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Daily Category  (Polity)

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

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

Tribes India e-Marketplace

Context:

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has decided to launch the 'Tribes India e-Marketplace' on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.

Tribes India e-Marketplace:

  • It is a pathbreaking initiative of the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • It is an ambitious initiative through which TRIFED aims to onboard 5 lakh tribal producers for sourcing of various handicrafts, handloom, natural food products across the country.
  • It is a state-of-the-art e-commerce platform that can be accessed on the web and also mobile for both customers and the tribal vendors registered.
  • It will showcase the produce and handicrafts of tribal enterprises from across the country.

Significance:

  • The suppliers comprise of individual tribal artisans, tribal SHGs, Organisations/ Agencies/ NGOs working with tribals.
  • The platform provides tribal suppliers with an Omni-channel facility to sell their goods through their own retailers and distributors.
  • It will facilitate Business-to-Business (B2B) trade connecting tribals dependent on Minor Forest Produces and Medicinal plants to large buyers /manufacturers.

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED):

  • It was established in 1987 under the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 1984.
  • The objective is the socio-economic development of tribal people in the country by way of marketing development of the tribal products on which the lives of tribals depend heavily.
  • TRIFED is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. 
  • It was established as a National level Cooperative body under the administrative control of the then Ministry of Welfare of India.

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

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

The search for an end to the complex Naga conflict

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The talks between NSCN-IM and the government officially, which began 22 years ago in 1997, is again in news. The Nagaland Governor and the Centre’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks- R.N. Ravi is absent from the meeting of the Naga peace process going on in New Delhi after the demand of his removal from the NSCN-IM as the Centre’s interlocutor in the peace process.

NAGA ISSUE

  • Their core demand is for Greater Nagalim (sovereign statehood) by redrawing the Nagaland state boundaries including Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar as a single administrative unit.
  • Demand a separate Naga constitution (Naga Yezabo) and a Naga National Flag is also there.
  • Nagas are an ethnic community comprising of several tribes like Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Kuki, Lotha, who inhabit Nagaland and surrounding areas. Nagaland is also home to several minor tribes or sub tribes are Garo, Mikir, Chirr, Makury, Rongmei, Tikhir, etc.

Background

  • The Naga Hills became part of British India in 1881, with annexation of Assam in 1826. The first sign of Naga resistance was seen in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which told the Simon Commission in 1929 ‘to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times’.
  • In 1946 the Naga National Council (NNC) under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947.
  • The NNC resolved to establish a ‘sovereign Naga state’ and conducted a ‘referendum’ in 1951, in which ‘99 percent’ supported an ‘independent’ Nagaland.
  • In 1952, Phizo formed the underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA) which created insurgency and resulted into enaction of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act by Government of India in 1958.

Naga National Council (NNC)

  • In 1945, the Naga Hills District Tribal Council was formed which overshadowed the erstwhile Naga Club and in a year, transformed into a political organisation named Naga National Council (NNC).
  • The NNC campaigned for sovereignty and secession of the Naga Hills (then a district of Assam) from India and declared independence on August 14, 1947, under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo.
  • It organized a referendum in May 1951, which revealed that 99% of the population supported an ‘independent’ Nagaland.
  • In 1960, The Union Government signed a 16-Point Agreement with a group of the Naga people’s representatives, which deescalated the intensity of the armed movement, which eventually led to the creation of the state of Nagaland in December 1963.

LONGSTANDING NAGA CONFLICT

  • India’s northeastern frontier has witnessed crisis like bloody insurgencies but did not get recognition like Kashmir issues because of its geographical, cultural, and ethnic factors.
  • It is a violent conflict has its roots in the politics of the sub nationalism, complex regional geopolitics and counterinsurgency tactics.
  • In its earlier phase Naga insurgents got shelter in Myanmar. Even China and Pakistan and also gave them support at one point of time.

