SPR 2022 | Polity Current Affairs Compilation for Prelims 2022

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Table of Contents

Executive:

Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS)

  • It was developed for the convenience of Service voters
  • It is a secured system with a two-layer security system. Secrecy is maintained through the use of OTP and PIN and no duplication of casted Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot (ETPB) is possible due to the unique QR Code
  • The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, was amended to allow service voters to vote using the ETPBS.
  • The ETPBS is developed by the Election Commission of India with the help of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)
  • Postal ballots are sent electronically to registered service voters under this system.
  • The service voter can then download the ETPB, register their mandate on the ballot, and mail it to the constituency’s returning officer.
  • The ECI proposed that this facility be extended to international voters as well.
  • The Law Ministry must amend the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 before this can begin.
  • NRI voters who want to vote through ETPBS must notify the returning officer at least five days after the election is announced.
  • The ballot will then be sent electronically via the ETPBS by the returning officer.
  • The senior officer would be appointed by the Indian diplomatic or consular representative in the NRI’s resident country, except in this case.

Service Voter:

  • Persons working in Central Forces under Arms Act and Government officials deployed in Embassies outside the country are classified as Service Voters and are provisioned for online enrolment.

Draft Medical Device Policy

Context:

  • The government is proposing a new policy to lessen India's reliance on high-end medical device imports. Some of the proposals include tax rebates and refunds to encourage the export of medical devices and related technology projects, increased government spending on “high-risk” medical device projects, and a single-window clearance system for medical device licencing.  

Need for Medical Device Policy:

  • Reducing import dependence: The government's new policy aims to reduce India's import dependence from 80% to nearly 30% in the next ten years.
  • Meaningful R&D spending: The policy also aims to boost India's per capita medical device spending. India has one of the lowest per capita medical device spending rates, at $3, compared to the global average of $47.
  • High-end product manufacturing in India: Indian players in the space have traditionally focused on low-cost and low-tech products, such as consumables and disposables, resulting in a higher value share going to foreign companies.
  • Developing into a global hub: By 2047, it aims to be one of the top five global medical device manufacturing hubs.
  • Globally, the market is expected to reach $433 billion by 2025, with the United States controlling 40% of the market, Europe at 25%, and Japan at 15%.

Some of the prominent features of the Draft are as follows:

  • Using public-private partnerships to reduce healthcare costs, increase efficiency, and improve the quality of medical devices manufactured in the country.
  • Tax rebates and refunds to encourage the export of medical devices and related technology projects
  • Government spending on “high-risk” medical device projects should be increased.
  • Licensing medical devices through a single-window clearance system
  • Establish a dedicated fund to encourage collaborative research between established industry players, reputable academic institutions, and start-ups.
  • Incorporate a framework for a consistent pricing regulation to ensure that all citizens have access to high-quality, cost-effective medical devices.
  • The NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) will be bolstered with sufficient manpower and expertise to provide effective price regulation that balances the needs of patients and industry.
  • There is no price control on newly developed innovation in the sector because of the pricing environment.

Other Measures that can be Included:

  • The government has stated that India's medical devices sector faces the significant cost of manufacturing disadvantages compared to competing economies, owing to a lack of adequate infrastructure, domestic supply chain and logistics, and high cost of finance and skill development, among other factors.
  • India had launched the production-linked incentive scheme (PLI scheme) last year to encourage domestic manufacturing of high-end medical devices,
  • It had approved manufacturing commitments worth over Rs 730 crore for devices like CT scans and MRI machines, dialysers, anaesthesia unit ventilators, transcatheter aortic heart valves, stents, heart occluders, and others.

States can identify the Minorities

Context:

  • The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs stated in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that “state governments can also declare a religious or linguistic community as a ‘minority community' within the state.”  

About:

  • The Centre was responding to a petition alleging that adherents of Judaism, Baha'ism, and Hinduism — constitute the true minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Manipur.
  • They cannot, however, establish and manage educational institutions of their choice.
  • According to the government's affidavit, Parliament and state legislatures have concurrent powers to enact laws to protect minorities and their interests.

Who exactly are the minorities?

  • Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution recognise religious minorities and linguistic minorities.
  • Linguistic minorities in India are currently identified on a state-by-state basis, with the state government determining them, whereas religious minorities in India are determined by the Central Government.
  • Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jain, and Zorastrians (Parsis) have all been designated as minority communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992.
  • According to the 2011 Census, the percentage of minorities in the country is approximately 19.3 percent of the total population.
  • Minority Concentration Districts (MCD), Minority Concentration Blocks, and Minority Concentration Towns have been identified based on Census 2001 population data and backwardness parameters.
  • Muslims constitute 14.2 percent of the population, Christians 2.3 percent, Sikhs 1.7 percent, Buddhists 0.7 percent, Jain 0.4 percent, and Parsis 0.006 percent.
  • However, the term “minority” is not defined in the Constitution.

Office of Governor

Context:

  • The Indian Constitution's framers had no idea that the Governor's office, which was created to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and the law,” would evolve into the most contentious constitutional office, making constitutional practice difficult.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Even though the original Draft of the Constitution allowed for either direct election or appointment of the Governor (Article 131 of the draft, which became Article 155), the Constituent Assembly chose a third option: the President's appointment of the Governor to avoid conflict with the elected executive.
  • Articles 153 to 162 of the Indian Constitution discuss the Governor's appointment, powers, and everything else related to the office of Governor.

Qualification:

  • First, he should be an Indian citizen and should have completed the age of 35 years

Prominent Commission and Its Recommendations:

  • SR Bommai Judgement: Following the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, the Supreme Court stated in the S.R. Bommai case (1994) that the breakdown of constitutional machinery implied a virtual impossibility, not a mere difficulty, in carrying out governance in a State.
  • The Sarkaria Commission (1988) recommended that Article 356 be used only in exceptional circumstances when it is unavoidable to restore the state's constitutional machinery.
  • Before acting under Article 356, the commission recommended issuing a warning to the state government that it is not operating in accordance with the constitution.
  • The Punchhi Commission endorsed most of the Sarkaria Commission's recommendations, but its viewpoints also reflected changing times and needs. The Commission was not pleased with the practice of Governors being summoned at the sound of a regime change bell, as this was not befitting of the Governor's honourable position.
  • While the President's subjective satisfaction with such a breakdown was beyond judicial scrutiny, the material on which such satisfaction was based, including the Governor's report, could be examined by the judiciary.
  • In fact, the first Administrative Reforms Commission (1966) recommended strongly in its report on “Centre-State Relationships” that once the Governor completes his five-year term, he should not be considered for re-appointment as Governor.

Way Ahead:

  • It is equally important for the smooth operation of a democratic government for the governor to act judiciously, impartially, and efficiently while exercising his discretion and personal judgement.
  • A 'Code of Conduct' should establish certain 'norms and principles' to guide the governor's 'discretion' and powers, which he is free to use and exercise based on his own judgement.
  • All of this brings us back to square one: the Sarkaria Commission's recommendation that the governor's appointee is a detached outsider and a person of eminence in some fields. To add to the Sarkaria commission's findings, the paradox of an apolitical President and a politically active Governor must be resolved as soon as possible.

Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA)

Context: 

  • The government has appointed AK Sood as the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to it.

About: 

  • In November 1999, Cabinet Secretariat established the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
  • The PSA’s office aims to provide pragmatic and objective advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on matters related to science, technology, and innovation with a focus on the application of science and technology.
  • The first PSA was APJ Abdul Kalam and the current PSA is A.K Sood.
  • The 9-member Prime Minister’s Science, Technology And Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) is headed by the Government of India’s Principal Scientific Adviser to (A.K Sood).
  • The body has nine major missions: Natural Language Translation, Quantum Frontier, Artificial Intelligence, National Biodiversity Mission, Electric Vehicles, Bioscience for Human Health, Waste to Wealth, Deep Ocean Exploration, Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi).

Central Bureau of Investigation

Context:

  • The Chief Justice of India criticised the functioning of the CBI and argued for the need of reforms.

About Central Bureau of Investigation:

  • It is the main investigation agency of the central government for cases relating to corruption and major criminal probes.
  • It has its origin in the Special Police Establishment set up in 1941 to probe bribery and corruption during World War II.
  • Although DSPE Act gives legal power to CBI, CBI is not a statutory body as the word CBI is not mentioned in the act.
  • CBI was set up by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1963 after the Santhanam committee recommendation.
  • The superintendence of the CBI rests with CVC in corruption cases and with the Department of personnel and training in other matters.
  • Presently it acts as an attached office under DOPT.

Electoral Bond Scheme

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has agreed to take up for hearing a pending plea challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018.

About Electoral Bond Scheme:

  • It is Introduced with the Finance Bill, 2017, and the Electoral Bond Scheme was notified on January 29, 2018.
  • An Electoral Bond is like a promissory note that may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
  • The bonds are like banknotes that are payable to the bearer on demand and are interest-free.
  • Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951 and securing one percent vote in general or state elections are eligible.

Procedure for Electoral bonds:

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) has been authorised to issue and encash Electoral Bonds.
  • The bonds are sold by the SBI in denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore.
  • One can purchase these bonds only digitally or through cheques.
  • The Electoral Bonds can be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the Authorized Bank.
  • Electoral Bonds shall be valid for only fifteen calendar days from the date of issue.

UIADI Audit by CAG

Context:

  • Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, has pulled up the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for “deficient data management”.
  • UIDAI is the statutory authority established in 2016 to issue Aadhaar to all residents of the country.

Introduction:

  • As of October 31, 2021, UIDAI had issued 131.68 crore Aadhaar numbers.

Problems with UIDAI that have been identified by the CAG:

CAG in its 108-page audit report on the functioning of the UIDAI has brought out some of the following issues:

  • Data of Aadhaar cardholders have not been matched with their Aadhaar number even after 10 years in some cases.
  • There is the absence of a system to analyse the factors leading to authentication errors
  • Even though UIDAI was maintaining one of the largest biometric databases in the world, it did not have a data archiving policy, which is considered “a vital storage management best practice”.
  • CAG also noted that UIDAI provided Authentication services to banks, mobile operators and other agencies free of charge till March 2019, contrary to the provisions of their own Regulations, depriving revenue to the Government

Other concerns raised by CAG:

  • CAG has noted that the UIDAI has not prescribed any specific proof, document, or process to confirm whether a person who is applying for Aadhaar has resided in India for the period specified by the Rules.
  • Therefore, “there is no assurance that all the Aadhaar holders in the country are ‘Residents’ as defined in the Aadhaar Act”, says the report.
  • In the conclusion of its report, the CAG has said that UIDAI generated Aadhaar numbers with incomplete information, which, along with the lack of proper documentation or poor quality biometrics, have resulted in multiple or duplicate Aadhaar cards being issued to the same person.
  • CAG report notes that “UIDAI should go beyond self-declaration, and prescribe a procedure and required documentation other than self-declaration, in order to confirm and authenticate the residence status of applicants”.
  • CAG has noted that the UIDAI does not have adequate arrangements with the postal department, due to which a large number of Aadhaar cards were returned t
  • Aadhaar numbers with poor quality biometrics induce authentication errors. UIDAI takes no responsibility for it and transfers the onus of updating the biometrics to the resident and also charges fees for it.
  • The CAG has flagged that UIDAI has not ensured that the applications or devices used by agencies or companies for authentication “were not capable of storing the personal information of the residents, which put the privacy of residents at risk”.
  • The Authority had not ensured the security and safety of data in Aadhaar vaults.

Reservation in Promotion

Context: 

  • Government lays down norms for quotas in promotions.

Norms for reservation: 

  • The collection of quantifiable data on the inadequacy of representation of social groups is a prerequisite condition for providing quotas in the promotion.
  • Collection of quantifiable data regarding the inadequacy of representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

Application of this data to each cadre separately:

  • If a roster exists, the unit for operation of the roster would be the cadre, or which the quantifiable data would have to be collected and applied in regard to the filling up of the vacancies in the roster.
  • Legal Provisions related to Reservation in employment
  • Reservation in jobs is mentioned in the constitution under Article 16 and Article 371.
  • There were three sub-clauses dealing with job reservation in Article 16. They are, indeed.
  • 16(1): It guarantees equal opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to “employment or appointment” to any State office.
  • 16(2): It states that discrimination cannot be made solely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any combination of these factors.

Appointment of Vice-Chancellor

Context:

  • The TN Assembly passed two bills that seek to transfer the Governor’s power in appointing VCs of 13 State Universities to the State Government.
  • States are bringing their own legislation to give power to state government to appoint VCs. Recently, WB, Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana have come out with similar legislations.

About Vice-Chancellor:

  • Vice-chancellors lead the university's academic and administrative departments.
  • They may serve on several university councils, assist with policy development and academic planning,
  • prepare budgets, and maintain the institution's positive image.
  • As per the University Grants Commission (UGC) Guidelines, the Visitor/Chancellor shall appoint the Vice-Chancellor out of the panel of names recommended by the search-cum-selection committee.
  • The Governor of the state is the honorary chancellor of all State-owned universities.

About the Bills passed by Tamil Nadu Assembly:

  • The Tamil Nadu Universities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2022, substitutes the expression “chancellor” in the original Act with “government” with regards to both appointment and removal of VCs.
  • A separate bill to amend the Chennai University Act, 1923 [Chennai University (Amendment) Act, 2022], with similar intent, was passed by the House.
  • Currently, the Governor, in his capacity as the Chancellor of state universities, has the power to pick a VC from the shortlisted names.
  • The Bills also seek to empower the state government to have the final word on the removal of VCs, if needed.
  • Removal will be carried out based on inquiries by a retired High Court judge or a bureaucrat who has served at least as a Chief Secretary

Supreme Court’s Observation:

  • In March 2022, while setting aside the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat’s SP University by the state government, the Supreme Court made some key observations.
  • The court said, “any appointment as a Vice-Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations can be said to be in violation of the statutory provisions, warranting a writ of quo warranto”.
  • It said every subordinate legislation of the UGC, in this case, the one on minimum standards on appointments, flows from the parent UGC Act, 1956.
  • In case of any conflict between state legislation and central legislation, central legislation shall prevail by applying the rule/principle of repugnancy as enunciated in Article 254 of the Constitution as the subject ‘education’ is in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Under Article 254, if any legislation enacted by the state legislature is repugnant to the legislation enacted by the Parliament, then the state legislation will be declared void, and the legislation enacted by the Parliament will prevail over the former.

Role of University Grants Commission:

  • Although Education comes under the Concurrent List, entry 66 of the Union List — “coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions” — gives the Centre substantial authority over higher education.
  • According to the UGC Regulations, 2018, the “Visitor/Chancellor” — mostly the Governor in states — shall appoint the VC out of the panel of names recommended by search-cum-selection committees.
  • Higher educational institutions, particularly those that get UGC funds, are mandated to follow its regulations.
  • These are usually followed without friction in the case of central universities but are sometimes resisted by the states in the case of state universities.
  • There is a need to uphold the constitutional provisions and principles of parliamentary democracy by limiting the Governor’s executive power exercise on discretion. The SC has said in Nabam Rebia Case 2016 that the exercise of the Governor’s discretion is limited and his choice should not be arbitrary.

Anti – Encroachment Drive in India

Context:

  • A PIL was filed in SC to stop the anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri, New Delhi. The SC put a stay on demolition for the time being and agreed to hear PIL.

Issues Involved In Anti- Encroachment Drives:

  • The right to life is protected under Article 21 of the constitution. The idea of the “Right to the City” and the “Right to Adequate Housing” has been recognised by international law and promoted by UN-HABITAT. The SC has also endorsed this idea.
  • Encroachment of government land and properties: Only 24% of the population of Delhi lived in planned settlements.
  • Government is regularising unauthorised settlement: The Union Govt. launched the PM-UDAY (Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojna) Scheme which confers property rights to dwellers of the unauthorised colonies.

SC Judgements On Anti-Encroachment Drives:

  • Olga Tellis vs BMC, 1985, a five-judge constitutional bench led by Justice Y. V. Chandrachud ruled that pavement dwellers who occupies public spaces in an unauthorised manner should be given a chance to be heard and a reasonable opportunity to depart before force is used to expel them. The SC further observed that the right to life includes the right to livelihood. A welfare state should not use its power of eviction as a means to deprive pavement dwellers of their livelihood.
  • In 2013, the SC in Sudama Singh Case held that prior to carrying out any eviction, it was the duty of the state to carry out a detailed survey and then a rehabilitation exercise in consultation with each one of them [persons at risk of an eviction] in a meaningful manner.
  • In Ajay Maken case (2019), the SC reiterated that very slum dweller has a right to be rehabilitated, and these orders are binding on all authorities, including the Central government.
  • The due process of law should be followed in the light of SC judgements relating removal of encroachment of public properties. The dwellers of unauthorised colonies are a vulnerable section of society. The state needs to show empathy by providing meaningful rehabilitation opportunities to them

Hindi

Context:

  • Centre’s push to make Hindi the link language for India.

Statistics about the Hindi language:

  • The 2011 linguistic census accounts for 121 mother tongues, including 22 languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Hindi is the most widely spoken, with 52.8 crore individuals, or 43.6% of the population, declaring it as their mother tongue.
  • In terms of the number of people who know Hindi its 55% of the population as 13% use it as their second language.

Reasons for dominance of Hindi:

  • Hindi is the predominant language in some of India’s most populous states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
  • A number of languages are bracketed under Hindi by census enumerators.
  • High fertility rate and population growth among Hindi speaking regions.

Assam-Meghalaya Border Dispute Agreement

Context:

  • Assam and Meghalaya have partially resolved a 50-year-old border dispute in six of the 12 sectors.

How did the boundary dispute start?

  • Meghalaya carved out of Assam as an autonomous State in 1970, and became a full-fledged State in 1972.
  • It was based on the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969
  • The Meghalaya government refused to accept it because the Act followed the recommendations of a 1951 committee that defined the boundary of Meghalaya.
  • Based on the panel’s recommendations, areas of the present-day East Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi and West Khasi Hills districts of Meghalaya were transferred to the districts of Assam.
  • After claims and counter-claims, the dispute was narrowed down to 12 sectors on the basis of an official claim by Meghalaya in 2011.
  • How did the two governments go about handling the issue?
  • In 1983 a joint official committee was formed to address the issue.
  • The committee suggested that the Survey of India should re-delineate the boundary with the cooperation of both the States but there was no follow-up action.
  • In 1985 an independent panel headed by Justice Y.V. Chandrachud was constituted.
  • Meghalaya rejected the report as it was allegedly pro-Assam.
  • In 1991 both the governments agreed to jointly demarcate the border with the help of the Survey of India.
  • About 100 km of the border was demarcated by the end of 1991, but Meghalaya found the exercise unconstitutional and refused to cooperate.
  • In 2011, the Meghalaya Assembly passed a resolution for central intervention and the constitution of a boundary commission.
  • The Assam Assembly retaliated with a resolution to oppose the move.
  • The Centre made the two governments appoint nodal officers to discuss the boundary dispute.
  • In 2019, the Meghalaya government petitioned the Supreme Court to direct the Centre to settle the dispute but the petition was dismissed.

What about the current agreement?

  • Both States formed three regional committees, one each for a district affected by the disputed sectors.
  • The main objective is to end the boundary dispute between the two states in six of the 12 areas along their 885-km boundary.
  • The committees, each headed by a cabinet minister, were given “five principles” for approaching the issue which include historical facts of a disputed sector ethnicity, administrative convenience, willingness of people, contiguity of land preferably with natural boundaries such as rivers, streams and rocks
  • Of the disputed territory (a little over 36 square kilometres), the two States will get a near equal share, enshrining the sharing principle by adopting a give-and-take approach.
  • The agreement was signed by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma, in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah.
  • There is a fear among non-tribal people that they could end up living in a region with no rights.

What will be the impact of the settlement on other border disputes in North-East?

  • Assam, the mother State from which other states were carved out in the northeast, currently has boundary disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
  • The agreement amplifies cooperative federalism and provides a road map for the resolution of other boundary disputes between states.
  • It is said that in the next six-seven months, the second phase of resolution would commence for the remaining sites.

Rules For Tapping A Phone

Context:

  • The phone tapping issue from Maharashtra got much attention of the Media and people. Phone tapping is a process of monitoring of telephone or internet-based conversation by a third party including law enforcement authorities, and often by covert means.

Background:

  • In PUCL vs. Union of India (1996), the SC pointed out the lack of procedural safeguards in the provisions of the Telegraph Act 1885 and laid down certain guidelines for interception.
  • The SC’s guidelines formed the basis of introducing Rule 419A in the Telegraph Rules in 2007.
  • The SC’s guideline was later adopted in the rules prescribed under the IT Act. Section 69 of the IT Act and the IT (Procedure for Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 were enacted to further the legal framework for electronic surveillance.

Process Of Phone Tapping By-Law Enforcement Authorities In India:

  • The authorities make a request to service providers such as Airtel, Jio etc. to record conversations on the given number and provide these in real-time through a connected computer. The service providers are bound by law to provide that. This is also called ‘parallel listening’.

The phone can be tapped lawfully by:

State Police:

  • 10 Central Law Enforcement Agencies such as IB, CBI, ED, NCB, NIA, RAW, DSI, Delhi Police Commissioner, DRI and CBDT
  • Exception for the press: Press messages intended to be published in India of correspondents accredited to the Central Government or a State Government shall not be intercepted or detained unless their transmission has been prohibited under this subsection.

Data:

  • On average, 6,000 to 8,000 telephones are tapped by various agencies at any given time based on authorisation by the Union home secretary.
  • Besides, around 10,000 more telephones are lawfully intercepted by state governments

Laws Related to Tapping:

  • Section 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act 1885: On the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety, the phone can be tapped by the Center or States if they are satisfied that it is necessary in the interest of public safety, sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence.

Rule 419A of Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules 2007:

  • Using as Last Resort: The law is clear that interception must be ordered only if there is no other way of getting the information.
  • Rule 419A mentions that while issuing directions under sub-rule (1) the officer shall consider the possibility of acquiring the necessary information by other means and the directions under sub-rule (1) shall be issued only when it is not possible to acquire the information by any other reasonable means
  • Competent Authority: Phone tapping shall not be issued except by an order made by Union Home Secretary, or State home secretary. The order has to be conveyed to the service provider in writing, only then can the tapping begin.
  • In unavoidable circumstances, such order may be made by an officer, not below the rank of joint secretary to the GOI and has been specially authorized by Union Home Secretary or State Home Secretary.
  • In remote areas or for operational reasons, if it is not feasible to get a prior direction, a call can be intercepted with the prior approval of the head or the second senior-most officer of the authorized law enforcement agency at the central level, and by an authorized officer, not below the rank of IG at the state level.
  • Approving Authority: The order has to be communicated within 3 days to the competent authority, who has to approve or disapprove it within 7 days. If the confirmation from the competent authority is not received within the stipulated 7 days, such interception shall cease.
  • Limited Time Period: The direction for interception remains in force for 60 days, unless revoked earlier.
  • However, it can be extended for up to 180 days.
  • Proper reason: Any order issued by competent authority has to contain reasons, and a copy is to be forwarded to a review committee within 7 working days. The review committee is expected to meet at least once in two months to review all interception requests.
  • Members of the review committee in the centre: Cabinet Secretary, Law Secretary and Telecom Secretary
  • Members of the review committee in the state: Chief Secretary, Law Secretary and Any other Secretary other than the Home Secretary.
  • The intercepted records shall be destroyed every 6 months unless these are required for functional requirements.
  • Service providers to are required to destroy records pertaining to directions for interception within two months of discontinuance of the interception.
  • The provision for tapping phones under the Telegraph Act 1885 is important during the occurrence of a public emergency in the interest of public safety but it is in conflict with the right to privacy and the right to free speech. The right to privacy is a fundamental right as ruled by the SC in Puttaswamy Case (2017). The restriction on any fundamental rights should be just, fair and reasonable. 

Model Tenancy Act

  • Context:
    • The Union Cabinet has approved the Model Tenancy Act to be sent to the States and Union Territories to enact legislation or amend laws on rental properties.
    • The draft Act had been published by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2019.
  • Written Agreement is Mandatory:
    • Mandatory for there to be a written agreement between the property owner and the tenant.
  • Establishes Independent Authority and Rent Court:
    • Establishes an independent authority in every state and UT for registration of tenancy agreements and even a separate court to take up tenancy related disputes.
  • Maximum Limit for Security Deposit:
    • Limit the tenant’s advance security deposit to a maximum of two months rent for residential purposes and to a maximum of six months for non-residential purposes.
  • Describes Rights and Obligations of both Landlord and Tenant:
    • The landlord will be responsible for activities like structural repairs except those necessitated by damage caused by the tenant, whitewashing of walls and painting of doors and windows, etc.
    • The tenant will be responsible for drain cleaning, switches and socket repairs, kitchen fixtures repairs, replacement of glass panels in windows, doors and maintenance of gardens and open spaces, among others.
  • 24-hour Prior Notice by the Landlord:
    • A landowner will have to give 24-hour prior notice before entering the rented premises to carry out repairs or replacements.
  • The mechanism for Vacating the Premises:
    • If a landlord has fulfilled all the conditions stated in the rent agreement – giving notice etc.- and the tenant fails to vacate the premises on the expiration of the period of tenancy or termination of tenancy, the landlord is entitled to double the monthly rent for two months and four times after that.
  • Coverage:
    • It will apply to premises let out for residential, commercial or educational use, but not for industrial use.
    • It also won’t cover hotels, lodging houses, inns, etc.
    • It will be applied prospectively and will not affect existing tenancies.
  • Need:
    • As per Census 2011, nearly 1.1 crore houses were lying vacant in the country and making these houses available on rent will complement the vision of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.
  • Significance:
    • The authority will provide a speedy mechanism in resolving disputes and other related matters.
    • It will help overhaul the legal framework with respect to rental housing across the country.
    • It will enable the creation of adequate rental housing stock for all the income groups thereby addressing the issue of homelessness.
    • It will enable the institutionalisation of rental housing by gradually shifting it towards the formal market.
    • It is expected to give a fillip to private participation in rental housing as a business model for addressing the huge housing shortage.
  • Challenges:
    • The Act is not binding on the states as land and urban development remain state subjects.
    • Like in the case with RERA (Real Estate (Regulation and Development Act), the fear is that states may choose not to follow guidelines, diluting the essence of the Model Act.

Cable Television Network Rules

  • Context:
    • The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has amended the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 regulating Cable TV networks, providing for a “statutory” mechanism for complaints raised by citizens regarding any content broadcast.
  • Overview of Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021:
    • It provides for a three-level grievance redressal mechanism — self-regulation by broadcasters, self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the broadcasters, and oversight by an Inter-Departmental Committee at the level of the Union government.
  • Procedure for grievance redressal:
    • A viewer can file a complaint directly to the broadcaster, who will have to respond within 15 days.
    • If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, the complaint can be escalated to the self-regulating bodies set up by TV channels, which should deal with the case in 60 days.
    • If the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the self-regulating body, he may, within 15 days of such decision, prefer an appeal to the Central Government for its consideration under the Oversight Mechanism.
    • Such appeals will be dealt with by the Inter-Departmental Committee set up under the Oversight Mechanism.
  • Composition of the committee:
    • The committee will be headed by the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and have members from various ministries.
  • Powers of the committee:
    • Recommend the Centre to advise, issue a warning, censure, admonish or reprimand a broadcaster, or seek an apology.
    • Ask the broadcaster to include a warning card or a disclaimer, or to delete or modify content, or take the channel or a programme off-air for a specified time period, where it is satisfied that such action is warranted.
  • Present Grievance redressal mechanism:
    • At present, there is an institutional mechanism by way of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to address the grievances of citizens relating to the violation of the Programme/Advertising Codes under the Rules, but it does not have statutory backing.
  • Significance of the new rules:
    • It paves the way “for a strong institutional system for redressing grievances.
    • It places accountability and responsibility on the broadcasters and their self-regulating bodies.
  • About the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995:
    • The law prescribes imprisonment up to two years or fine up to ₹1,000 or both for the first offence, and imprisonment up to five years and with fine up to ₹5,000 if any media governed under the CTN Act violates the provisions and the “Programme Code”.
    • The code, which contains an elaborate list of don’ts for cable TV channels, states that no programme should be aired that contains anything obscene, defamatory, false, and suggests innuendos and half-truths.

Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir

  • Context:
    • Delimitation of constituencies is being carried out in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, the Prime Minister of India chaired a meeting with the political parties of Jammu and Kashmir.  
  • What is Delimitation? 
    • Delimitation is the redrawing of boundaries of an assembly or Lok Sabha constituency to reflect changes in the population of a region.  
  • Conducted by:
    • The Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act under Article 82 of the Constitution and an independent high-powered panel known as the Delimitation Commission is constituted by the President of India to carry out the exercise. 
  • Composition:
    • Retired Supreme Court judge, Chief Election Commissioner and Respective State Election Commissioners. 
  • Associate members:
    • Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of states for which the Delimitation Commission is set up are nominated as associate members to help the commission in its task.  
  • Powers:
    • The Delimitation Commission is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court. 
  • Delimitation in J&K: 
    • Delimitation in J&K had followed a slightly different trajectory than in the rest of the country due to the special status it was accorded under Article 370.  
    • While the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India, Assembly seat allocation was governed under the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957. 
    • The last Delimitation exercise was conducted in J&K in 1995 based on the 1981 census. There was no census in the state in 1991. And after the 2001 census, the J&K assembly had passed a law putting on hold delimitation till 2026. 
    • However, following the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 Jammu and Kashmir lost their special status and became a Union Territory. Hence, a delimitation commission has been constituted to carve out Assembly and Parliament seats.

Official Secrets Act

  • Context:
    • Recently the central government said that it prohibited retired officials of security and intelligence organisations from publishing anything about their work or organisation (Which may come under the official security act) without prior clearance from the head of the organisation.
  • Official Secrets Act 1923:
    • which prohibits officials to publish, tell anyone the information which he gets in the official capacity.
  • Why there is an issue over disclosing the information:
    • RTI provides the people right to information.
    • Government transparency is a must in order for good governance
    • A recent amendment in the whistleblower act also prohibits much information to be disclosed.
    • There is no convention that allows the classified files to be declassified after some time as in the case of the USA. for example, declassify the Justice Mukherjee report on Subhas Chandra Bose and send it to the National Archives.
    • A stable security policy is always hard to achieve since the boundaries of official secrecy cannot be clearly articulated.
  • Way forward:
    • People must know what their representatives are doing when they become executives.
    • A convention to be established that after some period of time files must be declassified.
    • People’s right to know must be secured.

The tussle between Central vs Union Government

Context: Recently, a controversy erupted over the new DMK government referring to the government of the Prime Minister as the ‘Union government’ instead of ‘central government’.

Central v/s Union Government:

  • More than 70 years after India's independence, Justice (retd) K Chandru pointed out that there is no official Tamil translation of the Indian Constitution.
  • The nature of the Indian state is at issue in the ‘union or centre' dispute.
  • Provinces had more power under the Government of India Act of 1935, while the Viceroy had just the bare minimum. However, the Indian constitution reversed this equation, giving the federal government more power.
  • In every way, genuine power is vested in the Union of India.
  • According to the Tamil Nadu government, the Constitution refers to India as a “Union of States,” hence the best term for the Centre is “Union Government.”

Constitutional Provisions for Central or Union Government:

  • Article 1(1) of the Constitution of India says that India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
  • The Preamble demonstrates the federal form, spirit, and content of the Indian Constitution with an open acknowledgement of the centralizing tendencies and the quasi-federal characteristics in the actual working of the Constitution.
  • The ‘Central government’ is a term not used in the original Constitution as passed by the Constituent Assembly.
  • The head of the Indian Constitution's drafting committee used the word “union” because:
    • The Indian federation was not the result of a unit's consent, and the constituent units had no right to secede from it.
    • The word “Union” is used frequently throughout the Indian Constitution to designate both the entire country and the government that governs it.
  • The Union's executive power is vested in the President, according to Article 53.
  • The Constitution's seventh schedule (Article-246) has the Union List, which has 97 items, the State List, which has 66 things, and the Concurrent List, which has 47 items.

Reasons for use of Central or Union Government:

  • The Regulating Act was approved by the British Parliament, which appointed a governor-general to manage all of British India.
  • The governor-administration generals were referred to as the “Central Government” to distinguish it from the “provincial governments.”
  • In India, the Government of India Act of 1919 established a rudimentary form of self-government and federalism, with powers divided between “central” and “provincial” subjects.
  • The Government of India Act of 1935, which envisaged a merger of British India with the princely states, was the first time the phrase “Federation of India” was used.
  • The Cabinet Mission Plan was the first to use the contemporary term “union” in 1946.

Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act,2000

Context: The Supreme Court (SC) issued a notice to the Centre on the use of Section 66A of the IT Act that was scrapped in 2015.

More about the news:

  • This section has continued to be in use not only within police stations but also in cases before trial courts across India. 
  • This information was available on the Zombie Tracker website, which was developed by a group of independent researchers.
  • SC found it distressing, shocking, and terrible that people were still booked and tried under Section 66A of the IT Act even six years after it struck down the provision as unconstitutional and a violation of free speech.

About Section 66A of IT Act:

  • It defined the punishment for sending offensive messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or tablet which can fetch a maximum of three years of jail and a fine.
  • The IT Act, 2000 was amended in 2009 to insert Section 66A.
  • The law targeted the messages that:
    • Are grossly offensive or menacing.
    • Proffer false information intending to cause annoyance, inconvenience, intimidation, insult, obstruction, etc.
    • Are intended at deceiving the addressee about the origin of the message.

Why It Was Scrapped?

  • The landmark case of Shreya Singhal v Union of India (2015) challenged the constitutional validity of section 66A and led to the scrapping of the same.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that Section 66A was ambiguous and overbroad and that it was in violation of the Constitution's Articles 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life).
  • In addition, the court had highlighted that, unlike other sections of the law, Section 66A lacked procedural safeguards.
  • Following that, the government formed an expert committee (the T.K. Viswanathan committee), which advocated legislation to address the problem of hate speech on the internet.

Water Dispute Between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

Context: Andhra Pradesh alleges that Telangana has been drawing Krishna water from four projects for hydropower generation without approvals from the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB).

More about the news:

  • Andhra government claims that the water that is used for power generation, is being wasted by releasing it into the Bay of Bengal.
  • Telangana countered that it would continue with the hydropower generation to meet its requirements of power and at the same time, it has claimed that Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project (RLIP) is illegal.
  • After Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the two states agreed to split the water share 66:34 on an ad hoc basis until the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) -2 decided the final allocation.

Interstate water dispute:

  • Article 262 of the Constitution provides for the adjudication of interstate water disputes. It makes two provisions:
    • Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution, and control of waters of any inter-state river and river valley. 
    • Parliament may also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
  • Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted two laws [the River Boards Act (1956) and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956)].
  • The Inter-State Water Disputes Act empowers the Central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between two or more states in relation to the waters of an inter-state river or river valley.
  • So far (2019), the Central government has set up nine inter-state water dispute tribunals.
  • Krishna water Dispute: States involved are Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. The first Krishna water tribunal was established in 1969 and the second one in 2004. 

Censorship

Context: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has proposed a new Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021. It allows the Union government to order a ‘re-examination’ of an already certified film if there are complaints against it.

What is censorship?

  • The suppression or control of ideas, public communication, and information circulated within a society is termed censorship.
  • The freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution of India can be suppressed if it is considered objectionable, harmful, or necessary to maintain communal harmony.

Current scenario:

  • Even after 70 years of Independence, freedom of speech still occupies a fragile and tenuous place in the Republic.
  • Censorship is prevalent in India because it is both simple and effective to implement.
  • This is due to two allied reasons:
    • Firstly, the Indian legal system is set up in such a way that attaining censorship through the legal system is an almost costless endeavour for anyone willing to attempt it.
    • Second, the only thing that could effectively offset this is a strong, judicial commitment to free expression, which does not exist at all levels of the judiciary.
  • Together, these two elements create an environment in which the freedom of speech is in almost constant peril, with writers, artists, and publishers.

Mekedatu Project

Context: The Karnataka government has decided to come up with an action plan to start the Mekedatu drinking water project amidst opposition from Tamil Nadu (TN).

About Mekedatu Project:

  • Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathi, about 100 km from Bengaluru.
  • In 2013, the Karnataka Government announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project over the Mekedatu. 
  • The project aims to alleviate the drinking water problems of the Bengaluru and Ramanagara districts of Karnataka. 
  • It is also expected to generate hydroelectricity of around 400 MW to meet the power needs of the state.

Why does TN objects to the move?

  • TN claims that it will affect the natural flow of the Cauvery River and also the irrigation in the State.
  • The State also points out that the Government of Karnataka should not be allowed to unilaterally execute a scheme without the consent of the lower riparian State according to the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).

About River Cauvery:

  • The Cauvery basin extends over the states of TN, Karnataka, Kerala, and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
  • It rises at Talakaveri in the Brahmagiri range of Karnataka. 
  • The total length of the river from origin to outfall into the Bay of Bengal is 800 km.
  • Left Bank Tributaries: Harangi, Hemavati, Shimsha, and Arkavati.
  • Right Bank Tributaries: Lakshmantirtha, Kabani, Suvarnavati, Bhavani, Noyil, and Amaravati.

Cauvery River Water Dispute- A Timeline:

  • The Cauvery water sharing dispute began in 1892 between the Madras Presidency and the princely state of Mysore.
  • British presided over the issue of water sharing and in 1924, the Madras Presidency and Mysore state signed an agreement where the rules regarding the water usage of Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam were listed out.
  • The agreement gave Madras Presidency and the Mysore state the right to use surplus water from river Cauvery and TN and Puducherry would get 75% of the surplus water, while Karnataka would get 23% and 2% to Kerala.
  • The issue of water sharing became a real problem after the re-organization of the states in 1956.
  • Between 1960 and the late 1980s, Karnataka built four dams on Cauvery – Hemavati, Harangi, Kabini, and Suvarnavathy and it claimed the validity of the 1924 agreement ceased after 50 years.
  • CWDT formed in 1990 as per the directions of the Supreme Court (SC) calculated the water inflow to Tamil Nadu between 1980 and 1990. In 1991, the tribunal in its interim order directed Karnataka to ensure that 205 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water reach Tamil Nadu per annum. 
  • In 1998, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) was formed for implementing the interim order of the CWDT and is comprised of the Prime Minister as the Chairperson and the Chief Ministers of the four states/UTs as its members.
  • The CWDT gave out its final award in 2007. Of the total available 740 tmcft water, this was the allocation made: Tamil Nadu – 419 tmcft Karnataka – 270 tmcft Kerala – 30 tmcft Puducherry – 7 tmcft.
  • TN appealed against the verdict in SC and subsequently, the final verdict of the SC came in 2018. It declared the Cauvery a national asset and also reduced the allocation of water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. 
  • It also directed the Centre to have a Cauvery Management Scheme and also noted that no State could claim full rights over its waters.

Kongu Nadu

Context: Recently, there is a debate in Tamil Nadu over an alleged attempt to bifurcate the state, after some political handles were seen supporting the idea of 'Kongu Nadu'.

About Kongu Nadu:

  • It is neither a place with a PIN code nor a name given formally to any region but is a commonly used name for part of western Tamil Nadu. 
  • In Tamil literature, it was referred to as one of the five regions of ancient Tamil Nadu. It is also mentioned in Sangam literature as a separate territory.
  • The name Kongunadu draws its origin from the term Kongu, meaning nectar or honey. It is also said that it was derived from Kongu Vellala Gounder, a community with a significant presence in the area.
  • It was ruled over by the Chera, Pandya, Chola, Hoysala, Muslim rulers, and finally the British.
  • In 942 C.E., Parantaka I appointed his relative and general Veerachozha Mahimalaya Irukkuvel as ruler of Kongu Nadu and gave him the title of Kongu Chola.
  • Raja Raja is called Ganga Nadu kavvi and  Konga Nadu velipadittaruli. This means that while Raja Raja seized Ganga Nadu, he granted autonomy to Kongu Nadu.
  • For almost 300 years from 1,004 C.E., the Kongu Cholas ruled autonomously and they even adopted the names of the Imperial Cholas —Vikrama Chola, Kulottunga Chola, etc.
  • The Kongapadai festival in the Chittur Bhagavati temple in Palghat, Kerala recalls the attack by the Kongu army in the region.
  • The region includes prominent businesses and industrial hubs at Namakkal, Salem, Tirupur, and Coimbatore.

How States are Formed/Bifurcated?

  • To protect the unity and integrity of India, Article 3 of the Constitution vests the power to form new States in Parliament, which may pass the law on the subject.
  • The State has to move a resolution in the Assembly and once passed by the House, it will forward it to the Centre.
  • There is no requirement that Parliament shall consider the Assembly resolution, though it is mandatory that the President initiate the procedure and it ends with Parliament passing the relevant Bill.
  • If the Centre accepts the State's recommendation, a Bill can be introduced in either House of Parliament on the recommendation of the President.
  • Before drafting the Bill, it is open to the Centre to appoint a Commission to fix boundaries and for sharing waters, providing other guarantees and location of capitals, High Courts, and all other requirements of the States to be formed.

 

Sub-categorisation within Other Backward Classes

Context: The Union Cabinet has approved the Eleventh Extension of the term of the Commission constituted under Article 340 of the Constitution to examine the issue of sub-categorization within Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Background

  • To date, sub-categorization of OBCs as recommended by a few Commissions and implemented by some states has all used indicators of social backwardness as the criteria.
  • The First Backward Class Commission report of 1955, also known as the Kalekar report, had proposed sub-categorization of OBCs into backward and extremely backward communities.
  • In the Mandal Commission report of 1979, a dissent note by member L R Naik proposed sub-categorization in intermediate and depressed backward classes.
  • In 2015, former National Commission for OBCs under Justice (Retd) Eswaraiah asked for sub-categorization within OBCs into Extremely Backward Classes (Group A), More Backward.

Classes (Group B) and Backward Classes (Group C):

  • The present Commission was constituted under Article 340 of the Constitution in 2017. 
  • The Commission, headed by Justice (Retd.) Smt. G. Rohini commenced functioning in October 2017 and has since interacted with all the States/UTs which have subcategorized OBCs, and the State Backward Classes Commissions.

Details:

  • The commission to examine the sub-categorization of OBCs is all set to recommend a fixed quota.
  • It is possibly between 8 and 10 percent of the 27 percent OBC quota for about 1,900 of the 2,633 castes on the central list.
  • This is the first government-mandated exercise to quantify the skewed flow of benefits among different OBC communities and suggest steps to correct the imbalance.

Need of sub-categorization:

  • Presently, half of these 1,900-odd castes have availed less than three percent of reservations in jobs and education, and the rest availed zero benefits during the last five years.
  • Five-year data on OBC quota implementation in central jobs and higher educational institutions showed that a very small section has cornered the lion’s share.
  • According to the Commission, the classification is based on relative benefits availed and not relative social backwardness, which involves parameters such as social status, traditional occupations, religion, etc.
  • Using the quantum of benefits enjoyed by different communities to sub-categorize OBCs is a major departure from the recommendations of several Commissions in the past.

Dismissal of J&K government employees

Context:  Lt Governor of J&K has dismissed 11 government employees for alleged terror links under provisions of Article 311(2)(c) of the Constitution. 

About the news:

  • To screen the cases of employees suspected of involvement in activities requiring action under this provision of the Constitution, the Jammu and Kashmir government had in April this year constituted a Special Task Force.
  • It was headed by the Additional Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police as its chairman, and has members representing the Departments of Home, Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs.
  • The Special Task Force was tasked with compiling a record of such employees wherever necessary and referring it to a committee constituted by the government by an order dated July 30, 2020.
  • The charges against the sacked staffers range from propagating and promoting the secessionist ideology of Jamat-e-Islami, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, and their sponsors in Pakistan, to informing militants about the movement of security forces, harbouring militants, and hawala transactions.
  • The employees include two sons of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.

Constitutional provision :

  • Article 311 of the Constitution deals with ‘Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State’.
  • Under Article 311(2), no civil servant can be “dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges’’.

Cases in which the safeguards do not apply:

  • Exceptions to Article 311(2):
    • 2(a): It says that if a government employee is convicted in a criminal case, he can be dismissed without a Departmental Enquiry (DE).
    • 2(b): It says that the government employee can be dismissed if the authority empowered to dismiss or remove a person or to reduce him in rank is satisfied that for some reason, it is not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry or
    • 2(c): It says that the government employee can be dismissed when the President or the Governor is satisfied in the interest of the security of the state.  It is not required to hold such an inquiry. 
    • Note: Section 126 of the constitution of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir too, while providing safeguards to civil servants/government employees like in Article 311 of the Indian Constitution, laid down exceptions under which a person could be dismissed without holding an inquiry.
    • Remedy: The only available remedy for a terminated employee is to challenge the government’s decision in the High Court.

Karbi Anglong Agreement

Context

  • Recently, a tripartite agreement among five insurgent groups of Assam, the Centre and the state government was signed.

About:

Development Package:

  • A special development package of ₹1000 crore will be allocated over five years by the Central Government and the Assam Government to take up special projects for the development of Karbi areas.

Greater Autonomy:

  • This agreement will transfer as much autonomy as possible in exercising their rights to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, without affecting the territorial and administrative integrity of Assam.

Protection of Culture:

  • This agreement will ensure the protection of the culture, identity, language, etc. of the Karbi people and the all-around development of the region.

Karbi Welfare Council:

  • The Government of Assam will set up a Karbi Welfare Council to focus on the development of the Karbi people living outside the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council area.

Finance:

  • The Consolidated Fund of the State will be amended to meet the resources of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council.

Forest Rights Act, 2006

Context:

  • The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
  • It will elevate the socio-economic status of tribals and nomadic communities, including Gujjar-Bakerwals and Gaddi-Sippis.
  • The decision will address the prolonged suffering of tribal people and also ensure forest conservation.

About Forest rights act, 2006

  • The law deals with the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
  • Eligibility is confined to those who “primarily reside in forests” and who depend on forests and forest land for a livelihood.
  • Further, either the claimant must be a member of the Scheduled Tribes scheduled in that area or must have been residing in the forest for 75 years.

National Commission for Minorities

Context:

  • Former IPS officer Iqbal Singh Lalpura has been chosen as chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.

About:

Background:

  • In 1978, the setting up of the Minorities Commission (MC) was envisaged in the Ministry of Home Affairs Resolution.
  • In 1984, the MC was detached from the Ministry of Home Affairs and placed under the newly created
  • Ministry of Welfare, which excluded linguistic minorities from the Commission’s jurisdiction in 1988.
  • In 1992, with the enactment of the NCM Act, 1992, the MC became a statutory body and was renamed as the NCM.
  • In 1993, the first Statutory National Commission was set up and five religious communities viz the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) were notified as minority communities.
  • In 2014, Jains were also notified as a minority community.

Composition:

  • NCM consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and five members and all of them shall be from amongst the minority communities.
  • A total of 7 persons to be nominated by the Central Government should be from amongst persons of eminence, ability and integrity.
  • Each member holds office for a period of three years from the date of assumption of office.

Functions:

  • Evaluation of the progress of the development of minorities under the Union and States.
  • Monitoring of the working of the safeguards for minorities provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the state legislatures.

Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission 

Context:

  • The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission was recently launched by PM. The mission will provide a digital health ID to the people who will hold their health records.

About:

  • The pilot project of Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission was announced on August 15 last year.
  • Currently, the programme is being implemented in the pilot phase in six union territories (Chandigarh, Ladakh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep).

Features of the Mission:

  • It is a digital health ecosystem under which every Indian citizen will now have unique health IDs, digitised health records with identifiers for doctors and health facilities.
  • The scheme will come under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
  • It comprises six key building blocks — HealthID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, e-Pharmacy and Telemedicine.
  • The National Health Authority has been given the mandate to design, build, roll out and implement the mission in the country.
  • The core building blocks of the mission is that the health ID, DigiDoctor and Health Facility Registry shall be owned, operated and maintained by the Government of India.
  • Private stakeholders will have an equal opportunity to integrate and create their own products for the market. The core activities and verifications, however, remain with the government.
  • Under the Mission, every Indian will get a Health ID card that will store all medical details of the person including prescriptions, treatment, diagnostic reports and discharge summaries.
  • Health ID is a randomly generated 14 digit number used for the purposes of uniquely identifying persons, authenticating them, and threading their health records (only with their informed consent) across multiple systems and stakeholders.
  • The citizens will be able to give their doctors and health providers one-time access to this data during visits to the hospital for consultation.

North-Eastern Council

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Vice President of India advised the North-Eastern Council to propel the NE region on a resurgent phase of accelerated development by quickly resolving issues that have been impeding its progress.
    • About North Eastern Council (NEC):
    • It is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the North Eastern Region which consists of the eight States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. 
    • It was constituted in 1971 by an Act of Parliament.
    • NEC members: the Governors and the Chief Ministers of the 8 states including Sikkim, Chairman and 3 members who are nominated by the country’s President. 
  • Functions:
    • To discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in the Council have a common interest and advise the Central Government and the Governments of the States concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter, particularly with regard to:
      • any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning.
      • any matter concerning inter-State Transport and Communications.
      • any matter relating to Power or Flood-control projects of common interest.

Karnataka Gambling Law: Ambit and the High Court Challenge

  • Context:
    • Last month, the Karnataka legislature passed legislation to amend the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, making all forms of gambling, including online, a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
  • Gambling Law:
    • The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 was notified and came into force.
    • It is aimed at broadening the scope of gambling beyond what has been defined by law.
    • It was passed despite similar laws introduced in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana having faced legal challenges.
  • What forms of gambling does the new law cover?
    • The amended law covers all forms of wagering or betting “in connection with any game of chance” with the exception of horse racing and lotteries.
    • It also puts betting on the skills of others in the category of gambling.
    • It provides an exception only to any pure game of skill and not to “wagering by persons taking part in such game of skill”.
  • Penalties prescribed
    • It enhances maximum punishment for owners of gambling centres from one year to three years of imprisonment and fines from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
    • The minimum punishment proposed is six months instead of the current one month and the fine is Rs 10,000 instead of Rs 500.
  • Implications of the law:
    • Since the new law came into effect, several online gaming firms have geo-locked their apps and sites in Karnataka to prevent attracting police action if customers access the sites.
  • Legal issues raised by the amended laws:
    • One of the primary grounds on which the new gaming laws in these states has been challenged is:
      • Games of skill: This has been clubbed along with games of chance in the definition of gaming if the games of skill are played for prizes or bets.
      • Violation of FR: Gaming companies have argued — successfully that competitive games of skill are business activities protected under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
      • Other examples: Rummy and horse racing have been classified by the courts as games of skill that do not come under the purview of gaming laws.
      • Competence of the state: It has been argued that states do not have “legislative competence” to prohibit games of skill and that only games of chance can be regulated for gambling and betting.
  • Why has Karnataka amended the law?
    • Ban on online gambling: The statement of objects and reasons justify that the new law is needed to make gambling a cognisable and non-bailable offence (gambling in public streets remains cognisable and bailable).
    • More power to Police: Another reason cited is that police cannot raid gambling dens without a formal written order from a magistrate, since gambling is a non-cognisable and bailable offence.
    • Public demands for ban: Recent public interest litigations seeking a ban on online gaming and betting, too, have been a trigger for the amendments.
    • Illicit use of cyber-space: The new law has also been introduced to include the use of cyberspace as defined in the IT Act 2000 to curb the menace of gaming through the internet.
  • Will these amendments stand the test of law?
    • As mentioned, a similar law in Tamil Nadu was struck down by the Madras High Court as being ultra vires after it was challenged by online gaming firms.
    • The court ruled that- Games and sporting activities in the physical form cannot be equated with games conducted in virtual mode or in cyberspace.
    • However, when it comes to card games or board games such as chess or Scrabble, there is no distinction between the skill involved in the physical form of the activity or in the virtual form.
    • The HC said both rummy and poker are games of skill.

Caste Census

  • Context:
    • The Union government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme court elaborating on the reasons for not disclosing the caste data.
  • What is the relevancy of cast census?  
    • It will generate data on the educational level, occupation, household assets and life expectancy for each group that it enumerates at each level that it recognises.
    • In line with SC- Indra Sawhney judgment of the Supreme Court had demanded that such evidence be collected every 10 years in order to screen out the privileged castes from the benefits of reservations.
    • Rationalisation of policy and schemes- India runs the world’s largest affirmative welfare programme based on caste identity. Reservation in educational institutes and government jobs are provided on the basis of caste  identities
  • What is the Union government’s stand? 
    • A humongous number of castes in India- As detailed in the affidavit, while the total number of castes counted in the  1931 Census was 4,147, the SECC of 2011 returned over 46 lakh caste names.
    • Absence of all India level caste registry.
    • Absence of categorical constitutional or statutory requirements to count castes other than SCs and STs in the  Census.
  • What are the counterarguments? 
    • Errors by enumerators: The enumerators also got confused over the spellings and classification of the castes and they included all of them under different castes.
    • Negligent functioning: The Government’s affidavit admits that no other member was appointed to the Arvind  Panagariya committee which was charged with the classification of caste names returned in SECC  2011committee. Therefore, neither did the committee ever meet nor did it fulfil its mandate in six years.
      • Articles 15(4) and 15(5) of the Indian Constitution have explicitly recognised “socially and educationally backward classes of citizens” as a category distinct from SCs and STs and enabled the State to make special provisions for their advancement.
    • Exaggeration of the errors committed: “99% of the castes enumerated had a population of fewer than 100 persons.  The govt reported in 2016 that the errors under SECC 2011 amount to 1% only. Hence how can the same government now characterise the entire findings of the caste census as “fraught with mistakes and inaccuracies”?
  • What can be done? 
    • Caste registry can be created by the Union and State governments, acting together, by combining the central lists of SCs and STs and the State lists of OBCs.
    • Training manuals for the enumerators can also be drawn up on the basis of a single, consolidated caste list for each State.

