, including adding new areas to the ‘disturbed areas’ list. 
  • The amendment has added a provision to the original Act that gives the state government supervisory authority to review the Collector’s decision related to the Act, even if there is no appeal filed against the same. The formation of the supervisory authority will be done while framing the Rules for the amended Act.

Applicability: 

  • The provisions of the Act will not be applicable to the government’s rehabilitation schemes in a disturbed area, where it resettles displaced people.
  • As per the government, earlier only those areas which had witnessed (communal) riots would be notified as ‘disturbed areas’.
    • However, now, the government can notify any area as a ‘disturbed area’ where it sees the possibility of a communal riot, or where it sees the possibility of a particular community’s polarisation. 

Source: Indian Express

Educational Materials in Indian Sign Language

Context:

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center-ISLRTC and NCERT to make educational materials accessible for Deaf children in their preferred format of communication viz Indian Sign Language.

  • According to the WHO in 2018, the prevalence of hearing impairment in India is around 6.3% which means 63 million people suffering from significant auditory loss.

Significance:

  • The availability of NCERT textbooks in Indian Sign Language will ensure that Hearing Impaired children can also now access educational resources in Indian Sign Language.
  • It will be useful for Hearing Impaired students, teachers, teacher educators, parents, and the Hearing Impaired community, which in turn will have a huge impact on the education of Hearing Impaired children in the country.
  • After this MoU, NCERT educational books and materials will be available in Indian Sign Language which is the same all over India, which means all hearing-impaired students of India whether, from East or West or North or South, they all will read NCERT books in a single language i.e. Indian Sign Language. 
  • MoU is a step towards achieving the common goal of fulfilling the needs of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016, and New Education Policy, 2020.

Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre:

  • It is an autonomous national institute of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • It was established in 2015.
  • It is dedicated to the task of developing man-power for popularizing the use of Indian Sign Language, teaching and conducting research in Indian Sign Language.

NCERT:

  • It is an autonomous organization under MHRD.
  • NCERT is responsible for ensuring qualitative improvement in school education by undertaking and promoting research in areas related to school education.
  • It acts as a nodal agency for achieving the goals of the Universalization of Elementary Education.

Source: PIB

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

Rules for the protection of Good Samaritans

Context:

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has notified the rules for the protection of Good Samaritans.

  • A “Good Samaritan" means a person, who in good faith, voluntarily and without expectation of any reward or compensation renders emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance at the scene of an accident to the victim or transports such victim to the hospital.
  • India witnesses around 1.5 lakh deaths every year due to road accidents which are the highest in the world.

Background:

  • Earlier, In the Save life Foundation and another V/S, Union of India case Supreme Court directed the Central Government to issue necessary directions with regard to the protection of Good Samaritans until appropriate legislation is made by the Union Legislature

New guidelines:

  • The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, inserted a new section 134A, named "Protection of good Samaritans" which provides that a Good Samaritan shall not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of the victim of an accident.
  • The people helping the road accidents victims on the spot can no longer be put through legal quagmire at the hospital or later by law enforcement authorities.
  • The rules provide for the rights of good samaritan which include that the good samaritan is treated respectfully without any discrimination on the grounds of religion, nationality, caste, or sex.
  • No police officer or any other person shall compel a Good Samaritan to disclose his/her name, identity, address, or any other personal details. However, he may voluntarily choose to disclose the same.
  • The rules also provide that every public and the private hospital shall publish a charter in Hindi, English, and vernacular language, at the entrance or other conspicuous location, and on their website, stating the rights of Good Samaritans.
  • If a person has voluntarily agreed to become a witness in the case in which he has acted as a Good Samaritan, he shall be examined in accordance with the provisions of the new law.

Source: PIB

Question of Federalism on Farm Acts
 

Context:

Recently, the President of India gave assent to the controversial farm Bills passed by Parliament. There are protests going on in the country against the bill.

Arguments in favour of the Bills:

  • According to the government, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 liberates farmers by giving them the freedom to sell anywhere.
  • The government claims these Acts will transform Indian agriculture and attract private investment.
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, provides for contract farming, under which farmers will produce crops as per contracts with corporate investors for a mutually agreed remuneration.

Arguments against Farm Bills:

  • The farmers fear that powerful investors would bind them to unfavourable contracts drafted by big corporate law firms.
  • The liability clauses in the contract would be beyond the understanding of poor farmers in most cases.
  • The opposition believes that it would lead to the corporatisation of agriculture, with the market, along with the monsoon, becoming an unpredictable determinant of the destiny of farmers.

Question of Federalism on Farm Acts:

  • Federalism essentially means both the Centre and states have the freedom to operate in their allotted spheres of power, in coordination with each other.
  • As per the Union of India v H.S.Dhillon (1972), the constitutionality of parliamentary laws can be challenged only on two grounds i.e. the subject is in the State List or that it violates fundamental rights.
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 do not mention the constitutional provisions under which Parliament has the power to legislate on the subjects covered.

The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution:

  • It contains three lists that distribute power between the Centre and states:
    • There are 97 subjects in the Union List, on which Parliament has exclusive power to legislate (Article 246);
    • The State List has 66 items on which states alone can legislate;
    • The Concurrent List has 47 subjects on which both the Centre and states can legislate; and
    • In case of a conflict, the law made by Parliament prevails (Article 254).
    • The Parliament can legislate on an item in the State List under certain specific circumstances laid down in the Constitution.

Source: Indian Express

Amnesty International India

Context:

The government had frozen all bank accounts of Amnesty International India, leading to all of its work in the country coming to a halt.

  • Amnesty International India has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.
  • Amnesty International India is a part of the global human rights movement spearheaded by Amnesty International. It has its registered office in Bangalore.

Argument by Amnesty:

  • Amnesty has alleged that the government has frozen its bank accounts due to repeated calls for transparency and against the human rights violations in the country.
  • The European Union (EU) has also expressed its concerns against the action of the government citing the valued work of Amnesty International worldwide.
  • Recently, Amnesty International India had demanded an independent investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by the police during the north-east Delhi riots and the establishment of the National Commission for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Amnesty International India stood in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws and for human rights work in India, it operates through a “distinct model of raising funds domestically.
  • Attacks on Amnesty International India is only an extension of the various repressive policies and sustained assault by the government.

Argument by the Government:

  • In order to circumvent the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA) regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
  • A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty India without the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs under FCRA. This rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions.
  • India doesn't allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.

Amnesty International:

  • It is an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) founded in 1961.
  • Objective: To publicize violations by governments and other entities of rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), especially freedom of speech and of conscience and the right against torture.
  • Headquarter: London, UK
  • In 1977, it was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Source: The Hindu

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

G4 Meeting

Context:

Foreign Ministers from the Group of 4 met virtually. The four countries stressed delivering concrete outcomes, in writing and within a time frame.

  • Group of 4 (G4) consists of India, Brazil, Japan, and Germany.
  • G4 is a group of countries that are seeking permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Details:

  • The Ministers reaffirmed their common resolve to take decisive steps towards the early and comprehensive reform of the Security Council that was envisaged in the 2005 World Summit.
    • The 2005 World Summit was held at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
  • The G4 will work with other reform-minded countries and groups to start text-based negotiations without delay and seek “concrete outcomes” during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.
  • G4 Ministers reiterated support for each other’s membership to the UNSC given the capacity and willingness to take on major responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • All governments expressed strong and unambiguous commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
    • It set up two new bodies:
      • A Peacebuilding Commission to help countries in transition from war to peace
      • A strengthened Human Rights Council.

India’s Position:

  • India will commence a two-year non-permanent term on the UNSC in January 2021
  • It has long sought a permanent seat at the Council.
  • Four of the five permanent members of the Security Council USA, UK, France, and Russia support giving India a permanent seat at the Council. Only China is opposed to this.
  • India is also seeking reforms to democratize the UN, such as UNSC reforms and UN peacekeeping reforms.

Concerns:

  • An informal "coffee club" or Uniting for Consensus Group has opposed UNSC reforms.
  • Most members of the club are middle-sized states who oppose bigger regional powers grabbing permanent seats in the UN Security Council.
  • Italy and Spain are opposed to Germany's bid for UNSC’s permanent membership.
  • Pakistan is opposed to India's bid. 

Source: The Hindu

CAG Report on Utilization of Funds

Context:

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) observed that the Centre has only transferred 60% of the proceeds from cess/levies in Fiscal Year 2018-19 to the relevant Reserve Funds and retained the balance in the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).

Mechanism of Utilisation:

  • Cesses and levies collected are required to be first transferred to designated Reserve Funds and utilised for the specific purposes intended by Parliament.
  • Funds collected through Central taxes along with cesses and other levies go to the CFI.
  • Taxes and surcharges in CFI are parked in a divisible pool and 42% of the total is given to States as devolution.

Details:

  • The Centre retained in CFI more than Rs 1.1 lakh crore out of the almost Rs 2.75 lakh crore collected in 2018-19 through various cesses.
  • Rs 1,24,399 crore collected as cess on crude oil over the last decade had not been transferred to the designated Reserve Fund.
  • GST Compensation Cess, which has become a bone of contention between the States and the Centre, was also ‘short-credited’ to the relevant reserve fund to the extent of Rs 40,806 crores in 2018-19.
  • The CAG noted that erroneous Integrated GST (IGST) accounting also led to States receiving less funds from the Centre.
  • A sum of Rs 15,001 crore collected as IGST was erroneously transferred and accounted as States’ share of net proceeds of IGST instead of being apportioned between Centre and States.
  • A balance of Rs 13,944 crores was also left ‘unapportioned’ and retained in the CFI, even though the amended IGST Act now provides for ad-hoc apportionment of IGST.

Consolidated Fund of India (Article 266):

Composition:

  • All revenues received by the Centre by way of taxes (Income Tax, Central Excise, Customs and other receipts) and all non-tax revenues.
  • All loans raised by the Centre by the issue of Public notifications, treasury bills (internal debt) and from foreign governments and international institutions (external debt).
  • All government expenditures are incurred from this fund (except exceptional items which are met from the Contingency Fund or the Public Account) and no amount can be withdrawn from the Fund without authorization from the Parliament.

Surcharge:

  • It is an extra fee, charge, or tax that is added on to the cost of a good or service, beyond the initially quoted price.
  • The surcharge is added to an existing tax and is not included in the stated price of the good or service.
  • It is levied for extra services or to defray the cost of increased commodity pricing.

Cess:

  • It is a form of tax levied over and above the base tax liability of a taxpayer. It is not a permanent source of revenue for the government, and it is discontinued when the purpose of levying it is fulfilled.
  • Cess is resorted to only when there is a need to meet the particular expenditure for public welfare.
  • It can be levied on both indirect and direct taxes.

Source: The Hindu

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Context:

Parliament has passed The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The Bill replaces an Ordinance promulgated in June 2020 and amends the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

Background:

  • The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 was used to curb inflation by allowing the Centre to enable control by state governments of trade in a wide variety of commodities.
  • The states imposed stock limits to restrict the movement of any commodity deemed essential. It helped to discourage the hoarding of items, including food commodities, such as pulses, edible oils, and vegetables.
    • However, the Economic Survey 2019-20 highlighted that government intervention under the ECA 1955 often distorted agricultural trade while being totally ineffective in curbing inflation.

Details:

  • The Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha by a voice vote, in the absence of the Opposition, which boycotted proceedings.
  • The Bill aims to remove fears among private investors of excessive regulatory interference in their business operations.
  • The bill removes cereal, pulses, oilseed, edible oil, onion, and potatoes from the list of essential commodities.
  • It ensures that the interests of consumers are safeguarded by regulating agricultural foodstuff in situations such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity.
    • However, the installed capacity of a value chain participant and the export demand of an exporter will remain exempted from such regulation so as to ensure that investments in agriculture are not discouraged.

Significance:

  • The freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute, and supply will lead to harnessing economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into the agriculture sector.
  • It will help drive up investment in cold storage and modernization of the food supply chain.
  • The government, while liberalizing the regulatory environment, has also ensured that the interests of consumers are safeguarded. It has been provided in the amendment that in situations such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity, such agricultural foodstuff can be regulated.
  • This amendment prevents wastage of agricultural produce due to a lack of storage facilities.
  • With the Food Corporation of India controlling stocks before, there were less investment and buyers. Farmers often hoarded for six months to get a better price, and their products often rotted. The possibility of export will benefit farmers.”
  • The Bill ensures farm sector transformation and a stable regime while increasing farmer income, 

Source: Indian Express

The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Bill 2020

Context:

The Parliament has passed a Bill to declare five newly established Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) as institutions of national importance.

  • The five new IIITs set up under the Public-Private Partnership mode are in Surat, Bhopal, Bhagalpur, Agartala, and Raichur.
  • Currently, these institutes are registered as Societies under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, and do not have the power to grant degrees or diplomas.

Background:

  • IIITs are envisaged to promote higher education and research in the field of Information Technology.
  • Under the Scheme of Setting up of 20 new IIITs in  PPP mode as approved by the Union Cabinet in 2010, 15 IIITs are already covered by the IIIT (PPP) Act, 2017, while the remaining 5 IIITs are to be included under the Schedule of the Act.
  • The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Act of 2014 and Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Public-Private Partnership) Act, 2017 are the unique initiative to impart knowledge in the field of Information Technology to provide solutions to the challenges faced by the country.
  • In IIITs, the government contributes 50 %, and the rest 35 % and 15 % are from the respective state governments and the industry. While in the case of the Northeast, 50 % sum of the industry participation is taken care of by the central government.

