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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today
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9 PM for Mains examination
- Chinks in the armour of the Supreme Court
- Judiciary and Executive
- Regional Conversation series on Building Back Better
- India’s Tax Charter
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.Chinks in the armour of the Supreme Court
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus- GS 2- Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
Context- There were two significant developments in connection with the Indian judiciary: Prashant Bhushan’s contempt case and the retirement of Justice Arun Mishra.
The Prashant Bhushan’s case
- Basis of contempt-One of his tweets was about the role of the last four Chief Justices of India, and the other about the current CJI riding an expensive motorcycle while the court was in “lockdown”.
- Supreme court held him guilty of contempt of court-
- In the display of generosity, it let off Mr. Bhushan with a fine of one rupee.
- In the alternative, it ordered for a three-month imprisonment term and three years debarment from practice.
- Supreme Court’s strange behaviour– It appeared strange and also embarrassing on the part of the court, for it came across as a petulant bargaining.
- Bhushan’s reply– With appropriate decorum and honesty, he admitted any apology in this circumstance would be insincere.
Justice Arun Mishra’s issue
- Master of roster system- JusticeMishra’s steps as a ‘master of roster’ has been questioned as most of the politically sensitive cases were assigned to the benches involving him.
- Politically sensitive cases- Many commentators have conducted detailed analyses and found that these were predictably in favour of the executive. Thus, hisrole clearly indicates his immoral decisions, notably with reference to the Justice Loya case.
- Executive court-It has been speculated on the marked drift of the Supreme Court away from rights- based court to an executive court.
The master of roster system
- It refers to the privilege of the Chief Justiceto constitute Benches to hear cases. Be it the Chief Justice of India or Chief Justice of any high court it is he or she who heads the administrative side. It includes allocation of matters before a judge as well.
- Reason of this privilege-It was designed for a different era and judicial independence was rarely doubted.
- Abuse of this privilege- It has been misused by many courts to conclude the judgement in their favour. Example of such cases
- One of such examples was Justice Dipak Misra’stenure in which the assignment of work in the court ‘remote controlled’.
- National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Actwas struck down by the Court on grounds of excessive executive interference in the selection of judges. But surely, this judgment is of no use if executive interference is anyway possible in more subtle ways.
- Justice Gogoi’s sexual harassment case.
Action to be taken for a transparent judiciary
- Random allocation- Arules-based mechanism for allocation of cases is needed. Cases should be allocated randomly. A case allocation system that is neutral and rules-based will prevent bench packing, and demonstrate neutrality, impartiality, and transparency.
- Unity in judges against unethical actions– Any kind of rule can be implemented only if judges themselves take a stand and decide. There should be agreement that no discretion can be allowed, for that is the root cause of so many of our troubles.
Thus, need is to ensure that courts are protected from outside interference; improves public confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judiciary; assures litigants of equality and fairness; and protects basic rights and freedoms by not compromising on them.
2.Judiciary and Executive
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-2- Judiciary
Context: Supreme Court’s unwillingness to question government on major issues affects its moral authority.
State of affairs between the Supreme Court and the Government
- None of Supreme Court’s decisions have come as an embarrassment to the current government in the last 4 years.
- The current governmentblocked the elevation of Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court in 2014.
- Subramanium was the Court’s impartial counsellor in the Sohrabuddin case in which current Home Minister Amit Shah was the prime accused.
- The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC): The current government introduced a bill which would replace the Collegium system for appointing judges to high courts and the Supreme Court.
- The NJAC Act was passed by Parliament in December 2014.
- The Commission would comprise the CJI, two senior judges and two “eminent personalities” selected by a committee involving the CJI, the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
The SC struck down the NJAC Act. It was the last time the SC opposed the government in a major case, stating that the NJAC Act would affect the independence of the judiciary.
Vacancies in the Court
- In early 2016, more than 40 per cent of posts in the high courts were vacant while the backlog of pending cases amounted to over four million.
- Pending appointments:170 proposals for appointments to the high courts were pending .
- According to then CJI T S Thakur, the Indian judiciary was too understaffed to fulfil its obligations.
- The government returned 43 out of 77 names recommended by the Collegium for HC judges and the number of vacant posts had by then gone up to about 500 in 2016.
The role of the Supreme court in maintaining checks and balances:
- The court’s reluctance to question the government: Issues like the NRC, J&K, misuse of sedition law was not questioned by the apex court even when some of these are labelled by the BJP as its ideological projects.
- The way the judiciary has addressed allegations against itself: Allegations such as Kalikho Pul, Prasad Education Trust, sexual harassment affects the moral authority of the judges, especially when they fail to apply the basic principle of natural justice by being judges in their own cause.
- The apex court’s stance on controversial cases:
- The Court considered that the Aadhaar Bill could be passed as a Money Bill.
- The court validated the electoral bonds act.
