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Category: Polity & Governance

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.

UNION CABINET CLEARS FRESH BILL TO BAN INSTANT TRIPLE TALAQ

Why in News:

  • Cabinet approves legislation to replace ordinance, bill to be introduced in upcoming session of the new Lok Sabha

Back ground:

  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, paving the way for the legislation to be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament.
  • The Bill, which would replace the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Second Ordinance, 2019, once passed, would put a curb on the practice of talaq-e-biddat, or instant triple talaq.
  • “The Bill would ensure gender equality and gender justice to Muslim women. The Bill would also help in protecting the rights of married Muslim women and prevent divorce by practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ by their husbands.
  • The Bill declares the practice of triple talaq void and illegal, making it punishable by three years in jail and a fine. It also provides for payment of subsistence allowance to married Muslim women and dependent children.

FROM PLATE TO PLOUGH: THE FARM-FACTORY CONNECT

Why in News:

  • Ashok Gulati, chair professor for agriculture at ICRIER, talked about importance of farm- factory connect.

Background: / Important Analysis:

  • As per the last report of National Statistical Office (NSO) released on May 31, the Gross Value Added (GVA) at basic prices (2011-12 prices) for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2018- 19 has slumped to -0.1 percent for agriculture, forestry and fishery.
  • However, Agri-GDP grew at 2.9 per cent per annum in Last five year.

China Story:

  • Dr Gulati observe that the first thing Chinese government did in 1978, when it started off economic reforms was to reform agriculture.
  • Agri-GDP in China grew at 7.1 per cent per annum during 1978-84, and because the Chinese government also liberated price controls on Agri-commodities, farmers’ real incomes increased at 15 per cent per annum.
  • China registered an Agri-GDP growth of 4.5 per cent per annum during 1978-2016
  • This helps the manufacturing revolution, which was revved up through town and village enterprises (TVEs) to cater to domestic demand from rural areas.

Indian Story:

  • India has never had any major Agri-reforms and farmers’ incomes have remained very low. It has implications not only for overall Agri-GDP growth, but also for slowing down of manufacturing growth due to sluggish demand for industrial products in rural areas Recently, Indian industry is complaining that the rural demand is collapsing. Tractor sales are down by 13 per cent, two-wheeler sales are down by 16 per cent, car sales are down by similar percentage, and even FMCG (fast move consumer goods) sales are down in April 2019 over April 2018.

Reason for low farm productivity:

  • Restrictive policies: Our restrictive policies constrain the private sector to make Indian agriculture globally competitive.
  • Our restrictive policies constrain the private sector from building direct supply chains from farms to ports, which bypass the mandi system. This leads to a weak infrastructure for agri-exports.
  • Obsessive focus on inflation targeting: An obsessive focus on inflation targeting by suppressing food prices through myriad controls works against the farmer.
  • MSPs remain largely ineffective: Normally, MSPs remain largely ineffective for most commodities in larger parts of India. But even if they are operational through massive procurement operations, a policy of high MSPs can backfire when it goes beyond global prices.
  • Take the case of rice. India is the largest exporter of rice in the world, exporting about 12 to 13 MMT of the cereal per year.
  • If the government raises the MSP of rice, by say 20 per cent, rice exports will drop and stocks with the government will rise to levels far beyond the buffer stock norms.
  • It would be a loss of scarce resources. Besides, it would create unnecessary distortions adversely impacting the diversification process in agriculture towards high-value crops.
  • Low investment in Agri-R&D and its extension from lab to land: Today, India spends roughly 0.7 per cent of Agri-GDP on Agri-R&D and extension together. This needs to double in the next five years.
  • The meagre investments in Pusa Basmati 1121 and 1509, for example, have yielded basmati exports between $ 4 and 5 billion annually.
  • Investment in managing water efficiently
  • Investment in infrastructure for agri-exports value chains.

NATIONAL PEOPLE’S PARTY IS NOW A NATIONAL PARTY

Why in News:

  • National People’s Party, has been recognised as a “national party”.

More in News:

  • NPP is eighth party to get that recognition after Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI, CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress and the first from the Northeast
    The Election Commission lists political parties as “national party”, “state party” or “registered (unrecognised) party”.
  • The conditions for being listed as a national or a state party are specified under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
  • Previously, the poll body used to assess the eligibility based on the performance in one election, but in 2016, it altered the rules to expand the assessing period to two elections (this could be one general election and one state one; or two general elections; or two state ones) after the one in which it was granted a national party or regional party status.

National Party:

  • For any political party to be eligible for recognition as a national Party, it has to satisfy any of these conditions
    6% vote share in the last Assembly polls in each of any four states, as well as four seats in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
    2% of all Lok Sabha seats in the last such election, with MPs elected from at least three states; or
  • Recognition as a state party in at least four states.
  • Note – The NPP has satisfied the last of these conditions. It is recognised as a state party in four states — Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland, besides Meghalaya.
  • It has earned that recognition by fulfilling different conditions in different states.
  • For recognition as a state party, any one of five conditions need to be satisfied. These are specified under paragraph 6A of the 1968 Order:
  • Two seats plus a 6% vote share in the last Assembly election in that state; or One seat plus a 6% vote share in the last Lok Sabha election from that state; or
  • 3% of the total Assembly seats or 3 seats, whichever is more; or
  • One of every 25 Lok Sabha seats (or an equivalent fraction) from a state; or
  • An 8% state-wide vote share in either the last Lok Sabha or the last Assembly polls.
  • In Meghalaya, the NPP easily satisfies all five conditions, with 19 Assembly  seats out of 59 and a 20.60% vote share in 2018, followed by one of the state’s two Lok Sabha seats and a 22% vote share this year.
  • In the other three states, it did not win a single Lok Sabha seat or get an 8% vote share in any, but earned recognition as a state party by virtue of its Assembly poll performances.
  • In Manipur, it won four seats in 2017,which satisfied condition (iii) listed under Paragraph 6B. In Assembly elections to Nagaland last year and Arunachal this year, the NPP fulfilled the conditions (i) and (iii).

FOCUS IS ON AYUSHMAN BHARAT

Why in News:

  • The Health Ministry will focus on strengthening preventive strategies so that people adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Background: / Ayushman Bharat:

  • The programme is aimed at making interventions to address health holistically, in primary, secondary and tertiary care systems.
  • The initiatives under the programme are:
  • Health and Wellness Centre
  • National Health Protection Scheme

Health and Wellness Centre:

  • National Health Policy, 2017 envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of
    India’s health system.
  • Under this, 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
  • The centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
  • These will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
  • Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.

National Health Protection Scheme:

  • This will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.
  • This would translate to around 50 crore beneficiaries.
  • The scheme provides coverage of upto Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  • This is said to be the world’s largest government funded health care programme.
  • Besides, 24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals will be set up, by up-grading existing district hospitals in the country.
  • This would ensure that there is at least 1 Medical College for every 3 Parliamentary Constituencies. Also, at least 1 Government Medical College in each State of the country.
  • This is to further enhance accessibility of quality medical education and health care.

What is the Significance?

  • Lakhs of families, at present, borrow or sell assets to receive inpatient treatment.
  • The concern of the consequent impoverishment of poor and vulnerable families is a continuing one. Under the existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), poor families get an annual coverage of Rs. 30,000. Several State governments have implemented or supplemented health protection schemes that provide varying coverage.
  • The present initiatives will supplement these in taking health care to a larger mass.
  • Higher health insurance cover is also seen as leading to a higher life expectancy.
  • The scheme could potentially ensure enhanced productivity and well-being, averting wage loss and impoverishment.

AFTER ARTICLE 370, LEGISLATOR TRIGGERS DEBATE ON NAGALAND’S 371(A)

Why in News:

  • A legislator of the ruling party in Nagaland has triggered a debate on Article 371(A) that guarantees special status for the people of the north-eastern State.

What is Article 370?

  • Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370. All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K.

Important provisions

  • According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications,
    Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws.
  • Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article
    360 in the state. Under Article 370, the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the state.
  • Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policy) and Part IVA (Fundamental Duties) of the Constitution are not applicable to J&K.

ARTICLE 371 – A → SPECIAL PROVISIONS FOR NAGALAND:

  • An act of parliament relating to following matters would not apply to Nagaland unless state assembly so decides:
  • Religious & social practices of Nagas Nagas
  • customary law & procedure
  • Administration of civil or criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law Ownership & transfer of land & its resources
  • Special responsibility of governor with respect to law & order in the state
  • A regional council for Tuensang district, consisting of 35 members should be formed & governor in his discretion shall make all the rules & terms regarding this council
  • Administration of Tuensang district shall be carried on by the governor
  • Governor in his discretion shall arrange for equitable distribution of money, between Tuensang district & Rest of Nagaland, provided by the center.
  • Final decision on all matters relating to Tuensang district shall be made by governor in his discretion. Members in Nagaland assembly from the Tuensang district are not elected directly by the people but by regional council.

STAY VERDICT ON CHENNAI-SALEM HIGHWAY FORTHWITH, NHAI URGES SC

Why in news:

  • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has told the Supreme Court that the Madras High Court’s order quashing land acquisition notifications for the proposed Chennai-Salem eight-lane greenfield expressway would act as a deterrent for other infrastructure projects planned across the country under the Bharatmala Pariyojana
    -Phase I.

Details:

  • NHAI Contends that the High Court had given an erroneous finding that environmental clearance must be obtained even before acquisition of lands and not just before construction of the highway.
  • NHAI claimed that such a finding would indefinitely delay all ongoing as well as future infrastructure projects in the country and consequently cripple economic activities.
  • The NHAI said that the objective of Bharatmala Pariyojana was to improve efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through development of economic corridors, feeder routes, border and international connectivity roads and Greenfield expressways.

Project proposal:

  • The Chennai-Salem greenfield corridor is a 277.3 km long, 8-lane highway project, proposed to connect Salem to Chennai. The proposed highway passed through Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. This is an agrarian region comprising reserved forest areas and several industrial zones. A feasibility study for the project pegged the total cost at Rs 9,106 crores.
  • In addition, a tentative cost for rehabilitation and resettlement had been worked out to Rs 415 crores.

