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1. National Medical Commission Bill

Background

  • Prof. Ranjit Roy Chaudhury committee (2015) recommended structurally reconfiguring the MCI’s functions and suggested the formation of a National Medical Commission.

  • Lodha Panel, constituted in 2016 by Supreme Court to oversee the functioning of MCI and its policy decision making. However, its recommendations were not implemented.

  • Committee headed by Dr. Arvind Panagariya formed to address concerns over quality of medical education, proposed to repeal Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.

1.1. Key Features of the Bill

Establishing National Medical Commission (NMC):

  • It will be an Umbrella body which will subsume the MCI and regulate the medical education and practice in India.

  • It will consist of 25 members, appointed by the central government which will include representatives from Indian Council of Medical Research, and Directorate General of Health Services.

  • Members’ tenure will be of four years, and they will not be eligible for extension or reappointment.

  • State Medical Councils (SMC): Each state will establish their respective SMC within three years which will have a role similar to the NMC, at the state level.

Medical Advisory Council (MAC):

  • It will provide platform to states/union territories to express their views and concerns before the NMC and help in shaping the overall agenda, policy and action relating to medical education and training.

  • It will advise the NMC on measures to maintain minimum standards of medical education and research and enable equitable access to medical education.

  • Composition: It is a 67 member body, consisting of all the member of NMC as its ex-officio members along with members nominated by states/union territories and other government bodies like UGC etc

Four Autonomous Boards under supervision of NMC:

  • Under-Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) and the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board (PGMEB)- Responsible for formulating standards, curriculum, guidelines, and granting recognition to medical qualifications at the undergraduate and post graduate levels respectively

Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB):

  • It will have the power to levy monetary penalties on medical institutions (1.5 to 10 times the annual tuition fee) which fail to maintain the minimum standards as laid down by the UGMEB and the PGMEB. It will also grant permission for establishing a new medical college.

Medical Council of India (MCI)

  • It is a statutory body, established under Indian Medical Council Act 1956.

  • It regulates-

  • standards of medical education.

  • permission to start colleges, courses or increase the number of seats.

  • standards of professional conduct of medical practitioners such as registration of doctors etc.

1.2. Issues with MCI

  • As identified by Parliamentary Standing Committee for Health and Family Welfare in 2016.

  • It failed to produce sufficient number of doctors, for instance, there is one doctor for every 1,674 people against WHO norm of one doctor for every 1000 people.

  • Shortage of teachers in medical colleges and poor regulation of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

  • Lack of accountability, alleged corruptions and failure to discharge mandated responsibilities.

1.3. Functions of NMC

  • Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals.

  • Assessing the requirements of healthcare related human resources and infrastructure.

  • Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils.

  • Framing guidelines for determination of fees for up to 40% of the seats in the private medical institutions and deemed universities.

  • Recognizing medical qualifications granted by universities and medical institutions in and outside India and qualifications granted by statutory and other bodies in India.

  • Ethics and Medical Registration Board- will maintain a National Register of all licensed medical practitioners, and regulate professional conduct. Only those included in the Register will be allowed to practice medicine.

  • Uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) will be conducted for admission to under-graduate medical education in all medical institutions regulated by the Bill.

  • National Licentiate Examination for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for practice and admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions.

  • Bridge course- It allows practitioners of homoeopathy and Indian systems of medicine to prescribe allopathic medicine upon completion of a course.

  • Ease of regulation: Medical colleges will need permission only once for establishment and recognition, with no need for annual renewal. Colleges can also increase the number of undergraduate seats and start postgraduate courses on their own.

1.4. Significance

  • Bill aims to repeals the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and dissolves the current Medical Council of India (MCI) and provide for a medical education system which ensures:

  • Availability of adequate and high quality medical professionals especially in rural areas.

  • Improve Accountability and Transparency- A mandatory assessment and rating of medical colleges on annual basis will help in moving towards outcome-based monitoring.

  • Integration of medical practices: It calls for joint sitting of the National Medical Commission, the Central Council of Homoeopathy and the Central Council of Indian Medicine at least once a year, to enhance the interface between homoeopathy, Indian systems of medicine and modern systems of medicine.

  • Emergency provision- In an unforeseen situation, NMC can permit a medical professional to perform surgery or practice medicine without qualifying the National Licentiate Examination.

