Constitutional Bodies are those bodies which are constituted based on the provisions given in the constitution of India and derive their power from it. Whereas Non-constitutional bodies can be Statutory, regulatory, executive or Quasi-judicial bodies.
Statutory Bodies are Non-constitutional bodies created by an Act of Parliament and do not find their mention in the constitution.
Following are the Bodies appeared in news in 2020-21:
Constitutional and Non-constitutional bodies news
Need of Constituting National Tribunal Commission in India
Synopsis- The formation of the National Tribunal commission could transform the present tribunal system in India.
- Recently, the Centre government has issued the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021.
- The ordinance aims to abolished certain existing appellate tribunals and transferred their functions to other existing judicial bodies.
- The ordinance also shortened the period for members of the tribunals to 4 years.
- However, the ordinance has been widely criticized and is being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Reason for Criticism of the ordinance-
- First, the ordinance bypasses the usual legislative process.
- Second, the Center abolished tribunals such as the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, without any stakeholder consultation.
- Third, No Judicial Impact Assessment (JIA) was conducted, before abolishing tribunals. Whereas, in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank (2019) SC directed the government for JIA before any such step.
- Fourth, the ordinance has fixed a four-year tenure for Chairpersons and members of the tribunal. It is against the SC direction of fixing the 5- year term.
- Last, No National Tribunals Commission (NTC) was constituted for supervising tribunals. This idea was proposed in the L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997).
Need of National Tribunals Commission
- Executive interference– executive interference in the functioning of tribunals is common, especially in the appointment and removal of tribunal members, provision of finances, infrastructure, etc. Thus, the formation of NTC can remove this possibility.
- Lack of independent supervisory body [such as NTC] to support the uniform functioning of the tribunals.
- Inadequate infrastructure, lack of judicial independence, and sluggish conflict settlement.
All of these issues necessitated the establishment of the National tribunal Commission. It will be an independent umbrella body to supervise the functioning of tribunals, including the recruitment of members and disciplinary processes against them as well as the administrative and infrastructural needs of the tribunals.
Benefits of National Tribunals Commission (NTC)
- It will provide administrative support across all tribunals.
- It could separate the administrative and judicial functions carried out by various tribunals.
- Further, it would set performance standards for the efficiency of tribunals and their own administrative processes.
- Also, it will function as an independent recruitment body to develop and operationalize the procedure for disciplinary proceedings and tribunal member appointments.
- Lastly, Speedy resolution of disputes.
- NTC may ensure the functional, operational, and financial independence of tribunals.
- Till the time NTC does not come into existence, the FM should come up with a transition plan.
Source- The Hindu
The Case of EC’s Demand for Restriction on Media
Synopsis: The Election Commission had asked the court to not let the media cover its verbal hearing. It should withdraw its request to recover some of its moral high ground.
The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body that draws its mandate to conduct free and fair elections from Article 324. It has built a desirable reputation for impartiality and public trust. However, the EC has appeared too weak to political pressures amid a pandemic.
- The election commission approached the Supreme Court against the sharply critical observations by the Madras High Court about its management of elections.
- The HC said that possibly EC should face murder charges. EC complained in the apex court by stating that these comments are blatantly critical and derogatory. It further suggested that a line should be drawn so that such remarks are not reported by the media.
- The complaint shows disregard for an open and democratic public sphere.
- The Supreme Court in its response rightly said that it is essential for constitutional bodies to take criticism from other constitutional bodies in the right spirit.
- The people have a right to be informed. The media has a duty to cover the unfolding of debate in the court of law not just its final verdict.
Where did the election commission go wrong?
The EC should take a moment to pause and do an honest introspection. It has invited serious questions from the start of the poll exercise.
- Firstly, the eight-phase schedule for the West Bengal polls was overstretched especially during a pandemic. The EC ignored requests by opposition parties to shorten the election duration by clubbing together the last few phases.
- Moreover, the segregation of phases and geographies seemed to favor a specific political party.
- Secondly, the EC made only casual attempts to make sure that COVID protocols were followed by candidates and parties. The COVID curve rose up in West Bengal and the rest of India.
- India crossed daily cases of 1 lakh on April 4. The daily cases to over 3 lakhs by registering 3,32,730 on April 22.
- Thirdly, the EC only banned roadshows and public meetings of over 500 after the Prime Minister’s announcement of the cancellation of his election meetings scheduled for the next day.
What should the election commission do?
- The EC had gained the trust of people over the years. It should focus on maintaining it. This will require constant awareness and work. The EC must know that the impression is growing of late that it has let itself go.
- The EC needs to act to regain and restore its hard-earned credibility. It should begin by withdrawing its self-indulgent and ill-conceived petition from the Supreme Court.
- In a time when a stout executive does not hesitate to weaponize its mandate, the independence of monitorial institutions is especially precious and needed.
Source: click here
Reducing Independence of the Election Commission of India – Explained, Pointwise
The Election Commission (EC’s) independence and credibility has come into question in the recent phase of state elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Kerala. The Madras High Court blamed the EC. It was for proliferating the second wave of Covid-19 during the electoral process by not acting in a credible manner. After this, EC approached the Supreme Court in order to confront such allegations.
Although SC has denied any immediate relief to EC, the Matter is still under consideration. Now the question comes that why the constitutional body like the Election Commission, with a prestigious past record of impartiality, is facing such allegations. A thorough analysis of all these aspects along with remedial suggestions would be provided in this article.
About Election Commission
- It is a permanent and independent body established by the Constitution of India to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
- Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections shall be vested in the election commission.
- This includes elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India, and the office of vice-president of India.
- It grants election symbols and also recognizes political parties.
- It issues a model code of conduct and keeps an eye on the election expenditure of candidates.
What was the case?
- The Madras High court accused EC of spreading the 2nd wave of pandemic and stated that its officers should be booked for murder charges. Similarly, the Media also reported the institution negatively and held it responsible for the second wave.
- The EC then approached the Supreme Court against such allegations claiming it as an act to undermine its credibility.
- The supreme court will deliver the final verdict in due time, although it has issued some advisories –
- It is important for constitutional bodies to take criticism from other constitutional bodies in the “right spirit”.
- The media has a duty to report “the unfolding of debate in the court of law” and not merely the final verdict. Both aspects constitute are important for people’s right to know.
What are the criticisms facing EC at present?
- Criticism in Current Elections:
- Election Commission planned a very long 8 phase election schedule in West Bengal amidst a pandemic. Further, even after the demand of merging the last few rounds of the election, EC showed no interest in the proposal.
- Demarcation of phases and geographies appeared to favor the central Government.
- Half-hearted attempts to ensure that Covid-19 protocols were followed by candidates and parties.
- Other Criticisms:
- There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning and not registering votes.
- It has also not been able to contain money power and muscle power. Today those who come to parliament and legislatures are mostly moneyed candidates.
Reasons behind reducing independence:
- Selection Procedure: The Chief election commissioner and other ECs are appointed by the President on recommendations of the central government. This raises a question of partisan behavior of officials towards the ruling party.
