CAA’s Articulate – 23 July, 2020

Page Contents

Case for setting up a High Court for Puducherry

GS2 – Polity

Context:

  • The Union Territory of Puducherry aspires to have a separate high court for itself. 

Background of demand of separate high court

  • In 1962, when Puducherry was merged with India, the jurisdiction of the Madras High Court was extended to it. 
  • In April 2017, the Pondicherry Bar Association had also passed a resolution seeking the establishment of the High Court.
  • In 2017, the legislature of Puducherry unanimously resolved to have its own High Court, and the Madras High Court was also informed regarding this.
  • In 2019, Chief Minister of Puducherry had said that “a Bench of the Madras High Court at Puducherry on the lines of the one set up in Madurai” was a felt need and sought the support of judges of the Supreme Court.

Reasons for need of such establishment

  • Exorbitant sums of money paid for the expenses of the larger court
    • The Puducherry government currently spends exorbitant sums of money towards expenses of the larger Madras High Court. 
    • With not much of a population, this amount can be reduced to less than a quarter of the amount spent with a much smaller High Court for Puducherry.
  • Ensuring quick action on pendency of matters
    • A Puducherry High Court, with four to five judges, can ensure quick action on pendency of matters.

Constitutional provisions regarding administrative expenses of common court

  • When a common High Court is established for more than one State, administrative expenses have to be paid only from the consolidated fund of the ‘State’ in which the principal seat of the High Court is situated. 
    • However, this provision is not followed with respect to Puducherry which shares the disproportionately exorbitant expenses with Tamil Nadu
  • Also, administrative expenses of a High Court at the Union Territory shall be drawn from the ‘Consolidated Fund of India’ under the Constitution.

 

Increasing ratio of judges strength to population

  • India Judges Association and Others vs. Union Of India And Ors
    • The Supreme Court here observed that the “time has now come for protecting the judicial system, by directing increase in the Judge strength from the existing ratio of 10.5 or 13 per 10 lakhs people to 50 Judges for 10 lakh people.
  • The issue was also discussed in the Law Commission of India Report titled ‘Arrears and Backlog: Creating Additional Judicial (wo)manpower’, in 2014
  • However, as of 2016, the ratio is only 12 judges for one million population. 
  • This ratio at Puducherry can be increased if a separate High Court with four to five judges is established.

 

  • Data comparison with other high courts
    • The number of cases filed and disposed of at Puducherry in 2010 is four times higher than the numbers at Sikkim, Manipur and Goa (with High Courts) put together.
      • Therefore, the size of the population and territory is irrelevant for Puducherry.
  • Hardships of travel
    • The exercise of safeguarding fundamental rights involves travel, time and expenses.
    • Several people often cite that litigants from western districts travel the long distance to Chennai.
  • No solution by creating a regional bench
    • Even a Bench of the Madras High Court as against a separate High Court at Puducherry is unfavorable. This is because, 
      • Puducherry will still have to share the expenses of such a large High Court; 
      • Judges also might not prefer shuttling between Benches at Chennai, Puducherry, and Madurai frequently.
  • Constitutional provisions
    • The Constitution permits Puducherry to have its own High Court under Article 241.
    • The presence of the Constitutional Court in the capital city will also act as a check on the executive and legislature.

Article 241: High Courts for Union territories

  • Parliament may by law constitute a High Court for a Union territory or declare any court in any such territory to be a High Court for all or any of the purposes of this Constitution.

Would this step be aiding statehood demand?

  • The Constitution enabled the establishment of a legislature and Council of Ministers for certain Union Territories with the intent of providing them Statehood gradually. 
  • Consequently, out of the seven Union Territories originally placed under Article 239Aall except Puducherry were granted Statehood by 1989. 
  • However, most Union Territories under 239A at least had Benches of High Courts when they attained Statehood.

Way ahead

  • In March 2016, the central government had suggested that the establishment of a High Court will be taken up if the Puducherry government proposes the idea. 
  • However, the decision of the Puducherry legislature has still not been conveyed to the Central government.
  • The Puducherry government needs to form a committee to prepare a comprehensive report and a draft Bill backing its proposal and forward it to the Central government.

 

24% of Rajya Sabha members face criminal cases

GS2 – Polity

Context:

  • About a quarter of the sitting Rajya Sabha membershave declared criminal cases against themselves, according to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) released recently.

