Category: Indian Polity
Free speech of Ministers, restrictions and the opinion of the court
06, Jan 2023
Why in News?
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously and rightly ruled out any additional curbs on free speech by ministers. It said, like other citizens, they are guaranteed the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1) (a), governed by the reasonable restrictions laid out in Article 19(2) and those are enough.
What is the issue of freedom of speech to Ministers?
- Scope: Ministers and lawmakers enjoy the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) of the Constitution as other citizens and additional restrictions cannot be imposed to curb their right to free speech.
- Restrictions: A five-judge Constitution bench held that curbs on free speech cannot extend beyond what is prescribed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution imposes reasonable restrictions and applies equally on all citizens.
What the court said?
- Rights are not residual privileges: Court said that the role of the court is to protect fundamental rights limited by lawful restrictions and not to protect restrictions and make the rights residual privileges.
- Distinction on government’s responsibility and remarks by individual minister: The ruling also made a valid distinction on the government’s vicarious responsibility for ill-judged or hateful remarks made by its individual ministers, the flow of stream in collective responsibility is from the Council of Ministers to the individual ministers. The flow is not on the reverse, namely from the individual ministers to the Council of Ministers.
- Clarification on the concept of collective responsibility: It is not possible to extend the concept of collective responsibility, it said, to “any and every statement orally made by a Minister outside the House of the People/Legislative Assembly”.
- Public functionaries should be more responsible while they speak: Even while agreeing with the majority ruling, however, it is possible to underline the concern articulated in the minority judgment over a hateful public discourse “hate speech, whatever its content may be, denies human beings the right to dignity”. And to agree with it when it speaks of the special duty of public functionaries and other persons of influence to be more responsible and restrained in their speech, to “understand and measure their words”.
What is ‘Hate Speech’?
- There is no specific legal definition of ‘hate speech’.
- The Law Commission of India, in its 267th Report, says: “Hate speech generally is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like.
- Thus, hate speech is any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.
- In general, hate speech is considered a limitation on free speech that seeks to prevent or bar speech that exposes a person or a group or section of society to hate, violence, ridicule or indignity
Brief Analysis: Hate speech by Ministers
- Problem is real but primarily political: The problem of hate speech by ministers and others belonging to the party in power is real, but it is primarily political.
- Solution is not in new law as, there are enough provisions to deal with it: The solution is not for the court to draw a new line, or even, as the minority judgment proposed, for Parliament to make another law. There are enough provisions in the statute book to deal with speech that promotes enmity and violence or results in cramping the freedoms of others.
- Legal provisions can be weaponised so what is needed is a political resolve: What is missing is the political resolve and will of governments to act on instances of hate speech, especially when they involve one of their own, and there are no legal shortcuts to make up for that absence. In fact, the same legal provisions that are designed to curb hate speech can be twisted and turned and weaponised by governments against citizens who dissent and disagree.
- The problem of hate speech by ministers and others associated with the party in power is real, but it is primarily political. The solution lies not in making new laws, but in individual responsibility and collective political resolve.
Indian Judiciary: Issues of Accountability and Credibility
14, Nov 2022
Why in News?
- The reach of India’s highest court is all-pervasive. The Supreme Court sits in final judgment over decisions not only of the high courts in the states, but also over a hundred tribunals, central and state, functioning throughout India. Hence the accountability of apex court crucial for judicial system in India.
Brief in other words: Significance of judiciary
- Decisions of Courts are binding on all: The law declared by the Supreme Court, its pronouncements on the constitutional validity of enacted law, including constitutional amendments, is binding on all other courts and authorities in the country (Article 141).
- Executive and legislature are under the scrutiny of Courts: There is virtually no area of legislative or executive activity which is beyond the court’s scrutiny.
Why accountability of higher judiciary is necessary?
- High courts are not ready to reform themselves: In the Salem Advocate Bar Association case, the justices had requested the high courts to implement the detailed blueprint on case management most of them have not.
- Limitations of supreme court to govern the High courts: Supreme court could not direct the high courts to do so because under our constitutional scheme the latter are autonomous constitutional bodies not subject to administrative directions of the Supreme Court.
- Self-accountability in administrations of courts: It is in the high courts that there are now left the largest number of roadblocks and delays; in their administrative functioning the high courts are answerable to no one but themselves. This often enables the Supreme Court to plead helplessness, hardly a good augury for integrated court-management.
How judiciary can maintain its credibility and accountability?
- Judiciary need to Preserve the independence: the judiciary as an institution needs to preserve its independence, and to do this it must strive to maintain the confidence of the public in the established courts.
- Judges should safeguard the judges: The independence of judges is best safeguarded by the judges themselves through institutions and organisations that the law empowers them to set up, to preserve the image of an incorruptible higher judiciary that would command the respect of all right-thinking people.
- Reform on case management: A bench of three justices of the Supreme Court, in a judgment delivered in August 2005, had drawn up a fine blueprint on case-management, on how to make recent amendments in our procedural laws work on the ground, and how to get more cases moving along: For instance, on three different tracks, fast track, normal track and slow track.
- Supreme court should directly administer High courts: It is time that the Supreme Court be entrusted with direct responsibility for the functioning of the high courts: Only then can the highest court be an effective apex court, only then can the Supreme Court be made answerable, as it should be, for judicial governance for the entire country.
- Public disclosure of income by judges: Judges must make annual financial disclosure statements, not privately to their respective chief justices, but publicly. It is done by justices of the Supreme Court.
How judiciary in USA maintain its credibility and accountability?