Concern:

  • Over-centralization of NMC: According to Indian Medical Association (IMA), NMC will cripple the functioning of the medical profession by making it completely answerable to the bureaucracy and non-medical administrators.

  • Against federal setup: Previously, all the State governments had representation in MCI while in proposed setup, only five States in rotation will have representation in NMC.

  • Issue with Bridge courses:

  • It allows practitioner of Indian medicine system to prescribe allopathic medicines without even passing the licentiate examination.

  • It might also encourage many traditional practitioners to move towards allopathy which is detrimental for government effort of popularizing traditional medicines in country.

  • Enforcing NEET might result in the mushrooming of expensive coaching centres, making medical education beyond the reach of financially disadvantaged students.

  • Bill permits 60% of seats to be open for managements which might increase rent seeking activity, increase cost of medical education and reserve medical education only for the rich and well off.

Way forward

  • There is a need for thousands of community-level accredited practitioners — not full-fledged doctors who after training should be equipped to provide the first line of care for acute conditions and to make referrals to a regular doctor within a GPS-supervised system. This to some extent has been addressed by the bill.

  • There can be various other steps that may help improving the health care sector in the country, like-

  • Introducing 3 year diploma for rural medical-care providers as practiced in India under Licentiate Medical Practitioners (LMP) scheme till 1946.

  • Encouraging inter-professional education between medicine, nursing and allied health professional training to produce nurse practitioners, nurse anaesthetists, physician assistants etc.

  • The bill should recognize the scope for integrative medicine but without mixing medical systems and practitioners through bridge courses.

  • The bill is well intended but unless the it confronts reality and addresses it, keeping consumer interest paramount, the new law will make little difference to people’s lives.

  • Currently, Bill had been referred to the Standing Committee in the Lok Sabha which will provide an opportunity of engaging with all stakeholders and examining bill in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

2. Electoral Bonds

Background

  • According to an ADR (Association of Democratic Reforms) analysis, 69% of the total income of national and regional parties between 2004-05 and 2014-15 was contributed through funding from unknown sources.

  • The 255th Law Commission Report on Electoral Reforms observed that opacity in political funding results in “lobbying and capture” of the government by big donors.

  • Electoral bonds were announced in Union Budget 2017-18 and the required amendments in Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (Section 31(3)) and the Representation of People Act, 1951 were made through Section 133 to 136 of Finance Bill, 2017.

2.1. Pros of Electoral Bonds

  • Tackling Black Money in Political Funding: As electoral bonds will be purchased through KYC compliance therefore it would induce funding through clean money.

  • Increasing Transparency and Accountability Filing of returns is a welcome step in evaluating the quantum of money received by political parties as donations.

  • Anonymity – Anonymity will help guard against India’s “vindictive” political culture in which parties could penalise donors for funding rival political forces.

  • Short span of 15 days for redeeming the electoral bonds will prevent it from being a parallel currency.

  • Stringent clause of eligibility will filter out political parties that are formed on the pretext of tax evasion.

Cons

  • Opacity - The knowledge of the quantum of money donated, by whom and to which political party will only be known to certain entities again bringing an element of opacity for the public.

  • Section 29C of RPA,1951 enjoins political parties to report on all contributions above Rs 20,000 to the EC. However, an amendment in finance bill kept electoral bonds out of the purview of this section. Therefore, parties will not have to submit records of electoral bonds received to the EC for scrutiny.

  • Political parties are legally bound to submit their income tax returns annually under Section 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961. However, finance bill also sought to exempt electoral bonds from IT Act. Thus, removing the need to maintain records of names, addresses of all donors who contributed even more than Rs 20,000.

  • Under the Companies Act, political donations by companies cannot be made without express approval of the board of directors through a resolution.

  • Also, corporates could only contribute up to a maximum of 7.5% of its average net profit earned during the three immediately preceding financial years. However, this restriction has been done away with for electoral bond through Finance Act 2017.

  • Amendments to the companies act will enable corporates to donate any quantum of money which may lead to unholy nexus with corporates with no regulatory oversight.

  • Favours ruling party – SBI being a government owned bank will hold all the information of the donors which can be favourable to the party in power and also deter certain entities from donating to opposition due to fear of penalisation.

  • Unchecked Corporate Sector-

  • It may also lead to emergence of shell companies formed to make donations paving an alternative way to infuse black money in political funding.

  • Companies also no longer have to share the name of the political party they have donated to. This will result in shareholders having no knowledge of where there money is going.