‘Ceasefires’ and factions

  • Nagaland got its statehood in 1963 but it was not a success for Naga National Council (NNC). After a huge pressure from security forces Naga National Council was forced to sign the Shillong Accord of 1975.
  • This was the Shillong Accord of 1975 which created trouble in Nagaland and National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) came into existence.
  • After the splitting up of NSCN split into several factions, the Centre entered into peace negotiations with almost each of them. But the undesirable outcome of these ‘ceasefires’ has been the creation and existence of unspoken ‘spheres of influence’.
  • It is these spheres that have come under increasing scrutiny and attack from the Centre through the Nagaland Governor.

Several Players

  • Indian government is trying to include all the possible groups in the peace talks. In 2015, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak Muivah), or the NSCN-IM signed a framework agreement with the central government, however, the final accord did not come.
  • NSCN-IM is the most powerful of the Naga insurgent groups and has been in peace talks with the Centre since the 1997 ceasefire.
  • Apart from NSCN-IM, central government tried to enlarge the peace process by roping in seven other Naga insurgent groups under the umbrella of Naga National Political Groups (NNPG).
  • An important group, the NSCN Khaplang, whose cadres are reported to be inside Myanmar, is still outside the formal process.

CASE OF R.N. RAVI

About Ravi

  • Mr. Ravi is a 1976 batch IPS Officer who retired in 2012. He developed expertise on Northeast Indian affairs during his tenure at the Intelligence Bureau.
  • Ravi has also been the Governor of Nagaland for the past year. Ravi was scathing in his criticism of the peace process and the role of his predecessor interlocutors K Padmanabhaiah and R S Pandey, in his articles published in 2012 and 2013.

Ravi’s view point:

  • Ravi termed the previous two interlocutors as ‘rent-seekers’ and accused them of considering Nagas as if it were a homogenous collective with common aspirations, which led the Naga talks on ‘a perverse trajectory’ and accused them of acting as ‘marketing agents’ of the NSCN-IM.
  • Ravi's primary compliant is that the previous government went about negotiating only with the NSCN-IM, which is in his words, ‘quintessentially an entity of Tangkhul tribes of Manipur, having little resonance with other Nagas notwithstanding its pan-Naga rhetoric’.
  • Ravi eloquently described the ‘the intricacies of the Naga polity — comprising over 25 tribes, each a proud owner and inheritor of a distinct culture, language, tradition and geography, espousing a distinct world view, falling within the broad rubric of the Naga family’.
  • Having said that, evidence suggests that many Nagas aspire to Naga unity and view the above said tribal loyalties merely as residues of a pre-modern past and an obstacle to Naga solidarity.

Recent issue

  • Mr. Ravi, the Nagaland Governor and the Centre’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks, wrote letter to Nagaland’s Chief Minister and mentioned the present culture of extortion prevailing in Nagaland.
  • According to him there is the collapse of general law and order situation in Nagaland, and organized armed gangs are running their own parallel ‘tax collection’ regimes.
  • The issue of extortions in the name of taxes has been a thorny facet of the Naga issue.
  • The ‘taxes’ levied by insurgent groups are will intricately intertwined in almost all developmental activities in Nagaland and any serious discussion of the issue has been conveniently avoided.
  • NSCN-IM has even objective of acquiring formal recognition to this informal practice through negotiations.
  • Being branded themselves as an ‘armed gang’ and Naga issue as a ‘law and order’ problem, the NSCN-IM demanded the removal of R.N. Ravi from the peace process talks.

MAJOR CONCERNS

  • Unease over interpretations: There is a much debate and controversy about the interpretation of ‘sovereignty’, as also reflected in the latest ‘Naga Independence Day’ speech by NSCNIM chief.
  • Demand for a separate flag and a ‘constitution’: These two are core issues. Nagas declared their independence and hoisted a symbolic flag on 14 august 1947. It is related to their identity and dignity.
  • The important question is related to accommodating Naga aspirations within the Indian framework.
  • Different Players: The issue of Nagas is not only confined within the boundary of Nagaland. The Naga inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and even Myanmar make this issue more complicated with different players involved.
  • Another significant issue is how the weapons in the NSCNIM camps are going to be managed. As a ‘ceasefire’ group, its cadres are supposed to retain their weapons inside the designated camps for self defence only, but more often than not, many influential cadres are seen moving with weapons in civilian localities, leading to many problems.
  • Some Indian States contiguous to Nagaland have been affected through the mobilization of the Naga population in these States. That is why they are apprehensive of the demand for ‘Greater Nagalim’.