- Judicial council act: In the United States, under the Judicial Councils Act, 1980, task of judicial independence has been gladly undertaken by the judges. But regrettably, so far, there is no law in India to guide our judges only “guidelines”. There is a felt need for a law.
- Judges investigate the judges: The 1980 US Act confers powers on bodies comprised of judges to take such action against a federal judge “as is appropriate, short of removal.”
- A case study of America: Under this law, some time ago, a committee of fellow judges had investigated complaints against a federal district judge, John McBryde; the Judicial Council reprimanded him and suspended him from hearing new cases for a year.
- Corruption Investigation Not violating the judicial independence: McBryde challenged the decision. He argued that the 1980 law violated the judicial independence which the US Constitution had guaranteed to life-tenured federal judges; But a US Court of Appeals rejected all these pleas.
- Oversight of judges is not interference: It accepted the argument of the US Solicitor-General that judicial independence, protected by Article III of the US Constitution, was meant to insulate judges from interference from other branches of government and not from oversight by other judges.
- In India, in the past and in recent times, some things have gone wrong. And citizens need the reassurance of a system of judicial accountability a remedial mechanism which will protect the higher judiciary from some of its own members who have gone astray. Such reassurance can only be provided by enacting a law on the lines of the American model.
GST COUNCIL VOTES FOR 28% GST ON ALL LOTTERIES
19, Dec 2019
Why in News?
- The GST Council broke its tradition of taking decisions by consensus at its 38th meeting which was held recently.
About GST Council:
- Article 279A says that President shall by order constitute a Council to be called the Goods and Services Tax Council.
- The Goods and Services Tax Council is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Governments on issues related to Goods and Service Tax.
- It is chaired by the Union Finance Minister.
- The other members are the Union State Minister of Revenue or Finance, and Ministers in-charge of Finance or Taxation of all the States and Union Territories of Delhi, Puducherry and Jammu & Kashmir.
- Centre has 1/3rd voting rights and states have 2/3rd voting rights in GST Council. Decisions are taken after a majority in the council.
- Article 279A (4) specifies that the Council will make recommendations to the Union and the States on the important issues related to GST, such as, the goods and services will be subject or exempted from the Goods and Services Tax.
About the Issue:
- The GST Council broke its tradition of taking decisions by consensus at its 38th meeting on Wednesday, with a first time vote on a proposal to tax all lotteries at the uniform rate of 28%. After Kerala pushed for a division, States voted 21-7 in favour of the proposal.
- There have been widespread concerns about the shortfall in tax revenue at a time of economic slowdown and lower consumption.
- In the first eight months of this financial year, only about 50% of GST collection targets and 60% of compensation cess collection targets have been achieved.
- The Centre’s revenue projections indicated that it would run out of money to compensate states by February 2020. It will result in cut to social sector spending.
- With regard to lotteries, there is a dual rate regime at present, with state-run lotteries taxed at 12%, while state-authorized lotteries (run by private players) face a 28% tax rate.
- The Council was also reminded that the rules allow voting and that tradition is not part of the rulebook, and the rules are what should govern the running of the Council.
- The vote went in favour of the proposal and a uniform 28% tax rate on lotteries will come into effect from March 1, 2020.
GST and Centre – State Financial Relations:
- The Council made up of state finance ministers and with the Union finance minister as the chairperson, has served up a superb template for cooperative federalism.
- There will be disagreements, sometimes very fundamental, yet convergence for the cause of the larger global good is very much possible.
- Both the Centre and the States agreed to share their powers to achieve uniformity and remove compartmentalization in indirect taxation.
- GST Implementation Committee (GIC), Standing Committees and Sectoral Groups have representation of Centre and State Officers in to ensure quick administrative decisions.
- Realizing the future potential of India will require states to be key (if not equal) stakeholders in policy decisions, the traditional top-down approach with the Union government at the helm will no longer work.
- Given the deep political divide—given fundamentally differing political ideologies—between the Union government and some of the state governments, convergence of views is tough.
- And the way the council is structured, things can’t go forward without a consensus or at least a majority of the votes carrying the resolution.
- This is because the states together account for two-thirds of the votes and the centre holds only a third; given this structure, a consensus would be the preferred option instead of demanding a vote.
- The council’s decisions, if detrimental, cannot be undone by the states and the states will accordingly have to compromise on their budgets and the entire fiscal policies.
- It is not possible to attain the desired majority if Union doesn’t vote for the recommendation. In fact, Union can veto the recommendations of the Council.
- Therefore, it will not be out of place to say that council might act as an instrument for the backdoor entry of the central government into the decision and policy making sphere of a duly elected state government.
- The above implies that the Council has the power to make binding recommendations, and Union has attained veto over the law making power of the States. This is in clear violation of concept of federal structure of the Constitution of India. This is a clear abrogation of the fundamental tenet of the Constitution’s federal structure viz. the political sovereignty of states.
- It is then clear that the GST Council has shown the light on cooperative federalism.
INCREASE THE NUMBER OF LOK SABHA SEATS: FORMER PRESIDENT
18, Dec 2019
Why in News?
- Former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee has recently argued for increasing the number of Lok sabha seats to 1000.
- He mentioned about raising the number of Lok Sabha constituencies to 1,000 from the existing 543 and for a corresponding increase in the Rajya Sabha’s strength as India has a “disproportionately large size” of electorate for elected representatives.
Current Scenario of Delimitation:
- Delimitation is commonly used in the context of drawing boundaries for Assembly and Lok Sabha Constituencies based on the recent census.
