Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity
A month before 10 of 15 Congress MLAs in Goa joined the ruling BJP, 12 of 16 Congress MLAs in Telangana had ‘merged’ with TRS.
- The anti-defection law is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. It was enacted by Parliament in 1985. It came into effect on 1st March 1985.
- For a long time, the Indian political scene was besmirched by political defections by members of the legislature. This situation brought about greater instability in the political system. The infamous “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” slogan was coined against the background of continuous defections by the legislators. Legislators used to change parties frequently, bringing about chaos in the legislatures as governments fell. In sum, they often brought about political instability. This caused serious concerns to the right thinking political leaders of the country.
- Several efforts were made to make some law to curb defections. Starting from private members’ efforts, Bills were brought in by the government at different times. No Bill could be passed because of one reason or the other. However, the most important reason was that there was no consensus on the basic provisions of an anti-defection law. Members of Parliament were concerned about the freedom of speech in Parliament and other legislatures as they had a fear that too stringent a law on defection would likely curb the freedom of speech (which is a constitutional right) of the legislators. A lot of time was taken before a consensus could be reached on this issue.
- Finally, in 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought a Bill to amend the Constitution and curb defection. The 10th Schedule of the Constitution, which contains the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution through this amendment.
Grounds of disqualification
- The purpose, as is obvious, is to curb political defection by the legislators. There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified.
- If the member voluntarily gives up the membership of the party, he shall be disqualified. Voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party. Even without resigning, a legislator can be disqualified if by his conduct the Speaker/Chairman of the concerned House draws a reasonable inference that the member has voluntarily given up the membership of his party.
- If a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his party and his action is not condoned by his party, he can be disqualified. These are the two grounds on which a legislator can be disqualified from being a member of the House.
- However, there is an exception that was provided in the law to protect the legislators from disqualification. The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.
Has the law changed since inception?
- The law was amended in 2003. When it was enacted first, there was a provision under which if there occurs a split in the original political party and as a result of which one-third of the legislators of that party forms a separate group, they shall not be disqualified. This provision resulted in large scale defections and the lawmakers were convinced that the provision of a split in the party was being misused. Therefore, they decided to delete this provision.
- Now, the only provision which can be invoked for protection from disqualification is the provision relating to the merger, which is provided in Paragraph 4 of the 10th Schedule.
How far has the law succeeded in achieving its goal?
- The law certainly has been able to curb the evil of defection to a great extent. But, of late, a very alarming trend of legislators defecting in groups to another party in search of greener pastures is visible.
- The recent examples of defection in state Assemblies and even in Rajya Sabha bear this out. This only shows that the law needs a relook in order to plug the loopholes if any. But it must be said that this law has served the interest of the society. Political instability caused by frequent and unholy change of allegiance on the part of the legislators of our country has been contained to a very great extent. That is a story of success of one of the most important legislation that the Indian Parliament has enacted.
Latest changes to Aadhaar
Topic: GS –II: Governance
One of the key legislation passed in the current session of Parliament is The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha on June 24 and passed on July 4. Notwithstanding Opposition’s resistance, the Bill received Rajya Sabha’s nod on July 8. The Bill replaces an Ordinance promulgated on March 2, 2019.
What are the key changes in Aadhaar?
- The existing Act on Aadhaar provides for the use of Aadhaar number as proof of identity of a person, subject to authentication. The Bill replaces this provision to state that an individual may voluntarily use his Aadhaar number to establish his identity, by authentication or offline verification.
- Enabling offline verification is another key change brought about by the Bill. Under the exiting Aadhaar Act, verification of identity requires authentication, which, in turn, requires an individual to submit their Aadhaar number and biometric or demographic information to the Central Identities Data Repository. The latest Bill amends the Act to additionally allow offline verification of a person’s identity through modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
- Another change pertains to the entities that can use Aadhaar. The existing Act allowed State or a corporate entity under any law to use Aadhaar. The Bill replaces this bit and allows the UIDAI to decide whether an entity can use Aadhaar. The UIDAI can do so once it has satisfied itself that the entity is allowed to do so under law or conforms to requisite privacy and security standard, or indeed, is obtaining Aadhaar in the interest of the State.