Objective

  • There are three existing routes between Salem and Chennai:
  • Ulundurpet to Chennai
  • Walajah to Chennai
  • the Chennai – Tiruvannamalai – Harur – Salem routes
  • The government argues that the first two existing stretches are facing abnormal delays due to increasing traffic volume.
  • The second stretch may not reduce travel time even if a bypass route was introduced.
  • Thus, a direct Salem – Chennai highway may be the only solution to ease traffic and reduce the travel time. It was stated that the corridor would mostly involve drylands, but the land acquisition cost may not be very high when compared to the benefits.
  • A subsequent feasibility report noted that the project is expected to generate development and employment in the towns along the route.
  • Hence, considering the business potential and other benefits, the centre is said to have
    approved the proposal and called it “Green Express Way Corridor”.

Impact

  • The farmers feared that the project would destroy the most productive farmlands in Kancheepuram and Tiruvannamalai districts.
  • It will have a huge impact on the environment and water bodies in the area.
  • The court order also raised questions about a vulnerable reserve forest stretch near the project alignment. The court also based its judgment on major flaws in the project report submitted by a private consultant. Given the above drawbacks, the HC scrapped the feasibility study report which said the project would generate employment opportunities and lead to development.

SUPREME COURT STAYS MAHARASHTRA’S EWS QUOTA

Why in News:

  • The Supreme Court passed an interim direction that the 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections introduced by Maharashtra for postgraduate medical courses in the State through notifications, will not apply for this academic year.

Details:

  • 103rd Constitutional amendment, Article 16 (6) was inserted, allowing States to make “any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the classes mentioned in clause (4), in addition to the existing reservation and subject to a maximum of ten per cent of the posts in each category.”
  • Court said that additional seats are sanctioned by the Medical Council of India, the existing seats cannot be subjected to the provisions of the aforesaid Constitutional amendment by issuing appropriate notifications.
  • It is said that Modalities of selection cannot be changed after initiation of the process, in a similar matter involving reservation of 16% seats for socially and educationally backward classes including the Maratha community in the educational institutions in the State of Maharashtra in terms of provisions of the Maharashtra State Reservation (of Seats for Admission in Educational Institutions in the State and for Appointments in the Public Services and Posts under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.

IN JOINT FAMILY, BROTHER-IN-LAW HAS LIABILITY TO PAY MAINTENANCE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIM: SC

Why in News:

  • Even the brother-in-law has a liability to pay maintenance to a victim under the Domestic Violence Act if they had lived together under the same roof in a shared household as part of a joint family at any point of time, the Supreme Court has held.

Details:

  • The apex court Bench interpreted what the expression ‘domestic relationship’ means under the 2005 Act. They held that the term meant a “relationship where two persons live or have lived together at any point of time in a shared household when they are related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are members living together as a joint family”.
  • The court further read the term “shared household” to include “such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household”.

Domestic Violence Act

  • While dowry related violence or cruelty has been covered in section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, an additional law was enacted by the parliament as Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 to explicitly define domestic violence in addition to dowry-related cruelty and provide maintenance, shelter, or interim finances to a woman subjected to domestic violence or harassment by an adult male.

RECORDING DISSENTING OPINION IN EC

Why in News?

  • The Election Commission has decided by majority that dissenting opinions in Model Code of Conduct (MCC) disputes will not be made part of any final order.
  • What was the dispute?
  • Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa had given dissenting opinion in at least four cases. These related to cases where the ECI (2:1 majority) did not find any violation in the speeches of PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
  • Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa had written thrice to the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora in this regard.
  • He had conveyed his decision to stay away from proceedings related to the MCC if the dissenting views were not incorporated in the orders.
  • With ECI’s recent decision, the dissenting opinions will only be included in internal files, as per previous practice.

What does the law say?

  • Article 324 of the Constitution vests the superintendence, direction and control of elections in an Election Commission of India.
  • It consists of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix.
  • At present the Election Commission is a multi-member body, with a Chief Election Commissioner and two other members.
  • The law requires the multi-member EC to transact business unanimously as far as possible. All three Commissioners now have equal decision-making powers.

What is the procedure in case of dissent?

  • Where there is a difference of opinion, decision is taken by majority.
  • All opinions carry equal weight, which means the CEC can be overruled by the two ECs.
  • If some difference of opinion persists even after oral deliberations and discussions, such dissent is recorded in the file.
  • In normal practice, while communicating the decision of the Commission in executive matters, the majority view is conveyed to the parties concerned.
    The dissent remains recorded in the file.
  • In case dissent is to be recorded in a case of judicative nature, the dissenting member may like to record a separate opinion/order.
  • However, despite the existence of the provision to take decisions by majority since 1993, very rarely has dissent been recorded.
  • When a matter is deliberated upon by the 3 Commissioners, they normally agree to a common course of action.
  • This does not, however, mean that there is no disagreement between the Commissioners.

Is the rejection of the demand justified?

  • The recent rejection of the demand of Mr. Lavasa on recording dissenting opinions in the orders may be technically and legally right.
    However, there was indeed a strong case for acceding to his demand.
  • This is especially true at least in regard to complaints against high functionaries such as the Prime Minister. The EC has been widely criticised for giving a series of ‘clean chits’ to the PM.
  • This was despite some questionable remarks that appeared to solicit votes in the name of the armed forces. Added to the dispute was the unexplained delay of several weeks in disposing of complaints against Mr. Modi. It is in this context that Mr. Lavasa’s dissenting opinion may have been relevant enough to merit inclusion in the EC’s orders.
  • People are entitled to know whether or not the poll panel’s key decisions are unanimous. In the present case, Mr. Lavasa has taken up the issue through as many as three letters. So it is reasonable to infer that there is some basis for his grievance.
  • The onus on EC to maintain a level-playing field and enforce the election code is quite high, especially when its credibility is under question.
  • It would be unfortunate if the majority in the EC were to be afraid of any public reaction that may result from disclosure of a split opinion.

ONLY A MARGINAL CHANGE IN NOTA VOTE PERCENTAGE

Why in News:

The percentage of votes for NOTA, or the none-of-the-above option, this year has remained virtually unchanged from last time, according to data from the Election Commission (EC) website.

background:

  • In 2019, about 1.04% of the voters felt that none of the candidates deserved their vote. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, this was around 1.08% of the voters.
  • The 2019 Lok Sabha elections stretched over six weeks and registered the highest voter turnout in the history of the Lok Sabha election.

NOTA:

  • None Of The Above (NOTA) is a ballot option designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system.
  • It was introduced in India following the 2013 Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union
    for Civil Liberties v. Union of India judgment.
  • However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’.
  • The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.

What is the current pattern of NOTA?

  • NOTA polling figures are still small.
  • In the 2013 Assembly elections held in four States NOTA constituted 1.85% of the total votes polled.
  • Then it dropped to 0.95% in the 2014 Assembly elections held in eight States.
  • It increased to 2.02% in the 2015 Assembly elections held in Delhi and Bihar. While Delhi polled a mere 0.40%, Bihar saw 2.49% of NOTA votes, which remains the highest NOTA votes polled so far in any State in Assembly elections.
  • The number of NOTA votes polled was larger than the winning margin in 261 Assembly constituencies and in 24 constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections since 2013.
  • Therefore, in these constituencies the NOTA votes did make a difference to the election results. Reserved constituencies – Reserved constituencies have seen a relatively larger number of NOTA votes. This point to the continued social prejudice against political reservation for SC/STs. Left-Wing Areas – Constituencies affected by left-wing extremism have also recorded higher NOTA performance and here probably it served as an instrument of protest against the State itself.
  • Mainstream Parties – It is comparatively higher in the constituencies which have seen a direct contest between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. This might be some indication of the people’s disenchantment with two mainstream political parties.
  • NOTA is also used to express their protest against many things they perceive wrong in the political system.

What is the way ahead?

  • So far, a small number of Indian voters have come to see NOTA as an instrument of protest. The perceived cynicism of Indian voters against the political class thus seems exaggerated. Nevertheless, it is important to note that these voters have used the democratic means of NOTA to express their resentment rather than boycotting the polls outright. This electoral option will become a meaningful means of negative voting only if it becomes a ‘right to reject’ rather than being a symbolic instrument to express resentment as it is now.

OBC CATEGORIES COMMISSION RECEIVES 2-MONTH EXTENSION

Why in News:

  • A commission appointed in 2017 to examine the sub-categorisation of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) has been given a two-month extension by President Ram Nath Kovind

Details:

  • The commission had been constituted to “examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of Other Backward Classes with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
  • The commission was meant to “work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs and to take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories”
  • The commission, was supposed to present its report to the President in 12 weeks from the time the chairperson assumed charge.
    Since considerable time was taken up in obtaining the data and thereafter in analysing of the data, the tenure of the Commission has been extended.

National Commission for Backward Classes

  • National Commission for Backward Classes is a Constitutional body set up through the 123rd constitutional amendment bill 2018 and 102nd amendment act under the provisions of Article 338B of Indian Constitution.
  • The commission consists of one chairman and five Members with the term of three years. The National Commission for Backward Classes is vested with the responsibility of considering inclusions in and exclusions from lists of communities notified as backward for the purpose of job reservations.
  • The commission tenders the needful advice to the Central Government on the issues related to the backward classes and the commission has the powers of a civil court
  • The NCBC was given limited powers – only to recommend to the government inclusion or exclusion of a community in the central list of OBCs.
  • The power to hear complaints of the OBCs and protect their interests remained with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes

ELECTION COMMISSION REJECTS OPPOSITION PARTIES’ DEMAND ON VVPAT VERIFICATION

Why in News:

The Election Commission (EC) rejected the demand of Opposition parties for tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)

Background: / What is a VVPAT system?

  • Voter verifiable paper audit trial (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
  • When a vote is cast, a slip is printed on the VVPAT printer containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate voted.
  • This remains visible to you through a transparent window for seven seconds.
  • Thereafter, this printed slip automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box.
  • If there is a need, these printouts can later be counted.

How did the VVPAT system evolve in India?