CONCLUSION

The demand of the removal of Mr. Ravi as the Centre’s interlocutor in the peace process by NSCN-IM should not be seen negatively and is on the line of the 2015 framework agreement. The allegation on the interlocutor that he subtly manipulated the framework agreement is widened the trust deficit. The central government must keep in mind that the talks with armed insurgencies do not end in either total victory or comprehensive defeat, but in a grey zone called ‘compromise’. This is a time of taking wise decision because China is showing aggression in Ladakh and gave shelter to some high profile NSCN-IM commanders in its land.

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

Court’s drift and chinks in the judiciary’s armour

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The recent matter of contempt case of Prashant Bhushan and the retirement of the controversial Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra has raised some serious question on the modus operandi of India’s apex Court.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF PRASHANT BHUSHAN

  • The two tweets on the social media by Prashant Bhushan related to the ‘role of the Supreme Court’, ‘role of the last 4 CJIs’ and CJI Bobde riding a Harley Davidson bike caught the attention of the Apex court which according to the court were amounting to ‘serious contempt of court’.
  • During the hearing, the Court repeatedly tried to coerce Bhushan, to proffer an apology, and kept granting him additional time for this purpose. It was arguably strange behaviour on the part of the Court, and it also appeared embarrassing, for it came across as petulant bargaining more than anything else.
  • Bhushan did not apologize and admitted that any apology from him in the circumstances would be insincere.
  • At last the bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, imposed a fine of Re 1 on senior lawyer Bhushan and mentioned that in case of default, he will be barred from practising for 3 years and will be imprisoned for 3 months.
  • This whole incident raised questions on the ‘law of contempt’ and the system of allocation of cases to the benches.

CIVIL AND CRIMINAL CONTEMPT

  • Contempt law is seen as problematic because the judge himself acts as prosecutor and victim, and starts with the presumption of guilt rather than innocence. Contempt proceedings are quasi-criminal and summary in nature.

The law of contempt in India includes civil and criminal contempt.

  • Civil contempt: According to Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, civil contempt means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  • Criminal contempt: Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 states criminal contempt includes publication of anything that
  1. scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court;
  2. prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
  3. interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

Other countries:

  • In England, contempt proceedings were last invoked in 1930 and the contempt law has now been abolished.
  • U.S and Canada punishes people for contempt only when there is imminent or clear danger to the administration of justice.

A JUDGE IN THE LIMELIGHT

  • Justice Mishra’s many decisions were in news and raised issue of the process of assigning the cases in the Supreme Court.
  • The kinds of cases that were assigned to the Benches he was on, and the kinds of decisions he issued are of some serious concerns. It attracts the attention to the ‘Master of the roster’ system.
  • It is alleged that a specific kind of politically sensitive cases were being allocated to Benches involving Justice Arun Mishra and his decisions were predictably in favour of the executive.
  • Most controversial cases and judgments that Justice Mishra was involved in:

Rescue of Two CJIs

  • Justice Arun Mishra was part of the benches that played a key role in the protecting the dignity and reputation of not one, but two former CJIs.
    • A three-judge bench that included Justice Arun Mishra dismissed senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal’s petition seeking a court-monitored Special Investigation Team probe into medical bribery. The CBI was investigating a case against a medical college which was trying to secure favourable judgment by bribing the sitting high court and Supreme Court judges.
    • Justice Arun Mishra was also a part of the special bench set up in light of the sexual harassment allegations against CJI Ranjan Gogoi in 2019. CJI Gogoi, in breach of all rules of propriety, headed the special bench set up on the day, with his involvement later erased from the record.