- Security of Tenure: EC is a three-member body with a chief election commissioner and two election commissioners. CEC enjoys a secure tenure like an SC judge. However, the other two ECs can be easily removed by the President on the recommendation of CEC.
- Post Retirement Jobs: The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government. The government uses this loophole for compromising the independence of members.
- Lack of powers hindering independent functioning: It has no power to derecognize a political party or control the extent of party expenditure. Further, the model code of conduct is not legally enforceable.
- Inadequate Political Will: In the last 70 years numerous political leaders and parties became part of the government. However, very few were willing and able to bestow sufficient powers to EC for ensuring independent functioning.
- Misuse of State Machinery: In recent times, there has been a rising trend of targeting family members of election commissioners using state institutions like the Enforcement Directorate, Vigilance commission, etc. This creates additional pressure on them thereby compromising independent behavior.
Importance of ensuring independence:
- Free and Fair Elections: A democracy can survive only when free and fair elections are conducted in it on a regular basis. This requires an independent EC which can curtail the use of money and muscle power and ensure adherence to electoral rules by all the stakeholders.
- Non-Partisan Behavior: The body can resist political pressures especially from the ruling party only when it enjoys a considerable degree of independence.
- Maintaining people’s Trust: The trust of the masses over the electoral process is contingent upon the degree of independence enjoyed by the EC.
- For instance, people’s trust over EVMs got reduced with increasing instances of partisan behavior by the EC towards the ruling party.
- Acceptability of Verdict: The losing parties accept the electoral verdict as they believe in the impartial and independent functioning of EC. A failure to ensure the same can create distrust among the parties and in extreme situations can give way to a coup.
- For instance, the alleged election fraud in Myanmar elections gave the military an opportunity for a coup in February 2021.
Steps taken to improve credibility and independence of Election Commission:
- Election Commissioner R.V.S. Peri Sastri (1986-1990) is credited with reforms like the introduction of EVMs and the reduction in the voting age to 18 years.
- Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan (1990-1996) implemented the model code of conduct, took steps against muscle and monetary power in elections. He also prohibited election propaganda based on religion and caste-based hatred.
- The EC had launched a scheme for use of State-owned Electronic Media by political parties for providing a level playing field to every political party.
- C-Vigil Application had been developed for reporting cases of MCC violation by the masses. It allows the masses to check the authenticity of EC in rectifying their requests.
- Firstly, the EC must be appointed by a collegium as recommended by the Second Administrative reforms commission. It should comprise the Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister, and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
- Secondly, the government should expeditiously accept the 50 reform recommendations sent by the EC. These include:
- Rules on decriminalizing politics, transparent party funding, paid news
- Empowering the EC to countermand an election in cases of bribery.
- Thirdly, the EC should make judicious use of its plenary powers under Article 324. In the Mohinder Singh Gill case, the SC said that Article 324 gives wide-ranging powers to ECI to ensure free and fair elections.
- Fourthly, there must be a prudent cooling-off period for election commissioners in order to strengthen independence.
- Fifthly, the expenditure of EC should be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India similar to other constitutional bodies such as the UPSC.
There is a need to undertake multiple reforms. This is to reinstall the shaken trust of EC’s independence and credibility amongst the masses. To begin with, the commission can withdraw its overcautious petition from the Supreme Court signaling its ability to accept criticism in the right spirit.
Criteria for Selection of Experts in Tribunals Needs More Clarity
Synopsis: Centre needs to enact rules for the selection of Experts in NGT Tribunals with clarity and objectivity.
- The criteria used for the appointments of NGT members are not clearly defined by the central government, giving way to litigations.
- Recently, the appointment of former IAS officer, Girija Vaidyanathan, as Expert Member in the Southern Bench of the NGT was challenged in the Madras High court.
Why Tribunals are formed?
- One, the need for specialisation and expertise to decide complex cases of a technical nature. Experts appointed to these tribunals bring in special knowledge and experience.
- Two, tribunalisation’ of justice will be cost-effective, accessible.
What are the criteria for the appointment of Expert members to the tribunal?
As per the NGT act there are two criteria for the appointment of Expert members to the NGT tribunal. A candidate has to fulfil only one of them.
- One based on qualifications and practical experience: a masters’ or a doctorate in science, engineering or technology, with 15 years’ experience in the relevant field, including five in environment and forests in a national level institution, is needed. The fields include pollution control, hazardous substance management and forest conservation.
- Two, administrative experience in the field: This condition is not clearly defined. It merely stipulates 15 years’ experience, of which five should have been in “dealing with environmental matters” in either the Centre or the State or any reputed institution.
Why the appointment of Girija Vaidyanathan has been challenged?
- In Ms. Vaidyanathan’s case, she has served in Environmental related sectors for only 28 months that is less than the prescribed criteria of 5 years.
What did the court say?
- The court opined that the appointment is valid considering her tenure as Health Secretary.
- However, the court declined to interfere with the appointment, as the jurisdiction of this matter comes under the domain of Parliament.
What is the way forward?
- The government should redefine the criteria for appointments through administrative experience with clarity and objectivity.
- It needs to implement Supreme Court directions to constitute a National Tribunals Commission to supervise the appointment and functioning of tribunals. Source: The Hindu
Issues Associated with Election Commission of India
Synopsis: Recently, the Election Commission of India held a discussion. It was in the light of the many questions and doubts being raised regarding the model Code of Conduct and powers of ECI under Article 324.
- The Model code of conduct (MCC) is a set of guidelines that ECI issues. The political parties, candidates, and governments need to follow MCC during an election.
- T.N Seshan (former chief election commissioner) enforced the model code of conduct (MCC) for the first time using the powers under Article 324.
- It brought the issue of ballot rigging and the use of Muscle power during elections under control.
- Apart from MCC, the ECI also gives directions, instructions, and clarifications on other issues that emerge during the election.
- However, some issues linked to the model code, and the exercise of the ECI under Article 324, requires clarity.
What is Article 324?
- Article 324 empowers the Election Commission of India to direct, control, and conduct elections to Parliament and Legislature of every state. It also conducts elections to the offices of the President and Vice President
- In Mohinder Singh Gill case, the SC stated that Article 324 gives plenary powers to ECI to ensure free and fair elections.
What are the issues?
- First, with respect to the Model code, the question about the enforceability of the code remains unresolved.
- The Model Code was framed on the basis of a consensus among political parties. It has no legal backing.
- But the commission has the power to suspend or withdraw recognition of a political party. If, it refuses to follow the MCC according to the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
- Now, the question is, since the MCC is legally not enforceable, how can the ECI take punitive action; such as withdrawal of recognition against a political party.
- Second, ECI’s intervention in the administrative decisions of a Union or State government during elections is questionable. For example, ECI recently stopped the Kerala Government from continuing to supply kits. It was containing rice, pulses, cooking oil, etc.
- According to the MCC, if the ECI believes that such actions will affect free and fair elections, It can stop a government from taking any administrative action.
- The issue here is, whether the distribution of food will affect free and fair elections.