More on the analysis by ADR:

  • The report said an analysis of 229 of the 233 Rajya Sabha seats that represent the States and Union Territories showed that 54 MPs or 24% had declared criminal cases.
  • Out of the 229 MPs, which also included the newly-elected representatives, 28 or 12% had declared serious criminal cases.
  • 203 of the 229 MPs or 89% of those analyzed had declared assets over ₹1crore.

Source: TH

Need for cleansing the politics:

  • Politics dominate governance: 
    • As politics dominates the bureaucracy, and reins in business, civil society and the media, the governance needs to be free from criminal virus.

 Concerns 

  1. Politically motivated cases by opponents: 
    • The attempt to exclude candidates against whom charges had been framed by a court of law for heinous offenses may lead to serve the political vendetta of the ruling party against their opponents.
  2. Demand from voters: 
    • Legislators today are not seen as lawmakers, but problem solvers.
    • With our criminal justice system clogged with cases and lawyers’ fees often far beyond the affordability, the local don standing for elections is often seen as the messiah for delivering quick justice. 
  •  

Attempts by judiciary to cleanse politics:

  1. Public Interest Foundation vs. Union of India (2018): 
    • The court ordered political parties to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness. 
      • The court held that there is a lack of information about tainted candidates among the citizenry.
      • The recent judgment was based on a contempt petition filed about the general disregard shown by political parties to this 2018 Constitution Bench judgment. 
  2. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) vs. Union of Indian: 
    • A 2002 judgment of the SC made it obligatory for all candidates to file an affidavit before the returning officer, disclosing criminal cases pending against them.
  3. PUCL vs. Union of India: 
    • In its 2013 judgment SC upheld the constitutional right of citizens to cast a negative vote in elections. 
    • The famous order to introduce None of the above (NOTA) was intended to make political parties think before giving tickets to the tainted.
  4. Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013):  The Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act that allowed convicted lawmakers a three-month period for filing appeals to the higher court and to get a stay on the conviction and sentence.
  5. Public Interest Foundation and Ors. v Union of India (2014): In its landmark judgment of SC directed all subordinate courts to decide on cases involving legislators within a year, or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court.
    •  

Way ahead

  • Need for strong legislation: 
    • To regulate the functioning of political parties and an unbiased and independent authority to implement it. 
  • Judicial activism is an exception rather than a rule:
    • Hence recourse to judicial activism needs to be taken carefully.
  • Being vigilant: 
    • In the coming elections, there is the need to be far more vigilant. This includes 
  • Monitoring the affidavits of candidates. 
  • Working with the Election Commission to ensure that information is promptly available on their websites, and
  • Widely circulating this information to voters using all the social media tools available. 

So far whatever significant electoral reforms have taken place have emanated from the Supreme Court.

It remains to be seen how the recent judgment will affect the choices of the political establishment and whether it will have the desired effect in eliminating criminality from future legislatures.

 

The significance of Kakrapar-3

GS3 – Economy

Context: 

  • The third unit of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP-3) in Gujarat recently achieved its ‘first criticality’..

About KAPP-3

  • State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) had awarded the reactor-building contract for both KAPP-3 and 4 to Larsen & Toubro.
  • The tariff per unit related to the project was originally calculated to be Rs 2.80 per unit (kWh) at 2010 prices. However, this costing is expected to have seen some escalation.
  • The capital investment for these projects is being funded with a debt-to-equity ratio of 70:30

Background

  • Currently, four units of the 700MWe reactor are being built at Kakrapar (KAPP-3 and 4) and Rawatbhata (RAPS-7 and 8). 
  • The 700MWe reactors will be the backbone of a new fleet of 12 reactors to which the government accorded administrative approval and financial sanction in 2017, and which are to be set up in fleet mode.

Source: IE

A significant achievement

  • This is considered as a landmark event in India’s domestic civilian nuclear program given that KAPP-3 is the country’s first 700 MWe (megawatt electric) unit.
    • Until now, the biggest reactor size of indigenous design in India was the 540 MWe PHWR, two of which have been deployed in Tarapur, Maharashtra.
  • It is also the biggest indigenously developed variant of the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).
  • The operationalization of India’s first 700MWe reactor marks a significant scale-up in technology, in terms of 
    • Optimization of its PHWR design — the new 700MWe unit addresses the issue of excess thermal margins.
      • Thermal margin’ refers to the extent to which the operating temperature of the reactor is below its maximum operating temperature.
    • An improvement in the economies of scale, without significant changes to the design of the 540 MWe reactor.