The Land Acquisition Row

  • Justice Arun Mishra refused to recuse himself from a five-judge Constitution Bench that was set up to decide which of the two earlier judgments relating to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 was correct.
  • In January 2014, the then CJI Lodha in the Pune Municipality Corporation Case held that the deposit of compensation in government treasury cannot be regarded as the payment made to the land owners.
    • In February 2018, however, in the Indore Development Authority case, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Mishra overruled the 2014 judgment and held that paying money into the government treasury will suffice for the land acquisition process even if the payment had not been made to the farmer.

The 100% Tribal Reservations Judgment

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra struck down a government order issued by the Andhra Pradesh government in 2000 providing 100 percent reservation for scheduled tribe candidates for the post of schoolteachers in the scheduled areas.
  • The judgment led to statewide protests in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana by various tribal groups.

Sahara-Birla Diaries

  • In 2017, Justice Mishra had his first brush with controversy when a two-judge bench headed by him dismissed a petition seeking an investigation into the ‘Sahara-Birla’ diaries.
  • The bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy dismissed the application moved by Common Cause. The bench had held that the persons holding high constitutional positions cannot be subjected to investigation based on ‘loose papers.’

CONTROVERSIAL ‘MASTER OF THE ROSTER’ SYSTEM

  • Few years ago four judges raised questions on the ‘master of the roster’ system in a press conference.
  • Justice Kurian Joseph once mentioned that the assignment of work in the Court during Justice Dipak Misra’s tenure was “remote controlled”.
  • During the time of Dipak Misra, two judgments were delivered by the CJI’s Bench in matters to which he himself was a party. Through these judgments, the CJI defended the “master of the roster” system, indicating that the CJI was entitled to have unrestricted and untrammeled power in matters of case allocation.
  • How is a reference to a larger Bench made: As per Article 145(3) of the Constitution the minimum number of Judges who are to sit for the purpose of deciding any case involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of this Constitution shall be five. A bench of at least five judges is set up to hear significant Constitution cases.
    • When different rulings of same Bench strength are not consistent with one another, a ruling by a larger Bench of an odd number of judges is preferred to harmonise the law. Once the questions to be settled are identified, these are placed before the CJI who will then assign it to a larger Bench. The CJI, as the master of the roster, decides which Bench would hear the case.

EXECUTIVE’S CHIPPING AWAY

  • Many columnists, leading scholars, and legal luminaries have been speculating that the Supreme Court is drifting away from rights based court to an executive court.
  • When executive is too strong and has influence in all over the institutions then it can also reach to ‘independent judiciary’.
  • It just needs to create some favorable conditions in the court and find some ‘reliable judges’. These “reliable” judges not only ensure that the pro executive nature of the Court is sustained, but also serve to protect the CJI in times of crises.
  • Unfortunate precedents in the recent past where CJIs have, without compunction, accepted politically coloured postretirement opportunities are the example of this.
  • Without breaching the shield of Supreme Court through National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, the combination of opaque systems like the “master of the roster”, and a certain kind of CJI are sufficient to destroy all that is considered precious by an independent judiciary.
  • Many commentators have already pointed out how the last three CJIs all used the powers anointed upon themselves via the “master of the roster” to entrust sensitive and important matters to Benches involving Justice Arun Mishra.

WAY FORWARD

  • The “Master of the roster” system does not work in many countries.
  • The “master of the roster” system was designed for a different era, and indeed, may have worked well in the past even, when we had very tall judges, and judicial independence was rarely doubted. But things have changed now.
  • We need a legal certainty, and a rule based mechanism for allocation of cases.
  • The European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, among many other jurisdictions (where cases are decided not by full courts but by benches) followed progressive methods.
  • This rule can be that cases are allocated randomly. But any kind of rule can be implemented only if judges themselves take a stand and decide.
  • A case allocation system that is neutral and rules based will prevent bench packing, and demonstrate neutrality, impartiality, and transparency.
  • All this, in turn, ensures that courts are protected from outside interference; improves public confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judiciary; assures litigants of equality and fairness; and protects basic rights and freedoms by not compromising on them.

