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1. Simultaneous Elections

1.1. About Simultaneous Elections (SE)

  • It means structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies are synchronized together under which voters in a particular constituency vote for both State Assembly and Lok Sabha the same day.

  • It does not mean that voting across the country for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies needs to happen on a single day

  • Earlier, SEs were held in India till 1967 which was disrupted due to premature dissolution of Assemblies.

  • Election to the third tier of democracy cannot be included in SE because-

  • It is a part of state list.

  • The number of local bodies is huge.

1.2. Some recommendations of the draft paper

  • A definition of “simultaneous elections” may be added to Section 2 of the 1951 Act.

  • Article 83 and 172 of the constitution (dealing with duration of both houses and state legislatures respectively) along with sections 14 and 15 of the 1951 Act (dealing with notification of general elections in both houses and state assemblies respectively), be appropriately amended. This would mean that the new Lok Sabha and assembly, constituted after mid-term elections, shall be only for the remainder of the term.

  • The Anti-defection Law’ laid down under paragraph 2(1) (b) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution be removed as an exception to prevent stalemate in the Assembly due to Hung Parliament.

  • Sections 14 & 15 of RPA, 1951, be amended to extend the statutory limit of 6 months for the issuance of notification of general elections to provide the flexibility to Election Commission in conducting the SE.

  • An alternative to premature dissolution of assembly due to no-confidence motion could be that the members while moving such an option may also put forward an option for forming an alternative government.

  • Prime Minister/Chief Minister may be elected to lead the Lok Sabha/Assembly, by full house like electing the speaker of the Lok Sabha, providing stability to the government.

1.3. Need for SE

  • Frequent elections lead to imposition of MCC over prolonged periods of time which often leads to policy paralysis and governance deficit in the form of suspended development programs, welfare schemes, capital projects etc.

  • Elections lead to huge expenditures by various stakeholders like political parties, individual candidates, etc. The urge to spend more (than the set limit) to win elections is blamed as one of the key drivers for corruption and black-money in the country.

  • On the part of government, elections require a whole set of administrative machinery. Consequently, frequent elections add a huge event management administrative cost.

  • Also, the deployment of security forces (particularly the CAPF) is normally throughout the elections and frequent elections takes away a portion of such armed police force which could otherwise be better deployed for other internal security purposes.

  • Frequent elections hamper legislative work, because compulsion to win the next impending election makes short-term political imperatives an immediate priority.

  • Other issues- Frequent elections lead to disruption of normal public life and impact the functioning of essential services. o Since during elections caste, religion and communal issues gain attention, frequency in the process perpetuates such dividing issues across the country.

1.4. Criticisms of SE

  • The synchronization of terms would require reduction or expansion of term of various assemblies which will not be supported either by the ruling party (in case of contraction of term) or the opposition (in case of expansion of term).

  • Further it is debatable that whether it is practically feasible for the Election Commission of India to conduct elections at such a massive scale.

  • Even if SE is achieved it would be difficult to sustain it because the fact that (under Art 83(2) & 172(1)) Lok Sabha and state assemblies do not have fixed term.

  • Ill-informed voters’ choices may lead to- a) National issues impacting electorate’s behaviour for voting in State Assembly elections; or b) State issues impacting electorate’s behaviour for voting in Lok Sabha elections.

  • Frequent elections bring the politicians back to the voters and enhance accountability of politicians to the public. This keeps the politicians in touch with ‘pulse of the public’ and the result of elections at various levels can ensure the government the necessary ‘course correction’.

 

Way forward

  • Implementing the herculean task of SE in India would require coordination and consultation among all the stake holders. Further, a phase-wise synchronization of tenures of Lok Sabha and Assemblies (as suggested by a Parliamentary Committee) may be undertaken instead of a one-shot mechanism. Efforts should be made to hold simultaneous elections in those state assemblies which are completing their tenure together rather than forcing simultaneous elections by law.

2. Expansion Of Scheduled Areas In Rajasthan

Article 244

  • The provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration and control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the States of Assam Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram

  • The criteria for declaring an area as Scheduled Area

  • preponderance of tribal population

  • compactness and reasonable size of the area

  • under-developed nature of the area marked disparity in economic standard of the people.

  • These criteria are not spelt out in the Constitution of India but have become well established.