Reservations in Private Sector:

  • Context:
    • The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020 covers private companies, societies, trusts, and partnership firms in the state, as per a notification issued by the state government. It provides 75 percent reservation for local youth in private sector jobs that offer a salary of less than Rs 30,000 a month, from January 15, 2022.
  • What does the “local candidate” mean?
    • A candidate “who is domiciled in State of Haryana” is called a local candidate and shall be able to avail the benefit of this reservation while seeking employment in private sector. 
  • Legal issues in such laws:
    • The issue of forcing the private sector to comply with reservations in employment. For mandating reservation in public employment, the state draws its power from Article 16(4) of the Constitution.
    • The Constitution has no manifest provision for private employment from which the state draws the power to make laws mandating reservation.
  • Provisions of the Bill:
  1. The local candidates may be from any district of Haryana, but the employer shall have the discretion to restrict the employment of local candidates from any district to 10 per cent of the total number of local candidates.
  2. The employer may claim exemption where an adequate number of local candidates of the desired skill, qualification or proficiency is not available. The employer will have to apply to a Designated Officer.
  3. The Designated Officer may accept/ reject the claim of the employer seeking exemption. The Designated Officer may also direct the employer to train local candidates to achieve the desired skill, qualification or proficiency.
  4. Every employer will have to furnish a quarterly report on the designated portal and mention details about local candidates employed and appointed during that period.
  5. The employer can be fined a minimum of Rs. 10,000 to a maximum of Rs. 2 lakh once it is established that the employer has committed a violation of provisions of the Act. 

Char Dham Road Widening

  • Context:
    • Alluding to the Chinese military build-up across the Line of Actual Control, the Centre told the Supreme Court that wider roads are needed in the Char Dham mountain region of Uttarakhand to transport missiles like the BrahMos and other critical military equipment.
  • About the project:
    • A flagship initiative of the Centre, the Rs 12,000-crore highway expansion project was envisaged in 2016 to widen 889 km of hill roads to provide all-weather connectivity in the Char Dham circuit, covering Uttarakhand’s four major shrines — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri — in the upper Himalayas.
  • The controversy:
    • A wider road requires additional slope cutting, blasting, tunnelling, dumping and deforestation – all of which will further destabilise the Himalayan terrain, and increase vulnerability to landslides and flash floods.
  • The defence angle:
  1. While conceived primarily to facilitate the Char Dham yatras (pilgrimage) and to boost tourism, the project always had a strategic angle to it as the highways would facilitate troop movement to areas closer to the China border. 
  2. The wider the road, the quicker the defence deployment and supplies. But widening a mountain highway, particularly on the young, still-unsettled Himalayas, runs the risk of leaving the slopes more unstable.
  • Conclusion:
    • The “best defence for our country is the Himalayas. If those are undone, coming generations will see the impact. If winter precipitation and Ganga flow are hampered, water security will be a huge problem.
    • The judgment is likely to serve as a benchmark for “balancing both concerns” within the legal framework and draw a not-so-fine line between vanity projects and strategic imperative.

General consent for the CBI by the States

  • Context: 
    • The Supreme Court has weighed in on the phenomenon of state governments withdrawing their consent for the agency to investigate. 
  • What is general consent?
    • The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is governed by The NIA Act, 2008, has jurisdiction across the country.
    • But the CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government concerned before beginning to investigate a crime in a state.
    • The consent of the state government can be either case-specific or general.
  • States which have withdrawn general consent:
  1. Eight states have currently withdrawn consent to the CBI: Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, and Mizoram.
  • What does the withdrawal of general consent mean?
    • It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving officials of the central government or a private person in the state without the consent of the state government.
    • CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.
  • Types of cases the CBI investigates in a state:
    • The CBI investigates three types of cases through three specialised wings. 

 

  1. The Anti-Corruption Division that probes cases of corruption against public servants.
  2. The Economic Offences Division probes crimes of financial malfeasance, bank frauds, money laundering, black money operations, and the like. However, the CBI usually transfers cases of money laundering to the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
  3. There is a Special Crimes Division to investigate cases of violence such as murder, crimes related to internal security such as espionage, narcotics and banned substances, and cheating. It is this division of the CBI that generally handles cases that get wide media coverage, for example, actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case.

Governor’s role in the state, central universities

Context:

  • Kerala Governor has written a letter to the Kerala Chief Minister expressing his desire to step down as Chancellor, alleging political interference in the universities. 

The role of the Governor in State Universities:

  • He is the ex-officio chancellor of the universities in that state. As the chancellor, he presides over the university convocation and also appoints the Vice-Chancellor.
  • But the Governor’s exact power as the Chancellor is laid out in the statutes that govern the universities under a particular state government.
  • For example: In Kerala, the Governor’s official portal states that as Chancellor, he acts independently of the Council of Ministers and takes his own decisions on all University matters.
  • On the other hand, the website of Rajasthan’s Raj Bhawan states that the Governor appoints the Vice-Chancellor on the advice/ in consultation with the State Government.

The role of the Governor in central Universities:

  • Under the Central Universities Act, 2009, the President of India shall be the Visitor of a central university.  
  • With their role limited to presiding over convocations, Chancellors in central universities are appointed by the President in his capacity as Visitor. 
  • The VCs too are appointed by the Visitor from panels of names picked by search and selection committees formed by the Union government. 
  • The President, as the Visitor, also has the right to authorize inspections of academic and non-academic aspects of the universities and also to institute inquiries.

Ken-Betwa river interlinking project

Context:

  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the funding and implementation of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project at a cost of ₹44,605 crores at the 2020-21 price level.

About the Project:

  • It is the first major centrally-driven river interlinking project in the country.
  • It is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the interlinking of rivers.
  • The project involves transferring surplus water from the Ken river in Madhya Pradesh to the Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh and irrigating 3.64 lakh hectares in the Bundelkhand region of both States.
  • Through the construction of 77-meter tall and a 2-km wide Daudhan dam and a 230-km canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha Barrage, and the Bina Complex Multipurpose Project.
  • It has been declared a National Project by the Government of India.

Implementation:

  • Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Ken-Betwa Link Project Authority (KBLPA) will be set up to implement the project.
  • The Centre has set in motion the process of creation of the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA), an independent autonomous body for planning, investigation, financing, and implementation of the interlinking of river (ILR) projects in the country.
  • The NIRA will have the power to set up SPV for individual link projects.

Significance of the Project:

  • The immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region.
  • The project is slated to irrigate 10.62 lakh hectares annually, provide drinking water supply to 62 lakh people and generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power.
  • Boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation.
  • It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region.

Sixth Schedule And Ladakh

Context:

  • Member of Parliament from Ladakh demanded to include Ladakh in the 6th schedule of the constitution. Ladakh became UT in 2019 and since then residents of Ladakh are demanding for 6th schedule.
  • If included, Ladakh will be the only UT in the Sixth Schedule. Also, bestowing such a status to Ladakh would require a constitutional amendment.

Need:

  • It is estimated that more than 90% of Ladakh’s population is tribal. The primary Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Ladakh are Balti Beda, Bot (or Boto), Brokpa (or Drokpa, Dard, Shin), Changpa, Garra, Mon, and Purigpa.
  • Thereby several distinct cultural heritages of these communities in the Ladakh region need to be preserved and promoted.
  • Prior to the creation of the Union Territory of Ladakh, people in the Ladakh region had certain agrarian rights including the right to the land which restricted people from other parts of the country to purchase or acquire land in Ladakh.
  • Inclusion in the sixth schedule will help in the democratic devolution of powers in the region and will also enhance the transfer of funds for the speedy development of the region.

Sixth Schedule

The Constitution, under Sixth Schedule, contains special provisions for the administration of tribal areas in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.

Autonomous Districts:

  • The tribal areas in these four states have been constituted as autonomous districts. The governor is empowered to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts.
  • The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.
  • The power of direction, in this regard, lies either with the President or Governor.

District Council:

  • Each autonomous district has a district council consisting of 30 members, of whom four are nominated by the Governor and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise.
  • The elected members hold office for a term of five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and nominated members to hold office during the pleasure of the governor.
  • Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.

Constitutional provisions and underpinning:

Right to be forgotten:

  • The Right to be Forgotten falls under the purview of an individual’s right to privacy.
  • In 2017, the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right (under Article 21) by the Supreme Court in its landmark verdict (Puttuswamy case).
  • The right to privacy is also governed by the Personal Data Protection Bill that is yet to be passed by Parliament.
  • The bill exclusively talks about the “Right to be Forgotten.”
  • Broadly, under the Right to be forgotten, users can de-link, limit, delete or correct the disclosure of their personal information held by data fiduciaries.

Tamil Nadu brings in State Song

Context:

  • The Tamil Nadu Government has declared the Tamil Thai Vaazhthu as State Song.
  • The decision came after the Madras High Court ruling that there is no statutory or executive order requiring the attendees to stand up when Tamil Thai Vaazhthu is sung.

Tamil Thai Vaazhthu:

  • A part of the verses under the title ‘Tamil Dheiva Vanakkam’ from Manonmaniam, penned by Manonmaniam Sundaranar and published in 1891, eventually came to be known as the Tamil Thai Vaazhthu.
  • The Tamil Thai Vaazhthu is being sung at Karanthai Tamil Sangam since 1914.
  • It is also being sung at all Tamil Sangams associated with the Karanthai Tamil Sangam.
  • The Karanthai Tamil Sangam had appealed to the then Chief Minister, C.N. Annadurai, to declare Tamil Thai Vaazhthu the State song.

The Madras HC observation:

  • There is no statutory or executive order requiring attendees to stand up when it was being sung.
  • The court, however, ruled that Tamil Thai Vaazhthu “is a prayer song and not an Anthem”.
  • The song is sung at the commencement (and not at the end) of all functions organized by government departments, local bodies, and educational institutions.

About National Anthem:

  • In the Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala (1986) Case, the Supreme Court ordered the readmission to the school of three children who had been expelled for refusing to sing the national anthem.
  • It was then noted by the SC that there is no provision of law that obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem.
  • Again, the Supreme Court had, in Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India (2017), directed that all cinema halls shall play the national anthem before the film and all present are obliged to stand.

 

Revisiting the definition of EWS

Context:

  • A three member-committee set up to examine the income criteria for determining the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) is expected to submit its report to the Centre.

The current income criteria fixed for EWS:

  • EWS reservation was granted based on the recommendations of a commission headed by Major General (retd) SR Sinho.
  • The current criteria fixed for EWS is:

The Supreme Court observed that the ​​present income ceiling fixed for EWS is the same as that for OBCs for quotas for people outside of government.

This is arbitrary because of two reasons: 

  • The Income criterion in respect of the OBC category is aimed at the exclusion of a creamy layer from the OBC category while in the case of the EWS category, it is aimed at the inclusion of the poor.
  • The OBC category is socially and educationally backwards and therefore has additional impediments to overcome as compared to those belonging to the general category. In these circumstances, it would be arbitrary to provide the same income limit both for the OBC and EWS categories.

AFSPA (Armed forces special power act)

  • Context:
    • Recently, the army operation resulted in the tragic death of 14 civilians in Nagaland, due to mistaken identity as insurgents. According to a report from Kohima, the government agreed to compensate the victims, but the incident led to the protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) once again in the region.
    • In June 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs had declared the entire State of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months under the AFSPA.
  • About the AFSPA:
    • AFSPA was first promulgated in 1942, by Linlithgow,  in response to the Quit India movement in 1942. Its aim was “to confer special powers upon certain officers of the armed forces.
    • After Independence, the Act was retained by the ordinance enacted in 1958, to control increasing violence in the North-eastern States, which the State governments found difficult to control. In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
    • What is a “disturbed area” under AFSPA?
      • According to Section 3 of the AFSPA, an area can be declared 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.
    • Powers given to armed forces under AFSPA:
      • 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 armed forces feel a person is in contravention of the law.
      • Can arrest a person without a warrant, enter or search premises without a warrant, and ban the possession of firearms.
  • Need for AFSPA:
    • Provide legal powers to Army: The Armed forces have no constitutional authority or legal powers to use force or firearms against anyone except in 1. War, 2. When guarding the international border, 3. They were in “aid to civil authority”, But a magistrate must be present at each spot to authorize the use of force in writing on a particular form.
    • A magistrate’s presence cannot be ensured with the current modus operandi of terrorists, insurgents, and militants. So, separate legislation is necessary.
    • Better counterinsurgency in border areas: Northeast India is an area of immense geostrategic importance, which shares boundaries with five countries, including Myanmar and China. It is important that the insurgency situation is brought under control. So, the Act gives security forces sweeping powers of arrest and to continue counterinsurgency operations without getting any hesitation.
    • Further, Security forces are not charged for their actions to protect the morale and integrity of the army.
    • So, the Army is of the opinion that the Act helps to control insurgency operations and protect the borders.
    • Reduce the cost of court hearings for Armed forces: The only legal right a soldier has, apart from AFSPA, is the right of “private defense” (of life or property), which must be proved post-facto in a court of law, and this takes many years of court hearings.
    • Defending such cases, in courts, would, obviously, leave no time or resources for any other military responsibilities, for years. Under AFSPA, only the person given the order to fire is responsible.
  • Criticism:
    • The Act provides the security personnel with absolute powers without accountability. This leads to various issues.
    • In 2013, the Supreme Court appointed Hegde Commission. The commission found that all seven deaths in the six cases it investigated were extrajudicial executions. The commission also said that the AFSPA was widely abused by security forces in Manipur. This commission report applies to other areas where the AFSPA is in force.
    • Human rights violations: In over 20 years, the Centre has denied prosecution sanctions under AFSPA in all cases recommended by the J&K government against army men.
    • Till today, no security personnel involved in serious criminal offenses in the Northeast has been charged or put behind bars. This is a violation of Human Rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

EWS Quota and NEET Examinations

  • Context:
    • On January 1, 2021, A special committee has submitted a report to the Supreme Court on reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
    • A special committee was created to review the eligibility criteria of 10% reservations for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in government institutes and jobs. Petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court, to challenge the income criteria for the EWS quota in the NEET exam, which determines admissions to medical colleges. While hearing the petition, the court asked the central government how it arrived at Rs 8 lakh income limit. Following this, an expert committee was proposed to review the EWS quota criteria.
  • Key Recommendations:
    • In a report, the panel has suggested implementing the recommendations only from the next admission cycle and not from the ongoing session.
    • This is so because sudden change will cause major disruption across educational institutes as well as create complications for authorities and beneficiaries.
    • Committee has suggested dropping the existing criteria on residential asset size. It also suggested retaining the Rs 8 lakh annual income limit.
    • It recommends continuing the existing process, which is in effect since 2019, for the current admission cycle
    • It further suggests using ‘a a three-year feedback loop cycle’ for monitoring the actual outcomes of these criteria and then using them to adjust in the future.
    • It also suggests using data exchange and information technology activities for verifying income & assets as well as improving targeting for EWS reservations.
    • It suggests removing residential asset criteria, because mere possession of a residential house may not reflect the economic condition of the candidate or his family.
  • About:
    • The 10% EWS quota was introduced under the 103rd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2019 by amending Articles 15 and 16.
    • It inserted Article 15 (6) and Article 16 (6).
    • It is for economic reservation in jobs and admissions in educational institutes for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
    • It was enacted to promote the welfare of the poor not covered by the 50% reservation policy for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
    • It enables both the Centre and the states to provide reservations to the EWS of society.

Reservation 'not at odds' with merit, SC upholds 27% OBC quota in NEET

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has pronounced its decision upholding the constitutional validity of providing a 27% quota to Other Backward Classes (OBC) in NEET All India Quota (AIQ) seats for UG and PG medical courses.
    • The issue:
      • The petitioners, several NEET aspirants, had argued that since the top court had limited reservation to 50% in the Indira Sawhney judgment, the government should have first applied to the court before tinkering with the quota calculations.
      • The court further confirmed that there was no need for the Centre to have gotten the prior consent of the Supreme Court before introducing the OBC quota in the AIQ seats under NEET.
      • The court reasoned that the material affluence of certain individual members of a socially backward group or ‘creamy layer’ could not be used against the entire group to deny it the benefits of reservation.
    • Key observations of the Apex Court:
      • The SC has held that reservation is not at odds with merit.
      • It observed that ‘merit’ could not be narrowed to the limit of success in open competitive exams.
      • The merit of a person is a sum total of “lived experiences” and his or her struggle to overcome cultural and social setbacks, observed the SC.

Deputation of Cadre Officers

  • Context:
    • The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) wrote to the States on January 12 that the Union Government proposes to amend Rule 6 (Deputation of cadre officers) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954.
    • The proposed rules will provide overriding powers to the Union Government to transfer IAS and IPS officers for Central deputation.
  • The present rules for the deputation of cadre officers:
    • Rule 6(1) of the IAS Cadre Rules says an officer may, “with the concurrence of the State Governments concerned and the Central Government, be deputed for service under the Central Government or another State Government…” It says “in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government and the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government.”
    • The Establishment Officer in the DoPT invites nominations from the State governments. Once the nomination is received, their eligibility is scrutinized by a panel, and then an offer list is prepared, usually with the State government on board. The Centre would choose officers only from among those “on offer” from the States.
    • The States would relieve the officers picked up by the Centre at the earliest. Before any officer of the AIS is called for deputation to the Centre, his or her concurrence is required. Further, the officers have to get a no-objection clearance from the State government for the Central deputation
    • States have to depute All India Services (AIS) officers, including the Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, to the Central government offices and at any point, deputation cannot be more than 40% of the total cadre strength of the state.
  • Proposed amendments to Rule 6 (deputation of cadre officers):
    • If the State government delays posting a State cadre officer to the Centre and does not give effect to the Central government’s decision within the specified time, “the officer shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the Central government.”
    • The number of deputed officers will be decided by the Centre: The Centre will decide the actual number of officers to be deputed to the Central government in consultation with the State. For that, the State should make eligible the names of such officers.
    • The decision of the Centre will be supreme: In case of any disagreement between the Centre and the State, the matter shall be decided by the Central government and the State shall give effect to the decision of the Centre “within a specified time.”
    • Mandatory deputation in case of public interest: In a specific situation where services of cadre officers are required by the Central government in “public interest,” the State shall give effect to its decisions within a specified time.

Governor

  • Context:
    • In recent years, we are witnessing many instances of confrontation between state governments and Governors.
  • Issues:
    • Governor serves as a link in federal polity between center and state, having a key role in cooperative federalism.
    • However, Governors today are being called the ‘agents of the Centre’. In recent years, the bitterness between states and Governors has been largely about:
      • The selection of the party to form a government.
      • Passing negative remarks on the state administration.
      • Activist role of the Governor.
      • Delay in giving consent to Bills.
      • Use of Article 356.
  • Reasons:
    • Appointment: The constitution did not specify any qualifications (Article 157). Thus, Governors have become political appointees of the center.
    • Removal: As per Article 156, the Governor holds office during the pleasure of the President. Hence, there is apprehension that Governor acts in favour of the Centre.
    • Powers of Governor: There are no guidelines for the exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
  • Reforms needed:
    • Selection of the Governor through a panel involving the Chief Minister.
    • Laying down specific qualifications.
    • Fixing Governor’s tenure for five years.
    • Provision to impeach the Governor by the Assembly.
    • Laying down specific guidelines for use of powers.

I&B Ministry’s powers to regulate content

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) informed Media One, a Malayalam-language news channel, through an order that its broadcast license had been cancelled, citing a Home Ministry order that had denied security clearance to the channel.
  • Sectors regulated by the I&B Ministry:
    • Until last year, it had the powers to regulate content across all sectors — TV channels, newspapers and magazines, movies in theatres and on TV, and the radio — barring the internet. 
    • The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, extended its regulatory powers over internet content too, especially on digital news platforms and OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hotstar.
  • Powers of ministry:
    • Regarding TV channels, there is a three-tier grievance redressal structure for viewers to raise concerns if any. A viewer can successively approach the channel, then a self-regulatory body of the industry, and finally the I&B Ministry, which can issue a show-cause notice to the channel, and then refer the issue to an inter-ministerial committee (IMC).
    • For content on OTT platforms too, there is a similar structure.
    • The ministry has the Electronic Media Monitoring Cell, which tracks channels for any violations of the programming and advertising codes mentioned in the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994. Violation can lead to the revocation of a channel’s license.
    • In print, based on the recommendations of the Press Council of India (PCI), the government can suspend its advertising to a publication.
    • And IT rules allow the I&B Ministry to issue orders to ban websites based on their content.

Goa's liberation struggle

  • Context:
    • Goa's liberation struggle was in news in the wake of the elections in Goa.
  • Goa’s freedom movement:
    • In 1510, Goa became a Portuguese colony, when Afonso de Albuquerque defeated the forces of the sultan of Bijapur, Yusuf Adil Shah.
    • For the next four and a half centuries, Goa was under Portuguese rule, which led to a distinct Goan identity that continues to be a source of contestation even today.
    • By the turn of the twentieth century, Goa had started to witness an upsurge of nationalist sentiment opposed to Portugal’s colonial rule, in sync with the anti-British nationalist movement in the rest of India.
    • Stalwarts such as Tristão de Bragança Cunha celebrated as the father of Goan nationalism, founded the Goa National Congress at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress in 1928.
    • In 1946, the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia led a historic rally in Goa that gave a call for civil liberties and freedom, and eventual integration with India, which became a watershed moment in Goa’s freedom struggle.
    • As India moved towards independence, however, it became clear that Goa would not be free any time soon, because of a variety of complex factors.
    • Goa was liberated on December 19, 1961, by swift Indian military action that lasted less than two days (Operation Vijay).

Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border dispute

  • Context:
    • Tensions were reported along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. The flashpoint was the ongoing construction of the Likabali-Durpai road being built under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).
  • Origin of the dispute:
    • Arunachal Pradesh was carved out of Assam and the two states share a boundary of over 800 km.
    • The dispute dates back to colonial times, when the British in 1873 announced the “inner line” regulation, demarcating an imaginary boundary between plains and frontier hills.
    • Frontier hills were later designated as the North-East Frontier Tracts in 1915, which corresponds to the area that makes up present-day Arunachal Pradesh.
    • After Independence, the Assam government assumed administrative jurisdiction over the North East Frontier Tracts, which later became the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1954, and finally, the Union Territory (UT) of Arunachal Pradesh in 1972.
    • Arunachal Pradesh gained statehood in 1987.
  •  Gopinath Bordoloi committee:
    • In 1951, a sub-committee headed by then Assam chief minister Gopinath Bordoloi made some recommendations about the administration of NEFA (under Assam).
    • Based on the Bordoloi committee report, around 3,648 sq km of the “plain” area of Balipara and Sadiya foothills was transferred from Arunachal Pradesh (then NEFA) to Assam. This remains the bone of contention between the two states as Arunachal Pradesh refuses to accept this notification as to the basis of demarcation.
    • Arunachal Pradesh has long held that the transfer was done without the consultation of its people. Assam, on the other hand, feels that this demarcation as per the 1951 notification is constitutional and legal.
  • Efforts at demarcation:
    • The border issues came to the fore after Arunachal Pradesh became a UT in 1972.
    • By 1983-84, out of the 800 km, 489 km, mostly on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, were demarcated. However, further demarcation could not commence because Arunachal Pradesh did not accept the recommendations, and claimed several kilometers out of the 3,648 sq km that was transferred as per the 1951 notification.
    • Assam objected and filed a case in the Supreme Court in 1989, highlighting an “encroachment” made by Arunachal Pradesh.
    • To resolve the dispute, the apex court-appointed a local boundary commission in 2006, headed by a retired SC judge. However, nothing came of it.

What is ‘Z’ Category Security?

  • Context:
    • A noted Parliamentarian from Hyderabad has rejected the ‘Z’ category security by the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) accorded to him.
  • Security Provisions in India:
    • In India, security is provided to high-risk individuals by the police and local government.
    • The level of security needed by any individual is decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs, based on inputs received from intelligence agencies which include the IB and R&AW.
    • Individuals such as PM, home minister, and other officials such as the National Security Advisor generally get security cover because of the positions they occupy.
    • In addition to this, persons who are believed to be under threat also receive security cover.
  • What is ‘Z’ Category Security?
    • In India, the category covers are X, Y, Y-plus, Z, Z-plus, and SPG (Special Protection Group).
    • X Category: The protectee gets one gunman. Protectees in the X category have one gunman for mobile security and one (plus four on rotation) for static security.
    • Y Plus category: It receives the cover of two gunmen (plus four on rotation) for mobile security and one (plus four on rotation) for residence security,
    • Z Category: It has six gunmen for mobile security and two (plus 8) for residence security. They get 10 security personnel for mobile security, and two (plus 8) for residence security.
    • Z Plus Category: It is provided by National Security Guard commandos whereas the other category of security is provided by the Delhi police or the ITBP or CRPF personnel.
  • What about the Special Protection Group (SPG) Cover?
    • The SPG cover is meant only for the PM and his immediate family.
    • After Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own security guards in 1984, the Rajiv Gandhi government decided to create a special cadre of security personnel for the PM.
    • In March 1985, following the recommendations of a committee set up by the Home Ministry, a special unit was created for this purpose under the Cabinet Secretariat.
    • This unit, initially called the Special Protection Unit, was renamed as Special Protection Group in April 1985.

Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS)

Context:

  • The Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS), a Union government initiative for skill development in rural areas, has brought high-speed internet to some of the remotest tribal hamlets deep inside the Nilambur jungle.

About Jan Shikshan Sansthan:

  • JSS, formerly known as Shramik Vidyapeeth, provides vocational skills by identifying skills that have a market in the region of their establishment.
  • It has been transferred from the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in July-2018.

Target Group:

  • Non-literate, neo-literates (education up to 8th standard) as well as school drop-outs (age group of 15- 35 years)
  • Socio-economically backward and educationally disadvantaged groups of rural/urban population.
  • Priority is given to women, SC, ST, OBC and Minorities in rural areas and urban slums.
  • JSSs are registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. It is implemented through NGOs with 100% grants from the Government of India.
  • Livelihood cell to be encouraged for self and wage employment and linkages with national / state portal for promotion of employment and job melas etc.
  • Courses having NSQF Compliant which has production, service and IT-oriented.
  • Life Enrichment Education part of the Skill training programme and Digital Literacy are also incorporated across the course curriculum.

Assam and Mizoram Dispute

Context:

  • Recently, several IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts were carried out inside the Cachar district of Assam allegedly by miscreants from Mizoram. These blasts signal the re-emergence of the long-unresolved Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute.
  • The boundary issue between Assam and Mizoram has existed since the formation of Mizoram — first as a union territory in 1972, and then as a full-fledged state in 1987.
  • In India, Inter-state disputes are multifaceted, besides disputes over boundaries, there are disputes over sharing of water (rivers) and migration also impacts the federal polity of India.

About:

  • The boundary issue between present-day Assam and Mizoram dates back to the colonial era when inner lines were demarcated according to the administrative needs of the British Raj.
  • The Assam-Mizoram dispute stems from two notifications passed under British era.
  • First, notification of 1875, that differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar.
  • Second, the notification of 1933, that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
  • Mizo leaders are against the demarcation notified in 1933, according to them, the Mizo society was not consulted.
  • On the other hand, the Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation.
  • As a result, both states continue to have a differing perception of the border and that is the point of conflict.
  • There is a 164.6-km inter-state border that separates Assam and Mizoram, with the three Assam districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj sharing a border with Kolasib, Mamit and Aizawl districts of Mizoram.
  • Further, the boundary between Mizoram and Assam follows naturally occurring barriers of hills, valleys, rivers and forests, and both sides have attributed border skirmishes to perceptional differences over an imaginary line.
  • In the Northeast’s complex boundary equations, clashes between Assam and Mizoram residents are less frequent than they are between other neighbouring states of Assam, like with Nagaland.

Legislature:

Antarctic Bill

Context:

  • The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 introduced in the Lok Sabha envisages regulating visits and activities to the Antarctic.