  • Many political parties expressed their satisfaction with EVMs initially.
  • But some parties requested the Commission to consider introducing VVPATs for further transparency and verifiability of the votes cast.
  • The Commission referred the matter to its technical committee on EVMs to examine and make a recommendation to the Commission.
  • The committee first met with the manufacturers and then with political parties and other civil society members to explore the design requirements of the VVPAT system.
  • In 2011, BEL and ECIL made a prototype of the VVPAT and demonstrated it to the technical committee and the Election Commission.
  • In the same year the Commission conducted simulated elections for the field trial of the VVPAT system in various places including Thiruvananthapuram, Ladakh, Cherrapunji and Jaisalmer.
  • Two years later, the government amended the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 allowing the Commission to use VVPATs along with EVMs.
  • These were first used in the bye-election for the Noksen Assembly seat in Nagaland in 2013. Thereafter VVPATs have been used in select constituencies in every election to the State Assemblies.
  • They were deployed in eight Parliamentary constituencies during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, VVPATs will be used in all the constituencies.

Why is it important?

  • In the world’s largest democracy, every vote counts and the EVMs and VVPATs try and ensure that the massive election process is in tune with the latest technological advancements. The Election Commission has never doubted the workings of EVMs and their utility in a free and fair electoral process.
  • However, VVPATs add another layer of transparency and reliability to convince voters about the sanctity of EVMs. EVMs and VVPATs also quicken the election process as counting votes on EVMs takes much lesser time than counting paper ballots.
  • The EVMs and VVPATs are also environment-friendly as they use very little paper compared to paper ballots.

TALLY EVM-VVPAT SLIPS BEFORE FINAL COUNTING, OPPOSITION TELLS EC

Why in News:

  • Twenty-two Opposition parties met the Election Commission (EC) demanding that tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in five polling booths in each Assembly segment with the electronic voting machines (EVMs) be done prior to the counting of votes.

Details:

  • If any discrepancy is found anywhere in the VVPAT verification, hundred per cent counting of paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that Assembly segment should be done, the parties demanded.
  • The EC, however, remained non-committal and told them that there would be a special meeting of the full Commission to examine the issue.

Electronic voting machines (EVMs)

  • An EVM consists of a “control unit” and a “balloting unit”. The control unit is with the Election Commission-appointed polling officer; the balloting unit is in the voting compartment into where voter casts her vote in secret.
  • It runs on a single alkaline battery fitted in the control unit, and can even be used in areas that have no electricity.
  • They are manufactured by Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
  • VVPATs are an independent verification system designed to allow voters to verify that their votes were cast correctly, to
  • detect possible election fraud/malfunction and to provide a means to audit the stored results in case of disputes.

Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)

  • In VVPATs, a paper slip is generated bearing serial number, name and symbol of the candidate along with recording of vote in CU. The printed slip is visible (for 7 seconds) in a viewing window attached to BU in voting compartment.
  • In Subramaniam Swamy vs ECI (2013), SC said VVPAT is necessary for transparency in voting and must be implemented by ECI.

OPPOSITION TO MEET ECI TODAY OVER VVPAT VERIFICATION

Why in News:

  • Leaders of Opposition parties will meet Election Commission (EC) officials to urge the panel to spell out the mechanisms to address any mismatch between voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) and electronic voting machine (EVM) tallies during the counting of votes.

Details:

  • Opposition parties had suggested that if there is a discrepancy, then the votes of the entire Assembly segment should be counter-checked with the VVPAT machines.
  • It is said that any discrepancy would raise a doubt on the integrity of the entire electoral process and the EC is yet to bring out the guidelines it promised.

Background:

VVPAT system

  • Voter verifiable paper audit trial (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
  • When a vote is cast, a slip is printed on the VVPAT printer containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate voted.
  • This remains visible to you through a transparent window for seven seconds.
  • Thereafter, this printed slip automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box. If there is a need, these printouts can later be counted.
  • It is intended as an independent verification system for EVM designed to
  • • allow voters to verify that their votes are casted correctly,
  • • detect possible election fraud or malfunction and
  • • Provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.

Advantages in VVPATs:

  • Enables to verify vote: Instant feedback to voter that vote polled has been allocated to the intended candidate.
  • Enables authorities to count the votes manually if there is a dispute in the electronically polled votes. Operates under a Direct Recording Election system (DRE) which detects fraud and existent malfunctions. Will ensure greater transparency in voting process.
  • Gives both the voters and political parties an assurance.

TAIWAN LEGALIZES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN HISTORIC FIRST FOR ASIA

Why in News:

  • Lawmakers in Taiwan have approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a landmark decision that makes the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to pass gay marriage legislation.

Details:

  • Lawmakers comfortably passed part of a bill that would allow gay couples to enter into “exclusive permanent unions” and apply for marriage registration with government agencies.

What is Section 377?

  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1860, introduced during the British rule   of    India, criminalises    sexual    activities    “against    the    order    of nature”, including homosexual sexual activities. Prior to that, sexual activities, including amongst homosexuals, were not penalised in India.
  • Though it textually applies to all persons, homosexual and heterosexual, it has been targeted at Transgender men.

Courts judgement on Section 377

  • The Delhi High Court in Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT of Delhi (2009) rightly held that criminalising sexual activities with consent in private not only impairs the dignity of those persons targeted by the law, but it is also discriminatory and impacts the health of those people.
  • The top court had set aside a historic Delhi High Court judgment that had decriminalized homosexuality.
  • Supreme Court, in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation (2013) case, set aside the Delhi High Court judgment and said that homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults under Section 377 of IPC is illegal and will continue to be an offense. The court said that Section 377 did not suffer from any “constitutional infirmity”.
  • The astounding claim made in Koushal case that there was no need to challenge Section 377 because the LGBT community constitutes only a minuscule minority has been completely discredited. It was unreasonable to advance the view that constitutional protection is available to a group based on its size.

ILLEGAL PHOTOCOPYING OF DOCUMENTS IS THEFT: SUPREME COURT

Why in News:

  • Dishonest and temporary “removal” of original documents to take photocopies and to
    further use information amounts to theft, the Supreme Court has held.

Background:

  • The judgment followed the principle laid down by the apex court in its earlier precedents that “to commit theft, one need not take movable property permanently out of the possession of another with the intention not to return it to him. It would satisfy the definition if he took any movable property out of the possession of another person though he intended to return it later on.”

Apex Court Verdict:

  • The loss need not be caused by a permanent deprivation of property but may be caused even by temporary dispossession, though the person taking it intended to restore it sooner or later. A temporary period of deprivation or dispossession of the property of another cause’s loss to the other.

Calcutta court verdict:

  • held that since the the first 28 documents were still in Birla’s custody, the taking away of the information contained in these documents and their temporary removal would not qualify as theft, dishonest misappropriation of property or dishonest receiving of the stolen property.

MAMATA’S MORPHED PHOTO: SC PULLS UP BENGAL GOVT FOR BJP LEADER’S OVERNIGHT DETENTION

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the West Bengal government for keeping BJP Yuva Morcha leader Priyanka Sharma behind bars overnight despite the court’s May 14 order to release her immediately on bail.

Details:

  • A Vacation Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna even threatened contempt action against the State government.
  • Ms. Sharma was arrested by the State Police and sent to 14 days of custody for allegedly posting a morphed image of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media.
  • The arrest was “prima facie arbitrary” in the first place. On May 14, she was granted bail, the Vacation Bench asked her to apologies for the “meme”.
  • Ms. Sharma was released at half-past nine on Wednesday. The order was to release her immediately.
  • Article 22:

    Protection Against Arrest and Detention In Certain Cases

    • 1.No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
    • 2.Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary
      for the journey from the place of arrest to court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.

    Are the fundamental rights affected?

    Article 19:

    Protection of Certain Rights Regarding Freedom of Speech

    • Nothing shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause 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.

REDACTIVE PRICING AUDIT AND THE CAG’S DUTIES

Why in News:

  • Parliament is constitutionally privileged to know under what conditions a procurement of Rafale fighter aircraft was decided on.

Details:

  • The Supreme Court’s observations in connection with the Rafale fighter aircraft deal by citing the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG’s) report on redacted pricing,
    and subsequent media reports and the controversy over “stolen files” brought back into the
    spotlight the role of the supreme audit institution of India.

Redaction:

  • Redaction is the selection or adaption by ‘obscuring or removing sensitive information’ from
    a document prior to publication.

CAG Audit:

  • The CAG is mandated to audit all receipts and expenditures of the three-tier governments in India and report to the legislature judiciously, independently, objectively in compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations, without fear and favour. Legislative committees such as the Public Accounts Committee and Committee on Public Undertakings examine the CAG’s selected reports.

Not Transparent:

  • In the preface of the audit report, the CAG stated that redactive pricing was unprecedented but had to be accepted due to the Ministry’s insistence citing security concerns. It was unprecedented that an audit report submitted by the CAG to the President under Article 151 of the Constitution suppressed relevant information. Redactive pricing is nowhere used in SAI audit reports. It does not seem to have been used in a government audit by any SAI of any country. Redactive pricing in the ‘Performance Audit Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Capital Acquisition in Indian Air Force (Union Government – Defence Services, Air Force, Report No. 3 of 2019)’ suppresses more than it reveals. An audit is expected to analyse the facts and comparative pricing charts to highlight the financial propriety and prudence of the procurement decision.

Complex Audit:

  • A performance audit is done to establish whether the procurement activity was executed keeping in mind economy, efficiency, effectiveness, ethics and equity. Only a thorough pricing audit can bring out the credibility and integrity of a purchase decision, thereby achieving an SAI’s constitutionally mandated responsibilities.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India:

  • CAG is an independent authority under the Constitution of India. He is the head of the Indian audit & account department and chief Guardian of Public purse. It is the institution through which the accountability of the government and other public authorities (all those who spend public funds) to Parliament and State Legislatures and through them to the people is ensured. CAG derives its audit mandate from different sources like– Constitution (Articles 148 to 151). The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971
  • Important Judgments
  • Instructions of Government of India.
  • Regulations on Audit & Accounts-2007

For A Full Bench: On Recommendations For Judicial Appointments

Why in News:

  • The government and the Supreme Court collegiums disagree on recommendations for judicial appointments.