CONCLUSION

It is has been noticing that the threat to judicial independence in India is not only emerging from the executive branch and the legislature but also from within the institution. There is a need to look into the opaque ‘Master of the rooster system’. The retirement of a controversial figure should not be seen as a relief to the situation though it is a good a time as any for the judges of the Supreme Court to unite and seriously consider whether self preservation trumps institutional independence, or whether they truly want to protect the judiciary from outside influence, and hold their own against an overbearing executive.

Source: The Hindu

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

Debate around minimum age of marriage for women

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

As per the latest announcement by Prime Minister in his Independence Day address the centre is reconsidering the legal marriage age for women.

BACKGROUND

  • The whole issue arises from a task force set up by the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development last year. 
  • It was set up to examine issues such as age of motherhood among girls, and the correlation between age of marriage and Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR), etc.
  • MMR is a key indicator of maternal health in a country while TFR, SRB and CSR serve as yardsticks to make assessments about population and gender balance.

PROHIBITION OF CHILD MARRIAGE ACT (PCMA), 2006

  • The PCMA sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years for women and at 21 for men.
  • As per this, underage marriages as valid, but voidable. It means that an underage marriage is valid as long as the minors involved in the marriage want it to remain valid.
  • The PCMA also treats those underage marriages as void or having no legal validity, where they involve trafficking, enticement, fraud and deceit.
  • It allows the minor party to repudiate the marriage or to have it nullified right up till two years of attaining majority.
  • Some definitions under the Act:
    • ‘child’ means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age;
    • ‘child marriage’ means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child;
    • ‘Contracting party’, in relation to a marriage, means either of the parties whose marriage is or is about to be thereby solemnized.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF INCREASING THE AGE

An instrument in controlling the population:

  • Some experts are of the opinion that it may help in keeping the population in check and prevent women from being forced into early motherhood and its multiple complications.
  • With the increase in age the fertility rate decreases that would serve the purpose of bringing down population levels in the country

Good for Children’s health and Women’s overall development

  • Children who are born to mothers who tend to get married at an early age may develop health problems.
  • Girls who get married at a younger age aren’t educated properly and do not have access to healthcare, vaccination, antenatal care, and even facilities for safe delivery and also lose life owing to pregnancy complications.
  • The reproductive organs attain optimum size and function by the age of 21 years.
  • The understanding and responsibility of marriage is also better at 21.

Issue of Equality

  • Increasing the age of marriage for women to 21 years will make the marriage age equal for both men and women.
  • Human rights activists, women’s groups and child rights activists are of the opinion that the age of marriage should be equal for boys and girls.
  • The National Human Rights Commission, 2018: It recommended that there should be a uniform age of marriage for boys and girls.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST INCREASING THE AGE

Persecution of girl’s right

  • An increase in age to 21 years would mean further persecution of girls right up till 21 years. It would mean that girls will have no say in their personal matters until they are 21.
  • Hadiya case is a suitable example of this, where an adult woman’s decision to marry was challenged by her parents.
  • The elementary right of minors, the right to be heard, the right for their views to be considered, can be denied to girls up till 21, beyond adulthood.
  • Girls do become sexually active before 21 and if the government increases the age of marriage, several of them will not avail the formal healthcare system for their reproductive or sexual rights.
  • The cases of child marriage can go up since the legal age for marriage will increase from 18 to 21.
  • At the current age of marriage for women and men, the implementation of the child marriage law is very hard. So there is no basis to increase it to 21.

Misuse of child marriage law

  • The child marriage law is mostly used by parents against eloping daughters. 
  • It becomes a weapon for parental control and for punishment of males whom girls choose as their husbands.
  • Most of the cases that are taken to court are self arranged marriages. Only one third of the cases relate to arranged marriages, which are sometimes brought by parents or husbands to dissolve or to nullify marriages that have broken down because of domestic violence, dowry or compatibility issues. So, age is nowhere an issue in people’s minds.

