Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Kerala seeks to amend the Wildlife Protection Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Wildlife (Protection) Act, of 1972

Mains level : Man-Animal Conflit and its mitigation

wild

Introduction

  • The Kerala Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a resolution urging amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 aiming to tackle the escalating human-animal conflict in the state.

What is Wildlife (Protection) Act, of 1972?

  • WPA provides for the protection of the country’s wild animals, birds and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security.
  • It provides for the protection of a listed species of animals, birds and plants, and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically-important protected areas in the country.
  • It provides for various types of protected areas such as Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks etc.

There are six schedules provided in the WPA for the protection of wildlife species which can be concisely summarized as under:

Schedule I
  • Species need rigorous protection
  • Harshest penalties for violation of the law are for species under this Schedule.
Schedule II
  • Animals under this list are accorded high protection.
  • Cannot be hunted except under threat to human life.
Schedule III & IV
  • Species that are not endangered.
  • Includes protected species but the penalty for any violation is less compared to the first two schedules.
Schedule V Contains animals which can be hunted.
Schedule VI Plants that are forbidden from cultivation.

Kerala’s Demands for Amendment

  • Section 11 Amendment: Kerala proposes amending Section 11(1)(A) to empower Chief Conservators of Forests (CCF) instead of Chief Wildlife Wardens (CWLW) to permit hunting of Schedule I mammals. This seeks to expedite decision-making at the local level in handling human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Declaration of Wild Boar as Vermin: Kerala urges the Centre to declare wild boars as vermin under Section 62, allowing controlled culling to mitigate threats to life and livelihoods.

Major Reason: Escalating Human-Animal Conflict

  • Rising Incidents: Kerala has witnessed a surge in human-animal conflicts, particularly involving elephants and wild boars, causing extensive damage to lives and crops.
  • Government Data: In 2022-23, there were 8,873 wild animal attacks, including 4,193 by elephants and 1,524 by wild boars. These incidents resulted in 98 deaths and significant crop loss.
  • Wild Boar Menace: Wild boars, in particular, are notorious for ravaging farmlands, with 20,957 incidents of crop damage recorded from 2017 to 2023.

Challenges and Implications

  • Urgent Action Needed: Kerala’s plea for amendments highlights the pressing need for effective measures to address the human-animal conflict.
  • Local Empowerment: Empowering local forest authorities can lead to quicker responses to wildlife threats, ensuring both human safety and wildlife conservation.
  • Balancing Conservation and Livelihoods: Striking a balance between conservation and livelihood concerns is crucial for sustainable coexistence between humans and wildlife.

Conclusion

  • Kerala’s proactive stance in advocating for amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act underscores its commitment to confronting the challenges posed by the human-animal conflict.
  • These proposed changes aim to protect both citizens and biodiversity, reflecting a holistic approach towards environmental and socio-economic well-being.

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Enhancing Accessibility in Indian Cinema: Draft Guidelines and Implementation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

Mains level : Accessibility for Divyangjan

Introduction

  • Enhancing accessibility in cinema halls for individuals with hearing and visual impairments is a crucial step towards promoting inclusivity and ensuring equal participation in cultural activities.
  • The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s draft guidelines aim to address this imperative by mandating accessibility features in film screenings.

Accessibility Guidelines: Rationale Behind

  • Legal Mandate: The guidelines are framed under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which emphasizes universal access in the information and communication sector.
  • Population Statistics: With approximately 2.21% of the Indian population classified as disabled, the guidelines aim to cater to the needs of individuals with hearing and visual disabilities, constituting a significant portion of this demographic.

Proposed Guidelines Overview

[A] Accessibility Features

  • Producer Responsibility: Producers must submit two sets of films to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC): one original and the other with accessibility features, including audio description, open/closed captioning, and Indian Sign Language Interpretation.
  • Certification Requirement: Cinema halls must ensure that feature films for theatrical release have both versions certified by CBFC.

[B] Implementation Options for Cinemas

  • Dedicated Screenings: Cinema halls can opt for dedicated days and timings for screenings with accessible services.
  • In-theater Equipment: Alternatively, theaters can utilize specific equipment during regular shows to facilitate the impaired segment.

[C] Accessibility Equipment

  • Availability Requirement: Theaters must provide at least two pieces of equipment per 200 seats, which could include:
    1. Smart glasses for displaying captions
    2. Closed caption stands near seats
    3. Small screens below the big screen for captions/subtitles
    4. Headphones/earphones for audio description
    5. Mobile apps and other technologies for assistance during shows

Implementation Timeline

  • Initial Phase: Films dubbed in multiple languages must incorporate accessibility features within six months of guideline implementation.
  • National Platforms: Feature films for national awards and film festivals must include accessibility features starting January 1 of the following year.
  • Full Compliance: All other certified feature films must provide accessibility features within three years from the guideline issuance date.

Onus and Monitoring Mechanisms

  • Exhibitor Responsibility: Cinema owners must develop a self-regulatory mechanism to provide accessible seating within three years and train staff to assist customers with disabilities.
  • Monitoring and Oversight: Licensing authorities will ensure compliance, and a committee, including members with disabilities and film industry representatives, will oversee implementation.
  • Grievance Redressal: A structured grievance mechanism will allow individuals to file complaints, ensuring accountability and transparency.