Details:

  • The latest concerns Jharkhand High Court Chief Justice Aniruddha Bose and Gauhati High Court Chief Justice A.S. Bopanna, who were recommended for elevation to the Supreme
  • The government had sought a reconsideration of the two names.
  • The collegium has now repeated its recommendations, emphasising that there is nothing adverse against the two judges in terms of their “conduct, competence and integrity” and that there is no reason to agree with the government. Under the present procedure, the government is now bound to accept the
  • The Supreme Court is keen to fill up the current
  • It has also recommended two more judges, Justice B.R. Gavai of the Bombay High Court and Chief Justice Surya Kant of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, for appointment to the apex court. If all these four recommendations go through, the court will have its full complement of 31
  • The filling up of vacancies is a continuous and collaborative process involving the executive and the judiciary, and there cannot be a time frame for
  • It is time to think of a permanent, independent body to institutionalise the process.

Collegium system

  • Collegium system in India is the system by which the judges are appointed by the judges
  • only also referred to as “Judges- selecting- Judges”.
  • It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court, and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
  • The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other senior most judges of the A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.
  • Names recommended for appointment by a High Court collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the Supreme Court
  • The government is bound to appoint a person as a Supreme Court judge if the collegium reiterates its recommendation.

Karnataka law on Sc/St Promotion Quota upheld

why in news:

  • The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of a 2018 Karnataka law, granting reservation in promotion and consequential seniority to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees in the state.

Background:

  • The Karnataka law grants reservation to non-IAS cadre government employees who belong to SC/ST The issue dates back to 2002 when the Karnataka government had enacted a similar law that was later upheld by a constitutional bench in 2006.
  • However, it was challenged in 2011 and in 2017 the apex court had said it was necessary for the government to provide material that there was “compelling necessity” for exercise of such powers that eventually resulted in 3,799 SC/ST employees, promoted earlier, to be The state government had constituted a committee under then chief secretary K.Ratna Prabha to study the backwardness of these communities. The Karnataka government took the ordinance route in August 2017 to circumvent an apex order in February earlier that year that struck down reservations on promotions to SCs/STs by the Karnataka government and had also set a deadline of three months to reverse the promotions.

Controversy:

  • In the Indira Sawhney case, the Supreme Court held that the “test or requirement of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who indubitably fall within the expression ‘backward class of citizens

Judicial Appointment Contraversy

Why in News:

  • Supreme Court Collegium, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, recommended the names of two judges to the court and rejected the government’s disapproval of the elevation of two others.

Background:

  • Collegium refused the government’s request to reconsider its April 12 recommendation to elevate Jharkhand High Court and Gauhati High Court Chief Justices Aniruddha Bose and
  • S. Bopanna as Supreme Court judges.
  • The Collegium said their names were recommended after all parameters were The Collegium said there was no reason to agree with the government as there was
  • nothing adverse found in the two judges’ conduct, competence or integrity. Now, the government is bound to appoint Justices Bose and Bopanna to the court.

What is the Collegium System?

  • The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.’ There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive
  • The recommendations of the Collegium are binding on the Central Government; if the Collegium sends the names of the judges/lawyers to the government for the second

How Collegium System Works?

  • The Collegium sends the recommendations of the names of lawyers or judges to the Central Government. Similarly, the Central Government also sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium. The Central Government does the fact checking and investigate the names and resends the file to the Collegium.
  • Collegium considers the names or suggestions made by the Central Government and resends the file to the government for final approval. If the Collegium resends the same name again then the government has to give its assent to the names. But time limit is not fixed to reply. This is the reason that appointment of judges takes a long time.

Assam NRC: Supreme Court frowns on foreigners’ tribunals plan

Why in news

  •       The Supreme Court  questioned a proposal by the Assam government to quickly throw open 1,000 foreigners’ tribunals all over the northeastern State to try suspected illegal immigrants.

Details:

  •       A Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it looked like the State government hatched the plan without bothering to conduct a “basic study” of how to carry it out.
  •       A 1,000 tribunals means a 1,000 judicial officers to preside over them.
  •       The CJI hinted at the possible flood of petitions which would hit the foreigners’ tribunals once the final NRC was published
  •       These petitions would be from people who had not been able to prove their Indian citizenship.
  •       The court, which is also examining the plight of 900-odd illegal immigrants languishing in Assam’s detention centres for years, said it was in favour of releasing them.

What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

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

Who is a citizen in Assam?

  •       The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord  for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens. Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years while those entering after March 25, 1971, were to be deported.

 

Impact

  •       An updated NRC is likely to put an end to speculations about the actual number of illegal migrants in Assam in particular and the country in general.
  •       It will provide a verified dataset to carry out meaningful debates and implement calibrated policy measures.
  •       Publication of an updated NRC is expected to deter future migrants from Bangladesh from entering Assam illegally.
  •       The publication of the draft NRC has already created a perception that staying in Assam without valid documentation will attract detention/jail term and deportation.
  •       More importantly, illegal migrants may find it even more difficult to procure Indian identity documents and avail all the rights and benefits due to all Indian citizens.
  •       Inclusion of their names in the NRC will provide respite to all those Bengali speaking people in Assam who have been, hitherto, suspected as being Bangladeshis.

 

Way Forward

  • India, as a country which follows the ideology of ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’, should not be hasty in taking decisions that can disenfranchise her citizens – contradicting its centuries-followed values.
  • The need of the hour is that Union Government should clearly chart out the course of action regarding the fate of excluded people from final NRC data and political parties should refrain from coloring the entire NRC process through electoral prospects that may snowball in to communal violence.
  • There is a need for a robust mechanism of legal support for the four million who have to prove their citizenship to India with their limited means.

SC TURNS DOWN OPPOSITION PLEA FOR INCREASED VVPAT VERIFICATION

Why in News:

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by 21 Opposition parties to review its judgment rejecting 50% random physical verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) using Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

Details

  • On April 8, a Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase physical counting of VVPAT slips to five random EVMs in each Assembly segment/constituency.

Fool-proof’ polls

  • Its April verdict, the court had assured the petitioners, would ensure a ‘fool-proof’ Lok Sabha polls 2019.
  • The Opposition had found the Supreme Court’s April 8 verdict a far shot from what it
  • wanted — VVPAT verification in 50% or 125 polling booths in each constituency.
  • The physical scrutiny of slips in five EVMs has increased the VVPAT verification percentage from .44% to less than 2%.

VVPAT

  • Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is a device which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip appears on a small window for seven seconds and then drops in a box. The voter cannot take it home. VVPAT displays
  • candidate’s serial number. Name of the candidate and Corresponding symbol for whom the vote has been cast.

Advantages in VVPATs:

  • Enables to verify vote: Instant feedback to voter that vote polled has been allocated to the intended candidate.
  • Enables authorities to count the votes manually if there is a dispute in the electronically polled votes.
  • Operates under a Direct Recording Election system (DRE) which detects fraud and existent malfunctions.
  • Will ensure greater transparency in voting process. Gives both the voters and political parties an assurance.

M3 EVMs

  • M3 EVMs are the third generation EVMs. The M3 EVMs can keep data of 384
  • candidates. M3 EVMS also has added features like Tamper Detection and Self Diagnostics. The tamper detection feature makes an EVM inoperative the moment anyone tries to open the machine. The Self diagnostic feature checks the EVM fully every time it is switched on. Any change in its hardware or software will be detected.

CJI SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASE: HAVE A RIGHT TO COPY OF BOBDE PANEL REPORT, SAYS COMPLAINANT

Why in News:

  • The former apex court staffer wrote to the in-house panel, which found “no substance” in her sexual harassment allegations against the CJI.

Details:

  • If a copy of the report is being given to the CJI directly or indirectly, I am entitled to a copy thereof in any case,” the woman appealed to the committee.
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, in Section 13 provides that both parties have a right to receive a copy of the report.
  • Not providing a copy to the complainant while holding her complaint to be unfounded would be a violation of the principles of natural justice and a complete travesty of justice,” the Supreme Court is relying on a judgment which pre-dates the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 which mandates the fundamental right to information.

Under RTI:

  • The complainant she quoted a full-bench judgment of the Delhi High court in the case of disclosure of assets of judges, saying “the full bench had held that even assets of judges would be accessible under RTI to any citizen”
  • The complainant said she had been treated as an “outsider” from the very beginning of the inquiry process.

What were the earlier Vishaka guidelines?

  • The Vishaka guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court in Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan judgment in 1997.
  • It imposes three key obligations on employing institutions – prohibition, prevention, and redress. The institutions are mandated to establish a Complaints Committee.
  • This was to look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. These guidelines are legally binding

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace

  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Actwas passed in 2013. It broadens the Vishaka guidelines, which were already in place.
  • An aggrieved victim is a woman “of any age whether employed or not”, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”.
  • The Act thus covers the rights of all women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity. Sexual harassment is any one or more of “unwelcome acts or behaviour”, committed directly or by implication.They include:
  • Physical contact & advances
  • A demand or request for sexual favours Sexually coloured remarks
  • Showing pornography
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

POSERS ON THE CODE

Why in News:

  • The EC risks its reputation for even-handedness on the speeches

Details:

  • Policing the conduct of political parties and candidates is equally demanding.
  • The focus is on the manner in which the EC is dealing with complaints for some of controversial campaign speeches.
  • The prohibition against the use of the armed forces in election propaganda is to underscore their apolitical nature and to deny ruling parties the opportunity to project their performance as their own achievements.

Model Code of Conduct

  • The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission (EC) to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections. Basically, the code spells out the do’s and don’ts for elections.
  • This is in keeping with Article
  • 324 of the Constitution, which mandates EC to conduct free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • It is not statutory but Political Parties, Candidates and Polling Agents are expected to observe the norms, on matters ranging from the content of election manifestos, speeches and processions, to general conduct etc.
  • The code comes into force on the announcement of the poll schedule and remains operational till the process is concluded.
  • The cVIGIL App provides time-stamped, evidence-based proof of the Model Code of Conduct / Expenditure Violation, having live photo/video with auto location data.
  • Any citizen can lodge a complaint through the Mobile App. Flying Squads will then investigate the matter and the Returning Officer takes the decision.
  • The status of cVIGIL can be shared with the cVIGIL complainant within a specified time limit. In 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, recommended making the model code of conduct legally binding.
  • The committee observed in a report on electoral reforms that most provisions of the code are already enforceable through corresponding provisions in other statutes. It recommended that the MCC be made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • The EC argues against making it legally binding. According to it, elections must be completed within a relatively short time or close to 45 days, and judicial proceedings typically take longer, therefore it is not feasible to make it enforceable by law.

