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[op-ed snap] A constitutional renaissance

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Note important features of constitutionalism and various terms described in the editorial


Context

SC’s Delhi verdict

  1. Already much has been said and more will come on the nature and scope of constitutional powers of Delhi’s elected government and the Union
  2. But this judgment provided the conception of “constitutional renaissance” which was finely elaborated by the entire bench of SC hearing the case
  3. One does not know how the political class would respond to this momentous exposition of six key constitutional notions:
  • Renaissance
  • Morality
  • Pragmatism
  • Objectivity
  • Purposive interpretation
  • Good governance

The idea of constitutional renaissance

  1. It was first sounded in Manoj Narula (2014) judgment
  2. It stands severally described now as “a constant awakening as regards the text, context, perspective, purpose, and the rule of law”, an awakening that makes space for a “resurgent constitutionalism” and “allows no room for absolutism” nor any “space for anarchy”
  3. The term “rational anarchism” has “no entry in the field of constitutional governance or the rule of law” and by the same token constitutional text and context resolutely repudiate the lineages of absolutism or the itineraries of dictatorship
  4. One may then say that “constitutionalism” is the space between “absolutism” and “anarchy” and its constant repair and renewal is the prime function of adjudication
  5. That awakening is a constant process; renaissance has a beginning but knows no end because everyday fidelity to the vision, spirit and letter of the Constitution is the supreme obligation of all constitutional beings
  6. One ought to witness in daily decisions an “acceptance of constitutional obligations” not just within the text of the Constitution but also its “silences”
  7. To thus reawaken is to be “obeisant to the constitutional conscience with a sense of constitutional vision”

How to achieve the renaissance

  1. Courts should adopt that approach to interpretation which glorifies the democratic spirit of the Constitution
  2. “Reverence” for the Constitution (or constitutionalism) is the essential first step towards a constitutional renaissance

Rights of the people

  1. People are the true sovereigns, never to be reduced to the servile status of being a subject; rather as beings with rights, they are the source of trust in governance and founts of legitimacy
  2. All forms of public power are held in trust
  3. The relatively autonomous legislative, executive, administrative and adjudicatory powers are legitimate only when placed at the service of constitutional ends

Idea of constitutional morality

  1. It provides a principled understanding for unfolding the work of governance
  2. It is “a compass to hold in troubled waters”. It “specifies norms for institutions to survive and an expectation of behaviour that will meet not just the text but the soul of the Constitution”
  3. It also enables us to hold to account our institutions and those who preside over their destinies
  4. Constitutional morality balances popular morality and acts as a threshold against an upsurge in mob rule
  5. The democratic values survive and become successful where the people at large and the persons-in-charge of the institution are strictly guided by the constitutional parameters without paving the path of deviancy and reflecting in action the primary concern to maintain the institutional integrity and the requisite constitutional restraints

The doctrine of constitutional objectivity

  1. This “lighthouse” of constitutional interpretation demands of those in power to act “justly and reasonably”
  2. It overrides acts of purely subjective discretion
Delhi Full Statehood Issue

[op-ed snap] Beyond Section 377

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Section 377

Mains level: The newscard highlights the issue of India’s sexual minorities that need not only decriminalization but rights and protections.


News

Same-gender sex

  1. It remains a crime in the country ever since the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the IPC was upheld in Suresh Kumar Koushal (2013) Case
  2. What is Section 377: It criminalises sexual activities that are “against the order of nature”, including consensual sex between couples who are from the LGBTQI community(lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex)

Reconsideration by Supreme Court

  1. The Supreme Court is presently hearing a clutch of petitions to strike down Indian Penal Code Section 377, which criminalises same-sex relations between two consenting adults in private
  2. One of the lowest moments for human rights in India came in 2013 when the Supreme Court reversed the progressive 2009 judgment of the Delhi High Court reading down Section 377.
  3. Though supportive in its initial observations, surprisingly, the Supreme Court has also said that it will concern itself only “with the question of the validity of Section 377, and examine the correctness of the Supreme Court’s 2013 judgment”.

