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1. National Register Of Citizens (NRC)

1.1. Brief background

  • Assam’s demographic changes date back to the 19th century when British brought in tribal labourers from Chota Nagpur and Bihar to work on the plantations. This also encouraged the migration of Muslim farmers from Bengal which continued after Independence and partition.

  • To tackle the illegal immigration issue just after the independence, NRC was first prepared after the Census of 1951. But this process rendered ineffective due to vote bank politics.

  • In 1979, agitation was started by All Assam student Union for illegal migrant deportation which culminated in signing of Assam Accord in 1985.

  • The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens. Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years while those entering after March 25, 1971, were to be deported. However, nothing much happened over the decades.

  • In 2014, the Supreme Court asked the state government to update the 1951 NRC in a time-bound manner. Present exercise is being conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

What is NRC?

  • It is a list of all bona fide Indian citizens of Assam, the only state with such a document.

  • The NRC is being updated as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003

  • It will include persons whose names appear in any of the electoral rolls upto the midnight of 24th March, 1971 or National Register of Citizens, 1951 and their descendants.

  • The process of verification involved house-to-house field verification, determination of authenticity of documents, family tree investigations in order to rule out bogus claims of parenthood, and linkages and separate hearings for married women.

1.2. Benefits of this exercise

  • It will provide a much-needed perspective on the extent of illegal migration that has taken place into Assam, thus restricting the wild speculations about their actual number by political parties for their advantage.

  • The fear that illegal immigrants will change the demography of state and influence the politics of state will also be done away with.

  • The publication of an updated NRC is expected to deter future migrants from Bangladesh from entering Assam illegally as publication of the draft itself had created a perception that staying in Assam without valid documentation will attract detention/jail term and deportation.

  • The inclusion of the names in the NRC will provide respite to all those Bengali speaking people in Assam who have been, hitherto, suspected as being Bangladeshis.

  • The exercise will help identify illegal immigrants and deport them back to their country of origin and saving resources of country for legitimate citizens and also reduce concern for internal security due to illegal migration.

1.3. Issues with NRC

  • Exclusion: Only 29 million out of 32.9 million applicants have been found eligible to be included in the register, leaving 4 million out of the final draft.

  • Need to produce pre-1971 documents: Given the status of document record in the country, this is an onerous pre-condition and difficult for many people. Unlike international conventions on establishing citizenship, the burden of proof rests with the NRC applicant.

  • Misinformation: Ascertaining the authenticity of parental linkages remained a challenge. Many people were showing by different names in different places which may lead to duplicity or mistaken exclusion from the list.

  • Focus on completion: The emphasis of Supreme Court, the Centre and the Assam government was on completing exercise without consideration of creating an orderly mechanism for those aggrieved by exclusion.

  • Citizenship issues

What next for Excluded people?

  • The list released is only a draft and not the final one. Final list is expected to be published by December 2018.

  • There is scope for filing claims and objections, for which forms of correction would be available at various NRC sevakendras

  • The people have a graded appeals process in the order - NRC SevaKendras, District magistrates, The Foreigners’ Tribunals, The Guwahati High Court, The Supreme Court.

  • One main contention is what will be the citizenship of the children and grandchildren of illegal immigrant.

  • While the citizenship law of the country provides for citizenship by birth irrespective of the parents’ citizenship, the NRC rules do not recognize it.

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which makes Hindu illegal migrants and those from certain other minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship further creates apprehensions about alienation of minorities in the process.

  • Issue of D voters: Around 2.5 lakh out of the 40 lakh exclusions include D-voters— doubtful voters, their descendants and people whose cases are pending before the foreigners’ tribunal in Assam.

  • D-voters are those who are disenfranchised by the government on the account of their alleged lack of proper citizenship credentials and their inclusion will depend on decision of the Foreigners Tribunals.

  • Issues post-release o Claims and objections: The excluded people could face rejection again if they submit the same papers second time.

  • Issue of deportation: No state can act on illegal immigration unilaterally. As of now, there is no any bilateral agreement between India and Bangladesh, which lets the fate of those finally be excluded hang in air.

  • Humanitarian concerns: Ignoring the concerns of those who have lived for a long time in this land will put a dent on democratic social value of the country.

 

Way Forward

  • Regarding finally excluded individuals: They would officially be non-citizens but India has no fixed policy for “stateless” persons. They will surely not have voting rights but certain facilities on “humanitarian grounds” may be provided to them such as right to work etc.