- Apart from these main changes, the Bill has also strengthened the disclosure norms relating to Aadhaar. It has also provided for a dedicated Unique Identification Authority of India Fund, which will receive all fees and revenue collected by the UIDAI. Under the Act, these go to the Consolidated Fund of India.
- The Bill also makes it possible for individuals to file complaints under certain circumstances such as impersonation instead of just allowing the UIDAI to file complaints.
- Lastly, the Bill also lays down a federated structure for deciding penalties in case an entity fails to play by the rules.
PIB card and journalists
Topic: GS –II: Governance
The Union Ministry of Finance has justified recent restrictions on the entry of journalists, even those holding a Press Information Bureau (PIB) card, in the Finance Ministry on the ground that the government is simply streamlining the interactions between the media and the government. Many journalists holding a PIB card are feeling aggrieved.
- A PIB accreditation is only given to journalists who live in Delhi or its periphery, and works with a media organisation that has been functioning continuously for at least a year and if 50 per cent of its content is news or commentary of general public interest. The content should also include news and information emanating from the headquarters of the Government of India.
- According to the Central News Media Accreditation Guidelines, 1999, PIB accreditation “shall not confer any official or special status on news media representatives, but shall only recognize their identity as a professional working journalist”.
- The guidelines define accreditation as “recognition of news media representatives by the Government of India for purpose of access to sources of information in the Government and also to news materials, written or pictorial, released by the Press Information Bureau and/or other agencies of the Government of India”. The PIB card given to all accredited journalists mentions on its back that it is “valid for entry into buildings under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) security zone”.
- To be eligible for PIB accreditation, a journalist needs to have a minimum of five years’ professional experience as a full-time working journalist or a cameraperson in a news organisation, or a minimum of 15 years as a freelancer. Journalists working full-time for a news organisation seeking accreditation must be earning a minimum salary of Rs 4,500 per month. A newspaper or a periodical needs to have a minimum daily circulation of 10,000, or 75,000 if it is part of a chain, and news agencies must have a gross annual revenue of a minimum Rs 20 lakh for their journalists to be eligible for accreditation. Similar rules apply for foreign news organisations and foreign journalists.
- Applications for accreditation are vetted by a Central Press Accreditation Committee headed by the DG, PIB. After a journalist applies for a PIB accreditation, there is a mandatory security check conducted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, which also includes on-site verification of the journalist’s residence by the police.
- As such, PIB accreditation has several advantages. First, in certain events involving senior public functionaries such as the President, the Prime Minister, and other ministers, only a PIB accredited journalist is allowed entry.
- Second, journalists accredited with the PIB are eligible, along with members of their family, for subsidised health services under the Central Government Health Scheme, meant for employees of the Union government.
- Third, and most importantly, a PIB accreditation helps a journalist carry out her professional responsibilities. It does so by helping a journalist protect her sources. Since a PIB card comes after security clearance from the Home Ministry, accredited journalists are allowed to enter the premises of most Union government ministries without prior appointment.
- They are not required to register or record their presence at the reception, or with any other official in any ministry. This firewalls the journalists from attempts at finding out when and on how many occasions they have visited the premises of an office, and which officers they have met.
- The anonymity of sources is one of the essential principles of journalism across the world. It may take years for a source to start confiding in a reporter. The trust between the journalist and her source is, to a large extent, based on the latter’s faith that his/her identity will not be revealed. This becomes paramount when a source is willing to speak out against a senior official or a minister, or against the policies of the government.
Nagaland to frame RIIN norms after consultation
Topic: GS –II: Governance
The Nagaland government has said that guidelines for implementing a localised version of the National Register of Citizens — being updated in Assam — will be framed in consultation with civil society groups and traditional tribal bodies.
More in news:
- The decision follows remarks from organisations such as the Naga Hoho, the apex body of all Nagaland’s tribes, that the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) was premature and could have serious ramifications. Other groups, including the Naga Students’ Federation, said the survey should be restricted to non-locals.
- The RIIN exercise was launched with designated teams surveying people living in every village and urban ward to prepare a list of indigenous inhabitants who would be provided a certificate.
|What is RIIN?
· RIIN stands for: Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN).
· RIIN will be the master list of all indigenous inhabitant of Nagaland.