- As per Article 82, Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. Once the Act comes into force, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission.
- The present delimitation of constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 census and has been in use since the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections.
- According to a 2002 Constitution Amendment, there will be no further delimitation of constituencies till the first census after 2026.
- Article 82 of Indian Constitution provides for delimitation and it says: Upon the completion of each census, the allocation of seats in the House of the people to the States and the division of each State into territorial constituencies shall be readjusted by such authority and in such manner as Parliament may by law determine.
- Provided that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published , it shall not be necessary to readjust:
- The allocation of seats in the house of people to the states as readjusted on the basis of the 1971 census.
- The division of each state into territorial constituencies as may be readjusted on the basis of the 2001 census.
Amendments regarding freezing of Delimitation Process:
1. 42nd Amendment Act:
- The 42ndAmendment Act of 1976 froze the allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha to the states and the division of each state into territorial constituencies till the year 2000 at the 1971 level.
2. 84th Amendment Act:
- The 84thamendment Act of 2001froze the allocation of lok sabha seats to states for the next 25 years (i.e. upto year 2026).
- The 84thAmendment Act of 2001 also empowered the government to undertake readjustment and rationalisation of territorial constituencies in the states on the basis of the population figures of 1991 census.
3. 87th Amendment Act:
- Later, the 87thAmendment Act of 2003 provided for the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of 2001 census and not 1991 census. However, this can be done without altering the number of seats allotted to each state in the Lok Sabha.
Reasons behind the Act of Freezing:
- Promotion of Family Planning
- Population stabilization
- Basically it was done to ensure that various state carry out measure to control their population and not worry about the reduction in their respective political representation.
Impact of such a Freeze:
1.Inadequate Representation in the Parliament:
- The number of seats have not increased in last 30 years but the population has grown by around 90 percent since then.
- So technically the number of representatives should also have been doubled.
- This has also led to increased burden on individual MPs.
2.Distortion among states
- The demographics across states have changed drastically leading to northern states being under represented (as their population has increased but nit the seats) while southern states over represented (as their population ratio has declined but the seats have not).
- For example if the seats are allocated according to the current population distribution then following would happen:
|States||Current allocation||What it would be|
Representation of Urban People:
- The rapid pace of urbanization has led to drastic increase in the population of the cities and hence they are underrepresented.
- There are only about 89 urban seats (16%) in the country but we have 31.5% urban population.
RESTRUCTURING POWERS OF THE GOVERNORS
28, Nov 2019
Why in News?
- The actions of the Governors of few states over the last few years have invited scrutiny on their Discretional Powers.
- Being a constitutional head in the state, the Governors have executive, legislative, financial, judicial and discretionary powers.
- The most controversial powers of the Governor are the discretionary powers.
- The actions of few Governors of various states have called for scrutinizing their powers.
What does the Constitution say?
- The discretionary powers of Governor in state are much more extensive in comparison to the President in centre in India.
- For example, Article 163 of the constitution says that there shall be a Council of Ministers in the states with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in exercise his functions, except those which are required to be done by the Governor on his/ her discretion.
- The constitution further mentions that if any question arises whether a matter falls within the Governor’s discretion or not, decision of the Governor shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in his discretion.
- Moreover, what advice was tendered by the Governor to the Ministry cannot be inquired into a court.
Discretionary Powers of the Governor:
- Governor can dissolve the legislative assembly if the chief minister advices him to do following a vote of no confidence. Now, it is up to the Governor what he/ she would like to do.
- Governor, on his/ her discretion can recommend the president about the failure of the constitutional machinery in the state.
- On his/ her discretion, the Governor can reserve a bill passed by the state legislature for president’s assent.
- If there is NO political party with a clear cut majority in the assembly, Governor on his/ her discretion can appoint anybody as chief minister.
- Governor determines the amount payable by the Government of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to an autonomous Tribal District Council as royalty accruing from licenses for mineral exploration.
- Governor can seek information from the chief minister with regard to the administrative and legislative matters of the state.
- Governor has discretion to refuse to sign to an ordinary bill passed by the state legislature.
- Thus, though the Governor is made the constitutional head of a state like president of India, yet there is a thin line as the Constitution empowers the Governor to act without the advice of the Chief Minister and his council and can use discretion on certain matters.
Controversies regarding Governor’s Power:
- In April 1948, the Drafting Committee of the Constitution insisted on omitting all references to the discretionary powers of the Governor.
- On May 31, 1949, B.R. Ambedkar said in unequivocal terms that the Governor “is required to follow the advice of his Ministry in all matters”.
- However, it is trite that the Governor is required to exercise discretion in deciding the formation of government when there is no clear post-poll majority.
- Here, the cases of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, Rameshwar Prasad v. Union of India, and Nabam Rebia v. Deputy Speaker provide unambiguous judicial guidance to how the office of the Governor must encounter tricky post-poll claims to form government and stay immune to political bias.Unfortunately, the appointment process of Governors has made the office vulnerable to the influence of the Union government.
- Over the years, occupants of this office have continued to look towards New Delhi for guidance.
Need for Reform:
- There is little doubt that the appointment and tenure of Governors need to undergo radical reform.
- The Justice P.V. Rajamannar Committee, which was tasked by the Tamil Nadu government to look into Centre-State relations in 1969, recommended that State governments be included in the appointment process of Governors to drastically reduce their discretionary powers.
- The call to rectify the imbalance in Centre-State equations must begin with such a reform.
- Furthermore, for too long, Governors have enjoyed a legal immunity, granted by the Constitution, on account of their sovereign functions.