- Further, The SC in the Subramaniam Balaji case held that the distribution of colour TVs, computers, cycles, goats, cows, etc., that is in accordance with the directive principles of state policy, is permissible during an election.
- Also, according to Section 123 (2)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the declaration of a public policy will not amount to interfering with the free exercise of the electoral right.
- Third, under Article 324, ECI has the power to abruptly transfer any senior officials working under State governments. If it believes that the presence of those officials will adversely affect the free and fair election.
- However, in Mohinder Singh Gill’s case, the Court had made it clear that the ECI can draw power from Article 324 only when no law exists which governs a particular matter.
- Transfer of an official is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the government. It needs the concurrence of the State governments.
- Further, Article 324 does not confer absolute powers on the ECI to do anything in connection with the elections.
No constitutional body has absolute power. Because in the words of justice S.M. Fazalali, if ECI is armed with unlimited and arbitrary powers and if it becomes partisans, it might lead to a constitutional crisis. Integrity and independence of the electoral process are important and indispensable to the democratic system.
Source: The Hindu
“NCSC” Launches Online Grievance Management Portal for Scheduled Castes
What is the News?
National Commission for Scheduled Castes(NCSC) launched an Online Grievance Management Portal for Scheduled Caste.
About Online Grievance Management Portal:
- The Online Grievance Management Portal will allow submission of complaints about atrocities against the Scheduled Castes. The portal also allows users to track the progress of their complaints.
- The portal was developed in collaboration with the Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics(BISAG-N), a Centre of Excellence under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MeitY).
About the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC).
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes(NCSC) is a constitutional body. It was set up under Article 338 to safeguard the interests of the scheduled castes(SC) in India.
Evolution of the NCSC:
- Originally, Article 338 of the Constitution provided for the appointment of a Special Officer for Scheduled Castes(SCs) and Scheduled Tribes(STs). The special officer designated as the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- In 1978, the Government(through a Resolution) set up a non-statutory multi-member Commission for SCs and STs. The Office of Commissioner for SCs and STs also continued to exist.
- In 1987, the Government (through another Resolution) modified the functions of the Commission and renamed it the National Commission for SCs and STs.
- Later, the 65th Constitutional Amendment Act provided for the establishment of a high-level multi-member National Commission for SCs and STs. It replaced the single Special Officer for SCs and STs.
- This constitutional body replaced the Commissioner for SCs and STs as well as the Commission set up under the Resolution of 1987.
- Again, the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003 bifurcated the combined National Commission for SCs and STs into two separate bodies namely:
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes (under Article 338) and
- National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (under Article 338-A).
- The National Commission for SCs consists of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and three other members.
- They are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal. The President also determines their conditions of service and tenure of office.
Functions of NCSC:
- Firstly, to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and other legal safeguards for the SCs and to evaluate their working;
- Secondly, to inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the SCs;
- Thirdly, to participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the SCs and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union or a state;
- Lastly, To present the report on working of those safeguards to the President, annually.
Tribunal Reforms Ordinance 2021 – Explained, Point wise
Recently President of India promulgated Tribunal Reforms Ordinance 2021 or Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021. The Ordinance dissolves certain existing appellate bodies and transfers their appellate authority to other Judicial Bodies. Further, the ordinance also amends the Finance Act 2017.
The government also introduced the Bill in Lok Sabha on the same subject. The bill also aims to achieve aims similar to the ordinance. The government introduced the ordinance for improving the quality of Justice, But the ordinance also takes away few advantages associated with the Tribunals.
What are Tribunals?
- The Tribunal is a quasi-judicial institution. They were set up to deal with problems such as resolving administrative or tax-related disputes.
- Initially, Tribunals were not a part of the Constitution. Swaran Singh Committee recommended including Tribunals as a part of the Constitution.
- Based on that, the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 provided constitutional status to Tribunals. Tribunals were placed under Part XIV-A. This part has only two articles:
- Article 323-A deals with Administrative Tribunals. These tribunals resolve disputes related to the recruitment and service conditions of persons engaged in public service.
- Article 323-B deals with tribunals for other matters. These tribunals resolve disputes related to Taxation, Foreign exchange, Industrial and labour, Land reforms, import and export, Food, Ceiling on urban property, etc.
- Few differences between these tribunals are
Article 323-A (Administrative Tribunals) Article 323-B (Tribunals for other matters) Parliament alone can establish these tribunals Both Parliament and State Legislatures can establish these tribunals Only one tribunal at the center level and Only one for each state(or two or more states) Government can establish the hierarchy of Tribunals
About the Tribunal Reforms Ordinance 2021
The Tribunal Reforms Ordinance 2021 seeks to dissolve certain existing appellate tribunals and transfer their functions.
The appellate tribunals formed through the following legislations are transferred. These include,
|Acts and associated Tribunals||Appeals will hear by|
|The Cinematograph Act, 1952||High Court|
|The Trade Marks Act, 1999||High Court|
|The Copyright Act, 1957||Commercial Court Constituted under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 or the Commercial Division of a High Court|
|The Customs Act, 1962||High Court|
|The Patents Act, 1970||High Court|
|The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994||The Central government, for disputes arising from the disposal of properties left on airport premises by unauthorised occupants.|
High Court, for appeals against orders of an eviction officer.
|The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002||Civil Court|
|The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999||High Court|
Changes to the Finance Act 2017
Apart from these changes, the ordinance also amended the Finance Act to include the following changes.
- The ordinance empowers the Central Government to make rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowances, resignation, removal, and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.
- Search-cum-Selection Committee: The ordinance also provides that the central government will appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Tribunals. A Search-cum-Selection Committee will make the recommendations for such appointments.
- Tenure: Now, The tenure of Chairperson of a Tribunal is for a term of four years or till the age of 70, whichever is earlier. Members of a tribunal will also have a tenure of four years or until they turn 67.
Need for the Tribunal Reforms Ordinance 2021
The government introduced these radical changes due to the various challenges faced by the Tribunals in India. Such as,
- Huge unfulfilled Vacancy: Different qualification requirements for different tribunal leads to a high level of vacancy in the appellate tribunals. For example, In 13 tribunals alone, nearly 138 posts lying vacant out of 352 posts.
- Poor Adjudication & Delay in Judgement: The 272nd Law Commission Report mentions the Tribunals such as Central Administrative Tribunals and others had a pendency of 2.5 Lakh cases. Combined with the Vacancy they cannot determine the appeals. So the ordinance is necessary.
- Lack of independence: An interim report titled, Reforming The Tribunals Framework in India mentioned that the tribunals are not independent. The Executive holds key positions in Tribunals and the government is the biggest litigant. So the cases might not be decided fairly. So, the ordinance by shifting the appeals to the Judiciary will enable fair trial.
- Non-uniformity across tribunals with respect to service conditions, tenure of members, varying nodal ministries in charge of different tribunals. This created and contributed to malfunctioning in the managing and administration of tribunals.
- Ad-hoc regulation of Tribunals: The tribunals fall under various ministries subjects to frequent ad-hoc regulatory changes. By abolishing the appellate tribunals there won’t be any such possibility for ad-hoc regulations.