Key Initiatives for Divyangjan’s Accessibility

  • Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016: Enacted in 2016, it safeguards the rights and dignity of individuals with disabilities across various spheres, including education, social services, legal matters, and economic opportunities.
  • Accessible India Campaign (2015): It aims to ensure full accessibility of government buildings for people with disabilities, enhancing inclusivity and mobility.
  • Sugamya Bharat App (2016): Introduced by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, this app addresses accessibility challenges faced by differently-abled individuals in buildings and transportation systems.
  • New Education Policy (2020): Rolled out in 2020, NEP 2020, under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, provides in-service training for teachers and special educators to ensure barrier-free access to education for children with disabilities.
  • Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (1981): ADIP scheme, operational since, assists disabled individuals in obtaining modern aids and appliances to enhance their physical, social, and psychological rehabilitation.

Conclusion

  • The proposed roadmap for implementation underscores the commitment to realizing the principles of universal access and ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities are upheld in the realm of entertainment.

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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and its provisions

Mains level : Preventing River Water Pollution

Introduction

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024 was tabled in the Rajya Sabha on February 5, 2024, aiming to amend the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • This legislation, instrumental in establishing central and state pollution control boards (CPCB and SPCBs), undergoes significant modifications under the proposed Bill, primarily concerning penalties and regulatory mechanisms.

About Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974

Description
Objective To prevent and control water pollution and maintain or restore the wholesomeness of water resources
Applicability Applies to the entire territory of India, including streams, rivers, lakes, inland water bodies, subterranean waters, and territorial waters of the country
Establishments Establishes Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) at the central level and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) at the state level
Standards and Regulations Empowers Pollution Control Boards to prescribe standards for the discharge of pollutants and quality of water for various purposes
Consent Mechanism Requires industries and establishments to obtain prior consent from Pollution Control Boards before discharging pollutants into water bodies
Penalties and Enforcement Specifies penalties for contravention, including fines and imprisonment; authorizes officers to inspect premises, take samples, and issue directives for compliance

 

Key Amendments Proposed:

[A] Consent Exemptions for Establishing Industries

  • Prior Consent Requirement: Currently, the Act mandates obtaining consent from SPCBs for setting up industries or treatment plants likely to discharge sewage into water bodies.
  • Bill Provisions: The Bill empowers the central government, in consultation with the CPCB, to exempt certain industrial categories from seeking consent. It also authorizes the central government to issue guidelines for the grant, refusal, or cancellation of such consent.
  • Penalties: Violating the consent requirement or tampering with monitoring devices incurs penalties ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15 lakh.

[B] Chairman of State Board

  • Nomination Process: While the Act vests state governments with the authority to nominate SPCB chairpersons, the Bill introduces central government-prescribed nomination procedures and terms of service.

[C] Discharge of Polluting Matter

  • Regulatory Measures: The SPCBs can issue directives to halt activities leading to the discharge of harmful substances into water bodies.
  • Penalties: Contraventions against pollution standards attract penalties ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15 lakh, replacing the previous imprisonment provisions.
  • Amended Provisions: The Bill replaces imprisonment with penalties between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15 lakh for unspecified offences under the Act.

[D] Adjudication Mechanism

  • Appointment of Officers: It allows the central government to designate adjudication officers, with appeals against their decisions to be lodged before the National Green Tribunal.
  • Penalty Utilization: Fines collected are directed to the Environment Protection Fund established under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

[E] Cognizance of Offences

  • Expanded Scope: The Bill extends the entities empowered to file complaints to include adjudication officers, alongside CPCB and SPCB.
  • Penalization: Heads of departments are subject to penalties equal to one month’s basic salary if their departments violate the Act, reinforcing accountability within government bodies.

Challenges with the Bill

  • Lack of Oversight: Granting exemptions for certain industrial categories from seeking consent may lead to increased pollution levels if not properly regulated.
  • Risk of Unchecked Discharge: Lack of oversight could result in unchecked discharge of pollutants into water bodies, compromising water quality and public health.
  • Centralized Nomination Process: Central government-prescribed nomination procedures for the appointment of State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) chairpersons may undermine the autonomy of state governments.
  • Reduced Deterrence: Replacing imprisonment provisions with penalties for contraventions against pollution standards may reduce the deterrence effect.
  • Questionable Adjudication Process: Allowing the central government to designate adjudication officers may raise questions about the impartiality and independence of the adjudication process.
  • Potential Administrative Inefficiencies: Extending the entities empowered to file complaints may lead to overlapping jurisdictions and administrative inefficiencies, resulting in delays and bureaucratic hurdles.

Way Forward

  • Enhanced Regulation: Implement stringent monitoring and regulatory mechanisms to ensure compliance with pollution standards and prevent unauthorized discharge of pollutants into water bodies.
  • Stakeholder Consultation: Conduct extensive consultations with environmental experts, industry representatives, and civil society organizations to address concerns and refine the proposed amendments.
  • Capacity Building: Provide training and capacity-building programs for Pollution Control Boards to enhance their skills in enforcing environmental regulations effectively.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Ensure transparency in the exemption process and establish accountability mechanisms to uphold the integrity of regulatory decisions.
  • Public Awareness: Conduct public awareness campaigns to educate industries and the general public about the importance of water conservation and pollution prevention measures.