Old judgement, defies Constitutional Validity

  1. This reconsideration tries to interpret a broader human rights and justice issue as a matter of pure constitutional validity.
  2. The law is not abstract and it’s important to consider how insufficient law impacts the lived experiences of human beings.
  3. Instead of focusing on the question of validity alone, the Court also needs to concern itself with how current laws impact the lives of the LGBTQI community.
  4. This judgment stands as a reminder that rights that ensure inclusiveness, equality, and freedom are the fundamental values of this republic.

Court favors Individual Privacy: Puttaswamy vs. Union of India Case

  1. There is also the matter of the Court’s own precedent in another recent ruling — one that found in favour of individual privacy — in the case of Puttaswamy vs. Union of India which terms “sexual orientation” an essential attribute of “identity” and “privacy”.
  2. It terms discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as deeply offensive to the “dignity and self-worth of the individual”.
  3. It terms the rights of India’s sexual minorities as those “founded on sound constitutional doctrine” effectively making Section 377 unsustainable.
  4. In principle, it maintains that sexual orientation must be protected and lies at the heart of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 14, 15 and 21.

Freedom in the absence of protection

  1. Court needs to expand the ambit of this discussion to include other issues such as the right to form partnerships, inheritance, employment equality, protection from gender-identity-based discrimination, and so on.
  2. Instead of merely considering the petition as a narrow legal matter, it should examine the issue from the perspective of an institution that is committed towards ensuring equality for all.
  3. Without these rights, sexual minorities will continue to face unequal treatment, abuse, discrimination in workplaces and housing, violence, and denial of recognition.
  4. The Court should also consider closely the fact that individual dignity and freedom cannot be achieved without equal rights.

Battling Patriarchy

  1. There is sufficient evidence to show that suicide rates are higher among sexual minorities.
  2. Moreover, this lack of rights and protections feeds a homophobic culture that overemphasises and further empowers patriarchy and masculinity.
  3. Because of widespread homophobia, gay men and women create and inhabit sub-cultures of self-hate, internalised homophobia, and oppression.
  4. Public health evidence also indicates a clear relationship of a lack of social acceptance and legal rights with substance abuse, violence, isolation, and mental illness.

Way Forward

  1. A rights-based framework is intricately tied up with India’s quest for social and economic development.
  2. It’s time the Court recognised that India’s sexual minorities need not only decriminalization but rights and protections that help them build productive lives and relationships irrespective of gender identity or sexual orientation.
  3. They need an anti-discrimination law that empowers them and places the onus on the state and society to change.
LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

How Telangana supports farmers with Rs 4,000 for every acre they own

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Rythu Bandhu scheme

Mains level: The newscard discusses the Rythu Bandhu scheme which is gaining wide acknowledgement and puts Centre to think over such framework at pan India level.


News

Earning centres appreciation

  1. A support scheme for farmers in Telangana has earned the appreciation of outgoing Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.
  2. It is formally gives scope for feasible framework at pan-India level.

What Ryuthu Bandhu provides?

  1. Under Rythu Bandhu, the Telangana government gives every beneficiary farmer Rs 4,000 per acre as “investment support” before every crop season.
  2. The objective is to help the farmer meet a major part of his expenses on seed, fertiliser, pesticide, and field preparation.
  3. The scheme covers 1.42 crore acres in the 31 districts of the state, and every farmer owning land is eligible.
  4. Officials said 92% of the beneficiaries own less than 5 acres, 5% own 5-10 acres and the remaining 3% own more than 10 acres.

Payment

  1. The government plans to extend the flat Rs 4,000-per-acre subsidy to the rabi season as well, with distribution of cheques from November 18.
  2. The government has allocated Rs 12,000 crore for Rythu Bandhu in 2018-19; the 24×7 free power supply to farmers is estimated to cost another Rs 1,000 crore.
  3. The government will issue cheques rather than make direct benefit transfer (DBT) because banks might use the DBT money to adjust against farmers’ previous dues.
  4. The cheques have been distributed along with free Pattadar Dharani passbooks with updated information including ownership and land purchase and sale.

Beneficiaries

  1. The government had initially drawn up a list of 72 lakh beneficiaries based on a revenue department survey last year.
  2. Lack of proper land records resulted in the total being shortlisted at 57.33 lakh.
  3. But the records are still under rectification and more farmers will be added to the list later.