Added safety features:

    • There is a use of thin-walled pressure tubes instead of the large pressure vessels that are used in pressure vessel type reactors.
      • This results in lowering the severity of the consequence of an accidental rupture of the pressure boundary.
    •  A dedicated ‘Passive Decay Heat Removal System’
      • It can remove decay heat (released as a result of radioactive decay) from the reactor core without requiring any operator actions.
    • It is also equipped with a steel-lined containment to reduce any leakages, and a containment spray system to reduce the containment pressure in case of a loss of coolant accident.

Achieving criticality

  • Reactors are the heart of any atomic power plant, where a controlled nuclear fission reaction takes place which produces heat, that is used to generate steam that then spins a turbine to create electricity. 
    • Nuclear Fission is a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei, and usually some by-product particles. 
  • When the nucleus splits after the Nuclear Fission reaction, the kinetic energy of the fission fragments is transferred to other atoms in the fuel as heat energy, which is eventually used to produce steam to drive the turbines. 
  • For every nuclear fission event, if at least one of the emitted neutrons on average causes another fission, a self-sustaining chain reaction will take place. 
  • A nuclear reactor is said to have achieved criticality when each fission event releases a sufficient number of neutrons to sustain an ongoing series of reactions.

India’s targets in nuclear energy

  • As India works to ramp up its existing nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MWe to 22,480 MWe by 2031, the 700MWe capacity would constitute the biggest component of the expansion plan. 
  • India’s nuclear power capacity currently constitutes less than 2% of the total installed capacity of 3,68,690 MW (end-January 2020).

Evolution of India’s PHWR technology

  • This technology started in India in the late 1960s with the construction of the first reactor, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, RAPS-1 with a design similar to that of the Douglas Point reactor in Canada, under the joint Indo-Canadian nuclear cooperation.
  • For the second unit (RAPS-2), import content was reduced considerably, and indigenization was undertaken for major equipment.
    • Following the withdrawal of Canadian support in 1974 after Pokhran-1, Indian nuclear engineers themselves completed the construction.
  • From the third PHWR unit (Madras Atomic Power Station, MAPS-1) onward, the evolution and indigenization of the design began
    • The first two units of PHWR using indigenously developed standardized 220 MWe designs were set up at the Narora Atomic Power Station.
  • To realize economies of scale, the design of 540 MWe PHWR was subsequently developed, and two such units were built at Tarapur.

A pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR)

  • It is a nuclear reactor that uses heavy water (deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and neutron moderator. 
  • PHWRs frequently use natural uranium as fuel, sometimes very low enriched uranium.

Comet NEOWISE

GS3 – Science and Technology

Context: 

  • Comet Neowise officially known as C/2020F3 is the brightest comet that can be seen in the sky and will be visible across the globe as it is closest to the earth these days. 

More on the news:

  • Once it disappears, the comet will be visible only after 6800 years.
  • This is after many years that a comet can be seen with naked eye in Earth’s night sky.
  • The comet will be visible in the opposite direction of the Polaris or the Pole Star. 
    • Pole star, also called North Star, the brightest star that appears nearest to either celestial pole at any particular time.

About the Comet Neowise:

  • It was first spotted by NASA’s spacecraft mission Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) recently and hence the name NEOWISE.
  • The Neowise comet has been found close to the sun, by NASA’s solar mission SOHO, which exclusively studies the sun and its activities
  • India also has a similar space venture Aditya-L1 mission which is due to go up in the sky in 2022, to study the corona of the Sun.
  • The comet is so bright that it has been visible in cities having high light pollution.

About Comets:

  • Comet is an icy small body which consists mostly of rocky materials, dust and ice. 
    • As they come closer to the sun there is evaporation of volatile contents from these comets. 
    • When they start melting, the particles start glowing by the reflected sunlight. This makes the ‘dust tail’ of Comets.

Different types of comets and their location:

  • Predictable:
    • The appearance of some comets, like those that take less than 200 years to orbit around the sun is predictable since they have passed by before.
    • One of the most famous short-period comets is called Halley’s Comet that reappears every 76 years.
      • Halley’s will be sighted next in 2062.
  • Location:
    • They can be found in the Kuiper belt, where many comets orbit the sun in the realm of Pluto, occasionally getting pushed into orbits that bring them closer to the sun. 
      • The Kuiper Belt is a doughnut-shaped ring of icy objects around the Sun, extending just beyond the orbit of Neptune from about 30 to 55 AU.
      • The first mission to explore the Kuiper Belt is New Horizons. It flew past Pluto in 2015 and is on its way to explore another Kuiper Belt world
  • The less-predictable comets:
    • Comets in this cloud can take as long as 30 million years to complete one rotation around the sun.
  • Location:
    • They can be found in the Oort cloud that is about 100,000 AU from the sun, or 100,000 times the distance between the Earth and the sun. 