REGISTRATION OF ALL MOTOR VEHICLES STOPPED

Why in News

  • NIC blocks access for not integrating high security registration plate details with ‘Vahan’ database

Details:

  • The issuing of certificate of registration (RC) for all classes of motor vehicles has been blocked from in the country for not integrating high security registration plate (HSRP) with the ‘Vahan’ database.
  • The National Informatics Centre (NIC) blocked access to the Transport Mission Mode Project’s pan-India application ‘Vahan’ for vehicle registration on a directive of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

What is Vahan?

  • A digital national vehicle registry portal called Vahan.
  • Vahan intends to collate all the information available with road transport authorities for easy access by both citizens and regulators.
  • Data available with over 90 per cent of all road transport authorities have been computerised for this purpose. Vahan contains about 21.68 crore vehicle records in its repository. Vahan allows access to all details related to vehicles such as registration number, chassis/engine number, body/fuel type, colour, manufacturer and model and provides various online services to citizens.
  • Driving Licence and related data are automated through a separate application called ‘Sarathi’.

National Informatics Centre

  • National Informatics Centre is the premier science and technology organisation of the Government of India in informatics services and information and
  • communication technology (ICT) applications. Established in 1976, it works under the Department of Electronics & Information Technology ofMinistry of Electronics and Information Technology.

BREAKING NEW GROUND

Context:

  • The Madras High Court’s recent judgment is truly path-breaking for the LGBTQ community The judgment also opens doors to the larger LGBTQ community for availing civil rights including marriage, succession and inheritance.

Path breaking decision:

  • The judgment quotes NALSA v. Union of India (2014), which held that transgender persons have the right to decide their “self-identified gender”. Now, when this is read along with the Supreme Court’s explicit reference to the American court’s guarantee of right to marry to homosexual couples. This shows that there cannot be a legal bar any more to extending civil rights such as marriage, succession or inheritance to LGBTQ couples who have decided to get married consensually, have married in accordance with the existing laws and are not in violation of any other laws.

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:

  • The main purpose of the act was to amend and codify the law relating to marriage among Hindus and others.
  • Besides amending and codifying Sastrik Law, it introduced separation and divorce, which did not exist in Sastrik Law. This enactment brought uniformity of law for all sections of Hindus. In India there are religion-specific civil codes that separately govern adherents of certain other religions.
  • Present case, the Madurai Bench judgment, however, breaks new ground when it comes to the interpretation of the statutory terms found in the Hindu Marriage Act, especially that of bride (pertaining to women).
  • It states that the expression “bride” occurring in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act cannot have a static or immutable meaning.
  • As noted in Justice G.P. Singh’s Principles of Statutory Interpretation, the court is free to apply the current meaning of a statute to present-day conditions.

Section 377:

  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is a section of the Indian Penal Code introduced in 1864 during the British rule of India. It makes sexual activities “against the order of nature” illegal.
  • On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India ruled that the application of Section 377 to consensual homosexual sex between adults was unconstitutional, irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary, but that Section 377 remains in force relating to sex with minors, non-consensual sexual acts. At the preliminary hearings before the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar, the Solicitor General, representing the Government of India, sought the curtailing of the scope of the case to that of the decriminalisation aspect or the constitutional validity of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 alone.
  • The Supreme Court, consequently, did not have an opportunity to examine the bundle of rights that were to naturally arise from the striking down of Section 377.

Conclusion:

  • The present judgment is truly path-breaking for the LGBTQ community, which is denied equal protection of laws with regard to civil rights.

POWER SHIFT: ON TUSSLE BETWEEN PUDUCHERRY LT. GOVERNOR AND CHIEF MINISTER

Why in News:

  • Inspired by the ruling on Delhi, the Madras HC bats in favour of elected regime in Puducherry

Details:

  • The Madras High Court verdict that the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry     should    not     interfere      in     the    day-to-day
  • administration of the Union Territory is a serious setback to the incumbent Administrator The court has laid down that “the decision taken by the Council of Ministers and the Chief Minister is binding on the Secretaries and other officials.”
  • The judgment is based mainly on the principles that were laid down in last year’s Constitution Bench decision on the conflict between the elected regime in the National Capital Territory (NCT) and its Lt. Governor. The five-judge Bench had ruled that the L-G has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers, or refer to the President for a decision any matter on which there is a difference with the Ministry, but has no independent decision-making powers
  • The High Court also says the Administrator is bound by the ‘aid and advice’ clause in matters over which the Assembly is competent to enact laws
  • The Puducherry legislature is the creation of a parliamentary law, based on an enabling provision in Article 239A of the Constitution, whereas the NCT legislature has been created by the Constitution itself under Article 239AA. In the event that the latest judgment is taken up on appeal, a key question may be how far the decision of the five-judge Bench on the limits of the Delhi L-G’s powers would indeed apply to Puducherry

Article 239A

  • Creation of local Legislatures or Council of Ministers or both for certain Union territories Parliament may by law create for the Union territory of Pondicherry
  • a body, whether elected or partly nominated and partly elected, to function as a Legislature for the Union territory, or a Council of Ministers, or both with such constitution, powers and functions, in each case, as may be specified in the law.

Article 239AA

  • Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, enacted as per 69th Amendment Act of 191, confers special previsions for Delhi (National Capital Territory of Delhi). … the union territory of delhi be called NCT (National Capital Territory) of Delhi, and will be under the Lieutenent Governor.

DATA THEFT BID HITS AYUSHMAN BHARAT

why in News:

  • Ayushman Bharat, the government run health insurance programme confirmed that there had been an attempted security breach.

Background: / Ayushman Bharat programme. What are the Provisions?

  • The programme is aimed at making interventions to address health holistically, in primary,
  • secondary and tertiary care systems. The initiatives under the programme are:
  • Health and Wellness Centre National Health Protection Scheme
  • Health and Wellness Centre – National Health Policy, 2017 envisioned Health and Wellness
  • Centres as the foundation of India’s health system.
  • Under this, 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
  • The centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
  • These will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
  • Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged. National Health Protection Scheme – This will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. This would translate to around 50 crore beneficiaries.
  • The scheme provides coverage of upto Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. This is said to be the world’s largest government funded health care programme. Besides, 24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals will be set up, by up-grading existing district hospitals in the country.
  • This would ensure that there is at least 1 Medical College for every 3 Parliamentary Constituencies. Also, at least 1 Government Medical College in each State of the country.
  • This is to further enhance accessibility of quality medical education and health care.

What is the significance?

  • Lakhs of families, at present, borrow or sell assets to receive inpatient treatment.
  • The concern of the consequent impoverishment of poor and vulnerable families is a continuing one. Under the existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), poor families get an annual coverage of Rs. 30,000.
  • Several State governments have implemented or supplemented health protection schemes that provide varying coverage.
  • The present initiatives will supplement these in taking health care to a larger mass. Higher health insurance cover is also seen as leading to a higher life expectancy.
  • The scheme could potentially ensure enhanced productivity and well-being, averting wage loss and impoverishment.

Parallel Probes: On Complaint Against CJI

Why in News?

  • Justice Patnaik, who retired from the Supreme Court in 2014, was nominated by a three- judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice Arun Mishra, to inquire into allegations of a conspiracy

Details:

  • HIS inquiry into the alleged conspiracy in the sexual harassment charge against Chief  Justice  of  India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi will begin only after the in-house administrative inquiry into the woman’s allegations is concluded by three sitting judges, former Supreme Court judge. No time limit has been set for when (my) inquiry report is to be submitted to the Supreme Court,” Justice Patnaik “The inquiry will start after the in-house committee on the charges the lady complainant has levelled is completed
  • It is claimed that this “conspiracy” was behind the sexual harassment charge being levelled against CJI Gogoi by a former employee of the Supreme Court who worked in CJI’s home office. The CJI has dismissed the allegations calling them “unbelievable” and an attempt by a “bigger force to undermine the independence of the judiciary and deactivate the office of the ”

Priority

  • The complaint of sexual harassment should get It is only if the complaint is found to be false that there will be a case to probe whether it was part of a plot to malign the CJI, or a conspiracy. It is unfortunate that the composition of the in-house committee became a controversy. There was concern that there was only one woman member, and the complainant raised the issue of the proximity of one of its members, Justice N.V. Ramana, with the CJI. The idea of the inquiry being wholly ‘in-house’ is in conflict with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which envisages the presence of an external member. Despite this shortcoming, the committee should try to ensure a fair hearing for the former employee

Protection of Women From Sexual Harassment At Workplace

  • In 1997, in the landmark judgment of Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court of India defined sexual harassment at the workplace, pronounced preventive, prohibitory and redress measures, and gave directives towards a legislative mandate to the guidelines proposed.

The Sexual Harassment At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013-

  • The Sexual Harassment Act (Hereby called as an ‘Act’) was finally enacted in the year 2013 for the prevention of sexual harassment against women at workplace in the whole of The main objective of the act was protection of Women, prevention and redressal of sexual harassment complaints.
  • Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:
  • Physicalcontactand advances; or
  • A demand or request for sexual favors; or
  • Making sexually colored remarks; or
  • Showing pornography; or
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of sexual

JUST RECOMPENSE

Why in News?