Relief from Indebtedness- the major impact

  1. Ryuthu Bandhu money provides that cushion to the farmer because with that money the farmer can purchase seeds and fertiliser and start sowing.
  2. If a bank approves his loan later then it is of additional help to hire farm labour etc but at least he is not going to moneylenders.

Criticisms of the scheme

  1. The foremost issue is that it does not exclude rich farmers and wealthy landlords.
  2. The scheme leaves out tenant cultivators — an estimated 40% of Telangana’s farming population and mostly coming from the poorest and most disadvantaged backgrounds.
  3. Tenant farmers cannot be included in the scheme as they cannot submit any proof of cultivation of land, which is done mostly based on informal and oral lease arrangements.
  4. One year they are cultivating land in one village and the next year they move to a different village. It is very difficult to identify them. If they are included in the scheme, it will lead to unnecessary litigation.

Indian shipping companies headed for troubled waters

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ROFR Clause

Mains level: The newscard highlights the drawbacks of scrapping the RORR clause. However it will provide more options to Government for less expensive shipping thus reducing the overall logistics cost.


News

Scrapping of Right of First Refusal (ROFR) clause

  1. A proposed move by the Centre to abolish the ROFR clause for transportation of Indian cargo by Indian-flagged vessels, the only benefit available to Indian shipping companies is threatening the existence of the domestic shipping industry.
  2. Indian shipping companies have a combined fleet of 1,372 ships with a total capacity of 12.35 million Gross Tonnage (GT).

What is a Right of First Refusal?

  1. Right of first refusal is a contractual right, but not obligation, to enter into a business transaction with a person or company before anyone else can.
  2. If the entity with the right of first refusal declines to enter into a transaction, the owner of the asset who offered the right is free to open the bidding up to other interested parties.

Benefiting Foreign Shipping?

  1. The government is preparing ground to do away with the ROFR clause which ensures Indian-registered ships carry Indian bulk dry/liquid cargo of Indian public and private sector companies at the lowest rate.
  2. This rate is to be quoted by a foreign shipping line by matching the price.
  3. Thus, while it does not add any extra cost to the importer or exporter, it provides assured business to the national fleet but at a rate quoted by a foreign line.
  4. Hence Indian Shipping firms are de-registering their vessels from India and flag them in tax havens of Panama and Bahama to survive and compete with foreign lines.
  5. Currently, 92% of India’s export import trade is carried by foreign flag ships. And the 8% that is assured to Indian ships is likely to go if the ROFR is scrapped.

Domestic shipping is Costlier

  1. Since foreign flag vessels do not pay any tax in India while Indian companies are costlier since they have to pay multiple taxes.
  2. In 2017 alone, Indian shipping companies have made investments of around ₹4,700 crore in assets in anticipation of business.
  3. To heal this, Shipping Ministry issued orders that permitted foreign flag vessels to transport export import-laden containers, agri products, horticulture, fisheries, animal husbandry commodities and fertilizers between two or more Indian ports without obtaining a licence from the Directorate General of Shipping.
  4. This means that an Indian flag vessel, if available, has lost the opportunity of doing this business.

What concerns Indian firms ?

  1. Indian shipping companies said this move is being contemplated without any consultative process.
  2. Also, the integrity and security of transportation of critical cargo in times of war or economic sanctions seem to have been completely ignored.
  3. The right of first refusal is the only incentive to the Indian flag, which suffers from many disadvantages versus foreign flags.
  4. De-registering of vessels from the Indian flag will be a strategic blow to Indian security as merchant naval fleet always acts as a second line of defence for coastal security.

Way Forward

  1. Some experts feel the objective of the government is to shift cargo movement from railways and roadways to the waterways to reduce logistics costs and ensure faster movement of cargo, which the domestic lines have failed to deliver.
  2. This move should not be looked at in isolation.
  3. The government wants to build volumes and see a large-scale shift of cargo movement to waterways which foreign lines can provide as we do not have a strong domestic shipping industry.
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

NCPCR moots model for school fees

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NCPCR and its new propositions

Mains level: Reforms in Education System


News

Regulating the Admission Fee

  1. The apex body for child rights, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has prepared guidelines for regulating admission fee levied by private unaided schools.
  2. The Commission has also recommended setting up a district-level body which will consult parents and teachers while determining school fee on a case-by-case basis.
  3. The Commission has studied regulations framed by various States over a period of six months and has included best practices in its model framework.
  4. As per the procedure laid down by the NCPCR, every school will have to submit its fee proposal online by October 31 for the next academic session, following which an algorithm will calculate the minimum and maximum fee a school can charge.