- Bypassing the jurisdiction of the High Court in certain Tribunals: Few tribunals like NGT, NCLAT, CAT, etc have provisions allowing for direct appeals to the Supreme Court. Even though the Supreme court in the L. Chandra Kumar case criticised them for such practice. The Supreme Court held that it will create congestion in SC and also make the Justice costly and inaccessible.
- Thus, the ordinance for abolishing the appellate tribunals and vesting that power to the High Courts is a solution to the problem.
Challenges with the Tribunals Reforms ordinance 2021
Even though the ordinance solves many problems, there are few main challenges with the same.
- Burdening Judiciary: It is not only the tribunals that have long pendency of cases and vacancies, but also the constitutional courts, i.e. the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Shifting the entire appeals towards High courts will provide more burden to the Judiciary.
For example, A law commission report says that the top five central tribunals in India have taken over 3.50 lakh cases pending from the judiciary.
- The high disposal rate of cases in Tribunals is accepted by the 272nd Law Commission Report also. So abolishing the appellate tribunals is not considered a right move.
- Against the Flexibility in the Justice delivery system: The introduction of tribunals engendered flexibility and versatility in the judicial system of India. Unlike the procedures of the ordinary court which are stringent and inflexible, the administrative tribunals have a quite informal and easy-going procedure.
Suggestions to improve the tribunals
- Firstly, SC has cautioned on the continuous creation of tribunals. So the Government has to stop creating new Tribunals and focus on bringing standardisation in Tribunals instead of abolishing them.
- Secondly, the government has to amend the provisions of Tribunals that left High Courts out of its Jurisdiction.
- Thirdly, adopting a methodology of a merger like the United Kingdom. The UK also suffered a similar problem to India with Tribunalisation. Further, both countries have similar administrative frameworks. This was highlighted by Supreme Court in NCLT Case. Further, the SC also mentions few significant recommendations. Such as,
- Leggatt Report of the UK is also applicable to the problem faced by Tribunals in India.
- India has to create a single tribunals service and nodal agency based on the Leggatt Report
- Fourthly, 74th Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on 2015 also mentioned a single nodal agency for monitoring Tribunals, Appellate Tribunals and Other Authorities
The Tribunals in India serve some important purposes. Instead of abolishing appellate tribunals, the government can try implementing the Leggatt Report. As it will not only solve the problem with appellate tribunals but also solve the problems other tribunals as well.
Promulgation of “Tribunals Reforms Ordinance 2021”
Promulgated: On 4th April 2021
Ministry: Law and Justice
About the Tribunals Reforms Ordinance 2021:
Purpose of the Ordinance:
- It dissolves at least eight existing appellate tribunals. Now, High Courts and certain other bodies will be the appellate bodies under 9 acts.
- Further, it also amends the Finance Act 2017.
Key Provisions of the Tribunals Reforms Ordinance :
- Nine Laws: The above-mentioned nine laws where the existing appellate authorities have been replaced are:
- The Cinematograph Act, 1952.
- The Trade Marks Act, 1999.
- The Copyright Act, 1957.
- The Customs Act, 1962.
- The Patents Act, 1970.
- The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994.
- The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002.
- The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
- Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act,2001.
- Amendment to Finance Act,2017:
- The ordinance empowers the Central Government to make rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.
- Search-cum-Selection Committee: It also provides that the central government will appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Tribunals on the recommendation of a Search-cum-Selection Committee.
- Composition: The Committee will consist of:Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court Judge nominated by him, as the Chairperson (with casting vote),Secretaries nominated by the central government,The sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired Supreme Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.The Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is constituted (with no voting right).
- Tenure: Now, The tenure of Chairperson of a Tribunal is for a term of four years or till the age of 70, whichever is earlier. Members of a tribunal will also have a tenure of four years or until they turn 67
- .Abolishing of appellate bodies and transfer of functions: The Bill abolishes certain appellate bodies and transfer their functions to existing judicial bodies.
- Tribunal is a quasi-judicial institution that was set up to deal with problems such as resolving administrative or tax-related disputes.
- For this purpose, Tribunals were added to the Constitution by Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 as Part XIV-A which has only two articles:
- Article 323-A deals with Administrative Tribunals.
- Article 323-B deals with tribunals for other matters.
Source: The Hindu
The Issue of Public trust on ECI |Election Commission
Synopsis: The public trust gained by the ECI (Election Commission of India) over the years is reducing. It is due to an increasing doubt over the fairness of the polls.
- Recently, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE), released the second part of its report “An Inquiry into India’s Election System.
- The retired Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur chairs CCE.
- The report examines the critical aspects of conducting elections. Such as:
- The integrity and inclusiveness of the electoral rolls.
- Criminalisation in politics.
- The use of financial power.
- Compliance with the model code of conduct.
- The role of media in conducting elections etc.,
Some important revelations made in the report:
- Since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, “grave doubts” have been raised around the fairness of the polls.
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) has failed to perform its duties. The report has stated reasons, such as
- Exclusion of marginalized groups from voters’ lists.
- The opacity of electoral bonds.
- The power of big money in winning elections.
- It has warned that India is becoming an “electoral autocracy”
How India’s Election commission has built trust over the years?
Eminent bureaucrats such as Sukumar Sen, TN Seshan, and James Michael Lyngdoh worked for fair and accountable election machinery. Their work yielded citizen’s trust over the election process.
- First, Sukumar Sen, India’s first Chief Election Commissioner. He was remembered for successfully conducting the first general elections despite many barriers such as scope, scale, logistics, and social issues. For example, elections need to be conducted for 176 million citizens, nearly 85 per cent of whom were illiterate.
- Second, TN Seshan the 10th Election Commissioner. He was instrumental in implementing the model code of conduct to curb muscle and monetary power in elections. He enforced strict mechanisms to ensure fairness in the election process. For example,
- Contestants were required to submit full accounts of their expenses for scrutiny. Those, who didn’t abide by polling rules, were arrested.
- Also, officials who were biased towards candidates were promptly suspended.
- He also prohibited election propaganda based on religion and caste-based hatred. For example, he canceled the Punjab elections in 1991.
- Third, Lyngdoh presided over the Election commission during 2001 to 2004, the period marked by the 2002 Gujarat riots. After the dissolution of Gujarat assembly after the Gujarat riots, there was immense pressure from the political parties to hold elections earlier than intended. However, Lyngdoh insisted that polls could not be held as the state had not yet recovered from the violence of the riots.
Why the public trust on Election commission is eroding now?
- First, ECI remains toothless against electoral offenses. For example,
- During the 2019 elections, the Election commission gave “clean chits” to politicians, despite provocative political statements during campaigning.
- The EC in a return reply to the supreme court stated that its powers to punish candidates for hate and religious speeches during the election campaign is limited.
- Second, lack of transparency and accountability. For example, the earlier CECs used to proactively engage with the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) to discuss its reports. But currently, there has been no response from the EC.