  • Compensation for Bilkis Bano underlines the state’s obligation for horrific crimes

Details:

  • Compensation to victims is a relatively less recognised component of criminal justice.
  • Compensation to victims is a relatively less recognised component of criminal justice. In a system that focusses mainly on the accused, an order of compensation is a recognition of the state’s obligation to victims of crime, especially horrific acts.
  • In ordering the Gujarat government to pay ₹50 lakh to Bilkis Yakoob Rasool Bano, a gang-rape survivor of the 2002 communal pogrom in the State who has bravely fought her case, the Supreme Court has endeavoured to achieve restitutive justice.
  • Handing over the fine amounts paid by the accused as part of their sentence is one aspect of such justice; another aspect is for the court to ask the government to compensate the victim from its own coffers.
  • A group of rioters had raped her as well as two other women, and killed seven members of her family at Randhikpur village on March 3, 2002. The court noted that she had the misfortune of witnessing her daughter being smashed against a wall, as well as the devastation suffered by her family. She was also pregnant at the time of the incident.
  • It is in these circumstances that the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi awarded her ₹50 lakh, besides asking the State government to provide her with a government job and a house.
  • Ms. Bano’s case is indeed a rare one: criminal prosecution resulted in conviction and life sentences to 11 persons. Further, the court found deliberate inaction on the part of some police officers and that the autopsies were perfunctory and manipulated. The Supreme Court has asked for the pension benefits of three police officers to be withdrawn.
  • In short, this is a concrete instance of state inaction and negligence that would normally justify the payment of a hefty compensation. Not every crime would have a similar set of circumstances.
  • While convictions are not easy to come by in cases of mob violence, victim compensation may often be the only way to ensure some justice.
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2008 to insert Section 357A under which every State government has to prepare a scheme to set up a fund from which compensation can be paid to victims of crime and their dependants who have suffered loss and injury and who may require rehabilitation.
  • The Centre has a Central Victim Compensation Fund
  • On Supreme Court directions, the National Legal Services Authority has prepared a compensation scheme for women victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes. Many States have notified schemes on these lines. While on paper there is a mechanism to assess rehabilitation needs and pay compensation, there is a need to streamline the schemes and ensure that the compensation process is not done in an ad hocmanner, but is based on sound principles.

Victim compensation fund

  • The compensation part of the rehabilitation of victims of violence including rape is governed by provision of Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure which states that every State Government in co-ordination with the Central Government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim of crime.
  • So far 24 states and 7 UTs have formulated the Victim Compensation Scheme.
  • The government has introduced a Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) scheme, with an initial corpus of Rs 200 crores, to enable support to victims of rape, acid attacks, human trafficking and women killed or injured in the cross border firing.
  • Till now, there has been an absurd disparity in compensation amount paid by state governments varying from Rs 10,000 to Rs 10 lakh.

JUST RECOMPENSE: ON COMPENSATION FOR BILKIS BANO

Why in News:

  • The Supreme Court has directed the Gujarat government to give Rs 50 lakh as compensation, a job and accommodation to Bilkis Bano, who was gang raped during the 2002 riots in the state.

Details:

  • A group of rioters had raped her as well as two other women, and killed seven members of her family at Randhikpur village on March 3, 2002.
  • The Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi awarded her 50 lakh, besides asking the State government to provide her with a government job and a house.
  • The Bombay High Court provided criminal prosecution resulted in conviction and life sentences to 11 persons. The court found deliberate inaction on the part of some police officers and the autopsies were perfunctory and manipulated.
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2008 to insert Section 357A under which every State government has to prepare a scheme to set up a fund from which compensation can be paid to victims of crime and their dependants who have suffered loss and injury and who may require rehabilitation.
  • The Centre has a Central Victim Compensation Fund.
  • National Legal Services Authority has prepared a compensation scheme for women victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes.

Background:

  • The hearing had come up to the Supreme Court when Bilkis Yakub Rasool moved the top court seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Godhra riots of 2002.
  • The apex court had sought a report from a senior police officer in Gujarat who pointed out several acts of negligence on the part of the local police.
  • The Supreme Court ordered the CBI to probe the case. The CBI discovered that local policemen had buried some of her relatives’ bodies with salt to speed up decomposition. The agency exhumed the skeletons and sent them for forensic tests. Later, six policemen were charge-sheeted for intentionally messing up the investigation.
  • Bilkis Bano got justice at the Bombay High Court after 15 years of her gruesome gang rape and the murder of 14 of her family members. The court had held all the 20 accused as convicts. The trial court had acquitted seven accused for want of evidence.
  • Within the chaos of communal violence that gripped Gujarat, and especially in Godhra, where a coach of the Sabarmati Express was burned, along with 59 kar sevaks, 14 people
  • – including four women and four children – were killed while Bilkis, who was then just 19, was gang raped and left to die on that fateful day of March 3. She, however, survived and has fought for justice.

Communal Riots India

  • The problem of communalism begins when a religion is seen as the basis of the national unity and identity. The problem becomes sharper when followers of a particular religion are pitted against another.

Anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat (2002)

  • In 2002, Gujarat witnessed one of the ugliest communal riots in its history.
  • The spark of the riots happens at Godhra Station, where a bogey of train that was returning from Ayodhya with Karsevaks was set on fire.
  • Suspecting it to be Muslims conspiracy, large scale violence against Muslims began in many parts of Gujarat.
  • National Human Right Commission Criticized the Gujarat Govt’s role in failing to control
  • violence, in providing relief to the victims & prosecute the perpetrators of this violence.

Way Forward:

  • It is a concrete instance of state inaction and negligence that would normally justify the payment of a hefty compensation.
  • Not every crime would have a similar set of circumstances.
  • If the convictions are not easy to come by in cases of mob violence, victim compensation may often be the only way to ensure some justice.
  • There is a need to streamline the schemes and ensure that the compensation process is completed or not

SC SEEKS REPLIES FROM CENTRE, J&K ON HIGHWAY TRAFFIC BAN

Why in News:

  • The Supreme Court on Monday asked responses from the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir restriction of civilian traffic two days a week on the national highway (NH) stretch from Udhampur to Baramulla for movement of security forces.

Details:

  • The issue is concerning the ban on civilian traffic for two days a week on the 271-km stretch of National Highway 44 between Udhampur in Jammu and Baramulla in Kashmir.
  • The State government issued an order on April 3 keeping a view of the Pulwama terror attack, another car bomb attack on security forces convoy at Banihal and movement of forces during the Lok Sabha elections, No civilian traffic movement would be allowed on the NH stretch from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. twice a week.
  • The order said there would be two dedicated days every week Sunday and Wednesday for movement of security forces’ convoy when there would be no civilian traffic on the national highway from Baramulla to Udhampur. The regulation of the vehicular movement on the NH would remain in force till May 31.
  • Restriction of civilian traffic movement on the 270 km stretch on the highway directly affects lives of lakhs of people and its indirect economic and social impact is interminable.
  • The prohibition on civilian traffic on the highway will have a disastrous impact on the tourism industry and it was a collective punishment for the people of Kashmir.
  • Vehicles carrying patients, students, tourists, businessmen and government officials would be affected

A Note on NH 44:

  • NH 44 is the lifeline of the State ,it is vital to move goods (including perishable agricultural produce), and along it lie many educational and medical institutions.
  • Avoiding the stretch would greatly multiply the time and distance between two points. The government is at pains to emphasise that exceptions are in place for those in medical emergencies, lawyers, doctors, tourists, government employees, students, and so on.
  • But such a system of permits and bans militates against the freedom of movement at the heart of a democratic society. To be sure, even before the ban, civilian traffic has not moved on the highway unfettered by checks. Such is the security challenge in J&K.
  • But to officially segregate civilian traffic is to put people’s lives at the mercy of a calendar, and to invite confusion about the organising principles of Indian troop deployment.
  • The Pulwama attack was a wake-up call about the security drills in place to prevent terrorist strikes. It demanded an appraisal, so that the lives of soldiers and civilians alike can be secured.
  • It also positions the administration against the people, as has become clear from the political and legal challenges to the traffic restrictions.

Impact of the Ban: Causing Difficulty for the Common Man

  • Facing criticism from both the political class and the civil society, the State government’s ban on civilian traffic twice a week on the 270-km-long national highway in Kashmir is bound to dent the Valley’s horticulture industry and tourism, according to the stakeholders. Planters have stored apple stock in cold storages, which require urgent transportation to various destinations in the country.
  • These planters opine that apple crop will be hit badly by the ban. Besides, it will delay the chemical treatment of orchards.
  • They take the view that the ban is unjustified and will make small-time farmers suffer. According to an estimation, around ₹300 crore worth of fruit is in cold storages in south Kashmir. However, the ban order issued by the Governor’s administration has barred the movement of civilian vehicles, including trucks, from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. twice every week.
  • The ban will also have serious implications for the upcoming tourist season. Some sections believe that it will only add to the woes of tourists and pilgrims.
  • It will result in shortage of essentials.
  • Doctors believe that there would be an increase in morbidity and mortality in patients due to delays in patient care.

The Way Forward:

  • Petitions have been filed in the J&K High Court arguing that the restrictions violate Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • It must instead, be a doubling up of the security protocol to make life more secure and hassle-free for civilians and soldiers alike.

GENDER STEREOTYPES LEAVE IMPRINT ON BRAINS

Why in News:

  • Scientists say that Society’s expectations about gender roles alter the human brain at the cellular level.

Details:

  • Sex is based on biological factors such as sex chromosomes and reproductive organs, whereas gender has a social component and involves expectations and behaviours based on an individual’s perceived sex. Scientists reviewed previous studies of epigenetics and sexual differentiation in rodents, along with new studies in which gendered experiences among humans have also been associated with changes in the brain.
  • Sex: 
  • The biological difference between men and women, boys and girls – the physical attributes with which we are born.

Gender:

  • Culturally and socially constructed roles, responsibilities, privileges, relations and expectations of women, men, boys and girls. Gender is not another word for women. Gender is also not another word for sexual difference.

 

A working definition of Gender:

  • People are born female or male or transgender, but are forced to learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. They are taught appropriate behaviour and attitudes according to defined gender roles and activities. This learned behaviour is what makes up gender identity, and determines gender roles.

Gender gap:

  • Differences between men and women in levels of achievement or access. This could for example be access to education or health care and treatment services or differentials in wages paid to women and men. These differentials may result from customary practices, religious biases, social assumption, myths or taboos, among others.