- The case of Special Judge Loya:no additional investigation was ordered despite many grey areas that allegedly remains unresolved.
- The independence of the judiciary is unavoidably affected by the acceptance of post-retirement jobs.
- The court is indulging in judicial authoritarianism by trying to silence one of the few lawyers who have used the judicial arena to speak truth to power and convicting Prashant Bhushan of contempt.
- According to Lynne Henderson, a court’s jurisprudence appears “to manifest inflexibility, lack of compassion, and approval of oppression”.
3.Regional Conversation series on Building Back Better
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus- GS 3- Disaster and disaster management
Context- To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has launched the Regional Conversation Series on Building Back Better.
Socio-economic impact of COVID-19
Uncertain Economy– Countries in Asia and the Pacific have been experiencing sharp drops in foreign exchange inflows due to declines in export earnings, remittances, tourism and FDI. With continued lockdown measures and restricted borders, economic recovery seems uncertain.
Comprehensive financing strategy to safeguard the Sustainable Development Goals-
- To address the challenge of diminished fiscal space and debt vulnerability
- To ensure sustainable recovery
- Regional cooperation
Measures to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by ESCAP
Regional Conversation series on Building Back Better – United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has launched a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response to the COVID-19 emergency.
- Building Back Better –An approach to post-disaster recovery that reduces vulnerability to future disasters and builds community resilience to address physical, social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities and shocks.
- Parent organization – United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Regional conversation in the series has following components-
- Improving Fiscal space– Central banks can continue to keep the balance of supporting the economy and maintaining financial stability with tax reforms and improving debt management capacities.
- Environment Sustainability– The aim is to enhance international cooperation to attain clean air. The policy paradigm must mainstream affordable, accessible and green infrastructure standards, while promoting social equality and environmental sustainability principles.
- Regional Cooperation- Regionally coordinated financing policies can restart trade, reorganize supply chains and revitalize sustainable tourism in a safe manner. Governments must pool financial resources to create regional investment funds.
- Accelerating Digital Connectivity and Leveraging Innovation– Pathways to digital inclusion and innovation drawing from the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders.
- Facilitating more MSME’s– Addressing the impact of the crisis and mitigating its implications require focused support for micro, small and medium enterprises and the informal economy.
Regional and sub-regional financial institutions and capacities should be harnessed to complement other financial sources. Existing institutional cooperation arrangements should be reformed and strengthened to enhance societal well-being and economic resilience of future pandemics and crises.
4.India’s Tax Charter
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS3: issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources
Context: In the wake of pandemic and slowdown in the economy, tax system needs efficiency in case selection and consistency in assessment.
Need of efficient tax system:
- To improve tax collection:An economic contraction this year will deal a severe blow to tax collections.
- Rising uncertainty and reducing ability to pay: With a shrinking tax base, any calibration of rates or the tax base is difficult since a hurried approach can have wider consequences.
- Limited policy space: the only tool available to the government to maintain its tax base is to urge voluntary compliance.
- To increase compliance: compliance is achieved through a fine balance between enforcement and encouragement. Compliance is also a function of the perception of the administration.
- Enforcement-driven measures are less effective: the taxpaying population has remained at a fraction (6 per cent) of the total population even after strict enforcement driven measures.
- To encourage people: complexity can discourage individuals from filing returns. For instance, complexity is reflected simply in the difference between the number of taxpayers and the returns filed — the former exceeds that latter by around 20 million.
- To Build trust between the administration and the taxpayer:the government has announced measures to usher in transparency in the system. This includes a taxpayer’s charter and faceless assessments.
- India’s new charter includes:
- Confidentiality, right to representation and fair treatment which are in line with global practices.
- India’s citizen charter also specifies timelines for completion of different administrative processes.
- India’s charter conveys a commitment to reducing compliance costs in administering tax legislation, holding its authorities accountable and publishing a periodic report of service standards.
- To end personal interface, e-assessment was introduced in 2019, wherein a taxpayer could digitally respond to any query related to their return.
- Faceless assessment: It seeks to automate the case selection and the distribution function of the assessing officer — assessment, scrutiny and drafting order — among various units located outside the jurisdiction of the taxpayer which will reduce corruption and delays.
- This does not apply to search and seizure cases, and cases related to tax evasion and international taxation.
- Poor Dispute resolution leading to poor success rate:There is evidence of inconsistent and delayed decisions often culminating in the poor success rate of the tax department at various levels of dispute.
- Tax returns can be voluminous and the information contained therein can be unique. Therefore, taxpayers must ideally have an opportunity to explain their case in person.
- It is critical that the details of tax charter are spelt out concerning how these may be implemented in practice. There is urgent need of swift coordination for the implementation of the tax Charter.
- A tax ombudsman is needed to ensure that some of these standards are met.
- Fair and impartial system and a time-bound resolution of matters: the new processes, with reviews and anonymity, must ensure efficiency in case selection and consistency in assessment.
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