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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Tackling Unfair Means in Public Examinations: The 2024 Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Unfair Means in Public Exams

cheating

Introduction

  • The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, introduced in Lok Sabha, seeks to combat “unfair means” in public examinations and enhance transparency and credibility in the examination system.
  • This comprehensive legislation addresses various aspects of unfair practices in public exams and outlines stringent penalties for violations.

“Unfair Means” in Examinations

  • Enumerating Offenses: Section 3 of the Bill outlines at least 15 actions that constitute “unfair means” in public examinations, primarily for monetary or wrongful gain.
  • Examples: These actions include question paper leaks, unauthorized access to question papers or answer sheets, tampering with answer sheets, providing unauthorized solutions to questions, and conducting fake examinations.

Scope of “Public Examinations”

  • Defining Public Examinations: Under Section 2(k), a “public examination” encompasses any examination conducted by designated “public examination authorities” listed in the Bill’s Schedule or notified by the Central Government.
  • Designated Authorities: The Schedule includes entities like UPSC, SSC, RRBs, IBPS, and NTA, responsible for various national-level examinations.
  • Central Government’s Authority: Ministries and Departments of the Central Government, along with their attached and subordinate offices for staff recruitment, fall under the Bill’s purview.

Penalties for Violations

  • Stringent Measures: Section 9 stipulates that offenses are cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
  • Cognizable Offenses: Authorities can arrest individuals without a warrant.
  • Non-Bailable: Bail is not a matter of right and is subject to a magistrate’s discretion.
  • Non-Compoundable: Complainants cannot withdraw the case, necessitating a trial.

Punishments

  • Individual Offenders: Violators may face imprisonment ranging from three to five years and fines of up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • Additional Penalty: Failure to pay the fine can result in additional imprisonment, as per the provisions of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.
  • Service Providers: Those providing support for examination conduct can be fined up to Rs 1 crore, along with other penalties.
  • Organized Paper Leaks: In cases of organized paper leaks constituting “organized crime,” offenders may face imprisonment for a minimum of five years, extendable up to ten years, and a fine not less than one crore rupees.

Rationale Behind the Bill

  • Addressing Rampant Paper Leaks: Numerous cases of question paper leaks in recruitment exams nationwide have disrupted the hiring process and affected millions of applicants.
  • Need for Specific Legislation: The absence of a substantive law to address unfair practices in public examinations necessitated a comprehensive central legislation.
  • Objectives: The Bill aims to ensure transparency, fairness, and credibility in public examinations while deterring individuals and entities exploiting vulnerabilities in the system for wrongful gains.
  • Model Draft for States: The Bill is intended to serve as a model for states to adopt at their discretion, assisting them in preventing disruptions in their state-level public examinations.

Conclusion

  • This legislation represents a significant step toward safeguarding the integrity of public examinations in India.
  • By establishing stringent penalties for unfair practices and addressing the issue of paper leaks, the legislation seeks to reassure candidates that their sincere efforts will be duly rewarded and their future secured.
  • Moreover, the Bill’s potential to serve as a model for state-level legislation enhances its impact in curbing exam-related malpractices.

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Tax Reforms

Why Centre plans to replace the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 with a new law

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Stamp Duty

Mains level : Read the attached story

stamp

Introduction

  • Stamp duty, a tax levied for registering various documents, plays a significant role in India’s financial landscape.
  • However, the existing Indian Stamp Act, 1899, has faced challenges with redundancy and non-uniform application.
  • To address these issues, the Ministry of Finance has introduced the ‘Indian Stamp Bill, 2023,’ seeking to revamp and modernize the stamp duty regime.

Understanding Stamp Duty

  • Nature of Stamp Duty: Stamp duty is a government tax levied for the registration of various documents, such as agreements and transaction papers, with the registrar.
  • Tax Calculation: The amount is typically a fixed value based on the document’s nature or a percentage of the agreement’s stated value.

Scope of Stamp Duty

  • Applicable Documents: Stamp duties are imposed on a range of documents, including bills of exchange, cheques, promissory notes, bills of lading, letters of credit, insurance policies, share transfers, debentures, proxies, and receipts.
  • Jurisdiction: While levied by the Central government, stamp duty revenues are collected by individual states within their territories, as authorized by Article 268 of the Constitution.

Indian Stamp Act, 1899

  • Fiscal Legislation: The Indian Stamp Act, 1899, is a fiscal statute governing the imposition of taxes in the form of stamps on transaction-recording instruments.
  • Instrument Definition: Under Section 2 of the Act, an “instrument” encompasses any document creating, transferring, limiting, extending, extinguishing, or recording any right or liability.
  • Stamp Characteristics: A “stamp” is defined as any mark, seal, or endorsement authorized by the State Government, including adhesive or impressed stamps, for the Act’s duty purposes.
  • Taxable Instruments: Section 3 of the 1899 Act specifies that certain instruments or documents are chargeable with amounts listed in Schedule 1 of the Act, including bills of exchange and promissory notes.

Reasons for the Indian Stamp Bill, 2023

  • Redundancy and Inoperability: The Ministry of Finance cites the redundancy and inoperability of several provisions within the Indian Stamp Act, 1899.
  • Lack of Uniformity: The absence of provisions for digital e-stamping and the lack of consistent stamp duty legislation across Indian states necessitate a new law.

