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Category: Polity & Governance

POLL PANEL WORKING ON REMOTE VOTING SYSTEM

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission of India has joined hands with Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) to prepare an model of Aadhaar-linked electronic voting system.
  • This new system will enable electors to cast their votes from any part of the country or even from abroad — irrespective of where they are registered to vote in the country.

About the New electronic voting system:

  • Characteristics of the new technology
    • A system for two-way remote votingin controlled environment using blockchain technology.
  • If the technology is approved, will it be implemented automatically?
    • If the project is given the go-ahead by the EC, election laws will have to be changed.
  • Has EC used this kind of voting before?
    • The ECI had used a one-way electronic system for service electors for the first time in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

What is One Way and Two Way Polling?

  • One Way Polling:
    • One-way transmission for service voters involves sending a blank postal ballot electronically to the voter. The ballot paper is downloaded, ballot cast and then sent via normal postal service to the returning officer for counting.
  • Two Way Polling:
  • Two-way electronic transmission of vote envisages that a registered voter from any location in India,  once his identity is well authenticated will be able to cast his vote electronically through a secure encrypted system and the same will reach the designated returning officer for counting.

Significance of the New System:

  • The new system enables migrants to vote from their place of residency, which saves them the time of travelling to their registered constituency and financial costs encountered.
  • This model will help in increased turnout for voting, which reflects true representation of the Elected Candidate.

VOTING RIGHTS OF PRISONERS

Why in News?

  • The Delhi High Court has recently rejected a petition seeking voting rights for the prisoners.

Who can vote and Who Cannot?

  • Under Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, individuals in lawful custody of the police and those serving a sentence of imprisonment after conviction cannot vote.
  • Under trial prisonersare also excluded from participating in elections even if their names are on electoral rolls.

What are the observations made by the Court?

  • The right to cast vote is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and is only provided by a statute.
  • The right to vote provided under the statute — Representation of the People Act — was subject to restrictions imposed by the law, which does not allow prisoners to cast vote from jails.

Why Undertrials should be given Voting Rights?

  • The present voting ban is criticized on the ground that it makes no offence-based or sentence-based classification— that is, prisoners are debarred from voting irrespective of the gravity of the offence they have committed, or the length of their sentence.
  • It also makes no distinction between convicted prisoners, undertrials, and those in lawful Police Custody.
  • Besides, a person is Innocent Until Proven Guilty by law. Despite this, it denies an under trial the right to vote but allows a detainee the same.
  • The provision also violate the rights to equality, vote (Article 326)and is arbitrary. It is not a reasonable restriction.

What does the stats says?

  • The ‘Prison Statistics India, 2014’ published by the National Crime Records Bureau, says there were 2, 82,879 undertrials and 1, 31,517 convicts lodged across 1,387 prisons in the country as on December 31, 2014.
  • In Europe, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, the Baltic States, and Spain already allow prisoner voting.
  • Countries like Romania, Iceland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Germany have opted for a middle path: Voting is allowed subject to certain permits and conditions such as the quantum of sentence served.
  • They are only disenfranchised as an added penalty based on the gravity of the crime. Bulgaria allows for anyone sentenced to less than a decade to vote. In Australia, the limit is Five Years.

Need of an Hour:

  • Undertrials should be allowed to vote. This is because there are many people, awaiting trial, who have spent more time in prison than the actual term their alleged crime merits. Their numbers are much bigger than convicts.

CENSUS – CHALLENGES & IMPORTANCE

Context:

  • Instances of the field enumerators coming under attack for some of the ongoing NSS surveys due to the mistrust over CAA and NRC, is an issue for concern. The House Numbering and Houselisting operation and the updation of the National Population Register, set to begin in April for Census 2021, is also expected to be welcomed with such hostility among the citizenry.

What is Census?

  • Population Census is the total process of collecting, compiling, Analyzing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, of all persons in a country or a well-defined part of a country.
  • As such, the census provides a snapshot of the country’s population and housing at a given point of time.

Why Census?

  • The census provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population.
  • The data collected through the census are used for administration, planning and policy making as well as management and evaluation of various programmes by the government, NGOs, researchers, commercial and private enterprises, etc.
  • Census data is also used for demarcation of constituencies and allocation of representation to parliament, State legislative Assemblies and the local bodies.
  • Researchers and demographers use census data to Analyze growth and trends of population and make projections.
  • The census data is also important for business houses and industries for strengthening and planning their business for penetration into areas, which had hitherto remained uncovered.

History of Census in India

  • The earliest literature ‘Rig-Veda’ reveals that some kind of population count was maintained during 800-600 BC in India.
  • The ‘Arthashastra’ by ‘Kautilya’ written in the 3rd Century BC prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for taxation.
  • It contained a detailed description of methods of conducting population, economic and agricultural censuses.
  • During the regime of the Mughal king Akbar, the administrative report ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ included comprehensive data pertaining to population, industry, wealth and many other characteristics.
  • A systematic and modern population census, in its present form was conducted non synchronously between 1865 and 1872 in different parts of the country.
  • This effort culminating in 1872 has been popularly labeled as the first population census of India.
  • However, the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881. Since then, censuses have been undertaken once every ten year.

Stages of Census

a) Preparatory Work
b) Enumeration
c) Data processing
d) Evaluation of results
e) Analysis of results
f) Dissemination of the results
g) Systematic recording of Census experience

  • The preparatory work of census includes the House Numbering and Houselisting operation.

Census 2021:

  • The 2021 Census of India, also the 16th Indian Census, will be taken in 2021.
  • The Registrar General and Census Commissioner through an official notification has announced that 31 questions will be collected by the enumerators from every household during the house listing and housing census exercise.
  • The other questions related to the main source of lighting, whether the family has access to a toilet, waste water outlet, availability of kitchen and LPG or PNG connection and main fuel used for cooking were also to be asked by the enumerators.
  • It is a massive exercise and will be massively expensive, involving about 30 lakh enumerators and field functionaries (generally government teachers and those appointed by state governments).
  • First Digital Census: The data collected during the 2021 Census will be stored electronically.
  • Earlier, the census data used to be preserved for 10 years and then it was destroyed. From the 2021 Census it will be stored forever in electronic format.

Issues with the Census 2021:

  • The NPR first prepared in 2010 under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship Rules, 2003 and subsequently updated in 2015 — will also be updated along with house listing and housing Census (except in Assam).
  • Amid the backdrop of views of citizenry against CAA and NPR, the National Sample Survey Office field officials have been attacked in some areas of Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal mistaken as Census officials.
  • At its core, the fears of a tainted Census stem from the NPR, breaking one of the cardinal rules in objective data collection, the preservation of anonymity.
  • As he NPR is more likely to result in questioning their citizenship, people may choose to obfuscate or misreport.
  • Because the NPR and Census are to be run concurrently — and both are under the auspices of the Registrar General of the ministry of home affairs (also the key architect and driver of the CAA) — this loss of credible information is likely to extend to the Census.
  • Given that those born after July 1987 will have to offer proof of their parents’ citizenship, and some segments of citizens, especially Muslims, are particularly vulnerable to having their citizenship questioned, there will be considerable incentives for people to misreport age, religion and language data.
    • The Census data is, by definition, a means to serve government goals. The compact between a State and its citizens is built on a foundation of trust, one that is based on a minimal presumption that people are citizens of that State to begin with. The erosion of that trust will undermine the Indian State’s ability to gather credible data and ultimately makes the government incapable of framing effective policies for its people.

PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL

Why in News?

  • Four Members of Parliament are ready with Private Member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha to deal with the surging Unemployment Crisis.

What is a Private Member’s Bill?

  • Any MP who is not a Ministeris referred to as a private member. The bill introduced by such an MP is designated as the Private Member’s Bill.
  • While government Billscan be introduced and discussed on any day, private member’s Bills can be introduced and discussed only on Fridays.

What are the Bills to be Placed?

  • Unemployment Allowance Bill 2019proposes doling out some form of unemployment allowance to jobless citizens.
  • Financial Assistance to Unemployed Post-Graduates Bill 2019restricts the unemployment allowances to unemployed postgraduates only.
  • Unemployed Youth (Allowance and Employment Opportunities) Bill 2019eyes the twin-purpose of generating gainful employment opportunities and payment of unemployment allowance.
  • Another Unemployment Allowance Billproposes unemployment allowances for jobless youth until they get gainful employment.

How such bills are admitted in Parliament?

  • The admissibility is decidedby the Chairman for Rajya Sabha and Speaker in the case of Lok Sabha. The procedure is roughly the same for both Houses:
  • The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for Introduction.
  • The House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.

Has a private member’s bill ever become a law?

  • As per PRS Legislative, no private member’s Bill has been passedby Parliament since 1970.
  • The last time a private member’s bill was passed by both Houses was in 1970. It was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968.
  • To date, Parliament has passed 14 such Bills, six of them in 1956.
  • In the 14th Lok Sabha, of the over 300 private member’s Bills introduced, roughly four per cent were discussed; the remaining 96 per cent lapsed without a single dialogue.

Why such Provisions are Needed?

  • Any Government’s bill introduced is mostly done by the Ministers from the ruling parties. Sometimes the public importance in few cases may be ignored by them.
  • Such importance can be brought to the Parliament by the Private Members.

MANUAL SCAVENGING DEATH TOLL INCREASED

Why in News?

  • According to the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, the death toll of Manual Scavengers has been increased by 62% from 68 in 2018 to 110 in 2019 (while cleaning septic tanks and sewers).

What is Manual Scavenging?

  • Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.
  • The practice of manual scavenging is linked to India’s caste system where so-called lower castes were expected to perform this job.
  • Manual scavengers are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in India.
  • Frequent deaths occur as manual scavengers don’t even have adequate tools and protective gear to clean the manhole. It often involves using the most basic of tools such as buckets, brooms and baskets.

What are the issues in Manual Scavenging?

  • However, while manual scavenging for many may have ended as a form of employment, the stigma and discrimination associated with it lingers on.
  • This makes it difficult for liberated manual scavengers to secure alternative livelihoods.
  • People could once again return to manual scavenging in the absence of other opportunities to support their families.
  • Correctly identifying manual scavengers remains a key challenge.

What are the Government Interventions?

  • In 1993, the Government of India enacted the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act.
  • The act prohibited the employment of manual scavengers for manually cleaning

dry latrines and also the construction of dry toilets (that do not operate with a flush).

  • It provided for imprisonment of up to a year and a fine.
  • In 2013, this was followed by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013,which is wider in scope and importance, acknowledging the urgency of rehabilitating manual scavengers.
  • The act seeks to reinforce this ban by prohibiting manual scavenging in all formsand ensures the rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers to be identified through a mandatory survey.

What does the new act says?

  • Prohibits the construction or maintenance of insanitary toilets.
  • Prohibits the engagement or employment of anyone as a manual scavengerviolations could result in a years’ imprisonment or a fine of INR 50,000 or both.
  • Prohibits a person from being engaged or employed for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.
  • Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable.
  • Calls for a survey of manual scavengers in urban and rural areas within a time-bound framework.
  • A Supreme Court order in March, 2014, makes it mandatory for the government to identify all those who died in sewerage work since 1993 and provide Rs.10 lakh each as compensation to their families.
  • The Government of India has adopted a two-pronged strategy of eliminating insanitary latrines through demolition and conversion into sanitary latrines and developing a comprehensive rehabilitation package for manual scavengers through a survey.
  • A comprehensive Rehabilitation Package has recently been put together that includes livelihoods and skill development, access to education for children of former manual scavengers and alternate livelihoods.

What are the Other Initiatives?

  • The establishment of National Safai Karamcharis Commission (NFKC)to work for the welfare and upliftment of the Safai Karamcharis.
  • Delhi Government has launched the Mukhya Mantri Septic Tank Safai Yojana recently – a scheme aimed at helping people in waste management and ensuring the safety of sanitation workers.
  • According to the government, the Delhi Jal Board(DJB) will deploy 80 trucks along with trained staff to ensure free cleaning and maintenance of septic tanks across Delhi.

Way Forward:

  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should make expansion of the sewer network a top priority and come up with a scheme for scientific maintenance that will end manual cleaning of septic tanks.
  • Schemes like Mukhya Mantri Septic Tank Safai Yojana  should be implemented properly throughout the nation.
  • The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in its manual of 2016 on toilet design has noted that in rural areas, mechanical pumps to clear septic tanks are not available. It should be met before more lives are lost.

SC UPHOLDS CHANGES TO SC/ST ATROCITIES LAW

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutional validity of the SC/ST Amendment Act, 2018 which rules out anticipatory bail in case of atrocities against SC/STs.

What is Anticipatory Bail?

  • Under Indian criminal law, there is a provision for anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • Law Commission of India in its 41st report recommended incorporating this provision in procedure code.
  • This provision allows a person to seek bail in anticipation of an arrest on accusation of having committed a non-bailable offence.
  • Anticipatory bail is a direction to release a person on bail, issued even before the person is arrested.
  • It is only issued by the Sessions court and High Court.

SCs and the STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018:

  • The 2018 amendment act was proposed to nullify the safeguards proposed by the Supreme Court. The amendments proposed were:
    • Investigating officer will not require the approval of any authority for the arrest of an accused.
    • Preliminary enquiry will not be required for the registration of a First Information Report against a person accused under the Act.
    • Persons accused of committing an offence under the Act cannot apply for Anticipatory Bail.
  • To avoid any ambiguity the act proposes that these provisions apply despite any judgments or orders of a court that provide otherwise. These amendments to the prevention of atrocities act were questioned in the Supreme Court as ultra vires (beyond the powers).

What are the Supreme Court’s Rulings?

  • The SC in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan Vs State of Maharashtra on March 2018 held that no absolute bar against the anti-atrocities law if no prima facie case is made out or if judicial scrutiny reveals the complaint to be prima facie mala fide.
  • Now the Parliament introduced the controversial amendment in 2018. It inserted Section 18A in the original Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.
  • Section 18 A reaffirms the original legislative intention that Section 438 CrPC (pre-arrest bail) is not applicable to accused booked under the atrocities law.
  • In February 2020 judgement in Prathvi Raj Chouhan Case, the SC has upheld Section 18A and said that the High Courts will have an “inherent power” to grant anticipatory bail in cases in which prima facie an offence under the 1989 law is not made out.

What is the Governments Argument?

  • The government had enacted the Amendments, saying the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes continued to face the same social stigma, poverty and humiliation which they had been subjected to for centuries.

Why such rulings were given by SC?

  • The judgment had diluted the original 1989 legislation, saying they were using its provisions to file false criminal complaints against innocent persons.

Need for an hour:

  • Anticipatory Bail in this case should be used sparingly and in very exceptional cases. Otherwise Miscarriage of Justice may result and the intention of Parliament to protect SCs and STs will be defeated.

RESERVATIONS IN PROMOTION IS NOT A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT, SAYS SC

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has recently ruled that the states are not bound to provide reservation in appointments and promotions and that there is no Fundamental Right to Reservation in Promotions.

What are the Constitutional Provisions Related to Reservations?

  • Article 16(4) empowers the state to make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state.
  • By way of the 77thAmendment Act, a new clause (4A) was added to Article 16, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented in services.
  • Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level-playing field.

What are the Court’s Earlier Rulings?

  • In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into Government Service but not in matters of Promotion.
  • It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the Judgment.
  • It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.
  • On June 1995, Parliament adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs.
  • The validity of the seventy-seventh and eighty-fifth amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
  • Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions. But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.
  • The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the Fundamentals of Equality.

What is the Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling?

  • Reservation in promotion in public posts cannot be claimed as a Fundamental Right.
  • Articles 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) of the Constitution does not confer individuals with a fundamental right to claim reservation in promotion.
  • It only empowers the State to make a reservation in matters of appointment and promotion in favour of the backward class and SC’s/ST’s respectively, only if in the opinion of the State they are not adequately represented in the services of the State.
  • State Governments are not bound to make a reservation and have discretion in providing reservations.
  • The judgment also noted that even the courts could not issue a Mandamus directing the States to provide reservation.

What is its Significance?

  • The provision is an aid of fostering the real and substantive right to equality to the SCs and STs.
  • It protects the authority of the Union and the States to adopt any of these special measures, to effectuate a realistic (as opposed to a formal) consideration of their claims to appointment in services and posts under the Union and the states.
  • It also emphasizes that the need to maintain the efficiency of administration cannot be construed as a fetter on adopting these special measures designed to uplift and protect the welfare of the SCs and STs.

Need of an Hour:

  • Centuries of discrimination and prejudice suffered by the SCs and STs in a feudal, caste-oriented societal structure poses real barriers of access to opportunity.
  • The provision contains a realistic recognition that unless special measures are adopted for the SCs and STs, the mandate of the Constitution for the consideration of their claim to appointment will remain illusory.

SEEKING A MORE PROGRESSIVE ABORTION LAW

Why in News?

  • Recently the Union Cabinet has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020. This article flags some of the major concerns accorded with the Bill.

Background Information:

Salient features of Proposed Amendments:

1. Increased gestation period for Termination of Pregnancy:

  • The upper gestation limit has been increase from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, Minors) etc.

2. For Other Women :

  • For termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks: Opinion of 1 doctor is required
  • For termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks – 24 weeks: Opinion of 2 doctors is Required.

3. No limit for Foetal Abnormalities:  In case of detection of foetal abnormalities, upper gestation limit does not to apply. However this should be declared by a Medical Board constituted for the purpose.

Concerns with the Above Amendments:

No Autonomy for the Women:

  • Under the MTP Act, the final say on abortion is taken by the healthcare providers and not the women.
  • This is unlike the abortion laws in 67 countries, including Iceland, France, Canada, South Africa and Uruguay, where a woman can get an abortion ‘on request’.
  • This may put additional mental stress as well as the financial burden on the women for getting a doctor’s approval.

Biased against Unmarried Women:

  • According to the Act, where a pregnancy occurs due to failure of any birth control device or method used by any “married woman or her husband”, it may cause “grave injury” to the mental health of the pregnant woman and the woman may opt for termination.
  • This is not extended to unmarried women where the final decision rests with the doctor and not the woman herself.

Narrowed Choice in case of Foetal Abnormalities:

  • In case of foetal abnormalities the law allows termination in cases post 20 weeks only where it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
  • The unwanted pregnancy may also lead to mental agony and termination is not allowed for such reasons in case of foetal abnormalities post 20 weeks.
  • Further the decision for termination in case of foetal abnormalities lies with the Medical Board. This may cause unnecessary delays which only increase the risks associated with a late abortion.

POOR COMPENSATION RATE FOR TRAFFICKING SURVIVORS, FINDS REPORT

Why in News?

  • Based on the data of the NCRB, a non-profit organisation named “Sanjog” released a report on compensation awarded to survivors of trafficking the country, which highlighted the poor status of compensation awarded during 2011- 2019.
  • The report titled ‘UNCOMPENSATE VICTIMS’ was released by Sanjog, a technical resource organisation that works to combat trafficking and gender-based violence.

Key Points:

  • The report highlights that NCRB put the total number of cases of human trafficking at 35,983, but only 82 (0.2%) victims were awarded compensation.
  • Following the national outrage over the Nirbhaya gang-rape case (2012), the government had announced ₹1,000 crore fund to be used to combat sexual violence against persons – children or adults.
  • The amount of compensation to victims of trafficking varied from State to State, hence the Supreme Court had directed the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to frame a standardised victim compensation scheme.
  • The study also reflects the number of trafficking survivors who applied for the victim compensation scheme to their respective legal services authority.

Reasons behind the Low Rate of Compensation:

  1. 1. Lack of awareness among the victims.
  2. 2. Low investment on part of legal aid
  3. 3. Role of Legal Services Authorities: The study suggests grave inconsistencies on the part of legal services authorities, which have provided the data.
  • District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) and State Legal Services Authority (SLSA)’s response to the claims has been slow, and they hold the survivors’ claims with suspicion – often putting the burden of proof on the survivors themselves.
  • There is a lack of initiative on the part of legal services authorities.
  • Survivors were able to apply only when they were informed and a private lawyer was involved in assisting them in filing the application for victim compensation.
  • Manipur’s 2019 victim compensation scheme does not even have an entry in the schedule corresponding to human trafficking.
  1. 4. Existence of Multiple Agencies:From their rescue till rehabilitation, the survivors are in touch with multiple agencies but none of them takes any steps to help them get compensation.

Victim Compensation Funds in India:

  1. 1. Central Victim Compensation Fund Scheme:
  • The Section 357 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) has provisions to compensate victims who suffered because of a crime.
  • Based on this Provision the government introduced the Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) scheme to enable support to victims of rape, acid attacks, human trafficking and women killed or injured in the cross border firing.
  • It is also known as the Victim Compensation Scheme. So far 24 states and 7 UTs have formulated the Victim Compensation Scheme.
  1. 2. Nirbhaya Fund:
  • The Nirbhaya Fund Framework provides for a non-lapsable corpus fund for the safety and security of women.
  • It is administered by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) of the Ministry of Finance.
  • It can be utilized for projects and initiatives related to women safety.
  • Nirbhaya fund is being used in the Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF).

ACCESSIBLE INDIA CAMPAIGN

Why in News?

  • Social Justice and Empowerment minister has recently reviewed the number of buildings of Central PWD and websites of MeITY that has been made accessible under Accessible India Campaign.
  • The Campaign has been launched to make public offices, transport and websites accessible to Persons with Disabilities (PwD).

Accessible India Campaign:

  • AIC is the nationwide flagship campaign of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • The aim of the Campaign is to make a barrier free and conducive environment for “Divyangjans” all over the country.
  • The campaign has the vision to build an inclusive society in which equal opportunities are provided for the growth and development of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) so that they can lead productive, safe and dignified lives.

Background

  • Launched on International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3rd December) in 2015.
  • Later Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 replaced the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD),to which India is a signatory, under Article 9 casts obligations on the Governments for ensuring to PwDs accessibility to
  • Information
  • Transportation,
  • Physical Environment
  • Communication Technology
  • Accessibility to Services as well as emergency services.

 

Three Components of AIC

1. Built Environment Accessibility

2. Transportation System Accessibility

3. Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility

Targets originally entailed under the three components:

  • Making 50% of all the government buildings of National Capital and all the State capitals fully accessible by December 2018.
  • Completing accessibility audit of 50% of government buildings and making them fully accessible in 10 most important cities/towns of States by December 2019.
  • Ensuring that 50% of railway stations in the country are converted into fully accessible railway stations by March 2018.
  • Ensuring that 25% of Government owned public transport carriers in the country are converted into fully accessible carriers by March 2018.
  • Conducting accessibility audit of 50% of all government (both Central and State Governments) websites and converting them into fully accessible websites by March 2017.

NATIONAL JUDICIAL PAY COMMISSION

Why in News?

  • The Second National Judicial Pay Commission has filed its report covering the subject of Pay, Pension and Allowances in the Supreme Court.

Second National Judicial Pay Commission:

  • The Commission is headed by former Supreme Court judge P V Reddy.
  • It was set up on the directions of the apex court in May 2017 during the hearing of the All India Judges Association case.

Key Recommendations:

  • Pay:
    • It has recommended the adoption of Pay Matrix which has been drawn up by applying the multiplier of 2.81 to the existing pay, commensurate with the percentage of increase of pay of High Court Judges.
    • The highest pay which a District Judge (STS) will get, is Rs.2,24,100/-.
  • Pension:
    • Pension at 50% of last drawn pay worked out on the basis of proposed revised pay scales is recommended w. e. f. 1-1-2016. The family pension will be 30% of the last drawn pay.
    • Recommendation has been made to discontinue the New Pension Scheme (NPS) which is being applied to those entering service during or after 2004. The old pension system, which is more beneficial to be revived.
  • Allowances:
    • The existing allowances have been suitably increased and certain new features have been added. However, the CCA is proposed to be discontinued.
    • Certain new allowances viz. children education allowance, home orderly allowance, transport allowance in lieu of pool car facility, has been proposed.

DISQUALIFICATION POWERS OF SPEAKERS

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court has given a significant suggestion regarding disqualification powers of the Speaker in the in Keisham Meghachandra Singh vs. the Hon’ble Speaker Manipur Legislative Assembly & Ors (2020) case.

What is the Role of the Speaker?

  • He is the sole representative and guardian of powers and privileges of the members, the House as a whole and its Committees.
  • He is the principal spokesperson of the House and represents the collective voice of the House.
  • His/her decision in all Parliamentary matters (including disqualification matters under Tenth Schedule) is final, binding and ordinarily cannot be challenged in the Court of law. Thereby, Speaker acts as the ultimate arbitrator.
    • For example, on this question whether a bill is a money bill or not, his/her decision is final.
  • However, on the questions of disqualification of the members, the Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu and Others, 1992 case ruled that the decision of the Speaker in this regard is subject to judicial review.
  • He Maintains order and decorum in the House for conducting its business and regulating its proceedings.
  • He allocates duration for debates, can discipline members of the House, and even override decisions taken by the Committees of the House.
  • He is the final interpreter of the provisions of the Constitution of India, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha, and Parliamentary precedents within the House.

What is the Issue?

  • As the office of the Speaker is vested with great prestige, position, and authority, and independence impartiality of the Speaker becomes its sine qua non (an essential condition). However, the office of Speaker has been criticized time and again for being an agent of partisan politics.
  • The Supreme Court in Jagjit Singh versus State of Haryana (2006)highlighted the similar allegations about the confidence on the role of Speaker in the matters of impartiality.
  • In Kihoto Hollohan case (1992), one of the judges observed that the suspicion of bias on the Speaker’s role could not be ruled out as his/her election and tenure depends on the majority will of the House (or specifically of the ruling party).
  • Also in the recent case of Manipur Legislative Assembly (2020), the Supreme Court questioned, “Why a Speaker- who is a member of a particular political party and an insider in the House, should be the sole and final arbiter in the cases of disqualification of a political defector.”
  • Hence, there are structural issues regarding the manner of appointment of the Speaker and her tenure in office which need urgent redressal.

What are the Recommendations of the Court?

  • The Court recommended the Parliament to amend the Constitution regarding the role of Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority while dealing with disqualification petitions under the anti-defection law (when such a Speaker continues to belong to a particular political party either de jure or de facto).
  • The Court suggested that an independent tribunal can be appointed which will substitute the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies to deal with matters of disqualifications under Tenth Schedule.
  • Currently, disqualification of members of a House/Assembly is referred to the Speaker of the House/Assembly.
  • The Tribunal will be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court. The Court also suggested that some other outside independent mechanism can adjudicate on such matters. This will ensure that such disputes are decided both swiftly and impartially.

What could be the Possible Solutions?

  • Adopting Global Practices such as the Britain Speaker is strictly a non-party person. There is a convention that the Speaker has to resign from his party and remain politically neutral. Also, once elected remains in office until retirement, even though the majority may change.
  • Currently, this Convention is not fully established in India where the Speaker does not resign from the membership of the party on his/her election to the office.
  • Hence, this mechanism can be adopted whereby Speakers need to renounce all political affiliations, membership and activity once they have been elected to the office.
  • Currently, there is no time frame to adjudicate cases of disqualifications of members of the House.
  • However, to contain this liberty of Speaker, the Court in the recent judgment held that, “unless there are any exceptional circumstances, disqualification petitions under the Tenth Schedule should be decided by Speakers within three months.”

Conclusion:

  • Impartiality, fairness and autonomy in decision-making are the hallmarks of a robust institution. It is the freedom from interference and pressures which provide the necessary atmosphere where one can work with an absolute commitment to the cause of neutrality (as a Constitutional value).
  • At a time when India’s rank has fallen in the latest Democracy Index(2019), it is expected out of Parliament to take steps to revamp and strengthen the institution of the Speaker.
  • In this regard, Jawaharlal Nehru described: “As the House represents the nation (in a particular way), the Speaker being its sole representative becomes a symbol of the nation’s freedom and liberty. Therefore, this free and honoured position shall always be occupied by persons of outstanding ability and impartiality.”

GRAM NYAYALAYAS ACT, 2008

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has directed the states, which are yet to come out with notifications for establishing ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ with a specific time period.

About Gram Nyayalayas:

  • Gram Nyayalayas or village courts are established under the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 for speedy and easy access to justice system in the rural areas of India.
  • The Act came into force from 2 October 2009.
  • The Gram Nyayalayas are presided over by a Nyayadhikari,who will have the same power, enjoy same salary and benefits of a Judicial Magistrate of First Class.
  • Such Nyayadhikari are to be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the respective High Court.

What are its Jurisdictions?

  • A Gram Nyayalaya have jurisdiction over an area specified by a notification by the State Government in consultation with the respective High Court.
  • The Court can function as a mobile court at any place within the jurisdiction of such Gram Nyayalaya, after giving wide publicity to that regards.
  • They have both civil and criminal jurisdictionover the offences.
  • The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Nyayalayas is fixed by the respective High Courts.
  • Gram Nyayalayas has been given power to accept certain evidences which would otherwise not be acceptable under Indian Evidence Act.

What is the Procedure followed by Gram Nyayalayas?

  • Gram Nyayalayas can follow special procedures in civil matters, in a manner it deem just and reasonable in the interest of Justice.
  • Gram Nyayalayas allow for conciliation of the dispute and settlement of the same in the First Instance.

Can the decision of Nyayalayas be appealed in Other Courts?

  • Appeal in criminal casesshall lie to the Court of Session, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of such appeal.
  • Appeal in civil casesshall lie to the District Court, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of the appeal.

What is the Issue?

  • So far only 11 states have taken steps to notify Gram Nyayalayas. Several states have issued notifications for establishing ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ but all of them were not functioning except in Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
  • Only 208 ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ are functioning in the country as against 2,500 estimated to be required by the 12thfive-year plan.

Why Gram Nyayalayas are Essential?

  • The setting up of Gram Nyayalayas is considered as an important measure to reduce arrears and is a part of the judicial reforms.
  • It is estimated that Gram Nyayalayas can reduce around 50% of the pendency of cases in subordinate courts and can take care of the new litigations which will be disposed within six months.

SUPREME COURT PANEL RECOMMENDS SEVERAL PRISON REFORMS

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court appointed committee headed by Justice Amitava Roy to examine the problems that plague prisons, has submitted its report recently.

Key Recommendations of the Committee:

1. De-crowding the prisons:The court said overcrowding is a common bane in the under-staffed prisons. Both the prisoner and his guard equally suffer human rights violation.  The under-trial prisoner, who is yet to get his day in court, suffers the most, languishing behind bars for years without a hearing.

2. Phone call Facility: Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.

3. Proper Legal Aid:There should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners. Speedy trial remains one of the best ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of over-crowding.

4. Decrease Vacancies in the department: The Prison Department has a perennial average of 30%-40% vacancies. The government should look into the issue without delay.

5. Use of video-conferencing for trial: Physical production of under-trials in courts continues, but it however remains far below the aspired 100% in several States, mainly because of unavailability of sufficient police guards for escort and transportation. So, the committee has recommended for the use of video-conferencing for trial to overcome this backlog.

6. Modern cooking facilities:The report described the preparation of food in kitchens as “primitive and arduous”. The kitchens are congested and unhygienic and the diet has remained unchanged for years now. So the committee has recommended for modern cooking facilities, canteens for prisoners to buy essential items etc.

Major Issues associated with Indian Prisons:

1. Overcrowding:The country’s jails are crowded to 114% of their capacity.

2. Under-trials:As discussed above, more than 67% of the prisoners in India are under trials. The share of the prison population awaiting trial or sentencing in India is extremely high by international standards. For example, it is 11% in the UK, 20% in the US and 29% in France.

3. Corruption and extortion: Extortion by prison staff is common in prisons around the world. Given the substantial power that guards exercised over inmates, these problems are predictable, but the low salaries that guards are generally paid severely aggravate them.

4. Lack of legal aid:Lawyers in India are poorly paid and are often over-burdened with cases. Further, there is no monitoring mechanism to evaluate the quality of legal aid representation in most states.

5. Unsatisfactory living conditions:Overcrowding itself leads to unsatisfactory living conditions. Moreover, prison structures in India are in dilapidated condition. Lack of space, poor ventilation, poor sanitation and hygiene make living conditions deplorable in Indian prisons.

6. Mental health care has negligible focus in Indian prisons.

7. Shortage of staff:The ratio between the prison staff and the prison population is approximately 1:7. It means only one prison officer is available for 7 prisoners, while in the UK, 2 prison officers are available for every 3 prisoners. In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.

8. Torture and Sexual abuse: Prisoners are subjected to inhuman psychological and physical torture. Sexual abuse of persons in custody is also part of the broader pattern of torture in custody. The National Human Rights Commission observes custodial violence as “worst form of excesses by public servants entrusted with the duty of law enforcement.

9. Custodial deaths: A large proportion of the deaths in custody were from natural and easily curable causes aggravated by poor prison conditions. There also have been allegations of custodial deaths due to torture.

10. Inadequate security measures and management: Poor security measures and prison management often leads to violence among inmates and resultant injury and in some cases death.

11. Condition of Women Prisoners: Women prisoners face number of challenges including poor nutritional intake, poor health and lack of basic sanitation and hygiene. There are also alleged instances of custodial rapes which generally go unreported due to the victims’ shame and fear of retribution.

12. Discrimination:According to Humans Rights Watch, a “rigid” class system exists in the Indian prisons. There is rampant corruption in the prison system and those who can afford to bribe, often enjoy luxuries in prison. On the other hand, socio-economically disadvantaged prisoners are deprived of basic human dignity.

13. Lack of reformative approach: Absence of reformative approach in Indian prison system has not only resulted in ineffective integration with society but also has failed to provide productive engagement opportunities for prisoners after their release.

Major Committees and their Recommendations:

1. All India Prison Reforms Committee, 1980 (Mulla Committee):

  • The major recommendations of the committee included:
  • The setting up of a National Prison Commission to oversee the modernization of the prisons in India
  • Putting a ban on clubbing together juvenile offenders with the hardened criminals in prison and enacting a comprehensive and protective legislation for the security and protective care of delinquent juveniles
  • Segregation of mentally ill prisoners to a mental asylum.
  • The conditions of prison should be improved by making adequate arrangements for food, clothing, sanitation and ventilation etc.
  • Lodging of under trial in jails should be reduced to bare minimum and they should be kept separate from the convicted prisoners

2. Krishna Iyer Committee, 1987:

  • The Government of India set-up this Committee to undertake a study on the situation of women prisoners in India.
  • It has recommended induction of more women in the police force in view of their special role in tackling women and child offenders.

3. Justice Amitava Roy panel, 2018.

Way Forward:

1. Pre-trial detention has become the particular source of injustice in the Indian justice system, this is majorly because of lack of legal services to the under-trials. It is high time that the access to legal aid (which is a directive principle to state policy under Article 39A) should be made a fundamental right.

2. Under-trials should be released on Bail: In 2017, the Law Commission of India had recommended that under-trials who have completed a third of their maximum sentence for offences attracting up to seven years of imprisonment be released on bail.

3. Unified prison management system: There should be a unified prison management system that has records of all inmates so they don’t have to run from pillar to post for copies of documents like court orders. The project has been recommended by NALSA as well. Also, this project has worked well in Delhi’s Tihar jail.

4. Capacity building of prison staff: It is of paramount importance that the prison staff is trained in how to treat and deal with inmates. The Supreme Court, in September 2017, has directed that there should be proper training manuals for senior staff.

5. Post-release financial security for prisoners: Wages that are paid to prisoners who are serving sentences should be increased and should be on par with global benchmarks. So that when they come out, they have some better finances.

6. Skill development of the prisoners:The major role prisons should play is of reformation and making sure that, once out, inmates are properly integrated into society. That is possible when more skill development programs are introduced in the jails to enhance their chances of earning.

7. Open prisons should be encouraged.

8. Implementations of recommendations of All India Jail Reforms Committee (Mulla committee), Krishna Iyer Committee, Justice Amitava Roy panel.

INDIAN NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR COOPERATION WITH UNESCO (INCCU)

Why in News?

  • Union HRD Minister chairs a meeting of the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO in New Delhi.

INCCU:

  • The INCCU is a governmental body formed by the Government of India which functions under the Department of Secondary and Higher Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • The objective of the Commission is to advise the Government in matters relating to the UNESCO.
  • India has been a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a specialized agency of the United Nations since its inception in 1946.
  • The Constitution of the UNESCO mandates each member to form a national commission to function as agencies of liaison between the national government and UNESCO.
  • Accordingly, an interim Indian National Commission for Co-operation with UNESCO was set up in 1949 by the Government of India, Ministry of Education.
  • A permanent Commission was established in 1951.

Functions of the INCCU:

  • To promote understanding of the objects and purposes of UNESCO among the people of the Republic of India;
  • To serve as a liaison agency between the Government of India and the institutions concerned with the working for the advancement of education, science and culture;
  • To cooperate with the Government departments and with services, organizations and institutions concerned with questions within UNESCO’s competence;
  • To encourage participation of national, governmental and non-governmental institutions and various individuals in the formulations and execution of UNESCO’s programmes so as
  • to secure for UNESCO all the intellectual, scientific, artistic or administrative assistance that it may require;
  • To collaborate with the National Commissions of Asia and the Pacific and with UNESCO’s Regional Offices and centres in fostering regional, sub-regional and bilateral cooperation in education, the sciences, culture and information, particularly through the joint formulation and execution of programmes;
  • To disseminate information on the objectives, programme and activities of UNESCO and endeavour to arouse public interest in them; and
  • To advise the Government of India on matters relating to UNESCO.

India and UNESCO:

  • India is among the founding members of UNESCO and has been playing a very active role in promoting UNESCO’s ideals and objectives.
  • UNESCO’s Executive Board examines the programme of work for the Organization and corresponding budget estimates submitted to it by the Director-General.
  • It consists of 58 Member States, each with a four-year term of office.
  • India was one of the six elected Vice-Chairpersons for 2012-2013.
  • India was re-elected as a Member of the Executive Board for 2014-17 in the election held in the 37th General Conference in November 2013.
  • India has established an office of Permanent Delegation at UNESCO, Paris.
  • Since 2013, India’s contribution is 0.666 percent of the total budget of UNESCO.