 

Ways for India to take trade action against China

GS2 – International Relations

Context: 

  • There is the need for India to abandon the notion that Chinese membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) makes it difficult for New Delhi to act against Beijing.

On what basis India can act against China: (Multilateral Agreements – WTO)

  1. Anti-dumping duties: 
    • Under the WTO(as under its predecessor arrangement – the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)), if a Chinese product is exported at lower than normal value, dumping occurs. 
    • The normal value can be determined as: 
      • The domestic cost of production in China 
      • The product’s price in China’s domestic market 
      • Its export price in a third country. 
    • If a Chinese product is exported to India at a price lower than that of a comparable Indian product, this does not qualify as dumping.
  2. Market Economy Status of China:
    • China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2001. 
    • During the accession negotiations, the most debated issue was the treatment of China as a non-market economy (NME) post its WTO entry and granting market economy status was contingent on China complying with disciplines agreed to at the time it joined the WTO. 
    • In international trade parlance, NME is generally a country where the various factors of production are not made in response to market signals but are often regulated or controlled by the government. 
    • The WTO members were successful in treating China as an NME at least until December 2016. 
    • China’s protocol of accession allowed the WTO members treat China differently from other WTO members in antidumping investigations based on its NME status.
    • Since those disciplines haven’t been complied with, China cannot be treated as a market economy, a relevant point for both anti-dumping investigations (and consequent duties) and anti-subsidy investigations (and consequent countervailing duties).
  3. Article 5: Application of Safeguards Measures
    • Safeguard measures are quantitative restrictions or tariff rate quotas, not hikes in basic customs duties. 
    • A Member shall apply safeguard measures only to the extent necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury to the domestic market. 

On what basis India can act against China: (Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) – APTA) 

  • Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), also known as Bangkok Agreement was signed in 1975, with Bangladesh, India, Laos, South Korea and Sri Lanka as members. China became a member in 2001. 
  • In the India-China trade relationship, it is doubtful that India gains much through APTA, but China gains much more. 
  • Withdrawing from APTA and negotiating through other channels: India can withdraw from APTA by giving a notice of six months. 
    • Trading with partners (other than China), can be pushed through the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 
  • Applying Rules of origin (part of every RTAs to which India is a party): Which prevents routing of Chinese exports via third countries. Unfortunately, under the GATT/WTO umbrella, there hasn’t been much movement on harmonizing the rule of origin. 

The above analysis shows that India has plenty of trade action that can be directed against China, despite it being a WTO member.

 

Access to Internet: Transforms a subject to a citizen

GS2 – Polity

Context: 

  • Since last one year, people in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region have not had access to 4G Internet. 

Background:

  • The restriction was placed in the backdrop to the dilution of Article 370 of the Constitution. 
  • This move were made ostensibly out of a concern for national security, with the aim of thwarting terrorism. 
  • Opinion of the SC:
    • The Supreme Court in its earlier judgements has highlighted that a complete ban of this kind is disproportionate as it impinges on the liberty of an entire populace. 
    • However, the Court has done little to enforce its writ, to do what the Constitution demands – act as an independent check on majoritarian power.

The Supreme Court’s rulings:

Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (2020)

  • Two primary arguments in the petition: 
    • First, the government had refused to make public its orders blocking the Internet, violating a basic tenet of the rule of law that people have a right to know why their freedoms have been constrained. 
    • Second, empirical evidence demonstrated that there was no link between shutting down the Internet and the state’s objective of protecting security
      • Indeed, available materials pointed the other way: that the Internet was a valuable tool that could be used to counter the spread of incendiary rumours and fake news. 
  • The ruling: The Court held that the ability to access the web had an instrumental bearing on a number of other fundamental rights, including – the rights to free speech and freedom of business under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. 
    • Therefore, any limitation placed on the web must be necessary and proportionate to the goal that the State seeks to achieve
    • This meant that the government now had to produce the orders on the basis of which it was shutting down the Internet. 
  • Outcome: The prohibitory orders were published and a few months after the verdict, 2G Internet was restored.
  • The Court did not hold the government accountable:
    • The court failed to test the blockade on the touchstone of the very constitutional principles that it said were applicable. 
    • Instead, it ordered a weekly review by a committee set up under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017.
  • Even the onset of the pandemic, which has shown how instrumental the Internet is in accessing critical services, didn’t lead to a lifting of the ban on 4G.