About the Antarctic treaty and India:

  • A member country is one of the 54 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 and India joined the Treaty System in 1983.
  • The Treaty parties meet each year at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
  • India has now established two standing research stations in Antarctica, Bharati and Maitri.
  • The major thrust areas of the Indian Antarctic Programme are climate processes and links to climate change, environmental processes and conservation and polar technology.
  • The Antarctic Treaty came into force on June 23, 1961 after ratification by the 12 countries then active in Antarctic science.
  • The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude.
  • Its key objectives are to demilitarise Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill

Context:

  • Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill has been passed by parliament and is now a act of parliament.

Features of the Act:

  • It repeals the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920.
  • It authorises law enforcement agencies to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples of convicts and other persons.
  • It authorises police to record signatures, handwriting or other behavioural attributes referred to in section 53 or section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  • Any state government of Union Territory administration may notify an appropriate agency to collect, preserve and share the measurements of a person of interest in their respective jurisdictions.
  • Resistance to or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • Define “measurements” to include finger impressions, palm-print and foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, etc.
  • Empower the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to collect, store and preserve the record of measurements and for sharing, dissemination, destruction and disposal of records.
  • Empower a Magistrate to direct any person to give measurements; a Magistrate can also direct law enforcement officials to collect fingerprints, footprint impressions and photographs in the case of a specified category of convicted and non-convicted persons.
  • Empower police or prison officers to take measurements of any person who resists or refuses to give measurements.

Office of WHIP

  • The concept of the whip was inherited from colonial British rule.
  • It is used in parliamentary parlance often for floor management by political parties in the legislature.
  • A whip is also an important office-bearer of the party in the Parliament.
  • A whip is a written order that a political party issues to its members for being present for an important vote.
  • The term is derived from the old British practice of “whipping in” lawmakers to follow the party line.
  • 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.
  • The office of ‘whip’, is mentioned neither in the Constitution of India nor in the Rules of the House nor in a Parliamentary Statute. It is based on the conventions of the parliamentary government.
  • There are some cases such as Presidential elections where whips cannot direct a Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) on whom to vote.
  • If an MP violates his party’s whip, he faces expulsion from the House under the Anti Defection Act.

Types of Whips:

  • The One-line whip informs the members about a vote. It allows a member to abstain in case they decide not to follow the party line.
  • The Two-line whip is issued to direct the members to be present in the House at the time of voting. No special instructions are given on the pattern of voting.
  • The Three-line whip is issued to members directing them to vote as per the party line. It is the strictest of all the whips.

Legislative Council

Context:

  • RJD (Rashtriya Janta Dal) won six seats in Bihar Legislative Council.

History of Legislative Council:

  • The Government of India Act, 1919, established the Rajya Sabha in 1921.
  • Then the Government of India Act of 1935 set up bicameral legislatures in Indian provinces.

Current Status:

  • Six States have a Legislative Council: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka.
  • In 2020, Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the resolution for the abolition of the Legislative Council. This resolution is yet to be cleared by the Parliament of India to finally abolish the council.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • The Indian Parliament has two Houses, similarly, states have a Legislative Council in addition to the Legislative Assembly through Article 169 of the Constitution.
  • The Parliament can abolish a Legislative Council created it by a simple majority.
  • States Can initiate a resolution for the creation of a legislative council with a special majority of the assembly. It is the only instance when a state can initiate a constitutional amendment.
  • Under Article 171, the Legislative Council shall not have more than one-third of the total strength of the State Assembly, and not less than 40 members.
  • It is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution.
  • The tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is six years, with one-third of the members retiring every two years.

Composition:

  • One-third of the MLCs are elected by the state’s MLAs,
  • Another 1/3rd by local bodies
  • 1/12th by an electorate of teachers and another 1/12th by registered graduates.
  • The remaining members are nominated by the Governor.

Digital Services Act

  • The European Parliament and European Union (EU) Member States announced that they had reached a political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), landmark legislation to force big Internet companies to act against disinformation and illegal and harmful content and to protect internet users.
  • The proposed Act will work in conjunction with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) which was approved in March 2022.

Introduction:

The key provision of DSA:

  • Instead of letting platforms decide how to deal with abusive or illegal content, the DSA will lay down specific rules and obligations for intermediary companies to follow.
  • Faster Removal: Online platforms and intermediaries such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc will have to add “new procedures for faster removal” of content deemed illegal or harmful.
  • Informed decisions: Further, these platforms will have to clearly explain their policy on taking down content; users will be able to challenge these takedowns as well.
  • Flagging Illegal content: Platforms will need to have a clear mechanism to help users flag content that is illegal. Platforms will have to cooperate with “trusted flaggers”. 
  • Systemic Analysis: The DSA adds “an obligation for very large digital platforms and services to analyse systemic risks they create and to carry out risk reduction analysis”. This audit for platforms like Google and Facebook will need to take place every year.
  • Independent Audit: The Act proposes to allow independent vetted researchers to have access to public data from these platforms to carry out studies to understand these risks better
  • Ban on Dark Patterns: The DSA proposes to ban ‘Dark Patterns’ or “misleading interfaces” that are designed to trick users into doing something that they would not agree to otherwise. This includes forcible pop-up pages, giving greater prominence to a particular choice, etc.
  • Crisis Situation: The DSA incorporates a new crisis mechanism clause — it refers to the Russia-Ukraine conflict — which will be activated by the Commission and be in force for 3 months  where special measures will be imposed
  • Transparency: It also proposes “transparency measures for online platforms on a variety of issues, including on the algorithms used for recommending content or products to users”.
  • Protection of Minors: The law proposes stronger protection for minors, and aims to ban targeted advertising for them based on their personal data.
  • Consumer convenience: Finally, it says that cancelling a subscription should be as easy as subscribing.
  • Penal Provisions: Penalties for breaching these rules could be huge — as high as 6% of the company’s global annual turnover.
  • According to the EU, DSA will apply to a “large category of online services, from simple websites to Internet infrastructure services and online platforms.” The obligations for each of these will differ according to their size and role.
  • The Crisis situation clause will make it “possible to analyse the impact of the activities of these platforms” on the crisis, and the Commission will decide the appropriate steps to be taken to ensure the fundamental rights of users are not violated.

Does this mean that social media platforms will now be liable for any unlawful content?

  • It has been clarified that the platforms and other intermediaries will not be liable for the unlawful behaviour of users. So, they still have ‘safe harbour’ in some sense.
  • However, if the platforms are “aware of illegal acts and fail to remove them,” they will be liable for this user behaviour.
  • Governance challenge includes the need for creating open environment that fosters innovation and regulating the companies to safeguard larger public interests.

Value Addition:

India’s Rules on Social Media Intermediaries:

  • India’s 2021 IT Rules make the social media intermediary and its executives liable if the company fails to carry out due diligence.
  • Social media intermediaries — such as Facebook or Google — must appoint a chief compliance officer (CCO), who could be booked if a tweet or post that violates local laws is not removed within the stipulated period.
  • India’s Rules also introduce the need to publish a monthly compliance report.
  • They include a clause on the need to trace the originator of a message — this provision has been challenged by WhatsApp in the Delhi High Court.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022

  • The bill seeks to expand the existing 2005 law of the same name, to include a ban on funding of weapons of mass destruction, and empowers the central government to freeze and seize the financial assets of people involved in such activities.
  • weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is defined as a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or another device that has the capacity to inflict death and destruction on a massive scale.
  • Examples include missiles or nuclear bombs, but as evident in the 9/11 terror attacks, even passenger jets can also be used as WMDs.

Need:

  • To provide against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems so as to fulfil our international obligations.
  • In recent times, regulations relating to the proliferation of WMDs and their delivery systems by international organisations have expanded.
  • United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) targeted financial sanctions and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) have mandated against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

  • It was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which came into force on 9th November 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
  • The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
  • It promotes settlements of disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanisms in which Lokadalat is a prime measure in providing compensation to victims of crime.

Persons Eligible for Free Legal Services:

  • Women and Children
  • Persons with disability
  • Member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes
  • Industrial Workmen
  • Persons in custody
  • Victims of natural disasters, ethnic/caste violence, industrial disaster
  • Victims of Human Trafficking or Begar.

Anti Defection Law

About:

  • The Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution deals with Anti Defection.
  • It was inserted in the Constitution in by 52nd Amendment Act, 1985.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies, also its application to both nominated and elected members.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • The law does not specify a time frame in which such a decision has to be made by the presiding officer.
  • The decision of the Presiding Officer is subject to judicial review

Criteria for Defection:

  • When a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House against the wishes of the party.
  • When a legislator who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
  • In the above two cases, the legislator loses the seat in the legislature on changing (or joining) a party.
  • In the case of nominated MPs, the law gives them six months to join a political party, after being nominated. If they join a party after such time, they stand to lose their seat in the House.

91st constitutional Amendment:

  • Earlier, a defection by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a ‘merger’. The amendment changed it to at least two-thirds.

Claim over Chandigarh

Context:

  • Haryana Deputy Chief Minister said it would be better if both Haryana and Punjab agreed on Chandigarh as a Union Territory.

Why this statement was made?

  • Haryana Deputy CM wants the states to make their independent capitals and Benches of High Courts.
  • On November 1, Haryana was celebrating 54 years of its formation as a separate state after it was carved out of undivided Punjab in 1966.
  • The statement once again brought into focus the long-simmering dispute between the two states over one of India’s most modern cities.
  • But Punjab has always refuted Haryana’s claims over Chandigarh.

Why was Chandigarh created?

  • Chandigarh was planned to replace Lahore, the capital of erstwhile Punjab, which became part of Pakistan during the Partition.
  • In March 1948, the Government of (India’s) Punjab, in consultation with the Centre, approved the area of the foothills of the Shivaliks as the site for the new capital.
  • From 1952 to 1966 (till Haryana was carved out of Punjab), Chandigarh remained the capital of Punjab.

How did it become a shared capital?

  • At the time of the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966, the city assumed the unique distinction of being the capital of both Punjab and Haryana.
  • It became a capital even as it was declared a union territory and was placed under the direct control of the Centre.
  • The properties in Chandigarh were to be divided in a 60:40 ratio in favour of Punjab.

What is Punjab’s claim?

  • The-then Prime Minister had announced that Haryana, in due course, would have its own capital and Chandigarh would go to Punjab.
  • The Centre had issued a formal communication is this regard on January 29, 1970, almost three years after Haryana came into being.
  • Again, in 1985, under the Rajiv-Longowal accord, Chandigarh was to be handed over to Punjab on January 26, 1986.
  • But the Rajiv Gandhi government withdrew at the last minute.

What is Haryana’s counter-claim?

  • As per the 1970 documents, the Centre had considered various alternatives for settling the matter, including dividing the city.
  • But that wasn’t feasible since Chandigarh was built as a planned city to serve as the capital of one state.
  • Haryana was told to use the office and residential accommodation in Chandigarh only for five years till it shifts to its own new capital.
  • The Centre had offered loan to Haryana for setting up the new capital.
  • In 2018, Haryana suggested to set up a special body for the development of Chandigarh.
  • But Punjab rejected it, saying the city indisputably belonged to it.
  • Haryana, on its part, has been demanding a separate High Court.
  • It has locked horns with Punjab by passing a resolution in the Vidhan Sabha demanding 20 rooms in the Vidhan Sabha complex that have been in the possession of Punjab.

Rajamannar Committee

  • The main objective of the Rajmannar Committee was to examine all the aspects of the Centre-State relations and also examine and identify the reasons for the prevailing Centralization tendencies, i.e. the unitary trends in the Central-State relations.
  • So, the committee was to recommend amendments to the Constitution in order to secure the much-needed autonomy of the State Government from arbitrary use of powers by the Central Government.

Recommendations of the Rajmannar Commission:

  • The committee recommended that an inter-state council should be set up immediately.
  • Financial Commission should be made an independent body.
  • The Planning Commission should be disbanded and its place should be replaced by a statutory body.
  • The Articles in the Constitution dealing with the provisions regarding President’s rule and State Emergency (Articles 356, 357 and 365) should be totally omitted.
  • The provision that the state ministry holds office during the pleasure of the governor should be omitted.
  • Certain specific subjects enlisted in the Union List and the Concurrent List should be transferred to the State List.
  • The All India Services (Indian Administrative Service, Police Service and Forest Service) should be abolished.
  • The residuary powers should be allocated to the States.

National Party

For a party to be recognised as a ‘national party’ it needs to meet one of the three criteria:

  • It needs to win at least two per cent of the total seats in the Lok Sabha (11 seats) from at least three different states.
  • Get at least six per cent votes in four states in addition to four Lok Sabha seats.
  • Be recognised as a ‘state party’ in four or more states.
  • For any party to be recognised as a state party, it must secure six per cent of the votes during the Assembly elections and two Assembly seats; or six per cent of votes in the Lok Sabha from the state and an MP from the state; or three per cent of total Assembly seats or three seats (whichever is greater); or one MP from every 25 Lok Sabha seats or eight per cent of total votes in the state during the Lok Sabha election from the state or the Assembly polls.

Perks of being a national party

  • Getting recognised as a national or a state party ensures that the election symbol of that party is not used by any other political entity in polls across India.
  • Other registered but unrecognised political parties have to choose from a pool of “free symbols” announced by the commission from time to time.

Andhra Capital

Context:

  • Andhra HC declared the state did not have 'legislative competence' to establish 3 capitals and ordered govt to develop Amaravati as the sole capital city.

About

  • According to the petitioners, Parliament enacted the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, in the exercise of the power conferred under Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution of India, which pertain to the creation of new states.
  • Article 3 provides for Parliament to make a law to form new states, and also to alter the areas, boundaries, or names of existing states.
  • Article 4 allows for consequential changes in the First Schedule of the Constitution, that is, the name of the states, and in the Fourth Schedule, which is the number of seats allotted in the Rajya Sabha for each state.
  • Therefore, Article 4, petitioners added, empowers Parliament to make supplemental, incidental, and consequential provisions as well and this would include creation of a new capital.
  • The petitioners argued the plenary power to Parliament is independent of the powers enumerated under Article 246, which deals with the jurisdiction of Parliament and state assembly to frame laws.
  • The court was told that the state assembly lacked legislative competence to shift the capital under the delegated powers of the AP Reorganisation Act, which only gives limited power to the state to alter the name, area, and boundaries of a district.

Mekedatu Issue

Context:

  • The stage appears to be set for another summer of discontent, as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu prepare for a political showdown over the Mekedatu drinking water project proposed by the former across the Cauvery River.  

What is this Mekedatu Issue:

  • Tamil Nadu has protested Karnataka's plan to build a reservoir at Mekedatu on the Cauvery River. Karnataka's plan to use 4.75 tmc as drinking water from a reservoir with a storage capacity of 67tmc ft is “unacceptable” to the state.
  •  The Karnataka government, on the other hand, has stated that there is no “compromise” on the Mekedatu project and that the state intends to proceed with it.
  • There are also plans to generate 400 MW of electricity, with revenue from power generation expected to cover the government's investment in the project in a few years.

Issues with the project:

  • Multiple clearances: Because the project involves the Cauvery water sharing dispute, it will require multiple clearances from the Centre and the courts.
  • Natural Habitats are Affected: The proposed land for the submergence zone is threatened species habitat. The project will have a negative impact on their natural environment.
  • Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu had been a vocal opponent of the project from the start, and had even petitioned the Supreme Court, claiming that any dam proposal in the Cauvery basin would deprive the state's delta farmers of their rightful share of water.
  • Karnataka: According to Karnataka, the project is within Karnataka's jurisdiction, and Tamil Nadu's permission is not required. It also claims that Karnataka can proceed with the project because no court has issued a stay.
  • Concerning the use of surplus water, Karnataka claims that any allocation in this area should be based on hydrology studies to determine the amount of excess water in the basin.

Way Ahead

  • The states must abandon their regional approach, as cooperation and coordination, rather than conflict, are the keys to success. To make the solution sustainable and ecologically viable, planning must be done at the basin level.

Fiscal Federalism and GST

  • Context:
    • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council in India is still engaged in a discussion on whether life-saving and hard-to-come-by products should be taxed. Such delay in decision-making can largely be explained by the distorted design and incentive structure of the GST itself.
  • Imbalance in collection and distribution of taxes:
    • The taxes collected under GST are accumulated by the Union government and a portion is transferred back to each state under a formula.
    • As is the case with most federal countries, there is a large imbalance in the collection and distribution of taxes between states.
    • this holds true also for income accrued to, and distributed, from the GST pool.
    • Four states — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Gujarat contribute nearly as much as the remaining 27 states combined.
    • Most federal countries exhibit this characteristic where a few large, rich, provinces or states contribute disproportionately.
    • Variation independence of States on transfers from the Union government.
    • Only about 30 per cent of the overall revenue of the states mentioned above — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Karnataka — comes from the Union government.
    • But for the remaining 27 states, roughly 60 per cent of their revenues are obtained through transfers from the Union government.
    • For the smaller Northeastern states, these transfers from the Union government constitute 80-90 per cent of their total revenues.
    • In effect, the states that contribute the most to the GST pool are the least dependent on transfers from the Union government while the ones that contribute the least are the most dependent.
  • Two problems in net-transfers in India:
    • One-sided transfers.
      • In almost every federal union, net-transfers work to reduce differences in development between states over time.
      • However, Over the last 25 years or so, net transfers have become increasingly one-sided in India.
      • That is, the quantum of net transfers diminishes, as states become more equal through such transfers.
      • But in India, the opposite has occurred.
    • Indirect taxes and cess.
      • The Union government of the last seven years has greatly exacerbated this problem through two actions.
      • First, it has reconstructed the composition of taxation away from the fair and progressive channel of direct taxation towards the inherently regressive and unfair channel of indirect taxes.
      • Second, the Union has shifted a large proportion of taxation roughly 18 per cent of its overall revenues into cesses, a special form of taxes that remain outside the GST pool and hence do not have to be shared with the states.
      • Since 2014, cess revenues grew 21 per cent every year leading to a doubling in terms of its share of GDP.
    • Implications of these two problems for fiscal federalism.
      • The combined effect of these problems is that all states (collectively) get a lower share of overall revenues.
      • Individual states face an ever-increasing disparity in the ratio of funds received from the Union as a proportion of taxes collected by the Union from that state.
      • This is an affront to fiscal federalism and an assault on “cooperative federalism”.
    • Issue of ‘one state one vote’ system.
      • States that are more dependent on transfers from the Union want to maximise GST collections while states that are less dependent can afford to be more sensitive to citizens’ concerns.
      • The case of taxes on Covid products is perhaps the starkest instance of such differences.
      • Most large states are ready to forego this tax revenue for humanitarian considerations.
      • But 19 states representing the remaining 30 per cent of the population seem keen to continue to levy GST on Covid products.
    • These are mostly smaller states.
      • Given the smaller population of such states, the adverse impact of Covid taxes will be minimal for them.
      • But they will reap the benefits of additional revenues from GST on Covid products levied on the much larger populations of the bigger states.
  • Conclusion:
    • When direct tax policy decisions are legislated by Parliament, which has proportional representation from states according to their size of the population, indirect tax policy decisions should not be subject to one state one vote system.

Lakshadweep Administration

  • Context:
    • A series of regulations proposed by the Lakshadweep administrator has caused widespread resentment and fear among its residents.
  • What are the new regulations?
    • Cow slaughter & beef
      • An order from the Administration seeks to ban the slaughter of cow, calf, bull, and buffalo without a certificate from a competent authority.
      • It prohibits the sale, transport, and storage of beef and beef products. Penalties include a jail term of up to one year and a fine of Rs 10,000.
      • The Administration has not provided an explanation on why the rule was brought in.
      • Residents view the rule as a direct infringement on their culture and eating habits. They allege the rule was decided without consultation with local bodies.
    • Two-child policy
      • Under the Draft Panchayat Regulation 2021, the Administration aims to bar people with more than two children from becoming a member of the gram panchayat.
      • For those who already have more than two children, the regulation does not disqualify them provided they do not have further children after the date on which the rule comes into effect.
    • Serving liquor to tourists
      • The Administration has decided to allow liquor to be served at resorts on inhabited islands.
      • Currently, prohibition is in place on all inhabited islands, with liquor served only at resorts on the uninhabited Bangaram Island.
      • The Dist Collector clarified that liquor permits would be given only to resorts for tourists, not for locals.
      • Residents have alleged that the move will lead to a proliferation of liquor sales on the island, which had been observing near-prohibition until now.
    • Land acquisition powers
      • The Administration brought in a draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) to oversee the development of towns on the islands, with sweeping changes in the way land can be acquired and utilized.
      • It talks of the declaration of ‘planning areas’ and constitution of ‘planning and development authorities’ for preparing a land-use map and register, ostensibly for large projects.
      • Residents have protested against the way it was prepared and pushed through without consultation.
      • They fear large infrastructure and tourism projects can destabilize the ecology, and that the notification gives powers to the Administration to remove small landholdings of ST residents.
    • Anti-social activities regulation
      • The draft Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation provides for powers to detain a person for up to one year to prevent him from “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
      • It allows for detention for anti-social activities from six months to a year without legal representation.
      • The Collector said while the island remains peaceful, there have been reports of drugs being found along with weapons and live ammunition.
      • He said the regulation is required to keep the “youth from getting misguided by illegal businesses”.
      • Residents are sceptical of the need for such stringent law in a UT with one of the lowest crime rates in the country. They allege it has been brought in to arrest those opposed to the Administration.
    • Read more:

Common Global Corporate Tax

  • Context:
    • The Group of Seven (G7) countries have backed the proposal to impose a common global corporate tax.
    • It is aimed at preventing multinational businesses from evading taxes and also squeezing the havens which attract tax evaders due to the low-rate jurisdictions.
  • What are the decisions taken?
    • The tax proposal endorsed by the G7 countries (US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy and Japan) has two parts.
    • The agreement made will now be discussed in detail at a meeting of G20 financial ministers and central bank governors in July 2021.
  • The first part –
    • Countries around the world should tax their home companies' overseas profits at a rate of at least 15%.
    • This 15% of global minimum corporate tax would deter the practice of using accounting schemes to shift profits to a few very low-tax countries.
    • Often, these tax havens are the Caribbean Islands such as the Bahamas or the British Virgin Islands.
    • Or at times, it is countries like Ireland where the corporate tax rate is as low as 12.5%.
    • Second part – This allows countries to tax a share of the profits earned by companies “that have no physical presence but have substantial sales.”
    • For instance, this could be through selling digital advertising.
  • What is the rationale?
    • The G-7 statement echoes an earlier US proposal.
    • The US had urged the world’s 20 advanced nations to move in the direction of adopting a minimum global corporate income tax.
    • It urged countries to tax part of the earnings of the largest and most profitable companies if they are doing business within their borders.
    • It also supported awarding countries the right to tax 20% or more of profit exceeding a 10% profit margin.
    • The decision to ratify the 15% floor rate follows from the same route to deal with low-tax jurisdictions around the globe.
    • It is also to address the low effective rates of tax shelled out by some of the world’s biggest corporations.
    • These include digital giants such as Apple, Alphabet and Facebook, as well as major corporations such as Nike and Starbucks.
  • Who will benefit?
    • The proposal works well for the US government at this time.
    • The same holds true for most other countries in western Europe.
    • This is true even as some low-tax European jurisdictions and some in the Caribbean rely largely on tax rate arbitrage to attract MNCs.
    • The second part of the G7 proposal is expected to impact companies that rely on the digital medium to drive their profits.
    • However, after the imposition of a common global corporate tax, countries are advised to revoke their respective digital services taxes.
    • This is would end up benefitting the Silicon Valley companies.
    • The US considers those unilateral digital taxes to be unfair trade measures that single out the American tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
  • What are the problems with the plan?
    • There are challenges in getting all countries to agree to the proposal.
    • This is especially because it impinges on the right of the sovereign to decide a nation’s tax policy.
    • A global minimum rate would also take away a tool that countries use to push policies that suit them.
    • For instance, in the backdrop of the pandemic, developing countries with less ability to offer mega stimulus packages may experience a longer economic hangover than developed nations.
    • A lower tax rate is a tool they can use to alternatively push economic activity.
  • What does it mean for other countries?
    • China is not likely to have a serious objection to the US call.
    • But an area of concern for Beijing would be the impact of such a tax stipulation on Hong Kong.
    • Hong Kong is notably the seventh-largest tax haven in the world and the largest in Asia.
    • Also, China’s strained relationship with the US could be a deterrent in negotiations on a global tax deal.
    • India – In a bid to revive investment activity, FinMin, in 2019, announced a sharp cut in corporate taxes for domestic companies to 22%.
    • And for new domestic manufacturing companies, it was brought to 15%.
    • The cuts effectively brought India’s headline corporate tax rate broadly at par with the average 23% rate in Asian countries.
    • India is likely to look into the pros and cons of the new proposal as and when it comes and the government will take a view thereafter.

Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021

Context: Women and Child Development Ministry has invited comments and suggestions from all stakeholders on the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.

Highlights:

  • The objective of the bill is to prevent and counter-trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
  • It will provide care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them, and also ensuring the prosecution of offenders.
  • This act shall apply to every offense of trafficking in persons with cross-border implications.

Tackling Human Trafficking in India

  • It is regarded as one of the ugliest crimes on the planet, it is also an enormously lucrative business, and there are significant challenges in determining its prevalence throughout the country. 
  • According to statistics of India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), trafficking has manifold objectives. These include forced labor, prostitution, and other forms of sexual exploitation. 
  • According to the NCRB, three out of five people trafficked in 2016 were children below the age of 18 years. Of these, 4,911 were girls and 4,123 were boys. 
  • NCRB data shows that sexual exploitation for prostitution was the second major purpose for human trafficking in India, after forced labor.
  • Victims of trafficking in India disproportionately represent people from traditionally disadvantaged gender, caste, and religious groups.
  • People from these groups have been systemically kept at a disadvantage in education, access to productive resources and spaces, and legal remedies enhancing their vulnerability. 

What are the constitutional & legislative provisions related to Trafficking in India?

  • Trafficking in Human Beings or Persons is prohibited under the Constitution of India under Article 23 (1).
  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA)is the premier legislation for the prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 has come into force wherein Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has been substituted with Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking.
  • Protection of Children from Sexual offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012 is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Various forms of Exploitation:

  • There was a system in which the government and Zamindars used to compel the persons to carry their goods when they moved from one place to another place and also this is forced labor in which no remuneration was paid.
  • However, Human Trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings for commercial sexual exploitation, prostitution, or forced labor.
  • When the state takes up the relief works such as famine or flood relief, it cannot pay less than the minimum wages.
  • When the prisoners are sent for rigorous imprisonment, they must be paid reasonable wages. However as per Supreme Court, if a prisoner is not paid wages, it is not a violation of article 23. But, if the undertrials, the persons' sentences to the simple imprisonments and also those who have been detained under the preventive detention cannot be asked to do the manual work. They can do work if they wish to do it out of their choice and also it would require an equitable wage.
  • Supreme Court directed the government to align wages paid to MGNREGA workers with the Minimum wages Act as denying them the living wage would be tantamount to Exploitation.

Uttar Pradesh Population Bill, 2021 

Context: The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission has prepared a proposed draft Bill for population control, under which a two-child norm will be implemented.

About the bill:

  • Explaining the reasons for bringing out the draft Bill, the Commission said there were limited ecological and economic resources at hand in Uttar Pradesh and it was necessary to control and stabilize the population for the promotion of sustainable development with more equitable distribution.