MERCY PETITION

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a petition by December 16, 2012 gangrape-murder convict Mukesh Kumar Singh, who had challenged the dismissal of his mercy plea by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Highlights:

  • The case dates back to December 16, 2012, when a 23-year-old woman was gangraped and assaulted inside a moving bus in South Delhi by six persons, before being thrown out on the road. She died on December 29, 2012, at a hospital in Singapore.

President’s Clemency Powers:

    • Under the Constitution of India (Article 72), the President of India can grant a pardon or reduce the sentence of a convicted person, particularly in cases involving capital punishment. A similar and parallel power vests in the governors of each state under
    • Article 161.
    • The pardoning power of the president is not absolute. It is governed by the advice of the Council of Ministers.  This has not been discussed by the constitution but is the practical truth.
    • Both the President and Governor are bound by the advice of their respective Councils of Ministers and hence the exercise of this power is of an executive character. It is therefore subject to Judicial Review as held by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Maru Ram v. Union of India (1980). It was subsequently confirmed by Kehar Singh v. Union of India [1988].
    • In the case of Epuru Sudhakar & Anr vs Govt. Of A.P. & Ors [2006] , Supreme Court, it was held that clemency is subject to judicial review and that it cannot be dispensed as a privilege or act of grace.
    • There are five different types of pardoning which are mandated by law.
      • Pardon:means completely absolving the person of the crime and letting him go free. The pardoned criminal will be like a normal citizen.
      • Commutation:means changing the type of punishment given to the guilty into a less harsh one, for example, a death penalty commuted to a life sentence.
      • Reprieve:means a delay allowed in the execution of a sentence, usually a death sentence, for a guilty person to allow him some time to apply for Presidential Pardon or some other legal remedy to prove his innocence or successful rehabilitation.
      • Respite:means reducing the quantum or degree of the punishment to a criminal in view of some special circumstances, like pregnancy, mental condition etc.
      • Remission:means changing the quantum of the punishment without changing its nature, for example reducing twenty year rigorous imprisonment to ten years.
  • These powers are Applicable:
    • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court martial;
    • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;
    • In all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.

ARTICLE 131 – SPECIAL POWERS OF SUPREME COURT

Context:

  • Recently, the LDF government in Kerala, became the first state government in the country, that moved the Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Kerala government sought that the act be declared as violative of the Doctrine of Basic structure—principle of equality, freedom and secularism.

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019:

  • The CAA 2019 grants Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim minorities viz. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who migrated to India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh on or before December 31, 2014.

Article-131: Original Jurisdiction

  • The SC (as a federal court of India) possesses Original jurisdiction to decide the disputes arising between different units of the Indian Federation like:
    • Centre and one or more states; or
    • Centre & any state(s) on one side and one or more states on the other; or
    • Two or more states.

The Applicability of the Article 131:

  • The dispute must involve a question of law or fact on which the existence/extent of a legal right depends. Thus, the questions of political nature are excluded from it.
  • Any suit brought before the Supreme Court by a private citizen against the Centre or a state cannot be entertained under this article.
  • Also, the provisions mentioned in this Article are subject to other provisions of the Constitution. For example, in cases of water disputes between two or more states, the remedy to such conflicts is entertained under Article 262 of the Constitution and not under Article 131.

Part XI and the Seventh Schedule:

  • Part XI (Articles 245-263) of the Indian Constitution consists of articles that describes the legislative, administrative, and financial relations between the Union and the States.
  • Article 246:Defines the legislative subject matters on which the Parliament and the State Legislatures can make laws. These matters are enumerated in the 3 lists of Seventh Schedule.
  • Union List:
    • Parliament has exclusive powers to make laws on the subjects mentioned in the Union List.
    • Parliament is also empowered to make laws for territories which presently do not form part of any state.
  • State List:
    • State Legislature (in normal circumstances) has exclusive powers to make laws on subjects enumerated in the State List.
  • Concurrent List:
    • Both Parliament & State Legislature can make laws on items described in the Concurrent List.
    • However, in case of any conflict, the Central law prevails.

Exceptions:

  • Under 5 circumstances, the Parliament is empowered to make laws on State List subjects –
    • If a resolution is passed to that effect by the Rajya Sabha (Article 249),
    • During National emergency,
    • President’s Rule,
    • If requested by two or more States,
    • Under obligation to implement an International Treaty.

Articles 256 and 365:

  • Article 256 of the Constitution states that the executive power of every State must ensure compliance with the laws made by the Parliament.
    • Kerala has said in its suit that, under CAA it would be compelled to comply with its provisions because of Article 256.
    • Kerala considers CAA to be arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational and violative of Fundamental Rights.
    • If it does not follow the same, the repercussions could be seen in the form of Article 365.
    • Article 365: In case of failure to comply with, or to give effect to, directions given by the Union, the President is empowered to make a decision thinking that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. Hence, the President’s rule could be enacted.

Can Supreme Court test the validity of a law under Article 131?

  • Legislative Competence:A law must be challenged in the Court if it is in excess of the legislative competence of the framing authority.
  • Violation of Rights:The Court can check whether a particular law violates which kind of rights- whether Fundamental or Constitutional rights?
  • Violation of the Constitution:The Court can test a law if it is ultra-vires the Constitution. In this regard, there are following Doctrines which have been evolved by the SC over a period of time:
  • Doctrine of Basic Structure:The Doctrine of Basic Structure signifies the basic features of the Constitution, which cannot be changed/amended, as they form the foundation of the Constitution on which its core principles/existence stands.
  • Doctrine of Pith & Substance:Pith means ‘true nature’ or ‘essence of something’ and Substance means ‘the most important or essential part of something’.
  • Doctrine of Colorable Legislation:It comes into play when a Legislature does not possess the power to make laws upon a particular subject but it indirectly makes law on it.

Related Cases:

  • West Bengal Government’s Case
    • In 2017, the SC proclaimed that the State government cannot ask for any remedy related to Fundamental rights.
    • The case was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the validity of the ‘Aadhaar Act’.
    • The Court also held that, “Fundamental rights are available to individuals: citizens or non-citizens against the State (under Article 32 or Article 226) and not to the State entities.”
  • Chhattisgarh Government’s Case
    • Chhattisgarh government also recently filed a suit in SC (under Article 131) against the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008.
    • It claimed that ‘Police’ & ‘Public Order’ are the state subjects and States have the ultimate authority to make laws related to it.
    • NIA Act, 2008 takes away the state’s power to investigate offences categorised as ‘scheduled offences’ under the Act, though they are within State’s jurisdiction.
  • West Bengal’s case : Rights in Mines in Coal-bearing Areas:
    • A case was filed against the Central law (Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957) under Article 131.
    • The State claimed that the Act did not apply to lands vested in or owned by the State, and even if it applied to such lands, the Act was beyond the legislative competence of the Parliament.
    • In 1962, the SC entertained the West Bengal’s petition under Article 131 as the State had legal rights in this case, however, it also upheld the Central law.

Conflicting Judgments:

  • There have been two conflicting judgments given by the Supreme Court on whether a State can file an original suit under Article 131 to challenge the constitutionality of a central law:
    • In the State of Madhya Pradesh vs Union of India, 2011 case, the issue dealing with electricity was raised and the Court held that States cannot challenge a central law under Article 131.
    • In the State of Jharkhand Vs State of Bihar, 2015 case, the SC took the opposite stance and referred the question of law to a larger Bench for final determination.

Way Forward:

  • Politically motivated pleas must be abandoned and must not be entertained by the SC. Instead, determined efforts must be made to resolve them within the political arena.
  • Representatives of states must speak up in the Parliament when the laws are being framed & passed rather than making hue and cry later.
  • Federalism is a two-way street. Both the parties to it must respect the boundaries of one another that has been drawn by the Constitution.
  • The States must restrain themselves while defying the implementation of Central laws, if done it might lead to the breakdown of constitutional machinery.
    • Hence, States are bound to implement the Central laws until and unless they are declared as void and unconstitutional by the Higher Courts of the country.

ANDHRA PRADESH TO SCRAP LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL

Why in News?

  • The Andhra Pradesh (AP) assembly has passed a resolution to abolish the state’s Legislative Council.

About Andhra Legislative Council:

  • Since, the Andhra Pradesh government has passed a resolution to abolish the state legislative council, further it has to send the resolution to the Governor for his approval and then to the Parliament.
  • Once the Parliament passes the law to give effect for the resolution, the state legislative council will be dissolved.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s Legislative Council was initially set up in 1958 but then abolished in 1985. It was then reconstituted in the year 2007.

States having State Legislative Councils:

  • Besides Andhra Pradesh, the other states having Legislative Councils are Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
  • Legislative assemblies of Rajasthan, Assam and Odisha have passed resolutions for the formation of the Council

About State Legislative Council:

Basis for Formation:

  • India has a bicameral system of legislature. Just as the Parliament has two Houses, the states can also have a Legislative Council (LC) in addition to the Legislative Assembly through Article 169 of the Constitution.

Abolition and Creation – Article 169:

  • The Parliament can abolish a Legislative Council (where it already exists) or create it (where it does not exist) by a simple majority, if the legislative assembly of the concerned state, by a special majority, passes a resolution to that effect.
  • Special Majority Implies:
  • A majority of the total membership of the assembly
  • A majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the assembly present and voting.

Is Legislative council really beneficial?

  1. 1.Arguments in Favour of the Formation of the Council:
  • The Legislative Council also enables non-elected individuals to contribute to the legislative process.
  • An Upper House provides a forum for academicians and intellectuals, who are arguably not suited for the rough and tumble of electoral politics.
  • It provides a mechanism for a more sober and considered appraisal of legislation that a State may pass. A Legislative Council can help check hasty actions by the directly elected House.
  • Legislative Councils make the governments more accountable.
  • The members of Legislative Council through their experience can act as the friend, philosopher and guide of the Legislative Assembly.
  1. 2.Arguments Against
  • The Legislative Council can delay legislation.
  • It strains state finances and an unnecessary drain on the exchequer.
  • The absence of Legislative council in every state itself suggests the lack of any real advantage, apart from the absence of a broad political consensus on the issue.
  • Rather than fulfilling the lofty objective of getting intellectuals into the legislature, the forum is likely to be used to accommodate party functionaries who fail to get elected.
  • Another issue is that graduates are no longer a rare breed; also, with dipping educational standards, a graduate degree is no guarantee of any real Intellectual Heft.

Way Forward:

  • There has to be a national policy on having an Upper House in State legislatures to be framed by the Union government, so that a subsequent government doesn’t abolish it. There has to be a uniformity and strong policy for its creation, revival and abolishment.
  • It argued that the status of Legislative Councils cannot be of temporary in nature depending on the mood of the Government of the day nor can be abolished once created, only at the whims and fancy of a newly elected Government in the State.
  • A national consensus must be evolved on the establishment of Legislative Councils.
  • The provision in the law for Councils to have seats for graduates and teachers needs to be reviewed.

SECURITY CATEGORIES IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has withdrawn the security cover of DMK president M.K Stalin and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam recently.

About:

  • In India, security details are provided to some high-risk individuals by the police and state government.
  • Depending on the threat perception to the person, the category is divided into four tiers: Z+ (highest level), Z, Y and X.
  • Individuals under this security blanket include the President, Vice-President, Prime-Minister, Supreme Court and High Court Judges, Service Chiefs of Indian Armed Forces, Governors of State, Chief Ministers and Cabinet Ministers.

SPG Category:

  • Strength of security detail is classified (only provided to the Prime Minister of India.)
  • The SPG (Special Protection Group), NSG (National Security Guards), ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) are the agencies responsible for providing securities to VVIPs, VIPs, politicians, high-profile celebrities and sportspersons.
  • The NSG is used extensively to guard VIPs and VVIPs, especially those in the Z+ category.
  • Many NSG personnel are seconded to the Special Protection Group (SPG) which guards the Prime Minister.
  • Recently, the Centre withdrew the Special Protection Group cover of Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi and replaced it with Z-plus cover of CRPF.

 Z+ Category:

  • It has a security cover of 55 personnel [Including 10+ NSG Commando] + [Police Personnel]
  • The Z+ level of security is provided by National Security Guard commandos.

Z Category:

  • It has a security cover of 22 personnel [Including 4 or 5 NSG Commando] + [Police Personnel]
  • The ‘Z’ category entails security cover by the Delhi police or the ITBP or CRPF personnel and one escort car.

Y category:

  • It has a security cover of 11 personnel [Including 1 or 2 Commando] + [Police Personnel]
  • The ‘Y’ category encompasses two personal security officers (PSOs) and one PSO from the ‘X’ category.

X Category:

  • It has a security cover of 2 personnel [No Commando, Only Armed Police Personnel]

How Security is Entitled?

  • If there is any threat perception to VIPs then it is the responsibility of the government to provide security.
  • A person facing a threat files an application at the police station nearest to his/her residence.
  • Then, the case is forwarded to the intelligence agencies to find out the threat posed to the person.
  • When the threat is confirmed, a committee comprising the Home Secretary, Director General and the Chief Secretary in the state decides which category of security is to be given to that person.
  • After this, the details of the person are also given to the Union Home Ministry for formal Approval.

UTTAR PRADESH TOPS LIST IN CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN, SAYS NCRB

Why in News?

  • Recently, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) published the annual Crime in India Report 2018.

About NCRB:

  • NCRB, headquartered in New Delhi, was set-up in 1986 under the Ministry of Home Affairs to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was set up based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task Force (1985).
  • NCRB brings out the annual comprehensive statistics of crime across the country (‘Crime in India’ report).Being published since 1953, the report serves as a crucial tool in understanding the law and order situation across the country.

Suicides in India:

  • The NCRB released the Accidental Death and Suicides in India 2018 report, which said that 10,349 people working in the farm sector ended their lives in 2018, accounting for 7 % of the total number of suicides in the country.
  • There were 5,763 farmers/cultivators and 4,586 agricultural labourers among those who ended their lives.
  • The total number of people who committed suicide in 2018 was 1, 34,516, an increase of 3.6%from 2017 when 1, 29,887 cases were reported.
  • The highest number of suicide victims were daily wagers— 26,589, comprising 22.4% of such deaths.
  • The majority of the suicideswere reported in Maharashtra (17,972) followed by Tamil Nadu (13,896), West Bengal (13,255), Madhya Pradesh (11,775) and Karnataka (11,561).
  • Many States and Union Territories have also reported nil data on suicides by farmers, cultivators and farm labourers.
  • “West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Goa, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Puducherry reported zero suicidesby farmers/cultivators as well as agricultural labourers,”

Murder Cases:

  • The incidents registered under the Scheduled Caste andScheduled Tribes related Acts saw a decline from 6729 incidents reported in 2017 to 4816 in 2018.
  • A total of 29,017 cases of murder were registered in 2018, showing an increase of 1.3% over 2017 (28,653 cases).
  • A total of 76,851 cases of offences against public tranquillity were registered in 2018, out of which rioting, 57,828 cases, accounted for 75.2% of total such cases, the report said.
  • As many as 27,248 cases of cyber-crimes were registered in 2018, up from 21796 cases in 2017.

 Crime against Women:

  • According to the report, 3, 78,277 cases of crime against women were reported in the country, upward trend from 3, 59,849 in 2017.
  • Uttar Pradeshtopped the list with 59,445 cases, followed by Maharashtra (35,497) and West Bengal (30,394).
  • The conviction rate in rape-related cases stood at 27.2% even though the rate of filing charge sheets was 85.3% in such cases.
  • Cruelty by husband or his relatives (31.9%) followed by assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (27.6%) constituted the major share of crimes against women.
  • A total of 50, 74,634 cognizable crimes — 31, 32,954 Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes and 19, 41,680 Special & Local Laws (SLL) crimes — were registered in 2018, showing an increase of 1.3% in registration of cases compared to 2017(50, 07,044 cases).
  • The crime rate per lakh population, however, came down from 388.6 in 2017 to 383.5 in 2018.

What would be the causes for crimes against Women?

  • Gender Disparity is one of the deep rooted causes of violence against women that put women at risk of several forms of violence.
  • Discriminatory gender norms and gender stereotypes results into structural inequality.
  • Psychiatric Morbidity generally refers to the incidence of both physical and psychological deterioration as a result of a mental or psychological condition, generally caused due to the consumption of alcohol.
  • Regular consumption of alcoholby the husband has been strongly associated with poor mental health of women.
  • Alcohol operates as a situational factor, increasing the likelihood of violence by the husbands against their wives.
  • Socio demographic factors like Patriarchy have been cited as the main cause of violence against women. Where women have a higher economic status than their husbands and are seen as having sufficient power to change traditional gender roles, risk for violence is high.
  • Family factors such as exposure to harsh physical discipline during childhood and witnessing the father beating the mother during childhood is a predictor of victimization and perpetration of violence against wife in adulthood.

Few Traditional and cultural practices against Women:

  • Female genital mutilation:Can lead to death, infertility, and long-term psychological trauma combined with increased physical suffering.
  • Acid attacks:Acid attacks have emerged as a cheap and readily accessible weapon to disfigure and sometimes kill women and girls for reasons as varied as family feuds, inability to meet dowry demands, and rejection of marriage proposals.
  • Killing in the name of family honour:In several countries of the world including Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, and India, women are killed to uphold the honour of the family due to varied reasons such as-alleged adultery, premarital relationship (with or without sexual relations), rape, falling in love with a person the family disapproves, which justify a male member of the family to kill the woman concerned.
  • Early marriages:Early marriage with or without the consent of the girl, constitutes a form of violence as it undermines the health and autonomy of millions of girls.
  • Judiciary and law enforcement machinery:An insensitive, inefficient, corrupt and unaccountable judicial system and law enforcement machinery fails to deter against various forms of crimes.
  • Socio cultural factors disfavouring women: Stereotypes of gender roles have continued over the ages.
  • The primary roles for women have been marriage and motherhood.
  • Women must marry because an unmarried, separated or divorced status is a stigma.
  • The custom of dowry is still prevalent in Indian marriages.

Need for an hour:

  • Gender based legislation:It is important to enact and enforce legislation and develop and implement policies that promote gender equality by ending discrimination against women in marriage, divorce and custody laws, inheritance laws and ownership of assets.
  • Financial Independence:Improving women’s access to paid employment.
  • Developing and resourcing national plans and policies to address violence against women.
  • Improve system of collecting crime surveillance data on violence against women.
  • Capacity building and training to service providers and law enforcement officers to handle cases of violence against women.
  • Male Mediated Initiatives:Ensure male involvement in devising program for abusers.
  • Prevent recurrence of Violence:Through early identification of women and children who are experiencing violence and providing appropriate referral and support
  • Promote egalitarian gender norms as part of life skills and comprehensive sexuality education curricula taught to young people.
  • Gender Based Surveys:Generate evidence on what works and on the magnitude of the problem by carrying out population-based surveys, or including violence against women in population-based demographic and health surveys, as well as in surveillance and health information systems.

FAST TRACK SPECIAL COURTS FOR SPEEDY DISPOSAL OF RAPE AND POCSO ACT CASES

Why in News?

  • 1023 Fast Track Special Courts will be set up for Speedy disposal of Rape and POCSO Act Cases.

Highlights:

  • The offences of rape and gang rape of women and children require effective deterrence through fast and time-bound completion of trials relating to sexual offences.
  • To bring out more stringent provisions and expeditious trial and disposal of such cases, the Union of India enacted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment), Act 2013 was enacted for effective deterrence against sexual offences. This widened the definition of rape and made punishment more stringent.
  • Further, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 was enacted to prescribe even more stringent penal provisions including death penalty for the rape of a girl below the age of 12 years. The Act also, among other things, mandates the completion of investigation and trials within 2 months each.
  • The government has taken up the work of setting up of Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) as a part of the National Mission for Safety of Women (NMSW).
  • The government has planned a series of measures to deal with women safety on mission mode and will make a comprehensive programme.
  • The NMSW is going to cover all aspects from free medical care to legal aid to the victims of sexual assault by engaging public prosecutors in states and setting up of nearly 1,023 fast track courts for Fast Judgements.

10% RESERVATION FOR EWS

Why in News?

  • The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it would be the States’ prerogative to provide 10% economic reservation in government jobs and admission to Education Institutions.

About the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act:

  • One Hundred and Twenty- Fourth Amendment Bill was introduced to extend 10% quota to “the economically weaker sections in the general category that are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation”.
  • The bill was designed to amend the Constitution to extend 10% reservation in direct recruitment in government jobs and for admission in higher educational institutions to “economically weaker”sections among all castes and communities, Christians and Muslims included, who are not eligible under the already Existing Quotas.

Who were Included in EWS?

  • Annual Household Income below Rs 8 lakh.
  • Agriculture land below 5 acres.
  • Residential house below 1000 Sq.
  • Residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality.
  • Residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area.

Why Constitution Amended?

  • It was amended because the issue was related to the Fundamental rights Articles 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) of the Constitution.
  • The amendment was ratified in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, by two thirds of members present and voting.

What are its Implications?

  • The 10% reservation will be in addition to the existing cap of 50% reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking total reservation to 60%.
  • The quota targets the poor among the upper castes. This will be over and above 50% mandated by Constitution and hence the need for Constitution amendment Bill.

What was SC’s Response?

  • A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case of 1992 specifically answered the question “whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion.”
  • The constitution bench had categorically ruled that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion.
  • The bench had held that economic criterion may be a consideration or basis along with, and in addition to, social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.
  • The bench in its judgement declared 50% quota as the rule unless extraordinary situations “inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people” happen.
  • Even then, the court stated that extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case should be made out.

What is the Current Issue?

  • The Centre said in an affidavit “Whether or not to provide reservation to the economically weaker section in appointment to State government jobs and admission to State government educational institutions, as per provisions of the newly inserted Articles 15(6) and 16(6) of the Constitution, is to be decided by the State government concerned”.
  • The Centre also added that Department of Social Justice and Empowerment “has no role in deciding the reservation policy of any State government”.

SC BATS AGAINST THE TRANSFER OF COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Supreme Court of India held that the Government has no right to transfer “invaluable” community resources like village water ponds to powerful people and industrialists for commercialisation of the property.

About the Judgement:

  • Resources which are available for everyone’s use in a community, village or town are called community resources. For example- ponds, playgrounds, public parks etc.
  • The judgment came on a plea against the transfer of village ponds’ sites in the National Capital Region to some private industrialists by the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority.The National Green Tribunal (NGT) refused to intervene on the plea but the apex court ordered the authorities and the industrialists to remove all obstructions and restore the water bodies within three months.
  • SC said the State cannot deprive the villagers of their existing source of water and other community resources even after the promise of providing them with an alternative source. There is no guarantee that the adverse effect of destroying the existing water body would be offset and people would be compelled to travel miles to access the alternative site.

Importance of Community Resources:

  • These common areas like water ponds and wells are the lifeline of village communities and often sustain various chores and provide resources necessary for life.
  • It is necessary to protect village commons for safeguarding the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of our Constitution.
  • Article 21 guarantees not just right to life but Right to live with dignity, Right to decent environment, Right to livelihood.
  • It is fundamental, non-deprivable and is available to every person. Even the State cannot violate that right.
  • Depriving villagers of existing source of water and creating an alternative site is similar to that of “Mechanical application of environmental protection”.

NITI AAYOG TO DRAFT ROADMAP FOR ACHIEVING POPULATION STABILIZATION

Why in News?

  • NITI Aayog is organising a National Consultation titled “Realizing the vision of population stabilization: leaving no one behind”.

Highlights:

  • The working paper is expected to address key gaps in India’s family planning programmes.
  • It will offer constructive recommendations to address regional disparities in outcomes by focusing on adolescents and youths, inter-departmental convergence, demand generation, access to contraceptive services and quality of care.
  • The recommendations from the consultation will contribute to a NITI Aayog working paper to help achieve India’s vision of attaining population stabilization.

Key Recommendations:

  • Increasing the basket of contraceptive choices, with greater focus on spacing methods and helping women make informed choices about delaying pregnancy and spacing between children.
  • Addressing social determinants of health such as age at marriage and sex-selective practices.
  • Strengthening quality of care, including counselling services, managing side effects and family planning support.
  • Increasing budgetary allocations for family planning, to align with the unmet needs of India’s young people who constitute nearly 30 per cent of our population.
  • Addressing existing socio-cultural barriers towards contraception by investing extensively in innovative behaviour-change communication strategies.
  • Treating population stabilization and family planning as a national priority, fostering inter-departmental convergence and ensuring multisectoral participation and integration.

Why Such Move?

  • India, with a current population size of 1.37 billion, has the second largest population in the world.
  • Family planning is considered universally as the smartest development investment.
  • For India to realize its sustainable development goals and economic aspirations, it is important to ensure that people have informed access to contraception and quality family planning services.
  • India is also at a stage where birth rates are falling but the population continues to grow due to the fact that more than30 % of the population is young and in the reproductive age group.
  • Nearly30 million currently married women in the age group of 15-49 years within this critical cohort have unmet needs in family planning.
  • This limits their ability to delay or avoid pregnancy by not having access or the agency to use contraception.

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION (RTI) ACT

Why in News?

  • Recently, Chief Justice of India has stated that there is backlog in RTI filing because of Information Commission vacancies.

About Central Information Commission

  • It consists of the Central Information Commissioner and more than ten Information commissioners.
  • The President of India appoints the Chief Information commissioner and the information commissioners on the recommendation of the committee consisting of the Prime Minister as chairperson, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and union cabinet ministers nominated by the Prime Minister.
  • It has a tenure of five years or until they attain age of 65 years.

RTI Act 2005

  • The Right to Information Act 2005 or RTI 2005, came into force in order to encourage a corruption free, transparent and accountable form of government in which the citizens feel a sense of power and safety.

Provisions:

  • Under the Act, a citizen can demand from any public or government authority any information as long as it does not pertain to national security and defence or some personal information and the authority is supposed to respond within a period of 30 days to the application.

RTI Act Information Exclusions:

  • Under section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 Govt/public authorities are exempted from sharing following information:
  • Affecting the Sovereignty, Integrity, Security, Strategic interest, Scientific interest or Economic interest of the State of India
  • Affecting relation of State of India with Foreign State
  • Forbidden by any court of law in India
  • Breach of privilege of State assembly or Parliament of India
  • Intellectual Property Rights, Copyright, Commercial Confidence or Trade Secrets
  • Available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless disclosure is required in larger public interest
  • Received from foreign Government
  • Risk the life or physical safety of any person
  • Impact or obstruct legal investigation
  • Minutes of Union Cabinet meeting including discussion between Ministers, Secretaries or Govt officers
  • Personal information that is breaches of Privacy

Features of the Act:

  • Section- 2 (f):“Information” means any material in any form, including Records, Documents, Memos, e-mails, Opinions, Advices, Press releases, Circulars, Orders, Logbooks, Contracts, Reports, Papers, Samples, Models, Data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a Public Authority under any other law for the time being in force.
  • Section- 2(j): “Right to Information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to:
    • Inspection of work, documents, records;
    • Taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
    • Taking certified samples of material;
    • Obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.
  • Section 4:It requires Suo motu disclosure of information by each public authority. However, such disclosures have remained less than satisfactory.
  • Section 6(2): “An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.”
  • Section 8(1)(j):“The information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature      shall not be denied to any person” under the RTI Act.

Major Issues related to RTI:

  • Policy paralysis due to RTI.
    • The increase in RTI filings makes the bureaucrats to fear about the RTI revelations, which makes them to delay the decisions resulting in policy paralysis.
  • Numerous vacancies in Information Commission
    • Government failing to fill the vacancies in information commissions timely leads to piling up of backlogs.
  • Issue of “locus standi”
    • RTI act doesn’t require “locus standi” to apply for information, which result in increase of irresponsible RTI’s, which increase the burden on existing personnel.

What is locus standi?

  • Locus standi is the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case.

Way Ahead:

  • The transparency audit by the government found poor disclosures among most of central Public Authorities. By increasing disclosures and filling vacancies, the RTI load can be eased.
  • If the locus standi of applicants is made a criterion then the rejection rate will rise significantly.
  • By filing the vacancies in CIC and IC, the issues related to RTI will be resolved

PACKAGED FOODS BREACH SAFE LIMITS OF SALT, FAT

Why in News?

  • Laboratory analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment from an array of packaged snacks and fast foods is found to breach safe limits of salt and fat content.

About the News:

  • The agency tested salt, fat, trans-fat and carbohydrates in 33 popular “junk foods”, which consisted of 14 samples of chips, salted snacks, instant noodles and instant soup, and 19 samples of burgers, fries, fried chicken, pizzas, sandwiches and wraps.
  • The samples were collected from grocery stores and fast food outlets in the city.

How the test was done?

  • To calculate how unsafe the foods tested were, the organisation relied on the concept of the Recommended Dietary Allowance(RDA) — a daily ceiling on the amount of salt, fat, carbohydrates and trans-fats.
  • The RDA is based on scientific consensus and has been agreed upon by expert bodies such as the World Health Organisation, and the National Institute of Nutrition in India. It says that, ideally, no more than 5 gm of salt, 60 gm of fat, 300 gm carbohydrate and 2.2 gm of trans-fat should be consumed by an adult every day.
  • Further, the RDA from each breakfast, lunch and dinner should be no more than 25%, and that from snacks no more than 10%.
  • The CSE found that given the size of the servings and the amount of nutrients per 100 gm, a single packet of packaged nuts, soup or noodles ended up having these salts and fats well over the recommended limits.
  • For instance, a popular savoury snack, with a serve size of 231 gm, had the equivalent of
  • 7 gm of salt and 99 gm of total (saturated and unsaturated) fat.
  • A single serving of the popular noodles Masala (70 gm) exhausted 50% of the composite RDA for a snack, and a serving of popular brand’s nut cracker exhausted 35% of the salt RDA and 26% of the fat RDA.

Need for Declaration:

  • According to the proposed draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, packaged food companies will need to declare nutritional information such as calories (energy), saturated fat, trans-fat, added sugar and sodium per serve on the front of the pack. The food labels are also required to declare, per serve percentage contribution to RDA on the front of the pack.
  • Though under discussions since 2015 and several drafts — the latest one came out in July — these rules have yet to become law, and to be operationalised.

Need for Red Octagon:

  • The CSE took the values prescribed in the drafts for their calculations and concluded that all of the popular snacks and fast foods ought to be displaying a ‘Red Octagon’, a warning symbol employed in packaged foods in Chile and Peru.
  • The Red Octagon, which should be printed on the front of the pack, has a number and the name of the food component within that indicates how widely off the RDA a particular ingredient is.
  • Thus a Red “3.1, Salt” on a pack of Lay’s India’s Magic Masala by PepsiCo indicates that the salt it contains is 3.1 times the RDA for snacks.
  • What we have seen is that all of the packaged foods of the various brands we tested would be in the red.
  • The regulations, as they now stand, don’t apply to fast foods such as burgers and pizzas, even though they were included in the CSE analysis.

REPORT ON “FUNCTIONING OF BORDER GUARDING FORCES”

Why in News?

  • The Department Related Standing Committee on Home Affairs, currently chaired by Anand Sharma, has submitted a report on the action taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) with respect to the recommendations given by the committee in the 214threport regarding the “Functioning of Border Guarding Forces”.

Key Recommendations of the Report:

  • It has objected to the overuse of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) for rigorous internal security and election-related duties to the extent that even the reserved battalions are deployed not giving them enough time for rest and recuperation.
  • To boost the morale of the CAPFs, the committee insisted on limiting deputation of officers from the IPS and the armed forces to CAPFs at 25% and the CAPFs cadres should be given an opportunity to become the Director General of respective forces. However, the MHA, in its response to the panel, said, the 7th Pay Commission and the Committee on Allowance did not agree to such special pay to CAPF.
  • The committee insisted on paying paramilitary service pay to the CAPF on par with the defence forces personnel.
  • The committee noted that the defence forces personnel are being paid Military Service Pay in view of the risk to life and social and family isolation. So, it recommended that CAPF should also get similar incentive in the form of Paramilitary Service Pay as they also face similar risks and isolation.
  • The committee has also noted it was pained to note that the reserved battalions, which are to be used judiciously and provided rest for being in a state of preparedness, are engaged in duties such as internal security and counter-insurgency, which are quite rigorous.
  • It urged the Home Ministry to draw a line to allow much required rest and recuperation to the personnel and adhere to the laid down policy on “rest and recuperation”.
  • Referring to suicides in the CAPFs, the committee urged the Ministry to put in place an institutional mechanism with representatives of the MHA, the Bureau of Police Research
  • and Development, heads of various forces and experts in public health, mental health, psychology and psychiatry to address the issue.

Action regarding the Recommendations:

  • of the 119 recommendations of the Committee made in its 214th Report, the MHA accepted and acted upon 29. The Committee decided not to pursue further action taken in respect of 50 while rejecting the Ministry’s replies in respect of 17

About Central Armed Police Force (CAPF):

  • The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) refers to seven security forces in India under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs.

1. Assam Rifles (AR)
2. Border Security Force (BSF)
3. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)
4. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
5. Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)
6. National Security Guard (NSG)
7. Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)

  • Each of the seven has its own cadre of officers, but they are headed by officers of the Indian Police Service.

RIGHT TO PROTEST UNDER ARTICLE 19

Why in News?

  • CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde recently stated that people have right to protest, but they should stop riot.

What does the Constitution say?

  • The right of citizens to protest peacefully is guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
  • Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) give to all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression, and to assemble peaceably and without arms.
  • However, under Articles 19(2) and 19(3), the right to freedom of speech is subject to “reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.

What are the Legal Provisions?

  • The legal provisions and avenue available to police for handling agitations, protests, and unlawful assemblies are covered by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, and The Police Act, 1861.
  • The CrPC’s Sections 129-132 deal with “Dispersal of assembly by use of civil force”, use of the armed forces in situations of civil unrest, and protection against prosecution for acts done under these sections.
  • The IPC’s Sections 141-158 deal with unlawful assembly, and the responsibilities, liabilities, and punishments related to this offence.

What are the Judicial Guidelines?

  • In ‘Karam Singh vs. Hardayal Singh and Ors 1979’ the High Court of Punjab and Haryana underlined that before any force can be used, three prerequisites are to be satisfied.

These were:

  • Firstly,there should be an unlawful assembly with the object of committing violence or an assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace.
  • Secondly,such assembly is ordered to be dispersed and
  • Thirdly,in spite of such orders to disperse, such assembly does not disperse.

International Provision for Right to Protests:

  • The ‘Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials’ was adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress in Havana, 1990.
  • It resolved that law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms.

NOT MANY LESSONS LEARNT FROM WATER PLANNING FAILURES

Context:

  • In the absence of scientific planning and implementation, measures like Jal Shakti Abhiyan may not be successful, says Water Experts.

Today’s Water Scenario:

  • Following the massive water crisis across India in the summer of 2019, the Central government hurriedly launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA), a time-bound, mission-mode water conservation campaign to be carried out in two phases, across the 255 districts having critical and over-exploited groundwater levels.
  • This campaign, however, was not intended to be a funding programme and did not create any new intervention on its own.
  • It only aimed to make water conservation a ‘people’s movement’ through ongoing schemes like the MGNREGA and other government programmes.

About Jal Shakti Abhiyan:

  • It is a time-bound, mission-mode campaign that would focus on 1,592 “water-stressed” blocks in 257 districts.
  • The campaign will run through citizen participation during the monsoon season, from 1st July, 2019 to 15th September, 2019.
  • The 1,592 blocks, identified as “water-stressed” as per the Central Ground Water Board’s 2017 data, include 313 critical blocks, 1,000-odd over-exploited blocks and 94 blocks with least water availability (for states without water-stressed blocks).
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a collaborative effort of various Ministries of the Government of India and State Governments, being coordinated by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • Under the campaign, teams of officers from the central government will visit and work with district administration in water stressed blocks, to ensure five important water conservation interventions.
  • These will be water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks, reuse, bore well recharge structures, watershed development and intensive afforestation.
  • These water conservation efforts will also be supplemented with special interventions including the development of Block and District Water Conservation Plans, promotion of efficient water use for irrigation and better choice of crops through Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
  • A large-scale communications campaign has also been planned alongside the JSA involving mass mobilization of different groups including school students, college students, swachhagrahis, Self Help Groups, Panchayati Raj Institution members, youth groups (NSS/NYKS/NCC), defence personnel, ex-servicemen and pensioners, among various others.

Need for Scientific Planning for Water Conservation:

  • Water planning should be based on hydrological units, namely river basins. And, political and administrative boundaries of districts rarely coincide with the hydrological boundaries or aquifer boundaries.
  • However, contrary to this principle of water management, JSA was planned based on the boundary of the districts, and to be carried out under the overall supervision of a bureaucrat.
  • This resulted in the division of basins/aquifers into multiple units that followed multiple policies. There was no data on basin-wise rainfall, no analysis of run-off and groundwater maps were rarely used.
  • As a result, one never came to know whether water harvested in a pond in a district was at the cost of water in adjoining districts.
  • The JSA also fundamentally ignored the fact that most of India’s water-stressed basins, particularly those in the peninsular regions, are facing closure, with the demand exceeding supply.
  • Hence, groundwater recharge happened at the cost of surface water and vice versa. This is where an absence of autonomous and knowledge-intensive river-basin organisations is acutely felt.

Data’s given by JSA:

  • The JSA’s portal displays impressive data, images and statistics.
  • For example, it claims that there are around 10 million ongoing and completed water conservation structures; 7.6 million recharge structures.
  • The website also says that one billion saplings have been planted and that six million people participated in awareness campaigns.

Contradictions with JSA’s Data:

  • The data displayed on JSA portal do not speak anything about the pre-JSA water levels, the monthly water levels and impact of monsoon on the water levels across the 255 districts with critical and over-exploited blocks.
  • They also don’t convey anything about the quality of the structures, their maintenance and sustainability.
  • Even if the water levels had been measured, it is unknown whether the measurement was accurate.
  • The results for a 2016 study conducted by the Central Groundwater Board showed that water levels always increase post-monsoon.
  • Therefore, it will require long-term monitoring of water level data to determine the actual impact of a measure like JSA.
  • At present, there is no such parameter to measure the outcome of such a mission-mode campaign.