Notable Provisions in the Draft Bill

  • Digital E-stamping: The draft Bill introduces provisions for digital e-stamping, enabling electronic payment of stamp duty.
  • Digital Signatures: It includes provisions for digital signatures, redefining “executed” and “execution” to mean “signed” and “signature,” incorporating electronic records and signatures as defined in the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • Penalty Enhancements: The draft Bill proposes increased penalties, raising the maximum penalty from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 for contravention of the law and imposing a daily penalty of Rs 1,000 for repeated offenses.

Conclusion

  • The ‘Indian Stamp Bill, 2023’ represents a significant step towards modernizing stamp duty laws in India.
  • By addressing the shortcomings of the existing legislation and introducing digital-friendly provisions, the bill aims to streamline and enhance the stamp duty regime, facilitating smoother transactions and compliance in the country’s financial landscape.

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Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023: Key Features and Changes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023

Mains level : Not Much

Central Idea

  • The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, faced opposition uproar but was passed in the Rajya Sabha on August 3. Subsequently, it was approved in the Lok Sabha on December 21, marking its legislative passage.

Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill: Purpose and Objectives

  • Repealing the 1867 Act: The Bill aims to repeal the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, modernizing the regulatory framework for periodicals.
  • Key Provisions: It includes a notable clause preventing individuals convicted of terrorism or acting against state security from publishing periodicals.
  • Rationale for Introduction: The Bill focuses on easing business processes for publishers, removing procedural hurdles, and reducing the administrative burden of declarations and filings.

Comparison with the 1867 Act

  • Exclusion of Books: Unlike the 1867 Act, the 2023 Bill excludes books from its purview, as they fall under the HRD Ministry’s jurisdiction.
  • Penalty Structure: The new Bill replaces imprisonment with fines for certain violations and introduces an appellate mechanism led by the Press Council of India Chairman.
  • Shift in Administrative Power: Power is transferred from the District Magistrate to the newly established Press Registrar General, centralizing the registration and regulation process.

Declaration and Registration Process

  • Simplification of Procedures: The Bill simplifies the declaration process, eliminating the need for DM involvement and allowing online intimations for printing presses.
  • Simultaneous Processing: It enables concurrent processing of title allotment and registration applications, streamlining the procedure.
  • Time-Bound Responses: The specified authority must provide feedback within 60 days, expediting the registration process.

UAPA Provision in the Bill

  • Restriction on Convicted Individuals: The Bill bars individuals convicted of terrorist acts or unlawful activities, as defined under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, from publishing periodicals.
  • Security Concerns: This provision addresses concerns about the misuse of periodicals for activities threatening national security or sovereignty.

Conclusion

  • Modernizing Media Regulation: The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, represents a significant overhaul of India’s media regulatory framework, aligning it with contemporary needs.
  • Balancing Ease of Business and Security: While the Bill aims to facilitate easier operations for publishers, it also incorporates measures to safeguard against security threats.
  • Potential for Debate and Discussion: The Bill’s passage, amidst opposition concerns, suggests ongoing debates about media freedom, security, and regulatory oversight in India’s evolving democratic landscape.

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Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Overview of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023

Mains level : NA

bns

Central Idea

  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023, introduces significant reforms to replace the Indian Penal Code.
  • The bill addresses terrorism, organized crime, gender neutrality, and repeals outdated laws like Section 377.

Major Provisions in the BNS Bill

[1] Promise to Marry (Clause 69)

  • Targeting ‘Love Jihad’: Criminalizes deceitful promises to marry, potentially addressing the ‘love jihad’ narrative.
  • Criminalization of Consensual Sexual Activity: Broadens the scope to include consensual sexual acts under certain deceitful circumstances.

[2] Mob Lynching

  • Codification of Offences: Introduces specific provisions for mob lynching and hate-crime murders.
  • Punishment: Ranges from life imprisonment to the death penalty.

[3] Organized Crime

  • Inclusion in Ordinary Law: For the first time, organized crime is addressed under ordinary criminal law.
  • Punishment Criteria: Distinction based on whether the crime results in death, with varying degrees of punishment.

[4] Terrorism

  • Integration into Ordinary Law: Adopts definitions from stringent acts and international laws, broadening the scope of terror financing.

[5] Attempt to Suicide

  • New Provision: Criminalizes suicide attempts aimed at compelling public servants, with potential implications for protests.

Significant Deletions and Repeals

[a] Section 377 (Unnatural Sexual Offences)

  • Repeal: Decriminalizes homosexuality, but raises concerns about addressing non-consensual acts.

[b] Adultery

  • Omission: Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, adultery is no longer criminalized.

[c] Thugee/Thugs (Section 310 IPC)

  • Removal: Eliminates colonial-era notions of criminality associated with certain tribes.

Gender Neutrality in Laws

  • Child-Related Offences: Makes laws about children gender-neutral.
  • Adult Offences: Extends gender neutrality to crimes like outraging modesty and voyeurism.

Other Notable Changes

  • Fake News: Introduces provisions against publishing false and misleading information.
  • Sedition (‘Deshdroh’): Renames and broadens the definition to include financial support for subversive activities.
  • Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Limits judicial discretion, raising concerns about fairness in considering mitigating circumstances.
  • Public Property Damage: Implements fines corresponding to the extent of damage caused.

What was the need for new bills?