How does it seek to enforce the ‘two-child norm? 

  • After the law comes into force, a person with more than two children will be debarred from several benefits such as government-sponsored welfare schemes and from contesting elections to the local authority or anybody of the local self-government. Ration card units will be limited to four persons. 
  • A person contravening the law will also become ineligible to apply for State government jobs and be barred from promotion in government services and any kind of subsidy.
  • The provisions will come into force one year after the date of the publication of the gazette.

Benefits announced:

  • As per the draft, several incentives have been provided to people, including public servants, if they adopt the norm by undergoing voluntary sterilization.
  • The incentives include a 3% increase in the employer’s contribution fund under national pension; two additional increments during the entire service; subsidy towards the purchase of plot or house site or building a house etc.,
  • A public servant or common citizen who adopts a one-child norm will receive additional benefits such as free health care facility and insurance coverage to the child till the age of 20.
  • A couple living below the poverty line who have only one child and undergoes voluntary sterilization shall be eligible for payment of a one-time ₹80,000 if the single child is a boy and ₹1 lakh if it is a girl.

Election of Speakers and Deputy Speakers

Context: The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has been without a Speaker for most of this year. Recently, it concluded its two-day Monsoon Session without electing a Speaker.

Election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker :

  • Article 93 for Lok Sabha and Article 178 for state Assemblies state that these Houses “shall,  as soon as may be”, choose two of its members to be Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
  • The Constitution neither sets a time limit nor specifies the process for these elections. It leaves it to the legislatures to decide how to hold these elections.
  • The Office of the Speaker of Legislative Assembly is a constitutional one.
  • Under Article 178 of the Indian Constitution, every Legislative Assembly of a State shall choose one of its Members as Speaker.
  • The Speaker is elected by the Lok Sabha from amongst its members.
  • The Lok Sabha elects another member to fill the vacancy whenever the office of the Speaker falls vacant.
  • In Lok Sabha and state legislatures, the President/Governor sets a date for the election of the Speaker, and it is the Speaker who decides the date for the election of the Deputy Speaker. The legislators of the respective Houses vote to elect one among themselves to these offices.
  • The Constitution provides that the office of the Speaker should never be empty. So, he continues in office until the beginning of the next House, except in the event of death or resignation.
  • The rules also specify that if a vacancy in these offices happens subsequently, then the election for these should occur within seven days of the legislature’s next session.

Tenure of Speaker:

  • The Speaker remains in office during the life of the Lok Sabha.
  • The Speakers has to vacate his office earlier in any of the following three cases:
  • If he ceases to be a member of the Lok Sabha;
  • If he resigns by writing to the Deputy Speaker;
  • If he is removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all the members of the Lok Sabha.
  • When a resolution for the removal of the Speaker is under consideration of the House, he cannot preside at the sitting of the House.
  • It is noted that whenever the Lok Sabha is dissolved, the Speaker does not vacate his office and continues till the newly-elected Lok Sabha meets.

Role of Speaker and Deputy Speaker:

  • The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha and its representative.
  • He is the guardian of powers and privileges of the members, the House as a whole, and its committees.
  • The Speaker is “the principal spokesman of the House, he represents its collective voice and is its sole representative to the outside world”, and his decision in all Parliamentary matters is final.
  • He derives his powers and duties from three sources i.e. the Constitution of India, the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha, and Parliamentary Conventions.
  • The Speaker presides over the House proceedings and joint sittings of the two Houses of Parliament.
  • The Deputy Speaker is independent of the Speaker, as both are elected from among the members of the House.
  • Since Independence, the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker’s position has grown in importance. In addition to presiding over the House in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker chaired committees both inside and outside of Parliament.
  • The Deputy Speaker ensures the continuity of the Speaker's office by acting as the Speaker when the office becomes vacant (by death or because of resignation).
  • In addition, when a resolution for removal of the Speaker is up for discussion, the Constitution specifies that the Deputy Speaker presides over the proceedings of the House.

Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021

Context: Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021 was introduced in Rajya Sabha.

About Marine Aids to Navigation Bill:

  • Aid to navigation: It defines aid to navigation as a device, system, or service, external to the vessels designed and operated to enhance the safety and efficiency of navigation of vessels and vessel traffic. 
  • A vessel includes a ship, boat, sailing vessel, fishing vessel, submersible, and mobile offshore drilling units. 
  • Vessel traffic service is defined as a service to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and protect the environment.
  • Director-General (DG) of Aids to Navigation: It provides that the central government will appoint a DG, Deputy Director Generals, and Directors for districts (which the centre may demarcate). 
  • The DG will advise the central government on matters related to aids to navigation, among others.
  • Central Advisory Committee (CAC): The central government may appoint a CAC consisting of persons representing the interests affected by the Bill, or having special knowledge of the sector.
  • The government may consult the CAC on matters including the establishment of aids to navigation, additions, alteration, or removal of, any such aids, cost of any proposal relating to such aids, or appointment of any sub-committee. 
  • Management of General Aids to Navigation and vessel traffic services:  The central government will be responsible for the development, maintenance, and management of all general aids to navigation and vessel traffic services.
  • Training and certification: It provides that no person shall be allowed to operate on any aid to navigation or any vessel traffic service in any place unless he holds a valid training certificate.
  • The central government will accredit training organisations for imparting training to, or conduct assessments of, persons in the operation of aids to navigation and vessel traffic services.
  • Levy of marine aids to navigation dues: It provides that marine aids to navigation dues will be levied and collected for every ship arriving at or departing from any port in India, at the rate specified by the central government from time to time. 
  • Any dispute related to the marine aids to navigation dues, expenses, or costs, will be heard and determined by a civil court having jurisdiction at the place where the dispute arose.
  • Heritage Lighthouse: The central government may designate any aid to navigation under its control as a heritage lighthouse. 
  • In addition to their function as aids to navigation, such lighthouses will be developed for educational, cultural, and tourism purposes.
  • The proposed legislation encompasses a major shift from lighthouses to modern aids of navigation.
  • Penalties: It provides certain offences and penalties for instances such as intentionally obstructing any aid to navigation or vessel traffic service, which will be punishable with imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine up to one lakh rupees, or both.
  • Intentionally causing damage to, or destruction of any aid to navigation or vessel traffic services, will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine up to five lakh rupees, or both.

Significance:

  • The Bill also helps in the development of the historical, educational, and cultural value of lighthouses, and ensures compliance with the country’s obligations under the maritime treaties and International Instruments.
  • The centre will help all the boats in getting a Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled navigation system.

Inland Vessels Bill

Context:

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, which will replace the Inland Vessels Act, 1917 after passing in Parliament.
  • The Bill will regulate the safety, security and registration of inland vessels.

Features of the Bill:

  • A key feature of the Bill is a unified law for the entire country, instead of separate rules framed by the States.
  • The certificate of registration granted under the proposed law will be deemed to be valid in all States and Union Territories, and there will be no need to seek separate permissions from the States.
  • The Bill provides for a central database for recording the details of the vessel, vessel registration, the crew on an electronic portal.
  • All non-mechanically propelled vessels will also have to be enrolled at the district, taluk or panchayat or village level.
  • It enlarges the definition of ‘inland waters’, by including tidal water limits and national waterways declared by the Central Government.
  • It also deals with pollution control measures for Inland Vessels. This bill directs the Central Government to designate a list of chemicals, substances, etc. as pollutants.

Inland Waterways:

About:

  • India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc.
  • As per the National Waterways Act 2016, 111 waterways have been declared as National Waterways (NWs).
  • NW-1: Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly River System (Prayagraj-Haldia) with a length of 1620 km is the longest National Waterway in India.
  • The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is implementing the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of Ganga (part of NW-1) with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank.

Inland Waterways Authority of India:

  • It came into existence on 27th October 1986 for the development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation.
  • It primarily undertakes projects for the development and maintenance of IWT (Inland Water Transport) infrastructure on national waterways through grants received from the Ministry of Shipping.
  • It is headquartered in Noida (Uttar Pradesh).

Parliament's Productivity

Context:

  • Parliament’s Monsoon Session ended two days ahead of schedule. From the time the Session began on July 19, Opposition parties had disrupted both Houses over the government’s unwillingness to allow discussion on the Pegasus snooping scandal, the farmers’ protests, and the rise in prices, especially of auto fuels.
  • According to PRS Legislative Research data, the Monsoon Session was the fourth least productive Lok Sabha session of the last two decades, with a productivity of just 21 per cent. Rajya Sabha logged productivity of 28 per cent, its eighth least productive Session since 1999.

Most disrupted Sessions:

  • According to PRS Legislative Research records since 1999, the worst Session in terms of productivity for both Houses was the Winter Session of 2010.
  • The productivity of Rajya Sabha in that Session plunged to a mere 2 per cent; Lok Sabha did marginally better at 6 per cent.
  • For Lok Sabha, the Winter Sessions of 2013 (separate Telangana state) and 2016 (demonetisation of high-value currency notes) was the second-worst hit in terms of productivity. The productivity of Lok Sabha was a mere 15 per cent both in 2013 and 2016.
  • The Budget Session of 2018 witnessed productivity of 21 per cent in Lok Sabha. The second part of the Session was completely paralysed.
  • Earlier, in the Monsoon Session of 2012, Lok Sabha had seen similar productivity of 21 per cent. It faced disruptions over the allocation of coal blocks.
  • For Rajya Sabha, the Budget Session of 2019 — the last of the 16th Lok Sabha — was the second-worst in terms of productivity: 7 per cent over issues ranging from the Rafale fighter jet deal to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
  • The third worst session for Rajya Sabha productivity was the Monsoon Session of 2015 — 9 per cent, as the Vyapam scam and the Lalit Modi controversy turned the House turbulent. Lok Sabha too was disrupted, but it managed to clock productivity of 48 per cent.
  • The Upper House had seen massive disruptions during the First Session of the 14th Lok Sabha in 2004 (17 per cent), the Winter Session of 2016 (18 per cent), the Winter Session of 2013 (25 per cent), the Budget Session of 2018 (27 per cent) and the Monsoon Session of 2012 (28 per cent).

The difference this time:

  • Even though the Monsoon Session was badly hit in terms of productivity, and the time spent on discussion and passage of Bills came down drastically, the government did manage to push through a large volume of legislation.
  • According to PRS data, Lok Sabha took only 34 minutes on average to pass a Bill, while Rajya Sabha did it in 46 minutes.
  • Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was passed within five minutes. Only the OBC Bill was discussed for more than an hour in both Houses.
  • In comparison, the current Lok Sabha as a whole has so far spent 2 hours and 23 minutes on average discussing a Bill; Rajya Sabha has spent 2 hours on average.
  • While Lok Sabha sat for 21 hours and 14 minutes in the Monsoon Session against the stipulated time of 96 hours, thus losing 74 hours and 46 minutes to interruptions, as many as 13 Bills were introduced and 20 Bills were passed like The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill.
  • Rajya Sabha sat for 28 hours and 21 minutes against the scheduled time of 97 hours and 30 minutes, losing 76 hours and 26 minutes to interruptions. The House passed 19 Bills; four Bills were introduced.

127th Constitution Amendment Bill (CAB)

Context:

  • Parliament has recently passed the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Why is 127th CAB Needed?

  • The bill is required since the Supreme Court in its Maratha reservation verdict of 5 May 2021, had ruled that only the Centre had the power to draw up the OBC list, as per the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act enacted in 2018 by Parliament.
  • The Constitution 102nd Amendment Act had granted constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Castes (NCBC), which was a statutory body earlier. It inserted 2 articles in the constitution —

What Powers Does the Amendment Give the States?

  • There will be a consequential amendment in Articles 366(26C) (which defines SEBCs) and 338B (9), after which states will be able to directly notify OBC and SEBCs without having to refer to the NCBC.
  • Consultation with the NCBC: Article 338B of the Constitution mandates the central and state governments to consult the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward Article 338B Structure, duties and powers of the NCBC.

Article 342A:

  • Powers of the President in consultation with the Governor to notify a particular caste as an SEBC and the power of Parliament to change the list classes. The Bill exempts states and union territories from this requirement for matters related to the preparation of their list of socially and educationally backward classes.
  • The “state list” will be completely taken out of the ambit of the President and will be notified by the state Assembly.
  • Nearly 671 OBC communities would have lost access to reservations in educational institutions and in appointments if the state list was abolished. Moreover, nearly one-fifth of the total OBC communities would have been adversely impacted by this.

Bill for reservations for local in private sector jobs by Jharkhand

Context: 

  • The Jharkhand Assembly passed a bill, which provides 75% reservation for locals in private sector jobs with a monthly salary of up to Rs. 40,000.
  • Once notified, Jharkhand will become the third State, after Andhra Pradesh and Haryana, to pass such a law.

About:

  • 'The Jharkhand State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2021’ was tabled in the House in March but was later referred to a six-member select committee.
  • It was named ‘The Jharkhand State Employment of Local Candidates in Private Sector Bill, 2021’.
  • The monthly salary cap was increased from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000. 
  • Every employer shall register such employees receiving gross monthly salary as wages not more than Rs. 40,000 on the designated portal

Concerns with regard to the bill:

  • If skilled personnel are not available for the jobs at hand, these industrial units cannot ‘import’ labourers from elsewhere; the burden of imparting the requisite skills to, and of employing, locals will fall on the units.
  • It will almost certainly push up the cost of doing business in such geographical entities that embrace this policy and make a mockery of the concept of the ‘Indian Common Market’, which rests on the foundational premise of unfettered labour mobility.
  • Significantly, a reservation for local populations is also a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right of every citizen to work, live and move freely within the country.

Caste Census

Context:

  • The government has made it clear in the Supreme Court that a caste census of the Backward Classes is “administratively difficult and cumbersome”.

Key Arguments by the Centre:

  • The Centre reasoned that even when the census of castes was taken in the pre-independence period, the data suffered in respect of “completeness and accuracy”.
  • The government has also said the caste data enumerated in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 is “unusable” for official purposes as they are “replete with technical flaws”.
  • The Centre said the raw caste/tribe data of 2011 was unusable. For example, Mappilas in the Malabar region of Kerala were spelt in 40 different ways, resulting in the listing of 40 different castes.
  • SECC caste data is stored in the Office of the Registrar General and has not been made public (Economic Data of SECC is published).
  • The government said caste-wise enumeration in the decennial Census was given up as a matter of policy from 1951 as a policy of “official discouragement of caste”.

What is Census?

  • In Census (decennial census), data is collected on demographic and various socio-economic parameters like education, SC/ST, religion, language, marriage, fertility, disability, occupation and migration of the individuals.
  • Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India is responsible for carrying out the census.
  • It provides information on size, distribution and socio-economic, demographic and other characteristics of the country’s population.
  • The first synchronous census in India was held in 1881. Since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.
  • As per the official Gazette, the individual data collected in Census under the Census Act, 1948, are not made public as per the provisions contained in the Act.
  • The individual data are not used for the preparation of any other database, including the National Register of Citizens.
  • Only the aggregated Census data at various administrative levels are released.
  • Owing to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Census 2021 and other Censusrelated field activities have been postponed until further orders.

Multi-member ward system in Maharashtra

  • Context:
    • The Maharashtra cabinet recently cleared a plan for multi-member wards in urban civic bodies, excluding Mumbai.
    • With this, the state has reverted to the system of electing multiple councillors or corporators from every ward in all municipal corporations and municipal councils in the state, excluding Mumbai.
    • The state government will promulgate an ordinance to make the amendment.
  • What's proposed in Maharashtra?
    • In the new system, voters will elect a three-member panel in each of the wards in municipal corporation areas.
    • In municipal council areas, voters will elect a panel of two members.
    • In a single-member ward system, a voter votes for one candidate.
    • There will be no change in the number of wards or corporators; the wards will be bunched together only for the purpose of the election.
  • How does it work?
    • Those contesting from the same party or alliance across the designated multi-member ward will campaign across the two or three wards, although they will file their nomination from individual wards.
    • If elected, each will represent the individual ward only. Voters, however, will be able to select candidates in their own ward as well as in the other wards clubbed together in the multi-member ward.
    • Although candidates from the same party/alliance in a multi-member ward will be called a “panel”, a voter does not really select a panel, but individual candidates, who can be from the same party or from different parties.
    • A voter is also entitled to select just one candidate. But for this, the voter has to make a written submission to the presiding officer of the booth. This is to ensure documentary proof in case a party or candidate goes to court questioning how a candidate got fewer votes than others.
  • Benefits associated with multi-member system:
    • It appears to help a party or alliance maximise its seats.
    • A party can offset weak candidates with strong ones in a multi-member ward.
    • The hope is that the strongest of the candidates will carry the day for the others in the “panel”, even though this is not guaranteed.
  • Issues and concerns associated:
    • Usually, in a multiple-member ward, no corporator allows the others to work properly and all try to outdo one another

Anti-Defection Law- Mostly failed to discourage defection

  • Context: 
    • Calcutta high court has given a deadline to the West Bengal assembly speaker to pass an order in a defection case involving MLA Mukul Roy.
  • What’s the issue?
    • He had contested and won the 2021 assembly election on BJP ticket and joined Trinamool Congress.
  • Anti-defection law:
    • In 1985 the Tenth Schedule, popularly known as the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution.
    • The purpose of the Amendment was to bring stability to governments by deterring MPs and MLAs from changing their political parties on whose ticket they were elected.
    • The penalty for shifting political loyalties is the loss of parliamentary membership and a bar on becoming a minister.
    • The law specifies the circumstances under which changing of political parties by MPs invites action under the law.
    • It covers three types of scenarios with respect to MP switching parties:
      • When an MP who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate after the election joins a political party.
      • When a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House contrary to the wishes of the party. 
      • For nominated MPs, the law specifies that within six months of being nominated to the House, they can choose to join a political party. But, if they join a party thereafter, then they lose their seat in Parliament.

Deputy speaker

  • Context: 
    • Deputy speaker to UP assembly was recently elected, which has barely 5 months left in its tenure. While the post still remains vacant for Lok sabha after more than 2 years of its election.
  • About deputy speaker:
    • Article 93 of the Constitution provides for the election of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
    • The constitutional office of the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha is more symbolic of parliamentary democracy than some real authority.
    • Article 178 contains the corresponding position for the same at the state level.
    • He continues to remain in the office till the dissolution of the house.
    • Generally, an election takes place in the 1st session itself, but the constitution is silent about the timeframe.
    • He has the same power as a speaker when presiding over the proceedings of the house.
    • No appeal lies to the speaker about the ruling given by Dy. speaker.
  • Is it mandatory to have a deputy speaker?
    • Both article 93 and 178 contains words like “Shall” and “as soon as may be” that indicates not only the posts being mandatory but the elections being held earliest. 
  • Can the court intervene when elections are delayed?
    • There is no precedent of a court intervening when elections are being delayed.
    • However, courts can enquire into the reasons for delayed elections.

Farm laws repealed

  • Context:
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws, which had witnessed protests from farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, on the borders of Delhi for more than a year.
  • What were the farm laws that have been repealed?
    • They are:
      • The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, which is aimed at allowing trade in agricultural produce outside the existing APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis;
      • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, which seeks to provide a framework for contract farming;
      • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, which is aimed at removing commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potato from the list of essential commodities.
  • Farmer's reaction to the farm laws:
    • Farmers feared that the existing APMC mandis, where they sell their produce, mostly wheat and paddy, would be shut down once private players started trading in agri-produce outside the mandi premises, and that once the APMC mandi system became redundant, procurement based on minimum support prices (MSP) too would come to an end.
  • Status of the three laws until the repeal:
    • The farm laws were in force for only 221 days — June 5, 2020, when the ordinances were promulgated to January 12, 2021, when the Supreme Court stayed their implementation. 
  • Why did the government suddenly do so?
    • It is being widely seen as a concession to the Sikh community, to which a significant segment of protesting farmers from Punjab belongs. There was a risk that anxiety among the largely Sikh protesters could lead to tension ahead of and during the upcoming elections.
  • Impact on the government:
    • This is the second rollback by the NDA government — the first was of land acquisition reforms in 2015 —and on both counts the issue related to rural farmers.
    • Given that it took the government a year to realise the socio-political costs, the repeal also signals a weakened political feedback mechanism within the party.
  • Impact on the Opposition politically:
    • No Opposition party can claim credit for forcing the government’s decision. The credit lies solely with agitating farmers, who dug their heels in through winter, summer and rains for a year now.
  • Impact on protests against other major government decisions :
    • There is another example, the Citizenship Amendment Act, enacted in 2019. Although the anti-CAA protests were called off after the pandemic struck in March 2020, it seemed to have partially succeeded installing its implementation. 
    • As for Article 370, the political dynamics are different. There is no such unanimity over Article 370. Most of the parties have largely been united only to the extent of restoration of statehood to J&K, and early elections.

Ordinance to extend ED, CBI directors tenure up to 5 years

  • Context:
    • The Centre moved an ordinance that extends the tenure of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) director and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director to five years. At present, the Director of CBI and ED have been appointed for two-year tenure in office by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003. President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the ordinance.
  • What is in the Ordinance:
    1. The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act and The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act have been amended to give the government the power to keep the two chiefs in their posts for one year after they have completed their two-year terms.
    2. And this one-year extension, the amendment says, can continue to be given until the officers complete five years as the chiefs of the agencies.
    3. In the case of The CVC Act, the government has inserted an amendment in clause D of Section 25 of the law that deals with the fixed two-year tenure.

Suspension of MP's

  • Context:
    • 12 Opposition MPs have been suspended for the rest of the Winter Session for disruptions in Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session.
  • Background:
    • The members were suspended for “their unprecedented acts of misconduct, contemptuous, unruly and violent behaviour and intentional attacks on security personnel.
    • Each house is run under the Rulebook of its own.
    • Under these rules, each member is guided to maintain decorum.
  • Activities that are prohibited:
    • Interrupting the speech
    • Shouting slogans,
    • Display placards,
    • Tear up documents in protest,
    • Play a cassette or a tape recorder in the House.
  • Procedure to suspend MP's in Rajya Sabha:
    • The presiding officer of each House can direct an MP to withdraw from the legislative chamber for grossly disorderly conduct. The MP then must remain absent from the proceedings of the House for the remainder of the day.
    • The presiding officers can also “name” an MP for “persistently and wilfully obstructing the business” of the House. In such a case, usually, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister moves a motion for suspending the offending MP from the service of the House.
    • The suspension can last until the end of the session.
    • Under Rule 255 (‘Withdrawal of member’) of the General Rules of Procedure of the Rajya Sabha, “The Chairman may direct any member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the Council and any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting.”
    • Under Rule 256, “the Chairman may, if he deems it necessary, suspend a member from the service of the Council for a period not exceeding the remainder of the Session.
    • Rule 374A of Lok Sabha provides additional powers to the Speaker to immediately suspend the MPs for five days without any motion.
    • This rule was added in 2001.
    • Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member.

MPs’ Questions in the Parliament

  • Context:
    • Recently, a question by an MP in Rajya Sabha that was scheduled to be answered was removed from the list of finally admitted questions.
  • Procedure for admitting the questions in the Parliament:
    • In both Houses, elected members enjoy the right to seek information from various ministries and departments in the form of starred questions, unstarred questions, short notice questions, and questions to private members.
    • Question to Private Member:
      • The admissibility of questions in Rajya Sabha is governed by the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States.
      • In Lok Sabha, once the notice for questions is received, ballots determine priority. Questions are examined for admissibility under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
    • Grouping of Ministries for answering: For answering the questions, ministries and departments have been divided into five groups in such a way that each minister has one fixed day in the week for answering questions in Rajya Sabha and another fixed day for answering questions in Lok Sabha.
    • When are the questions asked?
      • In both Houses, the first hour of every sitting is devoted to asking and answering of questions referred to as the ‘Question Hour'
    • Nature of questions asked:
      • The Chairman of the Speaker has the authority to decide whether a question or a part is or is not admissible under the norms of the House.
    • In Rajya Sabha, the question shall be specific and confined to one issue only and it shall not bring in any name or statement not strictly necessary to make the question intelligible.
    • In Lok Sabha, questions that are not admitted include those that are repetitive or have been answered previously; and matters that are pending for judgment before any court of law or under consideration before a Parliamentary Committee.

Suspension of MLA's

  • Context:
    • 12 Maharashtra BJP MLAs have gone to Supreme Court against their year-long suspension from the Assembly.
  • The argument laid down by the suspended MLAs:
    • According to them, the suspension is “grossly arbitrary and disproportionate”. Because they were not given access to video of the proceedings of the House, and it was not clear how they had been identified in the large crowd. Therefore, it amounts to
      • Denial of the principles of natural justice
      • Violation of laid-down procedure.
      • Violation of their fundamental right to equality (Article 14)
    • Also, it was against Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules (53): Because, the power to suspend can only be exercised by the Speaker, and it cannot be put to vote in a resolution as was done in this case.
  • The rules on the length of suspension of a Member of Parliament:
    • Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha (Rules 373, 374, and 374A):  It provides for the withdrawal of a member whose conduct is “grossly disorderly”, and suspension of one who abuses the rules of the House or wilfully obstructs its business.
    • Maximum suspension:
      • Lok Sabha: it is for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less.
      • Rajya Sabha: under Rules 255 and 256, the maximum suspension does not exceed the remainder of the session.
      • State legislative assemblies and councils: Prescribe a maximum suspension not exceeding the remainder of the session.

Mekedatu dam issue

  • Context:
    • The ‘Mekedatu march’ has been launched for the implementation of a project to build a reservoir on the Cauvery at Mekedatu near the Tamil Nadu border.
  • What is the Mekedatu Project?

    • Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathi, about 100 km from Bengaluru, at the Kanakapura taluk in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district.
    • In 2013, then Karnataka announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project.
    • The project aimed to alleviate the drinking water problems of the Bengaluru and Ramanagara districts.
    • It was also expected to generate hydroelectricity to meet the power needs of the state.
  • Issues with the project:
    • Soon after the project was announced TN has objected to granting permission or environmental clearance.
    • Explaining the potential for damage to the lower riparian state of TN, it said that the project was in violation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
    • It stated that the project will affect the natural flow of the river Cauvery considerably and will severely affect the irrigation in TN.

Motion of thanks

  • Context:
    • Recently, at the Budget session of Parliament, a motion of thanks to the President's addresses was discussed and passed by the Parliament.
  • About motion of thanks:
    • President’s Address and Motion of Thanks are governed by Articles 86 (1) and 87 (1) of the Constitution and Rules 16 to 24 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
    • The motion of Thanks is a motion in the Indian Parliament that follows the address of the President of India to the joint sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at the commencement of the first session of a new Lok Sabha and the first session of every year.
    • The first session of every year will usually be the Budget session.
    • In his address, the president highlights legislative and policy activities of the government, achievements of the previous year, and the broad agenda for the upcoming year.
    • This address is followed by a Motion of Thanks, which is moved in each house by an MP of the ruling party. The deliberations on this motion last for three to four days.
    • The deliberations allow the opposition to critically discuss the government’s vision, scope, and policies. The name of the President cannot be brought in during the debate since the Government and not the President is responsible for the contents of the Address. At the end of these discussions, the Prime Minister gives replies to the points or questions raised.
    • After the reply of the PM is over the Members of Parliament vote on this motion of thanks. This motion must be passed in both houses.
    • A failure to get a motion of thanks passed amounts to the defeat of the government and leads to the collapse of the government. This is why the Motion of Thanks is deemed to be a no-confidence motion.
  • Amendment to the motion of thanks:
    • Before such voting on a motion of thanks, some members may also move an amendment to the President's address. Such amendments may be for including some issues or highlighting some issues which did not find mentioned in the speech.
    • Amendments can be moved to the Motion of Thanks in such form as may be considered appropriate by the Speaker.
    • The first instance of such an amendment to the Motion of Thanks came in 1980 on the issue of engineering defections. 