  • Grant amnesty: one option is granting Indian citizenship to the proclaimed illegal migrants after a process of naturalization but this may be protested by some sections.

  • Tackle issue of illegal migration comprehensively: Solving illegal migrants issue in Assam will not solve the whole issue as they may very well come through states like West Bengal and then move on to the other parts of the country. Thus, following steps should be taken: o Comprehensive border management: including fencing, total surveillance 24x7, use of new imaging technology etc.

  • Work permits: Possibility of transparent work permits to foreigners should be explored.

  • Punishing collusion: Officials and people who are colluding with foreigners to ensure entry and residence etc. should be penalized for such behavior.

  • Forging bilateral agreement with neighboring countries that provide for taking back nationals who stay illegally in the other country after due verification.

  • Assistance from international organisations: such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other concerned international agencies with experience in this kind of complex issue.

  • Establish a SAARC convention: India should take the initiative to encourage other countries in the SAARC region to develop a SAARC convention or declaration on refugees in which member states would agree to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention.

2. Prevention Of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018

2.1. Brief background

  • Currently, offences related to corrupt practices of public officials are regulated by the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

  • In 2007, Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2nd ARC) in its fourth report recommended that the Act be amended to include bribe giving as an offence, limit prior sanction for prosecution to certain cases, and provide for the attachment of property of public officials accused of corruption.

  • In 2011, India ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and agreed to bring its domestic laws in line with the Convention that covers giving and taking a bribe, illicit enrichment and possession of disproportionate assets by a public servant as offences, addresses bribery of foreign public officials, and bribery in the private sector.

2.2. Benefits of the amendments

  • Potential to reduce the rising cases of corruption and frauds: India’s rank in the Corruption Perception Index, 2017 fell to 81 (out of 180 countries) signifying the rise in such cases. Strict implementation of the act can deter public functionaries to indulge in corrupt practices.

  • Safeguards to honest officers: it would encourage public sector officials to carry out their duties fearlessly and on merit, while doing away paralysis in decision making.

  • Ensure speedy trial in corruption cases: time bound trial of such cases would do away with long pendency of corruption related cases.

  • Inclusion of bribe giver: The act also includes bribe giver which will act as a deterrent for promoting corruption and luring with cash or kind. In the past, the bribe giver had enjoyed immunity and that helped perpetuate corruption.

2.3. Concerns regarding the amended act

  • Partially addresses the issue of ‘coerced bribe givers’: though it gives them seven days to report the matter, it ignores the situation where they might feel threatened to even approach law enforcement agencies.

  • Deters bribe giver from appearing as witness in court: as the provision which protected a bribe giver from prosecution for any statement made by him during a corruption trial is removed in the act, it would create deterrence among bribe givers to appear as witness.

  • Increases the threshold to establish the possession of disproportionate assets: while redefining criminal misconduct, it now also requires proving the ‘intention’ to acquire disproportionate assets in addition to possession of such assets.

  • Burden of proof on accused only for taking a bribe: Under the 1988 Act, the burden of proof was on the accused for offences like taking a bribe, habitual offender and abetment. However, the amendment puts the burden of proof on accused person only for the offence of taking a bribe.

  • Certain provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption have not been included: Provisions such as in case of bribery of foreign public officials, bribery in private sector and compensation for damage didn’t find any place in the amended act.

  • Diluted the provisions of earlier act: By including the provision of prior sanction even before the investigation stage it could considerably dilute the act and could result in undue delays in genuine cases of corruption. This further strengthens the need of prior sanctions despite the Supreme Court quashing Section 6A of Delhi Special Police Establishment act, 1946 which required similar approval from the Government.

  • Vague terms such as ’lawful sources of income’ remains undefined which creates the misconception that as long as tax has been paid on income received from an undisclosed and illegitimate source, such income becomes lawful.

  • Despite the good intentions behind the Amendments, it should be ensured that the act is implemented in letter and spirit. The CVC must issue clear guidelines regarding sanctioning procedure so as to maintain the sanctity of the provision and inert from political influence. There is also a need to complement the amendment with holistic reforms such as electoral reforms, decriminalization of politics, de-politicization of civil services, police reforms, appointments of judges, members of CBI and Lokpal should be appointed on a priority basis etc.