Source: Indian Express
Supreme Court’s Judgment on State Election Commission
Synopsis – The Supreme Court in its recent judgment ruled that government officials cannot be appointed as State Election Commissioner (SEC).
- 25 years have passed since local governance was introduced in India by the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendments. However, there is very little and actual progress in this direction.
- There is inadequate devolution of powers to the third tier of governance.
- The SEC is responsible for holding unbiased elections for local bodies in the state. But local elections often suffer from abuse, charges of ward fixing, and ward reservation.
What is the case?
- The government notification on municipality elections in Goa was initially challenged in the Bombay HC. Allegedly, the reservation of wards for women, SCs, and STs was not in accordance with the law.
- The Bombay HC struck down the reservation notices of specific wards. It ruled that they caused constitutional infractions.
- Then the Goa government approached the SC, challenging this order.
- However, the SC upheld the Bombay HC’s ruling. SC said that the appointment of the law secretary as the poll body head is against the independence of the election.
The Supreme Court ruling
- Entrusting additional charge of State Election Commissioner to a government official is a mockery of the Constitution.
- Under Article 142 the SC directed all SECs who currently hold an additional charge, to step down immediately. It stated that a government employee or bureaucrat cannot be appointed as Election Commissioner.
- The SC ruling will help secure the independence of SECs in the future.
- The independence of the Election Commission cannot be compromised in a democracy.
- Centre should work on the devolution of powers to the local level of governance. It ensures that decisions are made closer to the local people, communities, and businesses.
Source- The Hindu
SC Ruling on State Election Commission: Explained, Pointwise
Recently, the Supreme Court held that State Election Commissions(SECs) should have independent State Election Commissioners. Further, the judgement mentioned, a Bureaucrat holding government office should not be appointed as State Election Commissioner. This article will explain two things: a) the reasons behind the judgement; b) issues faced by the State Election Commissions in India.
About the recent judgement
In Goa, the government gave additional charge of managing the State Election Commission to the law secretary. Further, the Goa government also neglected the reservation for women, SCs, and STs in the upcoming Municipality election notification. A case got filed in the High Court of Bombay at Goa. The High Court struck down the notice and held that it is a violation of Article 243T of the Constitution.
But the State government filed a Special Litigation petition stating that the High Court has interfered in the ‘election process’. In this case, (State of Goa vs Fauzia Imtiyaz Sheikh) the Supreme Court in its judgement made a few important observations. Such as:
- By providing additional charges to the law secretary of an independent constitutional office (State Election Commission), the State government has violated the provisions of the Constitution. Further, the court mentioned that the position of law secretary is “directly under the control of the State Government”. So, appointing him as a State Election Commissioner will impact the independence of the office.
- Apart from that, the court also held that according to the Constitution, all states and territories shall appoint an Independent State Election Commissioner.
- Furthermore, State governments should not interfere with the functioning of the State Election Commission.
What are State Election Commissions?
The constitution envisages State Election Commissions (SEC) for every state to safeguard the free and fair election. It is constituted under the provisions of Article 243K read with article 243ZA of The Constitution of India.
Further, the constitution also mentions the State Election Commission should consist of a State Election Commissioner.
The constitutional provisions with respect to State Election Commissions:
- Article 243K(1): This provision mentions two important following things.
- The superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections to the Panchayats (and the Municipalities under Article 243ZA) will be vested in the State Election Commission.
- The Governor will appoint the State Election Commissioner.
- Article 243K(2): This article mentions that the Governor will decide the tenure and appointment of the State Election Commissioner. But there are few restrictions as well. Such as:
- His conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
- Only by following the grounds and procedures to remove the judge of a High Court, the State Election Commissioner can get removed from his office.
Note: The President based on the recommendation of the Parliament can remove the judge of a high court. So, the governor cannot remove the State Election Commissioner. Even though, they he/she have appointed him.
Judicial intervention regarding State Election Commissions
The court intervened in the functions and powers of the State Election Commission multiple times. The important ones are,
- Kishan Singh Tomar vs Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad (2006): In this case, the Supreme Court held that during the conduct of the panchayat and municipal elections, the state governments should abide by the orders of the SECs. Just like they follow the instructions of the Election Commission during Assembly and Parliament polls. In conclusion, the SECs will enjoy the same powers as the Election Commission of India(ECI).
- Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. (2007): The UP government has reduced the term of the State Election Commissioner from seven years to five years in 2007. The then Election Commissioner of UP filed a case regarding that.
In that, the Allahabad High Court held that cessation of tenure by the State government does not amount to the removal of the State Election Commissioner. But, the Court also mentioned that the State can alter the terms and conditions of the State Election Commissioner before appointing him/her.
- N. Ramesh Kumar vs State of Andhra Pradesh (2020): In this case, the court held that the State government cannot remove the State Election Commissioner by a promulgation of the ordinance.
Challenges with the State Election Commissions
- Lack of autonomy in SECs: Despite the provisions for independence of SECs, they are not functioning as an autonomous institution.
For example, In 2008 the then state election commissioner of Maharastra asserted that he should have the power to hold elections to the offices of mayor, deputy mayor, and sarpanch offices. But the State assembly got him arrested for the breach of privilege and sent him to jail for two days.
- Lack of Constitutional safeguard for SECs: The manner of removal of SECs has been flouted by the State governments by alternative methods such as restricting the terms and conditions etc. This is evident in the Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. case
- No uniformity of service conditions for SECs: Since the Constitution vest the power to determine the service conditions on State legislatures, the service conditions are not uniform across the country.
Impact of the issues in State Election Commission
- Functions of Municipalities and Panchayats: The court in the Kishan Singh Tomar case observed that due to various problems in the State Election Commission, the SECs are facing challenges in preparing the electoral rolls and conducting timely elections. This will impact the regular functioning of Local government institutions.
- Impact on Free and Fair Election: Free and fair elections form the bedrock of a democracy. Any restriction of the functions of State Election Commissions will directly affect the free and fair election. For example, In the recent Goa government case itself, the election notification violated the reservation for women, SC, and STs.
Suggestions to improve the performance of State Election Commissions
- The State governments have to follow the judicial directives. Such as,
- Appointing the independent person as the State Election Commissioner,
- Instituting the autonomy of SECs
- Respect the SECs functions during the elections of Panchayats and Municipalities
- The Second ARC(Administrative Reforms Commission) has recommended a few important recommendations to improve the functioning of SECs. State governments should implement them. The recommendations are,
- Formation of collegium: The state government should create a collegium consisting of the Chief Minister, the Speaker, and the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. The collegium will recommend the State Election Commissioner to the Governor for the appointment.
- Creation of an institution to bring the Election Commission and the SECs under one roof. This will make better coordination, better utilization of resources, and experience sharing.
- As per the recommendation of the Law Commission, The Central government can provide a separate independent and permanent Secretariat for the SECs and Election Commission.
In conclusion, the independence of the State Election Commission is essential to ensure free and fair elections at the grass-root level. So, the State governments have to ensure that to protect the bedrock of democracy.
SC Ruling on Appointment of “State Election Commissioners”
What is the news?
