There will be a Directorate of Prosecution under the CBI headed by a Director. The CBI Director will be appointed by a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India. The Prosecution Director will be appointed on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for a two-year tenure.
Composition of Lokpal:
The Bill provides for the Lokpal comprising a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of whom 50% will be judicial members and the rest from amongst the SC, the ST, the OBCs, minorities and women. Apart from the Inquiry Wing, there will be an independent Prosecution Wing of the Lokpal.
Method of Appointment/Selection, term:
The selection of the Lokpal will be done through a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or an apex court judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist as recommended by the chairperson and members to be nominated by the President.
The Selection Committee will constitute a search panel of seven persons of eminence for assisting it.
The term of the Lokpal will be five years or till the chairman and members turn 75.
The Bill does not provide for protection to whistle-blowers, for which a separate law shall be enacted. There will be separate laws on a Citizens’ Charter and Judicial Accountability.
Should the Prime Minister come under the ambit of Lokpal? If no/yes, then what impact would it have?
Should the CBI be made an autonomous body? What is its present status?
What according to you is lacking in the present Lokpal Bill? Provide Suggestions/Solutions for the same.
If the Lokpal Bill is implemented, what would be the roles of Lokpal, CVC, CBI?
Do you think the lokpal is overburdened considering the fact that it inquires MPs and all the government servants from top to the lower level? Is lokpal a threat to the balance of power demarcated in our constitution?
Changes in MGNREGA program
Significant changes has been made to the governments flagship MGNREGA programme seeking to ensure permanent and durable asset creation and an introduction of a penalty for delayed wage payments.
More specifically, the changes include Rs 10,000 (earlier it was 4500) for the construction of toilets for all job card holders (APL & BPL) and assistance for buildings for women self-help federations.
Addressing the persistent issue of delay in distributing wage payment to MGNREGA workers, the government has announced compensation for them if it is delayed beyond 15 days and the amount would be deducted from officials responsible for it. Andhra Pradesh has already started to implement this. Additionally, wage payments will be made exclusively on the basis of measurement of work done instead of solely attendance
(Three objectives of NREGA. First to provide wage employment, second is to create durable community assets and third to empower gram panchayats.)
Contribution of MGNREGA:
In constructing houses for the poor in convergence with Indira Awas Yojana or any other state rural housing scheme, buildings for women self-help federations operating in village or block levels, community storage facilities at gram panchayat or women SHG levels for agriculture produce and centres for manufacturing building materials like bricks in gram panchayats.
Future prospects: The biggest contribution of NREGA for agriculture would be if small and marginalized farmers use the scheme to improve the quality and productivity of their farmland. This could lead to a potential “agricultural revolution”.
What is the objective MGNREGA program? Has it achieved its objective? If not what are the reasons for its failure? Suggestions/ solutions to overcome such issues.
What are the positive achievements of the program?
Government is coming up with so many programs and schemes for the welfare of the people, there is bound to be overlap in some of the programs. DO you think such programs should be converged? If so which are the programs that needs to converged and why?
Sahastra Seema Bal: Central Paramilitary force
Nearly 6,000 personnel of the central paramilitary Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB) will soon be deployed for anti-Naxal operations duties in the Left wing extremism-affected areas of the country.
The SSB was withdrawn from these operations in 2011 when it used to be deployed in Chhattisgarh. Now three battalions are deployed in Bihar and Jharkhand alongside other central forces like CRPF, BSF and ITBP.
More about Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB):
SSB is a Border Guarding Force (BGF) under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. SSB was set up in early 1963 in the wake of the Indo-China conflict to inculcate feelings of national belonging in the border population and develop their capabilities for resistance through a continuous process of motivation, training, development, welfare programmes and activities in the then NEFA, North Assam, North Bengal, hills of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh. The scheme was later extended to Manipur, Tripura, Rajasthan and Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir etc.
Pursuant to the recommendations of the Group of Ministers on reforming the National Security System, SSB was declared as a border guarding force and lead intelligence agency (LIA) for Indo-Nepal border (January, 2001) and Indo-Bhutan border( March, 2004)
Role of Sahastra Seema Bal:
To promote sense of security among the people living in the border area
To Prevent trans border crimes and unauthorized entries into or exit from the territory of India
To prevent smuggling and other illegal activities
More about Central Paramilitary force
According to the official definition adopted in 2011, “Paramilitary Forces” refers to three organisations which assist the Indian Armed Forces particularly closely and are led by officers of the Indian Army or Indian Navy. They are:
Assam Rifles ; Special Frontier Force (SFF); Indian Coast Guard;
Whereas Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) ; Border Security Force (BSF) ; Indo Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) ; Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) are included under Central armed police force (CAPF) are led by Director General (all of whom are IPS officers).