  • Colonial legacy
    • From 1860 to 2023, the country’s criminal justice system functioned as per the laws made by the British.
    • The laws were drafted during colonial times and contain archaic language and concepts that might not accurately reflect current social norms, values.
  • Advances in Technology
    • This has introduced new dimensions to crime, evidence, and investigation.
  • Simplification and Streamlining
    • The laws have become complex over time, leading to confusion among legal practitioners, law enforcement agencies, and the general public.
    • Simplifying and streamlining the legal framework can enhance transparency and understanding.
  • Evidence Collection and Presentation
    • The Indian Evidence Act was enacted before the advent of modern forensic science and technological tools.
  • Various reports highlighted the need for reforms in criminal laws
    • The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its 146th report had recommended that there is a need for a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system of the country.
    • It was also pointed out that the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its 111th and 128th reports had also highlighted the need for reforms in criminal laws.

Conclusion

  • Reformative Approach: The BNS Bill represents a significant overhaul of India’s penal system, addressing contemporary issues and societal changes.
  • Judicial Implications: While it introduces necessary reforms, the bill’s impact on judicial discretion and fairness in sentencing warrants careful consideration.

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Electoral Reforms In India

Legislative Development in Election Commission Appointments

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Election Commission Appointments Bill

Mains level : Read the attached story

election commissioner

Central Idea

  • The Rajya Sabha passed a bill that revises the process for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs), replacing the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991.

Election Commission Appointments Bill:Key Features

  • Appointment Process: The President will appoint the CEC and ECs based on recommendations from a Selection Committee comprising the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.
  • Search Committee Role: A Search Committee led by the Cabinet Secretary will suggest candidates to the Selection Committee.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Candidates must have held a post equivalent to the Secretary to the central government.
  • Salary and Conditions: The CEC and ECs will receive salaries and benefits equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary, a change from the previous equivalence to a Supreme Court judge.

Constitutional Context

  • Constitutional Provisions: Article 324 of the Constitution allows the President to appoint the CEC and ECs but does not specify the appointment process.
  • Supreme Court Directive: In March 2023, the Supreme Court mandated a selection process involving the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India, until Parliament legislates otherwise.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • Independence Concerns: The government-dominated Selection Committee could impact the Election Commission’s independence.
  • Validity despite Vacancies: The Selection Committee’s recommendations will be valid even with vacancies, potentially leading to government control in appointments.
  • Salary and Status: Aligning the CEC and ECs’ salary with the Cabinet Secretary, determined by the government, may affect their independence compared to a salary fixed by Parliament.
  • Exclusion of Candidates: Limiting eligibility to senior bureaucrats may exclude other qualified individuals, particularly those with judicial experience.
  • International Practices: The appointment processes for election commissions in countries like South Africa, the UK, the US, and Canada vary, with some involving judicial members or parliamentary approval.

Concerns over Independence and Selection Process

  • Government Influence: The Bill’s provisions for a government-majority Selection Committee and the acceptance of recommendations despite vacancies could lead to executive dominance in appointments.
  • Salary and Removal Parity: The change in salary equivalence and the lack of parity in the removal process of the CEC and ECs compared to Supreme Court judges raise concerns about the Commission’s independence.

Goswami Committee (1990) Recommendations

  • Background: The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) made significant recommendations regarding the Election Commission’s functioning.
  • Appointment Process: The Committee suggested that the CEC should be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. For ECs, it recommended a similar process but included the CEC in the consultative process.
  • Importance of Independence: The Committee emphasized the need for the Election Commission’s independence from executive influence to ensure free and fair elections.

Conclusion

  • Ensuring ECI’s Autonomy: While the Bill aims to formalize the appointment process for the CEC and ECs, maintaining the Election Commission’s autonomy and independence is crucial for upholding democratic principles.
  • Need for Deliberation: The concerns raised about the Bill highlight the need for careful consideration to ensure that the Election Commission remains an impartial and effective guardian of electoral integrity in India.

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Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Why Parliament passed the Advocates Amendment Bill?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Legal Practitioners Act, 1879

Mains level : Not Much

Central Idea

  • The primary aim of the recent legislative changes is to eliminate ‘touts’ from the legal system and streamline legal practice in India.
  • The Legal Practitioners Act, 1879, a colonial-era law, and the Advocates Act, 1961, have been central to the regulation of legal practitioners in India.
  • The Bill repeals the 1879 Act and amends the 1961 Act to reduce redundant laws and repeal obsolete ones.

The Legal Practitioners Act, 1879

  • Inception and Scope: Enacted in 1880, it aimed to consolidate the law relating to legal practitioners in certain Indian provinces.
  • Definition of Legal Practitioner: The Act defined legal practitioners as advocates, vakils, or attorneys of any High Court.
  • Introduction of ‘Tout’: A significant aspect was the definition of ‘tout’, referring to individuals who procure clients for legal practitioners for remuneration.

The Advocates Act, 1961

  • Consolidation of Legal Practice Laws: This Act was enacted to unify and amend laws relating to legal practitioners and establish Bar Councils and an All-India Bar.
  • Pre-1961 Legal Framework: Previously, legal practitioners were governed by multiple acts, including the 1879 Act.
  • Law Commission and All-India Bar Committee Recommendations: Post-independence, reforms were suggested by the Law Commission and the All-India Bar Committee, leading to the 1961 Act.

The Advocates Amendment Bill, 2023

  • New Provisions: The Bill introduces a new section (Section 45A) in the 1961 Act, focusing on illegal practice and the regulation of touts.
  • Punishment for Illegal Practice: It prescribes imprisonment for persons illegally practicing in courts and other authorities.
  • Regulation of Touts: The Bill empowers High Courts and district judges to frame and publish lists of touts, ensuring due process before inclusion.
  • Penalties for Touts: It includes provisions for punishing individuals acting as touts with imprisonment, fines, or both.