Foundation for Media Professionals case

  • This time, specific evidence was placed before the Court to show how 4G Internet was indispensable for adequate access to education, medicine, and to the courts.
  • Giving its verdict, the Supreme Court created a new three-member special committee headed by the Union Home Secretary – to take stock of things. 

As the Internet restrictions in J&K are fast approaching their first anniversary, their impact on basic rights of citizens must be taken into account.

This will ensure that the people of J&K will not become subjects to be ruled over, but citizens who possess rights against the State.

 

Delayed GST compensation

GS3 – Economy

Context: 

  • Lower GST revenues have translated into delayed and pending compensation payments to states, an issue which will be central to the discussions of the GST Council meeting slated to be held later this month.

About GST 

  • The Centre will levy and collect the Central GST.
  • States will levy and collect the State GST on the supply of goods and services within a state.
  • The Centre will levy the Integrated GST (IGST) on the interstate supply of goods and services, and apportion the state’s share of tax to the state where the good or service is consumed.
  • The states have been guaranteed 14 per cent annual growth in GST revenue over the base year of 2015-16. 
  • Any shortfall has to be compensated from the receipts of Compensation Cess imposed on selected commodities that attract a GST of 28 per cent.
    • At present, the cess levied on sin and luxury goods such as tobacco and automobiles flows into the compensation fund. 

Background of the GST compensation issue:

  • The pandemic effect: 
    • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections recorded a 41 per cent decline in the April-June quarter. 
  • Compensation pending: 
    • The increase in revenue in 2019-20 has been a meagre 3.8 per cent compared to the previous year.  
    • The result is that even after paying Rs 1.2 lakh crore as compensation, the due payments are more than Rs 1 lakh crore already.
    • This raises a fundamental question: How can the gap between fund availability and fund requirement be bridged?
  • Market borrowing has been discussed as one of the possible solutions for meeting the compensation gap in the GST Council though the legality of the Council to borrow will need to be explored. 

Issues:

  • High 14% rate:
  • The required amount to pay states started rising with a compounded 14 per cent rate which is inordinately high as compensation collectionsremained around the same level for two consecutive years. 
    • It gives states no incentive to make tax efforts of their own. Nor does it make an allowance for an economic downturn, such as the one caused by covid. 
    • Adamant states: All states are unanimous on sticking to the 14 per cent assured rate for compensation. 
  • Compensation fund limited to cess only: 
  • In the Budget for 2020-21, the Finance Minister had said that thereafter, transfers to the fund would be “limited only to collection by way of GST compensation cess”. 
    • This declaration isagainst the federal consensus between the Centre and states, and the constitutional guarantee enshrined after an elaborate process.
    • Section 10(1) of the Act allows for “other amounts” also to be credited to the Compensation fund with the approval of the GST Council.
  • Restructuring possible after pandemic only:  
    • Tinkering of rates of rate structure under GST cannot be done till the effects of pandemic-induced slowdown continue.
  • Hiking the cess rate or lowering of the guaranteed compensation rate have featured in the discussions of the GST Council meetings, but states are not in favour of either of the options.
  • The bureaucratic tinkering with rates: 
    • The most recent example is that of packaged parotta being levied 18% GST, whereas its north Indian cousin, the parantha, is taxed at 5%. Such arbitrariness has resulted in confusion, uncertainty and litigation.  
  • Uninformed decisions: 
    • The pre-election sharp reductions in tax rates without serious examination of the revenue implications have also contributed to the fall in revenue. The current rates are not revenue neutral.
  • Alcohol and petroleum:
    • The states remain addicted to special levies on these to fill their coffers.
    • It creates hindrances in achieving single GST slab.

Way forward:

  • Borrowing from the market by the GST Council and crediting it to the compensation fund: 
    • The GST Council or the Compensation Fund must be empowered to borrow funds from the market and compensate the states. 
    • The advantage: Since the loans are not taken by the Centre, it has no fiscal deficit implications. And the liabilities would be liquidated automatically from the collection of the Cess during the extended period.
  • Options for meeting compensation gap: paper by Vijay Kelkar (Chairman, 13th Finance Commission) has listed out following options —
    • Lowering the guaranteed rate of compensation, 
    • Increasing the compensation cess, 
    • Increasing the state’s share (SGST), 
  • GST reforms: 
    • A restructuring of the GST model should be considered if the losses for states continue.
    • Review of complex structure of Integrated GST
    • Inclusion of petroleum products under GST
    • Simplification of GST rates and minimising exemptions, 
  • Independent GST Council Secretariat: 
    • GST Council’s decisions should be based on 
      • An estimate of the tax base
      • The tax elasticity of the commercially important goods, 
      • The loss anticipated by such reduction and the anticipated increase in buoyancy through reform measures. 
    • This can only occur through the creation of an independent GST Council Secretariat which would provide neutral, unbiased, and pertinent advice on all the matters.