Drawbacks of JSA:

  • Assumption by the JSA is that common people in rural areas are ignorant and prone to wasting water; on the contrary, they are the ones who first bear the burden of any water crisis.
  • The per capita water allocation to those living in rural areas is 55 litres, whereas the same for urban areas like Delhi and Bengaluru is 135-150 litres.
  • Therefore, the JSA’s move to reach out to poor people and farmers, asking them to ‘save water’, appears hypocritical, particularly when district administrations blatantly allow the sewage generated from towns and cities to pollute village water sources such as tanks, ponds and wells.
  • Moreover, it is difficult to say whether measures like JSA can provide long-term solutions.
  • Most of the farm bunds built with soil can collapse within one monsoon season due to rains and/or trespassing by farm vehicles, animals and humans.
  • Further, there are issues like lack of proper engineering supervision of these structures, involvement of multiple departments with less or no coordination, and limited funding under MGNERGA and other schemes.
  • Finally, there have hardly been many efforts undertaken to dissuade farmers from growing water-intensive crops such as paddy, sugarcane, and banana, when it is widely known that agriculture consumes 80% of freshwater.

ODISHA GOVERNMENT WINS WORLD HABITAT AWARD

Context:

  • The Odisha Government has won the World Habitat Award, a global recognition, for its ambitious initiative, Jaga Mission under which 52,682 urban poor families living in the slums have been granted land rights certificate.

About World Habitat Award:

  • This award is given by World Habitat, a UK-based organisation, in partnership with UN-Habitat, every year, in recognition of innovative, outstanding, and revolutionary ideas, projects, and programmes from across the world.

About Jaga Mission:

  • Jaga Mission is acclaimed as the World’s largest slum land titling project, benefiting a million urban poor living in the slums, with promises to provide “self-respect and freedom from the perpetual fear of eviction”.
  • The Mission is being executed in collaboration with Tata Trusts and Norman Foster Foundation. The State Government had rolled out the project, a first of its kind in the country, to give land titles to slum dwellers.
  • So far, 1725 slums have been surveyed under the project using drones and GIS technology. Besides, transformation of 255 slums into liveable habitat is also under implementation.
  • Adoption of state-of-art technology combined with extensive community participation has resulted in dispute and litigation-free implementation in a time bound manner.

United Nations Habitat or United Nations Human Settlements Programme:

  • It is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.
  • It was established in 1978 as an outcome of the first UN Conference on Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat I) held in Vancouver, Canada, in 1976.
  • UN-Habitat is headquartered at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, Kenya.

World Habitat:

  • It is an international not-for-profit organisation/foundation established in the United Kingdom.
  • It works internationally to help bring the best housing to the people who need it the most.

India Geospatial Excellence Award:

  • Recently, the project was also awarded the India Geospatial Excellence Award for technological innovation in transforming lives of urban poor.
  • This award is given by GeoSmart India which is an interactive platform that demonstrates the collective and shared vision of the Indian geospatial community and is the most prominent stakeholder event of the Indian geospatial ecosystem.

ARMS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Lok Sabha passed the Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Highlights:

  • The Bill seeks to enhance the punishment for existing offences like illegal manufacture, sale, transfer, etc.; illegal acquiring, possessing or carrying prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition; and illegal manufacture, sale, transfer, conversion, import, export, etc., of firearms.
  • It also proposes to define new offences and prescribes punishment for them, such as taking away firearms from police or armed forces, involvement in organized crime syndicate, illicit trafficking including smuggled firearms of foreign make or prohibited arms and prohibited ammunition, use of firearms in rash and negligent manner in celebratory gunfire endangering human life, etc.
  • Further, the Bill seeks to enhance the period of arms license from three years to five years and also to issue arms license in its electronic form to prevent forgery.
  • The Amendment assumes significance in recent times as law enforcement agencies have indicated a growing nexus between possession of illegal firearms and commission of criminal offences.
  • The trans-border dimensions of illegal arms trafficking are causing threat to internal security and to prevent the usage of illicit firearms so trafficked has also become a prime concern.
  • To effectively curb crimes related to or committed by using illegal firearms and to provide effective deterrence against violation of law, there is an urgent need to strengthen the existing legislative framework by making appropriate amendments in the Arms Act, 1959.
  • The licenses and arms ownership of sportspersons would not be adversely affected because of the Bill.
  • The provisions related to ownership of arms by retired and serving personnel of armed forces also remain unaffected by the Amendment.

History of the Act:

  • The original law was brought by the British after the Revolution of 1857, in order to prevent such a rebellion in the future.
  • Mahatma Gandhi also connected the issue of arms ownership with the basic rights of Indians and demanded a repeal of the Indian Arms Act, 1878.
  • This demand was also included in the eight-point agenda that Mahatma Gandhi presented to Lord Irwin.

CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Citizenship amendment Bill, 2019 (CAB) has been passed in Lok Sabha recently.

About the CAB:

  • The Lok Sabha recently passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2019 that seeks to give citizenship to refugees from the Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who came to India before 31st December, 2014.
  • Residential requirement for citizenship through naturalization from the above said countries is at least 5 years. Residential requirement for citizenship through naturalization for others is 11 years.
  • The Union Home Minister clarified that the Act is not confined to the State of Assam.
  • The Bill will apply to all States and Union Territories of the country.
  • The beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill can reside in any state of the country.


Who are Illegal Immigrants?

  • According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant is one who enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents, or a person who stays beyond the visa permit.

What is NRC?

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is meant to identify a bona fide citizen.
  • In other words, by the order of the Supreme Court of India, NRC is being currently updated in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals who might have entered the State illegally after the midnight of March 24, 1971.
  • The date was decided in the 1985 Assam Accord, which was signed between the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the AASU.
  • The NRC was first published after the 1951 Census in the independent India when parts of Assam went to the East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
  • The first draft of the updated list was concluded by December 31, 2017.

What is the Concern?

  • The essential point of debate in this proposed amendment was that it makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion – a move that may violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees right to equality.
  • While Bill is designed to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees persecuted in neighbouring countries, NRC does not distinguish migrants on the basis of religion. It will consider deporting anyone who has entered the State illegally post-March 24, 1971, irrespective of their Religion.

RIGHT TO DISSENT – A CORE PRINCIPLE OF DEMOCRACY

Why in News?

  • Romila Thapar, an eminent Historian has said that Right to Dissent is a core principle of Democracy.

Meaning of Dissent:

  • Dissent means “a strong difference of opinion on a particular subject, especially about an official suggestion or plan or a popular belief”.
  • India’s constitutional democracy is predicated on the people’s right to call state power to account.
  • Even at Household level also, there is no family without dissent between parents and the children, or between the siblings. A family which learns to deal with dissent rather than authoritatively dismissing it is a more harmonious family.

Why Right to Dissent is Needed?

  • The Right to Dissent is an important addition of expressing one’s view, and on many of its most important constituent elements.
  • It will enable practitioners and citizens to claim their rights and participate more effectively in the project of democracy.
  • Disagreeing with each other is a fundamental human trait. There is not a single individual who does not disagree with something or the other all the Time.

Dissent – Safety Valve of Democracy:

  • Recently, while hearing a petition on the ban of protest on the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, the SC held that Right to peaceful protest is the fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution.
  • The constitution under Article 19(1)(a) provides for freedom of speech and expression and also under Article 19(2) provides for reasonable restrictions on such freedom.
  • This particular right is also subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, as well as public order.
  • A distinguishing feature of any democracy is the space offered for legitimate dissent, which cannot be trampled by any executive action.
  • Thus, the Court recognises that legitimate dissent is a distinguishable feature of any democracy.
  • Also observed that, every individual or a group of individuals, whether they are minority or poor or marginalised, have the right to express their dissent to the government policies and fight their social circumstances.

Right to Dissent in Global Level:

  • Dissent involves the exercise of individual and collective rights of expression, association, assembly, and participation in public affairs.
  • These freedoms encompass rights to receive and impart information, inspire debate, and influence decision-making about issues of public concern.
  • Article 7 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders explicitly recognises that ‘Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance’.
  • Despite legal duties imposed on States to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to dissent and protest, these rights are routinely misunderstood and increasingly violated, with dissenters facing dire consequences including Arrest, Imprisonment, Displacement, Disappearance, and Death.

Ethical Concern of Dissent:

  • The importance of dissent is not just that it is good for democracy. There is also a fundamental ethical principle involved in dissent
  • Any society which allows dissent is acting ethically.
  • The first ethical principle is related to non-violence, a principle which is so integral to the unique Indian practices of dissent from ancient times to Gandhi and Ambedkar.
  • The second ethical principle is that the worse off in a society have a greater right to dissent and protest even when the more privileged may not agree or sympathize with that dissent.
  • Social dissent is a necessary voice for all those who are oppressed and are marginalised for various reasons. This is the only thing they have in a world which has denied them the basic dignity of a social life.
  • Buddha and Mahavira were dissenters first and philosophers next. Ramayana and Mahabharata are filled with stories of dissent.
  • Dissent is not just about criticism; it is also about showing new perspectives.

Dissent in Democratic Society:

  • The course of democracy anywhere in the world is defined by events that test the resilience of democracy and also add to it.
  • Indeed, dissent is the quintessential part of democracy and allows people to have their opinions and to voice those without fear of intimidation.
  • ‘Freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to peaceful assembly are often compartmentalized and discussed individually, with little regard to their interdependence.
  • This unique guide of Protests provides activists, human rights defenders, jurists, NGOs, corporate actors, and government authorities with the tools and knowledge necessary to ensure rights, protect the lives and liberty of dissenters, enable meaningful participation in public life, and promote the rule of law.
  • The philosophy of dissent and democracy has also inspired our freedom movement and defines India’s constitutional democracy, which is predicated on the people’s right to call state power to account, albeit within the constitutional framework.
  • Thus, when we hear the voices of dissent from the oppressed and the marginalised, it is ethically incumbent upon those who are better off than them to give them greater space and greater freedom to dissent.

FIFTH NITI AAYOG–DRC DIALOGUE

Why in News?

  • The Fifth Dialogue of NITI Aayog and Development Research Centre (DRC), of the State Council, People’s Republic of China, was held in Wuhan, China.

Highlights:

  • This is the first ministerial Dialogue between China and India since the informal meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chennai.
  • Based on the agreement at the Fourth Dialogue in Mumbai 2018, DRC and NITI Aayog had undertaken joint research in the areas of WTO reform and urbanization, whose preliminary findings were presented at the Fifth Dialogue as a key deliverable.
  • The Sixth Dialogue will be convened in India in the second half of November 2020.
  • There were sessions on the global economy, globalisation and macroeconomic policies in China and India, innovation and development, and potential for Sino-India trade and economic cooperation.Both sides affirmed their commitment to build a more inclusive global economic architecture and implement fair and reasonable trade rules, taking into account the need for safeguarding the interests of developing and less-developed nations.
  • To advance high-quality development, the two sides decided to strengthen knowledge sharing and mutual learning in high-tech, digital economy, fiscal policy and jointly address the challenges arising from the environment, income gaps, etc.
  • Emphasis was laid on promoting sustainable urbanization, development of Smart Cities, infrastructure and green transportation.
  • Both sides also agreed to explore synergies in tourism; health sector; culture, language and people-to-people exchanges; and learn from respective best practices and create favourable conditions for facilitating ease-of-doing business by giving impetus to outbound and inbound investments.

TRANSGENDER PERSONS (PROTECTION OF RIGHTS) BILL

Why in News?

  • Rajya Sabha approved Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019.

About:

Transgender Person:

  • The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.
  • It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
  • Intersex variations are defined to mean a person who at birth shows variation in his or her primary sexual characteristics, external genitalia, chromosomes, or hormones from the normative standard of male or female body.

Prohibition Against Discrimination

  • The Bill prohibits the discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to:
    • Education
    • Employment
    • Healthcare
    • Access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public;
    • Right to Movement
    • Right to reside, Rent, or otherwise occupy property
    • Opportunity to hold public or private office and
    • Access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a Transgender Person is

Right of Residence:

  • Every transgender person shall have a right to reside and be included in his household.
  • If the immediate family is unable to care for the transgender person, the person may be placed in a rehabilitation centre, on the orders of a competent court.

Employment:

  • No government or private entity can discriminate against a transgender person in employment matters, including recruitment, and promotion.
  • Every establishment is required to designate a person to be a complaint officer to deal with complaints in relation to the Act.

Education:

  • Educational institutions funded or recognized by the relevant government shall provide inclusive education, sports and recreational facilities for transgender persons, without discrimination.

Health Care:

  • The government must take steps to provide health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centers, and sex reassignment surgeries.
  • The government shall review medical curriculum to address health issues of transgender persons, and provide comprehensive medical insurance schemes for them.

Transgender Person ID:

  • A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.
  • A revised certificate may be obtained only if the individual undergoes surgery to change their gender either as a male or a female.

Welfare Measures:

  • The Bill states that the relevant government will take measures to ensure the full inclusion and participation of transgender persons in society.It must also take steps for their rescue and rehabilitation, vocational training and self-employment, create schemes that are transgender sensitive, and promote their participation in cultural activities.

Offences and Penalties:

  • The Bill recognizes the following offences against transgender persons:
  • Forced or bonded labour (excluding compulsory government service for public purposes),
  • Denial of use of public places,
  • Removal from household, and village.
  • Physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse. Penalties for these offences vary between six months and two years, and a fine.

National Council for Transgender persons (NCT)

It consists of:

  • Union Minister for Social Justice (Chairperson)
  • Minister of State for Social Justice (Vice- Chairperson)
  • Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice
  • one representative from ministries including Health, Home Affairs, and Human Resources Development.
  • Other members include representatives of the NITI Aayog, and the National Human Rights Commission.
  • State governments will also be represented.
  • The Council will also consist of five members from the transgender community and five experts from non-governmental organisations.
  • The Council will advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies, legislation and projects with respect to transgender persons. It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons.

MAHADAYI RIVER DISPUTE

Why in news?

  • The dispute over Mahadayi river has resurfaced over the past few weeks and tensions have been rife between Goa and Karnataka.

About:

  • The dispute over Mahadayi river starts in the 80s and grew stronger in the subsequent decades.
  • Karnataka move to design a number of dams, canals and barrages to route the Mahadayi river water to the Malaprabha basin.
  • The state claimed that channeling the river water into the Malaprabha basin, a tributary of the Krishna, would meet the requirements of water-scarce districts of baalkot, Gadag, Dharwad and Belagavi.
  • An inter-state water disputes tribunal has allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet of water (TMC) to Karnataka and 1.33 TMC to Maharashtra. Both Karnataka and Goa have contested the order and the matter is now pending in apex court.

Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project:

  • The Kalasa-Banduri Nala is a project undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the Districts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag. It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert 7.56 TMC of water to the Malaprabha river, which supplies the drinking water needs of the said 3 districts, i.e., Dharwad, Belagavi and Gadag. This project had been on paper for decades and the Karnataka government decided to implement it during S M Krishna’s regime.

Inter-State River Water Disputes:

  • Water is in State subject as per entry 17 of State List.The entry 17 of state list deals with water and entry 56 of Union List gives power to the union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state river and river valleys.

Other active River Water Tribunals in India:

  • Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal II (2004) – Karnataka, Telangana,Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra
  • Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal (2018) – Odisha&Chhattisgarh
  • Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (2010)- Goa,Karnataka, Maharashtra
  • Ravi& Beas Water Tribunal (1986)- Punjab, Haryana,Rajasthan
  • Vansdhara Water Disputes Tribunal (2010)- Andra Pradesh & Odisha.

BONDED LABOUR SYSTEM IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has conducted a seminar on “bonded labour” recently.

About Bonded Labour:

  • It is a practice in which employers give high-interest loans to workers who work at low wages to pay off the debt.
  • The Supreme Court of India has interpreted bonded labour as the payment of wages that are below the prevailing market wages and legal minimum wages.
  • The Constitution of India prohibits forced labour under Article 23 (Fundamental Rights on Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour).
  • Bonded labour was historically associated with rural economies where peasants from economically disadvantaged communities were bound to work for the landlords.
  • Bonded labour is found to exist in both rural and urban pockets in unorganized industries such as brick kilns, stone quarries, coal mining, agricultural labour, domestic servitude, circus, and sexual slavery.
  • According to International Labour Organization (ILO) there are 1.17 crores bonded labourers in India (2014).

Reasons for the Persistence of Bonded Labour:

  • The lack of awareness among workers and employers
  • Low conviction rates
  • Social bias towards bonded labour
  • Migratory nature of bonded labour
  • Weaker implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976.

Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976:

  • The Act extends to the whole of India but implemented by respective State Governments.
  • It provides for an institutional mechanism at the district level in the form of Vigilance Committees.
  • Vigilance committees advise District Magistrate (DM) to ensure the provisions of this act are properly implemented.
  • The State Governments/UTs may confer, on an Executive Magistrate, the powers of a Judicial Magistrate of the first class or second class for the trial of offences under this Act.
  • Under the Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers (2016) financial assistance to the extent of Rs. Three lakh is provided to the released bonded labourers along with other non-cash assistance for their livelihood.

MAHARASHTRA TOPS IN JUSTICE DELIVERY

Why in News?

  • According to the India Justice Report 2019, Maharashtra has topped the list in the overall first-ever ranking of Indian States on justice delivery.

About:

  • The India Justice Report 2019, commissioned by Tata Trusts, was prepared by groups like Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, Tata Institute of Social Sciences – Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
  • The report has been prepared based on publicly available data of different government entities on the four pillars of justice delivery — police, judiciary, prisons and legal aid.
  • Maharashtra has topped the list of 18 large-medium States in the overall first-ever ranking of Indian States on justice delivery, followed by Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana.
  • In this category, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are at the bottom, while among the list of seven smaller States, Goa leads the group.

Highlights of the Report:

  • The report highlights the fact that even the best performing States scored less than 60% in their performance on capacity across the police, judiciary, prisons and legal aid.
  • The country has about 18,200 judges with about 23% sanctioned posts vacant, notes the report, adding that women are poorly represented in these pillars, constituting just 7% of the police.
  • Prisons are over-occupied at 114%, where 68% are under trials awaiting investigation, inquiry or trial.
  • Regarding budgets, most States are not able to fully utilise the funds given to them by the Centre, while the increase in spending on the police, prisons and judiciary does not keep pace with the overall increase in State expenditure, the report said.

Policing:

  • The study took several factors to assess the police system in the states, ranging from modernisation, inducing women, diversity, budgeting, human resource planning and infrastructure.
  • On this front, the best score was achieved by Tamil Nadu – 6.49. UP received a score of 2.98, whereas Bihar got 3.77. UP fared poor in terms of budgeting, spending on police per person, vacancies and diversity.

Prisons:

  • This parameter was assessed on various factors ranging from overcrowding, inclusion of women staff, adequate human resources, budgeting, infrastructure, etc.
  • Jharkhand fared the worst with a score of 3.46. It was followed by Uttarakhand (3.72), Punjab (4.35), Andhra Pradesh (4.35) and UP (4.42). Surprisingly, Bihar stood at number six with a score of 5.61. The best in this regard was Kerala with a score of 7.18.

Judiciary:

  • This parameter was assessed on availability of judges, clearance of cases, spending on judiciary, etc.
  • Bihar, with a score of 2.41, fared the worst in this regard. It was followed by UP (3.7), Karnataka (3.76), Uttarakhand (4.17) and Jharkhand (4.3). Tamil Nadu again featured on the top in terms of judiciary with a score of 6.99. It was followed by Punjab (6.57), Haryana (6.23) and Maharashtra (5.96).
  • On an average, Bihar saw a bleak growth in expenditure on judiciary in comparison to total spending. From 2011 to 2016, the state expenditure rose by 17.8 per cent; however, expenditure on judiciary rose by only 8 per cent.

Legal Aid:

  • The report also highlighted the importance of legal aid.
  • It said that almost 80 per cent of India’s 1.25-billion populations are eligible for free legal aid, but only 15 million people have availed it since 1995.

GUJARAT CONTROL OF TERRORISM AND ORGANISED CRIME (GCTOC) BILL

Why in News?

  • Our honourable President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the ‘Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill’, a controversial anti-terror legislation which was passed by Gujarat assembly in 2015.

Key Provisions of the Bill:

  • It defines ‘terrorist acts’, as including “an act committed with the intention to disturb law and order or public order or threaten the unity, integrity and security of the State”, apart from economic offences.
  • Inclusion of Economic offences: The economic offences under GCTOC include Ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing schemes, and organised betting. It also includes extortion, land grabbing, contract killings, cybercrimes, and human trafficking.
  • Special Courts: It also provides for the creation of a special court as well as the appointment of special public prosecutors.
  • Attachment of Properties: It provides for attachment of properties acquired through organised crimes. Transfer of properties can also be cancelled.

Provisions of the Bill considered to be Controversial:

  • The legislation makes offences under this Act as Non-Bailable.
  • The Bill provides for admissibility of evidence collected through interception of mobile calls of an accused or through confessions made before an investigating officer, in a court of law.
  • The bill empowers police to tap telephonic conversations and submit them in court as evidence.
  • The act also provides for making confessions before police officers admissible in court.
  • The Bill provides immunity to the State government from legal action.
  • It extends period of probe from stipulated 90 days to 180 days before filing of charge sheet.

Background:

  • The Bill was earlier named as the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill.
  • It failed to get the presidential nod thrice since 2004.
  • So, GCTOC has finally become law after Sixteen years of first version of it was passed by the Gujarat Assembly.

WOMEN, PEACE AND DEMOCRACY

Context:

  • 19 years after UN Resolution 1325, WPS Index estimates the gender discourse is reaching beyond traditional conflicts to embrace militarisation & Communal Hostilities.

About UN Resolution 1325

  • UNSCR 1325 is a landmark international legal framework that addresses the inordinate impact of war on women + the pivotal role women play in conflict management + sustainable peace.
  • The experiences of men & women in war are different. Women offer a vital perspective in the analysis of conflict.
  • Resolution 1325 has 4 pillars – Participation, Protection, Prevention, and Relief and Recovery.It is implemented through the development of National Action Plans (NAP) or other national level strategies.

Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Index:

  • The WPS Index is prepared by Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.
  • It was first published in 2017 and it operationalises the main values of the WPS resolutions to measure how women fare across three dimensions of peace and security: inclusion, justice and security. The 2019 update finds that while individually, countries lag far behind on most measures, “the world seems to be moving in the right direction”.
  • Representation in government is one measure of inclusion, and the index finds that across legislatures worldwide only 21.5% are women, so that it will take 52 years to approach parity. The WPS Index reports that in 2018, 379 million women experienced intimate partner violence in which this number exceeds the population of the US.

Statistics of India in WPS Index:

  • India which ranks 133 out of 167 is ahead of Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan.
  • Kerala, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka top the table while J&K, Tripura, Rajasthan and Manipur bring up the tail end.
  • It is anomalous between the two ends—if Mizoram women are reaping the peace dividend (economic benefit of a decrease in defence spending), the experience of Rajasthani women illustrates how patriarchal cultures undermine it.

Interesting Facts of Jammu & Kashmir:

  • Women attend school for 5.44 years on average. 60.30% of women have bank accounts; 29% do paid work outside the home and 54.20% have cell phones.
  • Men tend to die, be wounded or disappeared disproportionately more, so women become heads of households.J&K women are about 0.1% of the Indian Parliament but 84% of them report that they participate in household decisions.
  • Girls outnumber boys at birth, 9.4% of them experience intimate partner violence and they live with an organised violence (“total number of battle deaths from state-based, non-state, and one-sided conflicts per 100,000”) score of 175.93.
  • Several civil society fact-finding teams have travelled to Kashmir since the announcement of bifurcation of J&K into Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • They state that men and boys are more likely to be shot, tortured, or questioned; women are then left to cope. After that they live with the constant threat (or reality) of sexual violence as an act of control by all conflict parties including the side where they belong, and lack of access to essential services (like emergency care) affect women whose mobility is severely impaired.

What does NCRB says about Gender based Violence?

  • The latest NCRB report shows that at least seven states have registered a below-10% conviction rate for crimes against women.
  • Odisha, with a 7.4% conviction rate, cuts a sorry figure, though there are some bigger states like West Bengal, Karnataka and Gujarat that fare worse.
  • But the eastern state has something to worry about. Of the 2,082 victims of rape, at least 62% are girls below 18 years of age. As the incidence of rape continues to show an upward trend, rising sexual assault against minors is a disturbing trend.
  • However, recent survey on the status of policing in the country showed that close to 40% of police personnel who were part of the study believed gender-based violence complaints are false and motivated.Interestingly, over 40% admitted to having received gender-sensitisation training in the last two to three years, which apparently is having no impact.
  • Now, it is important to talk about gender sensitisation of the police, which must be accorded priority as it has a huge bearing on tackling crimes against women.

ELECTORAL BONDS

Why in News?

  • Association for Democratic Reform has recently stated that electoral bonds worth Rs.232 crore was sold since past October.

About Electoral Bonds:

  • An electoral bond is designed to be a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note — in effect, it will be similar to a bank note that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest.
  • It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India.
  • The electoral bonds will not bear the name of the donor. In essence, the donor and the party details will be available with the bank, but the political party might not be aware of who the donor is.The intention is to ensure that all the donations made to a party will be accounted for in the balance sheets without exposing the donor details to the public.

Eligibility of a Political Party:

  • Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election has been allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.

Other facts regarding Electoral Bonds:

  • The bonds have been issued in multiples of Rs.1,000, Rs.10,000, Rs.1 lakh, Rs.10 lakh and Rs.1 crore and have been available at specified branches of State Bank of India.
  • They can be bought by the donor with a KYC-compliant account. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice which can then be cashed in via the party’s verified account within 15 days.
  • The bonds will be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the beginning of every quarter, i.e. in January, April, July and October as specified by the Central Government.
  • An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of Lok Sabha elections.
  • Donations will be tax deductible, and the benefitting political party will get a tax exemption for the amount received.

Do private companies are eligible for Electoral Bonds?

  • Prior to 2017, as per Section 182 of the Companies Act, 2013, a company can donate only up to 7.5% of its average profit of the last three years, and must disclose this amount and the beneficiary political party.
  • Now, through the electoral bonds, there is no limit to the amount companies can donate, and the requirement for such firms to have existed for the last three years on a profit-making basis has also been deleted.

Whether foreign companies are eligible for Electoral Bonds?

  • The amended Companies Act now allows any foreign company registered in India to make contributions through bonds to political parties, subject to legitimate doubts about who or where its real owners are, or what its source of funding is.

About ADR:

  • The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) is an Indian non-partisan, non-governmental organization which works in the area of electoral and political reforms.
  • Along with National Election Watch (NEW), ADR is striving to bring transparency and accountability in Indian politics and reducing the influence of money and muscle power in elections.
  • In the last few years, based on ADR’s report and data, a huge number of coverage was received in print and online media.

PULSE POLIO PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • 25 years of Pulse Polio Programme to be celebrated in October 2019.

Pulse Polio Programme:

  • The Pulse Polio Campaign was first started in 1994 in Delhi after the success of the first large-scale supplementary immunization campaign with OPV (oral polio vaccine).
  • The campaign was inaugurated with the tagline ‘Do Boond Zindagi Ki’.
  • The campaign in Delhi reached nearly one million children up to the age of three years with two doses of OPV being administered on 02 October and 04 December through exclusive booth-based strategy.
  • This strategy was later adopted and implemented by the Government of India all over the country as Pulse Polio Campaigns.
  • India’s attainment of polio-free status in 2014 was coined by the World Health Organization as “one of the most significant achievements in public health,” and marked not just India but the entire South East Asia Region being declared polio-free.
  • The last case of polio in the country was in 2011.
  • The global initiative of eradicating polio was started by the WHO in 1988.
  • Around 17.4 crore children of less than five years across the country are given polio drops as part of the drive of the Government of India to sustain polio eradication from the country.
  • The Pulse Polio Initiative was started with an objective of achieving a hundred per cent coverage under Oral Polio Vaccine.
  • It aimed to immunize children through improved social mobilization, plan mop-up operations in areas where poliovirus has almost disappeared and maintain a high level of morale among the public.

CENTRE ALL SET TO REVAMP BRITISH ERA INDIAN PENAL CODE

Why in News?

  • The Home Ministry is all set to overhaul the Indian Penal Code designed by the British. Rebooting the code introduced by the British in 1860 was necessary as it is primarily based on the spirit of “master and servant”.

Efforts taken by the Government:

  • Home Ministry has written to all States and Union Territories seeking suggestions to amend various sections of the IPC.
  • The ministry has also set up two committees comprising legal luminaries to look into the issue.

 About IPC:

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the official criminal code of India. It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • The code was drafted in 1860 on the recommendations of first law commission of India established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay.
  • The IPC replaced Mohammedan Criminal Law, which had a very close relationship with Islam. Thus, the IPC laid the foundation of secularism.
  • It came into force in British India during the early British Raj period in 1862. However, it did not apply automatically in the Princely states, which had their own courts and legal systems until the 1940s.
  • The Code has since been amended several times and is now supplemented by other criminal provisions.

How significant it is?

  • Today, it is the longest serving criminal code in the common-law world.
  • Today, most of the commonwealth follows the IPC and legislators would find it difficult to improve it in terms of precision, comprehensibility, comprehensiveness and accessibility.

Why it Needs a Review?

  • Since it has been introduced in the year of 1860, that is almost 150 years back, it has failed to keep pace since then.
  • Macaulay had himself favoured regular revision of the code whenever gaps or ambiguities were found or experienced.
  • No comprehensive revision of IPC has been undertaken, even though the IPC has been haphazardly amended more than 75 times.
  • Most of the amendments have been ad hoc and reactive, in response to immediate circumstances like the 2013 amendment after the Delhi gangrape case.
  • The 42nd report of the law commission in 1971 has also recommended for a complete revisit of the IPC.

Areas that Need Reforms:

  • Some of the concepts underlying the code are either problematic or have become obsolete.
  • Sedition law (Section 124A): A re-examination of the sedition law, inserted in 1898, is necessary.
  • Blasphemy law: The offence of blasphemy should have no place in a liberal democracy and, therefore, there is a need to repeal Section 295A, which was inserted in 1927.
  • Culpable Homicide: The distinction between “culpable homicide” and “murder” was criticised even by Stephen as the “weakest part of the code”, as the definitions are obscure.
  • Sec 497 (Adultery): Sexual offences under the code reveal patriarchal values and Victorian morality.
  • Though the outmoded crime of adultery gives the husband sole proprietary rights over his wife’s sexuality, it gives no legal protection to secure similar monopoly over the husband’s sexuality.
  • Section 377(Homosexuality): The section has been in news as voices being raised against its being in violation of human rights, harassment and violence against LGBT community. The LGBT community and a part of society wants this section to be repealed. The issue has been sub-judice several times.

ANNUAL CRIME IN INDIA REPORT 2017

Why in News?

  • After a delay of two years the annual Crime in India Report 2017 was published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Monday.

Key Highlights of the report:

  • As per the report, in the cases regarding crime against women, Uttar Pradesh topped the list, which is followed by Maharashtra and West Bengal with second and third places respectively.
  • Majority of cases under crimes against women were registered under:
    • Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives
    • Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty
    • Kidnapping & Abduction of Women and Rape
  • Among the Incidents of rioting, the maximum incidents were reported from Bihar, followed by Uttar Pradesh and then by Maharashtra.
  • The incidents registered under the Scheduled Caste Prevention of Atrocities Act saw an increase while incidents of crime related to Scheduled Tribes dipped.
  • The cases of kidnapping and abduction registered during 2017, shows an increase.
  • The NCRB for the first time collected data on circulation of “False/Fake News and Rumours.”

About National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

  • NCRB is nodal agency under Union Home Ministry for authentic source of data on crime on various parameters including accidents, suicides from across all the states of the country and prisons for policy matters and research.
  • It was established in 1986 as the central police organisation.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • It is implementing and monitoring agency of Crime & Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan of Government.
  • It also imparts training in Information Technology (IT) and Finger Print Science for Indian Police Officers as well Foreign Police officers.
  • NCRB publishes 4 annual publications on Crime, Prison Statistics, Accidental Deaths & Suicides and Finger Prints. These publications serve as principal reference points on crime statistics.

DNA REGULATION BILL REFERRED TO HOUSE PANEL

Why in News?

  • The Bill seeks to control the use and application of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology for establishing the identity of certain categories of persons, including offenders, victims, suspects and under-trials.
  • The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Bill of 2019 was introduced in and passed by the Lok Sabha in January this year, but lapsed before it could be taken up by the Rajya Sabha. It was reintroduced in July 2019 and is now pending in the Lok Sabha. It has been referred to a parliamentary standing committee for examination.

Importance of the Bill:

  • The Bill seeks to regulate use and application of DNA technology for the purposes of only establishing identity of certain categories of persons, including victims, offenders, suspects, under trials, missing persons and unknown deceased persons and related matters.
  • The Bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons explains that DNA technology has the potential of wide application in the justice delivery systems – both criminal and civil.
  • In criminal cases, it helps in investigation of crimes through biological evidence, including semen evidence in rape cases, blood evidence in murder cases, saliva evidence in identification of source of anonymous threat letters etc. In civil cases, it helps in investigation relating to victims of disasters like cyclone, air crash etc.

Concerns:

  • Regulation is also required to check misuse or improper use of DNA analysis which can harm individuals or society.
  • It seeks to regulate laboratories for DNA testing and analysis by providing for their accreditation, establish national and regional DNA Data Banks to store and maintain DNA profiles and a DNA Regulatory Board for their governance.

APPOINTMENT OF CHIEF JUSTICE

Why in News?

  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Thursday in a letter to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recommended Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde as his successor. Justice Bobde will have a tenure of one year and five months as CJI till April 23, 2021.

Constitutional Provision Regarding Appointment:

  • The Constitution of India includes no details about how the Chief Justice of India is to be appointed.
  • Article 124(1) says that there “shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India” , but is silent on the criteria or procedure for appointing a CJI.
  • The only provision in the Constitution which mentions anything about the appointment of a CJI is Article 126 — which deals with the appointment of an acting CJI.
  • In the absence of any Constitutional provision or statute, we have to look to convention and custom to determine who will be the next CJI.

Convention:

  • When the current/incumbent CJI retires (all Supreme Court judges retire at the age of 65) the senior-most judge of the apex court among those remaining becomes the CJI.
  • This is not a question of age, but depends on when a judge was appointed to serve on the Supreme Court. The longer a judge has been part of the Supreme Court, the more senior he or she is.

Procedure in case of same Appointment Date:

  • Which judge was sworn in first — which was used to determine who would be CJI
  • Which judge has had more years of high court service; or
  • If one of the judges was nominated from the Bar directly (like Justices Rohinton Nariman or Indu Malhotra), while the other(s) have previously served as a high court judge, the person with experience as a judge will be given preference.

Procedure for Appointment:

  • The seniority convention tells us who should become the next CJI, but how this is to be done is laid out in the Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) between the government and judiciary.
    • Ministry of Law & Justice will seek the recommendation of the outgoing CJI as to who should be the next CJI.
    • The CJI should recommend the “senior-most judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold the office”. However, if there are any doubts as to the fitness of the senior-most judge as per convention, the CJI needs to consult the Collegium to decide if a different judge needs to be recommended.
    • After receipt of the CJI’s recommendation, the law minister will forward the recommendation to the prime minister, who then advises the President as to this recommendation.
    • The President administers the oath of office for the new CJI.

LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ABOLISHED IN J&K

Why in News?

  • Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Council, the upper house of the Assembly, has been abolished as per Section 57 of the J&K Reorganisation Bill, 2019, which reduced the State to the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.

About Legislative Council of J&K:

  • The Council in J&K consists of 36 members, most of them were elected in an indirect manner and some of them were nominated by the Governor. This council also used to be a part of the electoral college for the Rajya Sabha elections.
  • J & K council was created as per the J & K constitution and Part VI of Indian constitution was not applicable to Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The first Legislature was established by the government of the then-Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, in 1934.
  • In 1957, a new constitution was adopted by the constituent assembly and the Parliament of India passed the Legislative Councils Act.
  • These two pieces of legislation created a bicameral legislature for Jammu and Kashmir.

Background:

  • Revoking Art. 370

1.The government of India revoked Article 370 and the special status of Kashmir.

2.Now Jammu & Kashmir will be a Union Territory with a legislature while Ladakh will be a Union Territory without legislature.

3.Special features like a separate constitution, separate flag, and separate status will no more have effect after repealing Article 370.

  • Article 35A scrapped

1.With the removal of Article 370, Article 35A will be also scrapped.

2.Now, people from other states may also buy or purchase land and settle there.

  • Bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir

1.Jammu and Kashmir will be “reorganized” and will no longer be a state.

2.Ladakh will be a Union Territory without an assembly and Jammu and Kashmir will be a Union Territory with an assembly, under recommendation.

3.There will be two Lieutenant Governors when this provision will come into the Force.

13TH CONFERENCE OF CENTRAL COUNCIL OF HEALTH AND FAMILY WELFARE (CCHFW)

Why in News?

  • The Union Health Minister Shri Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the 13th Conference of Central Council of Health and Family Welfare (CCHFW) in New Delhi.

Highlights:

  • Health ministers from 13 states and UTs participated in the event.
  • The minister stated that the purpose of the CCHFW meeting was to build a consensus on the national health priorities i.e. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through Ayushman Bharat, eliminating TB and other priority agenda such as strengthening medical infrastructure.
  • A member of the NITI Aayog opined that the two priority areas underscored by the Aayog are:
    • Increasing the health budgets by the Centre and the States/UTs.
    • Enhancing Health Infrastructure
  • The minister also launched ‘Surakshit Matritva Aashwasan (SUMAN)’ for Zero Preventable Maternal and Newborn Deaths, its website and the grievance redressal portal.
  • He also released the Report on National Diabetes & Diabetic Retinopathy Survey India 2015-19 and Report on National Blindness & Visual Impairment Survey India 2015-19, because 10th October is also ‘World Sight Day’.
  • In addition, the minister also released guidelines on drugs, diagnostic services, biomedical equipment management and maintenance under the Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Program.