District Level Panel to decide fees

  1. This would be then analysed by the DFRC, which will consult representatives from the school as well as its Parent-Teacher Association before arriving at the final decision.
  2. NCPCR took suo motu cognisance of the problem of exorbitant school fees after it received several complaints on the matter.
  3. The guidelines recommend setting up a District Fee Regulatory Committee (DFRC) in each district.
  4. The body will be headed by the Collector or District Magistrate.

Stringent for private schools

  1. The fee finalised thus will be applicable for three academic years.
  2. If a school fails to submit its proposal, it may face a ban on new admissions for the entire academic session or withdrawal of its formal recognition.
  3. If a school is not satisfied with the DFRC decision, it can appeal to the State Appellate Authority whose decision will be final.

Back2Basics

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

  1. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005, an Act of Parliament
  2. NCPCR is a statutory body under the CPCR Act, 2005 under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
  3. The Commission’s mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  4. It defines Child as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

[pib] Bansagar Canal Project

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bansagar Canal Project, Mapping of Son River

Mains level: Not Much


News

  1. PM Modi  dedicated the Bansagar Canal Project to the Nation.
  2. This project will provide a big boost to irrigation in the region, and will be greatly beneficial for the farmers of Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of Uttar Pradesh.

Bansagar project

  1. Bansagar or Ban Sagar Dam is a multipurpose river Valley Project on Son River situated in the Ganges Basin in Madhya Pradesh, India with both irrigation and 435 MW of hydroelectric power generation.
  2. It was commissioned in 2008.
  3. The project was called “Bansagar” after Bana Bhatt, the renowned Sanskrit scholar of the 7th century in the court of Harsha (who also wrote Harshacharita).
  4. After 2014, this project was made a part of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, and all efforts were made to complete it.
  5. Bansagar will irrigate an area of 2,490 km² in Madhya Pradesh, 1,500 km²; in Uttar Pradesh and 940 km² in Bihar.

About Son River

  1. Son River of central India is the second largest of the Ganges’s southern tributaries after Yamuna River.
  2. The Son originates near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh just east of the headwater of the Narmada River, and flows north-northwest through Madhya Pradesh state before turning sharply eastward where it encounters the southwest-northeast-Kaimur Range.
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

[pib] Institute of Cost Accountants of India

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  ICAI

Mains level: Not Much


News

ICAI recently completed 70 years

Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI)

  1. The Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI), previously known as the Institute of Cost & Works Accountants of India (ICWAI), is a premier statutory professional accountancy body in India.
  2. It was established by Cost and Works Accountants Act 1959 as an autonomous professional Institute.
  3. Its objectives are promoting, regulating and developing the profession of Cost Accountancy.
  4. The headquarters of ICAI is situated in Kolkata, and operates through its four regional councils located at Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai, 94 chapters in India and 78 chapters abroad.

Function of ICAI

  1. It is the only licensing cum regulating body of Cost & Management Accountancy profession in India.
  2. It recommends the Cost Accounting Standards to be followed by companies in India to which statutory maintenance of cost records applicable.
  3. ICAI is solely responsible for setting the auditing and assurance standards for statutory Cost Audit to be followed in the Audit of Cost statements in India.
  4. It also issues other technical guidelines on several aspects like Internal Audit, Management Accounting etc. to be followed by practising Cost Accountants while discharging their services.
  5. It works closely with the industries, various departments of Government of India, State governments in India and other Regulating Authorities in India e.g. Reserve Bank of India, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, Securities and Exchange Board of India etc. on several aspects of performance, cost optimisation and reporting.

Role of ICAI

  1. As global manufacturing evolves and as manufacturing in India gets a boost over the coming decade – with the maturing of our Make in India programme – cost accountants will have a bigger and bigger role.
  2. It will be Cost accountants’ mandate to ensure that products and services are delivered at a competitive price but without compromising on quality.
Make in India: Challenges & Prospects