3. Legalising Sports Betting In India

3.1. Betting/Gambling in India

  • The Constitution of India in its Seventh Schedule, List II (State List) empowers the State Governments to make laws regarding gambling and betting activities.

  • Pre-independence there was no such distinction and the Public Gambling Act, 1867, governed gambling and betting activities in the country.

  • The Public Gambling Act, 1867, prohibits any games of chance and probability except lotteries. The Act

  • Constitution and Betting • According to Entry 40 of List I of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the Parliament has the power to legislate on ‘Lotteries organized by the Government of India as well as the Government of any State’.

  • The power of the State governments to make laws on gambling can be traced to Entry 34 List II. Thus, the States have exclusive power to make laws on this subject including power to prohibit or regulate gambling etc. in their respective territorial jurisdiction.

  • Supreme Court observed that expression "Betting and gambling" includes and has always been understood to have included the conduct of lotteries.

  • Since the subject 'Lotteries organised by the Government of India or the Government of a State' has been made a subject within the exclusive legislative competence of Parliament, no legislature of a State can make a law touching lotteries. prohibits owning, keeping and being found in a common gaming house, however, the Act excludes "games of skill" from its ambit.

  • The Information Technology Act 2000 prohibits online gambling and the punishment for such activities is much more serious than for offline gambling operations.

Why Betting/Gambling should be legalised?

  • The money generated can be used for public welfare activities.

  • Regulation would empower the authorised agencies to identify and prevent instances of gambling by minors and ‘problem-gamblers’.

  • Regulated betting should be permitted to curb the menace of match-fixing. According to International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit, it is easier to monitor illegal betting activity in a regulated market.

  • Other benefits include generating considerable revenue; generating employment; development of tourism as it may work as a complimentary industry; and preventing any kind of inconvenience at the hands of the law enforcement authorities.

3.2. Lodha Committee on Betting

  • It recommended the legalisation of betting, except for those covered by the BCCI and IPL regulations

  • Regulatory framework would enable the government in differentiating betting from match fixing.

  • The Players, Administrators and others closely associated with the sport would be required to furnish the details of their income and assets for the sake of transparency.

  • Licence would have to be issued to those placing the bets as well, with age and identification details recorded.

  • It will help in controlling of money laundering business. At present betting racket is run by the underworld and huge amount of money is transferred through Hawala transactions which is used for terrorism.

Why Betting/Gambling should not be legalised?

  • It would be against the social norms and the principle of welfare State under Article 39 of the Constitution of India.

  • Argument made for ‘revenue over morality’ lacks merit. States such as Gujarat, Bihar, Manipur, Nagaland etc., prioritize societal morality over revenue collection taking into account its ill-effects on the society.

  • Gambling has been proven to result in financial losses, causing an adverse impact on one’s economic state, personal life and social life. Such activities affect the vulnerable sections of the society in unimaginable and often, irreparable ways.

  • One of the major drawbacks is loan-sharking i.e. taking loans at exorbitant rates for gambling.

  • The existing policy of the Government (National Sports Development Code of India, 2011, etc.), the current socio-economic atmosphere in the country and the prevalent social and moral values do not encourage betting and gambling.

3.3. Recommendations

  • Model Law: The Parliament may enact a model law for regulating gambling that may be adopted by the States.

  • Licensed Operation: Gambling and betting, if any, should be offered only by Indian licensed operators from India possessing valid licences granted by the game licensing authority.

  • Define gambling: Gambling must be classified into two categories, namely ‘proper gambling’ and ‘small gambling.’ Proper gambling would be for the rich who play for high stakes, while small gambling would be for the low-income groups.

  • Cap on gambling: The government should introduce a cap on the number of gambling transactions for each individual, that is, monthly, half-yearly and annual.

  • Protecting vulnerable groups: Regulations need to protect vulnerable groups, minors and those below poverty line, from exploitation through gambling.

  • Risk awareness: Information regarding the risks involved in gambling/betting and how to play responsibly must be displayed prominently on all gambling and betting portals/platforms.

  • Encouraging foreign capital: Foreign Exchange Management and Foreign Direct Investment laws and policies should be amended to encourage investment in the casino/online gaming industry. This would propel tourism and employment.

  • Mode of transaction: The transactions made between and among operators and players should mandatorily be made ‘cashless’. This would help authorities to keep a close eye on every single transaction so made.