Land Boundary Agreement Bill and its opposition
The West Bengal CM has expressed strong reservation over the introduction of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Bill in the Rajya Sabha and has said that the Bill was ‘forcefully introduced’ in Parliament without consulting the States involved in the boundary demarcation. (Other stakeholders – Assam, Tripura and parts of Northeastern States)
The West Bengal CM had also opposed the legislation in the past as well, stating that West Bengal would get only 7,000 acres of land and have to give away 17,000 acres of land to Bangladesh.
The Constitution (One Hundred and Nineteenth Amendment) Bill 2013 would give effect to the agreement between India and Bangladesh for demarcation of the land boundary and exchange of territories between the two countries.
The Leader of Opposition has said that, ‘Parliament has no jurisdiction to alter the territory of India. The territory represents sovereignty and are both a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and thus, cannot be reduced or altered by an amendment to the Constitution.’
Continuation of Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Bill
After West Bengal, it is Opposition parties in Assam who have staged a State-wide protests against the tabling of the Constitutional amendment bill in the RajyaSabha to facilitate swapping of land enclaves with Bangladesh.
Whereas, enclaves in north Bengal have welcomed tabling of LBA Bill:
Despite the opposition of West Bengal Chief Minister, the organisations working for the rights of residents of enclaves and local public representatives have shown positive reaction towards the Bill.
Reason for their support- tabling of the Bill would pave way for Parliament to debate about the enclave’s rights for the first time since Independence.
There are about 51,000 people living in Stateless condition in 162 enclaves in India and Bangladesh; the enclave-dwellers have been denied basic rights of health and education.
Role of state governments in determining India’s foreign policy.
Booster for Indo-Bangla ties. Other measures initiated to improve border ties between India-Bangladesh (Like teesta water sharing, Integrated Check posts, Border haats etc).
RTI Act: Parliamentary Standing Committee differs with AG’s opinion
The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has differed with the opinion of the Attorney General G.E Vahanvati over the proposed amendment to The Right to Information (RTI) Act, to exclude political parties as ‘public authorities’ and has held that the government was right in proposing the amendment.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013 seeks to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 order to nullify the June order of the Central Information Commission that brought six national parties under the act’s ambit.
The Attorney General of India was apprehensive that this law would not sustain the test of judicial scrutiny as it was creating a class within a class without having any consideration to the principle of intelligible differentia having reasonable nexus with objective of the Act, whereas the Law Secretary was of the view that it was quite sustainable since Parliament has legislative competence to override the CIC decision. The Committee, however, subscribes to the opinion expressed by the Law Secretary.
The Attorney General has also said that, “Political Parties are foundation of democracy and need to be given sufficient protection from malicious and motivated application for which safeguards already exist under Section 8 of the Act.”
The parliamentary committee maintained that the aspects of transparency in financial matters of political parties were fully covered under existing laws and mechanisms. These include direction from Election Commission to the parties asking them to submit their accounts within 90 days after general election, inspection of accounts of candidate of political party and obtaining the same from the EC on payment of nominal charges, and declaration of assets and liabilities to the Ethics Committee of House by MPs.
There are apprehensions that, declaring political parties as public authority under RTI Act would hamper their smooth internal functioning as party rivals may misuse the provisions of RTI Act.
To know more about ‘Political parties under RTI’s ambit, refer our “Insights Current Events Magazine, OCTOBER 2013″
Green Tribunal’s powers to deal with wildlife cases challenged
The National Green Tribunal’s powers to take up cases about wildlife have been challenged. The question of the tribunal’s jurisdiction has cropped up in a petition filed by an iron ore miner in Kohlapur, Maharashtra, asking for renewing his right to mine in a piece of land the government has said is a tiger corridor.
The case pertains to a mine operating in a village that falls between the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary but the case could now take a greater significance, besides deciding the fate of the tract of land between the two tiger-bearing areas that the environment ministry said is a corridor used by tigers.
The mine owner who applied for renewal of his lease to mine iron could not secure the forest clearance as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the apex body of the government in charge of tiger conservation, under the environment ministry said the lease fell in a wildlife corridor that needed protection.
The NTCA said so on the basis of research conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India for demarcation of land corridors used by tigers in 2010. The Wildlife Institute of India, the government’s premier body on wildlife conservation science, had said in 2010 that, “The block (where the mining occurs) is in the crucial corridor link between the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary. It is crucial for tiger movement in the Northern Western Ghat area in the State of Maharashtra. Small tiger populations in this area cannot be sustained without maintaining crucial connecting corridor links.”