- Over the years, the Supreme Court has confirmed its powers to review the actions of the Governors.
- Any decision of the Governor can be subjected to judicial scrutiny, including the materials placed to arrive at that decision.
- However, there is a compelling case that the Westminster model of sovereign and symbolic head of state is past its expiry date.
- The powers and privileges that are attached to the office of the Governor must be accompanied by answerability, transparency and accountability.
- Governors and their offices must be scrutinized as much as any other public office. The court can lay down guidelines in this regard.
WHY LOK SABHA IS STILL 543?
14, Oct 2019
Why in News?
- Last week, former Union Minister and Congress leader Jitin Prasada said the number of Lok Sabha seats should be rationalised on the basis of population. The composition of the Lower House has remained more or less the same for four decades.
Strength of Lok Sabha:
- Article 81 of the Constitution defines the composition of the House ofthe People or Lok Sabha.
- It states that the House shall not consist of more than 550 electedmembers of whom not more than 20 will represent Union Territories.
- Under Article 331, the President can nominate up to two Anglo-Indians if he/she feels the community is inadequately represented in the
- At present, the strength of the Lok Sabha is 543, of which 530 havebeen allocated to the states and the rest to the Union Territories.
- Article 81 also mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allottedto a state would be such that the ratio between that number and thepopulation of the state is, as far as possible, the same for all states.
- This is to ensure that every state is equally represented. However, thislogic does not apply to small states whose population is not more than60 lakh.
- So, at least one seat is allocated to every state even if it means that itspopulation-to-seat-ratio is not enough to qualify it for that seat.
- As per Clause 3 of Article 81, population, for the purpose of allocationof seats, means “population as ascertained at the last precedingcensus of which the relevant figures have been published”. In otherwords, the last published Census.
- But, by an amendment to this Clause in 2003, the population nowmeans population as per the 1971 Census, until the first Census takenafter 2026.
When was the strength of Lok Sabha Changed?
- The strength of the Lok Sabha hasn’t always been 543 seats.Originally, Article 81 provided that the Lok Sabha shall not have morethan 500 members.
- The first House constituted in 1952 had 497. Since the Constitutionprovides for population as the basis of determining allocation of seats,the lower House’s composition (total seats as well as readjustment ofseats allocated to different states) has also changed with each Censusup to 1971.
- A temporary freeze was imposed in 1976 on ‘Delimitation’ until 2001.Delimitation is the process of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabhaand state Assembly seats to represent changes in the population.However, the composition of the House did not change only withdelimitation exercises in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002.
- There were other circumstances as well. For instance, the first changein the composition of Lok Sabha happened in 1953 after thereorganisation of the state of Madras.
- With a new state of Andhra Pradesh carved out, 28 of Madras’s 75seats went to Andhra Pradesh. The total strength of the House (497)did not change.
- The first major change took place after the overall reorganisation ofstates in 1956, which divided the country into 14 states and six Union
- This meant subsequent changes in the boundaries of existing statesand hence, a change in the allocation of seats to the states and UnionSo with reorganisation, the government also amended the Constitutionby which the maximum number of seats allocated to the statesremained 500, but an additional 20 seats (also maximum limit) wereadded to represent the six Union Territories.So the second Lok Sabha elected in 1957 had 503 members. Furtherdown the years, the lower House’s composition also changed when thestate of Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966 and when Goa andDaman and Diu were liberated in 1961 and merged with the Indian Unionsubsequently.
When it was Frozen, and why?
- As per Article 81, the composition of the Lok Sabha should representchanges in population.But it has remained more or less the same since the delimitation carriedout based on the 1971 Census.
- The population-to-seat ratio, as mandated under Article 81, should bethe same for all states.
- Although unintended, this implied that states that took little interest inpopulation control could end up with a greater number of seats in
- The southern states that promoted family planning faced thepossibility of having their seats reduced. To allay these fears, theConstitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.
- Despite the embargo, there have been a few occasions which havecalled for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seatsallocated to a state. -These include statehood attained by ArunachalPradesh and Mizoram in 1986, the creation of a Legislative Assemblyfor the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and creation of new statessuch as Uttarakhand.
- Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha andAssemblies should have been lifted after the Census of 2001, anotheramendment postponed this until 2026.
- This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth ratewould be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
- So, the last delimitation exercise – started in July 2002 and finished onMay 31, 2008 – was conducted on the basis of the 2001 Census andonly readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seatsand reworked the number of seats reserved for SCs and STs.
- With the total seats remaining the same since the 1970s, it is felt thatstates in north India, whose population has increased faster than therest of the country, are now underrepresented in the Parliament.
- It is frequently argued that had the original provision of Article 81 beenimplemented today, then states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and MadhyaPradesh would have gained seats and those in the south would havelost some.
RULE 49 MA
07, Jun 2019
Why in News?
- The Election Commission may “revisit” the rule for prosecution of a voter for making afalse complaint of malfunction of an electronic voting machine or a voter verifiable paper audit trail machine
- A voter who claims that the EVM or the VVPAT machine did not record his or her vote correctly is allowed to cast a test vote under Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of Election Rules
- However, if the voter fails to prove the mismatch, poll officials can initiate action under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for giving a ‘false submission’.
- The Section says the person “shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both
- EC has maintained that if there is no penal provision, people may make false Claims
Arguments Against the rule:
- Putting the onus on the elector in cases of arbitrary deviant behaviour of machines used in election process infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression under the Constitution.