Reduce marriage age of boys for Equality

  • The age of marriage should be uniform for men and women but not by increasing the age but by reducing the age for boys.
  • The Law Commission Report of 2008 recommended a uniform age of marriage for boys and girls at 18 years and not 21.
  • Indian Majority Act, 1875: It grants the right to vote, and to enter into contracts, for those who attain the age of 18. And they are equal for men and women.
  • In the ‘Independent Thought case’ the Apex Court,  declared that it’s accepted universally that a child is someone who’s under the age of 18, and that should be the age of marriage.
  • The international CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) Committee also recommends 18 as the age of marriage.

Other Points

  • At the current age of marriage for women and men, experts are of the view we find that implementation of the child marriage law is very hard. So there is no basis to increase it to 21.
  • Increasing the age would create grave ‘discrepancy’ in the law, which declares child marriage illegal but doesn’t consider such a union void unless the partners involved challenge it.
  • Right now, child marriages are voidable and not void by default but the Supreme Court, in 2017, had mentioned that sex with a minor wife is rape, so, it is a situation, where marriage with a girl of less than 18 years is not illegal, but sex with her is.
  • If we now increase the marriage age to 21, then it would lead to more confusion about the status of girls and women under 21 who are married.

MAKING CHILD MARRIAGES ILLEGAL OR VOID AB INITIO

  • PCMA should declare child marriages void ab initio. It would consider all child marriages as invalid marriages.
  • Young girls who are forced into marriages and want to come out of it would get help from it.
  • Child marriage should be recognized as a human rights violation. It endangers the lives of young girls by exposing them to increased domestic violence, marital rape, early pregnancies, etc.
  • Rendering all child marriages invalid will also make them unacceptable.

CONCLUSION

An issue like child marriage is a social issue and an economic issue. The issue of early marriage can be tackle through educating the girls and not by increasing the age. Introducing criminal law and punishment and to declare child marriage void will not work in favor of Women and is subject of intense debate. The focus should be on issues like age of sexual consent and repudiation of marriage by girls. Revising the age of marriage doesn’t have evidence that it will be beneficial always.

FACTS

  • 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.
  • Special Marriage Act, 1954 and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006:  These prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
  • Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: It sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom.
  • The Age of Consent Bill, 1927: It amended the provision of rape in 1927 through and declared that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid.
  • In the 1880s:  A legal framework for the age of consent for marriage in India began.
  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860: Criminalised sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.

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

In Kashmir, still a long way to go

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

After removing Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution from the statute book and carving out two union territories from the State of Jammu Kashmir, this is the time for Delhi to analyze wisely the situation and should not considered immediate dividends in Kashmir its achievement.

REMOVAL OF ARTICLE 370

  • Last year in the month of August, India removed Article 370 and 35 A and ended the special status of Jammu Kashmir.
  • Article 370 was a 70-year-old provision that had given autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes the Hindu-majority area of Jammu and the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.
  • It was added to the Indian constitution after the partition of British India. It gave autonomy to the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir until a decision was made about its rule.
  • India's central government powers were over the territory by this article. Another related provision made state lawmakers powerful enough to decide who could buy land and be a permanent resident in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Article 370 was intended to be temporary, states that it can only be abrogated with the consent of the legislative body that drafted the state constitution. The legislative body dissolved itself in 1957, and India's Supreme Court ruled that Article 370 is therefore a permanent part of the constitution.
  • The present central government disagrees and mentioned the president of India, who is beholden to the ruling party, has the power to revoke the article.
  • The removal of Article 370 ended the decade’s old semi-autonomous rule in Jammu Kashmir. It lost its statehood and two new union territories- Ladakh and J&K were carved out of it.

Stand of International community

  • Pakistan, as it was predicted, condemned India's move to revoke Article 370.
  • China criticized Indian move and raised its voice observing that the bifurcation of J&K and the voiding of Article 370 should not be seen as solely India’s internal matter.
  • In contrast the US, the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka seemed to back India’s move.