Council of Health and Family Welfare:

  • It is an apex advisory body to consider and recommend broad lines of policy in regard to matters concerning health and family welfare.
  • The Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare is the Chairperson, while the Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare is the Vice-Chairperson.
  • Its first meeting was held in 1988.

COURT SETS ASIDE ORDER TO TRY JUVENILE AS ADULT

Why in News?

  • A Delhi court has set aside the order of a Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) directing a Child in Conflict with Law (CCL) to face trial in a murder case as an adult.

Salient features of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015:

Children in conflict with the Law:

  • It treats all the children below 18 years equally, except that those in the age group of 16-18 can be tried as adults if they commit a heinous crime.
  • A child of 16-18 years age, who commits a lesser offence (a serious offence), may be tried as an adult if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.
  • A heinous offence attracts a minimum of seven years of imprisonment. A serious offence attracts three to seven years of imprisonment and a petty offence is treated with three-year imprisonment.
  • No child can be awarded the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Children in need of care and protection:

  • It calls for setting up of Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) in each district with a chairperson and four other members who have experience in dealing with children.
  • The committee decides whether an abandoned child should be sent to care home or put up for adoption or foster care.

Juvenile Justice Boards:

  • The Act mandates setting up of Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in each district with a metropolitan magistrate and two social workers, including a woman.
  • The JJBs will conduct a preliminary inquiry of a crime committed by a child within a specified time period and decides whether he should be sent to rehabilitation centre or sent to a children’s court to be tried as an adult.
  • The board can take the help of psychologists and psycho-social workers and other experts to take the decision.

ABUSE OF WOMEN DURING CHILDBIRTH IS WIDESPREAD: REPORT

Why in News?

  • A recent study published in The Lancet medical journal has stated that more than one-third of the women in Asia and Africa were subjected to physical abuse during childbirth. This has been further confirmed by the observations of WHO.

Highlights of the Lancet Report:

  • The report states that more than one-third of women in four low-income countries in Africa and Asia were slapped, mocked, forcibly treated or otherwise abused during childbirth in health centers and suggests that such mistreatment occurs worldwide.
  • Also, women of these regions have experienced high rates of caesarean sections and surgical cuts to the vagina, or episiotomies, without their consent — and often without a painkiller.
  • Mistreatment during childbirth can amount to a violation of human rights, and could be a powerful disincentive from seeking facility-based maternity care,” the study said.

Observations of WHO:

  • The new study led by the World Health Organization followed more than 2,000 women during labour and interviewed more than 2,600 women after childbirth.
    • Some 42% reported physical or verbal abuse or discrimination during childbirth. Some women were punched, shouted at, scolded or forcibly held down.
    • Younger, less-educated women are at risk of such mistreatment which also includes neglect by health workers or the use of force during procedures, the study said.
    • Most of the abuse occurred in the 15 minutes before and during childbirth. The study cited research that found that “midwives and doctors described women as ‘uncooperative’ during this period and some justified using physical and verbal abuse as “punishment”.
    • The abuse also includes instances where women are forcibly separated from their new-borns for several days.
  • Health officials say the mistreatment of women during childbirth appears to be global, including in developed countries.

About WHO:

  • World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ specialized agency for Health was founded in 1948.
  • Its headquarters are situated in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • There are 194 Member States, 150 country offices, six regional offices.
  • It is an inter-governmental organization and works in collaboration with its member states usually through the Ministries of Health.
  • The WHO provides leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
  • It began functioning on April 7, 1948 – a date now being celebrated every year as World Health Day.

INDIA STARTS SHARING MARITIME DATA

Why in News?

  • The Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) has started functioning as an information-sharing hub of maritime data.

Highlights:

  • At the just-concluded Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC), National Security Adviser had offered countries in the IOR use of the facility to track movement of vessels on the high seas.
  • The centre is actively interacting with the maritime community and has already built linkages with 18 countries and 15 multinational/maritime security centres.

IFC-IOR:

  • The IFC-IOR was inaugurated in December 2018.
  • The IFC is established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.It is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.It will function as an information-sharing hub of maritime data.
  • It will be involved in cuing incident responses to maritime security situations through a collaborative approach.
  • The IFC-IOR would also undertake the conduct of exercises and training capsules in maritime information collation and sharing.

Significance:

  • It will help in countering the rise in maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean Region – a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific.
  • IFC-IOR would work towards capability building in the region, coordination of incident response and disaster relief, and in time, also share submarine safety information.
  • IFR-IRO would also ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.

HALT THE HATE

Context:

  • ‘Halt The Hate’ is an interactive website on Amnesty International that documents reports of alleged hate crimes in India.
  • A hate crime tracker has recorded 181 incidents of alleged hate crimes in the first half of 2019, the steepest rise in such incidents since 2015.

About the Website:

  • ‘Halt the Hate’ documents alleged hate crimes in India starting from 28 September 2015, whenMohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim resident of Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, was murdered in his home by a mobclaiming that he had eaten beef.
  • This website documents alleged hate crimes against Dalits,Muslims, Adivasis, Transgender people, Christians, and Other vulnerable groups.
  • Amnesty International India understands Hate Crimes as ‘criminal acts against people or property,where the victim or target of offence is selected because of their real or perceived connection ormembership of a particular group, including but not limited to caste, ethnicity, religion, sexualorientation and gender identity, descent, nationality and disability among others.

Key Findings:

  • The 181 recorded incidents of alleged hate crimes in the first half of 2019 is almost double that of the same period last year, when 100 such cases were recorded.
  • Over two-thirds of the victims were targeted because they were Dalits, while 40 of them suffered because of their Muslim identity.
  • In 37 reported incidents, the victims were killed. In 30 cases, victims were raped or sexually assaulted.
  • Between January and June 2019, 72 mob attacks were reported. Of the 37 such attacks against Muslims, the victims were lynched in 5 cases. Dalit victims were lynched in 8 of the 28 mob attacks.
  • There were 7 honour killings and 12 cases of violence against Adivasis.

Amnesty International:

  • Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty or AI) is a London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights.
  • The stated mission of the organization is to campaign for “a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.”
  • The organization was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its “defence of human dignity against torture”, and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rightsin 1978.
  • In the field of international human rights organizations, Amnesty has the third longest history, after the International Federation for Human Rights and broadest name recognition, and is believed by many to set standards for the movement as a whole.

CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL

Why in News?

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah has reiterated that the government would first amend the existing citizenship norms – by passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill – before it implements a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016:

  • The Bill amends the Citizenship Act of 1955, which lays down the norms regarding Indian citizenship, to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
  • Further, it relaxes one of the requirements for acquiring citizenship by natutralisation under the existing Act for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries by only requiring them to have stayed in India for 6 (instead of 11) of the previous 14 years.
  • The essential point of debate in this proposed amendment was that it makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion – a move that may violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees right to equality.

What is NRC?

  • Till date, Assam is the only state that has implemented the National Register of Citizens.
  • The NRC defines all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion, on the basis of a cutoff date – in Assam this was set to be March 24, 1971.
  • As such, to claim citizenship, individuals had to prove that either they or their ancestors were Indian citizens before March 1971.
  • At the end of the exercise in which 3.11 crore people applied for citizenship verification, 19 lakh were excluded.
  • However, the list of excluded individuals includes several Hindus as well.

What will happen if the Citizenship Amendment happens before a nationwide NRC?

  • If that happens, then all Hindus, Jains etc. migrants – essentially non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries – who would have faced the risk of being excluded by the NRC would already be provided Indian citizenship.
  • Thus, this sequencing will ensure that the government would be able to use the NRC to identify and deport, “each and every infiltrator”.

SUPREME COURT SC/ST JUDGMENT, IN REVIEW

Why in News?

  • Correcting an error of judgment, the Supreme Court recalled its March 20, 2018 verdict, which bent the written law to protect persons accused of committing atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. This was following a plea by the Centre seeking a review of that judgment.

Background:

  • On March 20, a judgment by the Supreme Court diluted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989:
    • to grant anticipatory bail to accused persons
    • and directed that the police should conduct a preliminary enquiry on whether complaint under the 1989 law is “frivolous or motivated” before registering a case.
  • Both conditions were not part of the original legislation.
  • The SC had reasoned that members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) use the 1989 law to lodge false complaints, leading to the arrest of innocent persons.
  • The March 20 judgment had triggered widespread protests and violence and compelled the government to amend the Act to negate the effect of the apex court ruling. The Centre also filed a review against the judgment.

Highlights of Review Judgement:

  • The Supreme Court in its judgment on the government’s review petition reasoned that human failing and not caste is the reason behind the lodging of false criminal complaints.
  • The Supreme Court condemned its own earlier judgment, saying it was against “basic human dignity” to treat all SC/ST community members as “a liar or crook.”
  • The judgement noted that the caste of a person cannot be a cause for lodging a false report and that the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, due to backwardness, cannot even muster the courage to lodge an FIR, much less, a false one.
  • The judgement further noted, that India is a nation where “we have not been able to provide the modern methods of scavenging to Harijans due to lack of resources and proper planning and apathy”
  • The Supreme Court Observed that “Untouchability though intended to be abolished, has not vanished in the last 70 years. We are still experimenting with ‘tryst with destiny’… condition is worse in the villages, remote areas where the fruits of development have not percolated down,”

HOW A US PRESIDENT CAN BE IMPEACHED

Why in News?

  • US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would launch an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, over his alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 elections.

Background:

  • No US President has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment.
  • The House did impeach two Presidents — Andrew Johnson (1968) and Bill Clinton (1998) but the Senate did not convict them.
  • In between, President Richard Nixon (1974) resigned before he could be removed.

What is Impeachment?

  • Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the President of the United States.
  • Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House) has the “the sole power of impeachment” while the Senate (Upper House) has “the sole power to try all impeachments”.
  • The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court has the duty of presiding over impeachment trials in the Senate.

Grounds for Impeachment:

  • The President can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”. What constitutes these “high crimes” and “misdemeanors” (misdemeanors), however, is not clearly spelt out.
  • The New York Times explained that the expression “high crimes and misdemeanors” came out of the British common law tradition.
  • “Essentially, it means an abuse of power by a high-level public official. This does not necessarily have to be a violation of an ordinary criminal statute,”.
  • Historically, in the US, it has encompassed corruption and other abuses, including trying to obstruct judicial proceedings.

Impeachment Procedure:

  • HOUSE VOTE: It begins with an investigation by a House committee. In the Nixon and Clinton cases, the House Judiciary Committee held that investigation and recommended articles of impeachment to the full House. If they find that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will refer the matter to the full House (see flow chart).
  • HOUSE VOTE: When the full House votes, if one or more of the articles of impeachment gets a majority vote, the President is impeached. Next, the proceedings move to the Senate.
  • SENATE TRIAL & VOTE: The Senate holds a trial, overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. A team of lawmakers from the House, known as managers, play the role of prosecutors, The NYT explained. The President has defence lawyers, and the Senate serves as the jury. If at least two-thirds of the Senators present find the President guilty, he is removed and the Vice President takes over as President.

What Lies Ahead?

  • The House has 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one independent. The Democrats could, therefore, impeach Trump with no Republican support.
  • The Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats.
  • Conviction of the President would require 67 votes, which cannot happen unless some Republicans vote against him.

RIGHT TO HAVE ACCESS TO INTERNET

Why in News?

  • In a landmark judgment, the High Court of Kerala held that right to have access to internet is a fundamental right forming part of right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. The court also observed that the right to Internet access also forms part of Right to Education.

Background:

  • The order came on a petition filed by a student at Sree Narayana College, Chelanur, Kozhikodechallenging restrictions on usage of mobile phones in girls’ hostel.
  • The student alleged that she was expelled from the college for not abiding by the restrictions on mobile phones in the hostel. According to her, the inmates are not allowed to use mobile phones between 6 pm and 10 pm.
  • The court accepted the petitioner’s contention that the restrictions on the use of mobile phones amounted to violation of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a).

Observations by Kerala High Court:

  • The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has found that the right of access to Internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education, a rule or instruction which impairs the said right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eye of law.
  • The court observed that the action of the college authorities infringed the fundamental freedom as well as privacy and would adversely affect the future and career of students who want to acquire knowledge and compete with their peers, suchrestriction could not be permitted to be enforced.
  • The court while citing the observations of the SupremeCourt in the Rengarajan and others v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989) case said “ the fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Article 19(2) and the restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of convenience or expediency.”
  • The court observed that the hostel authorities were expected to enforce only those rules and regulations for enforcing discipline. Enforcement of discipline shall not be by blocking the ways and means of the students to acquire knowledge.
  • The court also observed that mobile phones, once a luxury, have now become “part and parcel of the day to day life and even to a stage that it is unavoidable to survive with dignity and freedom”
  • “ A Student above the age of 18 Years shall be given the freedom to choose the mode for her studies provided it does not cause any disturbance to others. The Schools in Kerala promotes digitalisation with smart class rooms and the modern technology has taken its place in all the fields even from primary section.
  • Thus the usage of mobile phones in order to enable the students to have access to internet will only enhance the opportunities of students to acquire knowledge from all available sources based on which they can achieve excellence and enhance quality and standard of education”.

Information Technology Policy of the Kerala Government:

  • The Petitioner referred to the Budget Speech made by Kerala Finance Minister in 2017, where it was announced that Kerala Government had recognized ‘right to internet’ as a human right and was making efforts to make internet accessible to all.
  • Reference was made to the Information Technology Policy of the Kerala Government, as per which Government was stated to be adopting “Mobile first” approach for e-governance services by leveraging high mobile penetration and coverage in the state.

COMPANY LAW COMMITTEE

Why in News?

  • The government constituted the Company Law Committee for examining and making recommendations on various provisions and issues pertaining to the implementation of the Companies Act.

Highlights:

  • The Committee will examine and make recommendations on various issues pertaining to the Companies Act, 2013 and the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008.
  • The Committee will comprise of a chairperson and members.
  • The Secretary of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chairman.
  • The Committee will analyse the nature of offences (compoundable and non-compoundable) and submit its recommendation as to whether any of the offences could be re-categorized as ‘civil wrongs’ along with measures to optimize the compliance requirements under the Companies Act, 2013 and to provide further Ease of Doing Business.
  • It will also study the feasibility of introducing settlement mechanism, deferred prosecution agreement, etc., within the ambit of the Companies Act, 2013.
  • It will also examine the LLP Act and recommend measures to promote Ease of Doing Business.

ZONAL COUNCILS

Why in News?

  • The 29th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council will be held on 20th September at Chandigarh.

Zonal Councils:

  • Zonal Councils are statutory bodies established under the States Reorganisation Act 1956.
  • They are advisory bodies and were established to promote interstate cooperation and coordination.
  • There are five zonal councils in India, as follows:
    • Northern Zonal Council: Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Rajasthan
    • Central Zonal Council: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh
    • Eastern Zonal Council: Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal
    • Southern Zonal Council: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana
    • Western Zonal Council: Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Gujarat, and Maharashtra
    • Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as well as Lakshadweep, are not members but are special invitees to the Southern Zonal Council.
  • The north-eastern states are not members of any of the above councils. Their problems are addressed by another statutory body, the North Eastern Council, created by the North Eastern Council Act, 1971.

JAMMU & KASHMIR PUBLIC SAFETY ACT

Why in News?

  • National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.
  • Last month, former IAS officer Shah Faesal was stopped at New Delhi airport and sent back to Kashmir, where he has been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

About Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA):

  • Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978, was enacted “in the interest of the security of the State and public order”.
  • It contains provisions for designating protected and prohibited areas, prevention of circulation of documents in the interests of communal harmony, etc.
  • The Government can order the detention of a person:
    • To prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to security of the State of maintenance of the public order.
    • If he is a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Act
    • If he is a person residing in the area of the State under the occupation of Pakistan and it is necessary to regulate his presence or to expel him.
  • As per the definition given in the Act, “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order” means:
  1. 1.Promoting, Propagating, or attempting to create, feelings of enmity or hatred or disharmony on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or region;
  2. 2.Making preparations for using, or attempting its use, or using, or instigating, inciting, or otherwise abetting the use of force where such preparation, using, attempting, instigating, inciting, provoking or abetting, disturbs or is likely to disturb public order;
  3. 3.Attempting to commit, or committing, or instigating, inciting, provoking or otherwise abetting the commission of mischief within the meaning of section 425 of the Ranbir Penal Code where the commission of such mischief disturbs, or is likely to disturb public order.
  • Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.
  • The detaining authority need not disclose any facts about the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose”.
  • As per section 13(1), the authority making the detention should communicate to the detenu the reasons of detention. This is to enable the detenu to make a representation against the order of detention in exercise of the Fundamental Right guaranteed under Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India.
  • However, the authority need not disclose such facts to the detenu which it considers to be against public interest to disclose (Section 13(2)). Therefore, the right under Section 13(1) can be effectively defeated if the authority chooses not to disclose whole facts in public interest.

Period of Detention:

  • The Maximum period of detention in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state is two years.
  • In Case of a person acting prejudicial to the maintenance of public order, the maximum period of detention is 12 months.
  • Within four weeks of passing a detention order, the Government has to refer the case to an Advisory Board, which consists of a chairperson, who is or has been a judge of the High Court, and two other members who are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of the High Court.
  • The Advisory Board has to give its opinion within 8 weeks of detention order.
  • If the Advisory Board opines that there are sufficient causes for preventive detention, the Government can keep the person under detention for such period as it thinks fit, subject to the maximum limit.

Can the Detention be Challenged?

  • The Advisory Board is supposed to examine if there are sufficient reasons for preventive detention.
  • It is pertinent to note that the detenu has no right to engage a legal practitioner before the Advisory Board. The Advisory Board can also decide if the disclosure of grounds of detention to the detenu will affect public interest.
  • The detenu is not entitled to the report of the Advisory Board, if the Board decides that it should remain confidential.
  • The detention can be challenged in habeas corpus petitions filed before High Court under Article 226. However, the scope of challenge is limited to grounds of procedural violations.
  • If there is non-application of mind by the detaining authority, or non-communication of the grounds of detention to the detenu, the High Court can quash the detention order as illegal.
  • It is important that the District Magistrate forms independent opinion regarding the necessity of ordering preventive detention. If the Magistrate merely copies the report of the police, it will be a case of non-application of mind.
  • Non-supply of relevant material documents to the detenu is also a ground for setting aside detention order(Bilal Ahmed Dar v State of J&K).
  • The grounds of detention are not to be formulated in shorthand, or in a language of abbreviations or acronyms only known to the detaining authority. (Tanveer Ahmed v State of J&K)

Concerns/Criticisms of the Act:

  • Global human rights organisations such as Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Amnesty International have noted in their reports that responses by various government authorities to applications filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 suggest that no Rules have so far been framed to lay down procedures for the implementation of the provisions of the PSA.
  • An Amnesty report published earlier this year, which analysed over 2000 case studies of PSA detainees between 2007 and 2016, over 2,400 PSA detention orders were passed, of which about 58% were quashed by the courts.
  • J&K parties have often blamed each other for the rampant misuse of the PSA.

NEW FAST-TRACK COURTS TO CONDUCT SPEEDY TRIAL OF SEXUAL OFFENCES

Why in News?

  • India will soon have 1,023 new fast-track special courts for speedy trial of over 1.66 lakh pending cases of crime against women and children. The proposal has been sent by the Union government, which estimates that each of these special courts is likely to dispose of at least 165 such cases per year.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to set up special courts in each district across the country that have over a 100 cases of child abuse and sexual assault pending trial under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Jurisdiction of The Court:

  • According to the Department of Justice under Union Law Ministry, out of the 1,023 fast-track special courts (FTSCs), 389 courts, according to a Supreme Court direction, will exclusively handle cases registered under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.The remaining 634 FTSCs will deal with either rape or both rape and POCSO Act cases depending upon the pendency and requirement. It is expected that each fast-track special court will dispose 41-42 cases each quarter.

Key Facts About the Pendency:

  • According to official data with the Department of Justice, a total of 1,66,882 cases of rape and those under POCSO Act are pending trial in various courts in the country.
  • There are 389 districts in the country where the number of pending cases under the POCSO Act exceeds 100.Therefore, as per the apex court directives, each such district will have one exclusive POCSO court, which will try no other cases, the note said.

Need for Special Courts:

  • Present Slow pace of action on protection of children from sexual predators. As per available data, number of victims compensated under Pocso were 3% in 2015, 4% in 2016 and 5% in 2017. Around 1.5 lakh cases are pending trial before 670 designated courts.
  • Though the Act mandates trial to be completed in one year, the deadline is impossible to achieve as each designated trial judge is saddled with a few hundred cases in addition to the trial of other cases.

Guidelines by The SC for Setting up of Special Courts:

  1. 1.Funding: Such courts will be funded by the central government. The fund will not only take care of the appointment of the presiding officer but also appointments of support persons, special public prosecutors, court staff and infrastructure, including creation of child-friendly environment and vulnerable witness court rooms.
  2. 2.Awareness: WCD ministry shall facilitate screening of “short clips intended to spread awareness of the subject in general, namely, prevention of child abuse and prosecution of crimes against children, in every movie hall and could also be transmitted by various television channels at regular intervals.
  3. 3.A Child Helpline Number should also be displayed in such clips and at schools and other public places.

 

 

INDIA ACCOUNTED FOR 2.8 MILLION DISPLACED PEOPLE IN 2018: IDMC REPORT

Why in News?

  • Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has released a new global report on the displacement of people due to natural disasters.
  • According to the IDMC report, about seven million people have been displaced globally due to natural calamities including floods and storms between January and June 2019.
  • IDMC Report also informed that more than 950 climate-related issues forced about seven million people to leave their homes.
  • Most of the affected people are living in the Asian and African regions. In South Asia India accounted for most of the displacements.

India Specific Highlights:

Natural Disaster-related Displacements:

  • IDMC report informed that India accounted for most of the region’s new displacements. Its overall total of 2.8 million was among the highest in the world, of which nearly 2.7 million were triggered by disasters across 15 states.
  • India was particularly hard-hit by the monsoon season when flooding devastated the south-western state of Kerala.
  • Almost 1.5 million new displacements were recorded in Kerala in what was described as the worst floods in a century.
  • Cyclone Titli struck Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states in October, triggering 400,000 new displacements and cyclone Gaja hit Tamil Nadu in November, triggering 2,49,000 displacements.

Conflict and Violence related Displacements:

  • According to the IDMC report, more than 1,60,000 new displacements associated with conflict and violence was recorded in Kashmir.
  • Communal violence in Kashmir and West Bengal cast violence in Maharashtra and political violence in Tripura also triggered small-scale displacement.

Global Highlights:

  • IDMC report highlights that weather-related hazards, particularly storms, accounted for the majority of the new displacement associated with disasters, triggering 17.2 million displacements in 2018.
  • In various regions of the world, unresolved conflicts and a rise in communal violence were responsible for most of the 10.8 million new displacements associated with conflict and violence in 2018.
  • Despite the decline in conflict and displacement in Syria during 2018, the country’s civil war, in its eighth year, continued to trigger some of the largest population movements in the world. More than 1.6 million new displacements were recorded.
  • Around 221,000 people were living in displacement nationwide as of the end of the year, suffering dire conditions and unable to return because of destroyed housing, ongoing insecurity and a lack of resources.

IDMC:

  • It is an authoritative source of data and analysis on internal displacement. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) was established in 1998 as the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). It works to inform policy and operational decisions that improve the lives of millions of people living in the internal displacement or at risk of becoming displaced in the future.

HIGH COURT JUDGES TRANSFER

Context:

  • Supreme Court collegium consisting of five senior-most judges recommended the transfer of Madras High Court Chief Justice VK Tahilramani to the Meghalaya High Court.

Background:

  • This recommendation was part of a series of appointments and transfers effected by the Supreme Court collegium in the last week of August.
  • As per the norm, Tahilramani was given an opportunity to present her views on the transfer to the collegium.
  • On September 3, another resolution of the collegium said that her request to reconsider the transfer could not be accepted. “On reconsideration, the collegium is of the considered view that it is not possible to accede to her request,” said the resolution.

Concern:

  • The transfer has led to a barrage of criticism against the collegium and its opaque process of appointments and transfers. Tahilramani is the senior-most among the High Court judges currently holding office.
  • Supreme Court collegium’s opaque process of transfers turning High Courts into subservient units of the apex court, even though that violates Constitutional principles.
  • If justice is not being administered efficiently in one High Court under a specific chief justice, could another High Court function smoothly under the same official?
  • On the other hand, can a chief justice consider one High Court to be more important than another and refuse a posting, given that the Constitutional position of all High Courts are equal?

Position of High Court:

  • The Supreme Court has appellate powers over all High Courts.
  • But this does not mean the High Courts are subordinate or subservient to the Supreme Court in any manner.
  • The judicial system in India has its origins in the colonial era and borrows heavily from the British system.
  • In legal parlance, both the Supreme Court and the High Courts are designated as “courts of record”.
  • This means that the court proceedings are preserved for future, including for the purposes of appeal.
  • Under the Constitution, Article 129 expressly declared Supreme Court to be a court of record, the High Courts are declared so under Article 215.
  • Case laws
  1. In MV Elisabeth vs Harwan Investment and Trading Private Limited, the Supreme Court said, “High Courts have unlimited jurisdiction to determine their own powers.”
  2. In Tirupati Balaji Developers vs State of Bihar, following a controversy about some directions issued by the Supreme Court registrar to the Patna High Court, the Supreme Court elaborated on the relationship between the High Courts and the Supreme Courts.
  3. The Supreme Court acknowledged the Constitutional scheme where the powers of the High Courts are even wider than that of the Supreme Court in certain circumstances.
  4. For example, a High Court is granted power of superintendence over subordinate courts but the Supreme Court does not have any superintendence powers over the High Courts.

Transfer of High Courts Judges:

  • The Supreme Court has recognised the importance of judicial transfers in the High Courts and the effect that such transfers have on the administration of justice.
  • Given the experience of the Emergency era, when transfers were used as a form of punishment by the executive, the Supreme Court, through what is now known as the “Three Judges cases”, has monopolised transfer powers in its collegium.
  • Unlike the appointment of High Court judges, which is done by a collegium of three senior-most Supreme Court justices, transfers are so important, they are collectively decided by the full collegium of the five senior-most judges.
  • By law, a judicial appointment or transfer is made through orders of the President.
  • But Article 222 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court has put in place an implicit restriction on the President by making the concurrence of the chief justice of India a condition for the transfer.
  • No transfer order can be issued by the President without the advice of the chief justice of India.
  • On the other hand, the chief justice can advise such a transfer only after a resolution in the collegium.
  • The collegium may also take the opinion of a Supreme Court judge hailing from the concerned High Court of the judge being transferred or the relevant High Court chief justice to effect a transfer.
  • However, the consultative process that had been put into place to guard the judiciary against arbitrary transfers has been criticised over the years for itself becoming arbitrary.
  • The case of Justice Tahilramani fits into this framework where the public is left with no information on why the transfer was made.

GLOBAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST FAKE NARRATIVES

Why in News?

  • BBC and other leading global news and technology organisations has collaborated to tackle disinformation. The collaboration was announced by the BBC and the partners recently.
  • Under this collaboration, news and technology majors will work together to protect their audiences and users from disinformation, particularly around crucial events such as elections.

Trusted News Summit:

  • Earlier this year, the BBC convened a ‘Trusted News Summit’, bringing together senior figures from major global technology firms and publishing.
  • It was precipitated by events such as the Indian elections, which highlighted the dangers of disinformation and underlined the importance of working together.
  • The summit agreed to work collectively on various initiatives, including creating systems where organisations can warn each other quickly when they discover disinformation that threatens human life or disrupts elections.
  • The emphasis of the ‘early warning system’ will be on moving quickly and collectively to undermine disinformation before it can take hold.
  • The summit also agreed to work towards a joint online media education campaign, and also to co-operate on election-related information such as explaining how and where to vote.

Significance:

  • Disinformation and so-called fake news are a threat to us all. At its worst, it can present a serious threat to democracy and even to people’s lives.
  • This summit has shown a determination to take collective action to fight this problem and we have agreed some crucial steps towards this.

Legal Framework to Tackle Fake News in India:

  • There is no specific law in India to deal with fake news but there are statutory and self-regulatory bodies to act against dissemination of misinformation. Moreover, free publication of news flows from Article 19 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.
  • Press Council of India: It is a regulatory body which can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist if it finds that a newspaper or a news agency has violated journalistic ethics.
  • News Broadcasters Association (NBA): represents the private television news and current affairs broadcasters. The self-regulatory body probes complaints against electronic media.
  • Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF): Looks into the complaints against contents aired by channels.
  • Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC): Admits complaints against TV broadcasters for objectionable TV content and fake news.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC): It has certain sections which could curb fake news: Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) can be invoked to guard against fake news.
  • Section 66 in The Information Technology Act, 2000: If any person, dishonestly or fraudulently, does any act referred to in section 43 (damage to computer, computer system), he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees or with both.
  • Civil or Criminal Case for Defamation is another resort against fake news for individuals and groups hurt by the fake news.
  • IPC Section 499 (defamation) and Section 500 (whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both) provide for a defamation suit.

WHAT IS AN INTERPOL RED NOTICE, WHAT DOES IT DO?

Why in News?

  • Home Minister of India has conveyed to Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock that India would like the international police agency to expedite its process of publishing Red Notices (RNs). As many as 18 requests for RNs from India are pending with Interpol, including against fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi, a key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam.

About Red Notices:

  • Criminals or suspects often flee to other countries to evade facing justice. An RN alerts police forces across the world about fugitives who are wanted internationally.
  • Interpol describes an RN as “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action”.
  • RNs contain information that helps identify wanted persons, such as their names, dates of birth, nationality, and physical attributes such as the colour of their hair and eyes, as well as pictures and biometric data such as fingerprints, if they are available. RNs also mention the crime(s) they are wanted for.
  • An RN is published by Interpol at the request of a member country. The fugitives may be wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence. The country issuing the request need not be the home country of the fugitive; Interpol acts on the request of a country where the alleged crime has been committed.
  • The Interpol itself does not want individuals; they are wanted by a country or an international tribunal.
  • Also, an RN is an international wanted persons’ notice; it is not an international arrest warrant. Which means that the Interpol cannot compel the law enforcement authorities in any country to arrest the subject of an RN. It is up to individual member countries to decide what legal value to give to an RN, and the authority of their national law enforcement officers to make arrests.
  • RNs are issued to simultaneously alert police in all member countries about internationally wanted fugitives. An RN can help bring a fugitive to justice, sometimes many years after the crime was committed.
  • However, because an RN is not an arrest warrant, action against a fugitive frequently rests on the diplomatic clout that the country making the request has with the country where the fugitive is located. Nations with a big international profile, and economic or political heft, are often more successful than the rest.

Other Types of Notices by The Interpol:

  • Blue Notice: To collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime.
  • Green Notice: To provide warnings and intelligence about persons who have committed criminal offences and are likely to repeat these crimes in other countries.
  • Yellow Notice: To help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify persons who are unable to identify themselves.
  • Black Notice: To seek information on unidentified bodies.
  • Orange Notice: To warn of an event, a person, an object or a process representing a serious and imminent threat to public safety.
  • Purple Notice: To seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.
  • The INTERPOL-United Nations Security Council Special Notice: Issued for individuals and entities that are subject to sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

WILL INDIA CHANGE ITS ‘NO FIRST USE’ POLICY?

Why in News?

  • Since conducting its second nuclear tests, Pokhran-II, in 1998, India has adhered to a self-imposed commitment to ‘No First Use’ (NFU) of nuclear weapons on another country. However, last week, on August 16, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh dropped a hint that in the future, India’s NFU promise “depends on circumstances.”

A Brief History of India’s N-Weapon Journey:

  • India embarked on the path of nuclear weapons development after its face-off with China in the 1962 war, followed by China carrying out nuclear tests in 1964 and in the subsequent years.
  • In 1974, under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India conducted its first nuclear tests, Pokhran-I, dubbed as a “peaceful nuclear explosion”.
  • Despite more than two decades of international pressure that followed to make India abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, India again carried out a test in May 1998, Pokhran-II, involving a fission device, a low-yield device, and a thermonuclear device.
  • Its successful execution meant that India had the ability to introduce nuclear warheads into its fast-developing missile programme.
  • A fortnight after the Pokhran-II tests, Pakistan also carried out similar tests, confirming progress with its nuclear weapons programme; since that time its nuclear arsenal has expanded rapidly.
  • In 1999, India came out with an explicit nuclear doctrine that committed, among other things, to NFU — that is it would never carry out a nuclear first-strike.
  • This doctrine emphasised “minimal deterrence, no first use and non-use against non-nuclear weapon states”, in the words of former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. The NFU promise thus went together with Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD).

Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD)- Indian Context:

  • Credible minimum deterrence does not imply indefinite expansion of the nuclear arsenal; rather it is built on an assured second-strike capability.
  • This implies that in the event of another nation carrying out a first nuclear strike of any magnitude against India, India’s nuclear forces shall be so deployed as to ensure survivability of the attack and the capability to carry out a massive, punitive nuclear retaliation aimed at inflicting damage that the aggressor will find “unacceptable”.
  • Additionally, CMD requires a robust command and control system; effective intelligence and early warning capabilities; comprehensive planning and training for operations in line with the strategy; and the will to employ nuclear forces and weapons.
  • Currently, the Nuclear Command Authority is responsible for command, control and operational decisions on nuclear weapons; specifically, it is the Cabinet Committee on Security and ultimately the office of the Prime Minister of India, that is responsible for the decision to carry out a nuclear attack.

Why might the NFU Policy be Revisited?

  • Regional geopolitical realities have a significant bearing upon India’s NFU commitment, to the extent that the CMD is what the “enemy” believes deterrence to be, and their belief is manifested in their actions.
  • After the 1998 nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, the CMD was established in the sense that in the following decade, including the aftermaths of the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, neither country felt inclined to instigate all-out war.
  • However, since that time, the deterrent effect of India’s arsenal seemed to have less effect in one significant aspect: Pakistani officials started speaking out about their country’s development of tactical nuclear weapons, or “theatre nukes”, which had a lower yield but could still inflict enough damage to blunt a conventional attack.
  • It is surmised that Pakistan’s talk of tactical nuclear weapons might have emerged as a counter to speculation that India might have developed the “Cold Start” doctrine. This is a purported classified plan for a conventional military attack by Indian forces on Pakistani soil, likely as a response to a prior sub-conventional attack from across the border (such as a state-sponsored terror-attack).
  • In this context, in 2013, Shyam Saran, convener of the National Security Advisory Board, said: “India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, but if it is attacked with such weapons, it would engage in nuclear retaliation which will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage on its adversary. The label on a nuclear weapon used for attacking India, strategic or tactical, is irrelevant from the Indian perspective.”
  • However, there may be some concerns with this idea that India will retaliate massively even if Pakistan uses tactical nuclear weapons — possibly on Indian forces operating on Pakistani soil — against it.
  • First, this strategy would take both countries back into the old-world deterrence paradigm of “mutually assured destruction”, because any surviving forces in Pakistan after India’s retaliation would surely launch a devastating attack against targets across India.
  • Second, India may have more to gain by pre-emptive action. This is the question that analysts Christopher Clary and Vipin Narang have studied, and they argue that one option under consideration could be for “a hard counterforce strike against Pakistan’s relatively small number — perhaps several dozen — strategic nuclear assets on land (and eventually at sea) to eliminate its ability to destroy Indian strategic targets and cities. Such a strategy would be consistent with India’s doctrine of massive retaliation — massive retaliation strategies need not be countervalue — while avoiding the credibility issues associated with a countervalue targeting strategy following Pakistan’s use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield.”

India’s Nuclear Doctrine- Accommodating Changing Realities:

  • Mr. Clary and Mr. Narang argue, India’s adoption of potentially pre-emptive “counterforce options” – i.e. to eliminate Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons when it deems the risk of a Pakistani first-strike to have crossed a critical threshold — may require no explicit shifts in its declared nuclear doctrine.
  • Remaining silent on this subject might be calculated as a strategic advantage for India as the country would be assuming deliberate nuclear ambiguity.
  • The downside is that New Delhi remaining silent on this, except for occasional hints — such as what the Defence Minister tweeted recently — might compel Pakistan to adjust its nuclear posture accordingly, based on a calculation that India might be willing to carry out a counterforce attack and thereby eliminate the Pakistani nuclear threat entirely. This in turn risks fuelling an arms race or more unstable nuclear weapons deployment patterns in Pakistan.
  • The Balakot strikes that followed the Pulwama attack (both in February 2019) demonstrate that the Narendra Modi government is not shy of taking cross-border military action.
  • If another sub-conventional attack, say a terror attack, occurs on Indian soil anytime soon, these theories will likely be tested. What remains unclear is how high up the escalation ladder both countries will be willing to go.

ASSAM NRC: WHO IS AN INDIAN CITIZEN? HOW IS IT DEFINED?

Why in News?

  • In the run-up to the publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, citizenship has become the most talked about topic in the country.
  • The Assam government has been taking various steps in relation to those who will be left out of the NRC, while the Supreme Court last week rejected a plea to include those born in India between after March 24, 1971 and before July 1, 1987 unless they had ancestral links to India.
  • In any other Indian state, they would have been citizens by birth, but the law is different for Assam.

How is Citizenship Determined in India?