- Penal Provisions could deter an elector from coming forth and making any complaint which is an essential ingredient in a continuous exercise for improving a process
- The elector cannot be convicted by the evidence of second vote for the alleged incorrect reporting of the discrepancy in the first vote cast in absolute secrecy, unless and until he himself is made a witness in his own case, in violation of the provision of Article 20(3) of the Constitution
- Due to the pre programmed deviant behaviour of electronic machines it is not necessary that he can produce the same result
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS REGARDING APPOINTMENT OF PRIME MINISTER & COM
31, May 2019
Why in news?
- Prime Minister Modi and his 57 member council of ministers takes oath
- There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice:
- Provided that the President may require the Council of Ministers to reconsider
- The question whether any, and if so what, advice was tendered by Ministers to the President shall not be inquired into in any Court
- The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister
- The total number of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, in the Council of Ministers such advice, either generally or otherwise, and the President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such shall not exceed fifteen per cent of the total number of members of the House of the People.
- A member of either House of Parliament belonging to any political party who is disqualified for being a member of that House under paragraph 2 of the Tenth Schedule shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a Minister under clause (1) for duration of the period commencing from the date of his disqualification till the date on which the term of his office as such member would expire or where he contests any election to either House of Parliament before the expiry of such period, till the date on which he is declared elected, whichever is Earlier
- The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the
- The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People
- Before a Minister enters upon his office, the President shall administer to him the oaths of office and of secrecy according to the forms set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule
- A Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of either House of Parliament shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister
- The salaries and allowances of Ministers shall be such as Parliament may from time to time by law determine and, until Parliament so determines, shall be as specified in the Second Schedule
Community Radio Stations and SVEEP
02, Apr 2019
GS 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Why in News?
- In a first of its kind initiative, the ECI has reached out to over 150 Community Radio stations from across the country to help educate and inform the voters.
- The main purpose of the workshop was for training and capacity building of Community Radios for voter education and awareness.
Community Radio Stations:
- Community radio is a radio service offering a third model of radio broadcasting in addition to commercial and public broadcasting.
- They serve geographic communities and communities of interest.
- They broadcast content that is popular and relevant to a local, specific audience but is often overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters.
- Community radio stations are operated, owned, and influenced by the communities they serve.
- Community radio plays an important role in dissemination of information about government schemes and policies to the common people in local languages.
- India is a land of diversity in terms of language, social practices, dialects and culture, a community radio can be a powerful tool to revive culture and languages that are dying.
- It can help give voice to the voiceless in the backward community.
Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP):
- It is the flagship program of the Election Commission of India for voter education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India.
- Since 2009, it has been working towards preparing India’s electors and equipping them with basic knowledge related to the electoral process.
- SVEEP is designed according to the socio-economic, cultural and demographic profile of the state as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof.
New Delhi International Arbitration Centre, 2019
02, Mar 2019
Why in News?
The Union Cabinet has approved promulgation of an Ordinance for establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) for the purpose of creating an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration.
- To bring targeted reforms to develop itself as a flagship institution for conducting international and domestic arbitration.
- provide facilities and administrative assistance for conciliation mediation and arbitral proceedings.
- maintain panels of accredited arbitrators, conciliators and mediators both at national and international level or specialists such as surveyors and investigators;
- facilitate conducting of international and domestic arbitrations and conciliation in the most professional manner;
- provide cost effective and timely services for the conduct of arbitrations and conciliations at Domestic and International level;
- promote studies in the field of alternative dispute resolution and related matters, and to promote reforms in the system of settlement of disputes; and
- co-operate with other societies, institutions and organisations, national or international for promoting alternative dispute resolution.
Constitution of NDIAC:
- New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) will be headed by a chairperson who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of a High Court or an eminent person, having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration law or management, to be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
- There will be two Full time or Part time Members from amongst eminent persons having substantial knowledge and experience in institutional arbitration, both domestic and international.
- Also, one representative of a recognised body of commerce and industry shall be chosen on rotational basis as Part time Member.
- Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs, Financial Adviser nominated by the Department of Expenditure and Chief Executive Officer, NDIAC shall be ex-officio Members.
- The benefits of institutionalized arbitration will accrue to Government and its agency and to the parties to a dispute.
- This shall be to the advantage of the public and the public institutions in terms of quality of expertise and costs incurred and will facilitate India becoming a hub for Institutional Arbitration.
9th NATIONAL VOTERS’ DAY
06, Jan 2019
GS 2: Polity
Why in news?
The country will celebrate the 9th National Voters’ Day (NVD) on 25th January 2019 at more than six lakh locations covering around ten lakh Polling Stations across the country.
National Voters Day:
- The National Voters’ Day (NVD) is celebrated all over the country on January 25 every year since 2011 to mark the Foundation day of Election Commission of India, which was established on 25th January 1950.
- The main purpose of the NVD celebration is to encourage, facilitate and maximize the enrollment, especially for the new voters.
- Theme: ‘No Voter to be Left Behind’ has been selected as the theme for the NVD.
- New Voters shall be felicitated and handed over their EPIC (Elector Photo Identity Card) in the NVD function. And also My Vote Matters, a Quarterly Magazine will be launched on the occasion.
- Dedicated to the voters of the country, the Day is utilized to spread awareness among voters for promoting informed participation in the electoral process.
CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL, 2016
04, Jan 2019
GS 2: Polity
Why in news?
- The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 recommended that the Assam government should help settle migrants “especially in places which are not densely populated, thus, causing lesser impact on the demographic changes and providing succour to the indigenous Assamese people”.