Details:

  • The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has already been passed by Lok Sabha.
    • Recently, the Bill was introduced in the Upper House by Human Resource Development Minister.
  • Currently, there are 25 IIITs in the country out of which five are purely run by the central government and 15 operate under the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

Significance: 

  • Bringing the five new institutes under IIITs Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will make them Institutes of National Importance and they will have the legal right to issue a diploma, degree, Ph.D., etc.
  • These 5 IIITs along with 15 other IIITs will now be able to use the nomenclature of Bachelor of Technology (BTech) or Master of Technology (MTech) or Ph.D. degree.
  • It will also enable the institutes to attract enough students required to develop a strong research base in the field of information technology.

Institute of National Importance:

  • It is a status that may be conferred on a premier public higher education institution in India by an act of Parliament an institution which "serves as a pivotal player in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the country.
  • Institutes of National Importance receive special recognition and funding from the Government of India.

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

Parliamentary Committees

Context:

The Government passed two agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha. However, the Opposition protested against the fact that neither Bill had been scrutinised by a Parliamentary Committee.

Parliamentary committee’s role:

  • Parliament scrutinizes Bills in two ways:
    • By discussing the bill on the floor of the two Houses: This is a legislative requirement; all Bills have to be taken up for debate. The time spent debating the bills can vary. They can be passed in a matter of minutes, or debate and voting on them can run late into the night.
      • Issues: Since Parliament meets for 70 to 80 days in a year, there is not enough time to discuss every Bill in detail on the floor of the House. Plus debate in the house is mostly political and does not go into the technical details of a legislative proposal.
    • By referring a Bill to a parliamentary committee: It takes care of the legislative infirmity of debate on the floor of the House.

Parliamentary Committees:

Department Standing Committees:

  • They were set up in 1993. Committees that examine bills, budgets, and policies of ministries. There are 24 such committees and between them, they focus on the working of different ministries. Each committee has 31 MPs, 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
  • Objective: To ensure the accountability of Government to Parliament through a more detailed consideration of measures in these committees.
    • The purpose is not to weaken or criticize the administration but to strengthen by investing in more meaningful parliamentary support.
  • Departmentally Related Standing Committees have a tenure of one year, then they are reconstituted and their work continues throughout the term of a Lok Sabha. Ministers are not members.
  • Then there are committees constituted for a specific purpose, with MPs from both Houses. The specific purpose could be detailed scrutiny of a subject matter or a Bill. These are Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPC).

Select Committee:

  • This is formed for examining a particular Bill and its membership is limited to MPs from one House.  Select Committees are constituted for a specific purpose, they are disbanded after their report. Both these types of committees are chaired by MPs from the ruling party.

Procedure:

  • There are three broad paths by which a Bill can reach a Parliamentary Committee.
    • The minister introducing the Bill recommends to the House that his Bill be examined by a Select Committee (Committee of one House i.e either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) of the House or a Joint Committee of both Houses.
    • The presiding officer of the House can also send a Bill to a Parliamentary Committee.
    • A Bill passed by one House can be sent by the other House to its Select Committee.
  • The report of the committee is of a recommendatory nature. The government can choose to accept or reject its recommendations. The Committee can also suggest its own version of the Bill.
  • In the current Lok Sabha, 17 Bills have been referred to committees. In the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19), 25% of the Bills were referred to committees, which was much lower than the 71% and 60% in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha respectively.

Source: Indian Express

Protest Against Three Ordinances

Context:

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana and other parts of the country have been protesting against three ordinances promulgated by the Central government.

  • The government has introduced three Bills to replace these ordinances and recently Lok Sabha passed these bills.

Three ordinances:

  • The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020
  • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

Details:

  • Indian farmers are protesting against all three ordinances.
  • Their objections are mostly against the provisions of the first. And their concerns are mainly about sections relating to “trade area”, “trader”, “dispute resolution” and “market fee” in the first ordinance. 

Trade area:

  • Section 2(m) of The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 defines “trade area” as any area or location, place of production, collection and aggregation including:
    • farm gates; factory premises; warehouses; silos; cold storages; or any other structures or places, from where the trade of farmers’ produce may be undertaken in the territory of India.
  • The definition does not, however, include “the premises, enclosures and structures constituting:
    • Physical boundaries of principal market yards, sub-market yards and market sub-yards managed and run by the market committees formed under each state APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act”.
    • It also excludes “private market yards, private market sub-yards, direct marketing collection centres, and private farmer-consumer market yards managed by persons holding licences or any warehouses, silos, cold storages or other structures notified as markets or deemed markets under each State APMC Act in force in India.

Concerns:

  • The existing mandis established under APMC Acts have been excluded from the definition of trade area under the new legislation.
  • As per the government, the creation of an additional trade area outside of mandis will provide farmers with the freedom of choice to conduct trade in their produce.
  • Farmers mentioned that this provision will confine APMC mandis to their physical boundaries and give a free hand to big corporate buyers.

Trader:

  • Section 2(n) of the first ordinance defines a “trader” as “a person who buys farmers’ produce by way of inter-State trade or intra-State trade or a combination thereof, either for self or on behalf of one or more persons for the purpose of wholesale trade, retail, end-use, value addition, processing, manufacturing, export, consumption or for such other purpose”.
    • Thus, it includes processor, exporter, wholesaler, miller, and retailer.
  • According to the Ministry of the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, “Any trader with a PAN card can buy the farmers’ produce in the trade area.”
    • A trader can operate in both an APMC mandi and a trade area.
      • However, for trading in the mandi, the trader would require a licence/registration as provided for in the State APMC Act. In the present mandi system, arhatiyas (commission agents) have to get a licence to trade in a mandi.

Concern:

  • Arhatiyas have credibility as their financial status is verified during the licence approval process. “But how can a farmer trust a trader under the new law?

The provision on ‘market fee’ :

  • Section 6 states that “no market fee or cess or levy, under any State APMC Act or any other State law, shall be levied on any farmer or trader or electronic trading and transaction platform for trade and commerce in scheduled farmers’ produces in a trade area.
  • As per the government, this provision will reduce the cost of the transaction and will benefit both the farmers and the traders.
  • Under the existing system, such charges in states like Punjab come to around 8.5% — a market fee of 3%, a rural development charge of 3% and the arhatiya’s commission of about 2.5%.

Concern:

  • This provision does not provide a level playing field to APMC mandis. 
  • The provision of dispute resolution under Section 8 does not sufficiently safeguard farmers’ interests.
  • In case of a dispute arising out of a transaction between the farmer and a trader, the parties may seek a mutually acceptable solution through conciliation by filing an application to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate. 
    • The Sub-Divisional Magistrate shall refer such dispute to a Conciliation Board to be appointed by him for facilitating the binding settlement of the dispute.
  • Farmers fear the proposed system of conciliation can be misused against them. They say the ordinance does not allow farmers to approach a civil court.

Source: Indian Express

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020

Context:

Recently, Rajya Sabha passed The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020.

  • The bill seeks to provide statutory status to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

New changes:

  • The latest amendments to the Aircraft Act of 1934 seek to expand the role of the two regulators DGCA and BCAS and of the AAIB.
  • The DGCA, which is the aviation safety regulator, will be empowered to impose penalties for certain violations in addition to increasing the maximum penalty limit to Rs 1 crore from the existing Rs 10 lakh.
    • However, the amendments will also now allow the Ministry of Civil Aviation to review any order passed by the Director-General of Civil Aviation and the Director-General of Civil Aviation Security, and also direct them to rescind or modify such order.

Need for amendments:

  • The Aircraft Act of 1934 was enacted to make provisions for the control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import, and export of aircraft.
  • It makes provisions for securing the safety of aircraft operations in India, and for carrying out civil aviation operations as per internationally accepted standards, procedures, and practices as laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
  • From time to time, the government has made amendments to the Act to meet the evolving global and Indian aviation scenario. The various changes that needed to be made necessitated amendments to the Aircraft Act.

Details:

  • The ICAO, under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme and the Universal Security Audit Programme, regularly conducts safety and security audits of all countries which are signatory to the Chicago Convention to ensure they are carrying out their safety and security oversight functions.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States also conducts safety audits of countries whose airlines operate to the US under its International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme.
  • India, as a signatory, is also subjected to periodic audits by ICAO and the FAA.
  • The audits conducted by the ICAO in 2012 and 2015 indicated a need to amend the Aircraft Act to give proper recognition to the regulators under the Act, to enhance the maximum quantum of fines,
    • And to empower the departmental officers to impose financial penalties on individuals or organizations involved in violations of the legal provisions and to include certain areas of air navigation services for rulemaking purposes under Section 5 of the Act.

Source: Indian Express

Mekedatu Project

Context:

The Karnataka government is likely to bring pressure on the Centre to approve the construction of the Mekedatu reservoir on Cauvery river.

Background:

  • The reservoir was proposed to store water for drinking purposes.
  • In 2017, the Rs 9,000 crore project was approved by the Karnataka government.
  • The project has also received approval from the Union Water Resources Ministry and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) even as Tamil Nadu has approached the Supreme Court against the project.

Reasons for Opposition by Tamil Nadu:

  • Tamil Nadu is opposed to any project being proposed in the upper riparian unless it was approved by the Supreme Court.
  • Tamil Nadu mentioned that the project is against the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in which the SC held that no state can claim exclusive ownership or assert rights to deprive other states of the waters of inter-state rivers.
  • The tribunal has found that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin were adequate for storing and distributing water so Karnataka’s proposal is ex-facie (on the face of it) untenable and should be rejected outright.
  • Tamil Nadu also claims that Karnataka has no right to construct any reservoir on an inter-state river without the consent of the lower riparian state.
  • It has also held that the reservoir is not just for drinking water alone, but to increase the extent of irrigation, which is in clear violation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Award.
  • The approval of the project from MoFCC is crucial because 63% of the forest area of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary will be submerged.
  • 4.75 thousand million cubic feet of water could be drawn from the reservoir to partially meet the drinking needs of Bengaluru.

Mekedatu dispute:

  • Mekedatu is a location along Cauvery in Kanakapura Taluk of Ramanagara District of Karnataka.
  • Karnataka wants a reservoir across Cauvery at Mekedatu, to meet Bengaluru’s water problem.
  • Ontigondlu is the proposed reservoir site, situated at Ramanagara district in Karnataka about 100 km away from Bengaluru.
  • The project is the midst of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Tamil Nadu objected the project and mentioned that Karnataka had not sought prior permission for the project.
  • Its argument was that the project would affect the flow of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
  • Tamil Nadu also argues that the reservoir violates the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Cauvery Tribunal.

Source: The Hindu

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Context:

Lok Sabha passes Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

  • The Bill will replace the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance which was promulgated on 5th June 2020.

Highlights of the Ordinance:

  • The ordinance allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets.  State governments are prohibited from levying any market fee, cess, or levy outside APMC areas. 
  •  The ordinance creates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.  It provides for a three-level dispute settlement mechanism: the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority.
  •  It allows the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances (such as war and famine).  Stock limits may be imposed on agricultural produce only if there is a steep price rise. 

Key Issues:

  • The ordinance aims to increase the availability of buyers for farmers’ produce, by allowing them to trade freely without any license or stock limit, so that an increase in competition among them results in better prices for farmers.  
  • While the Ordinances also aim to liberalize trade and increase the number of buyers, de-regulation alone may not be sufficient to attract more buyers.
  •  The Standing Committee on Agriculture noted that the availability of a transparent, easily accessible, and efficient marketing platform is a pre-requisite to ensure remunerative prices for farmers.  
    • Most farmers lack access to government procurement facilities and APMC markets.  It noted that small rural markets can emerge as a viable alternative for agricultural marketing if they are provided with adequate infrastructure facilities.  
  •  The Standing Committee also recommended that the Gramin Agricultural Markets scheme (which aims to improve infrastructure and civic facilities in 22,000 Gramin Haats across the country) should be made a fully funded central scheme and scaled to ensure the presence of a Haat in each panchayat of the country.

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020:

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and empowers the central government in terms of production, supply, distribution, trade, and commerce of certain commodities.
  • The bill also seeks to increase competition in the agriculture sector and enhance farmers’ income.  The bill aims to liberalize the regulatory system while protecting the interests of consumers.
  • The bill empowers the central government to designate certain commodities including food items, fertilizers, and petroleum products as essential commodities.
  • Supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potato, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils, can be regulated by the government under extraordinary circumstances as per the provisions of this bill.  
    • The extraordinary circumstances include war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity of grave nature.
  • The bill empowers the central government to regulate the stock of an essential commodity that a person can hold.  
  • The provisions of the bill regarding the regulation of food items and the imposition of stock limits will however not apply to any government order relating to the Public Distribution System or the Targeted Public Distribution System.

Source: The Hindu

Disposal of Cigarette and Beedi Butts

Context:

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), to lay down guidelines pertaining to the disposal of cigarette and beedi butts within three months.

Findings of IITR:

  • A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) approves the CPCB report and holds that the concentration of various parameters analyzed is lower than the prescribed limits and will not be toxic.
  • The study added that natural environmental conditions and laboratory stimulating conditions would be required to conclude the safety or toxicity of cigarette butts to further correlate with human and environmental health risk assessment.
  • NGT is mainly concerned with the manner of disposal of cigarette and beedi butts. 