  • Taxation: Any income derived from such activities should be made taxable under the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 and all other relevant laws.

  • Punishments: Match-fixing and sports fraud should be specifically made criminal offences with severe punishments.

4. Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill (Feob) ,2018

Background

  • There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency of criminal proceedings. The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences such as

  • it hampers investigation in criminal cases, wastes precious time of courts and undermines the rule of law in India.

  • most such cases of economic offences involve non-repayment of bank loans thereby worsening the financial health of the banking sector in India.

  • The existing civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem. It is, therefore, felt necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed.

  • In view of the above context, the Act was proposed in order to address the lacunae in the present laws and lay down measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

  • The Act is expected to re-establish the rule of law by plugging gaps in the existing laws thus providing a higher deterrent effect on economic offenders.

  • This would also help the banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by fugitive economic offenders, improving the financial health of such institutions.

4.1. Salient Features of the Act

  • The Act allows for a person to be declared as a fugitive economic offender (FEO) if:

  • an arrest warrant has been issued against him for any specified offences where the value involved is over Rs 100 crore, and

  • he has left the country and refuses to return to face prosecution.

  • It extends not only to loan defaulters and fraudsters, but also to individuals who violate laws governing taxes, black money, benami properties and financial corruption.

  • The Enforcement Directorate (ED) will be the apex agency to implement the law.

  • To declare a person an FEO, an application will be filed in a Special Court (designated under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person's whereabouts.

  • The Special Court will require the person to appear at a specified place at least six weeks from issue of notice. Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears.

  • The Act allows authorities to provisionally attach properties of an accused, while the application is pending before the Special Court.

  • Upon declaration as an FEO, properties of a person may be confiscated and vested in the central government, free of encumbrances (rights and claims in the property).

  • Those classified as fugitives will also not be able to pursue any civil cases in India unless they come back to India and face prosecution.

4.2. Issues with the act

  • Against principle of justice and violates fundamental rights: Basic principles of natural justice like -fair play, innocent until proven guilty, access to justice are being violated by several provisions of the act like:

  • Selling the property on the mere declaration of a person as a fugitive economic offender and without a proper trial.

  • Confiscating all properties belonging to a fugitive economic offender, and not just properties acquired through proceeds of crime.

  • It does not require the authorities to obtain a search warrant or ensure the presence of witnesses before a search. These safeguards protect against harassment and planting of evidence.

  • The legislation also makes an arbitrary and discriminatory distinction by virtue of which only offences involving sums over Rs 100 crore will attract the FEOB’s provisions.

  • Most of the procedural aspects under the Act are similar to existing laws such as the CrPC, 1973, and the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002. For example, CrPC, 1973 also allows for attachment and confiscation of properties of absconders.

  • Use of sale proceeds from confiscated property not specified: The Act specifies that an FEO’s properties will be confiscated and vested in the central government. The central government may dispose off the properties after 90 days. However, the Act does not specify how the central government will use the sale proceeds i.e. would the government be obliged to share the sale proceeds with persons who may have a claim against the FEO.

5. Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964

5.1.Background about the CCS (Conduct) rules, 1964

  • CCS (conduct) rules prescribes a set of Do’s and Don’ts: These rules require them to maintain absolute integrity, devotion to duty and political neutrality which are essential requirement of any public servant but certain prohibitions may come in conflict with their fundamental rights. For instance -

  • Prohibits government servants to take part in the editing or management of any newspaper or periodical.

  • Prohibits speculation in stock, share or any other investment except occasional investments made through

  • Article 19(1)(a): Guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression to all citizens of India subject to reasonable restrictions which are enumerated in Article 19(2).

  • Article 19(2) includes following restrictions: In the interests of Sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

Stock brokers.

  • Public servants are barred from accepting gifts, buying and selling properties, making commercial investments, promoting companies and accepting commercial employment after retirement.

  • In 1964, following the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption (Santhanam Committee), these rules were considerably enlarged.

5.2. Issues with the Rule 9 of the CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964:

  • Rule 9 prohibits any public servant to publish in his own name or anonymously or pseudonymously any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government.

  • The surveillance and disciplining attitude demands no criticism and uniform and unquestioning obedience from the public servants which acts as an assault upon the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the Constitution under Article 19 (1)(a).