 

Courts must revisit the use of a ‘floor test’0

GS2 – Polity

Context: 

  • The recent alleged act of defection in Rajasthan Assembly has raised alarm bells for courts torecalibrate the use of floor test to prove majority in legislature.

More on News:

  • As per expert’s judiciary is the only hope to protect the constitutional ethos and moralities as the political parties have simply sidelined the spirit of constitution.
  • The misuse of the 10th schedule has become rampant to dismantle ruling state governments by assuring the defectors of political gains.
  • Attempts to circumvent the Tenth Schedule through engineered defections cannot be allowed to succeed through the judicial process. 
  • If a party without a clear majority wins over members of the majority party to reduce it into a minority and then claims the right to form a government, the latter’s “majority” does not stand the test of constitutional morality.

It is this problem which the judiciary needs to address being the protector and guarantor of the constitution and its principles.

About the floor test

What is it?
  • A floor test is a motion through which the government of the day seeks to know whether it still enjoys the confidence of the legislature
  • In this procedure, a CM appointed by the Governor can be asked to prove majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly of the state.
Procedure
  • The chief minister has to move a vote of confidence and win a majority among those present and voting. 
  • If the confidence motion fails to pass, the chief minister has to resign. 
 

Modes of voting

  1. Voice vote: In a voice vote, the legislators respond orally.
  2. Division vote: In case of a division vote, voting is done using electronic gadgets, slips or going into lobbies.
  3. Ballot vote: Ballot box is usually a secret vote – just like how people vote during state or parliamentary elections. 
Composite Floor Test
  • If there is more than one person staking claim to form the government and the majority is not clear, the governor may call for a special session to see who has the majority.
  • ·Some legislators may be absent or choose not to vote. In such a case, the majority is counted based on those present and voting.
Role of protem speaker
  • The pro-tem speaker’s role is crucial in conducting a floor test. 
  • Conventionally, the longest serving House member is nominated as pro tem speaker, whose role is limited to administering oaths to new MLAs and conducting the election of the full-time speaker.

 

Evolution of Floor Test in India

S.R Bommai Case,1994

  • Concept of floor test was established in this case.
  • Background:
    • In this case, it was alleged that the Janata Party government led by Bommai did not enjoy a majority in the Karnataka legislature. 
  • Judgement:
    • The court held that, wherever a doubt arises whether the Council of Ministers has lost the confidence of the House, the only way of testing it is on the floor of the House.

Jagdambika Pal vs Union of India,1999

  • Background:
    • In 1996, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections resulted in none of the contesting parties winning a clear majority.
    • The matter had come to the Supreme Court after the UP Governor had sacked Kalyan Singh as chief minister and appointed Congress leader Jagdambika Pal as his successor.
  • Judgement: 
    • SC ordered a composite floor test between contending parties in order to see which out of the two contesting claimants of chief ministership had a majority in the House.

Anil Kumar Jha vs Union of India,2005

  • Background:
    • The contest was between Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Shibu Soren and the NDA’s Arjun Munda. 
    • The Governor had invited Soren to form the government while Munda claimed that he commanded a majority in the House. 
  • Judgement:
    • SC advanced the date of floor test and again issued similar instructions like in earlier cases.

Union of India vs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat,2016

  • Background:
    • A few rebel MLAs from the Congress party alleged that an appropriation Bill was passed without the government enjoying a majority in the legislature. 
    • Thereafter, President’s Rule was imposed in the State.
  • Judgement:
    • SC suspended the president’s rule for two hours and ordered a floor test.

Chandrakant Kavlekar v Union of India,2017

  • Background:
    • The BJP had won 13 of the 40 seats in the Goa legislature and had claimed the support of smaller parties for forming the government.
  • Judgement:
    • The Supreme Court, while ordering a floor test in this case, held, “The holding of the floor test would remove all possible ambiguities, and would result in giving the democratic process the required credibility.