CPCB report: 

  • It highlighted that the analysis of the cigarette and beedi butts reflects that their concentrations detected will not be toxic to humans and the environment.
  • Cellulose acetate is a major component (95%) of the cigarette butts along with the wrapping paper and rayon and its degradation studies show that it will persist for a longer duration.
    • However, the toxicity data for cellulose acetate is not available yet.

Suggestions:

  • Recycling: Recycling of cellulose acetate after recovery from cigarette butts would be an immediate solution.
  • Committee: A departmental committee should be constituted to consult at the national level for conducting an impact study of discarded cigarette and beedi butts and spitting of tobacco products in public places.
  • More studies and research: There is a need for more studies and research so that degradation and safety data can be generated which would be helpful in forming guidelines.

National Green Tribunal (NGT):

  • It was established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • It draws inspiration from India’s constitutional provision of Article 21, which assures the right to a healthy environment.
  • It aims for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It has Original Jurisdiction on matters of “substantial question relating to environment” and “damage to the environment due to specific activity”.
  • It follows the principles of Natural Justice.
  • The NGT deals with civil cases under the seven laws related to the environment:
    • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974,
    • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977,
    • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,
    • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,
    • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,
    • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and
    • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):

  • It is a statutory body constituted in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • It was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Source: The Hindu

Kesavananda Bharati Case

Context:

Recently, Kesavananda Bharati the main petitioner of Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors v State of Kerala Case, 1973 passed away.

  • The ruling is considered among the most important decisions by the Supreme Court as it set out the “basic structure” of the Constitution that Parliament cannot amend.

Kesavananda Bharati:

  • He challenged the Kerala land reform legislation in 1970, which imposed restrictions on the management of the religious property.
    • Article 26: The case was challenged under this, concerning the right to manage religiously owned property without government interference.
  • A 13-judge bench was set up (the biggest so far) to hear the case.
  • The question underlying the case also included:
    • Was the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution unlimited?
    • Could Parliament amend, alter, abrogate any part of the Constitution even to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights?

About the case:

  • It was about the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution.
    • First, the court was reviewing a 1967 decision in Golaknath v State of Punjab which, reversing earlier verdicts, had ruled that Parliament cannot amend fundamental rights.
    • Second, the court was deciding the constitutional validity of several other amendments.
  • The right to property was a major one. It had been removed as a fundamental right, and Parliament had also given itself the power to amend any part of the Constitution and passed a law that it cannot be reviewed by the courts.
  • With the Kesavananda Bharati case the executive vs judiciary maneuvers displayed in the amendments ended.

The judgment of the court:

  • The court held that fundamental rights cannot be taken away by amending them. While Parliament had vast powers to amend the Constitution, it drew the line by observing that certain parts are so inherent and intrinsic to the Constitution that even Parliament cannot touch it.
    • However, despite the ruling, the court upheld the amendment that removed the fundamental right to property. The court ruled that in spirit, the amendment would not violate the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
  • Kesavananda Bharati, in fact, lost the case. But as many legal scholars point out, the government did not win the case either

Basic structure doctrine:

  • Origins:  The origins are found in the German Constitution which, after the Nazi regime, was amended to protect some basic laws.
  • Learning from that experience, the new German Constitution introduced substantive limits on Parliament’s powers to amend certain parts of the Constitution which it considered ‘basic law’.
  • In India, the basic structure doctrine has formed the bedrock of judicial review of all laws passed by Parliament.
  • No law can impinge on the basic structure. What the basic structure is, however, has been a continuing deliberation.
  • Parliamentary democracy, fundamental rights, judicial review, secularism- are all held by courts as basic structure, the list is not exhaustive.
  • It is the Judiciary that is responsible to decide what constitutes the basic structure.

Source: Indian Express

Tenure of the Standing Committees 

Context:

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat is considering changing the rules governing the Departmentally-Related Standing Committees’ (DRSC) tenure to make it to two years from the present one year so that the panels have enough time to work on the subjects selected by them.

Details:

  • The tenure of all the standing committees ends on September 11 and they can’t hold deliberations till new panels are formed.
  • The government is keen on amending the rules to give a fixed two-year tenure for all the committees.
  • Two options being considered:
    • To extend the term of the panels for a year.
    • To form new committees with a fixed tenure of two years.

New Draft Guidelines:

  • The Rajya Sabha secretariat prepared new draft guidelines for its standing committees these are:
    • A minimum of 15 days’ notice and confirmation by one-third of the members before holding a panel meeting.
    • The nomination of members based on their qualifications, interests, and occupations.
    • At least 50% attendance while collecting evidence and adopting reports.

Departmentally-Related Standing Committees’ (DRSC):

  • On the recommendation of the Rules Committee of the Lok Sabha, 17 DRSCs were set up in the Parliament in 1993.
  • In 2004, seven more such committees were set up, thus increasing their number from 17 to 24.

Departmental Standing Committees:

  • There are 24 standing committees out of these 8 work under the Rajya Sabha and 16 under the Lok Sabha.
  • The term of office of each standing committee is one year from the date of its constitution.
  • Each standing committee consists of 31 members out of these 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
  • A minister is not eligible to be nominated as a member of any of the standing committees. In case a member, after his nomination to any of the standing committees, is appointed a minister, he then ceases to be a member of the committee

Function:

  • It secures more accountability of the Executive to the Parliament.
  • Parliament exercises its control with the help of committees and influence over administration and keeps vigilance over the executive.
  • The Committees aid and assist the Legislature in discharging its duties and regulating its functions effectively, expeditiously, and efficiently. They assist the Parliament in thoroughly and systematically scrutinizing the matters which could not be discussed on the floor at length.
  • The Committees also provide the expertise on a matter which is referred to them.

Source: The Hindu

Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020

Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020. The bill will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.

About the bill:

  • A Bill to include Kashmiri, Dogri, and Hindi as official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Only English and Urdu were official languages in the former State.
  • Only English and Urdu were official languages in the former State, which was bifurcated on 5th August 2019, with Ladakh becoming a separate Union Territory.
  • The Bill not only fulfills a long-pending public demand of the region but also keeps with the spirit of equality.

Background:

  • Dogri along with Bodo, Maithili, and Santhali was added to the scheduled languages under the Eighth Schedule by the 92nd Amendment Act of 2003
  • The Sindhi language was added by the 21st Amendment Act of 1967.
  • Konkani, Manipuri, and Nepali were included by the 71st Amendment Act of 1992.

Languages in 8th schedule:

  • Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the official languages in Articles 343 to 351.
  • Article 345: Official language or languages of a State subject to the provisions of Article 346 and 347.
  • The Constitutional provisions related to the Eighth Schedule are:
    • Article 344(1): The President constitutes a commission on the expiration of five years from the commencement of the Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of ten years from such commencement, which shall consist of a Chairman and such other members representing the different languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to make recommendations to the President for the progressive use of Hindi for official purposes of the Union.
    • Article 351: It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language.

Source: The Hindu

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

The Demand for NRC Re-verification 

Context:

The Assam government has stuck to its demand of 10-20% re-verification of names included in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) published last year.

  • National Register of Citizens, 1951 is a register prepared after the conduct of the Census of 1951 in respect of each village, showing the houses or holdings in serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein.

Background:

  • In 2018, the SC mentioned the prospect of sample re-verification saying that it could consider re-verifying if 10% of the names included in the NRC.
  • In 2019, the Assam government gave an affidavit in the SC seeking a re-verification of 20% included names in the districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of the districts.
  • However, it was dismissed after the erstwhile coordinator of the NRC submitted that re-verification was already done.

Details:

  • Assam’s plea for the re-verification is lying pending in Supreme Court for more than a year and the apex court is yet to stamp its approval on it.
  • 1,36,149 people have been declared ‘foreigners’ by the state’s 100 functioning Foreigners’ Tribunals, whereas only 227 ‘foreigners’ have been deported from 13th March 2013 to 31st July 2020.
  • A total of 425 people are currently lodged in the six detention centers in Assam.
  • There is a need for re-verification because the people of Assam want a correct NRC.
  • Around 19 lakh applicants were left out of the NRC. The NRC process has hit a stonewall as the rejection orders to the 19 lakh excluded persons which will allow them to appeal against the exclusion in the Foreigners’ Tribunals is yet to be issued.
    • Officials have cited the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason for the delay.
  • The rejection slips would carry the reason for rejection, which would differ from person to person, and based on the reason they would be able to challenge their exclusion in the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
    • Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final NRC, can represent his/her case in front of the Foreigners Tribunals.

Source: Indian Express

Demand for Common Voter List

Context:

The Prime Minister’s Office held a meeting to discuss the possibility of preparing a common voters’ list for elections to all local bodies, state assemblies, and Lok Sabha.

Details:

  • Two options were discussed during the meeting:  
    • First: A constitutional amendment to Articles 243K and 243ZA that would make it mandatory to have a single electoral roll for all elections in the country.
    • Second: To persuade the state governments to tweak their respective laws and adopt the Election Commission’s voters list for municipal and panchayat polls.
  • Articles 243K and 243ZA: These articles deal with elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states. These give the power of superintendence, direction, and control of preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of these elections to the State Election Commission.
  • Article 324(1): It empowers the Election Commission to supervise, direct, and control the preparation and revision of electoral rolls for all the elections to Parliament and state legislatures.
    • However, the State Election Commissions are free to prepare their own electoral rolls for local body elections, and this exercise does not have to be coordinated with the EC.
  • Currently, a majority of the states use the EC’s voters list to elect their municipalities and panchayats.
    • However, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have their own electoral rolls for local body polls.

Demand for common voter list:

  • The demand for a single voters list is not new. In 2015 the Law Commission recommended it in its 255th report. The EC too adopted a similar stance in 1999 and 2004.
  • The common electoral roll is among the promises made by the BJP in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections last year.
  • The common electoral roll would help to hold elections simultaneously to the Lok Sabha, state assemblies, and local bodies.
  • The government has demanded a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections as a way to save an enormous amount of effort and expenditure.

Challenges:

  • Election Commission had noted that the non-conformity of preparation of electoral rolls by the EC and the SECs causes duplication of the same task between two different agencies.
  • The EC also pointed out that common electoral roll creates confusion among voters, since they may find their names present in one roll, but absent in another.
  • A former Chief Election Commissioner agreed that a common electoral roll would save the exchequer money and the election conducting agencies the effort.
    • However, the change would require a massive consensus-building exercise, which may not be easy given the suspicion between the states and the centre.

Source: Indian Express

Supreme Court Ruling on SC and ST Reservation

Context:

A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that States can sub-classify Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Central List to provide preferential treatment to the “weakest out of the weak”.

Details:

  • The judgment is based on a reference to the Constitution Bench the question of law involving Section 4(5) of the Punjab Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006. The legal provision allows 50% of the reserved Scheduled Castes seats in the State to be allotted to Balmikis and Mazhabi Sikhs. 
  • As per the apex court, the reservation has created inequalities within the reserved castes itself.
  • Court highlighted that when reservation creates inequalities within the reserved castes itself, it is required to be taken care of by the State by making sub-classification so that State largesse does not concentrate in few hands and equal justice is provided to all.

Struggle within castes:

  • The Supreme court mentioned that there is a “caste struggle” within the reserved class as the benefit of reservation is being usurped by a few.
  • Court highlighted that it is important to trickle down the benefit to the bottom rung. It is clear that caste, occupation, and poverty are interwoven.
  • The State cannot be deprived of the power to take care of the qualitative and quantitative differences between different classes to take ameliorative measures.
  • With this, the Bench took a contrary view to a 2004 judgment delivered by another Coordinate Bench.

The Chinnaiah judgment:

  • As per the judgment, allowing States to unilaterally “make a class within a class of members of the Scheduled Castes” would amount to tinkering with the Presidential list. 
  • Now with two numerically equal Benches of judges holding contrary viewpoints, the issue has been referred to a seven-judge Bench of the court.

Significance of the judgment:

  • The judgment fully endorses the push to extend the creamy layer concept to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • The judgment records that “once a mortgage always a mortgage” cannot be pressed into service for submitting that once a backward class of citizens, always such a backward class. “Citizens cannot be treated to be socially and educationally backward till perpetuity; those who have come up must be excluded like the creamy layer.
  • The court mentioned that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Central List do not constitute a “homogenous group”.

Notification of Scheduled Castes and Tribes:

  • The Central List of Scheduled Castes and Tribes is notified by the President under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution.
  • The consent of the Parliament is required to exclude or include castes in the List. In short, States cannot unilaterally add or pull outcastes from the List.
    • However, the apex court reasoned that sub-classifications within the Presidential/Central List does not amount to "tinkering" with it. No caste is excluded from the list. The States only give preference to the weakest of the lot in a pragmatic manner based on statistical data.

Source: The Hindu

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration

Context:

702 Districts of India have registered and participated in the Prime Ministers Awards for Excellence in Public Administration 2020.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration:

  • It was instituted in 2006 by the government of India.
  • Objective: To acknowledge, recognize, and reward the extraordinary and innovative work done by Districts/ Organizations of the Central and State Governments.