  • Citizenship signifies the relationship between individual and state. It begins and ends with state and law, and is thus about the state, not people. Citizenship is an idea of exclusion as it excludes non-citizens.
  • There are two well-known principles for grant of citizenship:
    • Jus soli: confers citizenship on the basis of place of birth,
    • Jus sanguinis: gives recognition to blood ties.
  • From the time of the Motilal Nehru Committee (1928), the Indian leadership was in favour of the enlightened concept of jus soli.
  • The racial idea of jus sanguis was rejected by the Constituent Assembly as it was against the Indian ethos.
  • Citizenship is in the Union List under the Constitution and thus under the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament. The Constitution does not define the term ‘citizen’ but gives, in Articles 5 to 11, details of various categories of persons who are entitled to citizenship.
  • Unlike other provisions of the Constitution, which came into being on January 26, 1950, these articles were enforced on November 26, 1949 itself, when the Constitution was adopted.
  • However, Article 11 itself confers wide powers on Parliament by laying down that “nothing in the foregoing provisions shall derogate from the power of Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all matters relating to citizenship”. Thus, Parliament can go against the citizenship provisions of the Constitution.
  • The Citizenship Act, 1955 was passed and has been amended four times — in 1986, 2003, 2005, and 2015. The Act empowers the government to determine the citizenship of persons in whose case it is in doubt. However, over the decades, Parliament has narrowed down the wider and universal principles of citizenship based on the fact of birth. Moreover, the Foreigners Act places a heavy burden on the individual to prove that he is not a foreigner.

So, who is, or is not, a citizen of India?

  • Article 5: It provided for citizenship on commencement of the Constitution. All those domiciled and born in India were given citizenship. Even those who were domiciled but not born in India, but either of whose parents was born in India, were considered citizens. Anyone who had been an ordinary resident for more than five years, too, was entitled to apply for citizenship.
  • Article 6: Since Independence was preceded by Partition and migration, Article 6 laid down that anyone who migrated to India before July 19, 1949, would automatically become an Indian citizen if either of his parents or grandparents was born in India. But those who entered India after this date needed to register themselves.
  • Article 7: Even those who had migrated to Pakistan after March 1, 1947 but subsequently returned on resettlement permits were included within the citizenship net. The law was more sympathetic to those who migrated from Pakistan and called them refugees than to those who, in a state of confusion, were stranded in Pakistan or went there but decided to return soon.
  • Article 8: Any Person of Indian Origin residing outside India who, or either of whose parents or grandparents, was born in India could register himself or herself as ab Indian citizen with Indian Diplomatic Mission.
  • 1986 amendment: Unlike the constitutional provision and the original Citizenship Act that gave citizenship on the principle of jus soli to everyone born in India, the 1986 amendment to Section 3 was less inclusive as it added the condition that those who were born in India on or after January 26, 1950 but before July 1, 1987, shall be Indian citizen.
  • Those born after July 1, 1987 and before December 4, 2003, in addition to one’s own birth in India, can get citizenship only if either of his parents was an Indian citizen at the time of birth.
  • 2003 amendment: The then NDA government made the above condition more stringent, keeping in view infiltration from Bangladesh. Now the law requires that for those born on or after December 4, 2004, in addition to the fact of their own birth, both parents should be Indian citizens or one parent must be Indian citizen and other should not be an illegal migrant. With these restrictive amendments, India has almost moved towards the narrow principle of jus sanguinis or blood relationship. This lays down that an illegal migrant cannot claim citizenship by naturalisation or registration even if he has been a resident of India for seven years.
  • Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: The amendment proposes to permit members of six communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — to continue to live in India if they entered India before December 14, 2014. It also reduces the requirement for citizenship from 11 years out of the preceding 14 years, to just 6 years.
  • Two notifications also exempted these migrants from the Passport Act and Foreigner Act. A large number of organisations in Assam protested against this Bill as it may grant citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindu illegal migrants.

What is different in Assam?

  • The Assam Movement against illegal immigration eventually led to the historic Assam Accord of 1985, signed by Movement leaders and the Rajiv Gandhi government. Accordingly, the 1986 amendment to the Citizenship Act created a special category of citizens in relation to Assam.
  • The newly inserted Section 6A laid down that all persons of Indian origin who entered Assam before January 1, 1966 and have been ordinary residents will be deemed Indian citizens.
  • Those who came after 1 January, 1966 but before March 25, 1971, and have been ordinary residents, will get citizenship at the expiry of 10 years from their detection as foreigner. During this interim period, they will not have the right to vote but can get an Indian passport.
  • Identification of foreigners was to be done under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, (IMDT Act), 1983, which was applicable only in Assam while the Foreigners Act, 1946 was applicable in the rest of the country.
  • The provisions of the IMDT Act made it difficult to deport illegal immigrants. On the petition of Sarbananda Sonowal (now Chief Minister), the Act was held unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005.
  • This was eventually replaced with the Foreigners (Tribunals of Assam) Order, 2006, which again was struck down in 2007 in Sonowal II.
  • In the IMDT case, the court considered classification based on geographical considerations to be a violation of the right to equality under Article 14. In fact, another such variation was already in place. While the cut-off date for Western Pakistan is July 19, 1949, for Eastern Pakistan the Nehru-Liaquat Pact had pushed it to 1950.

INFORMATION FUSION CENTRE – INDIAN OCEAN REGION (IFC-IOR)

Why in News?

  • The NMDA project was launched in accordance with the vision of PM on SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region).

IFC- IOR:

  • The IFC-IOR was established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.
  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.
  • The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, which is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • IFR-IRO would also ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.

LINKING OF AADHAAR INFORMATION TO SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS

  • Context: Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea by Facebook to transfer to the apex court four petitions filed in the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh seeking the “linking of Aadhaar information to social media accounts”.

What is The Issue?

  • It all began with a petition by Antony Clement Rubin in Madras High Court last year, seeking the court’s direction to the Central government to make it mandatory for social media users to link their Aadhaar number with email IDs.
  • Social media profiles of users need to be linked with Aadhaar numbers to check circulation of fake, defamatory and pornographic content as also anti-national and terror material; the Supreme Court was informed.
  • The suggestion was made by the Tamil Nadu government which is facing resistance from Facebook Inc on the ground that sharing of 12-digit Aadhaar number, the Biometric Unique Identity, would violate the privacy policy of users.

State Government’s View:

  • The linking of social media profiles of the users with the Aadhaar was needed to check fake news, defamatory articles, pornographic materials, anti-national and terror contents in the online media.”

What Happens If User Profiles on Social Media Platforms Are Linked with Their Aadhaar Number?

  • The linking of user profiles on social media with Aadhaar would make every message and post by the user traceable.
  • Though the move will serve as a deterrent to social media instigators and perpetrators of defamatory and fake posts, it would also violate the privacy of the users, keeping a record of each message along with the registered mobile number or email account. This would mean the end of private communications.
  • The privacy experts fear that the linking would allow India’s nationalist government to force social media platforms to become surveillance tools.

Facebook’s View:

  • Facebook Inc said that it cannot share the Aadhaar number with a third party as the content on its instant messaging Whatsapp was end-to-end encrypted and even they do not have access to it.
  • Facebook has contended that there are four petitions including — two in Madras High Court, one in Bombay and one in Madhya Pradesh High Courts — and they contained almost similar prayers.
  • Facebook plea to transfer all this petition to Supreme Court
  • Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea by Facebook to transfer to the apex court four petitions filed in the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh seeking the “linking of Aadhaar information to social media accounts”.

Issues Involved:

  • The question is if linking social media to Aadhaar is breach of privacy.
  • Question is whether Aadhaar can be shared with a private entity or not.
  • Ordinance has been promulgated, which says that Aadhaar can be shared with a private entity, if there was a larger public interest involved.

Supreme Court Privacy Judgement:

  • Supreme court Observation on Social media
    • Companies such as Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, etc. probably have more data on users than the governments of their countries.
    • The privacy of citizens needs protection from these non-state players, too.

NOTIFIABLE DISEASES

Context:

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan asked the Delhi government to make malaria and dengue notifiable diseases.

What is Notifiable Disease?

  • A notifiable disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities.
  • The collation of information allows the authorities to monitor the disease, and provides early warning of possible outbreaks.
  • The World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations, 1969 require disease reporting to the WHO in order to help with its global surveillance and advisory role.

Significance of Notifying Disease:

  • Making a disease legally notifiable by doctors and health professionals allows for intervention to control the spread of highly infectious diseases.
  • Registered medical practitioners need to notify such diseases in a proper form within three days, or notify verbally via phone within 24 hours depending on the urgency of the situation.
  • This means every government hospital, private hospital, laboratories, and clinics will have to report cases of the disease to the government.
  • The process helps the government keep track and formulate a plan for elimination and control.
  • In less infectious conditions, it improves information about the burden and distribution of disease.

Other Notified Diseases:

  • The Centre has notified several diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, encephalitis, leprosy, meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough), plague, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, measles, yellow fever, malaria dengue, etc.

Concern:

  • The onus of notifying any disease and the implementation lies with the state government.
  • Any failure to report a notifiable disease is a criminal offence and the state government can take necessary actions against defaulters.

About Malaria:

  • It is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites belonging to the Plasmodium genus, which are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The mosquito-borne blood disease is preventable and curable.
  • Plasmodium parasite infects a variety of species and different types of Plasmodium genus replicate at different rates, changing how quickly the symptoms escalate, and the severity of the disease.

Causes of Malaria:

There are many factors that can cause malaria, such as:

  • Bitten by a malarial vector (Anopheles stephensi)
  • Use of shared and infected syringes.
  • Organ transplantation.
  • Transfusion.
  • From an infected mother to her baby during birth.
  • It is caused by the parasites –
    • Plasmodium viviax (P.vivax)
    • Plasmodium falciparum (P.falciparum)
    • Plasmodium malariae (P.malariae)
    • Plasmodium ovale (P.ovale)

Symptoms of Malaria:

Symptoms of malaria are exhibited within 7 to 18 days of being infected. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever, fatigue, chills, vomiting, and headaches
  • Diarrhoea, anaemia and muscle pain
  • Profuse sweating and convulsions
  • Bloody stools.
  • In severe cases, malaria can be devastating; it can lead to seizures, coma and eventually, death.

Vaccine:

  • The RTS,S vaccine is the first, and to date, the only, vaccine that has demonstrated that it could significantly reduce malaria in children.
  • RTS,S is a scientific name given to this malaria vaccine candidate and represents its composition.
  • It aims to trigger the immune system to defend against the first stages of malaria.
  • This is when the parasite enters the human host’s bloodstream through a mosquito bite and infects liver cells.
  • The vaccine is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting the liver.
  • The vaccine has been developed by GSK (former GlaxoSmithKline), which is donating about 10 million doses of the product for the pilot.
  • It was created in 1987 by GSK, and was subsequently developed with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to prevent approximately 4 in 10 malaria cases, including 3 in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria.

NATIONAL ESSENTIAL DIAGONISTIC LIST (NEDL)

  • Context:India has got its first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL) finalised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which aims to bridge the current regulatory system’s gap that do not cover all the medical devices and in­vitro diagnostic device (IVD).

Concerns Before:

  • The rates for diagnostic tests vary widely between different pathological laboratories, the same simple blood sugar test can cost anywhere between Rs 25 to Rs 250 depending on the laboratory.

Objectives:

  • An essential diagnostic list has three objectives—
    • making essential tests available at public health care centres,
    • standardise the tests
    • price control

What It Will Change?

  • This would eventually allow the government to make a set of diagnostic tests, each with a price cap, to be available at every level of health care— from village to a district level hospital.It will push for making diagnostics available and affordable and government commitment to making these tests available. It’s a common knowledge that the prices of tests is variable across different sectors,”
  • The national essential diagnostics list (NEDL) provides an expanded basket of tests at different levels of the public health system. Implementation of NEDL will enable improved health care delivery through evidence-based care, improved patient outcomes and reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure.

WHO’s Essential Diagnostics List:

  • Essential Diagnostics List is intended to serve as a reference for countries to update or develop their own list of essential diagnostics.
  • In order to truly benefit patients, national governments will need to ensure appropriate and quality-assured supplies, training of health care workers and safe use.To that end, WHO will provide support to countries as they adapt the list to the local context.
  • The WHO EDL contains a list 58 tests to be carried out at primary health care centres and another 55 tests for the reference laboratories.

What is an Essential Medicines List?

  • As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), Essential Medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population.
  • The list is made with consideration to disease prevalence, efficacy, safety and comparative cost-effectiveness of the medicines.
  • Such medicines are intended to be available in adequate amounts, in appropriate dosage forms and strengths with assured quality. They should be available in such a way that an individual or community can afford.

Purpose of the National List of Essential Medicines:

  • Guide safe and effective treatment of priority disease conditions of a population
  • Promote the rational use of medicines
  • Optimize the available health resources of a country It can also be a guiding document for:
    • State governments to prepare their list of essential medicines
    • Procurement and supply of medicines in the public sector
    • Reimbursement of cost of medicines by organizations to its employees
    • Reimbursement by insurance companies
    • Identifying the ‘MUST KNOW’ domain for the teaching and training of health care professionals

EC KICKS OFF DELIMITATION PROCESS

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission (EC) held its first meeting for the delimitation exercise, necessitated under the new Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act.

What is Delimitation?

  • The Delimitation commission or Boundary commission of India is a commission established by the Government of India under the provisions of the Delimitation Commission Act.
  • The main task of the commission is redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census.
  • The representation from each State is not changed during this exercise.
  • However, the number of SC and ST seats in a state is changed in accordance with the census.
  • The present delimitation of constituencies, across the country has been done on the basis of 2001 census under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002.

History of delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir:

  • The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, enacted in 1957, was based on the Maharaja’s Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir of 1939.
  • After accession to India, the State Constituent Assembly was constituted under the 1939 Constitution, but Sheikh Abdullah’s administration arbitrarily carved out 30 seats for Jammu region and 43 seats for Kashmir region and two seats for Ladakh region. This regional disparity became entrenched thereafter: Kashmir (46), Jammu (37) and Ladakh (four).
  • The last time a delimitation exercise took place in the state was also under President’s Rule, as far back as 1995 in extremely difficult circumstances by the Justice (retd) KK Gupta Commission.
  • Incidentally, the Constitution provides for delimitation every 10 years, the next delimitation of assembly constituencies should have logically taken place in 2005.
  • However, in 2002, the Farooq Abdullah government chose to freeze delimitation until 2026 by amending the Jammu & Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • At the moment there are seven seats reserved for SC in the assembly, all in the Jammu division which haven’t been rotated since 1996 — Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban (separate) in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district, respectively.

Highlights:

  • Though the home ministry is yet to provide any formal instruction or information on the reorganization and delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir, the EC discussed how it will deal with the issue after receiving the notification.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, provides for increasing the number of assembly seats in the newly formed Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir from 107 to 114.
  • Ladakh will be a Union territory without a legislative assembly.
  • Of the 114 seats, 24 have been kept aside for areas under Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which means elections will be conducted for 90 seats.
  • The old Assembly had strength of 111 seats (again 24 kept aside for PoK) with four seats for Ladakh region.
  • That means 7 extra seats will be added to the effective strength of the House.

SUPREME COURT (NUMBER OF JUDGES) AMENDMENT BILL, 2019

Context:

  • President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, which will increase the number of Supreme Court judges from 30 to 33.

Constitution on Supreme Court Judges:

  • The organisation, independence, jurisdiction, powers and functions of the Supreme Court are provided in articles 124 to 147 in Part V of the Constitution of India.

Number of Judges:

  • Since February 2009, Supreme Court of India has total sanctioned strength 31 judges including the Chief Justice. The original constitution had fixed sanctioned strength of the court at 8 and left the matter to parliament to increase the number of judges as needed by making a law.

Pending Cases:

  • 11,59,331 cases are pending in the top court.

Features:

  • The Act fixes the maximum number of judges in the Supreme Court at 30 judges (excluding the Chief Justice of India). The Bill increases this number from 30 to 33.
  • With no vacancy, the present strength of the apex court is 31, including the chief justice of India.. After the law comes into force, the sanctioned strength of SC will be 33, besides the CJI.
  • The move to increase the strength of judges by 3 or 10 per cent comes against the backdrop of rising cases in the top court which stand at nearly 60,000.

Background:

  • The Constitution makers envisioned that the Supreme Court would play a dual role:
    • As an appellate court, and
    • As a court with original jurisdiction over Centre-State disputes, cases involving substantial questions of law and matters of constitutional law.
  • But only a small fraction of admitted cases are filed under the court’s original jurisdiction.
  • It is appeals filed under special leave jurisdiction – exercised at the judges’ discretion – that overwhelm the Supreme Court.
  • This is acknowledged in the Bill’s statement of objects and reasons, which notes that the number of appeals filed in the Supreme Court has increased, necessitating an increase in its strength.

US Example:

  • The Supreme Court need not admit every appeal. But it often does. One study found that in 2014, it admitted approximately 40% of the 35,000-odd appeals filed.
  • Contrast this, for instance, with the US Supreme Court – eight judges in all – which receives approximately 7,000-8,000 petitions appealing a lower court’s decision. It hears oral argument in about 80 cases.
  • The Indian Supreme Court’s openness to appeals is best explained by its desire to correct as many injustices as possible, no matter how small.
  • Supreme Court judges are drawn almost exclusively from the High Courts, which function primarily as appellate courts.
  • The average Supreme Court judge has extensive experience in error correction – the key function of an appellate judge – rather than in adjudicating constitutional law questions. Given their experience, Supreme Court judges’ cognitive bias towards error correction is unsurprising.
  • But in reaching out to correct small injustices, the Supreme Court is doing a greater injustice.Justice PN Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India, articulated this sentiment powerfully in one of his judgments. Acknowledging the agonising decisions that our judges make every day, he said,
  • “Sometimes, we judges feel that when a case comes before us and we find that injustice has been done, how can we shut our eyes to it.”
  • But he continued, “the answer to this anguished query is that the judges of the apex court may not shut their eyes to injustice but they must equally not keep their eyes too wide open, otherwise the apex court would not be able to perform the high and noble role which it was intended to perform according to the faith of the Constitution makers.”

A Growing Bench:

  • Justice Bhagwati’s clarity notwithstanding, the Supreme Court, like the government, is prey to the misconception that case backlog and delay arise from having too few judges.
  • Successive Chief Justices of India have endorsed expanding the judiciary as the primary solution.
  • Thus, the strength of the Supreme Court – which was originally 10 – was increased to 13, then 17, 25, and finally 30. But the judicial backlog has only increased.
  • In March 2007, shortly before the strength of the court was increased from 25 to 30, close to 42,000 cases were pending before it. In the decade since, the backlog has increased by around 20,000 cases. In other words, more cases were admitted than resolved.
  • If we want our judges to judge better, the government must do more than increase the strength of the Supreme Court.
  • At a minimum, it must develop institutional mechanisms to collect, track and publish detailed statistics on cases filed in the Supreme Court – including the number and types of appeals admitted by each judge – to inject some transparency into its appellate function.

Way Forward:

  • For far too long, the lack of adequate data on the Supreme Court’s functioning has scuttled opportunities for introspection and critique.
  • And our judges must evolve a coordinated response to the high rate of admission of appeals.
  • Having some, but not all judges, move in the direction of admitting fewer cases would be a Pyrrhic victory, making for an inconsistent, and ultimately unjust, Supreme Court.
  • It is time that the Supreme Court moved closer to the difficult balance that Justice Bhagwati articulated years ago. Less, as he hinted, is more.

 

CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF (CDS)

Context:

  • In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff to provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces, and to help improve coordination among them.

What is the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)?

  • The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services, and offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.
  • In most democracies, the CDS is seen as being above inter-Service rivalries and the immediate operational preoccupations of the individual military chiefs.
  • The role of the CDS becomes critical in times of conflict.
  • Most countries with advanced militaries have such a post, albeit with varying degrees of power and authority.
  • The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), for example, is extremely powerful, with a legislated mandate and sharply delineated powers.
  • He is the most senior military officer and military adviser to the President, and his remit extends to the National Security Council, the Homeland Secuirty Council, and the Defence Secretary.

In US:

  • The Chiefs of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and National Guard too, are members of the JCSC.
  • All, including the CJCSC, are four-star officers, but by statute only the CJCSC is designated as the “principal military adviser”.
  • However, the CJCSC is barred from exercising any operational authority over combat commanders in varied theatres; this authority rests exclusively with the US President.

So, why had India not appointed a CDS until now?:

  • India has had a feeble equivalent known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC); but this is a toothless office, given the manner in which it is structured.
  • The seniormost among the three Service Chiefs is appointed to head the CoSC, an office that lapses with the incumbent’s retirement.

Issue with Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC):

  • In 2015, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had described the CoSC arrangement as “unsatisfactory”, and its Chairman as a “figurehead”. The post did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets,
  • The CoSC system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years.Apprehensions in the political class about a powerful military leader, along with inter-Services bickering, have long worked to disincentivise the upgrade of the post.

Kargil Review Committee (KRC):

  • The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which called for a reorganisation of the “entire gamut of national security management and apex decision-making and structure and interface between the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Headquarters”.
  • The Group of Ministers Task Force that studied the KRC Report and recommendations, proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Security that a CDS, who would be five-star officer, be created.In preparation for the post, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in late 2002, which was to eventually serve as the CDS’s Secretariat.
  • However, over the past 17 years, this has remained yet another nebulous department within the military establishment.

But what happened to the proposal?

  • No consensus emerged among the Services, with the IAF especially opposed to such a move.The UPA, then in opposition, was against the idea of concentrating too much military power in the CDS’s post.
  • The Ministry of Defence (MoD) too, opposed it subtly for the same reasons, and because it could disrupt civil-military ties in the latter’s favour.

What is the case for having a CDS?

  • Although the KRC did not directly recommend a CDS — that came from the GoM — it underlined the need for more coordination among the three Services, which was poor in the initial weeks of the Kargil conflict.
  • The KRC Report pointed out that India is the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure.
  • It observed that Service Chiefs devote most of their time to their operational roles, “often resulting in negative results”.
  • Long-term defence planning suffers as day-to-day priorities dominate.
  • Also, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of military commanders, in order to ensure that higher level defence management decisions are more consensual and broad-based.

Arguments Against?

  • Theoretically, the appointment of a CDS is long overdue, but there appears to be no clear blueprint for the office to ensure its effectiveness.
  • India’s political establishment is seen as being largely ignorant of, or at best indifferent towards, security matters, and hence incapable of ensuring that a CDS works.
  • Militaries by nature tend to resist transformation.
  • In the US, the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the Chairman from first among equals to the “principal military advisor” to the President and the Secretary of Defence.
  • In the Indian context, critics fear, the absence of foresight and understanding might end up making the CDS just another case of “jobs for the boys”.

Who at present advises India’s Prime Minister on military matters?

  • In effect it is the National Security Adviser.
  • This has been especially so after the Defence Planning Committee was created in 2018, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, and the foreign, defence, and expenditure secretaries, and the three Service Chiefs as members.

RS CLEARS BILL TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF JUDGES IN THE SUPREME COURT

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed by the Rajya Sabha.

Highlights:

  • The Bill amends the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956.
  • The Act fixes the maximum number of judges in the Supreme Court at 30 judges (excluding the Chief Justice of India).
  • The Bill increases this number from 30 to 33.
  • Lok Sabha had already passed the Bill.

Number of Judges in the Supreme Court:

  • Initially the Constitution of India provided for a supreme court with a chief justice and 7 judges.In the early years, a full bench of the Supreme Court sat together to hear the cases presented before them.
  • As the work of the court increased and cases began to accumulate, parliament increased the number of Judges (including the CJI) from the original 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978, 26 in 1986 and 31 in 2009.

Eligibility to become a Judge of the Supreme Court:

  • Article 124 of the constitution describes the following qualifications for a Judge of the Supreme Court:
  • A citizen of India not exceeding 65 years age.
  • He must be a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years, or
  • An advocate there, for at least ten years, or
  • A distinguished jurist, in the opinion of the President.

ARTICLE 371 SPECIAL PROVISIONS FOR OTHER STATES

Why in News?

  • The central government has revoked the ‘special status’ granted to Jammu and Kashmir by the Constitution. However, a range of “special provisions” for as many as 11 other states continue to be part of the Constitution.

Highlights:

  • Part XXI of the Constitution, ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’, includes, apart from Article 370 (Temporary Provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir) Articles 371, 371A, 371B, 371C, 371D, 371E, 371F, 371G, 371H, and 371J, which define special provisions with regard to other states of the Indian Union.
  • All these provisions take into account the special circumstances of individual states, and lay down a wide range of specific safeguards that are deemed important for these states.
  • In these range of Articles from 371 to 371J, Article 371I, which deals with Goa, stands out in the sense that it does not include any provision that can be deemed “special”. Article 371E, which deals with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, too, is not that “special”.
  • Existence of the provisions described in Articles 371, 371A-H, and 371J shows that other princely states, too, negotiated the terms and conditions of their entry into the Union, or sought special constitutional protections in view of their unique needs and conditions.
  • There is, however, one important difference between Articles 370 and 371 on the one hand, and Articles 371A-H and 371J on the other.
  • Articles 370 and 371 have been part of the Constitution from the time of its commencement on January 26, 1950. Articles 371A-H and 371J, however, were incorporated into the Constitution by Parliament through amendments under Article 368. This Article describes the “power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure therefor”.

Maharashtra and Gujarat (Article 371):

  • The Governor has a “special responsibility” to establish “separate development boards” for “Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of Maharashtra”, and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat; ensure “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas”, and “equitable arrangement providing adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training, and adequate opportunities for employment” under the state government.

Nagaland (Article 371A, 13th Amendment Act, 1962):

  • Parliament cannot legislate in matters of Naga religion or social practices, the Naga 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, without the concurrence of the Legislative Assembly of the state.
  • This provision was inserted in the Constitution after a 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland in 1963.
  • Also, there is a provision for a 35-member Regional Council for Tuensang district, which elects the Tuensang members in the Assembly. A member from the Tuensang district is Minister for Tuensang Affairs. The Governor has the final say on all Tuensang-related matters.

Assam (Article 371B, 22nd Amendment Act, 1969):

  • The President of India may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the state Assembly consisting of members elected from the tribal areas of the state.

Manipur (Article 371C, 27th Amendment Act, 1971):

  • The President of India may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of elected members from the Hill areas of the state in the Assembly, and entrust “special responsibility” to the Governor to ensure its proper functioning. The Governor has to file a report every year on this subject to the President.
  • Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (Article 371D, 32nd Amendment Act, 1973; substituted by the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014).
  • The President must ensure “equitable opportunities and facilities” in “public employment and education to people from different parts of the state”.
  • He may require the state government to organise “any class or classes of posts in a civil service of, or any class or classes of civil posts under, the State into different local cadres for different parts of the State”, and allot them.
  • The President has similar powers vis-à-vis admissions in any university or state government-run educational institution.
  • Also, he may provide for setting up of an administrative tribunal outside the jurisdiction of the High Court to deal with issues of appointment, allotment or promotion in state civil services.
  • Article 371E allows for the establishment of a university in Andhra Pradesh by a law of Parliament. But this is not really a ‘special provision’ in the sense of the other provisions in this part of the Constitution.

Sikkim (Article 371F, 36th Amendment Act, 1975):

  • The members of the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim shall elect the representative of Sikkim in the House of the People. To protect the rights and interests of various sections of the population of Sikkim, Parliament may provide for the number of seats in the Assembly, which may be filled only by candidates from those sections.
  • The Governor shall have “special responsibility for peace and for an equitable arrangement for ensuring the social and economic advancement of different sections of the population”. All earlier laws in territories that formed Sikkim shall continue, and any adaptation or modification shall not be questioned in any court.

Mizoram (Article 371G, 53rd Amendment Act, 1986):

  • This provision lays down that Parliament cannot make laws on “religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land unless the Legislative Assembly by a resolution so decides”.

Arunachal Pradesh (Article 371H, 55th Amendment Act, 1986):

  • The Governor has a special responsibility with regard to law and order, and “he shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken”. Should a question arise over whether a particular matter is one in which the Governor is “required to act in the exercise of his individual judgment, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final”, and “shall not be called in question…”

Karnataka (Article 371J, 98th Amendment Act, 2012):

  • There is a provision for the establishment of a separate development board for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, the working of which will be reported annually to the Assembly.
  • There shall be “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said region”, and “equitable opportunities and facilities” for people of this region in government jobs and education.
  • An order can be made to provide for reservation “of a proportion” of seats and jobs in educational and vocational training institutions and state government organisations respectively in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region for individuals who belong to that region by birth or domicile.

RBI CUT LENDING RATE BY 35 BASIS POINTS

Context:

  • In a bid to augur economic activity amidst slowing consumption demand, the monetary policy committee of Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday unanimously decided to go for its fourth cut this year.

Background:

  • With a 35 basis point cut (highest this year) the repo rate, at which RBI lends to commercial banks, stood at a 9-year low of 5.4 per cent, since July 2010 when it was 5.25 per cent.
  • The previous three cuts this year were 25 basis points each. Alongside a cut in the repo rate, the central bank also lowered its GDP growth projection from 7 per cent in June policy to 6.9 per cent now.

Why the Rate Cut?

  • While inflation is a key consideration for a rate cut and it provided RBI the comfort to go for a cut, the decision was also taken to boost aggregate demand especially private investment.
  • The monetary policy statement said that “inflation is currently projected to remain within the target over a 12-month ahead horizon”.
  • The RBI statement further said that
    • Domestic Economic activity continues to be weak,
    • With the global slowdown and
    • Escalating Trade Tensions posing downside risks.
  • It added that while private consumption, the mainstay of aggregate demand, and investment activity remain sluggish.

Why Has Growth Been Revised Downwards GDP?

  • This is the second consecutive policy statement where the RBI has lowered its GDP growth projection for 2019-20.
  • While in June statement it revised it projection downward from 7.2 per cent (stated in April 2019) to 7 per cent.
  • This time it further revised the growth projection further down to 6.9 per cent.
  • The RBI said that “various high frequency indicators suggest weakening of both domestic and external demand conditions…business expectations Index of the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey shows muted expansion in demand conditions in Q2, although a decline in input costs augurs well for growth”.
  • It said that the monetary policy easing since February 2019 is expected to support economic activity, going forward.

Significance of Monetary Policy:

  • It influences the interest rate in the economy — which is the cost of money when you don’t have it, and the reward for parting with it when you have it.
  • In any economy, economic activity, which is measured by gross domestic product or GDP, happens by one of four ways.
    • One, private individuals households spend money on consumption.
    • Two, the government spends on its agenda.
    • Three, private sector businesses “invest” in their productive capacity.
    • And four, the net exports — which is the difference between what all of them spend on imports as against what they earn from exports.
  • At the heart of any spending decision taken by any of these entities lies the question: What is the cost of money?
  • Monetary policy essentially answers that question
  • In every country, the central bank is mandated to decide the cost of money, which is more commonly known as the “interest rate” in the economy.
  • While various factors make it difficult for a central bank to exactly dictate interest rates, as a thumb rule, RBI’s decision on the repo rate sets the markers for the rest of the economy. In other words, the EMI for your car or home is determined by what the RBI decides.

What Is the Repo Rate?

  • Repo and Reverse repo are short for Repurchase agreements between the RBI and the commercial banks in the economy.
  • In essence, the repo rate is the interest rate that the RBI charges a commercial bank when it borrows money from the RBI.
  • As such, if the repo falls, all interest rates in the economy should fall. And that is why common people should be interested in the RBI’s monetary policy.

But the interest rate for consumer loans has not reduced by 110 bps since February. Why?

  • In the real world, the “transmission” of an interest rate cut (or increase) is not a hundred per cent.
  • And that is why, even though when the RBI cut by 35 bps lay consumers may only receive a much lower reduction in the interest rate on their borrowings.
  • This is due to a lot of factors — but primarily, it has to do with the health of the concerned commercial bank.

Issues with Commercial Bank

  • Over the past few years, almost all banks, especially the ones in the public sector, have seen their profits plummet because many of their past loans have turned out to be non-performing assets (in other words, they are not getting repaid).
  • To cover for these losses, the banks have to use their existing funds, which would have otherwise gone to common consumers for fresh loans.
  • Lag in monetary policy
    • The reduced repo rate applies only to new borrowings of banks. The banks’ cost of existing funds is higher. Of course, funding costs would eventually come down — but this process would take time.
    • This “lag” in monetary policy is a key variable in determining the efficacy of any rate cut by the RBI.
    • It could take anywhere between 9 and 18 months for the full effect of an RBI decision to reflect in interest rates across the economy.

Will the rate cut bring Investments?

  • Investments depend essentially on the “real” interest rate.
  • The real interest rate is the difference between the repo rate and retail inflation.
  • When making an investment decision, it is this interest rate that matters.
  • As a variable, it allows an investor to compare the attractiveness of different economies.
  • Real interest rates in India have been rising, and that is one of the biggest reasons why investments are not happening.
  • The RBI’s move would reduce the real interest rate and hopefully attract more investment.

Monetary Policy Committee Composition

  • Governor of the Reserve Bank of India – Chairperson, ex officio; (Shri Shaktikanta Das)
  • Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, in charge of Monetary Policy- BP Kanungo (Member, ex officio).
  • One officer of the Reserve Bank of India to be nominated by the Central Board – Member, ex officio; (Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra)
  • Ravindra H. Dholakia, Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad – Member.
  • Professor Pami Dua, Director, Delhi School of Economics – Member
  • Shri Chetan Ghate, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) – Member.

THE RAJASTHAN PROTECTION FROM LYNCHING BILL, 2019

Context:

  • The Rajasthan legislative assembly passed a Bill providing for life imprisonment and a fine from ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh to those convicted in cases of mob lynching leading to victim’s death.

Background:

  • Rajasthan had witnessed a number of lynchings in 2017, beginning with that of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in April 2017.

Sociology of Lynching Cases:

  • The victims are always those living on the margins of the society.
  • The cow-vigilantes are motivated by an urge to impose hegemony of values and cultural homogeneity, by obfuscating diverse practices and beliefs.
  • They dare to defy the process of law, as their acts are powered by majoritarian sentiments.
  • This is not an issue within the narrow confines of law and order; it plays out on a broader canvass of socio-cultural dynamics.
  • It is the tussle between rule of law and belief-systems.
  • It is the friction between the privileges of the mainstream and the struggles of survival by the marginalized.

Provision of Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019’:

  • The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019 makes mob lynching a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence punishable with life imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh.
  • It defines lynching as “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity”.
  • Offences will be investigated by a police officer of the rank of inspector and above, and the DGP will appoint an officer of the rank of IG or above as State Coordinator.
  • In cases of “hurt” and “grievous hurt”, the convict may get up to seven and 10 years in jail respectively; if it leads to death, the punishment is life imprisonment.
  • The Bill also makes conspirators accountable.

Fast track Court

  • The bill on lynching proposes setting up fast track courts, providing relief and rehabilitation measures, including free-of-cost treatment for victims, compensation, and establishment of relief camps.
  • The bill also proposes the same level of punishment for conspiracy, abetment, aides or attempts to lynch.

Similar Amendment Bill in Madhya Pradesh:

  • The proposed law in MP is an amendment to the existing Madhya Pradesh Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Act, 2004, which is against cow slaughter.
  • The Bill seeks to amend Sub-section (2) of Section 9 of the 2004 Act and propose a minimum jail term of six months that may be extended to one year.
  • When the same offence is committed by members of illegal assembly (mob) the minimum term will increase to one year and the maximum to five years.
  • The Bill proposes a lower term for those who abet and those who attempt to commit the crime.
  • punishment will double in case of those convicted for an offence they were previously convicted of.
  • The minimum fine is Rs 5,000 and the maximum Rs 50,000.
  • The Bill seeks to insert Section 6D. While the rules are yet to be formed, these will specify who issues the transit permit of cow progeny, which will be pasted prominently on the vehicle.
  • There is no provision in the 2004 legislation for issuing transit permit from other states.

Guideline by Supreme Court in Case of Lynching:

  • The states shall designate a senior police officer not below the rank of police superintendent as nodal officer in each district. These officers will set up a task force to be assisted by one DSP-rank officer for taking measures to prevent mob violence and lynching. The task force will gather intelligence reports on people likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news
  • The state governments shall immediately identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past. The process of identification should be done within a period of three weeks from the date of the judgment.

Remedial Measures:

  • Despite the preventive measures taken by the state police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that an incident of lynching or mob violence has taken place, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately lodge an FIR.

Deterrent Punishment:

  • The trial court must ordinarily award the maximum sentence under the provisions of the IPC.

Punitive Measures:

  • Departmental action must be taken against police or district officials who fail to act against the perpetrators. Such failure will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken. The action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months.

Conclusion:

  • This is a complex issue which raises the conundrum of whether a democratic government should merely reflect majoritarian will or should pursue higher values of equality and justice and Bill against Mob Lynching is one step towards Justice.

BILL MANDATING DEATH PENALTY FOR ‘HONOUR KILLING’ PASSED IN RAJASTHAN ASSEMBLY

  • Context: The Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019 was passed by Rajasthan Assembly

Background:

  • In the Past five years in the state, 71 cases of illegal diktat given by ‘Khap Panchayats’ (caste councils which function like kangaroo courts) were registered and 10 cases of honour killing occurred in which four men and eight women were killed.
  • Such cases have increased in the past few years and have become hurdle in societal development

Key Highlights of The Bill:

  • The Bill provisions punishment of death penalty or life imprisonment till natural death for killing a couple or either of them in the name of honour.
  • According to the Bill whoever causes death of a couple or either of them on the basis that marriage of such couple has dishonoured, or brought disrepute to the caste, community or family shall be punished with death, or with imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, and with fine which may extend to ₹5 lakh.
  • If the couple or either of them is grievously hurt, the punishment will be from 10 years rigorous imprisonment to imprisonment for life and with fine of maximum ₹3 lakh, whereas the punishment will be three to five years imprisonment with fine which may extend to ₹2 lakh in case of simple injuries.
  • According to the Bill, Sub Divisional Magistrate or the District Magistrate shall receive any request or information from any person or persons seeking protection from any unlawful assembly, or from any other person who is likely to or who have been objecting to any lawful marriage.
  • No person or group shall assemble at any time with the view or intention to deliberate on or condemn any marriage, not prohibited by law, on the basis that such marriage has dishonoured the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute to all or any of the persons forming part of the assembly or the family or the people of the locality concerned.
  • Such gathering shall be treated unlawful and every person convening or organising such assembly, and every member, thereof, participating therein directly or indirectly shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than six months, but may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to ₹1 lakh.