 

Supreme Court issues notice to Prashant Bhushan over tweets

GS2 – Polity

Context: 

  • The Supreme Court, taking suo motu cognisance filed contempt of court case against public rights activist and lawyer Prashnat Bhushan.

More on News:

  • The court opinionated that the tweets by Mr. Bhushan undermined the prestige of the CJI office and portrayed the judiciary in a bad light.
  • As per the court if there is any issue with respect to the judgment delivered or procedure followed by the judiciary, then queries must be brought before the courts rather than humiliating the judiciary on social media platforms.
  • Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution gives an individual freedom of speech and expression but the same is restricted on grounds mentioned in Article 19(2) which includes contempt of court.

Issues related to Contempt of Court

  • Against Right to Speech given under Article 19 (1)(a).
  • Most of the cases are of civil nature thus criminal contempt must be removed.
  • The Act is made by parliament while it is an inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under article 142 of Indian Constitution.
  • Cases where contempt of an individual is taken as contempt of court.
  • The U.S. do not have the power to punish anyone for scandalising the court. And In England it is used sparingly.
  • Scandalising the court was an offence in colonial India which should be removed now.

Contempt of Court

Constitutional Background

  • Article 129: Grants Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  • Article 142(2): Enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
  • Article 215: Grants every High Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Contempt under the Indian law

  • In India, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, divides contempt into civil contempt and criminal contempt.
    • Civil contempt: It is a ‘wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a Court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to the court’.
    • Criminal contempt: It is the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
      • Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court.
      • Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding.
      • Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

Punishments for Contempt of Court

  • The Supreme Court in 1991, ruled that it has the power to punish for contempt not only of itself but also of high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals functioning in the entire country.
  • The High Courts have been given special powers to punish contempt of subordinate courts, as per Section 10 of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971.

This means only the supreme court and high courts have the power to punish for contempt of court, either with simple imprisonment for a term up to six months or with fine up to 2,000 or with both.

Criticism allowed or not

  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, very clearly states that fair criticism of any case which has been heard and decided is not contempt.

Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006

  • The statute of 1971 has been amended by the Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006 to include the defence of truth under Section 13 of the original legislation.
  • Section 13: Restrict the powers of the court in that they were not to hold anyone in contempt unless it would substantially interfere with the due process of justice. 
    • The amendment further states that the court must permit ‘justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide.’

Recommendations

  • The Law Commission of India in its 274th report to the Ministry of Law and Justice has suggested that Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution vest the Supreme Court and High Courts powers to investigate and punish the contemnor even in absence of any legislation outlining their procedural powers. 

 

India opens new routes to strengthen trade ties with Neighbours

GS2 – International Relations

Context:

  • In a bid to boost its economic and connectivity linkages with its neighbours, two new routes for tradewith Bangladesh and Bhutan have been opened up.

Engagement with Bhutan:

  • A new trade route is opened under the Jaigaon Land Station on India – Bhutan Border through Ahllay near Pasakha in south-eastern Bhutan.
  • Background:
    • Trade between India and Bhutan through the Jaigaon-Phuentsholing border trade point amounts to approximately Rs. 6,000 crores annually. 
    • Bhutan’s trade with countries other than India through this border trade point is an additional Rs. 1,400 crores annually. 
    • The India-Bhutan Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit which was last renewed in 2016 allows for free trade and commerce between India and Bhutan. 
      • The pact provides for about 21 entry or exit trade points between India and landlocked Bhutan. 
      • This includes 10 trade points with Land Customs Stations (LCS) at the Indo-Bhutan border. 
      • Bhutan uses some of these to trade with third countries. 
  • The route for movement of industrial raw materials and goods destined for Pasakha Industrial Estate will boost bilateral trade and commerce and lead to decongestion of vehicular traffic along the Jaigaon – Phuentsholing route.
  • These efforts will further have a positive effect on the trade growth with North Eastern States of India.
  • Besides the new trade point, India is also looking at fast tracking a railway link between Mujnai in West Bengal and Nyoenpaling in Bhutan.

Engagement with Bangladesh:

  • India recently flagged off the first trial of container ship from Kolkata to Agartala through Chattogram port of Bangladesh
  • Background:
    • This is the outcome of a pact signed by the two countries on coastal shipping in 2015 and another in October 2018 on the use of Chittagong and Mongla Ports for trans-shipment of goods to and from India. 
    • Eight routes have been provided under the 2019 pact which will enable access to India’s northeastern region via Bangladesh. 
    • The routes identified includes – 
      • Chattogram or Mongla Port to Agartala in Tripura via Akhura, 
      • Chattogram or Mongla Port to Dawki in Meghalaya via Tamabil, 
      • Chattogram or Mongla Port to Sutarkandi in Assam via Sheola and 
      • Chattogram or Mongla Port to Srimantpur in Tripura via Bibirbazar.
  • For India, the use of the Bangladesh ports would cut the time required for transportation by allowing three landlocked northeastern Indian states access open sea trade routes from Chattogram and Mongla ports via Indian ports
  • For Bangladesh, the spinoffs come in the form of job creation, boosting prospects for investment in the logistics sector, supply chain integration and promotion of business services like finance, transportation and insurance, says industry representatives.