The miner who was aggrieved, approached the National Green Tribunal claiming that his mine did not fall in the tiger corridor and the process of demarcating the corridor had not been legally carried out under the Wildlife Protection Act.
In the latest affidavit filed by the environment ministry in the ongoing case, the government defended its decision. But it also went a step ahead, stating that the miner, if aggrieved about the creation of the tiger corridor under the Wildlife Protection Act, can approach the “competent authority” under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The green laws that the tribunal is empowered to adjudicate on does not cover the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, though the body is empowered to deal with issues pertaining to forest clearances under the Forest Conservation Act 1980, besides other regulations and legislations.
More about National Green Tribunal (NGT):
The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same. Initially, the NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible. New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four place of sitting of the Tribunal.
Courtesy – http://www.greentribunal.gov.in/
To know more about Powers, Jurisdiction & Proceedings of the tribunal refer- http://www.greentribunal.gov.in/about-us.php?id=5
Western Ghats protection draft notification
In the view of implementing the Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats, the Environment Ministry has come up with the draft notification for the Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) in six States.
In the backdrop of protests in Kerala, the Environment Ministry has made explicitly clear that plantations, agriculture and other routine activities in the ESA, declared under the Environment Protection Act, 1972, would not be restricted or impacted.
The High Level working group headed by Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan had declared 37% of the area of Western Ghats ESA. Under Act, only activities explicitly mentioned in the formal notification of the ESA are banned, while others are permitted by default.
Guidelines (Draft Notification):
The Ministry reiterated that any expansion of or new mining, quarrying and sand mining would be banned.
New thermal power plants, heavily polluting industries, building and construction projects of an area 20,000 sq. metre and above, and township and area development projects between 50 ha and above or with a built-up area of 1,50,000 sq. metres would also not be allowed.
All other projects that are not expressly banned under the government orders would be permitted only with the consent of gram sabhas.
Only in mining would the existing projects be phased out within the next five years or at the expiry of the lease, whichever is earlier. In other cases, new projects and expansion of the existing ones and related activities would be banned. The existing projects would continue.
Regarding Kasturirangan, Madhav Gadgil Reports on Western Ghats related issues refer our ‘Insights Current Events Analysis Magazine’ (OCTOBER, 2013)
What are the main objectives of Kasturirangan , Madhav Gadgil Reports? Difference between the two reports? Why was the Madhav Gadgil Committee formed?
What do you mean by Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) and what is the issue? What kind of activities can be taken up in these areas- ESA?
Objections against the reports? Reasons for protests in Kerala?
Do you think strict compliance to the reports and Environmental clearance will have an impact on development?
ESA notification on Western Ghats put on hold
The new Environment Minister Veerappa Moily’s decision to invite comments from six Chief Ministers on the High-Level Working Group on the Western Ghats has put the final notification of the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) covering over 59,940 square km of the hills under indefinite suspension.
The draft notification for declaring the ESA under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, would have brought to halt any new mining and other polluting industries from coming up in the natural habitats of hilly terrain in the six States.
Under the regulations, the Ministry is required to receive comments from stakeholders including the State governments within 60 days. Subsequently, the Centre would have been obligated to make amendments, if found necessary, and enforce the notification immediately.
The draft notification notes that in the areas listed in the annexure (comprising the ESA) “there shall be a complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining. All existing mines shall be phased out within five years from the date of issue of the final notification or with the expiry of the current mining lease, whichever is earlier.”
No new thermal power projects and expansion of the existing plants would be allowed in the ESA. “All new ‘Red’ category of industries and expansion of existing industries shall be banned.” The Red category refers to the types of industries listed by either the Centre or States as the most polluting in nature.
It also clarified that agricultural and livelihood practices in the ESA would not be altered or impacted by the notification.
AAP gets the status of a State party
The Election Commission (EC) recognised the AamAadmi Party (AAP) as a State party after the party fulfilled the eligibility conditions set by the EC for granting the status. The party which took part for the 1st time in the elections (Delhi) won 28 of the 70 seats securing about 30%.
Conditions to get the status of ‘State Party’:
According to EC rules, to get the EC’s recognition as a ‘State party’ there are 2 conditions required:
The State Party should secure atleast 6% of valid votes polled and the party should also win 1 seat for every 30 seats in the state.