  • The corporate donor cannot be prohibited from reporting the donation informally to the donee party.

Way Forward

  • Various ways that may bring more transparency in political funding are-

  • Switching to complete digital transactions.

  • Donations above a certain limit be made public to break the corporate-politico nexus.

  • Political parties should be brought under the ambit of RTI as followed in countries like Bhutan and Germany.

  • Establish a national electoral fund where donors contribute and funds are distributed among different parties according to their respective performances in the last elections. This will also weed out black money as well as ensure anonymity to donors.

  • State funding of elections, as proposed by Dinesh Goswami Committee (1990), with proper audit.

1.2. Article 102 (1) a: Disqualifications for membership

  • A person shall be disqualified as a Member of Parliament for

  • a) Holding an office of profit under government of India or state government;

  • b) Being of unsound mind;

  • c) Being an undischarged insolvent;

  • d) Not being an Indian citizen or for acquiring citizenship of another country.

  • Article 191 (1)

  • (a) Disqualification of members for the members of state assemblies for holding Office of Profit and other disqualifications mentioned above.

  • Section 15(1)

  • (a)of Government of National Capital territory of Delhi (GNCTD) act, 1991,

  • A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of the legislative assembly if he holds any office of profit” under the government of India, a state or a union territory” other than an office protected by law

 

3. Office Of Profit

3.1. More about the news

  • In 2015 Delhi government appointed 21 of its legislators as parliamentary secretaries.

  • It was followed by amendments to Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, with retrospective effect to exempt the post of parliamentary secretary from the definition of the “office of profit

  • However, Lt. Governor’s assent to the amendment bill was not given, requiring the disqualification of the MLAs.

  • The Election Commission (ECI) recommended President for their disqualification because:

  • Their position as parliamentary secretaries was a government office.

  • The office had the potential to yield profit and it had executive functions akin to that of a minister

  • The recommendations of ECI are binding on the President or Governor regarding the issues related to article 102 & article 191.

What is Office of Profit?

  • Articles 102(1) a and 191 (1) a mention disqualifications on the basis of Office of Profit but it is neither defined in the constitution nor under Representation of People’s Act.

  • Supreme Court in PradyutBordoloi vs Swapan Roy (2001), the Supreme Court outlined the following questions for the test for office of Profit:

  • Whether the government makes the appointment;

  • Whether the government has the right to remove or dismiss the holder;

  • Whether the government pays the remuneration;

  • What are the functions of the holder and does he perform them for the government; and

  • Does the government exercise any control over the performance of those functions

  • Further in Jaya Bacchan v. Union of India case SC defined it as “an office which is capable of yielding a profit or pecuniary gain.” thus it is not the actual ‘receipt’ of profit but the ‘potential’ for profit that is the deciding factor in an ‘office of profit’ case.

3.2. Arguments in favor of Disqualifications

  • Against Separation of Powers: By Holding an Office of Profit a legislator cannot exercise his functions independent of executive of which he/she becomes a part.

  • Circumventing Constitutional Provisions: Office of Parliamentary Secretaries or other such offices are used by state governments to circumvent the constitutional ceiling of 15 % (10% in case of Delhi) on the number of ministers they can appoint.

  • Exercise of Power by Patronage:

  • Parliamentary Secretaries participate in high-level meetings of the governments, have full time access to the Ministers and ministerial files and this access enable them to wield influence and power by way of patronage.

  • They are also misused to secure political support and as alternatives to ministerial berths in era of Coalition Politics.

  • Threat to Public Interest: Unlike ministers, the Parliamentary Secretaries are not administered under the Oath of Secrecy (Art 239 AA(4)), yet may be privy to such information which may threaten public interest, breed corruption or may even threaten national security.

  • Other issues associated with Offices of Profit include arbitrary exercise of legislative power through amending laws, drain of public money due to oversized cabinet, political opportunism through arbitrary use of amendments and, thus, differing status across states.

3.3. Conclusion

  • The office of profit is inspired from U.K but in U.K there is no general theory of disqualifications and specific list of such offices is provided under legislation. In India, on the other hand, there is general disqualification prescribed under the constitution while parliament specifies specific exemptions by law.

  • As the Judicial pronouncements on Office of Profit have been varied, the matter must be referred to Joint Parliamentary Committee to determine which of the offices would attract disqualification.