Objectives of The Bill:

  • There has been a spurt in illegal intimidation by self-appointed bodies for bringing pressure against ‘sagotra’ marriages and inter-caste, inter-community and inter-religious marriages between two consenting adults in the name of vindicating the honour of family, caste or community.
  • Although, such intimidation or acts of violence constitute offences under the Indian Penal Code, yet, it is necessary to prevent assemblies which take place to condemn such alliances as also to punish such acts of violence and criminal intimidation severely.

WHAT HAS CHANGED IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR AFTER SCRAPPING ARTICLE 370?

Background:

  • This is the first time that Article 370 has been used to amend Article 367 (which deals with Interpretation) in respect of Jammu and Kashmir, and this amendment has then been used to amend Article 370 itself.

Has Article 370 been scrapped?

  • The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, issued by President “in exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution”, has not abrogated Article 370.
  • While this provision remains in the statute book, it has been used to withdraw the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • President Order
    • The Presidential Order has extended all provisions of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir.
    • It has also ordered that references to the Sadr-i-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir shall be construed as references to the Governor of the state, and “references to the Government of the said State shall be construed as including references to the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the advice of his Council of Ministers”.

What is the status of Article 35A now?

  • Article 35A stems from Article 370, and was introduced through a Presidential Order in 1954.
  • Article 35A does not appear in the main body of the Constitution — Article 35 is followed by Article 36 — but appears in Appendix I.
  • Article 35A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the permanent residents of the state, and their special rights and privileges.
  • Presidential Order has extended all provisions of the Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, including the chapter on Fundamental Rights.
  • Therefore, the provisions under Article 35A are now unconstitutional.
  • The President may also withdraw Article 35A.
  • This provision is currently under challenge in the Supreme Court on the ground that it could have been introduced in the Indian Constitution only through a constitutional amendment under Article 368, and not through a Presidential Order under Article 370.
  • However, Presidential Order, too has amended Article 367 without following the amending process.

So, what has changed in Jammu and Kashmir?

  • Rajya Sabha on approved The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019.
  • The Bill will come up in Lok Sabha, and is expectedly to pass.
  • In effect, the state of Jammu and Kashmir will now cease to exist; it will be replaced by two new Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. UTs have become states earlier; this is the first time that a state has been converted into a UT.
  • The UT of Jammu and Kashmir will have an Assembly, like in Delhi and Puducherry.
  • Not only has Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status, it has been given a status lower than that of other states.
  • Instead of 29, India will now have 28 states. Kashmir will no longer have a Governor, rather a Lieutenant Governor like in Delhi or Puducherry.

Issue in Changing State in Union territory:

  • Article 3 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to amend the Constitution by a simple majority to change the boundaries of a state, and to form a new state.
  • But this change requires that such a Bill be first referred to the concerned state Assembly by the President for ascertaining its views.
  • Explanation II of Article 3 says Parliament’s power extends to forming Union Territories.

Can the Presidential Order be challenged in the Supreme Court? On what grounds?

  • The Supreme Court will consider that Article 370 does, indeed, give sweeping powers to the President.
  • The possible grounds of challenge could include the argument that the conversion of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory is in violation of Article 3, as the Bill was not referred by the President to the state Assembly.
  • Also, can the Constituent Assembly mean Legislative Assembly? Are the Governor and the state government one and same?

THE TRANSGENDER PERSONS (PROTECTION OF RIGHTS) BILL, 2019

  • Context: The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Lok Sabha

Background:

  • According to the 2011 Census there are more than 4.80 lakh transgenders in the country. These people are often discriminated upon and humiliated in public for being transgender.
  • The Bill has provisions for penalty and punishment in cases of offences and sexual harassment against transgender persons.
  • The Bill also provides a mechanism for social, economic and educational empowerment of transgenders.
  • A contentious provision that criminalised begging by transgender people has been removed from the Bill. The Bill makes provision for establishing a national authority for safeguarding rights of transgenders.

Highlights of The Bill:

Definition of a Transgender Person:

  • The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.
  • It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
  • Intersex variations is defined to mean a person who at birth shows variation in his or her primary sexual characteristics, external genitalia, chromosomes, or hormones from the normative standard of male or female body.

Prohibition Against Discrimination:

  • The Bill prohibits the discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to:
    1. Education
    2. Employment
    3. Healthcare
    4. Access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public;
    5. Right to Movement
    6. Right to reside, Rent, or otherwise occupy property
    7. opportunity to hold public or private office and
    8. Access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a Transgender Person is.

Right of Residence:

  • Every transgender person shall have a right to reside and be included in his household.
  • If the immediate family is unable to care for the transgender person, the person may be placed in a rehabilitation centre, on the orders of a competent court.

Employment:

  • No government or private entity can discriminate against a transgender person in employment matters, including recruitment, and promotion.
  • Every establishment is required to designate a person to be a complaint officer to deal with complaints in relation to the Act.

Education:

  • Educational institutions funded or recognised by the relevant government shall provide inclusive education, sports and recreational facilities for transgender persons, without discrimination.

Health Care:

  • The government must take steps to provide health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.
  • The government shall review medical curriculum to address health issues of transgender persons, and provide comprehensive medical insurance schemes for them.

Certificate Of Identity For A Transgender Person:

  • A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.
  • A revised certificate may be obtained only if the individual undergoes surgery to change their gender either as a male or a female.

Welfare Measures By The Government:

  • The Bill states that the relevant government will take measures to ensure the full inclusion and participation of transgender persons in society.
  • It must also take steps for their rescue and rehabilitation, vocational training and self-employment, create schemes that are transgender sensitive, and promote their participation in cultural activities.

Offences And Penalties:

  • The Bill recognizes the following offences against transgender persons:
    • Forced or bonded labour (excluding compulsory government service for public purposes),
    • Denial of use of public places,
    • Removal from household, and village,
    • Physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse. Penalties for these offences vary between six months and two years, and a fine.

National Council for Transgender persons (NCT):

The NCT will consist of:

  • Union Minister for Social Justice (Chairperson)
  • Minister of State for Social Justice (Vice- Chairperson)
  • Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice
  • one representative from ministries including Health, Home Affairs, and Human Resources Development.
  • Other members include representatives of the NITI Aayog, and the National Human Rights Commission.
  • State governments will also be represented.
  • The Council will also consist of five members from the transgender community and five experts from non-governmental organisations.
  • The Council will advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies, legislation and projects with respect to transgender persons. It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons.

RESOLUTION TO REPEAL ARTICLE 370 OF THE CONSTITUTION

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Home Affairs, introduced two bills and two resolutions regarding Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

Bills and Resolutions:

  • Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 2019 {Ref. Article 370(1) of Constitution of India} – issued by President of India to supersede the 1954 order related to Article 370.
  • Resolution for Repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution of India {Ref. Article 370 (3)}
  • Jammu & Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019 {Ref. Article 3 of Constitution of India}
  • Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Significance:

  • Announcing a path-breaking decision by the Government, the Government is moving a resolution which would repeal the provisions under Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which granted a special status to the state of J&K.
  • The provisions of Article 370 would cease to exist from the date President of India issues a notification in this regard, after the recommendation of the Parliament.
  • Under Article 370(3), there is a provision that President, on the recommendation of the Parliament, has the power to amend or cease the implementation of article 370, through a public notification.
  • Consequently, the Constitution of India would get applicable to J&K, on par with other states/UTs of the country.

MEDICAL COMMISSION BILL, 2019

Context:

  •  Rajya Sabha passed the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill that seeks to overhaul the medical education regulation infrastructure. Since then, doctors have struck work in Delhi and other cities.

What is the Bill about and why is it controversial?

License to practice

  • Section 32 of the NMC Act 2019 allows the proposed NMC, which will replace the Medical Council of India, to grant “limited licence to practice medicine at mid-level as a community health provider”.
  •  The Indian Medical Association (IMA) says that “
    •   This is nothing but legalising and promoting quackery in India…
    •   Who will guarantee that these ‘legalised quacks’ will work in villages only? National Medical Commission Bill will open the floodgates for licencing 3.5 lakhs ‘legalised quacks’. This amounts to ‘licence to kill’.”

Bridge Course:

  • This course would have allowed practitioners of homoeopathy and Indian systems of medicine to go on to practice allopathy.( In the new Bill, the bridge course has been dropped as per the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, which wrote)
  • The Committee, therefore, recommends that the State Governments may implement measures to enhance the capacity of the existing healthcare professionals including AYUSH practitioners, BSc (Nursing), BDS, B Pharma etc to address their State specific primary healthcare issues in the rural areas.”

Exit Examination:

  • The new Bill proposes a single exit exam – the final MBBS exam, which will work as a licentiate examination, a screening test for foreign medical graduates, and an entrance test for admission in postgraduate programmes. It also provides for just one medical entrance test across the country

Doctors stand

  • The Bill condenses final year MBBS exam, Licentiate exam. and PG NEET into one examination. This effectively removes the opportunity to reappear for PG selection.
  • Moreover, the examination being objective in nature, increases the workload and stress level of the students manifold. Allowing foreign medical graduates to take the same examination will be an injustice… The current system allows medical graduates to practise irrespective of the status of his/her PG NEET.”

Arguments in Favour:

  • The NMC Bill opens the path to a long-awaited reform of medical education
  • Mid-level health workers like Community Health Providers are very much needed but their training programmes, competencies and roles have to be clearly defined to differentiate them from medical graduates. The Allied Healthcare Professionals Bill, which is to be examined by the Standing Committee, is the right place to position them.
  • A common exit examination is needed for standardisation and postgraduate course selection but must be preceded by a college-level testing of practical clinical skills as a qualifier for the theory-based NEXT (National Exit Test).”

ABROGATION OF ARTICLE 370.

Context:

  • The Centre on Monday scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, with an order saying “it shall come into force at once”.
  • The abrogation follows the Centre introducing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill in Parliament.

What is Article 370?

  • Included in the Constitution on October 17, 1949, Article 370 exempts J&K from the Indian Constitution (except Article 1 and Article 370 itself) and permits the state to draft its own Constitution.
  • It restricts Parliament’s legislative powers in respect of J&K.
  • For extending a central law on subjects included in the Instrument of Accession (IoA), mere “consultation” with the state government is needed.
  • But for extending it to other matters, “concurrence” of the state government is mandatory.
  • Background of IoA
    • The IoA came into play when the Indian Independence Act, 1947 divided British India into India and Pakistan.
    • For some 600 princely states whose sovereignty was restored on Independence, the Act provided for three options: to remain an independent country, join Dominion of India, or join Dominion of Pakistan — and this joining with either of the two countries was to be through an IoA.
    • Though no prescribed form was provided, a state so joining could specify the terms on which it agreed to join.
    • The maxim for contracts between states is pacta sunt servanda,e. promises between states must be honoured; if there is a breach of contract, the general rule is that parties are to be restored to the original position.

Constitutional Law Background:

  • The political agreement of 3 June 1947 to partition the Indian sub-continent was crystallized in British statutes – the Indian Independence Act, 1947 and the modified Government of India Act, 1935.
  • While India is an ancient civilization, modern-day India and Pakistan are creations of these statutes and have chosen to abide by such constitutional law governing the sub-continent.
  • There is no doubt about the legitimacy of an ‘India’ and a ‘Pakistan’ as created by these statutes, and both countries have been recognized by the UN as sovereign member states.
  • Kashmir Status:
    • The princely state of J&K was a sovereign state as of 15 August 1947 as per this constitutional law creating India and Pakistan.
    • It was in terms of such law that the Ruler of J&K, who was the sole repository of power in the state, chose to accede to India through the accession instrument of 26 October 1947.
    • Such accession by the Ruler, though unconditional, was only in matters of external affairs, communications and defence and certain ancillary matters.
    • The accession instrument expressly declared that nothing therein would affect the continuance of the sovereignty of the Ruler in or over J&K.
  • Exception in Kashmir:
    • Unlike other princely states acceding to India, the sovereign Ruler of J&K did not thereafter merge the territory of the state into the Indian Union nor cede further subjects to India.

Arrangement between India and Kashmir:

  • Even so, it was not contemplated that a ruler would remain the constitutional head of a state within a democratic Indian republic.
  • Hence, there was to be a transfer of power from the Ruler of J&K to a duly elected state constituent assembly.
  • And so, the Indian Constitution itself contemplated in Article 370 that J&K would have its own constitution framed by its own constituent assembly.
  • Since there was still to be a transition from monarchy to a form of government that was to be decided by a state constituent assembly that was yet to be set up, and which would also finally determine the constitutional relationship of J&K with the Indian Union, Article 370 was described as a temporary provision and placed under Part XXI of the Indian Constitution which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions”.
  • Accordingly, the Indian Constitution was made applicable to J&K only through Article 370, and it was through Article 370 that Article 1 of the Constitution (which lists the States of India and their territories) was extended to J&K.

Kashmir status in Indian Union:

  • The state Constituent Assembly, subsequently set up in 1951, regarded the constitutional relationship of J&K with India as one of an autonomous republic within the Indian Union.

Delhi Agreement, 1952:

  • This relationship was later crystallized in the Delhi Agreement, 1952, which was duly ratified by the Indian Parliament and the state Constituent Assembly, and which inter alia permitted the state legislature to make laws conferring special rights and privileges upon the state subjects.
  • The President of India, with the concurrence of J&K, exercised the power under Article 370 to issue the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 1954, which inserted provisions like Article 35A to give effect to the Delhi Agreement and also applied further Articles of the Indian Constitution to J&K (with modifications).

Article 3 of constitution of India and Kashmir status:

  • Another provision inserted by this 1954 Order was the proviso to Article 3 of the Indian Constitution.
  • This provision mandates that “no Bill providing for increasing or diminishing the area of the State of Jammu and Kashmir or altering the name or boundary of that State shall be introduced in Parliament without the consent of the Legislature of that State.”
  • In other words, J&K has not only Not merged its territory into the Indian Union, it has explicitly preserved its territorial integrity as also identity. That, incidentally, also rules out trifurcation of J&K without its consent.

Can Article 370 can be Abrogated?

  • Article 370 itself mandates a recommendation of the state Constituent Assembly before the President of India can declare Article 370 inoperative.
  • The state Constituent Assembly dispersed after framing the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir in 1957, without, however, making any such recommendation.
  • Nor can a recommendation of the state legislature (unlikely as it may be) be a substitute for the requisite recommendation of the state Constituent Assembly.
  • It therefore follows that the competence of any organ of the Indian State to declare Article 370 inoperative no longer exists.

What is assumption for abrogation of Article 370:

  • Article 370 as an obstacle to full integration of J&K into India plead that the abrogation of Article 370 (and Article 35A) would remove the preferential treatment accorded to the state, permit citizens from across the country to settle in J&K and buy land there, and assimilate the people of J&K into the mainstream.
  • Arguments in Oppose
    • Honouring the autonomy guaranteed by Article 370, asserting that it is Article 370 that makes J&K a part of India, and should Article 370 be abrogated, the accession of J&K to India itself gets undone.
    • The contention is that Article 1 of the Indian Constitution (which lists the States of India) is made applicable to J&K by Article 370 itself, and if Article 370 goes, so does the application of Article 1 of the Indian Constitution to J&K, which would render J&K independent of India.

Experts opinion:

  • J&K became an integral part of India not by virtue of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution but through the accession instrument of 26 October 1947 executed by its sovereign Ruler in favour of India in terms of the law that created modern-day India.
  • The 11-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held in Madhav Rao (1973) that the accession instrument was an Act of State on the part of the sovereign ruler of a princely state and bound all concerned.
  • The accession made by a sovereign J&K to a sovereign India, therefore, cannot be re-opened and is binding on all, whether in Srinagar or in New Delhi.
  • Since the basis of the relationship between J&K and the Indian Union is the accession instrument, and not Article 370, the abrogation of Article 370 (even if it was constitutionally permissible) would not undo the accession or make J&K independent of India.
  • Consequences from such abrogation
    • Far from assimilation, such abrogation would revert the relationship between J&K and India to the terms of the accession instrument and confine New Delhi’s jurisdiction to only matters of external affairs, communications and defence and ancillary matters, with the rest of the matters falling within the jurisdiction of the current constitutional polity of J&K.
    • After all, should Article 370 go, so would all the Presidential Orders under Article 370, most of which had the effect of extending New Delhi’s fiat to the state, often to an extent that would be impermissible for other parts of the country.
    • The obvious constitutional consequence of abrogating Article 370 would be to enhance the state’s autonomy, which would hardly have been New Delhi’s intention. Indeed, it would be a classic case of New Delhi cutting off its nose to spite its face.

ASYLUM IN INDIA

  • Context: Former Maldives Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor is seeking asylum in India.

What Is Asylum Seeking?

  • According to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, asylum seekers are individuals who have sought international protection and whose claims for refugee status have not yet been determined, irrespective of when they may have been lodged.

Does India Have A Uniform Law on Asylum Seekers and Refugees?

  • India has one of the largest refugee populations in South Asia, but is yet to enact a uniform law that addresses the issue of asylum.
  • Neither is the term ‘refugee’ mentioned in any domestic law.
  • India has not signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees, or its 1967 Protocol that stipulates the rights and services host states must provide refugees.
  • India does, have an informal refugee regime broadly in line with international instruments.
  • While it has no formal asylum policy, the government decides on granting asylum on an ad hoc and case-to-case basis.

What Is Non-­Refoulement?

  • Non­refoulement is a fundamental principle of international law that forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”

BYE ELECTIONS TO THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCILS

Why in News?

  • There are casual vacancies created in the Legislative Council of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Casual Vacancy:

  • When the seat of a member elected to a legislative house becomes vacant, due to resignation, death, etc. Then this causes casual vacancy and a bye-election is held within six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy.

Legislative Councils:

  • Our constitution does not force a bicameral legislature on states.
  • It gives states the option of having a second House. As of today, seven states have Legislative Councils. These are Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority.

Election to Legislative Councils:

  • Membership may vary, but the Legislative Council must not have more than a third of the total membership of the Assembly of that state, and in no case fewer than 40 members.
  • The exception is J&K, where the Legislative Council has 36 members vide Section 50 of the constitution of the state.
  • About 1/3rd of members are elected by members of the Assembly
  • another 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state
    1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers and 1/12th by registered graduates
  • The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.
  • Legislative Councils are permanent Houses, and like Rajya Sabha, one-third of their members retire every two years.

WATER DISPUTES TRIBUNAL

Context: Lok Sabha gave its approval to a proposal to set up a permanent tribunal to adjudicate on inter-state disputes over sharing of river waters.

Background:

Water and Constitution of India

  •  Water is a State subject
  • Entry 17 of State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power.
  • Entry 56 of Union List gives power to the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

Article 262:

  • Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
  •  Parliament may, by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.

What Inter-State River Waters Disputes Act of 1956 says about Tribunal:

  •  Inter-State River Waters Disputes Act of 1956 provides for setting up of a separate tribunal every time a dispute arises.

New Amendment:

  •  The amendment will ensure the transfer of all existing water disputes to the new tribunal.
  •  All five existing tribunals under the 1956 Act would cease to exist.

Why the Change?

  •  The main purpose is to make the process of dispute settlement more efficient and effective.

Issues with Old Tribunals:

  •  Under the 1956 Act, nine tribunals have so far been set up. Only four of them have given their awards.
  •  One of these disputes, over Cauvery waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, took 28 years to settle.
  •  The Ravi and Beas Waters Tribunal was set up in April 1986 and it is still to give the final award.
  •  The minimum a tribunal has taken to settle a dispute is seven years, by the first Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal in 1976.
  • Time Limit-The amendment is bringing a time limit for adjudicating the disputes. All disputes would now have to be resolved within a maximum of four-and-a-half years.

Duplication of work:

  •  The multiplicity of tribunals has led to an increase in bureaucracy, delays, and possible duplication of work.

Money Saved:

  •  The replacement of five existing tribunals with a permanent tribunal is likely to result in a 25 per cent reduction in staff strength, from the current 107 to 80, and a saving of Rs 4.27 crore per year.

Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC):

  •  The current system of dispute resolution would give way to a new two-tier approach.
  •  The states concerned would be encouraged to come to a negotiated settlement through a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC).
  •  Only if the DRC fails to resolve the dispute will the matter be referred to the tribunal.

How it will work?

  •  In the existing mechanism, when states raise a dispute, the central government constitutes a tribunal. Under the current law, the tribunal has to give its award within three years, which can be extended by another two years.
  •  In practice, tribunals have taken much longer to give their decisions. Under the new system, the Centre would set up a DRC once states raise a dispute.
  •  The DRC would be headed by a serving or retired secretary-rank officer with experience in the water sector and would have other expert members and a representative of each state government concerned.
  •  The DRC would try to resolve the dispute through negotiations within a year and submit a report to the Centre. This period can be extended by a maximum of six months.

If DRC fails:

  •  If the DRC fails to settle the dispute, it would be referred to the permanent tribunal, which will have a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and a maximum of six members — three judicial and three expert members.
  •  The chairperson would then constitute a three-member bench that would consider the DRC report before investigating on its own.
  •  It would have to finalise its decision within two years, a period that can be extended by a maximum of one more year — adding up to a maximum of four-and-a-half years.

Judgment Validity:

  •  The decision of the tribunal would carry the weight of an order of the Supreme Court.

Appeal:

  •  There is no provision for appeal.
  •  However, the Supreme Court, while hearing a civil suit in the Cauvery dispute, had said the decision of that tribunal could be challenged before it through a Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution.

22nd NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON E-GOVERNANCE

Why in News?

  • The Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG), in association with Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India and the State Government of Meghalaya will organize the 22nd National Conference on e-Governance 2019.
  • It will be conducted at Shillong, Meghalaya.

Highlights:

  • Objective of the e-Gov conference is to provide platform to improve the standard of service rendered to common man i.e. to provide end to end Citizen Centric Service Delivery.
  • The conference is normally attended by senior officers of Government of India and State Governments including union Territories, academician, Executives from Industry, etc.
  • This is the first time the event is being organized in North-Eastern region of the country.
  • This Conference provides a platform to disseminate knowledge on effective methods of designing and implementing sustainable e-Governance initiatives to provide end-to-end Digital Services, exchange experiences in solving problems, mitigating risks, resolving issues, etc.
  • The theme of this Conference is “Digital India: Success to Excellence”. Discussions will be held on 5 sub-themes in Plenary session during the Conference:
    • India Enterprise Architecture (INDEA),
    • Digital Infrastructure,
    • One Nation – One Platform,
    • Emerging Technology for Practitioners, Secretariat Reforms,
    • National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment (NeSDA).

PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL

Context: A private member’s bill to make voting in election compulsory was taken up for discussion in Lok Sabha.

Who Is A Private Member?

  • Any Member of Parliament (MP) who is not a Minister in the Union Cabinet is referred to as a private member.
  • A private member can be a member of either house of the Parliament (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha)

What Is A Private Member’s Bill?

  • Parliament’s key role is to debate and make laws. Both Ministers and private members contribute to the law-making process.
  • Bills introduced by Ministers are referred to as government bills. They are backed by the Government, and reflect its legislative agenda.
  • Private member’s bills are piloted by non-Minister MPs i.e. by a private member.
  • Their purpose is to draw the government’s attention to what individual MPs see as issues and gaps in the existing legal framework, which require legislative intervention.

Introduction and Discussion in The House:

  • The admissibility of a private member’s Bill is decided by the presiding officers of the Parliament (Speaker in case of Lok Sabha and Chairman in case of Rajya Sabha)
  • The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for introduction; the House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.
  • Up to 1997, private members could introduce up to three Bills in a week. This led to a piling up of Bills that were introduced but never discussed.
  • Therefore, in 1997 the number of private member’s Bills has been capped to three per session.
  • While government Bills can be introduced and discussed on any day, private member’s Bills can be introduced and discussed only on Fridays.
  • On the scheduled Friday, the private member moves a motion for introduction of the Bill, which is usually not opposed.
  • Only a fraction of private member’s bills that are introduced, are taken up for discussion.
  • A private member’s Bill that is introduced but not discussed, lapses when Member retires.
  • Upon conclusion of the discussion, the Member piloting the Bill can either withdraw it on the request of the Minister concerned, or he may choose to press ahead with its passage.
  • In the latter case, the Bill is put to vote and, if the private member gets the support of the House, it is passed.

POWER OF PRESIDENT TO GRANT PARDONS

Context: Madras High Court held that the President, while granting clemency to death convicts, can impose a condition that they should be imprisoned till their death, without being accorded the benefit of remission for any reason.

About Pardoning Power of President Under Indian Constitution:

  • Article 72 of the constitution empowers the President to grand pardons to persons who have been tried and convicted of any offence in all cases where the.
    • 1. Punishment or sentence is for an offence against a union Law
    • 2. Punishment or sentence is by a court martial (Military Court)and
    • 3. Sentence is a sentence of death.
  • The Pardoning power of President is independent of the Judiciary; It is an executive power, but the President while exercising this power does not sit as a court of appeal.
  • The object of conferring this power on the President is two – fold;
    • 1. To keep the door, open for correcting any judicial errors in the operation of law: and
    • 2. To afford relief from a sentence, which the President regards as unduly harsh.

The Pardoning Power of The President Includes the Following:

  • Pardon: It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
  • Commutation: It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment for a lighter form. For Example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment, which in turn may be commuted to a simple imprisonment.
  • Remission: It implies reducing the period of sentence without changing its character. For Example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.
  • Respite: It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.
  • Reprieve: It Implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (Especially that of death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or communication from the President.

The Supreme court examined the pardoning power of the President under different cases and laid down the following principles:

  • The Petitioner for mercy has no right to an oral hearing by the President.
  • The President can examine the evidence afresh and take a view different from the view taken by the court.
  • The power is to be exercised by the President on the advice of the Union Cabinet.
  • The President is not bound to give reasons for his order.
  • The President can afford relief not only from a sentence that he regards as unduly harsh but also from an evident mistake.
  • There is no need for the Supreme Court to lay down specific guidelines for the exercise of power by the President.
  • The Exercise of power by the President is not subject to judicial review except where the Presidential decision is arbitrary, irrational, mala fide or discriminatory.
  • Where the earlier petition for mercy has been rejected by the President, stay cannot be obtained by filling another petition.

PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  •  Lok Sabha has passed The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Why such Amendment?

  • The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was enacted to provide for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the State HRC and the Human Rights Courts for protection of human rights.
  • Certain State Governments have proposed for amendment as they have been facing difficulties in finding suitable candidates to the post of Chairperson of the respective SHRCs owing to the existing eligibility criteria.
  • The proposed amendments will enable both the NHRC and SHRCs to be more compliant with the Paris Principles.

Highflights:

  • A person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court is also made eligible to be appointed as Chairperson of the Commission in addition to the person who has been the CJI;
  • To increase the Members of the NHRC from two to three of which, one shall be a woman;
  • To include Chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as deemed Members of the Commission;
  • To reduce the term of the Chairperson and Members of the NHRC and the SHRCs from five to three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment;
  • To provide that a person who has been a Judge of a High Court is also made eligible to be appointed as Chairperson of the SHRC in addition to the person who has been the Chief Justice of the High Court; and,
  • To confer upon State Commissions, the functions relating to human rights being discharged by the UTs, other than the UT of Delhi which will be dealt with by the Commission.

ELECTRONICALLY TRANSMITTED POSTAL BALLOT SYSTEM (ETPBS)

Why in News?

  • In the recently concluded 2019 general elections, the Election Commission of India used Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) for service voters.

Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS):

  • Persons working in Central Forces under Arms Act and Government officials deployed in Embassies outside the country are classified as Service Voters.
  • Such service voters are provisioned for online enrolment.
  • On the introduction of the ETPBS, there has been a record turnout of service voters. 18,02,646 were enrolled as Service Electors in 2019. This is a high of 60.14% as recorded by the E-postal ballot.
  • The number of service voters included those from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home Affairs (Central Armed Police Forces), Ministry of External Affairs and the State Police.
  • ETPBS is developed by Election Commission of India with the help of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
  • This system enables the entitled service voters to cast their vote using an electronically received postal ballot from anywhere outside their constituency. The voters who make such a choice will be entitled for Postal Ballot delivered through Electronic Media for a particular election.
  • It enables the voters to cast their vote on an electronically received postal ballot from their preferred location, which is outside their originally assigned voting constituency.
  • This system addresses the issue of time constraint for dispatch of postal ballot.

Who are eligible to avail of ETPBS?

  • Service Voters, other than those who opt for proxy voting (Classified Service Voters)
  • The wife of a Service Voter who ordinarily resides with him
  • Overseas Voters

Advantages of ETPBS:

  • It can be availed by service voters from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • It is easy and efficient.
  • It facilitates the creation of service voter electoral roll data.
  • It has two-layered security and is a secure system.
  • OTP is required to download encrypted Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot file.
  • Secrecy is maintained and no duplicate of casted ETPB is possible due to QR code.
  • PIN is required to decrypt, print and deliver ETPB.

SOCIAL STIGMA SIDELINING CHILD RAPE VICTIMS: REPORT

Why in News?

  • A study by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) along with the Human Development Society was recently released.

Highlights of The Report:

  • The study covered 100 child victims — 94 girls and 6 boys, aged between 2 and 18 years — of rape cases reported in 2017-18.
  • The study says that social consequences of rape are hugely prejudicial to victims of sexual abuse and their families, as people, in general, do not see victims in the right perspective.
  • The study also observed that instead of making the perpetrators responsible for the act, social stigma is attached to victims and their families “who are often pushed to the margins of society”.
  • It highlighted “rape” as the most important factor among victims for dropping out of school.
  • The principal reason is related to the incident of rape, as 33% (the highest of all) cite legal procedure, social stigma, safety and health concerns following rape as reasons for dropping out of studies.
  • While 14% each noted financial crisis and lack of interest in study as the reason; 10% children dropped out due to the need of special schools; 7% did so due to illness of parents and families responsibilities.
  • The sample also has 10% victims who are either living with accused or are planning to marry the culprit.
  • Rape victims, mostly girls, suffer from different types of illness, like lower abdominal pain, anaemia or weakness, for which 81% of the parents are “unable to meet healthcare challenges of their children due to lack of money”
  • 24% parents are unable to spend long time for treatment, as it adversely affects their work as wage labour and work-related commitments.
    There are 14% parents whose inability to discuss health issues of child with doctors due to social stigma act as an obstruction to fulfilling health needs.
  • 57% families of child victims face challenges to their livelihood following the incidence of rape: livelihood challenges are being faced by 56% families of girl’s victims and 67% families of victims who are boys.

JUVENILE JUSTICE

Background:

  • In 2016, a 17-year-old was booked for the murder of his three-year-old neighbour in Mumbai.
  • The Mumbai city Juvenile Justice Board as well as a children’s court directed that he be tried as an adult under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015.
  • Last week, the Bombay High Court set aside these orders and directed that the accused be tried as a minor, saying the Act is reformative and not retributive.

When Is A Child Tried as An Adult?

  • The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was amended in 2015 with a provision allowing for Children in Conflict with Law (CCL) to be tried as adults under certain circumstances.
  • The Act defines a child as someone who is under age 18. For a CCL, age on the date of the offence is the basis for determining whether he or she was a child or an adult.
  • The amended Act distinguishes children in the age group 16-18 as a category which can be tried as adults if they are alleged to have committed a heinous offence — one that attracts a minimum punishment of seven years. The Act does not, however, make it mandatory for all children in this age group to be tried as adults.

Why Was This Distinction Made?

  • The amendment was proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2014 in the backdrop of the gang-rape of a woman inside a bus in Delhi in 2012, leading to her death. One of the offenders was a 17-year-old, which led to the Ministry proposing the amendment (although it could not have retrospectively applied to him).
  • The Government cited an increase in cases of offenders in that age group; child rights activists objected to the amendment. The J S Verma Committee constituted to recommend amendments also stated that it was not inclined to reduce the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16. The amendment was made in 2015.

What Was the Basis for The Order That the Accused Be Tried as A Minor?

  • The Bombay High Court observed: “It [trial as an adult] is not a default choice; a conscious, calibrated one. And for that, all the statutory criteria must be fulfilled.”
  • As per Section 15 of the JJ Act, there are three criteria that the Juvenile Justice Board in the concerned district should consider while conducting a preliminary assessment to determine whether the child should be tried as an adult or under the juvenile justice system, which prescribes a maximum term of three years in a special home.
  • The criteria are whether the child has the mental and physical capacity to commit such an offence; whether the child has the ability to understand its consequences; and the circumstances in which the offence was committed. If the Board finds that the child can be tried as an adult, the case is transferred to a designated children’s court, which again decides whether the Board’s decision is correct.

How Do These Criteria Relate to This Case?

  • Both the Juvenile Justice Board and the children’s court had relied on the probation officer’s social investigation report and a government hospital’s mental health report.
  • The High Court said that neither report brought out “any exceptional circumstances” to compel the juvenile to face trial as an adult. The probation officer’s report, submitted in 2018, had stated the child or his family did not have a criminal record, and called the juvenile “highly manipulative” while also noting that he had “confessed” that the victim was killed “accidentally”. It also noted that the juvenile was counselled on focusing on his studies, and that he had taken and passed his exams while lodged in the observation home.
  • The mental health report said the juvenile had “no psychiatric complaints at present”, was “normal”, and “suffers from no mental incapacity” to commit the offence.
  • The court said that while the Board had relied on these two reports, it had undertaken no independent assessment.
  • It said that if the Board’s criteria of evaluation were followed, “then every case becomes an open-and-shut case”. It said that only because the statute permits a child of 16 years and above to stand trial as an adult in case of heinous offence, it did not mean that all those children should be subjected to adult punishment.
  • One of the court’s key observations was that “essentially, the trial in the regular court is offence-oriented; in the juvenile court, it is offender-oriented. In other words, in the children’s court, societal safety and the child’s future are balanced. For an adult offender, prison is the default opinion; for a juvenile it is the last resort”.

PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMMITTEES

What to study?

  • In the backdrop of a number of Bills having been passed without scrutiny, why are parliamentary standing committees necessary?

Background:

  • Eleven of the 22 Bills introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament have been passed, which makes it a highly productive session after many years.
  • But these Bills have been passed without scrutiny by Parliamentary Standing Committees, their purpose being to enable detailed consideration of a piece of legislation.
  • After the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, parliamentary standing committees have not been constituted as consultations among parties are still under way.
  • Partly as a result of this, the Bills were passed without committee scrutiny. They were discussed in Parliament over durations ranging between two and five hours.

Why Are Parliamentary Committees Necessary?

  • In a parliamentary democracy, Parliament has broadly two functions, which are law-making and oversight of the executive branch of the government.
  • Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning.
  • Given the volume of legislative business, discussing all Bills under the consideration of Parliament in detail on the floor of the House is impossible.
  • In principle, the assumption is that the smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
  • Committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, which allows them the latitude for a more meaningful exchange of views as against discussions in full and open Houses where grandstanding and party positions invariably take precedence.
  • Disruptive changes in technology and the expansion of trade, commerce and economy in general throw up new policy challenges that require a constant reform of legal and institutional structures.
  • While law-making gets increasingly complex, lawmakers cannot infinitely expand their knowledge into ever expanding areas of human activities. For instance, we live in an era of metadata being generated by expanding connectivity.
  • The laws and regulations that are required to govern a digital society cannot be made without highly specialised knowledge and political acumen.
  • Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such
  • expertise is drawn into law-making. Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers.
  • However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions. This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely.

What Are the Types of Committees?

  • Broadly, they are of two kinds: ad hoc committees and the permanent committees.
  • Ad hoc committees are appointed for a specific purpose and cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report.
  • The principal ad hoc committees are the select and joint committees. There are some other ad hoc committees too, but they handle different issues such as privileges, ethics, security, government assurances and food management.
  • Besides, Parliament has permanent committees called the standing committees. Most Bills, after their introduction, get referred to department-related standing committees, which are permanent and regular bodies.
  • The idea behind these committees, first set up in 1993, is that with Parliament working for a limited day in a year, Bills, which deal with technical and policy matters, need to be discussed in detail, after taking the view of diverse stakeholders and experts.
  • While referring a Bill to a standing committee, the Chairman or the Speaker may specify the time within which it has to submit its report.
    The joint committees and standing committees become defunct after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

What Are Its Origins?

  • As is the case with several other practices of Indian parliamentary democracy, the institution of Parliamentary Committees also has its origins in the British Parliament.
  • The first Parliamentary Committee was constituted in 1571 in Britain.
  • The Public Accounts Committee was established in 1861. In India, the first Public Accounts Committee was constituted in April 1950.
  • According to P.D.T. Achary, former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, “The practice of regularly referring bills to committees began in 1989 after government departments started forming their own standing committees.
  • Prior to that, select committees or joint committees of the houses were only set up to scrutinise in detail some very important bills, but this was few and far between.

WHAT IS A WHIP? WHAT DOES IT DO?

What is a WHIP?

  • A whip in parliamentary parlance is a written order that party members be present for an important vote, or that they vote only in a particular way.
  • The term is derived from the old British practice of “whipping in” lawmakers to follow the party line.
  • In India all parties can issue a whip to their members.
  • Parties appoint a senior member from among their House contingents to issue whips — this member is called a Chief Whip, and he/she is assisted by additional Whips.

Kinds of WHIPS:

  • The importance of a whip can be inferred from the number of times an order is underlined.
  • A one-line whip, underlined once, is usually issued to inform party members of a vote, and allows them to abstain in case they decide not to follow the party line.
  • A two-line whip directs them to be present during the vote.
  • A three-line whip is the strongest, employed on important occasions such as the second reading of a Bill or a no-confidence motion, and places an obligation on members to toe the party line.