States with scheduled areas

  • Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana, are under provision of scheduled areas.

Tribal Sub Plan

  • It is a strategy for the rapid Socio-economic development of tribal people forming a part of annual Plan of a State/UT.

  • The benefits given to the tribals and tribal areas from the TSP are in addition to what percolates from the overall Plan of a State/UT.

  • The funds provided under the Tribal Sub Plan have to be at least in proportion to the ST population of each State/UT.

2.1. More on News

  • After the last expansion of scheduled areas in Rajasthan in 1981, another expansion was approved in 2014 due to reorganization in state as per the 2011 Census.

  • The areas will now be a part of the Tribal sub-plan within the existing schemes of central and the state governments.

2.2. The Fifth Schedule (Article 244)

  • The interests of Schedule Tribes outside the North east are protected by Fifth Schedule. It designates “Scheduled areas” in large parts of India in which the interests of the “Scheduled Tribes” are to be protected. The Scheduled area has more than 50 percent tribal population.

  • Powers of Governor under 5th Schedule- Various powers of the Governor include-

  • To make regulation for peace and good governance of any area in a state which is a Scheduled Area like prohibiting or restricting the transfer of land by or within members of the Scheduled Tribes in Scheduled areas; regulating the allotment of land to members of the Scheduled Tribes in those areas; regulating the money lending business by those who lend money to people of the Scheduled Tribes in such area.

2.3. Tribal Advisory Council

  • It will be established on the direction of the President in a State having Scheduled areas, also in any State having Scheduled Tribes but not Scheduled Areas therein.

  • Consisting of twenty members of which three-fourths must be representatives of Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of that State.

  • The Governor may make rules for regulating into number of members of these councils, mode of their appointment, appointment of the chairman, officers and servants of these councils, conduct of its meeting and general business. has been passed by Parliament or Legislature of the State to a Scheduled Area.

  • In the process of making such regulation discussed above, the Governor may repeal or amend any Union or State law.

  • The Governor can make such regulations only after consultation with the TAC of the state.

  • Tribes Advisory council (TAC)- Under 5th schedule it shall be the duty of TAC to advice the Governor on such matters pertaining to the welfare and the advancement of the STs in the State, as may be referred to them by the Governor.

  • President and the Schedule Areas- The President possesses the power to alter the boundaries of any Schedule area after consulting with the Governor.

  • The regulations made by the Governor come into effect only when they are accepted by the President. Governor is required to submit annually the reports regarding administration of the Scheduled areas to the President.

  • Amendment of the Schedule- Parliament through a law can amend any of the provisions of this Schedule by way of addition, variation or repeal. Any such law is not deemed to be an amendment under Article 368 of the Constitution.

  • The provisions of the Fifth Schedule have seen further legal and administrative reinforcement in the form of Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.

  • Other important features of the Schedule are:

  • It deals with provision for the constitution of a Tribes Advisory Council

  • It also deals with the extension of direction by the Union to a State for the administration of the Schedule Areas.

3. Scheduled Castes And The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act

  • It prohibits the commission of offences against members of the SCs and STs and establishes special courts for the trial of such offences and the rehabilitation of victims.

  • It outlines actions (by non SCs and non STs) against SCs or STs to be treated as offences.

  • The Act specifies that a non-SC or ST public servant who neglects his duties relating to SCs or STs shall be punishable.

  • Investigation of an offence committed under the SC/ST Act cannot be investigated by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP)

  • For certain offences the Act also provides for capital punishment and confiscation of property. Repeated offences under the Act attract enhanced punishments.

  • The act was amended in 2016 to add new offences to atrocities such as garlanding with footwears etc., addition of chapter on the ‘Rights of Victims and Witnesses’, defining ‘willful negligence’ of public servants clearly and addition of presumption of offence.

 

Background

  • In a complaint filed under the Atrocities Act, Supreme Court of India felt the need of procedural safeguards and issued the following directions in Subhash Mahajan vs State of Maharashtra vis a vis PoA act:

  • There is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny, the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.

  • In view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority (Prior Sanction) and of a non-public servant after approval by the S.S.P. which may be granted in cases considered necessary and Such reasons must be scrutinized by the Magistrate for permitting further detention.

  • To avoid false implication of an innocent, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the DSP concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the Atrocities Act and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated

  • Any violation of above directions will be actionable by way of disciplinary action as well as contempt.