Rationale and Implications

  • Streamlining Legal Enactments: The Bill aims to reduce superfluous laws and repeal those that have become obsolete.
  • Government’s Policy on Obsolete Laws: In line with the government’s policy to repeal outdated pre-independence Acts, the Bill seeks to modernize legal practice regulations.
  • Consultation with Bar Council of India: The amendments were made in consultation with the Bar Council of India, reflecting a collaborative approach to legal reform.

Conclusion

  • Addressing Legal System Complexities: The Bill addresses long-standing issues in the legal system, particularly the exploitation of legal complexities by touts.
  • Balancing Tradition and Modern Needs: By repealing outdated laws and amending existing ones, the Bill balances the need to respect legal traditions with the demands of contemporary legal practice.
  • Future Outlook: These changes are expected to enhance the integrity and efficiency of legal practice in India, contributing to a more transparent and accessible legal system.

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Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Rajya Sabha passes Post Office Bill  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Post Office Bill

Mains level : Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • Rajya Sabha passed the Post Office Bill, which repeals and replaces the Post Office Act of 1898.
  • The 1898 Act has seen significant amendment proposals over the years, including the 1986 Bill for aligning interception grounds with constitutional restrictions, which was not assented to by the President.

Post Office Bill, 2023: Key Features

  • Removal of Exclusive Privileges: The Bill removes the central government’s exclusive privilege over conveying letters, a significant shift from the 1898 Act.
  • Director General’s Role: The Director General of Postal Services, appointed to head India Post, will have regulatory powers, including setting tariffs and regulating postage stamps.
  • Interception Powers: The government may intercept postal articles for reasons like state security, public order, and emergency, among others.
  • Liability Exemptions: India Post is exempted from liability regarding its services, with specific liabilities to be prescribed through Rules.
  • No Specified Offences and Penalties: The Bill does not define specific offences and penalties related to postal services, following the removal of all offences under the 1898 Act by the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act, 2023.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • Procedural Safeguards for Interception: The Bill lacks procedural safeguards for intercepting postal articles, potentially infringing on freedom of speech and privacy rights.
  • ‘Emergency’ as a Ground for Interception: The inclusion of ’emergency’ as a ground for interception may exceed reasonable constitutional restrictions.
  • Conflict of Interest in Liability: The central government’s role in prescribing liabilities for India Post could lead to a conflict of interest, as it also administers India Post.
  • Absence of Offences and Penalties: The lack of defined consequences for unauthorized actions by postal officers, such as opening postal articles, raises concerns for consumer privacy.

Comparative Analysis with Other Services

  • Differences with Private Courier Services: The Bill maintains distinct regulatory frameworks for public and private postal services, notably in interception provisions and consumer protection applicability.
  • Railway Claims Tribunal as a Contrast: Unlike the postal services, the Railway Claims Tribunal Act provides a clear mechanism for addressing grievances against the Indian Railways.

Concerns and Recommendations

  • Need for Clarity and Safeguards: The Bill should ideally include clear procedural safeguards for interception and specify consequences for violations by postal officers to protect individual rights.
  • Balancing Consumer Protection: Ensuring adequate consumer protection rights for India Post’s services is crucial, potentially through an independent mechanism similar to the Railway Claims Tribunal.
  • Addressing Privacy and Security: The Bill should balance the need for security with the protection of individual privacy, particularly in the context of postal article interception and officer conduct.

Conclusion

  • The Post Office Bill, 2023, represents a significant overhaul of India’s postal service regulation, aiming to modernize and adapt to contemporary needs.
  • However, it raises several critical issues, particularly concerning individual rights and the need for clear regulatory frameworks.
  • Addressing these concerns is essential to ensure that the Bill effectively serves its purpose while safeguarding fundamental rights and consumer interests.

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Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

Draft National Pharmacy Commission Bill, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Pharmacy Commission Bill, 2023

Mains level : NA

Central Idea

  • The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has unveiled the draft National Pharmacy Commission Bill, 2023, signalling a transformative shift in India’s healthcare landscape.
  • This bill aims to replace the Pharmacy Act, of 1948, and the existing Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) with the forward-looking National Pharmacy Commission.

Key Highlights of the Bill

  • Elevating Pharmacy Education: The primary objective of the bill is to elevate pharmacy education by enhancing access to affordable, high-quality learning opportunities. It envisions a robust educational framework that prepares future pharmacy professionals to excel.
  • Universal Access to Pharmacy Services: The bill aspires to make pharmacy services accessible to all, fostering equitable healthcare delivery across the nation.
  • Integration of Research and Ethical Standards: It encourages pharmacy professionals to seamlessly integrate the latest research into their practice, contribute to ongoing research efforts, and uphold the highest ethical standards.
  • Transparency and Adaptability: The bill advocates for regular, transparent assessments of pharmacy institutions, the establishment of a national pharmacy register, and the flexibility to adapt to evolving healthcare needs. It also introduces an effective grievance redressal mechanism.