Defiance of WHIP:

  • The penalty for defying a whip varies from country to country.
  • In the UK, MPs can lose membership of the party, but can keep their House seats as Independents.
  • In India, rebelling against a three-line whip can put a lawmaker’s membership of the House at risk. The anti-defection law allows the Speaker/Chairperson to disqualify such a member
  • The only exception is when more than a third of legislators vote against a directive, effectively splitting the party.

AMENDMENT TO RIGHT TO INFORMATION (RTI) ACT

  • Context- Government introduces Bill to amend the RTI Act.

Provisions of The Proposed Bill:

Tenure of CIC and IC:

  • The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioner (ICs) have a tenure of five years. The Bill proposes that the tenure of the CICs and ICs should depend on the Central Government.

Salary of CIC and IC:

  • The salaries of CIC and ICs in the Centre are equivalent to salaries of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners in the Centre.
  • Similarly, the salaries of CIC and ICs in states are equivalent to salaries of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners in the state.
  • The new bill says that the salaries of CIC and ICs both in Centre and State must be decided by the Central Government.

Provision of Pension:

  • The Act says that if the CIC and ICs both in State and Centre are receiving a pension or any other retirement benefits for previous government service, then their salaries are reduced by an amount equal to the pension. The amendment wants to remove these provisions.
  • In the above context, the government service means, services under the central government, state government, corporation established under a central or state law, or company-owned or controlled by the central or state government.

Opposing Arguments:

  • Move will take away independence of the Commissions, highest adjudicating bodies in the matter of the RTI Act.
  • The efficacy of the RTI Act, allowing any Indian to seek information from any authority on the payment of Rs 10, hinges closely on the independence of the CIC and its equivalents in the states — state information commissions that adjudicate the matter in case information is not furnished to applicants within the parameters of the law.
  • Government has brought about the bill in complete secrecy and there have been no public consultations on the bill.

RTI Act 2005

Background:

  • The Right to Information Act 2005 or RTI 2005, came into force in order to encourage a corruption free, transparent and accountable form of government in which the citizens feel a sense of power and safety.
  • RTI 2005 is applicable to all states of India except for Jammu and Kashmir.

Provisions:

  • Under the Act, a citizen can demand from any public or government authority any information (as long as it does not pertain to national security and defence or some personal information) and the authority is supposed to respond within a period of 30 days to the application.

RTI Act Information Exclusions:

  • Under section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 Govt/public authorities are exempted from sharing following information:
  • Affecting the Sovereignty, Integrity, Security, Strategic interest, Scientific interest or Economic interest of the State of India
  • Affecting relation of State of India with foreign State
  • Forbidden by any court of law in India
  • Breach of privilege of State assembly or Parliament of India
  • Intellectual Property Rights, Copyright, Commercial Confidence or Trade Secrets
  • Available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless disclosure is required in larger public interest
  • Received from foreign Government
  • Risk the life or physical safety of any person
  • Impact or obstruct legal investigation
  • Minutes of Union Cabinet meeting including discussion between Ministers, Secretaries or Govt officers
  • Personal information i.e. breach of Privacy

Constitutional Validation:

  • Under section article 19 (1) (a), the Supreme Court of India has held that rights to freedom of speech and expression includes the rights to information. According to this the right to information is implicit in the right to freedom of speech.
  • All the citizens must have the right to get correct information in every sphere of their life. The apex court of India has ensured this right in the case of state of Uttar Pradesh” Vs Raj Narain (1974) 4 SCC 428. It is impossible for any democratic country to stand without the right to information for its citizen.

International Conventions:

  • The United Nation Organization (UN proclaimed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This was followed by The International Convenant On Civil and Political Rights.
  • Article 19 of the covenant declares that – “Everyone has the’ rights of freedom of opinion and expression the rights includes freedom to hold opinion without interference; and to seek, and receive and import information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

DAM SAFETY

Context:

  • The Centre to reintroduce the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 in Parliament.

Basic framework based on 2018 Bill: What is Bill about:

  • The Bill provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of specified dams across the country. The Bill also provides for the institutional mechanism to ensure the safety of such dams.

Applicability of the Bill:

  • The Bill applies to all specified dams in the country.
  • These are dams with:
  • 1. Height more than 15 metres, or
  • 2. Height between 10 metres to 15 metres and subject to certain additional design and structural conditions.

National Committee on Dam Safety:

  • The Bill provides for the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety.
  • The Committee will be chaired by the Chairperson, Central Water Commission.

All other members will be nominated by the Central Government, and include:

  • 1. Up to 10 representatives of the central government,
  • 2. Up to seven representatives of the state governments (by rotation), and
  • 3. Up to three dam safety experts.

Functions of the Committee include:

  • Formulating policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures, and
  • Analysing causes of major dam failures and suggesting changes in dam safety practices.

National Dam Safety Authority:

  • The Bill provides for a National Dam Safety Authority.
  • The Authority will be headed by an officer not below the rank of an Additional Secretary who will be appointed by the central government.

Functions of the Authority include:

  • 1. Implementing the policies formulated by the National Committee on Dam Safety,
  • 2. Resolving issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), or between a SDSO and any dam owner in that state,
  • 3. Specifying regulations for inspection and investigation of dams, and
  • 4. Providing accreditation to agencies working on construction, design, and alteration of dams.

Offences and penalties:

  • The Bill lays the onus of the dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for willful “commission and omission of certain acts.

Critical Issues:

  • It does not ensure transparency and accountability in dam management.
  • Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha have opposed the Bill on the grounds that it encroaches upon the sovereignty of States to manage their dams.
  • There is no inclusion of compensation to the victims of dam failures or dam incidents, which was a key recommendation of the June 2011 report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (15th Lok Sabha) on “Dam Safety Bill, 2010”.

NATIONAL INVESTIGATION AGENCY (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 passed by Lok Sabha

Amendments:

  • The Bill amends the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008. The Act provides for a national-level agency to investigate and prosecute offences listed in a schedule (scheduled offences). Further, the Act allows for creation of Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
  • Scheduled offences: The schedule to the Act specifies a list of offences which are to be investigated and prosecuted by the NIA.
  • These include offences under Acts such as the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.
  • The Bill seeks to allow the NIA to investigate the following offences, in addition:
    • Human trafficking,
    • Offences related to counterfeit currency or bank notes
    • Manufacture or sale of prohibited arms
    • Cyber-terrorism
    • Offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
  • Jurisdiction of the NIA: The Act provides for the creation of the NIA to investigate and prosecute offences specified in the schedule.
  • The officers of the NIA have the same powers as other police officers in relation to investigation of such offences, across India.
  • The Bill states that in addition, officers of the NIA will have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries. The central government may direct the NIA to investigate such cases, as if the offence has been committed in India. The Special Court in New Delhi will have jurisdiction over these cases.
  • Special Courts: The Act allows the central government to constitute Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
  • The Bill amends this to state that the central government may designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
  • The central government is required to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court under which the Sessions Court is functioning, before designating it as a Special Court. When more than one Special Court has been designated for any area, the senior-most judge will distribute cases among the courts.
  • Further, state governments may also designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences

CENTRAL DRUGS STANDARD CONTROL ORGANISATION

CDSCO:

  • Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is the Central Drug Authority for discharging functions assigned to the Central Government under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act

Major functions of CDSCO:

  • Regulatory control over the import of drugs, approval of new drugs and clinical trials, meetings of Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) and Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), approval of certain licenses as Central License Approving Authority is exercised by the CDSCO headquarters.

Strategies:

  • Initiate in framing of rules, regulations and guidance documents to match the contemporary issues in compliance with the requirements of Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules 1945.
  • Facilitate in Uniform implementation of the provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules 1945. Function as Central license Approving Authority under the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules 1945. Collaboration with other similar International agencies.
  • Providing training to the Indian regulatory personnel.

NATIONAL RURAL BANK OF INDIA.

  • Context- Govt is thinking of formation of National Rural Bank of India in order to consolidate in Regional rural Banks (RRB).

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (2003)

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (2003) in its 55th Report recommended that Government may consider the setting up of an apex body viz. National Rural Bank of India.

Why there is need of formation of National Rural Bank of India.

  • National Rural Bank of India can act as apex body to monitor the Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)

Steps taken by the Government to strengthen the RRBs:

  • Government had initiated the process of structural consolidation of RRBs in 2004-05 by amalgamating RRBs of the same Sponsor Bank within a State.
  • Recapitalization support is provided to RRBs to augment their capital so as to comply with regulatory capital requirements.
  • Periodic review of financial performance of RRBs,
  • Regular Capacity building efforts are undertaken by NABARD like training at Bankers Institute of Rural Development (BIRD), conduct of Organizational Development Initiative (ODI), exposure visits, etc.
  • NABARD provides regular policy support to RRBs in matters relating to human resources and an arrangement has been made for redressal of grievances through Joint Consultative Committee (JCC).

What is Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)

  • Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) are financial institutions which ensure adequate credit for agriculture and other rural sectors .
  • Regional Rural Banks were set up on the basis of the recommendations of the Narasimham Working Group (1975), and after the legislations of the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976.
  • The first Regional Rural Bank “Prathama Grameen Bank” was set up on October 2, 1975.At present there are 82 RRBs in India.

Equity in RRBs

  • The equity of a regional rural bank is held by the Central Government, concerned State Government and the Sponsor Bank in the proportion of 50:15:35.

Significance:

  • The RRBs combine the characteristics of a cooperative in terms of the familiarity of the rural problems and a commercial bank in terms of its professionalism and ability to mobilise financial resources.
  • The main objectives of RRB’s are to provide credit and other facilities‚ especially to the small and marginal farmers‚ agricultural labourers artisans and small entrepreneurs in rural areas with the objective of bridging the credit gap in rural areas, checking the outflow of rural deposits to urban areas and reduce regional imbalances and increase rural employment generation.

LaQshya INITIATIVE

Why in News?

  • The Minister of State (Health and Family Welfare) informed about LaQshya Initiative in the Lok Sabha.

LaQshya Initiative:

  • Government of India has launched “LaQshya” (Labour room Quality improvement Initiative) to improve quality of care in labour room and maternity operation theatres in public health facilities.

Aim:

  • To reduce preventable maternal and newborn mortality, morbidity and stillbirths associated with the care around delivery in Labour room and Maternity Operation Theatre and ensure respectful maternity care.

Objectives:

  • To reduce maternal and newborn mortality & morbidity due to hemorrhage, retained placenta, preterm, preeclampsia and eclampsia, obstructed labour, puerperal sepsis, newborn asphyxia, and newborn sepsis, etc.
  • To improve Quality of care during the delivery and immediate post-partum care, stabilization of complications and ensure timely referrals, and enable an effective two-way follow-up system.
  • To enhance satisfaction of beneficiaries visiting the health facilities and provide Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) to all pregnant women attending the public health facilities.
  • Following types of healthcare facilities have been identified for implementation of LaQshya program:
    • Government medical college hospitals.
    • District Hospitals & equivalent health facilities.
    • Designated FRUs and high case load CHCs with over 100 deliveries/month ( 60 in hills and desert areas)

LAW COMMISSION

  • Context- Law Ministry has initiated the process of setting up the body which gives advice to the government on complex legal issues.

What is Law Commission:

  • Law Commission of India is neither a constitutional body nor a statutory body.
  • It is truly an ad hoc and advisory body whose work is to do research and make recommendations for law reforms such as amendments and updations of prevalent and inherited laws.
  • Recommendations is NOT binding upon the Government.

How Law Commission is established?

  • Law Commission of is established by an order of central government.
    Who will head the law commission is completely at the discretion of the Government. However, it is a convention that a retired judge of Supreme Court heads India’s Law Commission.
  • Further, the States also can constitute their own law commissions.

Who is composition of Law Commission?

  • The Commission is headed by a full-time Chairperson. It membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government.
  • Law commission would be comprised of:
    • A full-time Chairperson
    • Four Full-Time Members (including a Member-Secretary). Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs as ex offcio Member. Secretary, Legislative Department as ex offcio Member. not more than five part-time Members.
  • The Commission is established for a fixed tenure (generally three years) and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

History of Law Commission:

  • India’s first Law Commission was established in 1834 via Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay.
  • This law commission had recommended codification of the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and a few other matters.

INTER-STATE RIVER WATER DISPUTES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • Cabinet approves Inter-State River Water disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 with a view to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present institutional architecture robust.

Features of the bill:

  • The Bill requires the central government to set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), for resolving any inter-state water dispute amicably. The DRC will get a period of one year, extendable by six months, to submit its report to the central government.
  • Members of the DRC will be from relevant fields, as deemed fit by the central government.
  • The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal for adjudication of water disputes, if a dispute is not resolved through the DRC. This tribunal can have multiple benches.
  • All existing tribunals will be dissolved and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing tribunals will be transferred to this newly formed tribunal.
  • The tribunal shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and not more than six nominated members (judges of the Supreme Court or of a High Court), nominated by the Chief Justice of India.

THE AADHAAR AND OTHER LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

  •   Context: Recently the Parliament passed the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Key Changes in the Aadhar:

  •  The existing Act on Aadhaar provides for the use of Aadhaar number as proof of identity of a person, subject to authentication. the Bill replaces this provision to state that an individual may voluntarily use his Aadhaar number to establish his identity, by authentication or offline verification.
  • Enabling offline verification is another key change brought about by the Bill. Under the exiting Aadhaar Act, verification of identity requires authentication, which, in turn, requires an individual to submit their Aadhaar number and biometric or demographic information to the Central Identities Data Repository.
  • The latest Bill amends the Act to additionally allow offline verification of a person’s identity through modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The existing Act allowed State or a corporate entity under any law to use Aadhaar. The Bill replaces this bit and allows the UIDAI to decide whether an entity can use Aadhaar.
  • The UIDAI can do so once it has satisfied itself that the entity is allowed to do so under law or conforms to requisite privacy and security standard, or indeed, is obtaining Aadhaar in the interest of the State. the Bill has also strengthened the disclosure norms relating to Aadhaar.
  • It has also provided for a dedicated Unique Identification Authority of India Fund, which will receive all fees and revenue collected by the UIDAI. Under the Act, these go to the Consolidated Fund of India. The Bill also makes it possible for individuals to file complaints under certain circumstances such as impersonation instead of just allowing the UIDAI to file complaints.
  •  Lastly, the Bill also lays down a federated structure for deciding penalties in case an entity fails to play by the rules.

ANTI-DEFECTION LAW

  • Context: In the light of the Karnataka Assembly crisis, the Anti-Defection Law is being debated nationally.

About Anti-Defection Law:

  • Anti-Defection law is contained in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which was introduced by the 52nd Amendment in 1985 During tenure of Rajiv Gandhi.
  • Definition of Defection: Defection is defined as” to abandon a position or association, often to join an opposing group” which essentially describes a situation when a member of a particular party abandons his loyalty towards that party and provide his support (in the form of his vote or otherwise) to another party.

When was the Anti-Defection Law instituted and what was the Trigger?

  •  For a long time, the Indian political scene was besmirched by political defections by members of the legislature. This situation brought about greater instability in the political system.
  •  The infamous “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” slogan was coined against the background of continuous defections by the legislators. Legislators used to change parties frequently, bringing about chaos in the legislatures as governments fell. In sum, they often brought about political instability.
  • This caused serious concerns to the right-thinking political leaders of the country.
  •  Several efforts were made to make some law to curb defections. Starting from private members’ efforts, Bills were brought in by the government at different times.
  •  No Bill could be passed because of one reason or the other. However, the most important reason was that there was no consensus on the basic provisions of an anti-defection law.
  • Members of Parliament were concerned about the freedom of speech in Parliament and other legislatures as they had a fear that too stringent a law on defection would likely curb the freedom of speech (which is a constitutional right) of the legislators. A lot of time was taken before a consensus could be reached on this issue.
  • Finally, in 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought a Bill to amend the Constitution and curb defection.
  • The 10th Schedule of the Constitution, which contains the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution through this amendment.

What is the purpose of the anti-defection law? What are the grounds of disqualification?

  •       The purpose of the law is to curb political defection by the legislators.
  •       There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified:
    1. If the member voluntarily gives up the membership of the party, he shall be disqualified. Voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party. Even without resigning, a legislator can be disqualified if by his conduct the Speaker/Chairman of the concerned House draws a reasonable inference that the member has voluntarily given up the membership of his party.
    2. If a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his party and his action is not condoned by his party, he can be disqualified. These are the two grounds on which a legislator can be disqualified from being a member of the House.
  •       However, there is an exception that was provided in the law to protect the legislators from disqualification. The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.

Exceptions:

  • If a Person is elected as speaker or chairman then he could resign from his party, and rejoin the party if he demitted that post. No Disqualification in this case.
  • A Party could be merged into another if at least one – thirds of its party legislators voted for the merger.  The Law initially permitted splitting of parties, but that has now been made two – third. As Soon as this law was passed, it was met with severe oppositions on logic that it impinged on right to free speech of legislators. A PIL was filed in the supreme court in the form of famous Kihoto Hollohon vs Zochillhu and others (1992). This PIL had challenged the constitutional validity of the law.
  • But SC upheld the constitutional validity of 10th Schedule. Court also decided that the law does not violate any rights of free speech or basic structure of the parliamentary democracy.
  •  However, Supreme Court also made some observations on section 2(1) (b) of the Tenth Schedule, Section 2(1) (b) reads that a member shall be disqualified if he votes or abstains from voting contrary to any direction issued by the Political party.
  • The Judgement highlighted the need to limit disqualifications to votes crucial to the existence of the government and to matters integral to the electoral programme of the party, so as not to ‘unduly impinge’ on the freedom of speech of members.

91st Amendment Act, 2003

  •  When it was enacted first, there was a provision under which if there occurs a split in the original political party and as a result of which one-third of the legislators of that party forms a separate group, they shall not be disqualified.
  • This provision resulted in large scale defections and the lawmakers were convinced that the provision of a split in the party was being misused.
  • Therefore, they decided to delete this provision.
  • Now at least two-thirds of the members of a party have to be in favor of a “merger” for it to have validity in the eyes of the law.
  •  The 91st Amendment also makes it mandatory for all those switching political sides – whether singly or in groups – to resign their legislative membership. They now have to seek re-election if they defect.

Is the law, as it stands now, open to interpretation?

  •  The first ground for disqualifying a legislator for defecting from a party is his voluntarily giving up the membership of his party. This term “voluntarily giving up the membership of his party” is susceptible to interpretation.
  • As has been explained earlier, voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party.
  •  Then what exactly it means? How can one decide that a member of a legislature has voluntarily given up the membership of his party? The Supreme Court has clarified this point by saying that the presiding officer, who acts as a tribunal, has to draw a reasonable inference from the conduct of the legislator.

How far has the law succeeded in achieving its goal?

  • The law certainly has been able to curb the evil of defection to a great extent. But, of late, a very alarming trend of legislators defecting in groups to another party in search of greener pastures is visible.
  •  The recent examples of defection in state Assemblies and even in Rajya Sabha bear this out. This only shows that the law needs a relook in order to plug the loopholes if any. But it must be said that this law has served the interest of the society.
  • Political instability caused by frequent and unholy change of allegiance on the part of the legislators of our country has been contained to a very great extent. That is a story of success of one of the most important legislation that the Indian Parliament has enacted

NATIONAL INVESTIGATION AGENCY

Why in News?

  •  A Bill seeking to further strengthen the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by giving it powers to probe terror attacks targeting Indians and Indian interests on foreign soil was introduced in Lok Sabha. Legislation will also allow the NIA probe cyber-crimes and cases of human trafficking.

NIA:

  • The NIA was created by an Act of the Parliament of India on December 31, 2008 following Mumbai Terror Attack of November 2008.
  • According to the NIA Act, the Agency is an investigation agency at the national level to investigate and prosecute offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, security of State, friendly relations with foreign States and offences under Acts enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto for investigation and prosecution of offences affecting sovereignty, security and integrity of India. NIA plays the role of the national counter terrorism law enforcement agency.
  • The NIA was established in a concurrent jurisdiction framework, with provisions for taking up specific cases under specific Acts for investigation and prosecution. Hence, it was “not an Agency to deal with offences under all the laws”, but “with only eight laws”:
  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 (33 of 1962);
  •  The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967);
  • The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 (65 of 1982);
  •  The Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982 (66 of 1982);
  • The SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1993 (36 of 1993);
  •  The Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002 (69 of 2002);
  • The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005 (21 of 2005);
  • Offences under— Chapter VI of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) [sections 121 to 130 (both inclusive)]; Sections 489-A to 489-E (both inclusive) of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
  • Under two circumstances the NIA takes up a case “to investigate and prosecute offences”.
  •  It could be on reference from the State where a Scheduled offence has taken place. On receipt of report from the State Government, the Central Government shall determine on the basis of information made available by the State Government or received from other sources, within 15 days from the date of receipt of the report, whether the offence is a fit case to be investigated by the NIA.
  • The Central Government may also, suo motu, direct the Agency to investigate a Scheduled offence if it is of the opinion that the offence is required to be investigated under the NIA Act.

ELECTORAL REFORMS

  • Context-Discussion in the Rajya Sabha on electoral reforms

Major Reforms Areas:

  • Appointment system for Election Commissioners and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC);
  • Money power; Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs);
  • The idea of simultaneous elections;
  • Role social media
  • The use of government data and surrogate advertisements to target certain sections of voters.

Appointment System for Election Commissioners and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)

Present System of Appointment

  • The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament be made by the President.
  • The President appoints the Election Commissioner based on the recommendations of the cabinet under the Transaction of Business Rules of 1961.

B R Ambedkar on Appointment of EC:

  • The tenure can’t be made a fixed and secure tenure if there is no provision in the Constitution to prevent a fool or a naive or a person who is likely to be under the thumb of the executive.

Collegium System:

  • Communist Party of India (CPI); the Communist Party of India­Marxist (CPI­M); the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), all of whom demanded the introduction of a collegium system

Money Power:

Various Documents and Report on money power in election

  • 1962 private member’s Bill by Atal Bihari Vajpayee;
  • The Goswami committee report on electoral reforms (1990);
  • The Indrajit Gupta committee report on state funding of elections (1998).
  • Independent think tank report on poll expenditure released in June, discussed at length the regressive impact of amending the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and removing the 7.5% cap on corporate donations.

State Funded Election

  • Proposal for state funding (of political parties) based on either a National Electoral Fund or the number of votes obtained by the respective parties.
  • Crowdfunding in the form of small donations. Current expenditure cap on candidates is unrealistic and should either be raised or removed to encourage transparency.

Simultaneous Elections:

In favour:

  • There is electoral fatigue, more expenditure and governance Issue in separate elections.
  • Simultaneous elections will give stability to governments.

Ambedkar on Election (Accountability tool) and stability

  • Accountability should hold precedence over stability.

Proportional representation system

    • Proportional representation system was put forth by the DMK, the CPI and the CPI (M).
    • Explanation why proportional Representation.
      • BSP’s performance in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the party got a vote share of nearly 20% in Uttar Pradesh but zero seats.
      • No representation for 20% of population.
  • A number of MPs argued for a mixed system, where there was a provision for both First Past the Post and Proportional Representation systems.

    Reforms that can be done

  • Reducing the number of phases in elections by raising more security forces;
  • Depoliticisation of constitutional appointments by appointing Commissioners through a broad-based collegium;
  • State funding of political parties by means of a National Electoral Fund or on the basis of the number of votes obtained;
  • Capping the expenditure of political parties;
  • Giving the Election Commission of India (ECI) powers to de­register recalcitrant political parties;
  • Inclusion of proportional representation system; and
  • Revisiting the Information Technology Act, to strengthen social media regulations.

MOB LYNCHING

  • Context– The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission has drafted a stringent law to deal with increasing incidents of mob lynching.

Stats of Lynching

  • Around 50 incidents of mob violence have taken place in Uttar Pradesh between 2012 and 2019.

Recommendation:

  • The panel has recommended jail terms ranging from seven years to life imprisonment for assailants and up to three years in prison for police officers and district magistrates who neglect their duty.
  • taking suo motu cognisance of incidents of mob lynching, said the existing law was not sufficient and there was a need to not just punish those who commit the crime but to also hold authorities responsible for dereliction of duty if such attacks occur under their watch.

Terms Define

  • The draft law defines terms such as “lynching”, “mob”, “victim”, “offensive material” and “hostile environment” created against the victim or family, including boycott of trade, public humiliation, depriving people of their fundamental rights, and forcing them to leave their homes.

Compensation

  • Law should contain provisions on providing compensation to a victim’s family for grievous injury or loss of life and property, and rehabilitation of the victims and their families.

Courts Stand:

  • July 2018 judgment laying down guidelines to prevent mob lynching.
  • The top court had decried cases of lynching and cow vigilantism and said mobocracy cannot be allowed in society. “No citizen can take law into his hands nor become law unto himself,
  • They had also proposed a set of preventives, remedial and punitive measures to curb instances of lynching.
  • The court had ordered the appointment of nodal police officers in all districts, efficient patrolling in areas where there was possibility of such incidents, and completion of trial in lynching cases within six months.

Guideline by Supreme Court in Case of Lynching:

  • The states shall designate a senior police officer not below the rank of police superintendent as nodal officer in each district.
  • These officers will set up a task force to be assisted by one DSP-rank officer for taking measures to prevent mob violence and lynching.
  • The task force will gather intelligence reports on people likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news
  • The state governments shall immediately identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
  • The process of identification should be done within a period of three weeks from the date of the judgment.

Remedial Measures:

  • Despite the preventive measures taken by the state police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that an incident of lynching or mob violence has taken place, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately lodge an FIR.

Deterrent Punishment:

  • The trial court must ordinarily award the maximum sentence under the provisions of the IPC.

Punitive Measures:

  • Departmental action must be taken against police or district officials who fail to act against the perpetrators. Such failure will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken. The action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months.

Sociology of lynching cases:

  • The victims are always those living on the margins of the society.
  • The cow-vigilantes are motivated by an urge to impose hegemony of values and cultural homogeneity, by obfuscating diverse practices and beliefs.
  • They dare to defy the process of law, as their acts are powered by majoritarian sentiments.
  • This is not an issue within the narrow confines of law and order; it plays out on a broader canvass of socio-cultural dynamics.
  • It is the tussle between rule of law and belief-systems.
  • It is the friction between the privileges of the mainstream and the struggles of survival by the marginalized.

Conclusion:

  • This is a complex issue which raises the conundrum of whether a democratic government should merely reflect majoritarian will or should pursue higher values of equality and justice.

WITNESS PROTECTION SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Minister of State for Home Affairs informed about the scheme in a written reply to question in the Rajya Sabha.

Witness Protection Scheme:

  • Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 provides for protection of witnesses based on the threat assessment and protection measures.
  • It includes protection/change of identity of witnesses, their relocation, installation of security devices at the residence of witnesses, usage of specially designed Court rooms, etc.
  • As per Article 141/142 of the Constitution, the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 endorsed in the said Judgment of the Supreme Court is binding on all Courts within the territory of India and enforceable in all States and Union Territories.

Other Provisions of the scheme:

  • Witness Protection Fund means the fund created for bearing the expenses incurred during the implementation of Witness Protection Order passed by the Competent Authority under this scheme;
  • Witness Protection Order means an order passed by the Competent Authority detailing the steps to be taken for ensuring the safety of witness from threats to his or his family member’s life, reputation or property. *It also includes interim order, if any passed, during the pendency of Witness Protection Application;
  • Witness Protection Cell means a dedicated Cell of State/UT Police or Central Police Agencies assigned the duty to implement the witness protection order. It shall be responsible for the security as per witness protection order.

Proposed Rights to be entitled to the Witness:

  • Right to give evidence anonymously
  • Right to protection from intimidation and harm
  • Right to be treated with dignity and compassion and respect of privacy
  • Right to information of the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime
  • Right to secure waiting place while at Court proceedings
  • Right to transportation and lodging arrangements

Witness Protection Fund:

  • The Scheme provides for a State Witness Protection Fund for meeting the expenses of the scheme.
  • This fund shall be operated by the Department/Ministry of Home under State/UT Government and shall comprise of the following:
  • Budgetary allocation made in the Annual Budget by the State Government;
  • Receipt of amount of costs imposed/ ordered to be deposited by the courts/tribunals in the Witness Protection Fund;
  • Donations/ contributions from Philanthropist/ Charitable Institutions/ Organizations and individuals permitted by the Government.
  • Funds contributed under Corporate Social Responsibility.

INTER­ STATE RIVER WATER DISPUTES BILL

Features:

  • Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to streamline the adjudication of inter­ State river water disputes.
  • A key feature of the Bill is the constitution of a single tribunal with different Benches, and the setting of strict timelines for adjudication.
  • When any request under the Act is received from any State Government in respect of any water dispute on the inter­State rivers and the Central Government is of the opinion that the water dispute cannot be set­tled by negotiations, the Central Government constitutes a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication of the water dispute.
  • The Bill also proposes a Dispute Resolution Committee set up by the Central Government for amicably resolving inter­State water disputes within 18 months.
  • Any dispute that cannot be settled by negotiations would be referred to the tribunal for its adjudication.
  • The Bill can also affect the composition of the members of various tribunals, and has a provision to have a technical expert as the head of the tribunal.
    Water and Constitution of India

Water is a State subject

  • Entry 17 of State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power.
  • Entry 56 of Union List gives power to the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

Article 262:

  • Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
  • Parliament may, by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
  • Laws Enacted by Parliament
  • River Board Act, 1956
  • Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956
  • River Water sharing Tribunals
  • Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal II (2004) – Karnataka, Telengana,Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra
  • Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal (2018) – Odisha& Chattisgarh
  • Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (2010)- Goa,Karnataka, Maharashtra
  • Ravi& Beas Water Tribunal (1986)- Punjab, Haryana,Rajasthan
  • Vansdhara Water Disputes Tribunal (2010)- Andra Pradesh & Odisha.

Issues with Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956:

  • Though Award is final and beyond the jurisdiction of Courts, either States approach Supreme Court under Article 136 (Special Leave Petition) or private persons approach Supreme Court under Article 32 linking issue with the violation of Article 21 (Right to Life).
  • The composition of the tribunal consists of persons only from the judiciary and not multidisciplinary and it.

Conclusion:

  • In a developing country like India, the inter­state river water dispute must be resolved quickly so that water resources could be utilized and har­nessed properly for economic development.
  • One of the measures could be to declare all the major rivers as national property and national schemes under the central assistance should he launched for the devel­opment of their total command area with partial involvement of the concerned states.

CODE ON OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, HEALTH AND WORKING CONDITIONS BILL, 2019

  • Context- Union Cabinet on, paving the way for Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 introduction in Parliament

About:

  • This proposal would enhance the coverage of the safety, health and working conditions provisions manifold as compared to the present scenario.
  • The New Code has been drafted after amalgamation, simplification and rationalisation of the relevant provisions of the 13 Central Labour Acts:
  • The Factories Act, 1948;
  • The Mines Act, 1952; The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986;
  • The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996;
  • The Plantations Labour Act, 1951;
  • The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970;
  • The Inter-State Migrant workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979;
  • The Working Journalist and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service and Misc. Provision) Act, 1955;
  • The Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958;
  • The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961;
  • Sales Promotion Employees (Condition of Service) Act, 1976;
  • The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966; and
  • The Cine Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981. After the enactment of the Code, all these Acts being subsumed in the Code will be repealed.

Benefits:

  • Safety, Health, welfare and improved Working Conditions are pre-requisite for well-being of the worker and also for economic growth of the country as healthy workforce of the country would be more productive and occurrence of less accidents and unforeseen incidents would be economically beneficial to the employers also.

Feature of Code:

  • Code enhances the ambit of provisions of safety, health, welfare and working conditions from existing about 9 major sectors to all establishments having 10 or more employees.
  • The bill provides for that. Regular medical check-up of workers would be made mandatory.

INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution has launched a new Central Sector scheme namely “Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS)” for implementation during 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Objectives:

  • To integrate the existing PDS systems/portals of States/UTs with the Central Systems/portals,
  • Introduction of National Portability of ration card holders to lift food grains from any fair price shop (FPS) across the country, and
    National level de-duplication of ration cards/beneficiary.

Significance:

  • The new scheme will bring more transparency and efficiency in distribution of food grains as it will improve the mechanism to identify fake/duplicate ration cards.
  • It will provide the option to PDS beneficiaries to lift their entitled food grains from the Fair Price Shops of their choice at the national level.
  • Presently, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi has started portability at the State level, whereas, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Telangana have also started portability in the few FPS areas within the State.

IM-PDS Portability:

  • IM-PDS scheme describes a mechanism for the transparent and efficient distribution of food grains. All the people having fake / duplicate ration cards will not be able to purchase ration at subsidized rates. Moreover, all the PDS beneficiaries will get benefit of purchasing entitled food grains from Fair Price Shops of their own choice across the country.
  • In the current scenario, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi govt. has already started portability at the State level. Moreover Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Telangana govt. has also started portability in the few FPS areas within their own territory.
  • Govt. of India is not facing the problem of scarcity of food production but the main problem is management of agricultural produce.

NATIONAL TRANSLATION MISSION

National Translation Mission:

  • The National Translation Mission (NTM) is a scheme launched in 2008 which is being implemented through the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore to establish translation as an industry in general and to facilitate higher education by making knowledge texts accessible to students and academics in Indian languages.
  • Under the scheme, the books of knowledge texts mostly text books of various subjects prescribed in Universities and Colleges are being translated in all Languages of the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India. National Translation Mission has so far published 40 Knowledge Text translations in 16 languages (Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Hindi, Kannada, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu).
  • NTM has published 6 bilingual dictionaries (English to Indian languages) in collaboration with Pearson Education, India.
    The Mission has trained about 1400 budding translators through 3-week intensive courses (21 days) on ‘Introduction to translation’ and ‘Research Methodology in Translation’

MARITAL RAPE

Context:

  • Delhi High Court said that court cannot direct the government to frame laws as it is the domain of the legislature and not the judiciary.
  • It said the issue of marital rape has to be dealt by the legislature and not the judiciary.

What is Marital Rape?

  • Marital rape is any unwanted Sexual Acts by a Spouse or Ex-Spouse, committed without consent and/or against a person’s will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent

Sociology of Not Criminalising Marital Rape:

  • Mainstream perception that marriage gives the husband constant consent for sexual intercourse.
  • Women, therefore, end up being perceived as baby-making machines where their right to bodily autonomy and reproductive rights are inconceivable and preposterous.
  • According to Morton Hunt, an American psychologist “the typical marital rapist is a man who still believes that husbands are supposed to “rule” their wives.
  • The inability of law and legal institutions to deal with marital rape exposes the limits of the law. It shows that the law predominantly serves the aspirations of the dominant class, at the expense of the marginalised and weak.

Other Related Laws:

  • Section 376-A was added in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which criminalized the rape of a judicially separated wife.

Law Commission:

  • Law Commission in its 42nd Report advocated the inclusion of sexual intercourse by a man with his minor wife as an offence it was seen as a ray of hope.
  • The Joint Committee that reviewed the proposal dismissed the recommendation.

Arguments against Criminalization of Marital Rape:

  • Due to the near impossibility of proving marital rape, its criminalization would only serve as an increased burden to the already overburdened legal system.
    Dissatisfied, angry, vengeful wives might charge their innocent husbands with the offence of marital rape.
  • There is an implied consent to have sexual intercourse when a woman marries a man.
  • Marital rape laws would destroy many marriages by preventing any possible reconciliation.

Marital Rape and Constitution:

Article 21 Right to life:

  • The judicial interpretation has expanded the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution of India by leaps and bounds and right to live with human dignity 21 is within the ambit of this article.
  • Marital rape clearly violates the right to live with dignity of a woman and to that effect, it is submitted, that the exception provided under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.

Right to Equality:

  • Exception under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 discriminates with a wife when it comes to protection from rape.

Conclusion:

  • It is conceded that changing the law on sexual offences is a formidable and sensitive task, and more so, in a country like India, where there is a contemporaneous presence of a varied and differentiated system of personal and religious laws that might come into conflict with the new amendments in the statutory criminal law.
  • The immediate need is criminalization of marital rape under the Indian Penal Code. But, mere declaration of a conduct as an offence is not enough.
    Something more is required to be done for sensitizing the judiciary and the police.
  • There is also a need to educate the masses about this crime, as the real objective of criminalizing marital rape can only be achieved if the society acknowledges and challenges the prevailing myth that rape by one’s spouse is inconsequential.

HUMAN RIGHTS COURT IN INDIA

  • Context- SC asks why the delay in setting up Human rights courts
  • Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 as stated in the preamble of the Act, is the establishment of human rights courts at district level.
  • The creation of Human Rights Courts at the district level has a great potential to protect and realize human rights at the grassroots.
  • purpose of providing speedy trial of offences arising out of violation of human rights.

Provisions:

How it will Establish Court

  • Section 30 of the Act envisages that a state Government may, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification, specify for each district a Court of Sessions to be a Human Rights Court to try the said offences.

Special Public Prosecutor:

  • Section 31 of the Act provides the State government to specify and appoint a special public prosecutor in that court.

Issues:

Vague Definition:

  • The Act refers to the offences arising out of violations of human rights.
  • But it does not define or explain the meaning of “offences arising out of violations of human rights”. It is vague.
  • The Act dose not give any clear indication or clarification as to what type of offences actually are to be tried by the Human Rights Courts.

The Problem is who can take cognizance of the offences.

  • What the Act says is in each district, one Sessions Court has to be specified for trying “offences arising out of human rights violation”.
  • It is silent about taking of cognizance of the offence

Conclusion:

  • The object of establishment of such Courts at district level is to ensure speedy disposal of cases relating to offences arising out of violation of human rights. Unless the lawmakers take note of the above anomalies and remove them by proper amendments the aim for which provisions are made for establishment of special courts will not be achieved.

WITNESS PROTECTION SCHEME

  • Launched by Odisha government
  • Aims to provide security to witnesses facing threat during the course of a legal battle.