 

4. Totalizer Machines 

Background

  • The first recommendation for amending the Election Rules to provide for the use of Totalizer Machine was put forward by Election Commission of India (ECI) in 2008.

  • It was also recommended by Law Commission in its 255th Report of 2015.

4.1. Totalizer Machines

  • It is an interface, to which a cluster of EVMs can be connected simultaneously and the consolidated result of the group of EVMs can be obtained without disclosing the votes polled by a candidate polling-station-wise.

  • Counting of votes polling-station-wise reveals the voting trends in each polling station thus leaving the voter open to pre and post poll intimidation, harassment and victimization by the political parties (for e.g. delaying infrastructure developing or other welfare activities).

  • It will add an extra layer of security to the voting process thus upholding the basic principle of secret ballot as the present EVMs do not provide any avenues for mixing of votes. Mixing of votes is analogous to physical mixing of votes as mandated under the Rule no 59A of the Election Rules which states “mixing of votes in cases where it is considered ‘absolutely necessary’.”

  • However, it has been argued that it camouflages the booth-wise performance of candidates which is essential for parties to devise “booth-management” strategies (working at booth level to mobilise voters).

4.2. Way Ahead

  • It can be incorporated by amending the Rule 66A of The Election Rules (dealing with counting of votes where electronic machines are being used) to empower the ECI to decide when and where to employ totalizer after taking into consideration the election context and any threats of intimidation or victimization.

  • Further, Booth-management strategy which is of crucial importance to political parties could be even carried with the help of party workers instead of depending upon the poll results.

5. Criminal Justice System

5.1. About the Committee

  • In 2000, the government formed a panel headed by the former Chief Justice of Kerala and Karnataka, Justice V.S. Malimath to suggest reforms in the existing criminal justice system.

  • It was the first time that the State constituted such a Committee for a thorough and comprehensive review of the entire Criminal Justice System in the country.

  • The committee submitted its 158 recommendations in 2003.

  • However, its recommendations were not brought to practice.

5.2. Criminal Justice System

  • It refers to the agencies of government charged with enforcing law, adjudicating crime, and correcting criminal conduct.

  • It is composed of three components: police, courts, and prisons which are seen as interrelated, interdependent, and striving to achieve a unified goal.

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, along with parts of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, constitute Indian criminal law. A large number of special and local laws take care of various other antisocial activities.

5.3. Need to Review CJS

  • Since the adoption of CrPC& IPC there have been numerous changes in the situations and the nature of crime in the country.

  • There has been a visible hike in the number of crimes committed as well as reported in the country and there is apparent burden on police.

  • Due to aspects like Bail Justice & Prison justice system, appx 60 percent of the arrests made every year are unnecessary and unjustifiable, as estimated by National Human Rights Commission.

  • The current judicial system faces problems like pendency of criminal cases, very low rate of conviction, etc. which has gradually made the system an unreliable source of providing justice.

  • Nowhere have the broad objectives of the Criminal Justice System been codified, though these can be inferred from different statutes, including the Constitution and judicial pronouncements.

  • All this has led to inadequacy of the system which not only poses grave challenge to the legitimacy of the system, but also affects the social system adversely.

  • Other issues include lack of coordination between investigation and prosecution, inadequate witness protection, insensitivity to the rights of the victim etc.

5.4. Inquisitorial System

  • It is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case.

  • This is opposed to an adversarial system, usually followed in India, where the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defence.

5.5. Some important recommendations of the Report

  • Borrowing from inquisitorial system in countries such as Germany and France. Also, the courts be bestowed with powers to summon any person — whether or not listed as a witness — for examination, if it felt necessary.

  • Right to silence- Article 20 (3) of the Constitution that protects the accused from being compelled to be a witness against himself/herself may be modified. The court be given freedom to question the accused to elicit information and draw an adverse inference against the accused in case the latter refuses to answer.

  • Rights of the accused- A schedule to the Code be brought out in all regional languages so that the accused knows his/her rights, as well as how to enforce them and whom to approach when there is a denial of those rights.

  • Justice to victims of crime-

  • The victim should be allowed to participate in cases involving serious crimes and also be given adequate compensation.

  • If the victim is dead, the legal representative shall have the right to implead himself or herself as a party, in case of serious offences.

  • The State should provide an advocate of victim’s choice to plead on his/her behalf and the cost be borne by the State if the victim can’t afford it.