Gender Discrimination:

  • Where one gender is favoured and the other becomes disadvantaged e.g. sex selective abortion. Gender oppression: Where one gender dominates the other unjustly or even cruelly. For instance, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment.
  • As the worst fall out of disparity and mind blocks in the area of role perception, comes the vice of gender discrimination. The three most prominent facets of sexual discrimination are Societal Perpetration;
  • Domestic Violence and Sexual Harassment at Workplace.
  • There are socially accepted expressions like “boys are boys” and norms supporting dowry, still prevalent in society. They highlight the unfortunate social approval towards sexual discrimination. So far as domestic violence is concerned, even after a decade since the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2005, there is no significant change in the crime rate against women.
  • As per data published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), dowry death was 0.3% of the total number of crimes, as defined under Indian Penal Code (IPC), in 2013. The figure remains the same in 2014.
  • In fact, crime against women as percentage of total number of crimes committed in India has increased from 11.7% in 2013 to 11.9% in 2014. However, perhaps the most unreported amongst these crimes are the ones amounting to “sexual harassment at workplace”. For one, there was no clear law on the subject before 2013 and for the other, many women used to desist reporting. Even now, it is believed that a good number of them don‘t report incidents of sexual harassment for reasons ranging from love to terror.

Gender bias:

  • An approach that treats boys and girls differently. For instance differential treatment seeking behaviour in case of illness.

Gender Equity:

  • An approach that results in just/ fair treatment of women and men, and recognition and appreciation of both women‘s and men‘s potential. For instance giving bicycles to girls to enable them to travel to a distant school and thereby reduce gender gaps in the drop-out rate.

Gender Mainstreaming:

  • The process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.

Gender Neutral:

  • An approach to planning and policy making that assumes that the impact on women, men, girls and boys as if they were part of one homogeneous group. For instance, although me n are usually taller than women, fixing the height of the podium in conference halls on the basis of the height of men.

Gender needs

  • Needs which are related to satisfying basic and material needs of women and men, girls and boys for their day-to- day survival, and which do not change gender patterns. For instance, public provisioning of water inside the home or providing access to creche facilities at the workplace.

IN HIS OWN CAUSE: ON COMPLAINT AGAINST CJI RANJAN GOGOI

Why in News:

  • Chief Justice of India has been victimised for sexual harassment by former Supreme court employee

Details:

  • An issue within the domain of an internal process was taken up by a special Bench constituted by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, comprising himself, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
  • A mention by the Solicitor-General, was listed as ‘Re: Matter of Great Public Importance
  • Touching upon the Independence of the Judiciary’.
  • The Supreme Court itself has an internal sub-committee under its Gender Sensitization and Sexual Harassment of Women at Supreme Court (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Guidelines, 2015.
  • The complainant by a former junior court assistant, made her charge in the form of an affidavit, supported by purported evidence, and sent it to 22 judges of the court.
  • It referred to likely witnesses to the alleged sexual harassment and victimisation.

Issues:

  • The decision to hold an open court hearing is questionable. A complaint of this nature requires an institutional response on the administrative side.
  • There should be an internal process to initiate an inquiry mandated by the law regarding sexual harassment at the workplace. There is a separate ‘in-house procedure’ to deal with complaints against judges, under which their judicial peers, and not outsiders, will examine them. CJI ought not to have presided over the special Bench that took up the matter that concerned himself. Senior-most judges were kept out of Benches handling major cases, where CJI went on to form a Bench that included himself but not the two senior-most judges after him. Nor was there a woman judge on the Bench.

Sexual Harassment Law

  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It was passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) on 3 September 2012.
  • It was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) on 26 February 2013. The Bill got the assent of the President on 23 April 2013.
  • The Act came into force from 9 December 2013. Under the Act, which also covers students in schools and colleges as well as patients in hospitals, employers and local authorities will have to set up grievance committees to investigate all complaints. Employers who fail to comply will be punished with a fine of up to 50,000 rupees.

The key provisions of the present Act

  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013.
  • It broadens the Vishaka guidelines, which were already in place.
  • Definition – An aggrieved victim is a woman “of any age whether employed or not”, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”.
  • The Act thus covers the rights of all women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity.
  • Sexual harassment is any one or more of “unwelcome acts or behaviour”, committed directly or by implication.

They include:

  • Physical contact & advances
  • A demand or request for sexual favours Sexually coloured remarks
  • Showing pornography
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature Additionally, the Act mentions five circumstances that amount to sexual harassment: implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment
  • implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment
  • implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status interference with her work or creating an offensive or hostile work environment humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety

Highlights:

  • The bench was acting on online media reports of sexual harassment complaint made by a former junior assistant of the CJI, against him.
  • The CJI had received a communication from four leading websites saying that a letter is
  • being circulated by a dismissed SC employee alleging that CJI has sought sexual favours from her. The letter stated that the woman’s family had been threatened, harassed and criminal cases were filed against them. The bench took the special hearing on April 20 after it was mentioned by Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta.

 

Vishaka Guidelines:

  • The Vishaka guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court in Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan judgment in 1997. It imposes three key obligations on employing institutions prohibition, prevention, and redress. The institutions are mandated to establish a Complaints Committee. This was to look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. These guidelines are legally binding.

Way Forward:

  • This is a serious matter that requires careful processing.
  • It is possible even now to send the complaint to an independent committee.
  • Only reasonable and fair means of establishing the innocence the CJI has to be asserted.

WORKERS AND REFUGEES ARE NOT CRIMINALS

Why in News?

  • Global political action is required to reinforce the legitimate identity of a worker

Details:

  • The Mexican border was closed for hours on November 25, 2018 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to the U.S., after a group of migrants, including children and women, in Tijuana reportedly stormed the area.
  • This prompted the U.S. Border Patrol to fire tear gas at the group. Among the hand-made placards carried by the migrants was this one: “We are international workers. We are not criminals.

Xenographic Assertion

  • It was a revealing placard, and one that commented on a major change in global economic and political thinking: since the 1990s, not just international but even interregional workers have slowly been pushed into the rubric of ‘criminals’.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump is a prime example of this: his victory
  • was largely founded on his ability to depict international workers, particularly those crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, as ‘criminals’.
  • With elections coming up in the U.S. once again, he has returned, with renewed vigour, to this discourse. This tendency is present, though in less obvious versions, in almost all developed and developing countries, including the social welfare democracies of Europe.
  • It is also present within nations, as we in India witnessed in the recent ‘Gujarati’ backlash against workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Now, it is true that ‘foreigners’ have been looked at with suspicion by some ‘natives’ in the past too, but what we are talking about is a bit different.This is because no one really denies that most of these people who want to enter a country do so in order to find work. Also, all but the most rabid of hate-mongers are fully aware that, say, most Biharis in Gujarat or Mexicans in the U.S. are law-abiding and often needy workers. And yet politicians can garner extra votes by implicitly or explicitly equating international/interregional ‘workers’ with ‘criminals’, and states can openly devise blatantly differential treatment for them — as the children ripped away from their parents and the workers tear-gassed at the U.S. border can testify.
  • Most immigrants crossing a border are law-abiding and industrious workers, not ‘criminals’
  • — this remains the case today, as it was in the past.
  • The answer lies in the nature of capitalism, which no longer needs workers as much as it did in the past. Financial speculation has increasingly dwarfed international trade from the 1990s onwards
  • A world dominated by financial speculation does not need workers in two ways: financial speculators are not workers, no matter what they think of their ‘work’, and financial speculation does not depend on the production of workers.
  • Capital transactions are no longer tied predominantly to industry, productivity or trade of goods — and hence, to workers.

 

Post humanism

  • In academia, for instance, there is the trend to talk about ‘post-humanism’.
  • Post-humanism has a respectable heritage. In fields like animal studies, it is often meant to suggest a world in which human beings do not occupy the centre.
  • This is an interesting and necessary concept, for the earth has suffered much from our narcissism as a species and our inability to think of other animals as having biological rights too. But ‘post-humanism’ is mostly used in other ways: it is used to suggest a world after human beings, a world run by artificial intelligence
  • a world of financial speculation leads to a ‘post-human’ world run by artificial intelligence. Once workers become redundant and numbers are sufficient, then, inevitably, one can think complacently of replacing human intelligence with artificial intelligence.
  • In some ways, of course, much of financial speculation depends on exactly this: a kind of artificial intelligence, not human labour. The reduction of workers to criminals is part of this change, and interestingly the solution is not just to insist on the right to work locally or even nationally.
  • The insistence has to be ‘universal’ and global. Global political action is needed to ensure international working rights, linked to human status and not the caprice of state or capital. The right to work has become a selective right; today it is controlled by governments in tandem with corporations. Soon it might well become the monopoly of corporations. It is basically being used to criminalise those workers who are not allowed — by nation-states or neoliberal capitalism or both — the legitimate identity of a worker.
  • And as this is a shrinking identity — there are fewer and fewer active workers under the impact of rampant financial speculation — it simply adds to the official metamorphosis of more workers into ‘criminals’.

A SHAMEFUL MARKER OF FIVE YEARS

Why in News:

  • The article says about the major problems faced by minorities in India.

Details:

  • lynch attacks against minorities are more common and emerged as a scourge in the country today.
  • Lynching itself is of course not unknown in many countries.
  • Three broad kinds of lynch are performed in the modern world. The first is occasional and random criminal acts, without any pattern or regularity to signal a significant social phenomenon. The second is a ‘rough justice’, people frustrated by failures of legal justice, attacking people alleged frequently to be petty thieves or rapists. This has been common in Indonesia and Latin America. The third kind is as hate crime, one which targets persons not because of what a person has done, but because of who they are. people rationalise cow lynching as popular anger because state systems have not implemented cow protection laws. But the targets of lynch mobs are particular communities, and the allegations of crimes against them are usually patently false.

Current problems

  • India sometimes creates its own specific cruelties. These include untouchability, caste atrocities and the cruel burning of brides for dowry. While politically encouraged bigotry and hatred against minorities are growing into a malign global epidemic, India’s dubious contribution to this is its spate of performative mob lynching, targeting religious minorities and disadvantaged castes into the pervasive fear of everyday living that this has brought in its wake.

PLEA IN SC ON VOTING RIGHTS OF UNDERTRIALS AND CONVICTS

Why in News:

  • The Supreme Court is hearing a plea filed by a law student questioning an electoral law which denies undertrials and convicts their right to vote.