  • Subsequently, Centre moved to Supreme Court challenging the ruling that prevented automatic arrests on complaints filed under PoA act but Supreme Court upheld the directions it had issued.

3.1. Arguments in favour of Judgement

  • Protection of innocents: The judgement does not stand in the way of the rights of members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes but was concentrating on protecting false implication of an innocent person.

  • Freedom from arbitrary Arrest: The Court in Vilas Pandurang Pawar and Shakuntla Devi cases also held that the bar against anticipatory bail was not absolute especially when no case is made out or allegations are patently false or motivated as freedom from arbitrary arrest is one of the fundamental facets of the rule of law.

  • Misuse of the Act: NCRB data states that 75 % of cases under the Atrocities Act have resulted in acquittal or withdrawal which is evidence of misuse of the Act.

  • Standing Committee of Parliament on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2014 had also stressed on the need for safeguards against arrest under the Atrocities Act.

3.2. Arguments against the ruling

  • The judgement led to possible dilution of the law meant to protect the marginalized and it would further result in depriving the community of their constitutional rights especially under Article 17 i.e. abolition of Untouchability.

  • Introducing additional procedural requirements would result in impeding strict enforcement of the 1989 Act which already suffers impermissible delay in registration of cases thereby diluting the efficacy of the enactment.

  • Separation of Powers: The court cannot enlarge the scope of the legislation or the intention of the legislature as it amounts to encroachment of its power leading to Judicial Overreach.

  • Low conviction rates are high in terror cases as well and it shows poor investigation and incompetence of prosecution because witnesses turn hostile in such cases. Also, filing of false cases has declined and conviction rates under SC/ST act have also improved over time.

  • NCRB data shows that over the last ten years (2007-2017), there has been a 66% growth in crimes against Dalits. The judgment may further have an adverse effect on the already underreported crimes against Dalits.

Conclusion

  • Parliamentary standing committees’ demand for an inbuilt provision in defence of accuse must be considered to balance the rights of SCs/STs vis a vis Innocents and reforms in criminal justice system must also be undertaken alongside to ameliorate the concerns regarding conviction rates.

4. National Commission For Minority Education Institutions

4.1. Constitutional safeguards for Minorities in India

Article 29

  • Any section of the citizen residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of his own shall have right to conserve the same.

  • No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the state or receiving aid out of state funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.

 

Article 30

  • All minorities whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institution of their choice.

  • The compensation amount fixed by the state for the compulsory acquisition of any property of a minority educational institution shall not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed to them.

  • In granting aid, the state shall not discriminate against any educational institution managed by a minority.

  • Article 30 also includes the right of a minority to impart education to its children in its own language.

  • Types of Minority educational institutions: o Seeking aid as well as recognition by the state

  • Seeking only recognition by the state

  • Seeking neither recognition nor aid

  • The institutions of the first and second type are subject to the regulatory power of the state w.r.t. syllabus prescription, academic standards, discipline, sanitation, employment etc.

  • The institutions of the third type are free to administer their affairs but subject to operation of general laws like contract law, labour law, industrial law etc.

4.2. More from the news

  • Supreme Court also held that the only Commission had the power to decide on granting a ‘no objection’ certificate to an institution that wanted to convert into a minority institution.

  • The judgment also states that the Commission will be empowered to declare the status of the minority institution at all stages.

  • The SC overruled the Calcutta High Court Judgement which had ruled that NCMEI had no original jurisdiction to declare minority status.

4.3. About NCMEI

  • NCMEI under the Ministry of Human Resource Development was established through an ordinance promulgated in 2004 which was replaced by NCMEI Act later.

  • Commission is composed of a Chairman and three other members.

  • The Chairman should have been a judge of High Court and must belong to a minority community.

  • The members shall also belong to a minority community and are persons of eminence, ability and integrity.

  • The Central Government has notified six minority communities namely – Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhists, Parsi and Jain. However no linguistic minority has been notified till date.

  • Therefore linguistic minorities remain outside the jurisdiction of the Commission.

  • The Commission is a quasi-judicial authority which has been endowed with the powers of a civil court.

  • Only Supreme Court exercising writ jurisdiction under Article 32 and High Courts under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India can entertain any suit, application or proceedings in respect of any order made by the Commission.