Details:

  • The Scheme was restructured again in 2014 with an objective to recognize the performance of District Collectors in Priority Programs, Innovations, and Aspirational Districts.
  • In 2020 the Scheme was restructured again to recognize the performance of District Collectors towards the economic development of the District.
  • The award under the restructured scheme shall be conferred by the Prime Minister on Rashtriya Ekta Diwas - October 31, 2020, at the Statue of Unity, Kevadia, Gujarat.
  • For the year 2020, the scheme has been comprehensively restructured to recognize the contribution of civil servants in the strengthening of:
    • Inclusive Development through Credit Flow to the Priority Sector
    • Promoting people’s movements – “Jan Bhagidari” through Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban and Gramin) in the District
    • Improving Service Delivery and Redressal of Public Grievances

The scope of the awards:

  • The scope of the awards has been expanded to identify areas of overall outcome-oriented performance in the districts across sectors.
  • The contribution of District Collectors would be recognized for the implementation of Inclusive Credit Flow to the Priority Sector, promoting people’s movements through Jan Bhagidari and Improving Service Delivery and Redressal of Public Grievances.
  • Further, the awards seek to recognize the efforts of District level officials in the Namami Gange Program.
  • The award for the Aspirational Districts Program rewards the District having the best overall progress under the Scheme following 2 years of implementation.

Source: PIB

National Council for Transgender Persons

Context:

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has constituted the National Council for Transgender Persons.

Details:

  • It is constituted as per requirement under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
  • Chairperson: The Social Justice Minister would be the chairperson of the Council and members would include from the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Home Affairs, Housing and Urban Affairs, Minority Affairs, Human Resources Development, Rural Development and Labour and Employment, the Department of Legal Affairs, the Department of Pensions and Pensioners Welfare and the NITI Aayog.
  • Nominated members: The council includes five nominated members from the transgender community.
    • Representatives from five states or Union Territories, on a rotational basis, will be members of the commission. The first such clutch comprises Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tripura and Gujarat.
    • Five experts also nominated from non-governmental organisations. The tenure of the community members and expert shall be three years.
  • The council would ensure that transgender welfare boards are set up in all States and essential needs of the community, like housing, food, healthcare and education are met.

Functions of the council:

  • Advising the central government on the formulation of policies, programmes
  • Legislation and projects with respect to transgender persons
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impact of policies and programmes designed for achieving equality and full participation of transgender persons
  • Reviewing and coordinating the activities of all the departments; redressing grievances of transgender persons
  • Performing such other functions as prescribed by the Centre.

Features of Transgender Persons Act, 2019:

  • Objective: To stop discrimination against a transgender person in sectors like education, employment, and healthcare etc.
  • Definition: The Act defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.
  • Certificate of Identity: The act states that a person will be recognized as transgender on the basis of a certificate of identity issued by the District Magistrate. This certificate will be a proof of identity as transgender and confer rights under this Bill.
  • Right to choose: As per the act a person would have the right to choose to be identified as a man, woman or transgender, irrespective of sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy.
  • Punishment: As per the act, the offences against transgender persons will attract imprisonment between six months and two years, in addition to a fine.

Source: The Hindu

Sale of Electoral Bonds

Context:

The Government may allow the sale of electoral bonds ahead of Assembly elections in Bihar in October-November 2020.

  • However, the Election Commission has not made any official announcement yet about the poll schedule in the state.

Electoral bond:

  • The electoral bonds were introduced with the Finance Bill in 2017. In 2018 the government notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018.
  • It is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.
  • The citizen or corporate can then donate electoral bonds to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • The bonds are similar to banknotes that are payable to the bearer on demand and are free of interest.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque. 
    • The electoral bond is valid only for fifteen days.
    • Theses bonds do not bear the name of the donor.

Availability: 

  • The electoral bonds are available for purchase for 10 days at the beginning of every quarter.
  • The first 10 days of January, April, July, and October have been specified by the government for the purchase of electoral bonds. An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the government in the year of the Lok Sabha elections.
  • The bonds will be issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 100,000 and Rs 1 crore (the range of a bond is between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 crore).
  • These will be available at some branches of SBI. A donor with a KYC-compliant account can purchase the bonds and can then donate them to the party or individual of their choice. Now, the receiver can encash the bonds through the party's verified account.

Eligibility:

  • Any party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951), and has secured at least 1 % of the votes polled in the most recent General elections or Assembly elections is eligible to receive electoral bonds.
  • The Election Commission allotted a verified account to political parties and the electoral bond transactions can be made only through this account.

Significance:

  • Electoral bonds were being introduced to ensure that all the donations made to a party would be accounted for in the balance sheets without exposing the donor details to the public.
  • Electoral bonds would keep a tab on the use of black money for funding elections. In the absence of electoral bonds, donors would have no option but to donate by cash after siphoning off money from their businesses.

 Issues:

  • Experts are of the view that if the electoral bonds scheme had been introduced to bring about greater transparency, the government must not restrain from allowing details of such donations to be made public.
  • As per the experts, since neither the purchaser of the bond nor the political party receiving the donation is required to disclose the donor’s identity, the shareholders of a corporation will remain unaware of the company’s contribution. Voters, too, will have no idea of how, and through whom, a political party has been funded.
  • Since the identity of the donor has been kept anonymous, it could lead to an influx of black money.
  • Some political parties allege that the scheme was designed to help big corporate houses donate money without their identity being revealed. 

Source: PIB

Election Commissioner

Context:

The Centre government has appointed former Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar as the Election Commissioner.

  • He replaced Ashok Lavasa, who has resigned to join the Asian Development of Bank.

Election commission of India:

  • Article 324: This article provides for an Election Commission for the superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for the conduct of elections to parliament, state legislatures, and to the offices of president and vice president. 
    • The election commission is not concerned with panchayats and municipalities elections in the states. For this, the Constitution provides the State Election Commission.
  • Composition: The Election Commission shall consist of the chief election commissioner and the such number of other election commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix.

Appointment & Tenure:

  • The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • All Election Commissioners have equal say in the decision making of the Commission.

Resignation:

  • They can resign at any time by addressing their resignation to the president
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from his office in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court.

Powers and Functions:

  • Territorial area: The Election commission determines the territorial area of the electoral constituencies in accordance with the Delimitation Commission Act.
  • Electoral rolls: It prepares the electoral rolls and revises them from time to time. It registers all the eligible voters.
  • Schedule: The commission prepares and notifies the schedule of the election.
  • Scrutinizes the nomination papers: It receives and scrutinizes the nomination papers from all the candidates in the elections.
  • Election symbols: It registers political parties and grants recognition to them. It provides election symbols to the political parties.
  • Status of national or state parties: It provides the status of national or state parties to the political parties on the basis of their performance in the elections.
    • Acts as the court to look into disputes regarding the recognition of political parties, appointing officers to enquire into disputes relating to electoral arrangements, preparing the time table for the publicity of the policies and programs of political parties through TV and radio are the other functions.

Source: The Hindu

Job Quota Based on Place of Birth

Context:

Madhya Pradesh government has decided to give government jobs only to “children” of the state.

  • The Constitution of India prohibits discrimination based on place of birth, the Supreme Court has held domicile reservations, especially in educational institutions– as constitutional.

Arguments Against Providing Reservation Based on Place of Birth:

  • Article 16: It refers to equality of opportunity in government jobs.
    • Article 16(1): It provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to 'employment or appointment' to any office under the State.
    • Article 16(2): It states that “no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against, in respect of any employment or office under the State.

Arguments in Favour of Providing Reservation Based on Place of Birth:

  • Article 16(3): It allows for making provisions in government appointments with respect to residence (not the place of birth).
  • The Parliament (and not the legislature of a state) can prescribe residence within a state or union territory as a condition for certain employments or appointments in that state or union territory, or local authority or other authority within that state or union territory.
  • In the context of reservation in education, the court had upheld a law providing domicile reservations in Madhya Pradesh in 1955.
  • Some states have laws to reserve government jobs for locals. Some have routed the laws through other criteria such as language tests to proof of having resided/ studied in the state for a certain period of time.
    • Maharashtra: Only those living in the state for over 15 years with fluency in Marathi are eligible.
    • Jammu and Kashmir: Government jobs are reserved for “domiciles”.
    • Uttarakhand: Only recruits residents of the state in some posts.
    • West Bengal: Reading and writing skills in Bengali is a criterion in recruitment to some posts.

Court's judgments:

  • In 2019, the Allahabad High Court struck down a recruitment notification issued by the Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Service Selection Commission, which prescribed preference for women who were “original residents” of the state.
  • In 2002, the Supreme Court invalidated the appointment of government teachers in Rajasthan, where the state selection board gave preference to “applicants belonging to the district or the rural areas of the district concerned.”

The distinction between domicile status and place of birth:

  • The Supreme Court has, in its rulings since 1955, underlined the distinction between domicile status and place of birth. Domicile or status of residence is a fluid concept that can change from time to time, unlike place of birth.
  • The place of birth is one of several grounds on which domicile status is conferred.

Source: Indian Express

RTI plea on PM-CARES Fund

Context:

The Prime Minister’s Office has denied a Right to Information request related to the PM-CARES Fund on the grounds that providing it would “disproportionately divert the resources of the office.”

Background:

  • Earlier, PMO had mentioned that the PM-CARES Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • A PPIL has been moved before the Delhi High Court asking to bring PM-CARES Fund under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
  • A Petition seeking transfer of contributions made to PM-CARES Fund To the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) has also been made in the Supreme Court.
  • According to the government, NDRF formed under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act of 2005, is provided for by central and state budgets and thus it can not take private contributions, unlike PM-CARES Fund.

Details:

  • Section 7 (9) of the RTI Act: Information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.”

Criticism:

  • The Central Information Commission has criticized this move and mentioned that it is a misuse of Section 7(9) by the PMO.
  • The Kerala High Court in 2010: Section 7(9) does not exempt any public authority from disclosing information.
  • It only gives discretion to the public authority to provide the information in a form other than the form in which the information is sought.
  • Section 8 (1) lists the various valid reasons for exemption against furnishing information under the Act and not Section 7(9).

Issues:

  • Opaqueness: Issues have been raised around the opaqueness of PM CARES Fund’s trust deed against public scrutiny of the expenditure of the fund.
  • Tax-exempt: Donations to PM CARES have been made tax-exempt and can be counted against a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations. It is also exempt from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, and accepts foreign contributions.
  • Count as CSR expenditure: The decision to allow uncapped corporate donations to the fund to count as CSR expenditure, a facility not provided to PMNRF or the CM’s Relief Funds, goes against previous guidelines stating that CSR should not be used to fund government schemes.
  • Earlier, a government panel had advised against allowing CSR contributions to the PMNRF on the grounds that the double benefit of tax exemption would be a “regressive incentive”.

Source: The Hindu

Minimum age of Marriage for Women

Context:

The central government has set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women.

  • The committee is headed by former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitely and its members include Member Health at the NITI Aayog and several Secretaries to the Government of India.
  • As per the current law, the minimum age of marriage is 21 years for men and 18 years for women.
  • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority. As per the Indian Majority Act, 1875, an individual attains the age of majority at 18.

Background:

  • The Indian Penal Code enacted criminalized sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10. The provision of rape was amended in 1927 through The Age of Consent Bill, 1927, which declared that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid. 
  • In 1929, The Child Marriage Restraint Act set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively. The Sarda Act amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man respectively.

The minimum age for marriage:

  • The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to outlaw child marriages. Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own criteria.
    • For Hindus: Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets 18 years as the minimum age for women and 21 years as the minimum age for men.
      • However, child marriages are not illegal even though they can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
    • In Islam: The marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954, and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
  • Additionally, sexual intercourse with a minor is rape, and the ‘consent’ of a minor is regarded as invalid since she is deemed incapable of giving consent at that age.

Child marriages in India:

  • As per the report, around 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children, and by 2030, another 150 million girls under the age of 18 will be married.
  • Although India has contributed to a 50 % decline in child marriage in South Asia—to 30 % in 2018, the region still accounts for the largest number of child marriages each year, estimated at 4.1 million in 2017.
  • In India, among girls married by age 18, 46 % were also in the lowest income bracket.
  • As per UNICEF each year, at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India. India is the largest number of child brides in the world — accounting for a third of the global total. Nearly 16 % of adolescent girls aged 15-19 are currently married.

Source: Indian Express

Demand for 6th Schedule Status for Arunachal Pradesh

Context: 

Arunachal political groups are calling for bringing the Arunachal Pradesh under the ambit of the Sixth Schedule.

  • Article 371(A): It states that no act of Parliament shall apply to the State of Nagaland in respect of the religious or social practices of the Nagas, its customary law, and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
  • Arunachal Pradesh is a 5th Schedule State. Currently, the 6th Schedule is applied in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura.
  • On the other hand, Article 371 A is applied in Nagaland which provides special status to Nagaland.

Problems in current provisions:

  • Arunachal Pradesh is placed under Article 371H which gives overriding powers to the governor of the state. It is found that the governor is silent on various issues like the rights of the indigenous people over their land, water, and forest.
  • No special rights for the indigenous communities unlike the Sixth Schedule:
  • The Sixth Schedule has certain features like concepts of constitutional and legislative subjects that are exclusive to local governments. 
  • An autonomous district council under the 6th schedule will give a greater role in directing administrative requirements without depending on the Central State structure.
  • About scheduled areas: In Article 244(1) of the Constitution, expression Scheduled Areas means such areas as the President may by order declare to be Scheduled Areas.