5.3. Arguments in favor of Rule 9

  • Civil servants being permanent executives serve with different elected executives. In this case, it becomes

Civil Servants and Fundamental Rights

  • Subject to the power of Parliament, under Article 33, to modify the fundamental rights in their application to members of the Armed Forces and the Police Forces, the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution are in favour of all ‘citizens’, which obviously include public servants.

  • While a public servant possesses the fundamental rights as a citizen, the State also possesses, under the Proviso to Article 309, the power to regulate their ‘conditions of service’.

  • Now, the interests of service under the State require efficiency, honesty, impartiality and discipline and like qualities on the part of the public servant. The State has thus the constitutional power to ensure that every public servant possesses these qualities and to prevent any person who lacks these qualities from being in the public service.

  • Therefore, that State regulation of the conditions of service of public servants so as to restrict their fundamental rights will be valid only to the extent that such restrictions is reasonably necessary in the interests of efficiency, integrity, impartiality, discipline, responsibility and the like which have a ‘direct, proximate and rational’ relation to the conditions of public service as well as the general grounds (e.g., public order, under Article 19) upon which the fundamental rights of all citizens may be restricted. necessary to maintain their political neutrality and ensure implementation of policies without any bias. It thus ensures political neutrality of Public Servants and disciplinary actions are justified in case of its violation.

5.4 Arguments against Rule 9

  • By becoming a government servant, one does not surrender one’s fundamental rights: Supreme Court in Kameshwar Prasad vs State of Bihar, 1962 held that Article 19 applies to all citizens and that government servants in common with all other citizens enjoy the protection of all fundamental rights.

  • SC in Vijay Shankar Pandey vs Union of India, 2014 reiterated that individual’s fundamental rights did not get diminished by being a member of the civil service.

  • Public Order, the reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) most often resorted to by government in disciplining the civil servants has been defined in several Judgments. In Superintendent of Central Prison vs Ram Manohar Lohia, 1960, it was held that public order is synonymous with public safety and tranquility which was the absence of disorder involving breaches of local significance.

  • Moreover, Article 19 (2) kicks in only when the views expressed reach the level of incitement causing public disorder.

  • Criticism is inherent in the right to freedom of speech and expression, whereas Rule 9 makes an underlying assumption that any criticism of the government is synonymous with indiscipline and subordination. Criticism does not mean disobedience and criticizing the government does not tantamount to disobeying the orders of the government.

  • Colonial origins: these rules which apply to all public servants in the country date from colonial times and are reflective of colonial mindsets, guided by a surveillance and command and control mentality.

5.5. Measures taken by the Government

  • In 1957, the Department of Administrative Reforms of the Government of India had prepared a code of ethics for public services, prescribing standards of integrity and conduct which were never issued.

  • In 2006, the Department of Personnel had drafted a Public Service bill emphasizing political neutrality, objectivity, impartiality, integrity, honesty, etc, for all public servant but no action was taken.

  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission in its fourth report (2007) recommended a code of ethics for public servants and emphasized a set of “Civil Service Values” like integrity, impartiality, commitment to public service, open accountability, devotion to duty and exemplary behavior, the transgression of which was to attract disciplinary action.

Way Forward

  • CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964 should be replaced by a broad set of ‘code of ethics’ based on self-regulation, accountability, and transparency like in other countries. For instance, in UK as per the Civil Service Values (2006) and a legally enforceable code of conduct, civil servants are expected to observe integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. In US, public servants follow a code of ethics devised in 1958. US office of government ethics established under the Ethics in Government Act, 1978 foster high ethical standards for employees. Similarly, OECD Council and the European Union both prescribe a broad set of principles governing ethical conduct of employees in public institutions.

  • Public Service Bill must be enacted on priority basis to ensure proactive accountability of public servants to the Citizens.

6. Non Performing NGOs

6.1. More in News

  • NGOs that do not have Darpan Portal Registration Number, a facility offered by the NITI Aayog and National Informatics Centre for government to list authentic bodies or FCRA registration number or have been blacklisted by any ministry or autonomous body such as NABARD, NCW, etc. have been blacklisted by MoWCD.

  • However, the NGOs believe that the criteria are non-transparent and they were not provided any information or notice before being categorised as non-performing.