Features:

  • District •level standing committee, chaired by a district and sessions judge, with the district police head as its member and the head of the prosecution in the district as its member secretary, will take a call on the need for protection.
  • The district police chief will submit a report with regard to the seriousness and credibility of the threat to the witness or his/her family members if the person applies in a prescribed form.
  • The report will detail the nature of the threat to the witness or his/her family members, their reputation or property.
  • Besides, the intent and motive of the person issuing the threat and the resources available with him/her to execute it will figure in the analysis.
  • The threat analysis report, prepared with “full confidentiality will reach the competent authority “within five working days of its order for inquiry.
  • The Witness Protection Cell will then ensure that the identities of the witness and his/her family members, including names, parentage, occupation, address and digital footprints, are fully protected.

AADHAAR AND OTHER LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Context- Parliament cleared the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Features:

  • which allows voluntary use of Aadhaar as proof of identity to open bank accounts and get mobile phone connections.
  • The law ensures no Individual is ever denied any service for not having or producing Aadhaar for authentication.
  • An Aadhaar holder can now opt for offline verification through QR code with consent.
  • It had also barred private companies from using the unique identity number for authenticating customers.
  • The amendments in the law will enable the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)—the authority responsible for issuing Aadhaar numbers—to hold back the misuse of 12 digit identification number.
  • UIDAI can also impose a penalty of up to ₹1 crore if an entity fails to comply with the Aadhaar law and does not provide information sought by UIDAI.

NATIONAL INVESTIGATION AGENCY (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Context- Union government on Monday introduced the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha

Features of Bill:

  • A Bill seeking to further strengthen the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by giving it powers to probe terror attacks targeting Indians and Indian interests on foreign soil.
  • legislation will also allow the NIA probe Cyber-Crimes and cases of human trafficking.
  • agency will be empowered to conduct investigation in any part of the world if any terror attack targeting Indians or Indian interests takes place.

National Investigation Agency (NIA):

  • The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack
  • NIA Act was enacted in 2008 and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was born.
  • At present NIA is functioning as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency in India.

UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES (PREVENTION) AMENDMENT BILL, 2019

Context– The UAPA Bill that seeks to allow an individual suspected to have terror links to be designated a terrorist

Features:

  • The Bill, seek “to introduce fourth schedule to add or remove the name of individual terrorists. will allow the Central government to designate individual terrorist and bring in embargo on arms/assets seizures. The individual however can appeal against the inclusion of his/her name and seek a hearing before the review committee, constituted by the Central government under UAPA.

Issues with new UAPA Bill:

  • In the name of tackling terror, fundamental rights of an individual can be foregone

Issues already with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA).

  • It casts such a wide net of offences that it makes all kinds of legitimate, constitutionally protected activity an offence: the police can choose who they want to prosecute, when and for what reason.
  • It allows for persons to be held in custody for six months before they get to know the case against them. Bail is so stringent as to be almost unavailable, this is an affront to the ‘dignity’ and the ‘presumption of innocence’ that our Constitution entitles all of us to.
  • It reverses the presumption of innocence and presumes guilt, a guarantee of wrongful imprisonment and false convictions.

SEDITION LAW

Context– MDMK general secretary Vaiko was sentenced to a prison term of one year by a special court for Sedition.

About:

  • Section 124-A in the Indian Penal Code, named ‘Sedition’, explains sedition in wide and magnanimous terms.
  • It says ‘Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India’ shall be punished with life imprisonment
  • The explanations which the Indian Penal Code gives are that ‘the expression ‘disaffection’ includes disloyalty and all feelings of hate.

Disqualification Under Representation of the People Act, 1951:

  • Under Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 Disqualification for Conviction for 2 years or more than 2 years imprisonment.

PRIVILEGE MOTION

Context: Recently a Lok Sabha MP has moved a breach of privilege motion in the Lok Sabha against a private Hindi news channel and its editor.

About Privilege Motion:

  • A privilege motion is moved against breach of Parliamentary Privileges.
  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by MPs, MLAs and MLCs, individually and collectively, so that they can effectively discharge their functions.
  • When a breach of privilege is found, then an MP can move a privilege motion against those being held guilty of breach.
  • Both Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha reserves the right to punish any action of contempt (Not Necessarily Breach of Privilege) which is against its authority and dignity.

Source:

  • The rules governing privilege motion are mentioned as Rule 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and as Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha Rule Book.
  • According to the rules, an MP may raise a question of breach of privilege with the Speaker or the Chairperson, notices for which have to be sent to them.

Examining Authority:

  • The first level of scrutiny that a privilege motion has to go through is that of the Speaker/Chairperson (Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha).
  • The Speaker/Chairperson may decide on the privilege motion at their own discretion or they may refer it to a Parliamentary Committee.
  • If the Speaker/Chairperson admits the motion, then the concerned member is given an opportunity to explain themselves by making a short statement.

Committee of Privileges:

  • This Committee consists of 15 members (10 members in case of Rajya Sabha) Nominated by the Speaker (Chairman in case of Rajya Sabha).Its function is to examine every question involving breach of privilege of the House or of the members of any Committee thereof referred to it by the House or by the Speaker (Quasi -Judicial nature).
  • It determines with reference to the facts of each case whether a breach of privilege is involved and makes suitable recommendations in its report.

ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ACT

  • Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs has extended the operation of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Nagaland for another six months with effect from June 30.

What does the AFSPA Mean?

  • In simple terms, AFSPA gives Armed Forces the power to maintain public order in “Disturbed Areas”.
  • They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  • If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
  • Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.

What is a “Disturbed Area” and who has the power to declare it?

  • A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
  • An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
  • The Central Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
  • A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette. As per Section 3, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act where necessary, but there have been exceptions where the Centre decided to forego its power and leave the decision to the State governments.

What’s the origin of AFSPA?

  • The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the Northeastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control.
  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958.
  • It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.

Which States are, or had come under this Act?

  • It is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
    The Centre revoked it in Meghalaya on April 1, 2018.
  • Earlier, the AFSPA was effective in a 20 km area along the Assam-Meghalaya border.
  • In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam.
  • Tripura withdrew the AFSPA in 2015. Jammu and Kashmir too has a similar Act.

How has this Act been received by the people?

  • It has been a controversial one, with human rights groups opposing it as being aggressive.
  • Manipur’s Irom Sharmila has been one if its staunchest opponents, going on a hunger strike in November 2000 and continuing her vigil till August 2016.
    Her trigger was an incident in the town of Malom in Manipur, where ten people were killed waiting at a bus stop.

EIGHTH SCHEDULE OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION

  • Context: Recently a Member of Parliament made a case in Lok Sabha for inclusion of Bhojpuri language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution
About 8th Schedule:
  • It is the list of official languages recognised by the Constitution.
  • The Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains a list of 22 scheduled languages viz. Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Sindhi (added by 21st Amendment Act, 1967), Konkani, Manipuri, Nepali (added by 71st Amendment Act, 1992), Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, Santhal (added by 92nd Amendment 2003).
  • The list had originally 14 languages only but subsequently through amendments 8 new languages were added.

FREE LEGAL AID

  • Article 39 A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also Make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

  • National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is a statutory body constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society.
  • The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Judge of the Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
  • The Legal Services Authorities Act establishes statutory legal services authorities at the National, State and District level.
    It makes provisions in relation to Lok Adalat.

The main object of the Lok Adalat is to provide quick justice at less expense.

Objective:

  • The principal objective of NALSA is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
  • To strengthen the system of Lok Adalats and other Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms.
  • To organize legal awareness camps in the rural areas.

Who is Entitled to Free Legal Services:

  • The sections of the society as enlisted under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act are entitled for free legal services, they are:
  • (a) A member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;
  • (b) A victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;
  • (c) A woman or a child;
  • (d) A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;
  • (e) A person under circumstances of undeserved want such as being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster; or
  • (f) An industrial workman; or
  • (g) In receipt of annual income less than rupees nine thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the State Government, if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court, and less than rupees twelve thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the Central Government, if the case is before the Supreme Court. Other Laws and International Conventions providing free legal aid. The Code of criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure also contain provisions in relation to the free legal aid.
  • Section 304 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that where in a trial before the Court of Session, the accused is not represented by a pleader and where it appears to the Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage a pleader; the Court shall assign a pleader for his defence at the expense of the State
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also under Article14 (3)(d) guarantees to everyone: “Right to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it” Issues in free legal Aid lack of legal awareness. People are not aware of rights and protection available under the law. people don’t have faith over the services of legal aid counsel (LAC) under the free legal aid services due to a variety of factors.

Way Forward:

  • In a democracy, where rule of law is supreme; it is essential to ensure that even the weakest amongst the weak, poorest among the poor, in the country does not suffer injustice arising out of any abrasive action on the part of State or private person.
  • India’s per capita lawyer ratio is better than most countries in the world and this need to be utilised.

THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL OFFENCES (POCSO) ACT, 2012


About POCSO Act:

  • The Act seeks to protect children from offences such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.
  • The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.
  • It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography, and deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority vis-a-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
  • The Act also makes it mandatory to report such cases. It makes it the legal duty of a person aware of the offence to report the sexual abuse. In case he fails to do so, the person can be punished with six months’ imprisonment or fine.
  • The Act provides that each district shall designate a Sessions Court to be a Special Court. It shall be established by the state government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court. The Court shall, as far as possible, complete the trial within one year. The trial shall be held in camera and in the presence of the child’s parents or any person trusted by the child.
  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights/ State Commission for Protection of Child Rights is mandated to monitor the implementation of the Act.
  • It also provides for relief and rehabilitation of the child, as soon as the complaint is made. The Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police are also required to report the matter to the Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours of recording the complaint, for long term rehabilitation of the child.
  • Recently the government has introduced in Lok Sabha amendments to the POCSO Act, which provides for death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children, making it gender neutral and introducing provisions against child pornography and for enhancing punishment for certain offences.

POCSO e-box:

  • It is a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) initiative to help children report such crimes directly to the Commission.
  • The online complaint management system enables easy reporting and timely action against the offenders under the POCSO Act, 2012.

National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights:

  • This statutory body at the National and State level has been set up under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005.
  • It is under the control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, set up in 2007.
  • It consists of one Chairman and Six other members (out of which at least two are woman having experience in Child Psychology, Education etc.).

FINANCIAL STABILITY REPORT


What is it About?

  • The FSR reflects the collective assessment of the Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) on risks to financial stability, as also the resilience of the financial system.
  • Gross non-performing assets in the banking system have declined for the second consecutive half year, while the credit growth is picking up.
  • Gross NPA ratio declined to 9.3% as on March 2019. It was 10.8% in September 2018 and 11.5% in March 2018.
  • Gross NPAs could further decline to 9% by March 2020, the macro stress tests indicated.

What is Non-Performing Asset (NPA)?

  • A nonperforming asset (NPA) refers to a classification for loans or advances that are in default or are in arrears on scheduled payments of principal or interest.
  • In most cases, debt is classified as nonperforming when loan payments have not been made for a period of 90 days.
  • While 90 days of non-payment is the standard, the amount of elapsed time may be shorter or longer depending on the terms and conditions of each loan.
  • Following the capital infusion by the government in public sector banks, the overall capital adequacy ratio of the commercial banks improved from 13.7% in September 2018 to 14.3% in March 2019, with state-run banks’ CAR improving from 11.3% to 12.2% during the period. However, there was a marginal decline in the CAR of private sector banks.
  • Credit growth of Public sector banks were at 9.6% while private lenders continue to robust growth of 21%.

What is Capital Adequacy Ratio – CAR?

  • The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) is a measurement of a Bank’s available capital expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk-weighted credit exposures.
  • The capital adequacy ratio, also known as capital-to-risk weighted assets ratio (CRAR), is used to protect depositors and promote the stability and efficiency of financial systems around the world.
  • The reason minimum capital adequacy ratios (CARs) are critical is to make sure that banks have enough cushion to absorb a reasonable amount of losses before they become insolvent and consequently lose depositors’ funds.

NATURAL LANGUAGE TRANSLATION

  • To make opportunities and progress science and technology accessible to all, this mission aims to remove the barrier that a requirement of high-level faculty in English poses today.
  • Using a combination of machine and human translation, the mission will eventually enable access to teaching and researching material bilingually- in English and one’s native Indian language.
  • It is planned to set up an ecosystem which involves central and state government agencies and start-ups who will work with scientists and build implementable solutions.
  • The proposal is part of the 100-day action plan charted out by MeitY.
  • the government plans to leverage a combination of machine translation and human translation
  • Natural Language Translation — one of the key missions identified by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM­STIAC).

Lead Agencies:

  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY)
  • Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD)
  • Department of Science and Technology (DST)

Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM­STIAC).

  • The PM-STIAC is an overarching Council that facilitates the PSA’s Office to assess the status in specific science and technology domains, comprehend challenges in hand, formulate specific interventions, develop a futuristic roadmap and advise the Prime Minister accordingly.

RBI DIRECT TO SAVE THE PAYMENTS DATA WITHIN INDIA.

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has clarified that payment system providers need to store entire payments data in a system only in India.
  • The issue has come to the forefront because a global push for data free flow across national boundaries. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been a torch bearer for such a system.
  • The risk of data going abroad is that it may fall into the hands of misuse that could lead to manipulations in the life of common man in India. Moreover, India being the second largest populated countries in the world, such data could lead to manipulations by big corporates.
  • The data should include end-to-end transaction details and information pertaining to payment or settlement transaction that is gathered/transmitted/processed as part of a payment message/instruction.
  • The data could be pertaining to customer data like name, mobile number, Aadhaar number, PAN; Payment-sensitive data like customer and beneficiary account details; payment credentials like OTP, PIN and, transaction data such as originating and destination system information amount, among others.
  • The processing is done abroad, the data should be deleted from the systems abroad and brought back to India within one business day or 24 hours from the payment processing, whichever is earlier.

CENTRE EXPANDS TERMS OF REFERENCE OF DIRECT TAX LAW

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes has expanded the terms of reference of the task force set up to come up with a new direct tax law.
  • They include appropriate direct tax legislation keeping in view the direct tax litigation in other countries, international best standards, the economic needs of the country and other related issues.
  • The new additions include the creation of a faceless and anonymized verification and security system, and the sharing of information between GST, customs and CBDT, and the Financial intelligence unit.

RBI BEGINS MONITORING HFCs

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has started monitoring the liquidity position, asset-liability gap and repayment schedules of Housing
    Finance Companies (HFCs) on a daily basis after the liquidity crisis hit these firms, resulting in defaults.
  • Mortgage lenders are regulated by the National Housing Bank.

What is a Mortgage?

  • A Mortgage is a loan in which property or real estate is used as Collateral.
  • The borrower enters into an agreement with the lender (usually a bank) wherein the borrower receives cash upfront then makes payments over a set time span until he pays back the lender in full.
  • A mortgage is often referred to as home loan when it is used for the purchase of a home.
  • The central bank is of the view that the since the liquidity crisis of the HFCs could have a spill over effect on the other segments in the financial sector, including banks, and hence, could affect financial stability, it was necessary to monitor these entities on a regular basis.
  • The non-banking financial sector, particularly the mortgage lenders, are fighting a crisis of confidence with banks having stopped lending to these entities since the debt default by IL&FS in September last year.
  • NBFCs saw their cost of funds going up sharply in the last few months. This has impacted their business growth as the lenders have to cut down on their loan disbursements.

PRADHAN MANTRI SHRAM YOGI MAAN-DHAN YOJANA (PM-SYM)

  • By the Ministry of Labour and Employment

Salient Features:

  • Minimum Assured Pension: Each subscriber under the PM-SYM, shall receive minimum assured pension of Rs 3000/- per month after attaining the age of 60 years. Family Pension: During the receipt of pension, if the subscriber dies, the spouse of the beneficiary shall be entitled to receive 50% of the pension received by the beneficiary as family pension. Family pension is applicable only to spouse.
  • If a beneficiary has given regular contribution and died due to any cause (before age of 60 years), his/her spouse will be entitled to join and continue the scheme subsequently by payment of regular contribution or exit the scheme as per provisions of exit and withdrawal.

Eligibility:

  • The unorganised workers mostly engaged as home based workers, street vendors, mid-day meal workers, head loaders, brick kiln workers,
    cobblers, rag pickers, domestic workers, washer men, rickshaw pullers, landless labourers, own account workers, agricultural workers, construction workers, beedi workers, handloom workers, leather workers, audio- visual workers and similar other occupations whose monthly income is Rs 15,000/ per month or less and belong to the entry age group of 18-40 years are eligible for the scheme. They should not be covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

    Contribution:

  • The subscriber is required to contribute the prescribed contribution amount from the age of joining PM-SYM till the age of 60 years.

Matching contribution by the Central Government:

  • PM-SYM is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme on a 50:50 basis where prescribed age-specific contribution shall be made by the beneficiary and the matching contribution by the Central Government as per the chart.
  • For example, if a person enters the scheme at an age of 29 years, he is required to contribute Rs 100/ – per month till the age of 60 years. An equal amount of Rs 100/- will be contributed by the Central Government.

Enrollment Agencies:

  • The enrolment will be carried out by all the Community Service Centers (CSCs).
  • The unorganised workers may visit their nearest CSCs along with their Aadhar Card and Savings Bank account passbook/Jandhan account and get registered themselves for the Scheme.

DNA TECHNOLOGY (USE AND APPLICATION) REGULATION BILL

  •       The Bill seeks to create a Regulatory Framework for Obtaining, storing and testing of DNA samples of human beings, mainly for the purposes of criminal investigations, and with the objective of establishing the identity of a person.
  •       The proposed law seeks to bring in a supervisory structure to oversee these practices, and frame guidelines and rules so that the DNA technology is not misused.
  •       Bill proposes to set up two institutional structures — a DNA regulatory board, and a DNA data bank — at the national level. Regional centers of the board as well as the data bank can be set up at the state level as well.
  •       The Bill proposes that testing of DNA samples can be carried out only at laboratories that are authorized to do so by the regulatory board. It also specifies the circumstances under which a person can be asked to submit DNA samples.
  •       Police can ask for DNA samples of the person accused of an offence to facilitate their investigation. But unless the offence is of a very serious nature, punishable by death or by imprisonment for at least seven years, the DNA sample can be obtained only on the written consent of the accused. It can be also be obtained if an authorized magistrate is satisfied that a DNA test is absolutely necessary for investigation of the crime.
  •       People who are witness to a crime, or want to locate their missing relatives, or in similar other circumstances, can volunteer to give their DNA samples, again through written consent.

Issues:

  •    Whether the DNA technology is foolproof?
  •       Whether the provisions adequately address the possibility of abuse of DNA information, and whether the privacy of the individual is protected.
  •       Critics of the Bill have been claiming that collecting and storing such intrusive information could lead to abuse, besides being violative of a person’s privacy. 

Government Stand:

  •       Since DNA tests are already happening, and frequently used as the most reliable tool to establish identity, it would be better to have regulatory safeguards so that it is carried out only in prescribed manner and by authorized personnel and Institutions.

CENTRAL BOARD OF FILM CERTIFICATION (CBFC)

  •       It is a Statutory Body under Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  •       It grants certificate to regulate the public exhibition of films in India under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
  •       Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.
  •       The Certification process is in accordance with The Cinematograph Act, 1952, The Cinematograph (certification) Rules, 1983, and the guidelines issued by the Central government u/s 5 (B).

RESERVE BANK OF INDIA (RBI)

Context

  • Viral Acharya’s resignation as Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India

About:

  • The  Reserve  Bank  of  India  was  established  on  April  1,  1935  in  accordance  with  the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
  • Though originally privately owned, since nationalisation in 1949, the Reserve Bank is fully owned by the Government of India.

Composition:

Central Board

  • The Reserve Bank’s affairs are governed by a central board of directors. The board is appointed by the Government of India in keeping with the Reserve Bank of India Act.
  • Appointed/nominated for a period of four years

Constitution:

Official Directors

  • Full-Time: Governor and not more than four Deputy Governors

Non-Official Directors

  • Nominated by Government: ten Directors from various fields and two government Official
  • Others: four Directors – one each from four local boards

Functions:

Monetary Authority:

  • Formulates, implements and monitors the monetary policy.
  • Objective: maintaining price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth.

Regulator and supervisor of the financial system:

  • Prescribes broad parameters of banking operations within which the country’s banking and financial system functions.
  • Objective: maintain public confidence in the system, protect depositors’ interest and provide cost-effective banking services to the public.

Manager of Foreign Exchange

  • Manages the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.
  • Objective: To facilitate external trade and payment and promote orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.

Issuer of currency:

  • Issues and exchanges or destroys currency and coins not fit for circulation.
  • Objective: to give the public adequate quantity of supplies of currency notes and coins and in good quality.

Developmental Role:

  • Performs a wide range of promotional functions to support national objectives.

Regulator and Supervisor of Payment and Settlement Systems:

  • Introduces and upgrades safe and efficient modes of payment systems in the country to meet the requirements of the public at large.
  • Objective: maintain public confidence in payment and settlement system.

Related Functions

  • Banker to the Government: performs merchant banking function for the central and the state governments; also acts as their banker.
  • Banker to Banks: maintains banking accounts of all scheduled banks.

NITI AAYOG

Issue in economy now that can be handled by NITI Aayog:

  • There is horizontal and vertical imbalance revenues of centre and states. Vertical Imbalance mainly allocates more money to Centre.
  • Horizonal imbalance involves two types of imbalances.
  • Type I is to do with the adequate provision of basic public goods and services, while the second,
  • Type II, is due to growth accelerating infrastructure or the transformational capital deficits.
  • We need another institution to tackle the horizontal imbalance of the Type II; for this the NITI Aayog is the most appropriate institution.
  • NITI Aayog should be engaged with the allocation of “transformational” capital in a formulaic manner, complete with incentive• compatible conditionalities.
  • NITI Aayog should also mandated to create an independent evaluation office which will monitor and evaluate the efficacy of utilisation of grants.

Features of NITI Aayog:

  • Not Constitutional Body nor statutory body
  • NITI Aayog is essentially an advisory body that seeks to provide critical directional and strategic inputs across spectrum of key elements of policy to the centre as well as states.
  • It also seeks to put an end to the slow and tardy implementation of the policy by fostering inter-ministry, inter-state and centre-state coordination.
  • It has been envisaged to follow the bottom-top development approach.

Composition of NITI Aayog:

  • Chairperson -Prime Minister Governing Council –
  • Its members are Chief Ministers and Administrators of the Union Territories Regional Councils. These would be created as per need and its members would be chief ministers and administrators of UTs of respective regions. Vice-Chairperson.
  • The Vice-chairperson of the NITI Aayog will be appointed by Prime Minister.

Leader of opposition made Minister in Government of State.

Context:

  • Rtd. High Court Judge Thipsay questions appointment of Vikhe• Patil (Leader of Opposition), Kshirsagar as ministers.
  • Leader of Opposition of Maharashtra has reigned from his party and joined party in government and sworn as minister

Issues:

  • By the Constitution (91st Amendment) Act, 2003, Clauses (1A) and (1B) were inserted in Article 164, which provide for appointment of Chief Minister and other ministers. Clause (1B)  states  that  a  member  of  either  House  of  the  legislature  of  a  State,  belonging  to  a political party, who is disqualified to be appointed as a minister for duration of the period commencing from the date of his disqualification.
  •  ‘‘Disqualification on ground of defection.
    • Clause (a) of paragraph 2 is “if he has voluntarily given up his membership of such political party.
    • Apart from this, Article 164(4) only permits a person to be a minister for a maximum period of six consecutive months without being a member of the legislature.

Removal of the Judge of a High Court

Context:

  • In•house panel found an Allahabad High Court judge, Justice S.N. Shukla, guilty of misconduct, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to initiate a motion for his removal.
  • A Judge of the High Court can be removed from office only for proven misbehaviour or incapacity and only in the same manner in which a Judge of the Supreme Court is removed. The President of India can remove a Judge of the High Court, from his office only if each house of the parliament passes a resolution by a two third majority of its members present and voting in each house requesting him to remove the judge.

Appointment of the Judges of High Courts:

  • As  per  article  217,  the  chief  Justice  of  the  high  court  is  appointed  by  the  President  in consultation with the Chief justice of India as well as the Governor of the state in question. A  collegium  system  has  evolved  over  the  years  in  which  a  Collegium  headed  by  the  CJI makes recommendation to the government for appointment of judges.

Inner Line Permit

Context:

  • A petition filed has sought a direction to the Centre and the Nagaland government to take appropriate steps for the protection of life and liberty, properties and other fundamental rights of nonNagas living in the commercial hub of Dimapur following the imposition of the Inner Line Permit.
  • (PIL) petition, has challenged certain sections of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 which gives unbridled power to a State to prescribe ILP.
  • Section  2  of  the  Regulation  empowers  a  State  government  to  prescribe  ‘Inner  Line’  to prohibit  citizens  of  India  or  any  class  of  such  citizens  going  beyond  the  prescribed  line without a pass.
  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to grant inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period.  It  is  obligatory  for  Indians  residing  outside  those  states  to  obtain  permission  prior  to entering the protected areas. Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. The document has been issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 and the conditions and restrictions vary from state to state.
  • It can be issued for travel purposes solely. Visitors are not allowed to purchase property in these regions. However, there might be a different set of rules for long term visitors, though they are not valid for central government employees and security forces.

Bill Passed for 16% Maratha Quota in PG Course

  • The  Maharashtra  Legislative  Council  cleared  a  bill  to  provide  16%  reservation  to  the Maratha
  • community students in post-graduate (PG) medical courses.
  • This comes a day after the bill was unanimously passed in the Legislative Assembly.
  • As both the Houses of the Legislature have cleared the bill, it will now be sent to the Governor for his approval.

ILO ADOPTS #MeToo PACT AGAINST HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE

Context:

  • The U.N. agency overseeing international labour standards adopted on Friday a new treaty against violence and harassment in the workplace, fueled by the women’s #MeToo movement.
  • The convention, which will be binding on governments that ratify it, was agreed by a wide margin on the final day of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) annual conference of governments, employers’ groups and workers.
  • Sexual harassment mainly adds deprivations of women of their opportunity to work and free choice of the profession.

Vishaka Guidelines:

  • Vishaka and others v/s state of Rajasthan is a case which deals with the evil of Sexual Harassment of a women at her workplace.
  • It is a landmark judgment case in the history of sexual harassment which as being decide by Supreme Court.
  • Present civil and penal laws in India do not adequately provide for specific protection of women from sexual harassment in work places and that enactment of such legislation will take considerable time,
  • It is necessary and expedient for employers in work places as well as other responsible persons or institutions to observe certain guidelines to ensure the prevention of sexual harassment of women.

Mechanism for complaint in House Mechanism:

  • The complaint mechanism, should be adequate to provide, where necessary, a Complaints Committee, a special counsellor or other support service, including the maintenance of confidentiality.
  • The Complaints Committee should be headed by a woman and not less than half of its member should be women. Further, to prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from senior levels, such Complaints Committee should involve a third party, either NGO or other body who is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.
  • The Complaints Committee must make an annual report to the Government
  • department concerned of the complaints and action taken by them.

Why there is need of Vishaka Guidelines.

  • If any strict action will not be taken towards this crime, it will directly hamper the working ration of the women in India and on other hand it will hamper the economic situation of India.
  • Government should make strict laws regarding the aversion of sexual harassment at workplace, because it should realize that, women also constitute the working population of our country.
  • It should be abolished to prevent the dignity and the respect of the women.
  • Various new approaches and skills shall be implemented by the institutions, organisations to prevent there women employees from such a social evil.
  • The main objective behind the stabilization of this right is to promote gender equality at workplace without any kind of discrimination and discernment among the workers of an organisation.

What is ILO?

  • The   only   tripartite   U.N.   agency,   since   1919   the   ILO   brings   together   governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.
  • The unique Tripartite Structure of the ILO gives an equal voice to workers, employers and governments to ensure that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labour standards and in shaping policies and programmes.
  • The ILO became the First Specialized Agency of the UN in 1946.
  • The International labour Conference: – sets the International labour standards and the broad policies of the ILO. It meets annually in Geneva. Often called an international parliament of labour, the Conference is also a forum for discussion of key social and labour questions. The Governing body is the executive council of the ILO. It meets three times a year in Geneva. It takes decisions on ILO policy and establishes the programme and the budget, which it then submits to the Conference for adoption.
  • The International Labour Office is the permanent secretariat of the International Labour Organization. It is the focal point for International Labour Organization’s overall activities, which it prepares under the scrutiny of the Governing Body and under the leadership of the Director-General.

What is the #MeToo movement?

  • The  ‘me  too.’  movement  was  founded  in  2006  to  help  survivors  of  sexual  violence, particularly  Black  women  and  girls,  and  other  young  women  of  color  from  low  wealth communities, find pathways to healing.
  • In less than six months, because of the viral #metoo hashtag, a vital conversation about sexual violence has been thrust into the national dialogue.
  • The ‘me too’ movement supports survivors of sexual violence and their allies by connecting survivors to resources, offering community organizing resources, pursuing a ‘me too’ policy platform, and gathering sexual violence researchers and research.
  • Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is the fiscal sponsor of the ‘me too.’ movement, and receives tax-deductible charitable contributions for the benefit and use of implementing the ‘me too.’ movement’s programming.
  • GGE is a New York nonprofit benefit corporation located in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.

TRIPLE TALAQ

Context:

  • Triple Talaq bill again introduced by NDA government in Lok Sabha.

About:

  • The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.
  • It defines talaq as Talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.
  • Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

Offence and Penalty:

  • The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine. (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may  arrest an accused person without warrant.)
  • The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by:
  • (i) The married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or
  • (ii) Any person related to her by blood or Mariage

Feature:

  • The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused. The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.
  • Allowance: A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children. The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.
  • Custody: A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate

ANTI DEFECTION LAW

Context:

  • 5 TDP members of Rajya Sabha defected in BJP party.

About:

  • The Anti-Defection law sought to prevent such political defections which may be due to reward of office or other similar considerations.
  • 10th Schedule
  • Power to disqualify bears with Speaker/ Chairman of House.
  • A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote.

Background:

  • Anti-Defection Law was passed in 1985 through 52nd amendment of constitution.

Disqualification Grounds:

  • If member of house belonging to a political party
  • Voluntary gives membership of his political
  • Votes or does not vote contrary to directions of his party. If an independent candidate joins a political party after
  • Nominated member is allowed to join a political party provided he joins such political party of his choices within a period of six months. After that period, joining a political party would lead to defection and disqualification.

Disqualification Authority:

  • The question whether a member is subject to disqualification in all other matters except under 10th Schedule (disqualification) is Decided by President. However, President should obtain the opinion of the election commission before taking such decision.
  • The Question of Disqualification under Anti-defection / Tenth Schedule is decided by the Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha {i.e. Vice-President} and Speaker in the case of Lok Sabha.

When Defection is not Applied:

  • Person shall not be disqualified if his political party merger with another party.
  • Person and other members do not accept the merger and opt to function as a separate group.
  • This exception shall operate only if not less than two third of the members of party in house have agreed to the agreed to the merger.

Epistocracy

  • Epistocracy is a system in which the votes of people who can prove their political knowledge count more than the votes of people who can’t.
  • In other words, it’s a system that privileges the most politically informed citizens.

National Company Law Tribunal

  • The  statutory  body  has  constituted  National  Company  Law  Tribunal  (NCLT)  under section 408 of the Companies Act, 2013
  • It is a quasi-judicial body in nature.

Significance:

  • Insolvency  and  Bankruptcy  Code,  2016  (Bankruptcy  Code),  also  provides  wide powers to the NCLT to adjudicate upon the ‘insolvency resolution process’ and liquidation of corporate debtors.
  • NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the Competition Commission of India.

Speaker

Context:

  • MP Om Birla named as choice for Speaker’s post.
  • He is presiding officer of Lok sabha.
  • He is the guardian of powers and privileges of members and committees of Lok Sabha

Duration in Office:

  • Speaker remains in office during the life of Lok Sabha (he needs to remain member of Lok Sabha).
  • When the office of Lok Sabha speaker falls vacant, the members elect another speaker on a date fixed by the President.
  • Whenever Lok Sabha is dissolved, the Speaker continues to remain in office until immediately before the first meeting of Lok Sabha after it is reconstituted.

Resignation:

  • Disqualified if ceases to be the member of House Addressing a resignation letter to Deputy Speaker

Removal:

  • Speaker can be removed by the members of Lok Sabha by a resolution passed by Absolute Majority {Majority of the Total Members of the House} of Lok Sabha.
  • 14 days advanced notice must be given for such resolution.
  • The Motion of Removal can be considered and discussed only when it has the support of at least 50 Members.
  • If resolution is under consideration of the house, Speaker Cannot Preside the Meeting, but can participate in the house and vote in the first instance though not in the case of an equality of votes.

Powers and Functions:

  • The Guardian of powers and privileges of members and committees of Lok Sabha. To Maintain order and decorum in Lok Sabha
  • His interpretations of constitutional provisions, rules and regulations related to Lok Sabha are final.
  • Adjournment of Lok Sabha is done by Speaker
  • During voting in the house on a bill or other matters, he does not vote in the first instance. However, if there is a tie due to equal votes, speaker exercises the casting vote
  • Joint sittings of both the houses of parliament are although called by President but presided by Lok Sabha speaker.
  • On the request of the Leader of the House, Speaker may allow a secret meeting.
  • Whether a bill is money bill or not, is decided by Speaker and his decision in this matter is final.
  • Disqualification of Members of House-
    • Speaker decides the question of disqualification of Lok Sabha members in matters of tenth schedule / anti-defection law. This decision is subject to judicial
  • He is the Ex-Officio Chairman of Indian Parliamentary Group of the Inter- parliamentary Union.
  • Chairman of all the parliamentary committees of Lok Sabha are appointed by Speaker, provided such committees does not need an elected chairman
  • Speaker himself is the chairman of
    • Business Advisory Committee,
    • Rules Committee and
    • General Purpose
  • The Secretary General of the Lok Sabha is appointed by the Speaker.

Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha:

  • If Speaker of Lok Sabha is not available, his duties are carried out by Deputy Speaker Election– A Deputy Speaker is elected by the Lok Sabha members from amongst themselves.
  • Election of Deputy Speaker is done after election of Speaker.
  • Deputy speaker is not subordinate to the Speaker and is directly responsible to Lok Sabha.
  • If Deputy Speaker is also not present, a person appointed by President will discharge the duties.

Pro Tem Speaker:

  • President appoints a speaker Pro Tem for the first meeting of the newly elected Lok Sabha. He is appointed to administer oath to the new members and enable the house to elect a new speaker (Before Oath they cannot be member of house and participate in proceeding).

NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (NHRC)

  • It  is  a  Statutory  Body  the  National  Human  Rights  Commission  (NHRC)  of  India  was established on 12 October, 1993.
  • It is in conformity with the Paris Principles, Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA defines Human Rights   as   the   rights   relating   to   life,   liberty,   equality   and   dignity   of   the   individual guaranteed   by   the   Constitution   or   embodied   in   the   International   Covenants   and enforceable by courts in India.

Composition:

  • NHRC comprises of a chairman and four members. The chairman should be a retired chief justice of India.
  • The other members should be
    • One Member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
    • One Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
    • Two Members to be appointed from among persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters related to human

Members appointed by committee consist of:

  • Prime Minister (chairperson) Home Minister
  • Speaker of the Lok Sabha
  • Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha

Functions of NHRC:

  • Inquire suo motu or on a petition presented to it, by a victim, or any person on his be into complaint of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant.
  • Intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights before a Court with the approval of such Court.
  • Visit any jail or detention places to study the living conditions of the inmates and make recommendations thereon
  • Review the safeguards provided by or under the constitution of any law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation.
  • Review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures.
  • Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.
  • Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights.
  • Encourage the efforts of Non-Governmental organizations and institutions working in the field of human rights.
  • Undertake such other functions as it may consider necessary for the promotion of human rights.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT LEGISLATION

Context:

  • Supreme Court expressed its growing concern over the award of tenders being challenged in writ proceedings almost as a matter of routine.

Why:

  • Need the Central government must pass legislation on Public Procurement.
  • Nearly, 30% of GDP is contributed by this public procurement which has a fiscal significance in public policy.

 

Previous bills:

  • United Progressive Alliance introduced the Public Procurement Bill in the Lok Sabha in 2012, The National Democratic Alliance, in 2015, revamped the provisions of the earlier Bill to come up with the Public Procurement Bill, 2015
  • Both the bill were not passed in parliament.

Constitutional Provision:

  • There is absence of Any Constitutional Provision regarding such Public procurement. Reason- Article 282 gives financial autonomy in public spending for executive.

State take on Public procurement:

  • State public procurement is regulated by a State Act only in five states Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Assam.
  • There is absence of grievance redress mechanisms in above states.

Judiciary Stand:

  • Courts have imposed such stringent Self-Imposed Restrictions in the area of judicial review regarding tendered and power to interfere.

Conclusion:

  • Absence of Legislation would only encourage the growth of other negative aspects of public procurement.
  • In such a depressing legal scenario, it is no surprise that public procurement  tender awards are often challenged in constitutional courts.
  • Passing a roboust legislation in Public procurement will Reduce Litigations in Court Regarding Procurement Help Fiscal Consolidation
  • Accountability in procurement. Boost MSME further.

LABOUR ISSUES

  • Indian Staffing Federation has asked the government to completely scrap the archaic labor laws.
  • ISF is an apex body of staffing or the outsourcing industry. It is yet to be recognized by the government. India has 463 million workforces, of which 94% are in informal sector employed with small and micro firms.
  • Such enterprises tries to remain small since they enjoy tax benefits in India as they employ less than 20 people. Therefore, such a ceiling on the number of employees has restricted the growth of the industries as well as the growth of employment in the country.
  • Once a company employs more than 20 labourers it is subjected to unrealistic labour laws and compliances. Labour laws in India is framed by both the Central government and the State government as it comes under the Concurrent list of the constitution.
  • This  has  created  lot  of  ambiguity  in  laws  and  confusion  in  its  implementation.  For example, existing labour laws define worker and wage in 17 different ways.
  • This has made India a hostile place for investments.
  • The ISF recommends new labour laws that suits the modern times and needs of an emerging economy.