 

Triple Talaq- Big Reform, Better Result

GS2 – Social issues & Justice

Context: 

  • One year has passed since the law against Triple Talaq was passed and there is a decline of about 82 per cent in Triple Talaq cases thereafter. If any such case was reported, the law has taken action as per the government reports.

Background: 

  • Triple Talaq, also known as Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, was passed by the Indian Parliament as a law on July 30, 2019, to make instant Triple Talaq a criminal offence.
    • It makes the instant triple talaq a criminal offence and provides for a jail term of three years for a Muslim man who commits the crime.
    • The law also makes Triple Talaq a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
    • Custody of children: A married muslim women will get the custody of children if her husband gives Triple Talaq
  • The Government made the law against Triple Talaq to make effective the Supreme Court’s judgement. 
    • The Supreme Court, on 18th May, 2017 in Shayara Bano vs. Union of India & Others case had declared Triple Talaq as unconstitutional.
  • Several Muslim-majority nations of the world had declared Triple Talaq as illegal and un-Islamic much earlier. But it took 70 years for India to get rid of this inhuman and cruel practice.

What is Triple Talaq?

  • Under the Muslim law, Triple Talaq means liberty from the relationship of marriage, eventually or immediately, where the man, by simply uttering the word ‘talaq’ three times, ends his marriage. This instant divorce is called Triple Talaq, also known as ‘talaq-e-biddat’. 
  • The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937 had legalised and allowed the practice of Triple Talaq which gave a Muslim husband special privileges over his wife.

Benefits to minorities by govt. initiatives

  • More than 10 lakh Minority youths have been provided employment and employment opportunities through skill development schemes such as “Seekho aur Kamao”, “Garib Nawaz Swarojgar Yojna”, “Usttad”, “Nai Manzil”, “Nai Roushni” etc and more than 50 per cent beneficiaries are women.
  • 3 crore 87 lakh Minority students have been given various scholarships which include about 60 per cent girl students. 
  • A large number of Muslim women have been provided employment and employment opportunities through “Hunar Haat”. 
  • A total of 3040 women have performed Haj after the Union Government ensured Muslim women can perform Haj without “Mehram” (male companion) in 2018. 
  • Government provided benefits to 22 crore farmers under ‘’Kisan Samman Nidhi” which include more than 33 per cent farmers belonging to Minority communities. 
  • About 37 per cent of more than 8 crore beneficiaries of “Ujjwala Yojna” providing free gas connection belong to Minority communities. 
  • The government provided easy loans to about 24 crore people under “Mudra Yojna” for small and medium business and other employment oriented economic activities and more than 36 per cent beneficiaries are from Minority communities. 

Muslim women have significantly been benefitted from these welfare schemes, they have become an equal partner of mainstream development.

 

India Ideas Summit

GS2 – International Relations

Context: 

  • Recently India Ideas Summit has been concluded with the theme ‘Building a Better Future’. 

More on the news:

  • The Summit is being hosted by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) and 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of USIBC. 
  • USIBC is committed to advance India-US economic partnership.

Key highlights of the summit:

  • Building global economic resilience through stronger domestic economic capacities
    • Addressing the summit the Prime Minister of India talked about the need to place the poor and the vulnerable at the core of the growth agenda. 
    • There is the need to understand that ‘Ease of Living’ is as important as ‘Ease of Business’. 
    • The pandemic has reminded of the importance of resilience of the global economy against external shocks, which can be achieved by stronger domestic economic capacities. 
  • India offers a perfect combination of openness, opportunities and options
    • There is a global optimism towards India because it offers a perfect combination of openness, opportunities and options. 
  • Extensive opportunities to invest across sectors
  • Rising investments in India
    • India has witnessed a rise in Ease of Doing Business rankings of the World Bank. 
    • Each year, India is reaching record highs in FDI and FDI inflows in India in 2019-20 were 74 billion dollars, which is an increase of 20% over the previous year.