Privilege of the Status (being a State Party):
Among the privileges of being a “state party” are participation in all-party meetings convened by the EC/the State/Central governments, a permanent common symbol for all their contestants, and licence to address voters through All India Radio and Doordarshan during elections.
The AAP, which was allotted “broom” as the election symbol by the Commission, will now have the choice of retaining the “broom” as its permanent election symbol or it can design its own poll symbol provided it fits within the rules and regulations of the Commission.
Mind – Mapping:
What are the other benefits of being recognised as a state party? How is a national party recognised and what are its privileges?
What are the laws that govern the parties (like representation of peoples act and its salient feature, code of conduct for parties).Some info on party finance, accountability etc.
The Cabinet has approved a free trade agreement (FTA) in trade and services with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Agreement on Trade in Services is to be signed under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CECA) between India and the ASEAN. The CECA between India and ASEAN was signed in 2003. The Cabinet had approved the Agreement on Trade Goods under the CECA with the ASEAN in 2009.
The FTA (approved recently- December, 2013) in trade and services is aimed at boosting the movement of Indian professionals in the 10-nation ASEAN. It would protect, promote and increase foreign investment flows into the country and would also remove trade barriers for the free movement of Goods and Services.
However, some critics pointed out that, FTAs were signed recklessly harming considerably the domestic industry, especially the manufacturing sector.
To know more ASEAN, CEPA, CECA refer our ‘Insights Current Events Analysis Magazine’ (NOVEMBER, 2013)
Mind – Mapping:
Positive and negative impact of FTAs on various sectors. India’s FTAs with other countries especially neighbourhood.
Potential of ASEAN as a growth engine and its contribution to Indian growth in terms of connectivity, economic growth, infrastructure, people-people contact(social impact on demography) and its effects on national policies etc.
Union Govt. moves apex court for review of Section 377 ruling
Recently the Supreme Court (SC) had upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), according to which homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults is illegal and an offence. With regard to this the Union Govt has moved the apex court seeking a review of its ruling.
Union Govt’s view:
According to the Union Govt., the SC’s ruling is contrary to the principles of equality and liberty which is mentioned under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
Moreover, Section 377 which criminalises intercourse ‘against the order of nature’ is a reflection of outdated law of the United Kingdom which was transplanted into India in 1860. But now with passage of time it has become arbitrary and unreasonable.
Also the SC’s observation that only a miniscule had been penalised so far under the law was ‘irrelevant when it comes to deciding an issue of constitutionality.’
The Centre had filed a review petition inorder to avoid a grave miscarriage of justice to thousands of LGBT [lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender] persons, who have been aggrieved by the order and have been put at risk of prosecution and harassment, upon re-criminalisation of their sexual identities. Following the High Court judgment that decriminalised, adult consensual sexual acts in private, including homosexual acts, a considerable number of LGBT persons had come out in open about their sexual orientation and identity in their families, and at workplaces, educational institutions and public spaces. All these people would now suddenly become vulnerable to abuse and discrimination and require immediate relief.
MPs paid well, but show less productivity: citizens’ report
According to the recent report of the National Social Watch’s “Citizens’ Report on Governance and Development 2013” India’s parliamentarians are one of the best paid legislators across the world but they lag when it comes to performing legislative business.
In terms of absolute amount, the value of Indian MPs’ pay and perks is higher than their counterparts in Singapore, Japan and Italy. It is four and a half times higher than that of Pakistan; and is about 68 times higher than the per capita income of the country. A three-fold rise in the basic salary, on August 20, 2010 was protested against by many MPs, who described this ‘low’ hike as an insult to the country’s legislators.
Highlighting the low productivity of parliamentarians, the report points out that the nine sessions during 2010-12 saw the Lok Sabha working for an average of less than four hours of work a day during its 227 sittings in 852 hours, which is less than two-thirds of scheduled six hours per day. In the process, about 577 hours have been lost in disruptions and forced adjournments.
In 2010, the government had hiked the pay packet of an MP from Rs. 56,000 to Rs.1.40 lakh a month. The salary component was raised from Rs.16,000 a month to Rs.50,000, constituency allowance from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 45,000, and office allowance from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 45,000.
In terms of the ratio of the pay package to national per capita income, India ranks second after Kenya and pays almost double than the U.S. Political parties work less in Parliament to perform their designated functions as people’s representatives and legislators.
Highlighting another interesting point, the study says Rs. 5,799.3 crore and Rs.9 ,963.9 crore was allocated for about 2.5-lakh local governing bodies in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, which looks meagre compared to about Rs. 4,000 crore per annum allotted to about 800 MPs under the local area development programme.