· The decision to setup the RIIN was based on the recommendations of the Committee on Inner Line Permit report headed by Abhishek Singh (IAS), submitted to the state cabinet on February 15, 2019.
· To prevent issuance of fake indigenous inhabitant certificates.
· RIIN data also to feed ILP system.
(RIIN) and The Inner Line Permit (ILP)
· RIIN and ILP are two different systems and independent of each other.
· While RIIN is envisaged to be a register of indigenous inhabitants to curb issue of fake indigenous certificates, ILP is an official travel document required by Indian citizens residing outside certain “protected” states to enter those States.
· But the relation between the two systems in this context is that the RIIN data would help implementation of ILP. The RIIN data would be feed to the online ILP system. Reportedly, this would help monitoring of entry and exit of persons not belonging to Nagaland.
The Inner Line Permit (ILP)
· ILP is an official travel document required by Indian citizens residing outside certain “protected” states to enter those “protected” States.
· The ILP is issued by the Govt. of India (particularly, the Ministry of Home Affairs) and is obligatory for all those who reside outside the protected states.
· The origin of ILP dates back to the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, which protected the British Crown’s interest in tea, oil and elephant trade. It prohibited “British subjects” or Indians from entering into these protected areas to safeguard the resources and protect indigenous culture and identity.
· Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland (except Dimapur as of June 2019). It can be issued for travel purposes solely.
More Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam
Topic: GS –II: Governance
The Assam government will establish 200 Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) for handling cases of people to be excluded from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC). July 31 is the deadline for publishing the NRC.
More in news:
- These FTs would be in addition to the existing 100 and are part of the 1,000 that the Centre has decided to help Assam set up in view of the pressure anticipated in disposing of cases of people to be left out of the NRC.
- Officials in the State’s Home and Political Department said the new FTs would be distributed among six districts. Kamrup (Metropolitan) district, which covers Guwahati and its outskirts, will get 67 of these, followed by Nagaon with 39, Jorhat with 31, Bongaigaon with 22, Sonitpur with 21, and Cachar with 20.
- Apart from the cases of people left out of the NRC, the new FTs will deal with the regular cases of D-voters [doubtful voters.
- Organisations representing Bengali-speaking Hindus and Muslims feel more FTs will bring more misery unless the tribunals are made fully judicial bodies. More than 80% of the 41.09 lakh people put in the two exclusion lists belong to these two groups.
- Those left out, however, were provided windows to get back in the NRC after re-submitting admissible citizenship papers.
- According to the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), the FTs and the border wing of the Assam Police “are foreigner-producing factories”. The border wing picks suspected foreigners and refers their cases to the FTs.
‘Facial-recognition system will not violate privacy’
Topic: GS –II: Governance
Government said that the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) will not violate privacy of citizens and is only being developed to help the law enforcement agencies identify criminals, missing children and unidentified bodies in a scientific and speedy manner.
More in news:
- The AFRS, being implemented by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), is a component of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), a national database of crimes and criminals.
- An official said the database would be accessible only to law enforcement agencies.
- The NCRB last week invited bids for the AFRS that would even “capture face images from CCTV feed and generate alerts if a blacklist match is found”, triggering privacy concerns.
- At present, there are 7.71 lakh cases of missing persons in the CCTNS database that includes 98,000 children.
- Government argues that this software will be used only in respect of such persons who figure on the CCTNS data base — accused persons, prisoners, missing persons, unidentified dead persons – and is not going to be used on any other database. The AFRS will add another information layer to investigation by allowing matching photograph of suspect or missing person with the database of CCTNS. This is already done manually.
To help out start-ups, govt. to buy goods
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
- The Centre has proposed to relax the General Financial Rules (GFR) to enable all government organisations to accept “untested innovative goods and services solutions from start-ups”.
- The government plans to do away with “competitive tendering” while placing orders from such start-ups as it amounts to competition between “established and new business entities”.
- The plan proposes that a minimum 2% of the procurement budget of a Ministry or department may be “earmarked for procurement of such goods or services which are yet to be tested or evaluated and brought to market as acceptable commercial product service or technology”.
- In her Budget speech on July 5, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced easing tax scrutiny for start-ups and those investing in such firms.
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