Suspension of 12 Maharashtra BJP MLAs

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Supreme Court revoked the one-year suspension of 12 Maharashtra legislators, calling it an “irrational” act that would impact the democratic setup. The MLAs were suspended for a year for “grossly disorderly conduct” in the House.
    • Three MLAs who were suspended from the Telangana Legislative Assembly filed a writ petition in the Telangana High Court challenging their suspension and seeking a direction to permit them to attend the session till its completion.
  • About the Supreme court judgment:
    • SC said that the basic structure of the Constitution would be hit if the constituencies of the suspended MLAs remained unrepresented in the Assembly for a full year.
    • The bench referred to Article 190 (4) of the Constitution, which says, “If for sixty days a member of a House of the Legislature of a State is without permission of the House absent from all meetings thereof, the House may declare his seat vacant.”
    • Under Section 151 (A) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, “a bye-election for filling any vacancy… [in the House] shall be held within six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy”. This means that barring exceptions specified under this section, no constituency can remain without a representative for more than six months.
    • The Supreme Court said that the one-year suspension was prima facie unconstitutional as it went beyond the six-month limit.
  • Rules regarding the suspension of an MP:
    • Rules 373, 374, and 374A of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha provide for the withdrawal of a member whose conduct is “grossly disorderly”, and suspension of one who abuses the rules of the House or willfully obstructs its business. The maximum suspension as per these Rules is “for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less”.
    • The maximum suspension for Rajya Sabha under Rules 255 and 256 also does not exceed the remainder of the session. Several recent suspensions of members have not continued beyond the session.
    • Similar Rules also are in place for state legislative assemblies and councils which prescribe a maximum suspension not exceeding the remainder of the session.

Digital Sansad App 

  • The Lok Sabha secretariat has launched a new app called Digital Sansad.
  • It will make it easier for people as well as lawmakers to follow proceedings in Parliament.
  • Live broadcast of the proceedings of both the Houses of Parliament, information about the day-to-day business of the Houses, discussion on the budget since 1947, House discussions from 12th Lok Sabha to 17th Lok Sabha along with the letter to be laid on the Table of the House is also available on the app.
  • In addition, it will also help members of parliament access services such as checking personal updates like the status of their notices, House bulletins, etc. 
  • As MPs are barred from using laptops inside the House, the app comes in handy for parliamentary information for MPs during a debate in the House. 
  • In future, the MPs can log in for attendance, give questions for Question Hour, or submit notices for debates or adjournment motions. 

Karnataka Hijab Issue

  • Context
    • Six students who attended classes wearing headscarves in violation of the stipulated dress code were sent out in Udupi.
    • Similar instances of students turning up at educational institutions with either hijab or saffron shawl.
  • Constitution On Freedom Of Religion:
    • Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion”.
    • It is a right that guarantees that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercising this freedom.
    • The state can restrict the right on grounds of public order, morality and health and to the other provisions as enshrined in this part of the constitution.
  • Judicial Observations on Religious Practices:
    • Fathima Tasneem v State of Kerala (2018):
    • A single bench of the Kerala HC held that the collective rights of an institution would be given primacy over the individual rights of the petitioner.
    • Shirur Mutt Case:
    • The Supreme Court held in the 1954 Shirur Mutt case that the term “religion” will cover all practices “integral” to a religion, in what came to be known as “essential religious practices”.
  • What is the “Essential Religious Practices” Test?
    • The Supreme Court of India has tested the validity of religious practices on the basis of whether they are ‘essential to a religion or not.
    • This is known as the “Essential Religious Practices” Test.

Electoral Bonds

  • Context:
    • Electoral bonds worth ₹1,213 crores were sold by the SBI in January.
  • About Electoral Bonds
    • Electoral Bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties.
    • The bonds are issued in multiples of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 10,000, Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 10 lakh, and Rs. 1 crore without any maximum limit.
    • State Bank of India is authorized to issue and encash these bonds, which are valid for fifteen days from the date of issuance.
    • These bonds are redeemable in the designated account of a registered political party.
    • The bonds are available for purchase by any person (who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India) for a period of ten days each in the months of January, April, July and October as may be specified by the Central Government.
    • A person being an individual can buy bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
    • The donor’s name is not mentioned on the bond.

Freebies By Political Parties

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court sought responses from the Union government and the Election Commission of India (ECI) on political parties promising or distributing irrational freebies using public funds.
  • Background:
    • Political parties promise to offer free electricity/water supply, monthly allowance to unemployed, daily wage workers and women as well gadgets like laptops, smartphones etc. in order to secure the votes of the people.
Arguments Against Freebies Arguments In Favor Of Freebies 
Arbitrary promises of irrational freebies are a violation of the ECI’s mandate for free and fair elections. Essential for Fulfilling Expectations: There are expectations on the part of people which are met by such promises of freebies. Moreover, there are also comparative expectations when the people of the adjoining/other states (with different ruling parties) get freebies. 
The Supreme Court has also, in S Subramaniam Balaji vs Government of Tamil Nadu 2013, stated that unrealistic poll promises and freebies are a serious issue that disrupts the free and fair election. Helps the Lesser Developed States: With a larger share of the population suffering from poverty, such kinds of freebies become need/demand-based and it becomes essential to offer the people such subsidies for their own upliftment.
Distributing private goods-services, which are not for public purposes, from public funds clearly violates constitution Article 14 (equality before law), Article 162 (executive power of a state), Article 266(3)(expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India), and Article 282 (Discretionary grants).   

 

Judiciary:

Essential religious practices

Context:

  • Hijab not essential religious practice in Islamic law’ says Karnataka HC

About:

  • It means all those practices that are fundamental to a religion and not following them would result in the change of religion itself.
  • Further, denying the essential religious practices would violate Article 25, which talks about the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
  • The government can impinge upon essential religious practices on three grounds under Article 25 (1): public order, morality or health. For example, during the pandemic, the government shut down mosques, temples and other places of worship.
  • Additionally, Article 25 (2) says “nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the state from making any law, regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
  • providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
  • The judicial view of Article 25 (2) has been that whatever law the state might make regulating economic, financial, political, secular activity with religious practice or law for social welfare or reform of that religious practice, it cannot keep the religion out of its existence.

Supreme Court Cases on the question of the essential religious practices include:

  • The Shirur Mutt case, 1954: A seven-judge bench held that the essential part of a religion is primarily to be ascertained with reference to the doctrines of that religion itself.
  • Sardar Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb vs the State of Bombay, 1962: A five-judge, with a majority of 4:1, upheld the right and power of the head priest of the Dawoodi Bohra community to excommunicate members. The court reiterated that essential practice is to be gathered from the texts and tenets of the religion.
  • Acharya Jagadisharananda (Tandava Dance), 2004: The Supreme Court ruled that Tandava dance was not an essential practice of the Ananda Marga faith. It again said that what determines if a practice forms an essential part of the religion is whether the absence of the practice fundamentally alters the religion.
  • Shayara Bano (Triple Talaq), 2017: The Supreme Court held that Triple Talaq was against the basic tenets of the Qur'an and violative of the Shariat. A practice merely permitted or not prohibited by religion cannot be considered an essential or positive tenet sanctioned by religion, it said.
  • Sabarimala, 2018: A five-bench bench ruled that the ban on women aged 10-50 from entering the Sabarimala Temple was not an essential religious practice.

Reasonable Accommodation Principle

Context:

  • Karnataka Court rejected the argument in support of allowing the Muslim girls to wear headscarves was based on the principle of 'reasonable accommodation'.

About:

  • It is a principle that promotes equality, enables the grant of positive rights and prevents discrimination based on disability, health condition or personal belief.
  • Its use is primarily in the disability rights sector.
  • The general principle is that reasonable accommodation should be provided unless some undue hardship is caused by such accommodation.
  • It expresses the positive obligation of the state and private parties to give additional support to persons with disabilities in order to facilitate their full and effective participation in society.
  • The constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to equality (Article 14), the six freedoms (Article 19), and the right to life (Article 21) will ring hollow for a person with a disability if they are not given this additional support that helps make these rights real and meaningful for them.

Legal Status in India:

  • In India, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, defines 'reasonable accommodation' as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments, without imposing a disproportionate or undue burden in a particular case, to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy or exercise rights equally with others.”
  • In Jeeja Ghosh and Another v. Union of India and Others (2016), the Supreme Court ruled that equality entails not only preventing discrimination but also redressing discrimination against groups that suffer systematic discrimination in society.
  • Vikash Kumar v. UPSC (2021): The court held that benchmark disability, defined as a handicap of 40% or more, is only related to special reservations for the disabled in employment, but it does not have to be a restriction for other kinds of accommodation.

Women in Judiciary

Context:

  • Only 17 of the 37 women recommended by the Supreme Court collegium were appointed as judges in high courts, according to Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, while the rest are still pending with the government. INTRODUCTION

Women's status in Indian courts:

  • Only 11 women have served on the Supreme Court in its 71-year history — the first was Justice Fathima Beevi, who was appointed to the bench after a 39-year hiatus from the date of the SC's founding.
  • There are 81 women among the 677 judges on the 25 state high courts, with five of them having no female judges.
  • The appointment of female judges should not be viewed as merely “symbolic.” 

Advantages of Gender-neutral Judiciary:

  • Transparency, inclusiveness, and representation have all improved.
  • Women judges increase the legitimacy of courts simply by being present, sending a strong message that they are open and accessible to those seeking justice.
  • A gender perspective improves the fairness of the adjudication by elucidating how laws and rulings can be based on gender stereotypes, or how they may have different effects on women and men.
  • Improving women's representation could contribute to a more balanced and compassionate approach to cases of sexual violence.
  • Women judges bring their lived experiences to their judicial decisions, experiences that tend to give them a more holistic and empathic perspective.

Challenges for women judges:

  • Gender stereotypes force women to shoulder family responsibilities.
  • In the courts, there is an uneasy atmosphere.
  • Vacancies are filled at a glacial pace, and the collegium generally does not favour women judges.
  • When it comes to hiring in both the private and public sectors, biological discrimination is rampant.
  • Lack of Infrastructure and Washrooms: Nearly 22% of the 6,000 trial courts do not have a female toilet.
  • Many cases have recently surfaced in which senior attorneys have acted in an unprofessional manner toward junior female attorneys.
  • The following are the requirements for taking the entrance exams: Lawyers must have seven years of continuous legal experience and be between the ages of 35 and 45. This is a disadvantage for women because, by this age, many are married.

Sealed cover Jurisprudence

Context:

  • The Chief Justice of India (CJI) recently chastised a lawyer for submitting a “sealed cover report” to the court while hearing a criminal appeal against the Bihar government.  

About Sealed Cover Jurisprudence:

  • The Supreme Court, as well as some lower courts, has a practice of requesting or accepting information from government agencies in sealed envelopes that can only be accessed by judges.
  • While the doctrine of sealed cover is not defined by law, the Supreme Court has the authority to apply it under Rule 7 of Order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules and Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.
  • According to Rule 7 of Order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules, if the Chief Justice or the court directs that certain information be kept under seal or is considered confidential, no party will be allowed access to the contents of that information unless the Chief Justice himself orders that the opposite party be allowed access.
  • Courts have frequently used sealed cover jurisprudence in the recent past, such as in the Rafale Fighter Jet Deal 2018, 2014, BCCI Reforms Case, Bhima Koregaon Case 2018, and others.
  • Official unpublished documents relating to state affairs are protected under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, and a public officer cannot be compelled to disclose such documents.

Challenges with Sealed Cover Jurisprudence:

  • Nature is arbitration: Individual judges looking to substantiate a point in a particular case, rather than common practice, use sealed covers. As a result, the practice is haphazard and arbitrary.
  • Transparency: It is incompatible with the Indian justice system's principles of transparency and accountability, as it opposes the concept of an open court where decisions can be scrutinised by the public.
  • Fair Trial and Adjudication Obstruction: It is also argued that denying accused parties access to such documents obstructs their right to a fair trial and adjudication.
  • To increase the scope for arbitrariness in court decisions, because judges are supposed to justify their decisions, but this is impossible to do when they are based on confidential information.

Supreme Court's Take on the Jurisprudence of Sealed Covers:

  • The Supreme Court ruled in the case of P. Gopalakrishnan vs The State of Kerala in 2019 that disclosure of documents to the accused is constitutionally required, even if the investigation is ongoing and the documents may lead to a breakthrough.
  • The Supreme Court criticised the Delhi High Court in the INX Media case in 2019 for denying bail to the former union minister based on documents submitted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a sealed cover.

Way Ahead:

  • When fundamental rights like free speech are stifled, the executive must provide a compelling explanation for its actions. The executive branch of India's government does not have unrestricted power to issue arbitrary orders that violate such rights.
  • A court that sits idly by as any executive action takes place is a crude manifestation of democratic decay.

309 Indian Penal Code (IPC)

  • Context:
    • Should we stop penalizing suicides and seek a more permanent solution like the repeal of section 309 Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • The high suicide rate in India: 
    • India has the highest suicide rate in the Southeast Asian region, according to the World Health Organization.  
    • A total of 1,34,516 cases of suicide were reported in 2018 in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. While the rate of suicide was 9.9 in 2017, it increased to 10.2 in 2018. 
  • Reasons for suicide: 
    • Depression, chronic ill health, guilt, trauma, substance abuse, failure in exams, and loss of loved ones are some of the reasons which influence a person’s decision to take his or her life. 
  • What is section 309 IPC? 
    • Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code provides for the penal provision for attempting suicide.  
    • If a person is suffering from any mental trauma or illness, he or she should be given reformative treatment rather than a deterrent punishment which is “simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year [or with fine, or with both]”. 
    • British Parliament decriminalized attempts to suicide in 1961 through the Suicide Act. In India, a Bill to repeal Section 309 was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 1972 but it failed to pass in the Lok Sabha because the House was dissolved. 
  • Judgements favoring decriminalization of suicide: 
    • Those who favour the penal provision generally quote the following judgments. 
    • Gian Kaur V. State of Punjab (1996): In this judgment court held that the “right to life is a natural right embodied in Article 21” of the Constitution but “suicide is an unnatural termination or extinction of life and, therefore, incompatible and inconsistent with the concept of the right to life”. 
    • Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011): In this case, the Supreme Court endorsed the Gian Kaur judgment. 
  • Judgments against decriminalization of suicide: 
    • Maruti Shripati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra (1986): In this judgment, the Bombay High Court declared Section 309 unconstitutional. It said: “For example, the freedom of speech and expression includes freedom not to speak and to remain silent. The freedom of association and movement likewise includes the freedom not to join any association or to move anywhere… If this is so, logically it must follow that right to live… will include also a right not to live or not to be forced to live.” 
    • Chenna Jagadeeswar v. State of Andhra Pradesh and P. Rathinam v. Union of India (1994): In these judgments, the court held that Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code is a violation of Articles 14 and 21 and is void and unconstitutional. 
  • Does the mental healthcare act offer a solution? 
    • To some degree but not fully.  
    • In 2017, Parliament passed the Mental Healthcare Act. Section 115 (1) of the Act provides, that any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code. 
    • However, this law applies only to those suffering from mental illness. There is a presumption of severe stress in case of an attempt to die by suicide. 
  • Way forward: 
    • We have to shift from penalizing attempts to suicide or making such cases medico-legal ones. Instead, we should provide psychological or mental treatment and support to the persons affected. As the issue demands a reformative stance, we need a permanent solution like repealing Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code or striking it down. 

Recusal of Judges

  • Context:
    • Recently, two Supreme Court (SC) judges have recused themselves from hearing cases relating to West Bengal. 
  • What is the recusal of judges? 
    • Recusal is the removal of oneself as a judge or policymaker in a particular matter. 
  • The judges usually recuse themselves when there is a Conflict of Interest: 
    • Conflict of Interest:
      • It can occur in many ways, such as, holding shares in a company that is a litigant to having a prior or personal association with a party involved in the case. 
      • As the judges have a duty to act fair, they recuse from the case. 
      • Another instance for recusal is when an appeal is filed in the Supreme Court against a judgement of a High Court that may have been delivered by the SC judge when he or she was in the HC.
  • Background:
    • It granted bail to Jawaharlal Nehru and Jamia University students, arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with the northeast Delhi riots in 2020. 
    • The Delhi police had maintained that the accused engaged in “sloganeering and instigating the public against the government”.
    • They tried to create a “communally surcharged environment” with the intent to disrupt the unity and strike terror.
    • According to data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Parliament in March, a total of 1126 cases were registered under UAPA in 2019, a sharp rise from 897 in 2015.
    • The Delhi Police argued that the terror clause in UAPA can be invoked in the following conditions: 
      • For the intent to threaten the unity and integrity but the likelihood to threaten the unity and integrity, 
      • For the intent to strike terror but the likelihood to strike terror, 
      • With the use of firearms but also for causing or likely to cause not just death but injuries to any person or persons or loss or damage or destruction of property.
  • Delhi High Court observations:
    • The court criticised the Delhi Police for “casually” invoking provisions of the anti-terror law against the three accused, who had protested against the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
    • The court observed that the line between the constitutionally guaranteed “right to protest” and “terrorist activity” had been blurred.
    • It appears that in its anxiety to suppress dissent and in the morbid fear that matters may get out of hand, the state has blurred the line.
    • If such blurring gains traction, democracy would be in danger.
    • The charge sheet lacked “any specific, particularised, factual allegations” that would make out the ingredients of offences under the UAPA.
    • The court is of the view that the mere use of alarming and hyperbolic verbiage in the subject charge-sheet will not convince it otherwise.
    • The foundations of our nation stand on a surer footing than is likely to be shaken by a protest.
    • However vicious, organised by a tribe of college students or other persons, operating as a coordination committee from the confines of a University situated in the heart of Delhi.
    • The allegations relating to the following are evidence that the appellant participated in organising protests: 
      • Inflammatory speeches, 
      • Organising of chakka jaam (road blockades), 
      • Instigating women to protest and 
      • To stock-pile various articles and other similar allegations.
  • Previous cases referred by the Delhi HC:
    • The bail orders also refer to how the Supreme Court itself, in the 1994 case of Kartar Singh v State of Punjab, flagged similar concerns against the misuse of another anti-terror law, the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987.
    • The court cited a 1992 SC ruling in the case of Hitendra Vishnu Thakur v State of Maharashtra.
    • In which the extent and reach of terrorist activity must travel beyond the effect of an ordinary crime and must not arise merely by causing disturbance of law and order or even public order;
    • And must be such that it travels beyond the capacity of the ordinary law enforcement agencies to deal with it under the ordinary penal law.
    • In 2019, the SC, in NIA v Zahoor Ahmed Watali, read the bail provisions strictly, holding that courts must only be satisfied that a prima facie case can be made out to deny bail and not consider the merit or the admissibility of the evidence.
  • Delhi High Court Ruling:
    • The phrase ‘terrorist act’ cannot be permitted to be applied in a cavalier manner to criminal acts or omissions that fall squarely within the definition of conventional offences as defined inter alia under the IPC (Indian Penal Code).
    • The right to protest is not outlawed and cannot be termed as a ‘terrorist act’ within the meaning of the UAPA.
    • The ingredients of the offences under sections 15, 17 and/or 18 of the UAPA are clearly discernible from the factual allegations contained in the charge sheet.
    • Section 15 of the UAPA defines “terrorist act” and is punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least five years to life.
    • In case the terrorist act results in death, the punishment is death or imprisonment for life.
    • Court rejected the Delhi Police interpretation of the law for pressing charges stating that it is a sacrosanct principle of interpretation of penal provisions.
    • Interpretation must be construed strictly and narrowly.
    • The Delhi High Court’s reading of what constitutes terror activity stated that bail under UAPA can be granted only when the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such a person is prima facie true.
    • It also helpfully points out that a simple law-and-order problem in a state should not be equated with a terrorist problem.
    • By making a clear distinction that the former is a state subject, and the latter a Union subject under lists one and two, the order, potentially, also has implications for federalism in matters of law enforcement.
    • This order insists that the allegations made against the accused must be backed up by facts, must pertain to acts undertaken by them as individuals, and must be specifically framed.
  • Appeal to Supreme Court:
    • The students’ lawyers press for their immediate release, stating they could not be made to spend another night in jail after getting bail.
    • The police objected stating they should not be released until the outstation addresses of the three students and their sureties were verified.
    • The police sought more time to file its verification report.
    • The police, in their appeal in the Supreme Court, claimed the High Court had lost sight of the evidence in the case. 
    • Seeking an immediate stay of the HC order, the police said it would otherwise affect all other cases registered by the National Investigation Agency under the UAPA.
  • Supreme Court Held:
    • It stated that the High Court’s order of June 15 would neither be treated as a precedent in any proceedings nor be relied on by the parties.
    • The way the UAPA Act has been interpreted (by the High Court) requires further examination.
  • The root of the issue:
    • Ostensibly designed to check and address terrorism, the UAPA is perhaps one of the most abused laws in India today. 
    • The root of the problem lies in Section 43(D)(5) of this Act, which prevents the release of any accused person on bail under the following conditions:
      • If, on a perusal of the case diary,
      • The report made under Section 173 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure and the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such a person is prima facie true.
      • India follows the adversarial system of criminal justice.
      • Where two sides to a dispute attempt to persuade the court that their version of events is true.
      • The adversarial system of justice is the testing of evidence through cross-examination.
      • Each side is afforded the opportunity to scrutinise, challenge, and question the evidence produced by its opponent.
      • The best way for a judge to unearth the truth (or the closest approximation of it) is to consider which side’s evidence is left standing, and appears more persuasive, after the rigours of cross-examination.
      • Production of evidence, and cross-examination, involves Witnesses,  Recoveries of incriminating objects, 
      • Tests of handwriting or voice samples, and  Many other elements.
      • In India, with our overburdened courts and creaking justice system, criminal trials take years. 
      • In high-profile cases such as the Delhi riots case, where the record is bulky, and the witnesses number in their hundreds, trials can take many years even a decade or more.

Limits of Sedition

  • Context: 
    • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) while protecting two Telugu (language) news channels from coercive action by the Andhra Pradesh government noted that it is time to define the limits of sedition.
    • Presently, the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws constituted by the Union Home Ministry to suggest reforms to the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), is attempting for the first time to define Hate speech.

  • About the Case:
    • Channels blamed the state government for suppressing the right to freedom of speech by obstructing the media coverage and reportage of the Covid-19 pandemic in the State.
    • Article 19 guarantees the freedom of expressing one’s own views, opinions, beliefs and convictions freely by word of mouth, writing, printing, picturing or in any other manner.
    • Channels urged the SC to initiate contempt proceedings against the senior officials of the State government for violating its previous order.
    • The previous order of SC directed the state government to immediately cease any direct and indirect threats of prosecution and arrest to citizens, who air their grievances.

SC’s Ruling

  • Indiscriminate Use of Sedition:
    • SC flagged indiscriminate use of the sedition law against critics, journalists, social media users, activists and citizens for airing their grievances about the government's Covid-19 management.
    • Even for seeking help to gain medical access, equipment, drugs and oxygen cylinders, especially during the second wave of the pandemic.
  • Interpretation of ‘Sedition’:
    • The ambit and parameters of the provisions of Sections 124A (sedition), 153A and 505 of the IPC would require interpretation.
  • IPC Section 153 A:
    • Punishing acts promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.
  • IPC Section 505:
    • Makes the publication and circulation of content that may cause ill-will or hatred between different groups an offence.
    • Particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information and rights, even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation.
  • Rights of Media:
    • Acknowledged the argument that the media was well within its rights to air critical programmes about a prevailing regime without attracting sedition.
  • Sedition (Section 124A of IPC):
    • Sedition is a crime under Section 124A, IPC.
    • Section 124A, IPC defines sedition as an offence committed when “any person 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”.
    • Disaffection includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. However, comments without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, will not constitute an offence under this section.
  • Punishment for the Offence of Sedition:
    • Sedition is a non-bailable offence. Punishment under Section 124A ranges from imprisonment up to three years to a life term, to which a fine may be added.
    • A person charged under this law is barred from a government job.
    • They have to live without their passport and must produce themselves in the court at all times as and when required.
  • Way Forward:
    • Section 124A of the IPC has its utility in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements. However, Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy. They should not be constructed as sedition.
    • The higher judiciary should use its supervisory powers to sensitize the magistracy and police to the constitutional provisions protecting free speech.
    • The definition of sedition should be narrowed down, to include only the issues pertaining to the territorial integrity of India as well as the sovereignty of the country.
    • Civil society must take the lead to raise awareness about the arbitrary use of Sedition law.

Lokpal- Lokayukta

Context: More than two years after the Lokpal came into being, the Centre is yet to appoint a director of inquiry for conducting a preliminary inquiry into graft complaints sent by the anti-corruption ombudsman.

About the news:

  • The Lokpal, the apex body to inquire and investigate graft complaints against public functionaries, came into being with the appointment of its chairperson and members in March 2019.
  • According to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, there shall be a director of inquiry, not below the rank of Joint Secretary, who shall be appointed by the Central government for conducting preliminary inquiries referred to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) by the Lokpal.
  • Though the Director of Inquiry has not been appointed, cases are being received in the commission for conducting preliminary inquiries.
  • The CVC was asked to provide details of the director of inquiry and cases referred to it by the Lokpal for conducting preliminary inquiries.

What is Lokpal?

  • It is an anti-corruption authority or body of ombudsman who represents the public interest.
  • It is the national anti-corruption ombudsman.
  • It has jurisdiction over the central government to inquire into allegations of corruption against its public functionaries and for matters connected to corruption.
  • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act was passed in 2013 with amendments in parliament, following the Jan Lokpal movement led by Anna Hazare in 2011.

Composition

  • The first head has been selected 5 years after the President had given assent to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013.
  • Under the 2013 Act, the Lokpal should consist of a chairperson and a such number of members, not exceeding 8.
  • Of the members, 50% should be judicial members.
  • Also, not less than 50% of the members should be from among persons belonging to the SCs, the STs, OBCs, minorities, and women.
  • The same rules apply to members of the search committee.

Lokpal Jurisdiction and Powers

  • The Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Groups A, B, C, and D officers and officials of the Central Government are all subject to Lokpal's jurisdiction.
  • Except for claims of corruption involving international relations, security, public order, atomic energy, and space, the Lokpal's jurisdiction included the Prime Minister.
  • In the case of anything stated in Parliament or a vote taken there, the Lokpal has no jurisdiction over Ministers and MPs.
  • The Lokpal Act requires all public officials to disclose their assets and liabilities, as well as those of their dependents.
  • It has the authority to supervise and direct CBI's operations.
  • When Lokpal refers a case to the CBI, the investigating officer cannot be transferred without Lokpal's permission.
  • The Lokpal's Inquiry Wing has been given the authority of a civil court.
  • In exceptional cases, Lokpal has the authority to seize assets, revenues, receipts, and perks obtained by corruption.
  • Lokpal has the authority to propose the transfer or suspension of a public servant accused of corruption.
  • During the preliminary investigation, Lokpal has the authority to issue orders to prevent the destruction of records.