Criteria for Declaring Schedule Areas:

  • High numbers of tribal population;
  • Compactness and reasonable size of the area;
  • Under-developed nature of the area; and
  • The marked disparity in the economic standard of the people.

6th Schedule:

  • It was formulated on the reports of the Bordoloi Committee formed by the Constituent Assembly. The committee recommends providing limited autonomy to the tribal regions of North-East.
  • The committee report recommends a system of administration for the development of the tribal areas.

Administration in the 6th Schedule:

  • The tribal areas in the 6th Schedule area have been constituted as autonomous districts. The autonomous districts have been given varying degrees of autonomy within the State Legislature.
  • There are 10 autonomous districts in four states three in Assam, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, and one in Tripura.

Comparison between 5th schedule and 6th schedule: 

Coverage:

  • 5th Schedule: At present, 10 States namely Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana have Fifth Schedule Areas.
  • 6th Schedule: The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram, according to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution.

Executive powers:

  • 5th Schedule: The Union Government has executive powers to give directions to the States for the administration of the 5th Scheduled Areas.
  • 6th Schedule: The 6th schedule areas remain within the executive authority of the state.

Councils:

5th Schedule:

  • Tribes Advisory Council (TAC): To take care of the welfare of the scheduled tribes, a Tribal Advisory Council is constituted in each state with a scheduled area.
    • It consists of not more than twenty members of whom, three-fourths shall be the representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of the State. 
    • It advises the Governor on matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes in the State.

6th Schedule:

  • Autonomous districts and regional councils: Article 244 and 275 make provision for the creation of the District Councils and regional councils. 
  • ADCs are bodies representing a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.   

Source: The Hindu

Official Languages Act of 1963

Context:

As per the Chief Justice of India, the government should consider amending the Official Languages Act of 1963 to include more vernacular languages in governance.

  • He mentioned that the government should not just confine the official language to Hindi and English.

Background: 

  • The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Union of India challenging the legality of a Delhi High Court judgment. 
  • The Delhi HC in a previous order asked the central government to translate the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2020 into all 22 vernacular languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, to make it understandable by the rural population of the country. 

Details:

  • The high court had reasoned that the EIA concerned environmental restrictions on building, expansion, and modernization of major infrastructure projects across the country.
  • The EIA should reach the maximum number of people without discrimination to any part of the country, especially the non-Hindi speaking parts of India.
  • It should reach and be understood by the rural population of the country. The high court wanted to ensure maximum public participation so that people studied the draft and responded with suggestions and objections.
  • The Union could use English and Hindi for official purposes. These two languages were used for communication between the States and between the Centre and the States. The Official Languages Act and its Rules of 1973 also required English and Hindi for press communiqués, government orders, Rules, etc.
  • According to CJI these days, translation is the easiest task between you and Google translator. In Parliament, any language is translated.

The High Court judgment:

  • The high court judgment was based on a writ petition filed. The petition mentioned that the Coastal Regulation Zone notification of 2010 was published in nine coastal languages. But the government contended that the final CRZ notification was published in the gazette only in English and Hindi.
    • However, there were many constitutional issues that the high court had not taken into consideration, including that the Constitution did not provide for official communications to be sent out in 22 vernacular languages.

Official language:

  • Article 345: It provides constitutional recognition as "Official languages" of the union to any language adopted by a state legislature as the official language of that state. 
  • Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution deals with the official languages.
  • 22 Official Languages: Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.

Source: The Hindu

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord

Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs has constituted a high-level committee on the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The ministry also mentioned that ‘Assamese people’ should be determined by taking 1951 as a cut-off year.  

  • The committee chaired by Justice (retd) Biplab Kumar Sarma was constituted to define ‘Assamese People’ and institute safeguards for them.

Clause 6 of the Accord:

  • It says Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  • Earlier, the state government promised a speedy implementation of Clause 6 as an antidote to the agitation and a measure to protect the interests of the “indigenous” people of Assam.

Recommendation of the Committee:

Definition:

  • The definition of ‘Assamese People’ for the purpose of implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord should include Indigenous Tribals as well as other Indigenous Communities of Assam, all other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before 01.01.1951 and Indigenous Assamese and their descendants.

Reservation:

  • The report recommended several reservations for “Assamese people”, like 80 to 100% of Assam’s seats in Parliament; and the same proportion in Assembly and local bodies (inclusive of pre-existing reservations).
  • It recommended reservation of 80 to 100% of Group C and D level posts in all government and private-sector jobs in Assam “Assamese people” while 80%-100% of jobs under Government of Assam and State Government undertakings.
  • 70%-100% of vacancies in private partnerships including PPP model in Assam should be reserved for ‘Assamese people’.

Inner Line Permit regime:

  • It recommended the implementation of an Inner Line Permit regime in the state. The ILP is a system in which a special permit is required by people from other regions of India to visit the state.
  • It also recommended the making of “an Upper House (Legislative Council of Assam)” whose seats will be reserved for the ‘Assamese people’.

Issues:

  • According to the recommendations, people who migrated between 1951 and 1971, including large sections of post-Partition refugees, would be Indian citizens under the Assam Accord and the NRC, but they would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people” under Clause 6 of the Accord.
  • The 1985 Assam Accord set a cut-off of midnight of March 24, 1971, for the detection of “illegal foreigners” in Assam. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) preparation in Assam uses the same cut-off but the Accord did not define who was eligible for the safeguards.

Source: Indian Express

The Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99)

Context:

According to the charter of passenger rights notified by the government in 2019, the crash of the Air India Express plane at Kozhikode could make the airline liable to pay compensation of Rs 1.19 crore per passenger in case of death or bodily injury. The crash killed 18 people including both pilots.

Details:

Calculation of amount:

  • As per the charter of passenger rights for air travelers, the compensation is calculated based on payment of damages of up to 1,13,100 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), or around Rs 1.19 crore, for international flights.
  • As on the date of the crash, 1 SDR was equivalent to $1.41, while Indian Rupee closed at Rs 74.75 to the US dollar.
    • The limits of liability during international flights for airlines have been defined under The Carriage By Air (Amendment) Act of 2016.
  • The act is based on India’s adoption of the Montreal Convention in 2009, which unifies rules governing compensation to passengers globally.
  • The liability limit for damage in case of death or bodily injury for each person was raised to 1,13,100 SDR from 1,00,000 SDR after the amendment to the law in 2016.
  • In 2016 compensation for lost, the delayed or damaged cargo was also revised upwards.

India’s adoption of the Montreal Convention :

  • For domestic carriage within India, the government applied a modified version of the Montreal Convention with regard to compensation.
  • As per 2014 by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, for death or bodily injury during domestic flights, airlines are liable to pay up to Rs 20 lakh per passenger. In case of death inside an aircraft due to natural causes, airlines are not liable to pay any compensation on both international and domestic flights.
  • Compensation is typically based on the Montreal Convention protocols and its specific adoption by India.
    • So far, Air India Express has announced an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased passengers of age 12 years and above, Rs 5 lakh to passengers below the age of 12, Rs 2 lakh to passengers who are critically injured and Rs 50,000 to other passengers injured in the incident.

The Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99):

  • The Montreal Convention (formally, the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air) is a multilateral treaty adopted by ICAO member states in 1999.
  • There are 133 parties to the Convention including the European Union.
  • The convention establishes airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers, as well as in cases of delay, damage or loss of baggage and cargo.
  • MC99 is designed to be a single, universal treaty to govern airline liability around the world.
  • It unifies all of the different international treaty regimes covering airline liability that had developed haphazardly since 1929.

Source: Indian Express

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.

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Powers of the Governor to Summon the House

Context:

The Rajasthan government crisis has raised concern about the role of the Governor in summoning the House of the State Assembly.

The Rajasthan’s Case:

  • The Rajasthan Cabinet gives a proposal to convene a session of the Assembly, for the second time, which would have allowed the Rajasthan chief minister to prove his strength on the floor of the House.
  • The proposal has been returned by the Rajasthan Governor. This has raised legal questions on the powers of the Governor to summon a House.

Powers to summon the House:

  • It is the Governor acting on the aid and advice of the cabinet.
  • Article 174: Governor has the power to summon from time to time “the House or each House of the Legislature of the State to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit…”
    • However, the phrase “as he thinks fit” is read as per Article 163.
  • Article 163: The Governor acts on the aid and advice of the cabinet.
    • Article 163 (1) essentially limits any discretionary power of the Governor only to cases where the Constitution expressly specifies that the Governor must act on his own and apply an independent mind.

 Supreme Court verdict about the Governor’s power to summon the House:

  • As per the apex court, the governor cannot refuse the request of the Cabinet to call for a sitting of the House for legislative purposes or for the chief minister to prove his majority.
  • In the 2016 Uttarakhand case, the Supreme Court has clarified that when the majority of the ruling party is in question, a floor test must be conducted at the earliest available opportunity.
  • In 2016, Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix vs Deputy Speaker, the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly case, Supreme Court mentioned that the power to summon the House is not solely vested in the Governor.

SC verdict in the Arunachal case:

  • Referring to discussions in the Constituent Assembly, the court noted that the vesting powers to summon or dissolve the House solely with the Governor.
  • As per the court, Article 153 (which later became Article 174), that dealt with the powers of the Governor, was substantially altered to indicate that the framers of the Indian constitution did not want to give Governors the discretion.
  • Article 174 deals with the sessions of the state legislature, prorogation and dissolution
    • The Governor shall from time to time summon the House or each House of the Legislature of the State to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session
      • The Governor may from time to time
      • Prorogue the House or either House;
      • Dissolve the Legislative Assembly

Source: Indian Express

Reservation to the Maratha Community

Context:

The Supreme Court is going to commence a daily final hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the reservation granted to the Maratha community in education and jobs in Maharashtra. The Supreme court will also hear a petition challenging admission to postgraduate (PG) medical and dental courses under the quota.

Background:

  • A group of medical students challenged the constitutional validity of an amendment to the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 allowing Maratha reservation for 2019-2020 admissions to MBBS courses. In 2019, the Bombay HC dismissed the petition.
    • The SEBC Act provides for reservation of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for reservation of posts for appointments in public services and posts under the state.
  • The SC refused to stay the judgment and also refused to put an interim stay on the quota.
  • Recently, the apex court refused to grant interim stay on a plea by medical students, seeking a direction that the 12% quota not be made applicable for admissions in postgraduate medical and dental courses for the academic year 2020-21.

Details:

  • The Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) challenged the Bombay High Court (HC) decision, which upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the SEBC Act, 2018.
  • Maharashtra is one of the few states which have more than 50% reservation. Indra Sawhney case 1992 ruled that the total reservation for backward classes cannot go beyond the 50% mark.
  • Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Telangana also exceed the reservation cap.

Bombay High Court judgment:

  • In 2019, the court ruled that the 16% quota granted by the state was not ‘justifiable’. The court reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs.
  • The limit of the reservation should not exceed 50% but in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporary data reflecting backwardness, the inadequacy of representation, and without affecting the efficiency in administration.
  • While the backwardness of the community was not comparable with Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribe

Reservation in Maharashtra:

  • Following the 2001 State Reservation Act, the total reservation was 52%.
    • SCs (13%), STs (7%), OBCs (19%), Special Backward Class (2%), Vimukta Jati (3%), Nomadic Tribe B (2.5%), Nomadic Tribe C-Dhangar (3.5%) and Nomadic Tribe D-Vanjari (2%).
    • The 10% Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota is also effective in the state.
  • The quotas for Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes have been carved out of the total OBC quota.
  • With the addition of 12-13% Maratha quota, the total reservation in the state is 64-65%.

Marathas:

  • These are the politically dominant community in Maharashtra comprising mainly peasants and landowners and forms nearly one-third of the population of the state. Historically, they have been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with large land-holdings.
  • Marathas are mostly Marathi-speaking but not all Marathi-speaking people belong to the Maratha community.
  • Since the formation of Maharashtra in 1960 the majority of the Chief Ministers of the state have been from this community.

Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission:

  • The commission surveyed about 45,000 families from two villages from each of 355 talukas with more than 50% Maratha population.

Key findings:

  • 76.86% of Maratha families are engaged in agriculture and agricultural labor for their livelihood. Nearly 70% reside in Kachha dwellings.
  • Only 35-39% have personal tap water connections.
  • During 2013-2018, a total of 13,368 farmers committed suicides and 23.56% of them were Marathas.
  • 88.81% of Maratha women are involved in physical labor for earning a livelihood, besides their physical domestic work.
  • 13.42% of Marathas are illiterate, 35.31% primary educated, 43.79% Secondary and Higher Secondary educated, 6.71% undergraduates and postgraduates, and 0.77% technically and professionally qualified.
  • 93% of Maratha families have an annual income of Rs. 1 lakh, which was below the average income of middle-class families.
  • 37.38% of families were Below Poverty Line (BPL) against the state average of 24%.
  • 71% own less than 2.5 acres of land, whereas only 2.7% of big farmers own 10 acres of land.

Source: Indian Express

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

Extention of Postal Ballots

Context:

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided against extending postal ballots to electors above 65 years of age in the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections. The decision has been taken due to logistical challenges.

Background:

  • Earlier in 2019, postal ballots were extended to Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and electors over 80 years ahead of the Jharkhand and Delhi elections.
  • Earlier, the Law Ministry had extended the postal ballot facility to electors over 65 years, Covid-19 patients and those suspected to have it by notifying a change to the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. It was recommended by ECI.