‘SHOCK AND AWE’ STRATEGY

  • Indian central government adopted the policy of the ‘shock and awe’ to achieve its pre-determined objectives and did not considered the end result of the move.
  • The decision of Indian central government was unexpected, in an utmost secrecy and left no scope for discussion, debate or retreat.
  • In favor of the decision, centre government provides that the decision was aimed at ending an anomaly that had existed for long, and had impeded Kashmir’s peace and progress.
  • The integration of Kashmir with India was seen with the economic and job opportunities in Kashmir, reduction in levels of terrorist violence, closer integration with the rest of India, etc.

UNREALISED GOALS AND CONCERNS

  • The announcement were made that Kashmir will be brought into the national mainstream and violence within the Kashmir will get reduce but nothing has been noticed on the grounds. Neither jobs are created there nor economic opportunities being given to the people.
  • The levels of violence continue to remain high, broadly approximating to what existed in earlier periods. The only success is the elimination of some top leaders of terrorist outfit such as the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Incarceration of political leaders

  • Kashmir’s political leaders have been kept under house arrest for several months under various provisions of the law, including the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. It has undermined Centre’s commitment to an early return to orderly political discourse.
  • Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister, is still in custody.
  • Prominent National Conference leaders, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, have been released from custody, but continue to face restrictions, with regard to any kind of political activity.
  • Sajad Lone (Peoples Conference Chief) was released after spending almost a year in preventive detention.
  • Such acts raised the widespread concern about human rights and human rights violations in Kashmir.

Longest Internet Shutdowns

  • The valley has seen the longest internet shut down ever after the loss of its statehood.
  • The preventive shutdown was imposed in the state which is yet to be lifted entirely. Due to lack of access to high speed Internet students faced many problems.

Domicile certificate issue

  • Announcement of notifying the J&K Grant of Domicile Certificate Procedure Rules, 2020 has raised apprehensions in the union territory about the changing demography of the erstwhile state.
  • The non locals can apply for the domicile certificate which could help them to acquire properties and apply for jobs in Jammu Kashmir. 
  • This notification is also a challenge for the local business and traders. They might be not able to compete with the outsiders. 

Alienation and Frustration

  • Alienation in Kashmir has increased manifold while the economy and the polity lie in shambles.
  • Frustration is also growing in the Hindu-majority Jammu as the people are beginning to feel the impact of the changes in the business atmosphere and polity of the region.

THE COMPLEXITY OF KASHMIR

  • The problem of Kashmir is an old one and well known. Successive governments in both the centre and the state have wrestled with the tough situations. The State has witnessed the four India- Pakistan
  • Conflicts and is the main irritant in the India-Pakistan relationship.
  • The problem of Kashmir is a grave and can be compared with the problems of Palestine and the Northern Ireland. Many national and international experts study deeply the problem and gave their opinions.
  • Rejecting notions of a ‘separate Kashmiri identity’, disowning all talk of Kashmiri ‘insaniyat’ and ‘jamhooriyat’, and making Kashmiris pay for their past mistakes are not going to solve the longstanding problem of this nature.
  • The idea of ending the Kashmir politics to improve the conditions on the ground can be proved highly misplaced.
  • Radical Islamist ideas prevailing all over the world can further degrade the situation in Kashmir. In the past we have seen the terrorism gaining ground in the valley and the present situation across the globe can influence the youth of the region.
  • There are still sizeable pockets of radical Islamist influence present in the valley. The government has claimed that homegrown militancy in J&K has been extinguished but the presence of the ideology like Islamic State in neighboring countries is a grave concern.
  • Such elements are driven by the power of an idea, and cannot be suppressed through sheer force. These are among the fundamental issues that need resolution in Kashmir.

CONCLUSION

Current policymakers should understand why the previous leaders were not able to find the solutions for the Kashmir problem. The leaders in Delhi should be careful in viewing the immediate dividends as representing a new dawn. Bringing normalcy should be a priority of the central government. After one year of changing the situation in Kashmir, an intense debate and introspection is needed.  The subject of Kashmir has been reached that level where it becomes necessary to undertake value-based judgments and avoid evolutionary adaptation.

Source: The Hindu

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