- There has been a strong resistance to the Bill in the BJP-ruled Assam as it would pave the way for giving citizenship, mostly to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, in Assam who came after March 1971, in violation of the Assam Accord of 1985.
- The Union Cabinet cleared the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill on Monday, and it is likely to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) expressed its concern before the committee.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016:
- The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction.
- However, the Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas who also face persecution in Pakistan.
- The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.
- According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant is one who enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents. Or, a person who stays beyond the visa permit.
VOTER AWARENESS FORUMS FOR PROMOTING AWARENESS ON ELECTORAL PROCESS
03, Jan 2019
GS 2: Polity | Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act
Why in News?
Voter Awareness Forums will be set up in Ministries, Government Departments, Non-Government Departments and other Institutions to promote electoral awareness.
- Voter Awareness Forums are informal Forums for generating awareness around electoral process through activities like discussions, quizzes, competitions and other engaging activities.
- VAF is part of the Electoral Literacy Club programme of ECI.
- Launched on the 8thNational Voters Day, 25th January 2018, the ELC programme envisages setting up of Electoral Literacy Club in every educational institution.
- The ECI also aims to set up Chunav Pathshala at every booth to cover those outside the formal education system.
- The ELCs and Chunav Pathshala activities are conducted by the Convener using a resource Guide where step by step instructions are given for conducting each activity.
- Separate Resource books have been developed for Class IX, X, XI and XII.
- A calendar of activities in a year has also be indicated. Total of 6-8 activities, with specific learning outcome, running into approximately 4 hours in all, have been identified for each class.
NEW DELHI INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION CENTRE BILL
03, Jan 2019
GS 2: Polity | Dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Why in News?
- The Lok Sabha has passed the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill 2018.
- The Bill aims for creating an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalized arbitration and their better management so as to make it a hub for institutional arbitration.
- It will replace the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution set-up in the year 1995, which is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act.
- It is based on the opinion of the High Powered Committee appointed by the Centre that the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution has failed to address the growing needs of the institutional arbitration.
- The proposed New Delhi International Arbitration Centre will be a statutory body.
- It will consist of:
- Two eminent persons having substantial knowledge in international and domestic arbitration,
- One representative of a recognized body of commerce,
- Secretary to the Ministry of Law & Justice and
- Finance Advisor and a Chief Executive Officer.
Eligibility Criteria for Members:
- The Chairperson should have been a judge of the Supreme Court or High Court, or an eminent person having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration.
- He will be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
- The two eminent persons and the representative of commerce body are to be appointed by the Central Government.
- To bring targeted reforms to develop itself as a flagship institution for conducting international and domestic arbitration;
- To promote research and study, providing teaching and training, and organising conferences and seminars in arbitration, conciliation, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution matters; to provide facilities and administrative assistance for conciliation, mediation and arbitral proceedings; to maintain panels of accredited arbitrators, conciliators and mediators both at national and international level or specialists such as surveyors and investigators; to collaborate with other national and international institutions and organisations for ensuring credibility of the Centre as a specialised institution in arbitration and conciliation; to set-up facilities in India and abroad to promote the activities of the Centre; to lay down parameters for different modes of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms being adopted by the Centre
AMENDMENT TO THE TRADE UNIONS ACT, 1926 TO MAKE PROVISIONS REGARDING RECOGNITION OF TRADE UNIONS
03, Jan 2019
GS 2: Polity | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Why in news?
The Union Cabinet has approved Amendment to the Trade Unions Act, 1926 to make provisions regarding Recognition of Trade Unions.
- The proposed Bill will ensure that the nomination of workers’ representatives in tripartite bodies by the government will become more transparent.
- Trade Unions so recognized would be accountable in maintaining industrial harmony.
- Recognition of Trade Unions at Central/State level would reduce duplicacy of such exercise by different departments. Recognized Trade Unions may be assigned specific roles at Central or State level.
Benefits of the Amendments:
The approval will facilitate:
Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926:
- The legislation regulating the trade unions is the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926.
- The Act deals with the registration of trade unions, their rights, their liabilities and responsibilities as well as ensures that their funds are utilized properly.
- It gives legal and corporate status to the registered trade unions.
- It also seeks to protect them from civil or criminal prosecution so that they could carry on their legitimate activities for the benefit of the working class.
- The Act is applicable not only to the union of workers but also to the association of employers and extends to whole of India.
Also, certain Acts, namely, the Societies Registration Act, 1860; the Co-operative Societies Act, 1912; and the Companies Act, 1956 shall not apply to any registered trade union, and that the registration of any such trade union under any such Act shall be void.
Trade Unions in India:
- The credit for the first association of Indian workers is generally given to the Bombay Mill-Hands Association founded by N.M. Lokhande in 1890.
- This was in the period just after the passing of the ‘First’ Factories Act in 1881 by the
- British Government of the time.
- The following years saw the formation of several labour associations and unions.
- The first clearly registered trade-union is considered to be the Madras Labour Union founded by B.P. Wadia in 1918.
FREEDOM OF LITERATURE BILL 2018
01, Jan 2019
Why in News?
In a private member Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has suggested far-reaching amendments to various statutes to make it difficult for governments to ban books and to provide safeguards for authors and scholars from arbitrary and exhausting legal battles
Highlights of the Bill:
The Freedom of Literature Bill, 2018, puts on the government the onus of explaining why a book needs to be banned and removes the government’s right to ban books indefinitely.The Bill envisages reading down Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code that provides for imprisonment of up to three years for “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,” as well as Section 298, which is similar to 295A as it criminalises speech critical of religious organisations or religious figures, and therefore a major deterrent to free expression. Mr.Tharoor cites the example of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History, which was banned in India because of legal travails under 295A.The most important part of the Bill, however, are the amendment to the Customs Act that allows governments to suspend the shipping in of books over an indefinite period (as had happened with the ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses).