Details:

  • There is a difference between the postal ballot facility for electors above 65 years and the conventional postal service. Ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and are returned to the election officers via post.
  • For electors above 65 years and Covid-19 patients, ballot paper works as a polling station on the move, with the polling staff visiting the homes of such electors, having them fill out their ballots, sealing them in envelopes and taking it back.
  • The objective is to minimize vulnerability and exposure at the polling stations for above 65 and to not deprive the Covid-19 patients and people under quarantine of their voting rights.

Issues:

  • The ECI has made this decision keeping in mind the logistical, staff, and safety protocol related constraints.
  • As per the commission, it would not be possible to arrange the postal ballot facility for about 72 lakh electors, about 10% of the total 7.19 crore electors in Bihar.
  • Bihar is already preparing 34,000 additional polling stations in order to limit electors to 1,000 at each location. It also requires additional polling personnel which is an administrative challenge in itself.

Postal Ballots System:

  • Ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and are returned to the election officers via post.
  • Following voters are allowed to cast their votes through postal ballot:
    • Voters above 80 years of age or Persons with Disabilities (PwD).
    • Voters under preventive detention.
    • Service voters (armed forces, the armed police force of a state, and government servants posted abroad).
    • Voters on election duty.
  • Section 60 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 provides exception to the category of voters.

Source: The Hindu

A new tryst with destiny: Data Democracy

Context:

Recently Kris Gopalakrishnan committee submitted its findings to the government, arguing for a separate law to regulate the commercial use of non-personal data.

Similarly, two years ago, the B.N. Srikrishna committee had argued for legislation to regulate the use of personal information by data-mining companies.

The importance of data protection increases as the amount of data created and stored continues to grow at unprecedented rates. There is also little tolerance for downtime that can make it impossible to access important information.

Principle behind data regulation:

The principle behind it is: data generated by the public has to be protected and cannot be harvested for free—as it is at present.

While the effort to carve out law for protecting personal data is a work in progress—at the moment it is still making its way through Parliament.

A framework should be put in place to provide the legal architecture to protect the data privacy of both an individual and the society as a collective.

History of Data Regulation in India:

  • India does not have a separate law for data protection. 
  • 2010: Section 43A of the Information Technology Act provides a measure of the legal protection of personal information.
  • 2012: Justice A.P. Shah Committee recommended a set of principles for a legal framework for protecting privacy. Drawn from OECD guidelines.
  • 2017-The B.S.Srikrishna Committee:  It wants the law to enshrine the principle of informed consent. It favors data minimization and accountability of those who process and control data.
  • 2019-GopalKrishnan committee: It suggested that non-personal data generated in the country be allowed to be harnessed by various domestic companies and entities.

Need for Data Regulation:

  • The fundamental right to data protection: Many argue that the protection of personal data is a fundamental right. However, this right must be balanced with other rights. In Justice Putuswamy Case, the Supreme Court held that the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right under article 21.
  • Digital future: The recommendations of both committees are hugely significant as they are critical in defining the digital future of India—one in which the individual will be the center. It will be a never-before event.
  • India as the largest market for data: Already a third of the population is using smartphones—which has 10x power when generating data. This segment will only grow exponentially creating probably the largest market for data in the world.
  • Data democracy: Undoubtedly, after 73 years, another tryst with destiny is on the cards; this time to mark the heralding of a ‘data democracy’. One accorded political power and the other is designed to deliver economic empowerment. It will create a circumstance in which data will be harvested for public and personal wealth creation.
  • Privacy Breach: Exponential increase in digital footprints leads to large collection of information about individuals. It is also a potential avenue for the invasion of privacy because it can reveal extremely personal aspects. Companies, governments, and political parties find it valuable because they can use it to find the most convincing ways to advertise to you online.
  • Technology moves fast: Much of the existing set of data protection rules was drawn up in the nineties, before the current trend for social networking and high-speed internet had taken off.

Kris Gopalakrishnan committee on non-personal data:

  • It suggested that non-personal data generated in India be allowed to be harnessed by many Indian companies.
  • Non-personal data: It is any set of data that does not contain personally identifiable information. It means no individual or living person can be identified by looking at such data.
  • It calls to create a data-sharing framework.
  • To ensure that community data is available for social, public, and economic value creation.
  • It simultaneously addresses privacy concerns and prevents collective harms
  • The shared Non-Personal Data may be useful for Indian entrepreneurs.
  • To set up a ‘non-personal data regulatory authority.’
  • It requires companies to share their private data, excluding “proprietary data”, at no remuneration.

What Advantage Data Democracy will bring to India

Poverty Reduction:

  • If successful, it will provide an entirely new template to the world, in general, and developing countries, desperately trying to raise their people out of poverty, in particular.
  • It is what Nandan Nilekani, the former head of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) describes so succinctly: Indians are economically poor but data-rich.
  • An individual’s data in India is far more valuable than their current material worth (of about $2,000 per capita); this mismatch in potential and reality is what provides an opportunity for an individual to monetize their data.
  • Expanding digital footprint: The building blocks for a scalable model to harvest this mass of data as Indians rapidly expand their digital footprint—especially in the aftermath of COVID-19 and the fillip to contactless behavior—are already in place.
    • Aadhaar provided the idea of a unique identity to over 1 billion people in India.
    • Unified Payments Interface: Aadhaar was paired with an inter-operable payment mechanism, such as the Unified Payments Interface, or UPI, to give a new definition to financial transactions. 
  • Data will be very important in providing credit, better banking services, healthcare, education, retail and e-commerce.
  • Freedom of Speech:  Data democracy will strengthen FOSE as this right can be enjoyed by rich, poor everybody on the digital platforms. Data democracy will further strengthen individual rights by clarifying exactly what rights an individual has with regard to the data they have personally uploaded. It does not grant individuals the right to order others to take down information they disagree with.
  • E-Governance: A good law on data will bring more transparency and accountability in the system. It will increase the level of E-Governance in the country. It will reduce corruption, will help in providing doorstop delivery, and strengthen grievance redressal mechanism.
  • Criminal justice system: Data localization will help the local enforcement agencies to easily access data to prevent and minimize crimes, Further it will help during prosecution as well. Data can be used as evidence.
  • Sovereignty and national interest: Recently India banned 59 Chinese apps on the ground of national security. A good data protection law will prevent foreign surveillance. Data relating to critical state interests must be drawn up for exclusive processing in India and any such obligations should be limited to it.  Thus, for the prevention of foreign surveillance, critical personal data should be exclusively processed within the territory of India.
  • E-commerce: India’s e-commerce market is second only to China. E-commerce revenue this year is expected to reach $120 billion, triple its size in 2017, according to India Brand Equity Foundation. For E-commerece companies, datas are the fuel. The government has been working on various policies to more strictly regulate data storage by technology companies. For e-commerce, the new regulator will likely define categories of e-commerce data that would have to be stored locally within India.
  • Direct benefit transfer: Using mass data, India sent government subsidies to its beneficiaries by direct benefit transfer. According to a government report, it saved more than 90000 crore Rs. in one financial year.
  • Enhance Efficiency: Currently, there are different rules (or no rules) with different legal jurisdictions claiming to apply at the same time, which create confusion and make the system inefficient. Under one data protection & regulation law, businesses would follow one set of data protection rules, which will bring efficiency in the business corridor.
  • Security: Data security refers specifically to measures taken to protect the integrity of the data itself against manipulation and malware. Cambridge Analytica Scandal can be the best example in this respect where data of people were used to micro manage the elections in countries which poses a threat to Democracy.
  • Technology: In the coming years AI, Machine Learning, Big Data etc. are expected to become pervasive in all aspects of life that are currently affected by technology and is touted to be a major driver of economic growth. Hence Data democracy will help India to take lead in the technological sector.
  • Ethical dimension: Data protection is an ethical issue. It involves respect for individuals and their rights regarding privacy and the use of information about them. Data protection issues are raised formally during the ethics process.

Legal statutes and bodies in India for Data Regulation:

  • Information Technology Act & Rules on Data regulation:
    • Section 43A: Its body corporate responsibility to protect sensitive personal data or information
    • Section 72A: fine and/or imprisonment when there is a disclosure of personal information in breach of a contract or without consent.
    • Sensitive personal data/information: Body corporate shall obtain prior consent from the provider of ‘sensitive personal data or information’ for using such sensitive information.
    • Privacy policy: All body corporates need to devise a ‘privacy policy’ for dealing with personal information.
  • Dept of Telecom and TRAI: continues to issue guidelines for protection and localisation of data collected by service providers from their customers.
  • Medical Council of India: It governs issues relating to collection of personal data of patients, its use, issues of consent etc.
  • NASSCOM: Set up Data Security Council of India to make cyber space safe and secure.
  • SEBI: Data Sharing Policy aimed at simplifying the process of data sharing and formalisation of data protection measures to prevent data from misuse.

Challenges in achieving Data Democracy:

  • Legal set up: So far India do not have any national law on data protection and regulation. Two committees so far have been set up but no law has been enacted. It’s difficult to create consensus among all law makers. Further to implement the provisions of law, a complete legal set up needs to be created from tribunal to data protection authority.
  • Costs for Digital Infrastructure for data localization: The costs would add up to from 1 to 4% of India's GDP, reduce investment by 3.9%, and result in welfare costs also. The country needs to make large investments to create a digital infrastructure to support data localization and data protection.
  • MSME Sectors: The cost of implementing the new rules will fall disproportionately on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Larger companies will be better equipped to absorb the costs of the regulations. As SMEs account for 30% of India’s GDP, do we want to throw even more red tape at them during a recession.
  • Security breach: Cyber crime, cyber war fare, ransomware, fishing etc. are security threats which data faces now. Ransomware type of malware, which holds data hostage for an extortion fee, is a growing problem.  121 Indian citizens’ WhatsApp accounts were hacked by an Israeli software called Pegasus.
  • Threat of domestic surveillance: National and local government may exercise greater coercive power over domestic businesses storing data to circumvent legal protections. They can use these data for surveillance.
  • Trans national boundary: Unfortunately or fortunately, data, compared to all the previous eras — agriculture, manufacturing and IT or digital — where the economic value lay in physical goods, knows no national boundaries. It can be transmitted without friction. So, its very difficult to tackle trans boundary data issues.

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019:

  • Applicability: to Government, Companies incorporated in India, and Foreign companies
  • Defines Personal data: as traits or attributes of identity, used to identify an individual
  • Data Protection Authority- The Bill sets up a DPA to protect the interests of individuals and Prevent misuse of personal data
  • Right to Individuals:  right to data portability, right to access and transfer one’s own data and the right to be forgotten.

Way forward:

  • Individual consent: It will be a precondition for companies to mine the data. At the moment, we tend to view the only use of data to be to fatten the bottom line of platforms such as Google and Facebook—which harvest this personal data, mostly without consent, to establish a behavioural matrix to sell or promote products and causes.
  • Individual Responsibility:  Individuals need to take greater responsibility for the personal data they upload online. Nobody is forcing individuals to upload personal information to social networking sites.
  • Pass a national law for data protection on the lines of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. It should balance the corporate business’ interests with the right to privacy.
  • It is legitimate to collect personal data in the public interest, but this information should be protected and used only for the purposes it was collected. 
  • Data collectors and users should be held more accountable for how they store and manage data, rather than simply obtaining people’s consent to do pretty much as they please.
  • India needs to have a legal framework for data protection. It will create a vital and necessary framework against which rights and responsibilities can be articulated, and digressions thereof evaluated.
  • A proper data protection law with an effective enforcement mechanism would ensure recognition for India as a trustworthy global destination for data-based businesses and privacy-conscious consumers while also protecting the Right to Privacy of the people in India.
  • Along with law there is a need for strong independent watchdog institutions to ensure that the organizations handling our data do not go astray.
  • The Parliament should Implement provisions of the B.N.Srikrishna committee and the Gopalkrishnan committee.

Global Model for Data regulation:

  • European model:  It uses a Rights-based approach. EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, 2016, in which data protection is comprehensive and exemptions are limited. 
  • American model:  Norms are stringent for government departments processing personal information, while private entities have to abide by the norms of giving notice and receiving consent. 
  • Other countries: In several other countries across the world, there are no nationwide data protection laws, either for personal or non-personal data.

Conclusion:

In the data democracy envisioned for India, individuals and companies can leverage their data for unprecedented public and personal good.

Clearly, the promise of a data democracy is infinite. The onus is on the politicians to fast track the Privacy law protecting and regulating the use of personal and non-personal data.

The benefits of data rules must reach citizens, not just companies.

Sources: Livemint

Delimitation in NE States Illegal: Former EC expert

Context:

According to the former legal advisor to the Election Commission, the center’s order setting up a Delimitation Commission for four states (Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland) is unconstitutional and illegal.

  • Delimitation: It is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies with an objective to represent changes in population. It is done on the basis of the preceding Census.

Details:

  • As per the advisor center's order is violating the Representation of the People Act 1950.
  • Section 8A of the RP Act 1950: In 2008 it was introduced by parliament. The act states that delimitation in the four states, when held, would fall within the Election Commission’s remit. Hence, any delimitation exercise in these four states by the new Delimitation Commission would be “declared void by the courts.
  • The last delimitation exercise was started in 2002 and ended in 2008.
  • After the completion of the Last delimitation exercise, these four states had been left out.