  • Victim compensation is a State obligation in all serious crimes, whether the offender is apprehended or not, convicted or acquitted

  • A Victim Compensation Fund can be created under the victim compensation law and the assets confiscated in organised crimes can be made part of the fund.

  • Police investigation- To improve the quality of investigations National Security Commission and State Security Commissions may be constituted, an Addl. SP be appointed in each district to maintain crime data, organisation of specialised squads to deal with organised crime, etc.

  • Courts and judges- It specified the need for more judges in the country.

  • Further, the higher courts have a separate criminal division consisting of judges who have specialised in criminal law.

  • National Judicial Commission be constituted and Article 124 be amended to make impeachment of judges easier.

  • Witness protection- The committee batted for a strong witness protection mechanism – it said the judge should be ready to step in if the witness is harassed during cross-examination.

  • Offences against women- It recommended various changes in regards to crime against women. For example- it favoured making section 498A (dowry harassment) as a bailable and compoundable offence.

  • Organised crime and terrorism- Though crime is a State subject, a central law must be enacted to deal with organised crime, federal crimes, and terrorism.

  • Periodic review- Presidential Commission for a periodical review of the functioning of the Criminal Justice System.

6. NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZEN

6.1. About National Register of Citizen

  • NRC contains the names of bona fide Indian Citizens (of Assam) that distinguish them from the foreigners. It is updated periodically.

  • However, in Assam the updation could not be carried on since 1951 due to various political tensions such as Assam Movement of 1980s, the language movement and other ethnic movements.

  • But after the Supreme Court judgment (2014), NRC is now being updated in a time bound manner to incorporate Assam Accord of 1985 in order to tackle the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

  • The NRC will include names of person or their descendants whose name appear in NRC 1951 or any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24th March 1971.

6.2. Significance of Updated NRC

  • Issue of identity- The move can solve the problem of identity crisis being faced by the local Assamese population due to influx of migrants from Bangladesh and Nepal.

  • Reducing pressure on resources- The identified illegal immigrants could then be deported back to their respective countries thus reducing the pressure on natural as well as economic resources of the state.

  • Political stability- The updated NRC would also resolve the issues raised by AASU and other groups further giving way to a peaceful political situation in the state.

  • Security issues- Illegal migration also poses security issues which shall be resolved after the completion of the process of updation of NRC.

6.3. Challenges of updating the NRC

  • Section 6a of the Citizenship Act 1955 was added after amending citizenship act in 1985 to accommodate the Assam Accord. It gave citizenship to all migrants from Bangladesh who came to Assam till the midnight of March 24, 1971, while the cut-off date for the rest of the country is July 19, 1948.

  • Complicated procedure- The names of the people which do not appear will have to undergo a complicated process of document verification to establish nationality either through the legacy data or the documents mentioned in the list B.

  • Section 6a of the Citizenship Act 1955 has been questioned on the grounds of inequality and discrimination. The judgment on the issue is still pending in the Supreme Court.

  • Citizenship Amendment Bill makes the illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh belonging to Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain etc. eligible for Indian citizenship. This stands as an impediment to the fulfillment of the spirit of updating NRC and also in contravention to the demands of Assamese indigenous population.

  • Humanitarian Crisis- In the absence of Bangladesh’s cooperation and a well-defined extradition policy deportation may create a humanitarian crisis since the migrants living in Assam for a long time have settled and expanded families. This may even fiddle with the contentious Indo-Bangla Relations.

  • Question on the authenticity of process- The process of updation is raising questions of the authenticity of the whole process as the draft doesn’t indicate the number of the illegal migrants. It also being doubted on the grounds of transparency and possible political gains that may be involved.

Way Ahead

  • Till the bilateral extradition policy is formulated by both the countries, as a temporary alternate, those proven non-citizens should be provided work permit for a shorter duration of time.

  • Cooperation of the local politicians and various party workers should be roped in to accommodate easy and hassle free document verification for those whose name do not appear in the first draft.

  • Bangladesh Diplomats should be invited to verify the process and discuss the way ahead to avoid any humanitarian crisis and strains in bilateral relations.

  • As a measure to enhance security of the border areas, the process of border fencing should be taken up. Physical fencing should be further supplemented by the modern state of art electronic devices.

  • Measures such as giving permits and multipurpose identity to citizens of border areas in pursuance of trade and personal contacts should also be incorporated as has been adopted between India and Myanmar.

January Indian Polity and Constitution

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