Private member’s Bill:
Private Member – Any MP who is not a Minister is referred to as a private member. Government Bills – 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 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.The admissibility of a private member’s Bill is decided by the Rajya Sabha Chairman in the case if it is introduced in Rajya Sabha. In the case of Lok Sabha, it is the Speaker; the procedure is roughly the same for both Houses.The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for introduction; the House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.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; Chairman K R Narayanan, therefore, capped the number of private member’s Bills 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.Fourteen private member’s Bills — five of which were introduced in Rajya Sabha — have become law so far.
Rajasthan cabinet scraps education criteria for civic poll candidates
02, Dec 2018
Why in News?
- The new Government of Rajasthan has abolished the condition of a minimum educational qualification to contest local body elections.
- The cabinet also decided on holding the election of mayors and chairmans in corporations through the direct system instead of the indirect method introduced by the previous government.
Criteria’s for contesting in local polls:
- As per the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Amendment Bill 2015, Candidates were:
- Required to have passed Class X for contesting municipal elections, Class VIII for contesting panchayat polls for the post of a sarpanch, and Class X for contesting Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti elections
- Construction of toilets in their homes as mandatory for contesting polls to the panchayati raj institutions in the state
Supreme Court on Educational Qualification for contesting Polls:
- Even Haryana had passed a similar law mandating minimum education qualification for those contesting in Panchayat Raj Institutions.
- The constitutional validity of this law of Haryana was questioned in the Supreme Court.
- The Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of the law enacted by Haryana government to bar the illiterate from contesting panchayat polls in the state.
- The Supreme Court had ruled that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”.
- The Supreme Court had even made it clear that it would be valid for the legislature to disqualify a candidate from seeking election to a civic body if he or she lacks “basic norms of hygiene” by not having a functional toilet at home.
National Commission for Homeopathy Bill, 2018 gets cabinet approval
02, Dec 2018
Why in news?
- The Union Cabinet has approved the National Commission for Homeopathy Bill, 2018.
- The National Commission for Homeopathy seeks to replace the existing regulator Central Council of Homoeopathy.
- The bill aims at bringing reforms in the medical education of homoeopathy in line with the National Medical Commission proposed for setting up for allopathy system of medicine.
- The National Commission for Homeopathy aims to promote transparency and accountability.
Features of the Bill:
- Constitution of a National Commission with three autonomous boards.
- The Homoeopathy Education Board to be vested with the responsibility of overseeing the Homeopathy education in the country.
- The board of assessment and rating to assess and grant recognition to educational institutions of Homoeopathy.
- Board of ethics and registration of practitioners of Homoeopathy to maintain a National Register and deal with ethical issues relating to practice.
- The bill also proposes a common entrance exam and an exit exam which all graduates will have to clear to get practicing licenses.
- The bill proposes a teacher’s eligibility test to assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions.
Lok Sabha passes Bill prohibiting commercial surrogacy
02, Dec 2018
Why in News?
- The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 that ensures effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows altruistic surrogacy to the needy Indian infertile couples was passed by the Lok Sabha by a voice vote.
- Once the Bill is enacted by the Parliament, the National Surrogacy Board will be constituted. The States and Union Territories will constitute the State Surrogacy Board and State Appropriate Authorities within three months of the notification by the Union Government.
- The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy; makes commercial surrogacy, its advertisement, and exploitation of the surrogate mother a punishable offence with imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
Provisions of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016:
- The intending couple must be Indian citizens and married for at least five years with at least one of them being infertile.
- It permits surrogacy only for couples who cannot conceive a child.
- The surrogate mother has to be a ‘close relative’ of the intending couple.
- No payment other than reasonable medical expenses can be made to the surrogate mother.
- The surrogate child will be considered as the biological child of the intending couple.
- Singles, homosexuals and live-in couples cannot apply for surrogacy. Besides, couples who already have children will also not be allowed to opt for surrogacy.
- The Bill entitles only Indian citizens to avail of surrogacy, whereas foreigners, NRIs and PIOs are not allowed to commission surrogacy in the country.
- Central and state governments will appoint appropriate authorities to grant eligibility certificates to the intending couple and the surrogate mother.
Eligibility conditions for surrogacy:
- The Bill specifies eligibility conditions that need to be fulfilled by the intending couple in order to commission surrogacy.
- The intending couple must be Indian citizens and married for at least five years with at least one of them being infertile. It permits surrogacy only for couples who cannot conceive a child.
- Surrogacy is not allowed in case of any other medical conditions which could prevent a woman from giving birth to a child.
- The surrogate mother has to be a ‘close relative’ of the intending couple who has been married and has had a child of her own. The Bill does not define the term ‘close relative’.
- The surrogate mother and the intending couple need eligibility certificates from the appropriate authority.
- The intending couple should have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority. The surrogate mother too needs a ‘certificate of eligibility’.
- The Bill does not specify a time limit within which such certificates will be granted. It also does not specify an appeal process in case the application is rejected.
- The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy, makes it a punishable offence.
‘India for Humanity’ initiative
02, Dec 2018
Why in news?
- External Affairs Minister Mrs. Swaraj has launched ‘India for Humanity’ initiative to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
‘India for Humanity’ Initiative:
- The initiative will feature a year-long series of artificial limb fitment camps in a various countries across the globe.