National Pharmacy Commission’s Architecture

  • A New Beginning: The bill proposes the establishment of the National Pharmacy Commission, headquartered in New Delhi, heralding the dissolution of the existing Pharmacy Council of India.
  • Composition: The commission will consist of a Chairperson, 13 ex-officio members, and 14 part-time members.
  • Three Key Boards: The Central Government will constitute three vital boards under the commission:
    1. Pharmacy Education Board
    2. Pharmacy Assessment and Rating Board
    3. Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board

Empowering State Chapters

  • The bill mandates every State Government to establish a state pharmacy chapter within one year from the Act’s commencement.
  • These chapters will operate under State Law and play a pivotal role in executing the Act’s provisions.
  • The Pharmacy Ethics and Registration Board will maintain the National Pharmacy Register (NPR), a comprehensive repository containing detailed information about pharmacy professionals, ensuring transparency and accountability.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Understanding the Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forest Conservation Amendment Act, 2023

Mains level : NA

Central Idea

  • The Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 has emerged with limited public discourse, raising concerns about its ramifications for forests and indigenous communities.
  • While aimed at addressing climate change and deforestation, the law’s provisions have sparked debates over forest utilization, economic gain, and the rights of forest dwellers, particularly indigenous communities.

Forest Conservation Amendment Act, 2023: Key Provisions

  • Focus Areas: The amendment emphasizes climate change mitigation and effective forest management, while also promoting afforestation.
  • Jurisdiction Changes: The law restricts its applicability to areas categorized under the 1927 Forest Act and those designated as such after October 25, 1980.
  • Exemptions: Forests converted for non-forest use after December 12, 1996, and those within 100 kilometers of the China-Pakistan border for potential linear projects are exempt.
  • Security Measures: The central government gains authority to construct security infrastructure in areas up to ten hectares, even extending to vulnerable zones of up to five hectares.
  • Economic Initiatives: Initiatives like ecotourism, safari, and environmental entertainment may be implemented to enhance forest-dependent livelihoods.

Motivation behind the Amendment

  • Godavarman Thirumulkpad Case: A landmark legal case in 1996 influenced the interpretation of forest land and led to the inclusion of private forests under the 1980 law.
  • Industrial Progress: Opposition to the law stemmed from concerns about hindering industrial growth and private landowners’ interests.
  • Debate and Controversy: The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill prompted extensive discussions but was passed with limited opposition, raising concerns among indigenous communities and human rights activists.

Prior Consent and Indigenous Rights

  • Amendments in 2016 and 2017: These stipulated mandatory prior consent from tribal grama sabha for non-forest alterations, a provision now removed.
  • State-Level Engagement: State governments may involve grama sabhas in decisions related to land acquisition but might be cautious due to perceived hindrance to economic initiatives.
  • Impact on Forest Rights Act (FRA): FRA implementation has faced challenges, with governments preferring to limit forest areas rather than amend the Act to address Adivasi claims.

Compensatory Afforestation Concerns

  • Ambiguities: Past issues with the Compensatory Afforestation Act have arisen from ambiguities and land shortages.
  • Environmental Implications: The new amendment mandates afforestation elsewhere for every parcel of land lost, but lacks specifications, leaving room for discretion.

Forest Governance and Federal Norms

  • Afforestation vs. Forest Governance: Financial incentives for afforestation projects clash with forest governance principles, and concurrent list governance practices contradict federal norms.
  • Security and Environmental Concerns: While internal environmental security is crucial, it often takes a backseat to external security threats, impacting States prone to natural disasters.

Conclusion

  • The Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 raises complex issues related to forest governance, indigenous rights, and environmental security.
  • While aimed at addressing critical challenges, its implementation and impact on forest communities warrant careful consideration and debate to ensure a balanced approach to conservation and development.

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Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

I&B Ministry introduces draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023

Central Idea

  • The Information & Broadcasting Ministry recently unveiled the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, a transformative legislation designed to modernize and streamline the broadcasting sector in India.
  • This bill presents a unified regulatory framework encompassing traditional broadcasting, OTT content, digital news, and current affairs.

Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023

Description
What is it about? – Replaces outdated laws, including the 1995 Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act.

– Extends regulatory oversight to emerging broadcasting technologies (OTT, Digital Media, DTH, IPTV).

Structure and Definitions – Comprises six chapters, 48 sections, and three schedules.

– Provides clear definitions for modern broadcasting terms and formally defines technical terms.

Self-Regulation and Advisory Bodies – Introduces “Content evaluation committees” for self-regulation within the broadcasting industry.

– Establishes the Broadcast Advisory Council to advise the government on program and advertisement code violations.

Penalties and Fairness – Operators and broadcasters may face penalties such as advisory warnings, censure, or monetary fines based on the seriousness of offenses.

– Imprisonment and fines are reserved for severe violations and are commensurate with the entity’s financial capacity.

Inclusivity for Disabilities – Promotes broadcasting accessibility for individuals with disabilities through subtitles, audio descriptors, and sign language.

– Provides for the appointment of a “Disability Grievance Officer” to address disabled individuals’ concerns.

Infrastructure Sharing and Dispute Resolution – Facilitates infrastructure sharing among broadcasting network operators.

– Streamlines the “Right of Way” section, improving efficiency in addressing relocation and alterations.

– Establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism.

 

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Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Why Special and Local Laws also need to be reformed?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SLL

Mains level : Reforming criminal justice system

Special and Local Laws

Central Idea

  • Recent legislative bills aimed at amending criminal laws in India have garnered significant attention for ushering in long-awaited reforms.
  • However, these reforms primarily focus on one aspect of India’s complex criminal justice system.
  • What remains often overlooked are the extensive Special and Local Laws (SLLs) that encompass some of the most critical offences and procedures.