About Lokayukta:

  • The Lokayukta is an anti-corruption authority constituted at the state level.
  • It investigates allegations of corruption and mal-administration against public servants and is tasked with speedy redressal of public grievances.
  • The origin of the Lokayukta can be traced to the Ombudsmen in Scandinavian countries.
  • The Administrative Reforms Commission, (1966-70), had recommended the creation of the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in the states.
  • The Lokayukta is created as a statutory authority under Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013to enable it to discharge its functions independently and impartially.
  • The Lokayukta and upalokayukta are appointed by the governor of the state. While appointing, the governor in most of the states consults (a) the chief justice of the state high court, and (b) the leader of Opposition in the state legislative assembly.

Quota Benefits

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has ruled that a person belonging to a reserved category is entitled to claim the benefit of reservation in either of the successor States upon their reorganization, but cannot claim the benefit of the quota simultaneously in both.
  • A resident of Jharkhand, a member of Scheduled Caste, filed an appeal against the HC order denying him an appointment in state civil service examination of 2007 on the ground that his address proof showed that he was a permanent resident of Patna, Bihar.

Key Points Of The Judgement

  • The court ruled that a person cannot claim the benefit of reservation simultaneously in both the successor states upon their reorganization.
  • For Example Members of the reserved category, who are residents of the successor State of Bihar, while participating in open selection in Jharkhand, shall be treated to be migrants, and they can participate in the general category without claiming the benefit of reservation and vice versa.
  • If that is permitted, it will defeat the mandate of Articles 341(1) and 342(1) of the Constitution.
  • Section 3 of Bihar Reorganisation Act, 2000, makes it apparent that such persons whose place of origin/domicile on or before (November 15, 2000) was of Bihar now falling within the districts/regions which form a successor State, i.e. Jharkhand became an ordinary resident of the State of Jharkhand.
  • So far as the employees who were in public employment in Bihar on or before November 15, 2000, apart from those who have domicile of either of the district which became part of Jharkhand, such employees who have exercised their option to serve in Jharkhand their existing service conditions shall stand protected by virtue of Section 73 of the Act, 2000.

Article 341:

  • The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Castes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be.

Article 342:

  • The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be.

FASTER (Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records)

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has approved the use of an electronic system named FASTER (Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records) for the transmission of e-authenticated copies of orders.

What is a FASTER System?

  • FASTER is a system by which crucial decisions including orders on bail and stay of arrest can be communicated electronically to prison authorities and investigating agencies through a secure channel.

What is the significance of the FASTER system?

  • Firstly, the FASTER system will ensure that undertrials are not made to wait for days on end behind bars to be released because the certified hard copies of their bail orders took time to reach the prison. 
  • Secondly, it would also prevent unnecessary arrests and custody of people even after the court had already granted them its protection. It may even communicate a stay on an execution ordered by the final court on time.

What is the progress on the implementation of the FASTER System?

  • The Supreme Court has directed all the States and Union Territories to ensure the availability of internet facilities with adequate speed in each and every jail. If there is no such connection then they have to take the necessary steps to arrange for internet facilities expeditiously. 
  • Till then, the communication is directed to be made through the Nodal Officers of the State Governments under the FASTER system.

Reservation in Promotions to Persons with Disabilities (PwDs)

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to issue instructions “at the earliest and not later than four months” for giving reservations in promotions to persons with disabilities (PwDs).

About:

  • A January 14, 2020 judgment of the apex court confirmed that PwDs have a right to reservation in promotions. The judgement is famously known as the Siddaraju v/s State of Karnataka.
  • It said instructions should be issued in accordance with Section 34 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
  • It provides that “every appropriate government shall appoint in every government establishment not less than 4% of the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength in each group of posts meant to be filled with persons with benchmark disabilities.

About Siddaraju v/s State of Karnataka case:

  • In the case of Siddaraju v/s State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court affirmed the Reservation of Persons with Disability (PWDs) under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. In the given case, the decision given under Indra Sawhney’s Case was reconsidered.
  • The Court was of the view that the basis for providing reservation for PWD is a physical disability and not any of the criteria forbidden under article 16(1).
  • Further, the reservation of persons with disabilities has nothing to do with the 50% ceiling. Therefore, the rule of no reservation promotions as laid down in Indra Sawhney has clearly and normatively no application to persons with disabilities.

Other landmark judgements with regard to Reservation in promotion:

  • In the Indira Sawhney case (1992), SC held that the reservation policy cannot be extended to promotions. 
  • However, the 77th Constitutional Amendment inserted clause 4A in article 16 and restored the provision of reservations in promotions.
  • In Nagaraj judgement (2006), Court laid down three controlling conditions that the state must meet prior to granting SC/ST a reservation in promotion: 
    • the state must show that backwardness of the class 
    • class is inadequately represented in position or service 
    • reservations are in the interest of Administrative efficiency 
    • The Jarnail Singh case (2018), struck down the demonstration of backwardness provision from Nagaraj judgement.

Government Aid Not a Fundamental Right: SC

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that government aid to an institution is a matter of policy and it is not a fundamental right.
    • Article 30 of the Constitution of India (dealing with rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions) is subject to its own restrictions being reasonable.
  • Aid, not a Fundamental Right:
    • The right of an institution, whether run by a majority or minority community, to get government aid is not a fundamental right. Both have to equally follow the rules and conditions of the aid.
  • Reason:
    • Government aid is a policy decision. It depends on various factors including the interests of the institution itself and the ability of the government to understand the exercise.
    • Financial constraints and deficiencies are the factors that are considered relevant in taking any decision while giving aid, including both the decision to grant aid and the manner of disbursement of aid.
  • Withdrawal of Aid:
    • If the government made a policy call to withdraw aid, an institution cannot question the decision as a matter of right.
    • If an institution does not want to accept and comply with the conditions accompanying such aid, it is well open to it to decline the grant and move in its own way. On the contrary, an institution can never be allowed to say that the grant of aid should be on its own terms.
  • Article 30:
    • Article 30 (1): All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
    • Article 30(1A) deals with the fixation of the amount for acquisition of property of any educational institution established by minority groups.
    • Article 30(2) states that the government should not discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language while giving aid.

The collegium delay

  • Context:
    • CJI N V Ramana asks the government to clear the remaining names of the judges to which the collegium had referred a month ago. the collegium had recommended 106 names for judges and 9 for CJI, while the government cleared only 7 for judges and 1 for CJI.
  • Collegium system:
    • It is a system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of SC, and not by an act of parliament or by constitutional provisions.
    • There is no mention of the same in the constitution or any further amendments.
    • It is headed by CJI and comprises 4 other senior-most judges of the court.

Total Firecracker ban was set aside by Supreme Court

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court recently clarified that there is no total ban on the use of firecrackers and only those fireworks which contain Barium salts are prohibited.
  • Background:
    • On October 29, the court had made it clear that there was no total ban on the use of firecrackers.
    • Only those firecrackers are banned which are found to be injurious to health and affecting the health of citizens,” the court had noted in the order.
    • The firecracker industry had moved the top court after the Calcutta High Court “prohibited the sale, purchase, use, display or bursting of firecrackers of any type at all during the upcoming Kali Puja, Diwali celebration as well as the following Chatt Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Guru Nanak’s Birthday and/or Christmas/New Year’s Eve this year in the State of West Bengal”.
    • Strengthening the mechanism to stop misuse, the apex court reiterated its advice, with a reference to its October 29 order.
  • About Fire Crackers:
    • Firecrackers use fuel and oxidizers to produce a combustion reaction, and the resulting explosion spreads the material in a superheated state.
    • Metals in the mix, which have a varying arrangement of electrons in shells outside their nucleus, produce different wavelengths of light in this reaction, generating spectacular colours. 
    • Barium compounds, for example, produce green light and Strontium and Lithium salts, red. 
    • Many crackers also violate legal limits on sound.
  • Green crackers:
    • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, through its National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI), Nagpur, has come out with firecrackers that have “reduced emission light and sound” and 30% less particulate matter using Potassium Nitrate as oxidant. 
    • These crackers are named Safe Water Releaser, which minimises: 
    • Potassium Nitrate and Sulphur use, but matches the sound intensity of conventional crackers, 
    • Safe Minimal Aluminium, where Aluminium use is low and Safe Thermite Crackers with low Sulphur and Potassium Nitrate. 
  • Impacts of Barium in Fire Crackers:
    1. Barium is generally present in the air in particulate form as a result of industrial emissions, particularly from the combustion of coal and diesel oil and waste incineration. 
    2. The estimated respiratory intake for an adult male is in the range of 0.03–22 µg/day.
    3. The mean daily intake of barium from food, water and the air is estimated to be slightly more than 1 mg/day, food being the primary source for the non-occupationally exposed population. 
    4. At high concentrations, barium causes: 
    5. Vasoconstriction by its direct stimulation of arterial muscle, 
    6. Peristalsis as a result of the violent stimulation of smooth muscles and 
    7. Convulsions and paralysis following stimulation of the central nervous system. 
    8. Depending on the dose and solubility of the barium salt, death may occur in a few hours or a few days.

Vanniyars reservation cancelled by Madras HC

  • Context:
    • The Madras High Court has quashed the 10.5% special internal reservation provided by the Tamil Nadu government to Vanniyars, a most backward caste (MBC). 
  • About the reservation for Vanniyars:
    •  
    • In 2021, the Assembly passed a special Act that divided the ‘Most Backward Classes/Denotified Communities’ category into three parts.
    • Of the total, the largest share of 10.5% was given to the Vanniyakula Kshatriya and its various sub-castes.
    • The MBC/DNC sub-division was to have 7% for DNCs and a section of MBCs, while the remaining 2.5% was meant for the rest of the MBCs.
    • It was justified based on the report of the Second Backward Class Commission which stated that the Vanniyar population was 13.01% of the then total population in 1983.
  • Reasons for the court’s judgment:
    1. The court cited the lack of adequate quantifiable data with the State government before the introduction of the law.
    2. The other ground was that the separate reservation for one caste amounted to discrimination against all the other castes in the same MBC category.
    3. The candidates from Vanniyars would automatically get selected in the educational institutions or in the government employment without there being any competition.

All India Judicial Service (AIJS) 

  • Context:
    • The idea of centralised recruitment of judges has been debated in legal circles for decades and remains contentious. The central government is preparing to give a fresh push to the establishment of an All India Judicial Service (AIJS) on the lines of the central civil services.
  • All India Judicial Service (AIJS):
    • In 1958, the 14th report of the Law Commission of India had recommended the creation of the All India Judicial Service (AIJS).
    • The AIJS is a reform push to centralize the recruitment of judges at the level of additional district judges and district judges for all states.
  • Current Procedure for recruiting district judges:
    • Articles 233 and 234 of the Constitution of India deal with the appointment of district judges and place it in the domain of the states.
    • All judges of the lower judiciary up to the level of district judge are selected through the Provincial Civil Services (Judicial) exam. 
  • Why has the AIJS been proposed?
    • The idea was to ensure an efficient subordinate judiciary, to address structural issues such as varying pay and remuneration across states, to fill vacancies faster, and to ensure standard training across states.
    • In 2006, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 15th Report backed the idea of a pan-Indian judicial service, and also prepared a draft Bill.
  • What is the judiciary’s view on the AIJS?
    • In 1992, the Supreme Court in All India Judges’ Assn. (1) v. Union of India directed the Centre to set up an AIJS. In a 1993 review of the judgment, however, the court left the Centre at liberty to take the initiative on the issue.
  • Implications to the AIJS:
    • A centralized recruitment process is seen as an affront to federalism and an encroachment on the powers of states granted by the Constitution. 
    • Language and representation, for example, are key concerns highlighted by states. Judicial business is conducted in regional languages, which could be affected by central recruitment.
    • The opposition is also based on the constitutional concept of the separation of powers.
    • Legal experts have argued that the creation of AIJS will not address the structural issues plaguing the lower judiciary.
  • Conclusion:
    • Increasing pay across the board and ensuring that a fraction of High Court judges is picked from the lower judiciary, may help better than a central exam to attract quality talent.

‘Sexual intent’, not ‘skin-to-skin’ contact, key in POCSO assault case

  • Context:
    • The most important ingredient for constituting an offence of sexual assault under Section 7 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act is the “sexual intent”, and not the “skin-to-skin” contact with the child”, the Supreme Court said while quashing two judgments of the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court.
  • POCSO Act:
    • “Children” according to the Act are individuals aged below 18 years. The Act is gender-neutral.
    • Different forms of sexual abuse including but not limited to sexual harassment, pornography, penetrative & non-penetrative assault are defined in the Act.
    • The investigation process should be child-friendly and the case should be disposed of within one year from the date of reporting.
  • The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offences and matters related to them.
    • Section 45: The power to make rules lies with the central government.
    • The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) monitor the Act’s implementation. Both are statutory bodies.
    • Section 42 A: In case of inconsistency with provisions of any other law, the POCSO Act shall override such provisions.
  • Supreme court said:
    • The Supreme Court has quashed the judgement of the Bombay High Court.
    • The court said that touching a child with sexual intent—even through clothing—is sexual assault under the POCSO Act.
    • Further, the court said that the most important ingredient for constituting an offence of sexual assault under Section 7 of the POCSO Act is the “sexual intent” and not the “skin-to-skin” contact with the child.
    • Hence, limiting the ambit of “touch” to a narrow definition would lead to an “absurd interpretation” and defeat the purpose of the act.

SC VERDICT ON REAL ESTATE ACT BENEFITS HOMEBUYERS

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court affirmed that the provisions of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) are applicable to projects that were ongoing and for whom completion certificates were not obtained at the time of the enactment of the law, in effect interpreting that the law is retroactive.
  • Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA):
    • Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) is a Statutory Body established in each state by the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, which came into effect fully from 1st May 2017.
    • The Act seeks to protect home-buyers as well as help boost investments in the real estate sector by bringing efficiency and transparency in the sale/purchase of the real estate.
    • The Act requires any project that has 8 dwelling units or is at least 500 sq m in the area to be registered with the RERA. (Only the Projects coming up after the act was passed are covered).
    • RERA is established in each state for regulation of the real estate sector and also acts as an adjudicating body for speedy dispute resolution.
  • The Mandatory Functions of RERA are:
  1. Registering and maintaining a database of real estate projects
  2. Publishing the database on its website for public viewing
  3. Protection of interest of promoters, buyers and real estate agents
  4. Development of sustainable and affordable housing
  5. Render advice to the government and ensure compliance with its Regulations and the Act.
  6. Decisions of RERAs can be appealed in Real Estate Appellate Tribunal.
  • SC’s views on Retroactive Implementation issue:
    • The SC affirmed that the provisions of the RERA 2016 are applicable to projects that were ongoing and for whom completion certificates were not obtained at the time of the enactment of the law.
    • Under the Act, registration of real estate projects was mandatory.
    • It mandated that for projects that were ongoing on the date of commencement of the Act, specific projects for which the completion certificate had not been issued, the promoters shall be under obligation to make an application to the authority for registration of the project.
    • SC also held that the amount invested by the allottees, along with interest as quantified by the regulatory authority or the adjudicating officer, can be recovered as arrears of land revenue from the builders.
    • It is mandatory for real estate developers to deposit at least 30% of the penalty ordered by the regulator, or the full amount as the case may be before they challenge any RERA order. This is expected to ensure that only genuine appeals are filed and homebuyers’ interests are protected.

Pension for Judges

  • Context:
    • Rajya Sabha approves Bill on enhanced pension for retired judges.
  • Concept:
    • The High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954, and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958 regulate the salaries and conditions of service of the judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court of India.
    • The salaries and allowances of CJI and Supreme Court judges are charged from the Consolidated Fund of India.
    • The salaries and allowances of state high court judges including chief justices are charged from the Consolidated Fund of State.
    • Retired Judges of SC and all HCs are entitled to a pension which is drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Current Provisions
    • Through the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Act, 2009, section 16B and section 17B were respectively inserted (in the 1954 Act and 1958 Act).
    • The 2009 act aims to provide that for every retired Judge or after his death, the family will be entitled to an additional quantum of pension or family pension in accordance with the scale specified therein.
    • Accordingly, the additional quantum of pension to retired Judges of the High Court and Supreme Court is being sanctioned on completing the age of 80 years, 85 years, 90 years, 95 years, and 100 years, as the case may be.
    • The additional quantum increases with age (from 20% to 100% of the pension or family pension).

Default bail

Context:

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has approached the Supreme Court against a Bombay High Court order granting bail to advocate and activist Sudha Bharadwaj. While she was given ‘default bail’, eight others were denied the benefit in the same case.
  • The case highlights the nuances involved in a court determining the circumstances in which statutory bail is granted or denied, even though it is generally considered “an indefeasible right”.

What is default bail:

  • Default bail, also known as statutory bail, is a right to bail that accrues when the police fail to complete an investigation within a specified period in respect of a person in judicial custody.
  • This is enshrined in Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure where it is not possible for the police to complete an investigation in 24 hours, the police produce the suspect in court and seek orders for either police or judicial custody.
  • This section concerns the total period up to which a person may be remanded in custody prior to the filing of the charge sheet.
  • For most offenses, the police have 60 days to complete the investigation and file a final report before the court.
  • However, where the offense attracts a death sentence or life imprisonment, or a jail term of not less than 10 years, the period available is 90 days.
  • In other words, a magistrate cannot authorize a person’s judicial remand beyond the 60-or 90-day limit. At the end of this period, if the investigation is not complete, the court shall release the person “if he is prepared to and does furnish bail”.

Why ‘veg’ is ‘non-veg’: what Delhi High Court said

Context:

  • Delhi High Court has directed the food safety regulator to ensure that food business operators make full disclosures on all that goes into any food.

What is the case?

  • Ram Gaua Raksha Dal, a non-government Trust, filed a petition in the court to label all products, including non-consumables like crockery, wearable items, etc on the basis of the ingredients used. For food items, the petition sought to label not only the ingredients but also the items used in the manufacturing process.

What is the Delhi High Court verdict?

  • Under the verdict, operators now have to strictly comply with Regulation 2.2.2(4) of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011. They have to disclose every detail like whether products originate from plant or animal sources, or are manufactured in a laboratory and what percentage derived from them.
  • The court said, use of non-vegetarian ingredients, even in “a minuscule percentage would render such food articles non-vegetarian and would offend the religious and cultural sensibilities/ sentiments of strict vegetarians. Thus, interfering in people’s right to freely profess, practice, and propagate their religion and belief.

What are the labeling requirements under the 2011 Regulations?

  • Definition: It defines non-vegetarian food which contains whole or part of any animal including birds, freshwater or marine animals, or eggs or products of any animal origin excluding milk or milk products.
  • Labeling: All non-vegetarian food should be labeled with a brown color-filled circle inside a square with a brown outline. Where egg is the only non-vegetarian ingredient, a declaration to this effect in addition to the said symbol”. Vegetarian food must be labeled with a “green color filled circle inside the square with a green outline.
  • Declaration of ingredients:  Manufacturers must disclose which types of edible vegetable oil, edible vegetable fat, animal fat or oil, fish, poultry meat, or cheese, etc. have been used in the product.

What is the problem with the labeling?

  • The court noticed that some food operators are misusing the act, as it does not specifically oblige them to disclose the source from which the ingredients are sourced.
  • Example: Chemical disodium inosinate, a food additive found in instant noodles and potato chips, which is commercially manufactured from meat or fish. But operators only disclose the codes of the ingredients. Due to this, many food articles, which have ingredients sourced from animals, are passed off as vegetarian by affixing the green dot.

Supreme Court allows bullock cart races in Maharashtra

Context:

  • The Supreme Court has allowed Maharashtra to hold bullock cart races in the state till the pendency of the matter before the Constitutional Bench of the apex court.

Allowing bullock-cart races:

  • The SC observed that the validity of the amended provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the rules framed by Maharashtra provided for bullock cart races in the State.
  • Supreme court said “One country, one race, we need to have uniformity and there has to be one rule. If the races are going on in other states, why should it not be allowed by Maharashtra.”
  • Such races would operate during the pendency of the petitions as the entire matter has been referred to a Constitution Bench.
  • The state govt has cited examples as the same is being conducted in the states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Background:

  • In 2014, the Supreme Court banned traditional sports like ‘Jallikattu’, bull race and bullock-cart races across the country noting that they violated provisions of the PCA Act.
  • Subsequently, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had amended the law to continue the tradition in a regulated manner, which is under challenge and pending before the Supreme Court since 2018.
  • In February 2018, the Supreme Court had referred the pleas related to 'Jallikattu' to a five-judge Constitution Bench which would decide if the bull-taming sport fell under cultural rights or perpetuated cruelty to animals

Jallikattu Debate

  • It is a bull-taming sport and a disputed traditional event in which a bull is released into a crowd of people.
  • It is typically practised in the state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal (harvest) celebrations in January.
  • The issue with the sport:
    • An investigation by the Animal Welfare Board of India concluded that “Jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals”.
    • Human deaths: The event has caused several human deaths and injuries and there are several instances of fatalities to the bulls.
    • Manhandling of animals: Animal welfare concerns are related to the handling of the bulls before they are released and also during the competitor’s attempts to subdue the bull.
    • Animal intoxication:  There are also reports of the bulls being forced to drink alcohol to disorient them, or chili peppers being rubbed in their eyes to aggravate the bull.
  • Arguments in favor:
    • Native breed conservation: According to its protagonists, it is not a leisure sport available but a way to promote and preserve native livestock.
    • Cultural significance: Jallikattu has been known to be practised during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BCE) and finds mention in Sangam texts.
    • Man-animal relationship: Some believe that the sport also symbolizes a cordial man-animal relationship.

 

Constitutional Provisions:

General Consent by CBI

Context:

  • Meghalaya has withdrawn consent to the CBI to investigate cases in the state, becoming the ninth state in the country to have taken this step.

About:

  • The CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and it must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government concerned before beginning to investigate a crime in a state.
  • The consent of the state government to CBI can be either case-specific or general.
  • General consent is normally given by states to help the CBI in the seamless investigation of cases of corruption against central government employees in their states.
  • This is consent by default, in the absence of which the CBI would have to apply to the state government in every case, and before taking even small actions.

Withdrawal of Consent:

  • It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving officials of the central government or a private person in the state without the consent of the state government.
  • CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI):

  • It traces its origins to the Delhi Special Police Establishment, a Central Government Police force, which was set up in 1941.
  • It then aimed to investigate bribery and corruption in transactions with the War and Supply Department of India.
  • The DSPE acquired its popular current name, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), through a Home Ministry resolution dated in 1963.
  • The CBI is the main investigating agency of the GoI.
  • It derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • Its important role is to prevent corruption and maintain integrity in administration.
  • It works under the supervision of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) in matters pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • The CBI is India’s official representative with the INTERPOL.
  • The general consent of states enables CBI to conduct investigations and probe against any Central Government employee in any corruption case. Without the State’s general consent, the central agency loses all power to perform any investigation in any part of the state.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)

Context:

  • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has informed the Supreme Court that it was willing to issue Aadhaar cards to sex workers without insisting on proof of residence/identity.
  • But, they should get a certificate from a gazetted officer of the health departments of the States or from an official with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
  • The court has been hearing arguments about how authorities and community-based organisations could reach out to sex workers and provide them with ration cards, voter cards and Aadhaar cards without disclosing their identities.
  • Sex workers battle social stigma even at the cost of food security.

About UIDAI:

  • UIDAI was created with the objective to issue Unique Identification numbers (UID), named as “Aadhaar”, to all residents of India that is (a) robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and (b) can be verified and authenticated in an easy, cost-effective way.
  • UIDAI is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
  • Prior to its establishment as a statutory authority, UIDAI was functioning as an attached office of the then Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog)
  • Under the Aadhaar Act 2016, UIDAI is responsible for Aadhaar enrolment and authentication, including operation and management of all stages of the Aadhaar life cycle,
  • Developing the policy, procedure and system for issuing Aadhaar numbers to individuals and
  • Perform authentication and
  • To ensure the security of identity information and authentication records of individuals.
  • It comes under the Electronics & IT ministry

Quami Waqf Boards Taraqqiati Scheme

Context:

  • The deadline for the “Quami Waqf Boards Taraqqiati Scheme” has been revised from March 2022 to November 2023.

Key takeaways:

  • Under the scheme, all Waqf properties are to be geotagged.
  • It began in 2017.

Ministry: Union Ministry of Minority Affairs

  • The scheme was envisaged on the basis of recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • The government wanted to map the immovable assets under the Waqf boards, to ensure its proper utilisation and monetisation.
  • The exercise is also aimed at ensuring that these properties are not lost to encroachments and counter ownership claims.
  • According to estimates, there are over six lakh Waqf properties, out of which, in the last five years, 2 lakh properties have been geotagged.

Important value additions:

  • A waqf (also known as wakf or hubous) is an inalienable charitable endowment under Islamic law.
  • It typically involves donating a building, plot of land or other assets for Muslim religious or charitable purposes with no intention of reclaiming the assets.
  • The state waqf boards were established by the state governments in view of the provisions of Section 9(1) of the Wakf Act, 1954.
  • India also has a Central Waqf Council to advise the government “on matters concerning the working of boards and the due administration of waqfs.”

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST):

  • NCST was set up with effect from 19th February 2004 by amending Article 338 and by inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the 89th Constitution Amendment Act, 2003.
  • It oversees the implementation of various safeguards provided to STs under the Constitution and evaluates the working of such safeguards.
  • The commission is vested with all the powers of a civil court while investigating any matter on inquiring into any complaint relating to deprivation of rights and safeguards for the Scheduled Tribes

Composition:

  • It consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and 3 other members who are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
  • At least one member should be a woman.
  • The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and the other Members hold office for a term of 3 years.
  • The members are not eligible for appointments for more than two terms.

Article 80

  • Article 80 of the Constitution of India deals with the composition of the council of states also called the Upper House and Rajya Sabha (Upper House).
  • Under Article 80 of the Constitution, the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) is composed of not more than 250 members, of whom 12 are nominated by the President of India from amongst persons who have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.
  • Nominated members enjoy all powers, privileges and immunities available to an elected member of Parliament.
  • They take part in the proceedings of the House as any other member. They, however, are not entitled to vote in the election of the President of India.   But in the election of the Vice-President of India, they have a right to vote.  So far, none of them has been inducted into the Council of Ministers.
  • A nominated member is allowed six months, should he decide to join a political party after he has taken his seat in the House in terms of article 99 of the Constitution.
  • A nominated member has also been exempted from filing his assets and liabilities under Section 75A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which requires the elected member to do so within 90 days of his making or subscribing oath/affirmation.

Article 355

  • Article 355 of the Constitution says that “It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
  • Article 355 of the Constitution deals with an emergency provision by which the Centre can intervene and protect a state against external aggression or internal disturbance.
  • The Constitution does not expressly provide how the duty of the Union to protect a State against external aggression and internal disturbance is to be carried out.
  • Article 356 of the Indian Constitution provides for the provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States.
  • Affinity test and identification of Scheduled tribes
  • The affinity Test is used to shift through anthropological and ethnological traits to link a person to a tribe.
  • Bombay High Court in Shilpa Vishnu Thakur v State of Maharashtra accepted the “relevance and importance of the affinity test”. The Full Bench held that the affinity test was an “integral part” of the verification process for caste certificates.
  • The term ‘affinity’ meant the ‘association’ of the applicant for a caste certificate with a Scheduled Tribe into which he or she has been born.

Article 192

Context:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has written to the Jharkhand government, seeking documents pertaining to a mining lease granted to Chief Minister Hemant Soren, to “formulate its opinion” under Article 192 of the Constitution.
  • Decision on questions as to disqualifications of members (Article 192)
  • If any question arises as to whether a member of a House of the Legislature of a State has become subject to any of the disqualifications under article 191, the question shall be referred for the decision of the Governor and his decision shall be final.
  • Before giving any decision on any such question, the Governor shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion.

Article 191: Criteria for Disqualifications for membership

  • A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State
  • If he holds any office of profit
  • If he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
  • IF he is an undischarged insolvent;
  • IF he is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State.
  • IF he is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament.
  • A person shall be disqualified from being a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State if he is so disqualified under the Tenth Schedule

Article 344: Commission and Committee of Parliament on official language

Official Language Commission:

  • The President shall, at the expiration of five years from the commencement of this Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of ten years from such commencement, by order constitute a Commission which shall consist of a Chairman and such other members.
  • The members should represent the different languages specified in the Eight Schedule as the President may appoint, and the order shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission

Duties of commission:

  • The progressive use of the Hindi language for the official purposes of the Union;
  • Restrictions on the use of the English language for all or any of the official purposes of the Union;
  • The language to be used for all or any of the purposes mentioned in Article 348;
  • The form of numerals to be used for anyone or more specified purposes of the Union;
  • Any other matter referred to the Commission by the President.

Official Language Committee:

  • A Committee consisting of thirty members, of whom twenty shall be members of the House of the People and ten shall be members of the Council of States to be elected respectively by the members
  • It shall be the duty of the Committee to examine the recommendations of the official language Commission constituted under the clause and to report to the President their opinion thereon.
  • It is headed by Home Minister (Not present in the constitution).

Article 142

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has closed a criminal case initiated against two Italian marines who killed two fishermen off the Kerala coast, setting the stage for the Italian government to try them in their own country as per an international tribunal award.
    • It has also accepted the additional compensation of Rupees 10 crores offered by the Republic of Italy to the victims of the 2012 sea-firing incident which took place near the Kerala coast.
  • Article 142:
    • The Government of India urged the Court to invoke the extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution to quash the criminal cases against Marines, as the international tribunal under the United Nations Convention on Law of Seas had ruled that India lacks the jurisdiction to criminally prosecute them.
  • What had the tribunal held?
    • In a close 3:2 vote, the tribunal ruled that the Italian marines enjoyed diplomatic immunity as Italian state officials under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.
    • Taking note of the “commitment expressed by Italy” to resume its criminal investigation into the incident, the tribunal said India must cease to exercise its jurisdiction.

 

Personal data protection bill, 2021

  • Context:
    • The joint parliamentary committee is likely to meet to adopt a wider ambit for the personal data protection bill,2021, to include non-personal data as well. following the changes, the bill is likely to be called as Data protection bill, 2021.
  • Background:
    • The personal data protection bill was first introduced in 2018 by MeiTy.The Bill seeks to provide for the protection of the personal data of individuals.
    • The Bill governs the processing of personal data by:
      • Government
      • Companies incorporated in India
      • Foreign companies dealing with the personal data of individuals in India
    • Infosys Co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan was appointed to deliberate further upon the issue of non-personal data.
    • The committee submitted its report in 2020.
  • What is personal data:
    • It is data that pertains to characteristics, traits, or attributes of identity, which can be used to identify an individual.
  • What is the need to protect personal data?
    • The collection of information about individuals and their online habits has become an important source of profits, but also a potential avenue for the invasion of privacy because it can reveal extremely personal aspects.
    • Companies, governments, and political parties find it valuable because they can use it to find the most convincing ways to advertise online.
    • To prevent the breach of privacy and unwarranted advertising, it is important to protect it.

Juvenile justice act [JJ act]

  • Context:
    • Delhi high court has ordered to terminate all such inquiries which have been pending for more than one year for petty offenses against children in conflict with law under the JJ act. 
  • JJ act:
    • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
    • The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
    • The Act included several new offenses committed against children (like, illegal adoptions, use of children by militant groups, offenses against disabled children, etc) which are not adequately covered under any other law.
    • All Child Care Institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organizations are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act.
  • According to the act, the inquiry pertaining to petty offenses shall stand terminated if it remains inconclusive after a maximum of 6 months.
  • What constitutes petty offenses?
    • Criminal cases where the maximum punishment is imprisonment of 3 years and includes theft, rash driving, wrongful restrain, etc.

SC/ST act

  • Context:
    • THE SUPREME Court on Monday ruled that its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution or that of the High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure can be invoked to quash proceedings under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989.
  • What did the court say?
    • The court can quash the proceedings if:
      • It appears to the court that the offence in question, although covered under the SC/ST Act, is primarily private or civil in nature,
      • Or where the alleged offence has not been committed on account of the caste of the victim,
      • Or where the continuation of the legal proceedings would be an abuse of the process of law, the court can exercise its powers to quash the proceedings.
    • In its earlier verdict, the court had said:
      • All types of intimidations or insults to persons belonging to Dalit or tribal communities will not be categorized as an offense under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
      • Only insults specifically intended to humiliate the victim for his caste should be tried under the SC/ST act.
  • SC/ST Act, 1989
    • Was enacted to protect the marginalized communities against discrimination and atrocities.
    • The Act lists various offenses relating to various patterns or behaviors inflicting criminal offenses and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes community, which includes denial of economic, democratic, and social rights, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse of the legal process.
    • Under section 18 of the act, the provision for anticipatory bail is not available to the offenders.
    • Any public servant, who deliberately neglects his duties under this act, is liable to punishment with imprisonment for up to 6 months.
  • SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (Amendment) Act, 2015
    • To make the act more stringent with the following provisions:
    • It recognized more instances of “atrocities” as crimes against SCs and STs.
    • It provided for the establishment of exclusive special courts and special public prosecutors to try offenses under the PoA Act.
    • Act defined the term ‘wilful negligence’ in the context of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of the complaint to dereliction of duty under this Act.
    • If the accused was acquainted with the victim or his family, the court will presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proved otherwise.

Prithvi Raj Chauhan case, 2020

  • In this case, the constitutional validity of section 18-A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 was challenged.
  • In this case, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India has upheld the Constitutional validity of section 18-A.
  • Pre-arrest bail should be granted only in extraordinary situations where a denial of bail would mean a miscarriage of justice.
  • Anticipatory bail can only be given in exceptional cases by Courts and not in every case.

 

Fundamental duties

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre and states in a writ petition seeking the enforcement of the fundamental duties of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
    • The petitioner argued that not carrying out the fundamental duties of the citizen has a direct bearing on the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Incorporation of Fundamental duties:
    • The fundamental duties were incorporated in Part IV-A of the Constitution by The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, during the Emergency period.
    • Article 51(A) describes 11 fundamental duties — 10 came with the 42nd Amendment; the 11th was added by the 86th Amendment in 2002.
    • These duties are not enforceable by law. However, a court may take them into account while adjudicating a matter.
    • They were made a part of the Constitution to emphasize the obligation of the citizen in return for the fundamental rights that he or she enjoys.
    • The Russian Constitution has the concept of fundamental duties, which inspired Indian constitutional makers.
  • 11 Fundamental duties:
    1. to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
    2. to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
    3. to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India;
    4. to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
    5. to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
    6. to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
    7. to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures;
    8. to develop the scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
    9. to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
    10. to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement;
    11. who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

'Public order' and restriction of freedom

  • Context:
    • The Karnataka High Court judges heard an argument on whether the state can justify the Hijab ban on the ground that it violates ‘public order’.
  • What is public order?
    • Public order is one of the three grounds on which the state can restrict freedom of religion. Public order’ is also one of the grounds to restrict free speech and other fundamental rights.
    • Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality, and health.
    • Public order is normally equated with public peace and safety. According to List 2 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the power to legislate on aspects of public order rests with the states.
    • According to the government order issued by Karnataka on February 5th under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, “public order” is one of the reasons for not allowing students to wear a headscarf in educational institutions.
    • In the Karnataka case, the petitioners have argued: “Public order is not every breach of law and order. Public order is an aggravated form of disturbance that is much higher than a law and order issue.”
  • How has public order been interpreted by courts?
    • Courts have broadly interpreted 'public order' to mean something that affects the community at large and not a few individuals.
    • In Ram Manohar Lohia vs State of Bihar (1965), the Supreme Court held that in the case of ‘public order, the community or the public at large have to be affected by a particular action. 

Governance:

PMGati shakti

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Prime Minister has launched the Gati Shakti – National Master Plan for Multi-modal Connectivity. 
  • What is PMGati shakti?
    • PM GatiShakti is a digital platform that connects 16 ministries — including Roads and Highways, Railways, Shipping, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, and Aviation — with a view to ensuring holistic planning and execution of infrastructure projects.
    • Aims to institutionalize holistic planning for major infrastructure projects.
    • The projects will be designed and executed with a common vision and will incorporate the infrastructure schemes of various ministries and state governments such as the Bharatmala road project, Sagarmala waterways plan, ports, and the UDAN scheme.
    • Economic Zones like textile clusters, pharmaceutical clusters, defense corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, Agri zones will be covered to improve connectivity & make Indian businesses more competitive.
    • It will also leverage technology extensively, including spatial planning tools with ISRO’s satellite imagery. This will be used for real-time monitoring of projects.
  • Services provided :
    • Planning and obtaining clearances.
    • Centralized tracking of projects.
    • Prioritize projects.
  • Significance:
    • Logistic cost:
      • Logistical cost in India is about 13%-14% of GDP as against about 7-8% of GDP in developed economies. The plan will help India to cut down its logistics cost.
    • Reduce implementation overlaps:
      • Poor Infrastructure planning at present results in various challenges. For example, newly-built roads are being dug up by the water department to lay pipes and construction different tunnels for roads and railways in the same area.
    • Reducing human intervention within the ministry.

Pegasus allegations

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has appointed an independent expert technical committee overseen by a former apex court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, to examine allegations that the government used Israeli spyware, Pegasus, to snoop on its own citizens.
  • What is Pegasus?
    • All spyware do what the name suggests — they spy on people through their phones.
    • Pegasus works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone.
    • A presumably newer version of the malware does not even require a target user to click a link.
    • Once Pegasus is installed, the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone.
  • What did the SC rule?
    • The SC order broadly addresses three issues that have been flagged in the Pegasus row:
      • Citizen’s right to privacy (Article 21).
      • Judicial review when the executive invokes national security (Article 13, Article 32).
      • Article 13: Declares that any law which contravenes any of the provisions of the part of Funda­mental Rights shall be void.

Acts & Bills:

Uttarakhand's Char Dham act

  • Context:
    • Uttarakhand government has announced the withdrawal of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act which has been facing protests from priests and other stakeholders of four shrines and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
  • What are the proposals:
    • The project comprises improvement as well as the development of 889 km length of national highways.
    • The project will connect Badrinath Dham, Kedarnath Dham, Gangotri, Yamunotri, and part of the route leading to Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
    • This project can act as the strategic feeder roads which connect the India-China border with the Army camps in Dehradun and Meerut where missile bases and heavy machinery are located.
  • Environmental concerns:
    • The project may destroy about 690 hectares of forests with 55,000 trees and evacuate an estimated 20 million cubic meters of soil.
    • Ruthless harvesting or uprooting of vegetation in the widening of roads can prove to be perilous for the biodiversity and regional ecology.

Delhi Special Police Establishment Amendment Bill 2021

  • Context:
    • Parliament passed the bill to extend the tenure of the director of CBI to a maximum period of five years from the earlier fixed period of two years. Now CBI director position can be extended for every one year till five years of continuous service. Thus, Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act and Central Vigilance Commission (amendment) Bill is amended.
  • Need for the move:
    • Public interest: To provide stability and regulation, so that the CBI head can carry out the same work with the confidential information that it has.
    • To ensure transparency to check corruption.
    • Increased flexible tenure will make CBI more institutionalized and streamlined to deal with cases, which has become more structured.
    • As a member country of the financial action task force, India wants to improve resources for financial investigation and international crime. 

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • CBI is the main investigation agency of the central government. It is not a statutory organization. 
  • CBI was set up in 1963 by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The formation of CBI was recommended by the Santhanam Committee on the prevention of corruption act (1962-1964). It is transferred to the Ministry of personal training. It enjoys the status of an attached office. 
  • CBI has jurisdiction to investigate offenses pertaining to 69 laws, 18 state acts, and 231 offenses in IPC
  • Concerns with the bill:
    • Affect the credibility of the institution: There is a strong possibility that Officers and directors will take sides of people in power.
    • Against the spirit of the Vineet Narayan case: In the Vineet Narayan case, Supreme Court decided on a fixed tenure of two years. With the provision of flexible extension of tenure to five years, it is being feared that CBI will see more government control.
    • The bill was passed during a time when the opposition is not effectively functioning in the parliament.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill 2020

  • Context:
    • Lok Sabha passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020. It makes provisions for the safe & ethical practise of assisted reproductive technology services in the country.
    • Assisted reproductive technology comprises modern techniques such as in vitro fertilization, intrauterine insemination, oocyte, and sperm donation, cryopreservation that can help infertile couples.
  • Provisions of the bill:
    • Definition of ART: Under the Bill, ART will include all techniques that attempt to obtain a pregnancy by handling the sperm or the oocyte (immature egg cell) outside the human body, and transferring the gamete or the embryo into the reproductive system of a woman.
    • Setting up of ART Banks: The Bill defines an ART bank as an organization set up to supply sperm or semen, oocytes, or oocyte donors to ART clinics or their patients.
    • Regulation of ART Clinics: The Bill provides for the establishment of the National Registry of Clinics and Banks, which will act as a central database for details of all the clinics and banks in the country. The Registry will grant registration to ART clinics which will be valid for five years and can be renewed for a further five years. Registration may be canceled or suspended if the entity contravenes the provisions of the Bill.
    • National and State Boards: The Bill also provides for the establishment of National and State Boards for Surrogacy for the regulation of ART services. The National Board shall advise the Central Government on policy matters relating to assisted reproductive technology.
    • Rules for ART service providers: ART procedures can only be carried out with the written informed consent of both the person seeking ART services as well as the gamete donor.
    • Rights of a Child Born through ART: The child born through ART shall be deemed to be a biological child of the commissioning couple and the said child shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges available to a natural child only from the commissioning couple under any law for the time being in force.
    • Offenses: Offences under the bill include clinics offering sex selection, abandoning or exploiting children born through ART, the selling, buying, or importing of human embryos, and exploiting the couple or donors concerned in any form. Proposed jail terms for violations range from five to 12 years, and fines from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh.
  • What is the need for the ART Regulation Bill?
    • Growth of ART: A market projection (by Fortune Business Insights) said the size of the ART market is expected to reach $45 billion by 2026. Among Asian countries, India’s ART market is pegged at third position.
    • Undoubtedly, this also led to a plethora of legal, social, and ethical issues. The bill is important to protect the affected women and children from exploitation. Further, about 80% of ART clinics in India are not registered. So, to control unethical practices, regulation of ART is essential.

Dam Safety Act 2021

  • Context:
    • Dam Safety act 2021 received President’s assent. The center has brought the legislation under Article 246 of the constitution read with Entry 56 and Entry 97 of the union list.
  • What is Dam Safety Act?
    • It aims to “provide for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of the specified dam for prevention of dam failure related disasters, and to provide for an institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
  • Provisions of the act:
    • A National Committee on Dam Safety with a three-year tenure, comprising the chairman of the Central Water Commission, a maximum of 10 representatives of the central government in the ranks of joint secretary, a maximum of seven representatives of the state governments, and three experts.
    • The National Dam Safety Authority, to be headquartered in Delhi. It will be headed by an officer, not below the rank of Additional Secretary to the Government of India to deal with problems relating to dam engineering and dam safety management.
    • A state dam safety organization will be formed as well, which will be responsible for the dam safety. This organization is empowered to investigate and gather data for proper review and study of the various features of the design, construction, repair, and enlargement of dams, reservoirs, and appurtenant structures.
    • The state dam safety organization must also report events such as dam failures to the National Dam Safety Authority and also maintain records of major dam incidents of each specified dam.
    • The owners of the specified dams are required to provide a dam safety unit in each dam. This unit will inspect the dams before and after the monsoon session, and during and after every earthquake, flood, or any other calamity or sign of distress.
    • All dams in India with a height above 15 meters come under the purview of the bill.
  • Need for the act:
    • There are 5,254 large dams and most of the dams are more than 25-year-old. Huge siltation is taking place as a 
    • result of which the water holding capacity of dams is getting reduced.
    • 2. There have been more than forty large dam failure incidences in past.
    • 3. Lack of uniform law and administrative management for dam safety.
    • 4. Central Water Commission (CWC) does not have statutory powers and can only make recommendations.

Election Amendment Bill 2021

  • Context:
    • Election laws (amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed in the Lok Sabha. It provides for amendment of section 23 and section 14 of the Representation of People’s Act 1950 and section 20 of the Representation of People’s Act 1951.
  • Provisions in the bill:
    • It seeks to link electoral roll data and voter ID cards with the Aadhar ecosystem.
    • January 1st as the qualifying date is changed to four qualifying dates i.e. 1st of January, April, July, and October. 
    • Earlier anyone who turn 18 after January 1st was eligible for voting only after a year.
    • The language for registration of wives of service voters will now be replaced by the spouse. Thus making it gender-neutral.
    • Service voters are those serving in armed forces, armed police forces of a state serving outside it, and government employees posted outside India
    • The election laws (Amendment) Act seeks to allow the electoral registration officers to ask for Aadhar for authentication of entries in the electoral roll.

Anti-doping Bill

  • Context:
    • The Government of India has introduced the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021 in Rajya Sabha.
  • Key provisions of the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021:
    • Statutory Backing for NADA: The Bill seeks to provide a statutory framework for the functioning of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). It also empowers it to conduct raids, investigate, levy sanctions, or Anti-Doping Rule Violations. Earlier, NADA had no such authority.
    • Establishment of Doping Laboratories: The Bill provides for the establishment of the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL)  and other dope testing laboratories. 
    • National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports: The Bill seeks to establish a National Board for Anti-Doping in Sport. It will consist of a chairperson and two other members to be appointed by the central government. This Board will constitute a National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel and Anti-Doping Appeal Panel for the purpose of determining the consequences of anti-doping rule violations.
    • Auditing by CAG: The Bill says that the accounts and audit of the Board, NADA, and the NDTL will be done by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
    • Anti Doping Violation: The Bill lays down the circumstances, acts, or conduct which will constitute an anti-doping violation. This includes possession, presence, use or attempted use, trafficking or attempted trafficking of any prohibited substance or prohibited methods, or refusing to submit a sample.

National Drugs And Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) 2021

  • Context:
    • Parliament passed the National Drugs and Psychotropic substances (Amendment) 2021. It amends the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
  • The objective of the Amendment:
    • The act helps victims of drug abuse to come out of addiction
    • The act seeks to decriminalize possession of a limited quantity of drugs.
  • Concerns Related to Act:
    • The new act will be used retrospectively from 1st May 2014. It means that a person who was involved in a crime from 1st May 2014 will get punishment. 
    • It violates the fundamental rights in Article 20. Article 20 grants protection against arbitrary and excessive punishment to an accused person, whether citizen or foreigner or legal people like a company or a corporation.
      • Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 regulates certain operations (manufacture, transport, and Consumption) related to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. 
      • Persons found guilty of this offense will be punished with rigorous imprisonment of at least 10 years (extendable up to 20 years) and a fine of at least Rs.1 lakh. It also provides for the death penalty in some cases where a person is a repeat offender.
      • Under the Act, financing certain illicit activities such as cultivating cannabis, manufacturing narcotic drugs, or harboring persons engaged in them is an offense.
      • Narcotic Control Bureau was constituted in 1986 under the NDPS Act. 
      • The act was earlier amended in 2014.

Section 498A of IPC

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Supreme court observed that Section 498A of IPC is being used to settle personal scores against the husband and his family.
  • About section 498 A:
    • Section 498A was introduced in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) in the year 1983. 
    • It is defined that if the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjected such woman towards cruelty would be punished with imprisonment for a term which might extend to 3 years and may also be liable for fine.
    • Section 498A is non-bailable and a cognizable offense.
    • The incorporation of Section 498A of IPC was aimed at preventing cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband and her in-laws by facilitating rapid state intervention.
    • Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code is one of the greatest rescues for Violence against Woman (VAW) but is also prone to misuse.

Indian Evidence Act

  • Context:
    • A division bench of the Kerala High Court observed that it was high time that Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act was subjected to scrutiny in the context of “changing values governing human and familial relations”.
  • About the  act:
    • Indian Evidence Act contains a set of rules and allied issues governing the admissibility of evidence in the Indian courts of law.
    • This act changed the entire system of concepts about the admissibility of evidence in the Indian courts of law. Until then, the rules of evidence were based on the traditional legal systems of different social groups and communities of India and were different for different people depending on caste, community, faith, and social position. 
  • About section 122:
    • Section 122 of the Evidence Act recognizes that all communications between spouses during wedlock are sacrosanct and “they should be held privileged”.
    • Any married person cannot be compelled to disclose any conversation between them during the marriage. The disclosure can only be admissible as evidence if there lies a dispute or any proceeding where one spouse has to be held liable for an offense committed against the other. For a conversation to be admissible, it is necessary that both the spouses consent to its disclosure.
    • The importance to adhere to this section has been reiterated in landmark cases like Ram Bharosey vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (1954) and M.C. Verghese vs. T.J. Ponnan & Anr. (1968), in which the Supreme Court proclaimed that the disclosure of any conversation within a marital relationship without the consent of a spouse is extra-judicial and cannot be admissible.

J&K Delimitation Commission

  • Context:
    • The Central government has extended the term of the Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission which was tasked with redrawing assembly constituencies in the union territory.
    • The extension will further delay an announcement to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir which is now a Union Territory but with a provision for a legislature.
  • Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019:
    • The delimitation commission came into being by an Act of the Parliament, under the provisions of Part V of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
    • As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, the number of Assembly seats in J&K would increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to benefit the Jammu region.
  • About the commission:
    • In 2020, the government had set up the Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, to wind up delimitation within a year.
    • The delimitation process is crucial for kick-starting the political process in Jammu and Kashmir. In 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said elections would be held in J&K after the delimitation process in the UT was over.
    • In its first draft proposal, the commission suggested an increase of six Assembly segments in the Jammu province and one in the Kashmir province.
    • It has also suggested the reservation of seven seats for Scheduled Castes and nine seats for Scheduled Tribes.

The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Supreme Court lifted an interim stay imposed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on a Haryana law providing 75% reservation in private sector jobs to local candidates.
  • About the act:
    • The act came into force on January 15, providing for 75% reservation in the private sector to jobseekers “domiciled in the state of Haryana”.
    • The law covers private companies, societies, trusts, and partnership firms and applies to jobs that offer a maximum gross monthly salary or wages of up to Rs 30,000.
    • Central or state governments and any organization owned by them are excluded.
    • Eligible candidates are required to register on a designated online portal.
    • Companies can make recruitments only through this portal.
    • The law had been opposed by industry associations on the ground that it would affect their business and make them less competitive.
  • Constitutional questions that arise from the act:
    • Encroachment of right to carry out any occupation, guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g).
    • Article 16 allows making a law that requires residence within a State for an appointment. But, this is only for public employment and the law needs to be made by the Parliament.
    • The quantum of reservation beyond 50% will go against the objective of equality.
    • The Maharashtra Act, which provided reservations for Marathas, was struck down by the Supreme Court in May 2021 on grounds of breaching the 50% limit. 
    • It goes against the conception of India as a nation and encourages regionalism.
  • Economic implications:
    • Increase in cost for companies, especially labor-intensive, manufacturing sector.
    • Limits the scope of recruitment for companies and also hits their productivity.
    • Increases the income inequality across states & discourages investment in some states.
    • Gives rise to red-tapism and goes against the goal of ease of doing business.
    • Gives rise to a policy of uncertainty and is against the spirit of competition.
    • Reduces India’s comparative advantage over other countries in labor.

Need for a refugee and asylum law

  • Context:
    • A Private Member’s Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha proposing the enactment of a Refugee and Asylum law. The Bill lays down comprehensive criteria for recognizing asylum seekers and refugees and prescribes specific rights and duties accruing from such status.
  • Definitions:
    • Refugee: According to United Nations, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.
    • Asylum seekers: They are the people who flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country and apply for asylum i.e. the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance. An asylum seeker must demonstrate that his or her fear of persecution in his or her home country is well-founded.
  • Related laws:
    • India is neither a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, nor does it have a domestic asylum framework.
    • The issue of refugees is dealt with under various acts like the Foreigners Act, 1946, the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, the Passports Act (1967), the Extradition Act, 1962, the Citizenship Act, 1955 (including its controversial 2019 amendment), and the Foreigners Order, 1948 — all of which club all foreign individuals together as “aliens”. 
    • Under these laws, foreigners can be detained and forcibly deported, even if they are refugees escaping their countries of origin in fear of death.
  • Administration of refugees in India:
    • The regulation of refugees and asylum seekers in India is conducted on an ad-hoc basis through administrative decision-making.
    • Only Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees are recognized by the government. They are provided protection and assistance directly through specific policies and rules.
    • On the other hand, refugees from Myanmar, Afghanistan, etc. are registered and protected by the UNHCR, as per its mandate under the 1951 Refugee Convention. For these refugees, the UNHCR issues its documents of registration, which are recognized by Indian authorities to only a limited extent.

Lokayukta Act of Kerala

  • Context:
    • Recently, Kerala Lok Ayukta Act was amended through an ordinance.
  • About Kerala ordinance:
    • Under Section 14 of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, a public servant is required to vacate office if directed by the Lokayukta.
    • This section is amended to give the government powers to “either accept or reject the verdict of the Lokayukta, after giving an opportunity of being heard”. 
  • About Lokayukta:
    • The Lokayukta is an authority at the state level that deals with corruption and mal-administration complaints made by the general public. 
    • The creation of Lokpal at the center and Lokayukta at the state level was suggested by the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) in the year 1966.
    • The Lokayukta is put into power when the Lokayukta act is passed by the state legislature. 
    • Maharashtra became the first state to introduce the institution of Lokayukta in the year 1971 through the Lokayukta and Upalokayukta act.
    • Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 states: “Every state shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta for the State to deal with complaints relating to corruption against certain public functionaries.”
    • Originally, the central legislation was envisaged to make a Lokayukta in each state mandatory. However, it was opposed by regional parties. The law then created a mere framework, leaving it to the states to decide the specifics.
    • In 2018, the Supreme Court had expressed concern that some states had not appointed any Lokayukta or Up-Lokayukta. 
    • Given that states have the autonomy to frame their laws, the Lokayukta’s powers vary from state to state.
  • Appointment of Lokayukta:
    • The Lokayukta is appointed by the Governor of the State, through nomination by its Chief Minister (in consensus with the Chief justice of the State High Court, Leaders of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and Chairman of the Legislative Council).
    • Once appointed, Lokayukta can not be dismissed nor transferred by the government, and can only be removed by passing an impeachment motion by the state assembly.
    • Any person who is a judge or a retired Chief Justice or a retired judge of the High Court is eligible to be appointed as Lokayukta.



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