- For this MEA is collaborating with the renowned charitable organisation — “Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti” (BMVSS).
- These camps will be initially held in 12 countries identified through our missions with financial support of the central government.
- The larger aim is to provide for the physical, economic and social rehabilitation of the differently-abled.
Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act 1951
02, Oct 2018
Why in News?
- It is understood that some newspapers have reported that the ECI on the one hand announced the bye elections to fill the three casual vacancies in Lok Sabha from Karnataka.
- While the bye elections to fill five vacancies in Lok Sabha from Andhra Pradesh has not been announced by ECI.
Logic behind ECs move:
- As the vacancies from Karnataka have occurred more than one year before the expiration of the term of House, bye elections are required to be held. In the case of vacancies from Andhra Pradesh, there is no need to hold bye elections as the remaining term of the Lok Sabha is less than one year from the date of occurrence of vacancies.
Section 151A of R.P. Act, 1951:
- Section 151A of the RP Act mandates the EC to fill the casual vacancies in the Houses of Parliament and State Legislatures.
- A bye-election for filling any vacancy referred to in any of the said sections shall be held within a period of six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy:
- Provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply if
- The remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year; or
- The Election Commission in consultation with the Central Government certifies that it is difficult to hold the bye-election within the said period.
Competition Law Review Committee
02, Oct 2018
Why in News?
- Union Finance Ministry has constituted nine-member Competition Law Review Committee to ensure that legislation is in tune with changing business environment.
- The committee was constituted in pursuance of Government’s objective of ensuring that legislation is in sync with needs of strong economic fundamentals.
Need for Review:
- To ensure that Legislation is in sync with the needs of strong economic fundamentals, the Government has constituted a Committee to review the Competition Act.
- During the past nine years the size of the Indian Economy has grown immensely and India is today amongst the top five Economies in the World and poised to forge ahead further.
- In this context, it is essential that Competition Law is strengthened, and re-calibrated to promote best practices which result in the citizens of this country achieving their aspirations and value for money.
Competition Commission of India:
- The Competition Act was passed in the year 2002 and the Competition Commission of India was set up in pursuance of the same.
- A need was felt to promote competition and private enterprise especially in the light of 1991 Indian economic liberalisation.
- The Commission started functioning in right earnest from 2009 and has contributed immensely towards the development of competition and fair play practices in the Indian market.
- The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and Merger and acquisition)
Tasks assigned to the Committee:
- To review the Competition Act/ Rules/ Regulations, in view of changing business environment and bring necessary changes, if required
- To look into international best practices in the competition fields, especially anti-trust laws, merger guidelines and handling cross border competition issues.
- To study other regulatory regimes/ institutional mechanisms/ government policies which overlap with the Competition Act.
- Any other matters related to competition issue and considered necessary by the Committee.
HIV aids (prevention and control) Act, 2017
02, Sep 2018
Why in News?
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a notification for bringing the HIV AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 in force from 10th September, 2018.
- The Act safeguards the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV.
Provisions of the Act:
- The provisions of the Act address HIV-related discrimination, strengthen the existing programme by bringing in legal accountability, and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances.
- The Act lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV positive persons and those living with them is prohibited.
- These include the denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to:
- Educational establishments
- Health care services
- Residing or renting property
- Standing for public or private office
- Provision of insurance
- The requirement for HIV testing as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment or accessing health care or education is also prohibited.
Law Commission Submits report on “wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice) Legal Remedies”
01, Sep 2018
Why in News?
- The Law Commission of India submitted its report titled ‘Wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice): Legal Remedies’ to the Government of India.
- The Delhi HC in its Order in the case of Babloo Chauhan expressed grave concern about the state of innocent persons being wrongfully prosecuted, incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit.
- The Court highlighted the urgent need for a legislative framework for provided relief and rehabilitation to victims of wrongful prosecution, incarceration.
Global Scenario on Wrongful Prosecution:
- Internationally, the issue is identified as ‘miscarriage of justice’ that takes place after a person has been wrongfully convicted but is later found to be factually innocent basis a new fact / proof coming to light.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’, ratified by India) also creates an obligation on the State parties to enact a law to compensate the victims of such miscarriage of justice.
- The panel recommended ‘wrongful prosecution’ to be the standards of miscarriage of justice, as against ‘wrongful conviction’ and ‘wrongful incarceration’.
- ‘Wrongful prosecution’ would include cases where the accused and not guilty of the offence, and the police and / or the prosecution engaged in some form of misconduct in investigating and / or prosecuting the person.
- It would include both the cases where the person spent time in prison as well as where he did not; and cases where the accused was found not guilty by the trial court or where the accused was convicted by one or more courts but was ultimately found to be not guilty by the Higher Court.
Recommendations for Remedial Measures:
- The Report gives an overview of the remedies available under the existing laws and discusses their inadequacies.
- The panel recommends provision of relief to the victims of wrongful prosecution in terms of monetary and non-monetary compensation
- This may include counseling, mental health services, vocational / employment skills development etc. within a statutory framework.
- The Report enumerates the core principles of the recommended framework
- Defining ‘wrongful prosecution’ i.e., cases in which claim for compensation can be filed,
- Designation of a Special Court to decide these claims of compensation,
- Nature of proceedings – timeline for deciding the claim, etc.,
- Provisions for interim compensation in certain cases,
- Removal of disqualification on account of wrongful prosecution / conviction etc.
- A draft Bill, articulating the aforesaid, is annexed with the Report as the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2018.