Reasons: 

  • The commission had kept out Arunachal, Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland as the use of the 2001 Census for it had been challenged by several organizations before the Gauhati High Court, on the ground that it was riddled with defects.
  • The tribal communities of these states feared that the delimitation exercise would change the composition of seats reserved for them, hurting their electoral interests.
  • As violence erupted in these states, the Delimitation Act of 2002 was amended in 2008, to empower the President to postpone the exercise in these states.
  • Subsequently, Parliament had decided that instead of creating another Delimitation Commission for these four states the delimitation exercise there would be carried out by the Election Commission. And for this purpose Section 8A of the RP Act 1950 was introduced.

Delimitation Commission:

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census.
  • Article 170, state are divided into territorial constituencies as per the Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • The commission was appointed by the President and works in collaboration with the Election Commission.
  • The Census Act of 1948 provides for the permanent scheme of conducting the population Census which is carried out in a ten years interval.
  • Once the Act enacted by the Parliament is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  • The commission is composed of the retired judge of the Supreme Court, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), and respective states’ Election Commissioners.

Functions:

  • Determines the number and boundaries of constituencies to make the population of all constituencies nearly equal.
  • Identifies the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, wherever their population is relatively large.
  • So far, the commission has been set up four times1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

Source: Indian Express

The police are in the dock, reforms must start with the political system

Context:

Till recently, Police was in the news for its humanitarian role during the pandemic. It was lauded as “the frontline of the frontline”. PM Modi said that “the human and sensitive side of policing has touched our hearts”.

But brutal custodial death of a father and son in the police station of Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu, which led to commenting of UN Secretary-General wanting the incident to be investigated. On top of that, the killing of Vikas Dubey brings back to the surface the governance in-country and on police reform in general.

Root of the problem:

  • Criminals, politicians and government Nexus: Vohra Committee in 1993, submitted a report showing this nexus. It mentioned in the report that “the network of the mafiais virtuallyrunning a parallel government, pushing the state apparatus to irrelevance”.
  • Criminalisation of Politics: The mafiosi, who were earlier supporting the politicians from outside, had decided to enter the fray, by contesting elections.It is a sad reflection on our democracy that the number of members of parliament with criminal background has been going up with every successive election.
  • A/c to Association of Democratic Reforms:

Year

MPs from criminal background

2009

30 %

2014

34 %

2019

43 %

  • No due processes of law: It creates an environment where the criminals who are part of the nexus are able to dodge the due processes of law. Administration turns a blind eye and nexus has proliferated. After all, Vikas Dubey had 62 FIRs against him, including seven of murder and eight of an attempt to murder, and yet he was roaming free.
  • Custodial Death: We can see that these depravities are probably the tip of the iceberg. Statistics reaffirm the epidemic of bad behavior.
    • The National Crime Records Bureau records 853 custodial deaths between 2010 to 2018.
    • National Human Rights Commission puts the death figure much higher at 1, 636. For this, just three policemen have been convicted.

Why there is rise in criminal-Political-Nexus:

  • Use of money and muscle power:
    • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) stated that the high cost of elections creates a high degree of corruption in government machineries.
    • There are a total 88% elected ‘crorepatis’ Parliamentarians in the 17th Lok Sabha.
    • Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms also highlighted the use of money and muscle power in elections.
  • 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.
  • Police as a political tool:
    • The police have a strange position in a democracy. But, 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.
    • Be it any party, ruling or opposition, all use police power to fulfill their political goals.
  • Casteism and Communalism: People belonging from same caste and religion support politician and criminals from the same group; favour them irrespective of the fact whether they are a criminal. Thus it creates a culture of un-constitutionalism.

Consequences in absence of Political reforms:

  • Bad Governance: The outcome of criminalization in politics is bad governance.
    • Numerous surveys conducted year after year reveals that the Indian citizens are unhappy with the quality of governance.
    • The sorry state of affairs can be estimated from the fact that despite numerous parties forming a government at the Union and State level, governance hasn't really improved, barring a few exceptions.
  • Thoki Raj and Encounter culture: 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.
    • 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
  • 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.
    • Given that the present political culture considers the demand for the rule of law as cruelty and vengeance as humanizing
    • There is no place for extrajudicial killings in a liberal democracy.
  • Distrust towards the police: The police arguably is one of the most distrusted institutions of the Indian state.
    • The privileged sections of the society would rather have a negotiable system than an effective police force.
    • Police reforms are deemed to create more trust towards the police in the eye of the public.
  • Legitimation Crisis of Democracy: Free and fair election, rule of law, democratic culture, good governance etc are salient features of a democracy. But issues like Criminalisation of politics, police cruelty on public, custodial deaths etc creates Legitimation Crisis of Democracy.

Constitutional and statutory Provisions for safeguards:

  • Right to Life: 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.
  • Rule of law: Constitution under Article 14 provides that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. The Supreme court also held that ROL is a basic structure of the constitution.
  • Article 32: Indian Constitution under Article 32 gives the right to citizens to move to the Supreme Court to seek justice when they feel that their right has been 'unduly deprived.
  • Article 324: Election Commission is provided with extreme power to conduct free and fair elections, to give level playing field to all candidates, to stop the use of money and muscle power so that democracy strengthens furthermore.
  • Judiciary: Use of Public interest litigation, Special Leave Petition, Article 142: Complete justice provisions, etc. to ensure easy access to justice for people by introducing No Locus standi rule, Suo-moto action for political and police reform by the judiciary.
  • National Human Rights Commission: It is the watchdog of human rights in the country. It overlooks and protects the rights related to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Steps taken so far for reforms:

  • 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.
  • Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 disqualifies a person convicted with a sentence of two years or more from contesting elections.
  • Lily Thomas Case: SC held that that Section 8(4) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 is unconstitutional which allows MPs and MLAs who are convicted to continue in office till an appeal against such conviction is disposed of. The court held that MP/MLA convicted for two years or above would be disqualified immediately irrespective of the fact whether they are ministers or not.
  • Association for Democratic Reforms case, 2002: SC held that every candidate, contesting an election to the Parliament, State Legislatures or Municipal Corporation, has to declare their criminal records, financial records and educational qualifications along with their nomination paper.
  • Prakash Singh case for Police reforms: In 2006, SC directed the states and UTs to comply with seven binding directives that would kick start police reform.
  • DGP Appointment: It ensures a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP in the state police forces to ensure independence and autonomy to Police
  • Fast track courts for MPs: The Centre has asked states and Union Territories to set up special fast-track courts to try criminal cases pending against MLAs and MPs. 12 fast track courts (FTCs) have been set up in 11 states by the government on the direction of the apex court for speedy trial of cases against lawmakers.

Way out:

  • Law to debar criminals from entering into Politics:  Reforms must start with the political system to break this deadly nexus between criminals and politicians. A law needs to be enacted which debars persons with serious criminal cases from entering the assemblies and the Parliament.
  • Vohra Committee: To set up an institution to effectively deal with the menace of Criminals, politicians, and government Nexus.
  • Criminal justice system: It must be revamped as recommended by the Malimath Committee. 
  • Police reforms: The Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms must be implemented.
  • An integrated institution: An institution comprising representatives of the police/CBI/NIA, Intelligence Bureau, Income Tax department, Revenue Intelligence, and Enforcement Directorate should be set up to monitor the activities of the mafia and criminal syndicates in the country and ensure stringent action against them.
  • Act on the lines of MCOCA: A Central act on the lines of MCOCA should be enacted to curb the activities of organized criminal gangs. 

Different committees on Political and Criminal justice reforms:

1. Second Administrative Reforms Commission:

  • Concept of federal crime: The concept of a federal crime, as recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, should be accepted and offenses which have all-India ramifications or are trans-national in character, like those of terrorism and organized crimes, should be brought within its ambit.
  • It recommended that Section 8 of RPA needed to be amended to disqualify all persons facing charges related to grave and heinous offenses and corruption, where charges have been framed six months before the election.

2. Malimath Committee on criminal justice system reforms:

  • Borrowing from the inquisitorial systems in countries such as Germany and France where the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case.
  • Right to silence- Article 20 (3) needs to be modified which protects the accused from being compelled to be a witness against himself. The court should be given the freedom to question the accused.
  • Victim compensation is a State obligation in all serious crimes, whether the offender is apprehended or not, convicted or acquitted.
  • Witness protection- The committee recommends a strong witness protection mechanism.
  • No. of Courts and judges to be increased

3. Law commission of India on Political reform:

  • Bring political parties under the ambit of the RTI.
  • Promote internal democracy in political parties.
  • Ensure greater financial accountability of parties
  • State Funding of election model to check black money in elections

Conclusion:

Legislature, judiciary, executive, and police system itself must build an environment where police become an instrument of service to the people, where monsters like Dubey do not thrive and become a menace to society.

It may sound like asking for too much, but we have been discussing the need for such measures for a long time. Is it not time to take up these reforms in the right earnest? The journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with the first step. Let that step be taken at least.

Source: Indian Express

Reservation for Disabled

Context:

As per the Supreme Court mandate, persons suffering from disabilities are now also socially backward and entitled to the same benefits of relaxation as Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates in public employment and education.

Details:

  • A three-judge Bench upheld a 2012 judgment of the Delhi High Court in Anamol Bhandari (minor) through his father/Natural Guardian v. Delhi Technological University.
  • In this case, the High court mentioned that people suffering from disabilities are also socially backward and therefore entitled to the same benefits as given to the Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe candidates.

Upheld Delhi High Court Judgement:

  • New academic courses should be designed to specifically cater to the needs of intellectually disabled persons.
  • The Court observed that intellectually/mentally challenged persons have certain limitations, which are not there in physically challenged persons.
  • The college insisted that disabled persons also need to meet the general qualifying standard of 40% in the aptitude test, whereas SC/ST candidates were given relaxation to 35%.

Constitutional Provisions :

  • Article 15(4) and 16(4):  These articles enabled the State and Central Governments to reserve seats in government services for the members of the SC and ST.
    • 77th Amendment Act, 1995 added a new clause (4A) in Article 16 to enable the government to provide reservation in promotion.
    • Later, clause (4A) was modified by the 85th Amendment Act, 2001 to provide consequential seniority to SC and ST candidates promoted by giving reservation.
  • Article 16 (4 B): It was added by the 81st Amendment Act, 2000 which enables the state to fill the unfilled vacancies of a year which are reserved for SCs/STs in the succeeding year.
  • Article 243D: Reservation of seats for SCs and STs in Panchayat.
  • Article 233T: Reservation of seats for SCs and STs in Municipality.
  • Article 330 and 332:  Representation through the reservation of seats for SCs and STs in the Parliament and in the State Legislative Assemblies respectively.

Government initiatives:

Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan:

  • It was launched by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • Objective: To achieve universal accessibility for all citizens including Persons with Disabilities, to be able to gain access and live independently. 
  • Components:
    • Built Environment Accessibility: It aims to provide an accessible physical environment for everyone. Measures have been undertaken to eliminate obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, medical facilities, and workplaces. 
    • Transportation System Accessibility: The campaign also focuses on providing disabled persons an equal right to travel and use public and private transportation infrastructure with dignity and independence.
    • Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility.

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS):

  • Earlier it was called the “Scheme to Promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities”  in 2003 it renamed as the DDRS.
  • Objective: To provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for the rehabilitation of PwD.
  • The recommendation from the District Social Welfare Officer and State Government is required in the release of grant-in-aid to NGOs.

National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities (RGMF):

  • Objective: To increase opportunities and provide financial assistance for students with disabilities for pursuing higher education.
  • It was launched in 2012 as a Central Sector scheme. It was earlier known as Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship.
  • The scheme covers all universities/institutions recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and Non-Universities/Institutions.

Source: The Hindu

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

Election Commission’s Powers to Delay Elections 

Context:

Some political parties are raising concerns over holding elections in Bihar amid the COVID19 pandemic. Lok Janshakti Party has recently demanded to postpone state polls till the pandemic is contained.

Details:

  • Election Commission has the power to hold elections at any time within six months before the five-year term of the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly expires.
  • An election once called proceeds as per schedule. However, in extraordinary circumstances, the election process can be postponed or even scrapped after its announcement.
  • Under Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), the poll panel can “extend the time” for completing an election, but such extension should not go beyond the date of the normal dissolution of the Lok Sabha or the Assembly.
  • In 1991, the Election Commission, under this provision read with Article 324 of the Constitution, postponed the ongoing parliamentary elections for three weeks after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination during his campaign in Tamil Nadu.

Bihar case:

  • Powers under Section 153 can be exercised only after an election commission has notified the schedule of the election. If the Election Commission wants to postpone Bihar elections, it will have to be done through its extraordinary powers under Article 324.

Process:

  • The EC will have to inform the government of its inability to hold elections on time. The central government and the President will then decide to impose President’s Rule or allow the incumbent Chief Minister to continue for six months.

Circumstances:

  • There is no specific legal provision that specifies the circumstances under which elections can be deferred,
  • According to law experts, Law and order, earthquake and floods, or any other compelling circumstances that are beyond EC’s control would be guiding factors to take a decision in the matter.

Election Commission of India (Article 324):

  • The Constitution of India provides the Election Commission of India with the power of direction, superintendence, and control of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India, and the office of vice-president of India. Thus, the commission is responsible for both the center’s and the states’ elections.