Details:

  • Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act of 1951
  • mandates that “no person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police”.
  • The provisions however exempt a person held under preventive detention from this rigour. The petition, represented by advocate Zoheb Hossain, highlights how the Section sees both an undertrial and a convicted person equally. The former’s guilt is yet to be proved in a court. A person is innocent until proven guilty by law. Despite this, it denies an undertrial the right to vote but allows a detainee the same. However, a person out on bail is allowed to cast his vote.
  • The plea argued that the provision violates the rights to equality, vote (Article 326) and is arbitrary. It is not a reasonable restriction.
  • Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.— The elections to the House of of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basis of adult suffrage; that is to say, every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than eighteen years of age on such date as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate Legislature and is not otherwise disqualified under this Constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practice, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election.

Facts:

  • The data on prison overcrowding are frightening. Except in parts of Europe, where crime is still low or at acceptable levels, overcrowding is rampant.
  • In the U.S., for example, at any time, it is estimated, there are more than two million prisoners in state and federal prisons. In the U.K., the latest available data (July 2018) show a current prison population of approximately 92,500.
  • In India, in the year 2015, there were nearly 4.2 lakh inmates in 1,401 facilities, with an average occupancy rate of 114% in most.
  • About 67% of total inmates were undertrials, a commentary on the speed and efficiency of India’s criminal justice system.

BASHIR MOVED FROM RESIDENCE TO KHARTOUM’S KOBAR PRISON

Why in news:

  • Ex-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been moved to Khartoum’s grim high-security Kobar prison from the presidential residence and transitional military rulers announced steps to crack down on corruption.

Details:

  • Sudan’s long-time president Omar al-Bashir has been removed from office and arrested following months of protests Bashir’s regime.

How the coup happened?

  • Protests started against al-Bashir on December 19, 2018 when government stopped subsidies on wheat and fuel.
  • People started protests government and its policies. In next few weeks situation turned violent and engulfed the capital Khartoum and major metropolitan areas like Omdurman. Government took a strong action against protesters by cracking down on protestors, shutting the internet and social media outlets, cutting electricity and water services, and dispersing protestors using tear gas. Officials have said 49 people have died in protest- related violence.
  • In February, al-Bashir acknowledged the demands of protestors and delayed constitutional amendments that would have allowed him to run for the presidency again next year.
  • He also declared a yearlong state of emergency and dissolved both central and state governments.
  • All these actions by al-Bashir provoked the protests across country; Sudanese women, musicians, artists, and the country’s global diaspora all played a crucial role in calling for al-Bashir to step down.

Omar al-Bashir’s controversial regime

  • On 30 June 1989, Colonel Omar al-Bashir led a bloodless military coup. The new military government suspended political parties and introduced an Islamic legal code on the national level.
  • On 16 October 1993, al-Bashir appointed himself President and disbanded the Revolutionary Command Council. The executive and legislative powers of the council were taken by al-Bashir.
  • In the 1996 general election he was the only candidate by law to run for election. Sudan became a one-party state under the National Congress Party (NCP).
  • The United States subsequently listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. The US bombed Sudan in 1998, targeting a pharmaceutical factory.
  • On 9 January 2005, the government signed the Nairobi Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) with the objective of ending the Second Sudanese Civil War.
  • The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) was established under the UN Security Council Resolution 1590 to support its implementation
  • The protests continued up until the overthrow of his government on April 11, 2019, when President al-Bashir was arrested and a three months state of emergency was enacted

ELECTION COMMISSION’S POWERS

Why in News:

  • The Supreme Court came down heavily on the EC for its lack of initiative in enforcing the law. The EC cracked the whip soon after the court’s censure and barred four leaders accused of intemperate speeches from campaigning for varying durations of time. By suggesting a clinical parity between BSP chief Mayawati’s call for Muslims to not divide their votes, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s speech in which he characterised the election as a contest between ‘Ali’ and ‘Bajrang Bali’, in a reference to Muslims and Hindus, the EC perhaps wanted to demonstrate impartiality. However, it needs to do much more to be seen as a fair referee.

Background: / Election Commission of India:

  • The Election Commission of India, is a constitutional body responsible for administering elections in India according to the rules and regulations mentioned in the Constitution of India.
  • It was established on January 25, 1950. The major aim of election commission of India is to define and control the process for elections conducted at various levels, Parliament, State Legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President of India. It can be said that the Election Commission of India ensures smooth and successful operation of the democracy.
  • According to Article 324 of Indian Constitution, the Election Commission of India has superintendence, direction, and control of the entire process for conduct of elections to Parliament and Legislature (state legislative assembly & state legislative council) of every State and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.

Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners

  • The President has the power to select Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They have the same status and receive pay and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through accusation by Parliament. Election commissioner or a regional commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

Advisory Jurisdiction & Quasi-Judicial Functions

  • The Commission has the power to prohibit a candidate who has failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time and in the manner set by law.
  • The Commission has also the power Under the Constitution, the Commission also has advisory jurisdiction in the matter of post-election ineligibility of sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • Additionally, the cases of persons found guilty of dishonest practices at elections which come before the Supreme Court and High Courts are also referred to the Commission for its opinion on the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and, if so, for what period. The judgment of the Commission in all such matters is binding on the President or, as the case may be, the Governor to whom such opinion is tendered.
  • to remove or reduce the period of such disqualification as also other disqualification under the law.

Administrative Powers

  • To decide the territorial areas of the electoral constituencies throughout the country on the basis of the Delimitation Commission Act of Parliament.
  • To organize and periodically amend electoral rolls and to register all qualified voters. To inform the dates & schedules of election and to scrutinize the nomination papers. To grant recognition to political parties & allot election symbols to them.
  • To act as a court for settling disputes related to granting of recognition to political parties and allotment of election symbol to them.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Art. 324: broadly speaks of the functions of EC and its composition.
  • Art. 325: there shall be one general electoral roll for every territorial constituency for election to either Houses of Parliament and State legislature. It establishes equality among citizens by affirming that no person shall be ineligible for inclusion in the electoral roll on the grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
  • Art. 326: lays down adult suffrage as the basis of elections to the Lok Sabha and to the Legislative Assemblies of States.
  • Art. 327: confers on Parliament the power to make provisions with respect to elections to federal and State Legislatures
  • Art. 328: confers on State Legislature the power to make laws with respect to elections to such legislature
  • Art. 329: bars interference by courts in electoral matters. Notwithstanding anything said in the constitution i.e. validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies shall not be called in question in any court

Flaws:

  • The Constitution has not prescribed the qualifications (legal, educational, administrative or judicial) of the members of the Election Commission.
  • The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government.
  • The administrative expenses of the EC or the salaries, allowances, and pensions of the CEC
    and ECs are not charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.

SC TO DECIDE ON ENTRY OF WOMEN INTO MOSQUES

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a petition seeking permission for Muslim women to enter mosques to offer prayers.

Echoes of Sabarimala:

  • The bench told the council appearing for the petitioners that it will hear the matter because of the apex court’s judgement in the Sabarimala temple case
  • On September 28 last year, a five-judge constitution bench headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra in its 4:1 verdict had paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination
  • In the current petition it has been sought the apex court’s direction to declare as “illegal” and “unconstitutional” the practice of prohibiting the entry of Muslim women into mosques to offer prayers. the petitioners have said there should not be any discrimination against any citizen of the country on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth.
  • They have added that a life of dignity and equality is the most sacrosanct fundamental right and a Muslim woman cannot be prohibited from entering a mosque.
  • the bench sought to know from the petitioners’ counsel as to whether Muslim women were allowed to enter a mosque in foreign countries. The counsel informed the bench that Muslim women were allowed to enter a mosque at the holy Mecca and also in Canada.
  • The court concluded that the bar amounted to discrimination and even a practice of untouchability. The Haji Ali Dargah Trust had also agreed in the Supreme Court to allow women to enter the sanctum of the shrine.

Article 14:

  • The state not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. protection prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, Caste, sex, or place of birth.
  • The phase “Equality to the Law “Find a place in all written constitutions that guarantees fundamental rights. “All citizens
  • irrespective of birth, religion, sex, or race are equal before law; that is to say, there Shall not be any arbitrary discrimination between one citizen or class of citizens and another.” “All citizens shall, as human persons he held equal before law.” “All inhabitants of the republic are assured equality before the laws

SEALED DISCLOSURE

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court order will not alter the influence of electoral bonds on polls

Details:

  • The Supreme Court’s interim order asking political parties to disclose, to the Election Commission in sealed covers, details of the donations they have received through anonymous electoral bonds is an inadequate and belated response to the serious concerns raised about the opaque scheme. The scheme, under which one can purchase bonds of various denominations from a designated bank and deposit them in the accounts of any political party, had been challenged in the apex court a year ago
  • When the matter was taken up last week, it was considered that the time available was too limited for an in-depth hearing. The only concession given to those concerned about the dangers of anonymous political funding is that the names would be available with the EC, albeit in sealed envelopes, until the court decides if they can be made public.
  • There is some concern that a disproportionately large segment of the bonds purchased by corporate donors has gone to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • This donor anonymity may end if the court decides that the EC should disclose the names at the end of the litigation, but the influence such donations would have had on the electoral outcome would remain undisturbed.
  • The court notes in its order that the case gives rise to “weighty issues which have a
  • tremendous bearing on the sanctity of the electoral process in the country”.
  • The petitioners, the Association for Democratic Reforms, questioned the anonymity-based funding scheme on the grounds that it promotes opacity, opens up the possibility of black money being donated to parties through shell companies and empowers the ruling party, which alone is in a position to identify the donors and, therefore, well placed to discourage donations to other parties. For the last two decades, the Supreme Court has been proactive in empowering voters and in infusing transparency in the system.
  • The court must render an early verdict on the legality of the electoral bond scheme

Electoral bond scheme:

  • Electoral Bonds may be purchased by only citizen of India. An individual can buy Electoral Bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • The bonds can only be encashed by an eligible political party only through a bank account with the authorized bank.
  • Electoral Bonds are valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue.If the Electoral Bond is deposited after expiry of the validity period, no payment is made to any Political Party. The bonds are issued in multiples of 1000, 10000, 1lakh, 10 lakh, 1 crore. The cash donation has been capped at Rs. 2000 and beyond that donations are via electoral bonds.
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