  • The Commission has adjudicatory and recommendatory functions such as: o to advise the Central Government and the State Governments on any question relating to the educational rights of the minorities referred to it.

  • enquire, suomotu, or on a petition presented to it by any Minority Educational Institution, or any person on its behalf into complaints regarding deprivation or violation of rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice and any dispute relating to affiliation to a University.

  • review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution, or any law for the time being in force, for the protection of educational rights of the minorities and recommend measures for their effective implementation.

  • specify measures to promote and preserve the minority status and character of institutions of their choice established by minorities.

  • make recommendations to the appropriate Government for the effective, implementation of programmes and schemes relating to the Minority Educational Institutions.

  • The Commission has also been granted appellate jurisdiction in cases where the State Government refused to provide the NOC for establishing a minority institution.

5. Right To Convert Is A Fundamental Right

5.1. More about the news

  • The observations are part of judgment the Supreme Court in the case of Hadiya, a 26-year-old Homeopathy student. Supreme court has given following judgement in the case:

  • Right to choice: Freedom of faith is Constitutional provisions Regarding Right to Freedom of Religion.

  • Article 25: All persons are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

  • Article 26: gives every religious group a right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, properties as per the law. This guarantee is available to only Citizens of India and not to aliens.

  • Article 27: This Article mandates that no citizen would be compelled by the state to pay any taxes for promotion or maintenance of particular religion or religious denomination.

  • Article 28: This Article mandates that No religious instruction would be imparted in the state funded educational institutions.

  • essential to individual’s autonomy.

  • Choosing a faith is the substratum of individuality without which the right of choice becomes a shadow.

  • Liberty: Matters of belief and faith, including whether to believe, are at the core of constitutional liberty and the Constitution exists for believers as well as for agnostics.

  • Identity: Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Society has no role to play in determining our choice of partners

  • Constitutional Protection: Constitution protects the ability of each individual to pursue a way of life or faith to which she or he seeks to adhere.

  • Further SC held that Right to choose religion and marry is an intrinsic part of meaningful existence. Neither the State nor “patriarchal supremacy” can interfere in person’s decision.

  • This is a change from SC’s earlier interpretation of the word “propagate,” to mean “to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets,” but to not include the right to convert another person to one’s own religion.

 

Conclusion

  • The judgement reinvigorates freedom of religion and freedom of conscience which has been recognized under the international law under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognizing fact that the entire humanity enjoys certain alienable rights. India is also a signatory of the same.

6. Fake News

6.1. About Fake News

  • Fake news refers to news, stories, informations, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false.

  • Fake news can be related to anything- o Commercially driven sensational content

  • Nation-state sponsored misinformation

  • Highly-partisan news site

  • Social media itself

  • Satire or parody

  • Fake news can be propagated through any media- print, electronic and social.

  • Some checks and balances, though largely ineffective, exist in the mainstream media against fake news, but social media does not have such mechanism.

  • Only few mechanisms exist such as defamation suit, filing of FIR, complaints to bodies like News Broadcasters Association (NBA), Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC), Press Council of India (PCI) etc.

6.2. Issues Associated with Fake News

  • Trust in media: Citizens view any news published by mainstream media as true and also very few citizens try to ascertain the authenticity of news spread on social media.

  • Impact on social harmony: Fake news exploits the freedom allowed to media in a democracy to spread misinformation that has a deleterious impact on society-

  • Swinging public opinions based on misinformation campaigns to gain popularity or to malign the image, character of certain individuals or opponents or to defame them.

  • Creating a sense of mistrust between people and government. For example- the news of tampering of electronic voting machine which was based on misrepresentation of facts

  • Inciting violence and hatred among communities by using morphed photographs to show riots, insult to religious symbols or deities. For example- Muzaffarabad riots; exodus of North-east people from Bangalore etc.

  • Radicalization of youths through false propaganda spread through social media sites.

6.3. Challenges in Controlling Fake News

  • No standard definition: The term ‘fake news’ is vague and there is no official definition of what constitutes fake news.

  • Lack of regulation: Self-regulation by mainstream media has largely been ineffective. Any direct effort by the government to control fake news is prone to be seen as an assault on the freedom of media which functions as the fourth pillar of democracy.

  • Difficult to achieve balance: The efforts to control fake news should not threaten to cramp legitimate investigative and source-based journalism or freedom of expression as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution. Also, distinguishing between conscious fabrication of news reports and news reports put out in the belief that they are accurate.

  • Tracking fake new on social media: The vastness of the internet users (over 35 crore in India) and social media users (over 20 crore WhatsApp users alone) makes tracing the origin of fake news almost impossible.

Way Forward

  • Bring out policy: The government should bring out a draft seeking opinion from stakeholders regarding issues of controlling fake news. Any future guidelines on ‘fake news’ should target ‘fake news’ and not try to regulate media in the name of ‘fake news’.

  • Regulatory mechanism: The PCI needs to be reformed and empowered in a way so as to enable it to strike a balance between the freedom of media and speech on the one hand, and right to know on the other.

  • Awareness: People must be made aware about the menace of fake news, their dissemination and to practice caution while believing on any such items.

  • Authentic news: Official accounts of government organizations should also be present on social media to spread authentic news.

  • Social media houses should also come forward to bring in measures to curb the menace of fake news such as Facebook recently announced that it has tied up with Boom Live, an Indian fact-checking agency, to fight fake news during the Karnataka elections.

7. Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan

7.1. About Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA)

  • It is a revamped version of Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan

  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme which aims at making rural local bodies self-sustainable, financially stable and more efficient. o The Central component of the Scheme includes national level activities such as ‘National Plan of Technical Assistance’, ‘Mission Mode project on e-Panchayat’, ‘Incentivisation of Panchayats’. This will be fully funded by Central Government.

  • The State component includes ‘Capacity Building of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)’.

  • The State Governments will formulate the Annual Action Plans for seeking assistance from the Central Government.

  • This scheme will extend to all States and UTs of the Country and will also include institutions of rural local government in non-Part IX areas, where Panchayats do not exist.

  • It will be implemented in a demand driven mode and activities under the scheme will be aligned for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with main thrust on Panchayats identified under Mission Antyodaya and 115 Aspirational districts as identified by NITI Aayog.

  • It focuses on: o Promoting devolution of powers and responsibilities to Panchayats according to the spirit of the Constitution and PESA Act.

  • Creating and strengthening democratic local self-government in areas where Panchayats do not exist.

  • Strengthening Gram Sabhas to function effectively as the basic forum of people’s participation, transparency and accountability within the Panchayat system.

8. Finance Commission To Use 2011 Census

8.1. Arguments against using 2011 census

  • This would lead to penalizing those states which have focused on family planning and population control after 1971 census figures showed a dramatic increase in population. This, states in the south feel, will result in penalising them. Thus, may result into north-south divide.

  • The TOR have been framed unilaterally without consulting the States

  • The concerns expressed by the States in 1976 which necessitated the freezing of seat allocation on the basis of 1971 population figures hold good even today.

8.2. Arguments in favour of 2011 census

  • The Fourteenth Commission also after examining various factors to represent demographic changes, chose population figures of 2011 and assigned 10% weightage in addition to the 17.5% weightage given to the 1971 population data.

  • The ToR balances the “needs” represented by the latest Census and “progress towards population control”.

  • A relatively more advanced state is supposed to contribute more in taxes so that a relatively more backward state is cross-subsidised for balanced and equitable regional development.

Constitutional provisions on Finance Commission

  • Article 280 of the Constitution of India provides for a finance commission as a quasi-judicial body. It is constituted by the President of India every fifth year.

  • It consists of a chairman and four other members to be appointed by the president.

  • It makes recommendations about the following to the President of India:

  • The distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the centre and the states and the allocation between the states of the respective shares of such proceeds

  • The principles that should govern the grants in aid to the states by the centre

  • The measures needed to augment the consolidated fund of states to supplement the resources of the local governments in the states on the basis of the recommendations made by the State Finance Commissions.

  • Any other method referred to it by the President in the interests of the sound finance.

  • Using the last provision in the Constitution, the Union government has been including in the terms of reference (TOR) to successive Finance Commissions, provisions that reflect the Union government’s view of the States’ fiscal situation.

  • The recommendations made by finance commission are only advisory in nature and hence, are not binding on the government.

Four areas in constitution where population is used as a factor

  • Manner of Election of President (Article 55)

  • Composition of the House of the People (Article 81)

  • Composition of the Legislative Assemblies (Article 170)

  • Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States (Article 330).

April Indian Polity and Constitution

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