Composition:

  • The election commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and a such number of other election commissioners, if any, as the president may from time to time fix.
  • The appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and other election commissioners shall be made by the president.
  • When any other election commissioner is so appointed the chief election commissioner shall act as the chairman of the election commission.
  • The president may also appoint regional commissioners after consultation with the election commission such.
  • The conditions of service and tenure of office of the election commissioners and the regional commissioners shall be such as the President may by rule determine.

Tenure:

  • CEC and other commissioners hold office for 6 years or till they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They can resign at any time by addressing their resignation to the president. The president can remove any of the commissioners following the procedure provided in the constitution.

Powers and Functions: 

  • The commission determines the territorial area of the electoral constituencies in accordance with the Delimitation Commission Act.
  • The commission authorized to receives and scrutinizes the nomination papers from all the candidates in the elections.
  • It also prepares and notifies the schedule of the election, prepares the electoral rolls, and revises them from time to time. 
  • The commission registers political parties and grants recognition to them. It also provides election symbols to the political parties.
  • Status of national or state parties to the political parties on the basis of their performance in the elections is provided by the election commission.

Source: Indian Express

DAC approves Rs. 38,900 crore deal

Context: 

The Defence Acquisition Council has cleared 38900 crores worth of deals to improve the defence capability of the country.

Details:

  • The government will buy 33 aircraft, 21 MiG-29s from Russia, 12 new Sukhoi-30 fighters from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The government also up-gradate 59 MiG-29 jets.
  • The government will also buy Pinaka ammunition, Astra Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles, land-attack cruise missile (LACM) systems with a range of 1,000 km among others.
  • The acquisitions from Indian Industry will cost around Rs. 31,130 crores and rest will be done from Russia.
  • Pinaka ammunition, armoured vehicle BMP armament upgrades and Software Defined Radio (SDR) for the Army.

MIG-29:

  • The Mikoyan MiG-29 is a twin-engine jet fighter aircraft designed in Russia.
  • The aircraft is developed by the Mikoyan design bureau as an air superiority fighter during the 1970s.
  • This is a popular export aircraft; more than 30 nations either operate or have operated the aircraft to date.

Sukhoi - 30:

 

  • It is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter aircraft developed by Russia's Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. 
  • It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.

Pinaka:

  • Pinaka is a multiple rocket launcher produced in India and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the Indian Army. 
  • The system has a maximum range of 40 km for Mark-I and 75 km for Mark-II and can fire a salvo of 12 HE rockets in 44 seconds. 

Astra:

  • Astra is an all-weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). 
  • It is the first air-to-air missile developed by India. 
  • It features mid-course inertial guidance with terminal active radar homing.

Long-Range Land Attack Cruise Missile Systems:

  • It is developed by DRDO and aimed at enhancing the firing range of the Brahmos missile from 400-500 km to 1000 km.
  • Its features include aerodynamic configuration, vertical launch using solid booster, thrust vector control system, booster separation, in-flight wing deployment, in-flight engine start and long-range way-point navigation system”.

Defence Acquisition Council:

  • It is the highest decision-making body of the Defence Ministry.  It was set up in 2001 as part of the post-Kargil reforms in the defence sector.
  • It is headed by the Defence Minister.
  • DAC approves the long-term integrated perspective plan for the Indian forces, accords acceptance of necessity (AON) to begin acquisition proposals, and grant’s its approval to all major deals.
  • It also has the power to approve any deviations in the acquisition and recommends all big capital defence purchases for approval of the Cabinet committee on security.

Source: Indian Express

Postal Ballot System amended by Law Ministry

Context:

The age limit for voters to opt for the postal ballot in Lok Sabha and assembly elections have been reduced by Law Ministry. The step has been taken for the safety of senior citizens amid rising cases of the coronavirus. The election rules are amended after the Ministery approves changes.

Details:

  • Now, the ministry notified a fresh change in the rules, allowing those aged 65 years and above to opt for postal ballot. The ministry amended the rules on the suggestions of the Election Commission, the ministry also allowed coronavirus suspect or affected persons to use the postal ballot facility.
  • According to the election commission, the age limit was reduced as “people who are 65 and above are vulnerable” to the coronavirus. The election commission had approached the government to tweak the rule as pandemic could continue till the end of the year.
  • Bihar will be the first state to have assembly polls after the COVID-19 outbreak. Voters of Bihar will be the first to benefit from the amended rules.
  • Earlier in 2019, the Law Ministry amended the Conduct of Election Rules to allow people with disabilities and those who are 80 years of age or above to opt for a postal ballot for both Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
  • People who come under the category of those allowed to use postal ballot have to fill form 12D to avail of the facility.

Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot (ETPB):

  • ETPBS is developed by the Election Commission and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), for the use of the Service Voters.
  • It is a fully secured system with two layers of security. Through the use of OTP and PIN secrecy has been maintained. No duplication of casted Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot is possible due to the unique QR Code.
  • Persons working in paramilitary forces and the military and government officials deployed in diplomatic missions outside India are classified as Service Voters.

Significance of ETPBS:

  • Through this service, the entitled service voters can cast their votes by using an electronically received postal ballot from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • The voters who choose this service will be entitled to Postal Ballot delivered through Electronic Media for a particular election.
  • The developed system is implemented in line with the existing Postal Ballot System. Postal Ballot will be transmitted through Electronic Means to the voters.
  • It enables the voters to cast their votes on an electronically received postal ballot from their preferred location, which is outside their assigned voting constituency.
  • This system would be an easier option of facilitating voting by the electors as the time constraint for dispatch of the postal ballot has been addressed using this system.

Voters who are eligible for ETPBS:

  • Service Voters, other than those who opt for proxy voting.
  • Voters above 80 years of age
  • Persons with Disabilities (PwD),
  • The wife of a Service Voter who ordinarily resides with him.
  • Overseas Voters.

Source: Indian Express

Basic income is the best bet to provide resilience in times of COVID-19

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the share of income going to people who rely solely on labour is continuously decreasing and becoming uncertain.

This editorial makes a strong case for universal basic income during this testing time.

2. CRISIS DUE TO THE COVID-19

As a consequence of COVID-19 epidemic, India is facing three crisis simultaneously viz. medical, economic and distributional.

Furthermore, in the absence of well-thought policy steps and their bold implementation the fourth crisis of social violence threatens in the times ahead.

2.1 Medical Crisis

  • The spread of COVID-19 and associated deaths are the most obvious and immediate threat.
  • While India has performed better than many countries until now, the upward trend in recent times in India is worrisome.

2.2 Economic Crisis

  • The global economic slowdown began well before the pandemic struck the world and so was the case for India.
  • Experts say that a global recession was already in the making as global rentier capitalism had generated a bubble economy in which a plutocracy was taking more and more of the income, and finance was indulging in speculative rent-seeking.
  • In India as in the world, the share of income to people relying solely on their labour as the primary source of income is on the decline and their future remains uncertain.
  • Therefore, even a minor shock can drive this section from debt into destitution, bankruptcy and impoverishment.
  • In addition, the recent events in India in the wake of COVID-19 epidemic is a major shock to this section.
  • The crisis has been accentuated by the combined effect of economic slowdown and the nation-wide lockdown resulting into unarguably the biggest demand shock that the Indian and world economy has experienced in the globalisation era.

3. THE ECONOMIC CRISIS

3.1 Extent of the crisis  - Demand Shock

  • Barring the richest 20%, all levels of society have experienced a decline in incomes.
  • The income is anticipated to decline even more in the months ahead.
  • This will surely result into a decline in the aggregate demand (demand shock) for goods and services.
  • Millions are unable to maintain their existing standards of living.
  • As a precautionary measure, the wealthy are trying to increase their saving rate.
  • However, the demand shock is more threatening than the supply shock.

3.2 The more threatening Demand Shock

  • The demand shock will have a negative multiplier effect.
  • Many millions have less money at their disposal, while millions of others will opt to spend less owing to the uncertain times that lie ahead.
  • This economic behaviour will drag many people into unsustainable debt.
  • The demand shock will worsen due to the reverse migration of people to their villages.
  • This migration is estimated to be to the tune of 40 million.
  • The people, who had earlier migrated to the cities, would remit money back to their families who were dependent on them.
  • Following the migration back to the villages, these people would not only be unable to remit any more money to their dependents but now themselves depend on their families for support. This further threatens the demand shock.
  • The situation is very fragile and ominous because the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to in India for at least the next year.
  • There are also apprehensions that the COVID-19 crisis may even go out of control given that protective and preventive measures are becoming harder to implement and maintain especially in conditions of an economic slowdown, this further rings the danger bell.

4. POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF THE CURRENT SITUATION

4.1 Policy conclusion of demand shock conditions

  • The looming threat of demand shock leads to one vital policy conclusion.
  • The Macro-economic policy must boost aggregate demand while at the same time reducing the probability that the coronavirus will devastate communities.
  • Presently, the government is relying on the expansion of MNREGA to provide employment to the returning migrants.

4.2 Problems with MNREGA

  • MNREGA involves a number of convoluted procedures and complicated administration processes.
  • The work at MNREGA involves physical contact and close-proximity between the workers, which increases the risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 infection in rural areas.
  • Hence, a wiser and more yielding method would be to transfer cash directly to the workers listed under MNREGA.
  • Some economists suggest the expansion of free food grains through the Public Distribution System. While such a step was necessary during the lockdown to ensure food security, it is unlikely to boost demand as the economy opens up.

5. A CASE FOR UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

5.1 Quasi-universal transfer of basic income

  • Noble laureate Abhijit Banerjee advocates a basic income for the bottom 60% of the population.
  • The process to identify the bottom 60% would be a complex, tiresome and futile process marred by arbitrariness and inefficiency even during the most propitious of times.
  • Given the nature of this unprecedented social and economic crisis, millions will face the wrath of fluctuating incomes that will move them in and out of poverty line repeatedly within weeks.
  • The writer suggests a quasi-universal transfer to all usual residents of communities and returning migrants.
  • This could be offset by a small increase in taxes on luxury items consumed or used by the wealthy.
  • This will ensure a modest level of cash resource at everyone's disposal and will boost demand for basic local goods and services, which is the need of the hour for the Indian economy.

Problems in implementation of Basic Income

  • The biggest hurdle in implementation of a basic universal income for the impoverished is last mile connectivity and distribution of cash through financial institutions.
  • The Jan Dhan accounts have increased financial inclusion and it is only after the system begins to pump out cash will the financial system respond to the need to reach the last mile.
  • Post Payments Bank system in India hold tremendous potential to ensure an efficient and people-friendly last-mile delivery for people excluded from the Jan Dhan system.

6. CONCLUSION

We as a society need to understand that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

For society to have the required resilience to survive this crisis and to recover from it, everybody must have the capacity to try to respond responsibly.

If some groups are left vulnerable and deprived, all groups will be vulnerable and deprived. A basic income would give meaning to the claim that ‘we are all in this together’.

Source: Financial Express https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/why-basic-income-seems-to-be-the-best-bet-in-times-of-covid-19/2005506/

India to take part in RIC meeting

Context:

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India will participate in the virtual meeting of the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping scheduled to be held on 23rd June 2020. It will also discuss the current situation of the global pandemic and the challenges of global security, financial stability, and RIC cooperation.

  • This session of the RIC has been called by the current Chair- Russia to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory in the second world war over Nazism and the creation of the United Nations (24th October 2020).

Key Agenda of the meeting:

  • Line of Actual Control: The Indian decision to go ahead with the ministerial level exchange has created an opening for de-escalation of tension along the Line of Actual Control.
    • Russia indicated that it would support “constructive dialogue” over the tension in eastern Ladakh as Russia is trusted by both India and China.
    •  While confirming the participation in the meeting, China has also agreed to control the situation in the border areas.
  • Regional Connectivity: Projects such as the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) involving India, Russia, and Iran are expected to figure in the agenda.
  • No Bilateral Issues: However, the focus of the meeting will be on global coronavirus pandemic and no bilateral issues will be discussed.

Russia-India-China (RIC):

  • It is a strategic grouping that first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov, a Russian politician as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
    • Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19% of the global landmass and contribute to over 33% of global GDP.
  • The group was founded on the basis of ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the USA and renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.

Importance of RIC for India:

  • China Factor: It is important for India as an aspiring power to be able to thwart China’s aspirations of being a hegemon in both the maritime and continental power.
  • Economic: The trio could also contribute to creating a new economic structure for the world.
  • Strategic Balance: Along with JAI, India would do well to give RIC the same importance. The groupings like the Quad and the JAI essentially revolve around the Indo Pacific and will confine India to being only a maritime power when it is actually both a maritime and continental power.
  • Governance over the Arctic: With the Northern Sea Route opening up due to climate change, the RIC has a common interest in ensuring that it is not left to the West and Russia alone and that India and China also have major say in rules governing the Arctic route.

Concerns:

  • Neutral approach: India has followed a neutral approach in international politics, especially between the great powers, preferring its traditional nonalignment. However, China’s hostile attitude towards India in recent years is increasingly forcing India to confront it.
    • This makes it difficult to see how engagements through platforms such as RIC, are going to alter the basic conflictual nature of relations between India and China.
  • Russia factor: Even though Russia has remained an all-time friend for India, it is increasingly under stress to follow China’s dictates. E.g. earlier, it openly opposed the Indo-Pacific concept at the Raisina Dialogue.
    • On sensitive issues such as Jammu and Kashmir, which China raised at the UN Security Council, Russia preferred taking a middle position, not supporting India’s stand entirely.

International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC):