Bring the House up to date: (The Hindu, Editorial)
Finding a balance between parliamentary privileges and fundamental rights Context
- In Indian parliamentary democracy, Parliament enjoys almost supreme powers where legislators face no peril from the government.
- As matter of fact, such privileges have become an instrument in the hands of the ruling party.
Karnataka Assembly case
- Karnataka assembly speaker K.B. Koliwad has sentenced Ravi Belagere of Hi Bangalore and Anil Raj of Yelahanka Voice for a year in jail for writing defamatory articles against legislators.
- Hi Bangalore in the year 2014 and said to have ‘defamed’ Koliwad and another congress leader B.M. Nagaraju, and in 2016, Yelahanka Voice defamed BLP’s S.R.
Vishwanath in one of their article.
- The case revived the debate about the prerequisite for codifying privileges and giving superiority to a citizen’s right to free speech over legislative privileges.
The required rethinking
- India’s legislators’ freedom of speech like the freedom of speech of citizens should be subjected to the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, public order, friendly relations with foreign states, incitement of an offence or defamation as mentioned in Article 19(2).
- The Indian citizen have a constrained right to free speech whereas their representatives have an absolute freedom of speech in the Houses.
- Even if one may reluctantly allow such a privilege in the interest of the smooth conduct of the House, the power to send people to jail for the breach of privileges does not get justified.
- Indian legislators getting to be sole judge and rewarding punishment clearly impinges on constitutionalism.
Where does the fault lie?
- The obsolete law on Parliamentary privileges bore the burden of the issue.
- The constitution lacks the proper definition of legislative privileges.
- Articles 105 and 194 clearly says that the “power, privileges and immunities of the legislature shall be as may from time to time be defined by the legislature, and until so defined, shall be those of the House of Commons.”
- The expression “until so defined” does not mean an absolute power not to define privileges at all.
- Legislators keep the argument burning that codification of privileges will harm the sovereignty of Parliament.
- The criticism lies at legislatives covering up corruption behind privileges.
- Indian legislators also have protection from arrest in civil cases 40 days before the session, during the session and 40 days after the session.
- The exemption from arrest is also available for meetings.
- Counting the days of three Parliamentary sessions and meetings then Indian MPs have protection from arrest for more than 365 days in a year.
Comparison of Indian Parliament with British House of commons
- The fault lies in the comparison of India parliament with that of British.
- Placing Indian Parliament on a par with the British House of Commons is wrong.
- Indian legislatures and British Parliament differ not merely as regards their general political status but also in the matter of legal powers.
- The codification of privileges is basically resisted because it would make the privileges subject to fundamental rights.
- Once subjected to fundamental rights, privileges won’t be able to put forth for judicial scrutiny.
- Which would also result in no evolution of new privileges.
- Acts and utterances defamatory of British Parliament or its members are no more treated as privilege questions.
- The U.S. House of Representative has been working smoothly without any penal powers for well over two centuries.
- Australia too codified privileges in 1987 whereas Indian parliament still continue to curtailing freedom of speech and rewarding punishments.
China’s road in Doka La is headed for Thimphu: (Live Mint, Editorial)
(India – China historical complications) Context
- China upset with India and keeping an eye on Bhutan.
- To understand the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction dispute, one needs to be acquainted with the historical facts.
- The Anglo-Chinese convention of 1890 poses that Sikkim-Tibet boundary “line commences at Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier”.
- In 1959, at least two letters from Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Chinese premier Zhou Enlai refer to this convention was the final word on the Sikkim-Tibet boundary.
- India was on board with Mount Gipmoch, the tri-junction point according to China, being the tri-junction point in 1959.
- In 2012, New Delhi and Beijing had come to a separate agreement that any tri-junction involving a third country would be established by involving the third country in consideration.
- Since Bhutan was not party to the 1890 convention, the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction remained unsettled.
- Independently, Beijing and Thimphu arrived at two separate agreements in 1988 and 1998, where both the sides have agreed to maintain the status quo that existed prior to March 1959.
- Then, noticeably, China’s persistence on building roads in Doka La, between Mount Gipmochi in the south and Batang La, the tri-junction point is a violation of three separate agreements it had previously entered into.
Why are Chinese sounding upset with violating the agreements?
- The Chinese side has stiffened its pose on the disagreement and claimed that there can be no dialogue on the matter unless India withdraws its troops unconditionally from Doka La.
- The Chinese state-controlled Global Times spitefully articulated the incidents and the aggressiveness.
- Global Times threatened that New Delhi will have to pay for its provocations.
Reasons for China to feel upset
- It is implicit that the Chinese have maintained some presence in roads and dirt tracks existing between Batang La and Doka La for more than a decade.
- Chinese construction activity has faced little opposition so far and therefore the current stand-off has taken Beijing by surprise.
- The Chinese foreign ministry has claimed that prior to 1960; Bhutanese herders in the region had to pay “grass tax” to China.
- The Tibet records, the Chinese claim will still retains some receipts from those years.
- Bhutan on its own, the Chinese believe, would have surrendered this area to China long ago.
- Beijing would not be completely wrong in concluding that Thimphu’s extended claim was the result of New Delhi’s prodding.
- The Chinese could have deemed this Indian action to be in bad faith especially because New Delhi had already signed off on the 1890 Anglo-Chinese convention way back in 1959.
- It is the Indian forces halting the Chinese road construction in a territory which New Delhi agrees are not Indian in any case even if it is disputed between Bhutan and China.
- India deems that area to be of high strategic importance because any further road construction will allow Chinese troops to come nearer to the Siliguri corridor, a sliver of land that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of the country.
- Beijing’s intention was noticeably to change the status quo on the border so as to gain an unquestionable edge in subsequent boundary negotiations.
The impacts of Indo-Bhutanese Treaty 1949
- The Indo-Bhutanese treaty of 1949 allowed India to have a say in Bhutan’s external engagements.
- New Delhi claimed that India would, in effect, determine Bhutanese foreign policy while Thimphu claimed that India simply had an advisory role.
- Under the 1949 treaty, New Delhi believed it had the right to discuss the China-Bhutan boundary dispute on behalf of Thimphu.
- China on the other hand wanted to discuss the issue only with Bhutan.
- In May this year, Bhutan was the only south Asian country, other than India, that did not participate in the inaugural Chinese Belt and Road foruma high-profile initiative of the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
- A month later, the Chinese forces began to construct a road in Doka La.
Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment
India’s potential for leading global growth: (Live Mint, Editorial)
(India’s dominance over the coming decades) Context: India took over from its neighbour as the “economic pole of global growth” over the past few years and will remain so at least through the decade to 2050. Introduction: India fell behind China in the last quarter of financial year 2017 after showing the good performance of three years as the fastest growing major economy in the world. Description: According to the growth projections released last month by researchers at the Centre for International Development (CID) at Harvard University, based on 2015 data, the reversal is an inconsequential blip. The economic logic underlying those projections raises some intriguing questions about India’s growth trajectory. These projections are based on CID’s new 2015 Economic Complexity Index- part of the Atlas of Economic Complexity, a brainchild of economist Ricardo Hausmann and physicist César A. Hidalgo. In 2009 paper, The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity, Hausmann and Hidalgo laid out their reasoning for this new model to judge economic growth. Reasons for India’s reversal trend:
- The rural poor in several districts of India lack the physical infrastructure to travel far or communicate with more than a limited set of people. This results into limited knowledge and productive capabilities and ultimately in economic opportunities.
- Richer countries will export a greater variety of products exported by few other countries, while poorer countries will export fewer, simpler products that are also exported by many other countries.
- For instance, if Japan, ranked at the top of the index, has vehicles, machinery and electrical machinery as its top exports, Ghana, ranked near the bottom, relies on crude petroleum, gold and cocoa beans.
- While, the areas where India has done good performance includes information technology sector.
Conclusion: Investment in education and innovation for improving human capital is required for achieving inclusive growth.
CID’s work has given us useful new tools to measure growth and economic potential, there are no shortcuts to developing the capabilities that form the building blocks of economic complexity.
Inclusive growth, better penetration and quality of education and better infrastructure, both tangible and intangible, to enable networking of diverse capabilities, remain India’s best bet. Prelims Related News Japan’s men-only island gets UNESCO heritage tag: (No-Women’s Land gets Recognition)
- The tiny landmass of Okinoshima, manned by a Shinto priest, gets the recognition of World Heritage site by UNESCO.
- A men-only island in Japan where women are banned and male visitors must bathe naked in the sea before visiting its shrine, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- UNESCO’s heritage committee considered 33 sites in total for the prestigious status at its annual gathering in Poland.
- Ancient caves in West Germany with art dating back to the Ice Age and disused silver ore mines in southern Poland are also among UNESCO’s listings.
- The yearly festival of the landmass, which is for only two hours, has a strict limitation for its visitors. And specifically, the visitors need to be male.
- Reports say that the island has sometimes been said to ban women, but in principle anyone but the priests who pray there for 365 days a year is barred from entering.
- It is to be noted that the ban on women visitors specifically has nothing to do with discrimination against women. It is considered dangerous for women to travel by sea to get to the island and the shrine will not change the centuries-old rule.