The Supreme Court held that independent persons should be appointed State Election Commissioners, not the Bureaucrats holding government office.
What was the case?
- The Supreme Court gave this judgment in a case related to Goa. There the law secretary was given the charge of State Election Commissioner.
What are the key observations of the Supreme Court Judgment?
- States should appoint independent persons and not bureaucrats holding government office as Election Commissioners. Because the independence of EC cannot be compromised at any cost.
- The court has also asked all states to comply with the constitutional scheme of the independent State Election Commissioner(SEC).
- Under the constitutional mandate, it is the duty of the State to not interfere with the functioning of the State Election Commission.
About State Election Commission(SEC):
- State Election Commission is a constitutional authority. It is constituted under the provisions of Article 243K read with article 243ZA of The Constitution of India.
- Purpose: They were constituted for superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for all elections to the Panchayats and the Municipalities.
- Composition: The State Election Commission is a single-member Commission comprising the State Election Commissioner.
- Appointment: Governor appoints the State Election Commissioner of the State. They enjoy the same powers as Election Commission of India(ECI). SEC can only be removed from his office on the same grounds and procedures as a judge of a High Court.
Source: The Hindu
“IIT Council” sets up panels for more autonomy
What is the News?
The Union Education Minister has chaired the 54th meeting of the IIT Council. The council discussed the implementation of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
About IIT Council:
- Headed by: The IIT Council is headed by the Union Education Minister. It also includes the directors of all IITs and the chairman of each IIT’s Board of Governors.
- Purpose: IIT Council advises on admission standards, duration of courses, degrees, and other academic distinctions. It also lays down policy regarding cadre, methods of recruitment, and conditions of service of employees.
Key Recommendations by IIT Council:
It has set up 4 committees to look into the issue of greater autonomy for the IITs, as recommended by NEP, 2020. Moreover, these committees will look into the issues like reform of the academic Senate, grooming faculty to head the IITs, and innovative funding mechanisms.
- Reducing staff strength: It has recommended a reduction in staff strength of IITs, especially non-teaching manpower. It is due to the increasing digitization and outsourcing.
- Currently, IITs have one faculty member for every 10 students. Whereas, for every 10 faculty, there are 11 staff members.
- IIT R&D Fair: The council has suggested arranging an Online IIT Research and Development (R&D) fair. It will showcase the quality research work of IITs to the industry.
- Mobility of Faculty: The IITs should develop an Institute Development Plan to improve the mobility of faculty between institution and industry.
- One IIT – One Thrust Area approach: IITs were urged to adopt ‘One IIT – One Thrust Area’ approach based on local needs.
Source: The Hindu
NITI Aayog’s “Governing Council” reconstituted.
What is the News?
The Centre has reconstituted the governing council of the NITI Aayog to include the Union Territory of Ladakh for the first time.
About Niti Aayog:
- National Institution for Transforming India also called NITI Aayog was formed through cabinet resolution in 2015. It had replaced the erstwhile Planning Commission.
- NITI Aayog is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India. It provides both directional and policy inputs.
NITI Aayog’s Governing Council:
- It is the premier body tasked with a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of States.
- The governing council presents a platform to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues.
- Chairperson: Prime Minister.
- Full-Time Members: The full-time members to the council are Chief ministers of all states and of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Puducherry
- Special Invitees: The Lieutenant Governors of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ladakh, and the administrators of Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep are the special invitees of the governing council.
Issues in 15th Finance Commission Recommendation
Synopsis: The recent 15th FC report recommendations criticised on the basis of two grounds. One, the recommendations will impact co-operative federalism. Two, the recommendations are not aligned with the changing federal structure in India.
- Recently, the 15th Finance commission (FC) report tabled in the parliament. It’s following key recommendations accepted by the government.
- The Commission has recommended a total devolution of Rs 8,55,176 crore to the states, which is 41% of the divisible pool of taxes.
- It also recommended for revenue deficit grants of Rs 1.18 lakh crore to the states.
- Furthermore, It recommended a non-lapsable defence fund. The grants component of the states has been reduced by 1 per cent (from 42% to 41%). It will be used to set up special funds for defence.
- The FC’s recommendation for the vertical devolution at 41% is pragmatic. However, some of its recommendations will have an implication on the co-operative federalism.
What are the issues in the 15th FC recommendations?
- First, the 1% cut in the devolution is for special funding on defence. It means states are paying Rs 7,000 crore for defence and internal security. But, Defence and National Security are the centre’s responsibility as per the 7th Schedule of the Constitution. This use of funds from states to finance the Centre’s expenditure is against the spirit of cooperative federalism.
- Second, the issues in the horizontal distribution of funds. Successive finance commissions have used the criteria of need, equity for devolving 92.5 per cent of funds to a state. Whereas 15th FC has reduced this to 75%. And the remaining 25% will be based on efficiency and performance. This is the lowest weightage for equity, making the 15th FC transfers the least progressive.
- Third, 15th FC recommendations do not depict the changed fiscal conditions. For example, after GST, the tax collection method has changed from a production-based tax system to a consumption-based tax system.
- This structural change has a significant impact on the interstate distribution of tax. It is not taken into account by the 15th FC report.
- Fourth, the approach for distributing revenue deficit grants is not changed. The 15th FC could have recommended a minimum-guaranteed revenue of 14 per cent to every state.
- This unchanged policy approach has resulted in an increase of statutory and non-statutory grants to almost 55 per cent of the total transfers. Whereas the aggregate transfers have dropped to 45 per cent. This makes the devolution process more discretionary.
Misuse of Specialised agencies
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.
Synopsis: Governments’ actions against journalists have raised suspicion. Specialised agencies are being used to curb dissent.
- Recently, the Enforcement Directorate raided the office of independent digital news platform News Click.
- The ED is investigating the involvement of the digital news platform in the alleged money-laundering of ₹30 crores.
- It is unclear that News Click in any way is related to the alleged money laundering.
- However, critics alleged that this operation is in response to the in-depth coverage of ongoing farmer protests and country-wide protests against the CAA, earlier.
- Organizations representing the media have raised their concerns over this action.
Why the ED’s raid has raised suspicion?
The following arguments will explain the reason for rising suspicion on government actions.
- In many instances, the government has used central agencies such as the CBI, ED, IT, and even the NIA to attack its critics. For example, Journalists who are reporting on farmer protests are facing repressive action.
- It is also a fault on specialized agencies to be politically involved. It is against the principles of non-partisanship.
- Laws that are used against critics on a regular basis, should be used in extreme offenses that too as a last resort. For example,
- Law of Sedition, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act based on the allegation of anti-national activity, Promotion of social enmity or outraging religious sentiments laws.
- Some relief has been provided from the Supreme Court in the past. However, it is also cannot happen in every case.
A responsible and responsive government should be open to the voices of critics. Indeed, dissent is an essential part of Democracy.
Recommendation of 15th Finance Commission and challenges faced by Local Bodies
Recently, 15th Finance Commission report has provided many recommendations for improving the functioning of Local Bodies. The challenges faced by local bodies in India are manyfolds and there is no one-stop solution to them.