Background

Regulation of NGOs

  • The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was introduced in 2010, requiring all NGOs to apply for a license to receive foreign funding. All NGOs receiving foreign funds now have to re-register for their FCRA license. Organisations with permanent FCRA licenses now have to get these renewed every five years. o It’s estimated that at least 10,000 FCRA licenses, needed to receive foreign funds, have been revoked.

  • the government barred several prominent NGOs from receiving funds from foreign countries after they failed to file their annual returns for five consecutive years.

  • The ministry directed NGOs across the country to validate the bank accounts in which they receive foreign funds. In a circular issued in 2017, the MHA had said all NGOs registered under FCRA should receive foreign donations in a single designated bank account.

  • Various reports, including reports of CBI and Intelligence Bureau, have shown the misappropriation of funds by a large number of NGOs. India is said to lose around 2-3% of its GDP because of such NGOs.

  • Therefore, the Supreme Court (in 2017) had asked Centre to examine enacting a law to regulate government funds for NGOs and prosecute them in case of misuse, misappropriation of funds or non-filing of annual statements.

  • In response to this, the Centre had come up with a guideline to blacklist such errant NGOs.

  • NGOs, including Greenpeace, Amnesty and Cordaid, were accused of serving as tools for foreign policy interests of western governments by sponsoring campaigns to protect the environment or support human rights.

6.2. Other issues with legitimacy of NGOs

  • Independence and reliability of the organisational structures of NGOs: For instance, questions are frequently raised regarding role and composition of the board, financial accounting, management structure, etc.

  • Questions are also oriented towards ties to the public, transparency and adherence to the mission of an NGO, representative status (whom does it represent?), relationship to community served etc.

  • Effectiveness of NGOs as a social service delivery agent: This usually have to do with the quality and quantity of the services offered like distribution of medicines, food etc. Inadequate trained personnel, lack of funds might also affect the effectiveness.

Way-forward

  • The government should appoint commissions of enquiry or committees to cross check the misuse of funds by NGOs. The members of committee may supervise and monitor the activities of NGOs periodically.

  • Further, the recommendations of S. Vijay Kumar committee may also be taken into consideration by the government.

  • On part of NGOs in India, they have been successful in bringing about several electoral reforms to make politicians accountable. NGOs played a key role in getting the landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act passed in 2005 to make the government machinery accountable. However, it is time for NGOs in India to focus their energies at enhancing their own accountability.

7. Commercial Courts, Commercial Division And Commercial Appellate Division Of High Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2018

7.1. Key provisions of the bill

  • Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015

  • The term ‘Commercial Dispute’ has been given an inclusive and wide definition.

  • The Act essentially introduces setting up of a Commercial Court at District level and a Commercial Division in the High Court, having ordinary original civil jurisdiction to deal with Commercial Dispute.

  • Commercial Appellate Divisions will be set up in every High Court to hear appeals against (i) orders of Commercial Division of High Court; and (ii) orders of Commercial Courts.

  • It says that the applications and appeals related to international commercial arbitration are to be heard by the Commercial Division of the concerned High Court.

  • It ensures timely disposal of Commercial Disputes and appeals.

  • Reduction in the limit of commercial courts and commercial divisions of high courts to adjudicate commercial disputes with a value of three lakh rupees from at least one crore rupees earlier. o However, there is a concern that the transfer of all commercial disputes above three lakh rupees may overburden the commercial courts and defeat the objective with which they were established.

  • Allowing state governments to establish commercial courts at the district level, even in territories where high courts have ordinary original civil jurisdiction (Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and State of Himachal Pradesh), after consulting concerned High Court.

  • Commercial appellate courts: In areas where high courts do not have original jurisdiction, state governments may set up commercial appellate courts at the district level to consider appeals from commercial courts below the level of a district judge.

  • Introduces the Pre-Institution Mediation (PIM) process to provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve commercial disputes outside courts through the authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The mediation process is required to be completed within a period of three months (may be extended by another two months).

  • Rule-making power with centre: It proposes a new Section, 21A, which enables the Centre to make rules and procedures for PIM.

7.2. Benefits

  • This would bring down the time taken (at present, 1,445 days) in resolving commercial disputes of lesser values.

  • It would bring many disputes within the ambit of the commercial courts thereby improving India's ranking in the parameter of enforceability of contracts in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.

  • Worldwide the experience of pre-institution mediation has been positive and thus may reduce litigation in India too.

  • It would help create a conducive regulatory environment for investors to set up and operate businesses.

July Indian Polity and Constitution

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