Approach of previous Finance Commissions with respect to Local Bodies:
So far four Finance Commissions (11th FC to 14th FC) have given their recommendations for local bodies. Overall they provided for,
First, the increase in quantum of Funds: In recent years, the grants recommended by successive Finance Commissions in absolute terms have increased. For example, the combined grants for rural and urban local bodies recommended by the 14th FC were three times the amount recommended by the 13th FC.
Second, different Commissions followed distinct criteria while recommending resources for local governments. The only common criteria considered by all of them were population and geographical area.
Recommendations of Fifteenth Finance Commission:
First, the 15th FC suggested strict adherence to its recommendation for the constitution of State Finance Commissions(SFCs).
- It recommends “All States must constitute SFCs and also act upon their recommendations”.
- States also need to place the action taken report before the State legislature on or before March 2024.
- No grants should be released to the States that have not constituted SFC.
- MoPR(Ministry of Panchayati Raj) will certify the compliance of the State in this respect before the release of their share of grants.
Second, with respect to the Grants to Local Governments, the commission earmarked 60 per cent of funds for national priorities. These priorities include drinking water supply, rainwater harvesting and sanitation etc. The other recommendations include,
- The report favours a fixed amount rather than a proportion of the divisible pool of taxes. This is to ensure greater predictability of the quantum and timing of fund flow
- The report provides entry-level condition to local bodies to avail grants. These conditions will include online availability of both provisional accounts of the previous year and audited accounts of the year before that.
Third, the report calls for the Integration of the Financial Management Systems for transparency in the audit and functioning of local bodies.
Fourth, the report recognises Urbanisation as the Engine of Growth. It mentions few important recommendations like,
- Establishment of Million-Plus Cities Challenge Fund for cities having million-plus population. The devolution of the fund will be linked to the performance of these cities in improving their air quality and meeting the service level benchmarks for urban drinking water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management, etc.
- It also mentions that informal burning, as well as spontaneous combustion at landfills in Urban areas, should be monitored carefully.
- The report calls for basic grants for urban local bodies in the non-Million-Plus cities category.
- The report also asks for allocating grants on the basis of population for the Cantonment Boards falling within the State’s territory.
Fifth, the 15th FC’s other recommendations include:
- Involving Panchayati Raj Institutions as supervising agencies in primary health care institutions. The Commission believes, it would strengthen the overall primary health care system.
- The commission provided for a performance-based challenge fund of Rs. 8,000 crore to States for incubation of new cities.
- The commission recommends an amendment to the Constitution to revise the professions tax.
Various challenges faced by the local bodies:
Challenges with respect to functions:
First, there is an Excessive control of State government in the functions of PRIs. For example, state government approval is needed in project finalization, Local bodies Budget, Loan requirement, etc. States, instead of guiding PRIs, are restricting the functions of local bodies.
Second, local bodies lack adequate data on essential services and cannot involve in Urban and Rural planning. Though data on Census is available, it consists of data of previous years and not the current data. For example, they do not have data on local traffic, urban sewage, migration of people, etc.
Challenges with respect to funding:
First, Article 243-I of the Constitution requires SFCs(State Finance Commission) to be appointed at the ‘expiration of every fifth year’. Several States have still not moved beyond the second or third SFC. Even if formed they face challenges like inadequate resources, poor administrative support and the delayed placement of action taken reports(ATR), etc.
Second, the tax base of Urban and Rural local bodies is very narrow. For example, Urban Local bodies cannot levy a profession tax of more than 2500. They also have a problem in levying entertainment taxes and property taxes.
Third, the Majority of the local bodies do not have access to the Capital market to raise required funds except few Urban local Bodies such as Pune, Chennai, etc
Challenges with respect to the Functionaries:
Role of women elected members. There are many instances where, in the name of elected women representative their husband operates and takes the decision on her behalf. This undermines the agenda to empower women by providing 33% reservation to them.
Suggestions with respect to functions:
First, the Second ARC has recommended a special problem-solving body to resolve the issue of disqualification of elected members. It also suggested an unbiased approval of Local body budgets, projects, etc. State governments need to implement this.
Second, State Governments should provide local bodies with the power to recruit personnel to fulfil their functions properly. Apart from that the State governments also have to allow the local bodies to collect the local data for future use and preliminary planning.
Suggestions with respect to funding:
First, States should implement 15th FC recommendation to appoint SFCs or else grants released to the respective State can be halted.
Second, the power to levy taxes on the Union and State Government properties can be provided to local governments. Apart from that, they should be empowered to levy taxes on wealthy people in their locality, impose water cess, irrigation cess etc. For example, a case study in Karnataka has proved that the levy of water cess is a feasible alternative for local bodies.
Third, separate grants may be allocated to local bodies for creating public health infrastructure and primary health care clinics.
Suggestions with respect to the functionaries:
To improve the performance of functionaries, the timely election is the need of the hour. Apart from that, the State can encourage Public-Private Partnerships. It will improve the skills of elected local representatives with market expertise and modern methods.
The state government can form strict guidelines for the active involvement of elected women representatives in all spheres of the functioning of local bodies.
Apart from implementing the recommendations of the 15th FC, the voluntary contribution of States is also the need of the hour. The States have to understand that empowerment of local bodies is needed to find solutions to the number of issues faced by them like enhancing tax base, providing adequate primary health and education services, etc.
Law Commission of India as a statutory body
Why in News?
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a PIL. It is to declare the Law Commission of India as a “statutory body”. And also, to appoint a chairperson and members for the body within a month.
About Law Commission of India
- Status: It is a non-statutory body. The government of India constitutes it, from time to time.
- The commission is established for a fixed tenure. It works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
- It identifies obsolete laws. The laws which are no longer relevant, not in harmony with the existing climate and laws which require change.
- It suggests suitable measures for quick redressal of citizens’ grievances in the field of law.
- It enables poors, to take benefit out of the legal process.
- Likewise, it examines the laws for promoting gender equality.
- However, The recommendations of the commission are not binding on the government. They are recommendations only. The government or concerned department may accept or reject these recommendations.
Establishment of Law Commission
- The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834. It was established by the Charter Act of 1833 and was chaired by Lord Macaulay.
- In 1955, the first Law Commission of independent India was established for a three-year term. Since then, twenty-one more Commissions have been established.
- In 2015, The 21st Law Commission of India was established. Its tenure was up to 31st August 2018. In 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the creation of the 22nd Law Commission.
Source: Indian Express
NIXI Offers free Domain in Local Indian Languages
News: The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has announced that it will offer a free IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) in any of their preferred 22 official Indian languages along with every IN domain booked by the registrar.
- NIXI: It is a not for profit Organization established under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 in 2003.
- Purpose: It was set up for peering of ISPs among themselves for the purpose of routing the domestic traffic within the country, instead of taking it all the way to US/Abroad thereby resulting in better quality of service (reduced latency) and reduced bandwidth charges.
- To promote the Internet.
- To set up, when needed, in select location(s)/parts/regions of India Internet Exchanges/Peering Points.
- To enable effective and efficient routing, peering, transit and exchange of the Internet traffic within India.
- To continuously work for enhancing and improving the quality of Internet and Broadband services.
- Set up. Internet Domain Name Operations and related activities.
- Managed by: NIXI is managed and operated on a Neutral basis, in line with the best practices for such initiatives globally.
- India’s Country Code: “.IN” is India’s Country Code Top Level domain (ccTLD).The Govt. of India delegated the operations of INRegistry to NIXI in 2004.
Bureau of Indian Standards celebrates the 74th foundation day
News: Union Minister for Consumer Affairs has attended the 74th foundation day celebration of the Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS).
Initiative launched during the event:
- Toy Testing facilities: Government has recently brought “Toys” under mandatory BIS certification. Hence, the test facilities will act as an enabler for about 5000 industrial units including micro & small ones for implementing the standards.
Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS):
- BIS: It came into existence in 1986 under BIS Act,1986 and was established as the National Standard Body of India under the BIS Act 2016.
- The organisation was formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI) set up under the Department of Industries and Supplies and was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
- Mandate: BIS has been providing traceability and tangibility benefits to the national economy in a number of ways: providing safe reliable quality goods; minimizing health hazards to consumers; promoting exports and control over proliferation of varieties through standardization, certification and testing.
- Governing Council: The Bureau is a Body Corporate consisting of 25 members representing both Central and State governments, Members of Parliament, industry, scientific and research institutions, consumer organizations and professional bodies with Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution as its President.
- Headquarters: New Delhi
- Collaboration with international standards bodies: BIS is a founder member of International Organisation for Standardization(ISO). It represents India in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the World Standards Service Network (WSSN).
Future of the federal framework
Context- The role of the Finance Commission as a neutral arbiter in the Centre-state relation in achieving the delicate balance.
What are the key highlights of the latest report?
The Fifteenth Finance Commission led by Chairman N. K. Singh submitted its report for the period 2021-2026 to President of India.
Title of the report – ‘Finance Commission in COVID Time’s and the scales are used to represent the balance between the States and the Union.
Significance of report-
- The report will determine how India’s fiscal architecture is reshaped.
- And how Centre-state relations are reset as the country attempts to recover from the COVID-19 shock
What are the key points in the report that can impact states revenue share?
- The 15th Finance Commission, in its interim report had said, ‘There is merit in ensuring funds for defence and internal security and this will receive appropriate consideration in our final report.’
- This had led to speculation that states will have to contribute to such a fund, in turn leading to a drop in their share of central government’s taxes.
- Southern Indian states complaining their efforts to control population would go against them. This is because the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission included using the 2011 census to suggest devolution of taxes to states.
- The 15th FC has considered the 2011 population along with forest cover, tax effort, area of the state, and “demographic performance” to arrive at the states’ share in the divisible pool.
What are the States issues?
Recommendation of 14th Finance commission– The commission had recommended for an increase in the share of the States in total tax revenues from 32% to 42%. However, states’ share never touched 42 per cent of tax collections due to-
- Dominance of Centre– The Centre is trying to claw back the fiscal space ceded to the states and assert its dominance over the country’s fiscal architecture. Central government spending has risen on items that lie in the state and concurrent lists.
- Shrinking of divisible pool– Centre has reduced the pool of funds to be shared with the States by shifting from taxes to cesses and surcharges, revenue from which is not shared with the states.
- Finance Commission has to play an important role in achieving the delicate balance in the conflicting domain of finance by addressing the concerns of both the players.
- The Centre can reduce States’ fears by tabling the report without delay, and address any apprehensions it may give rise to.
15th Finance commission report
Context – The 15th Finance commission led by Chairman N K Singh, submitted its Report to the President of India.
What are the key highlights of the latest report?
The 15th Finance commission led by Chairman N. K. Singh submitted its report for the period 2021-2026 to President of India. As per the Terms of Reference (ToR), the Commission was mandated to give its recommendations for five years, i.e., 2021-2026.
- Title of the report – ‘Finance Commission in COVID Times’and the scales are used to represent the balance between the States and the Union.
- The report is divided into four volumes.
- The Report is devoted to the Union Government and contains key departments in greater depth, with the medium-term challenges and the roadmap ahead.
- After the report is tabled in the Parliament, it will be available in the public domain.
Which issues are addressed in the report?
- The Commission submitted its report on vertical and horizontal tax devolution, local government grants, disaster management grant, incentives for States in many areas such as power sector, adoption of DBT, solid waste management etc.
- The Commission also submitted its report on whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up and if so how such a mechanism could be operationalized.
What are the key points in the report that can impact states revenue share?
- The Commission has addressed all its unique terms of reference such as considering a new non-lapsable fund for financing national security and defence spending, and offering performance incentives for States that deliver on reforms.
- The Fifteenth Finance Commission has considered the 2011 population along with forest cover, tax effort, area of the state, and “demographic performance” to arrive at the states’ share in the divisible pool of taxes.
- Cutbacks in devolution – Centre has systematically cut the share of States in taxes raised by the Union government.
- Shrinking of divisible pool- Centre has reduced the pool of funds to be shared with the States by shifting from taxes to cesses and surcharges.
The Centre can reduce States’ fears further by tabling the report soon so that any anxieties can be debated and laid to rest, and States can also plan upcoming Budgets with less uncertainty.
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)
- It is a constitutional body established under Article 148 of the Constitution of India.
- Purpose: CAG audits all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments, including those of bodies and authorities substantially financed by the government.
- Appointment: CAG is appointed by the President of India following a recommendation by the Prime Minister.
About Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC)
BARC was established as an autonomous ‘not for profit’ body duly registered under the Companies Act, 2013.
BARC was constituted comprising representatives from all relevant industry associations being Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI).
BARC India owns and manages a transparent, accurate, and inclusive TV audience measurement system.
Whereas Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has 60% stake holding, Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) both have 20%-20% stake holding.
How BARC came into existence?
In 2000s, there were two rating agencies Television Audience Measurement (TAM) and INTAM in India providing data for TRPs. There were major mismatch and disputes in the data provided by both agencies.
TAM bought over the INTAM in 2001, leading to cartelisation in the TRP system, killing any possibility of scrutiny of the figures provided by TAM.
As a result, despite having 35 out of the top 50 programmes in all TV homes, none of the Door darshan channels was present in the top 50 slots in the C&S (Cable & Satellite) homes category, as per the data of TAM.
In another such controversy, a news channel with just 4 per cent prime time news was declared as number 1(“sab se Tez”) by TAM instead of DD National with 92 per cent share in prime-time news.
Data was collected on the basis of 2,000 “BAR-O-meters” installed one each in a house, on the back cover of the TVs.
The controversy was raised in the parliament in 2008. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) to frame policy guidelines for rating agencies.
TRAI recommended for self-regulation through an industry-led body, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). Thus, BARC came into existence.
In Jan. 2014, MIB notified Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies and in 2015 BARC was accredited to television ratings in India. In 2016, TAM exited TV viewership measurement, not BARC is the sole TV rating service provider.