What are Special and Local Laws (SLLs)?

  • Cognizable crimes are categorized either under the ‘Indian Penal Code (IPC)’ or under the ‘Special and Local Laws (SLL)’.
  • The SLL identify criminal activities that the state government frames for specific issues.

Significance of SLLs

  • Quantitative Importance: In 2021, nearly 39.9% of all cognizable offenses registered fell under SLLs, according to Crime in India Statistics.
  • Qualitative Relevance: SLLs have ignited crucial debates concerning the boundaries of the state’s power in criminalization, particularly with respect to individual rights and liberties.

Need for Reform in SLLs

  • Diverse Substantive Issues: SLLs, like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA), suffer from ambiguous and vague definitions of offenses, raising concerns about their application to civil or regulatory wrongs.
  • Procedural Challenges: SLLs have diluted universally accepted due process values, with examples like expanded search and seizure powers under the UAPA and admissibility of police-recorded confessions under the MCOCA.
  • Bail Hurdles: Stringent provisions under SLLs, such as Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA and Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, make securing bail nearly impossible.

Shift from Complete Codification

  • IPC’s Original Vision: The Indian Penal Code (IPC), enacted in 1860, aimed to comprehensively codify all criminal laws, inspired by Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a “Pannomion”—a single, comprehensive collection of rules.
  • Changing Landscape: Over time, there has been a shift towards enacting and applying SLLs, which has deviated from the original concept of complete codification.
  • Unsuccessful Aspects: While the IPC faces criticism for its archaic morality and colonial roots, it is essential to acknowledge its success in codifying penal laws.

Addressing the Limitation: A Second Generation of Reforms

  • Incorporating SLLs: All SLLs that criminalize or seek to criminalize specific conduct should be integrated as separate chapters within the larger penal code.
  • Procedural Integration: SLLs creating distinct procedures for reporting offenses, arrests, investigations, prosecutions, trials, evidence, and bail should be included either as separate procedures within the CrPC or as exceptions to its general provisions.

Conclusion

  • As India increasingly relies on Special and Local Laws for various reasons, it is vital to ensure that these laws do not overshadow the original concept of codifying penal laws, as embodied in the IPC and CrPC.
  • Failing to incorporate the substantive and procedural aspects of SLLs into ongoing reform efforts represents a significant limitation.
  • Therefore, a second generation of reforms is imperative to address these gaps and maintain the integrity of India’s criminal justice system.

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Intellectual Property Rights in India

Draft Patent Amendment Rules and Issues

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Draft Patent Amendment Rules

Mains level : Read the attached story

petent

Central Idea

  • On August 23, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade in India unveiled draft patent amendment rules.
  • These changes, if enacted, may have significant implications for pharmaceutical companies and patients, particularly in the global South.

Draft Patent Amendment Rules: Key takeaways

  • Financial Burden: A notable modification is the introduction of variable fees for filing pre-grant oppositions, potentially placing a substantial financial burden on civil society organizations and patient groups.
  • Maintainability Decision: Of particular concern is the provision granting the controller the authority to determine the maintainability of representation by individuals or civil society organizations seeking to file pre-grant oppositions.

Impact on Public Health Safeguards

  • Key Public Health Safeguard: Pre-grant opposition serves as a crucial public health safeguard against practices like patent evergreening and the granting of unwarranted monopolies. It ensures continued accessibility to quality-assured and affordable generic medicines.
  • Lobbying for Weakened Safeguards: The draft amendment rules have raised concerns that they may undermine these safeguards and potentially extend patent protection on frivolous grounds. Big pharmaceutical companies have long lobbied to remove critical safeguards from India’s patent laws.

Critiques and Concerns

  • Lack of Rational Basis: Critics argue that the rules’ provision for controller-determined maintainability lacks a rational basis and may create more problems. Without clear guidelines, decisions on the eligibility of pre-grant opposition filers could become arbitrary.
  • Favouring Corporations: Some believe that the government is aligning with pharmaceutical companies’ interests, as these corporations often seek to limit pre-grant opposition.
  • Unique Provision at Risk: Pre-grant opposition, an exceptional provision within the Indian Patent Act, has been crucial in protecting public health interests. Weakening this provision could have dire consequences for patients and the generic drug industry.

Precedents of Successful Opposition

  • Past Precedents: Pre-grant opposition filed by patient groups and civil society organizations has led to the rejection of patent extensions pursued by pharmaceutical companies based on weak claims of “novel invention.”
  • Notable Instances: Examples include opposition to patents for drugs like Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), Nevirapine, Glivec (imatinib mesylate), Zidovudine/Lamivudine (HIV medicines), and Lopinavir/Ritonavir (HIV medicines).

Potential Ramifications

  • Global Implications: The proposed changes could disproportionately impact patients in India and the global South, who heavily rely on India’s production of affordable generic drugs and vaccines.
  • Threat to Access: Weakening pre-grant opposition may impede access to essential medicines, putting patients at risk and affecting the generic drug industry.
  • Concerns Raised: Experts emphasize that any erosion of this provision within the Indian Patent Act would be a significant change, jeopardizing patients’ ability to access affordable medications and enabling pharmaceutical corporations to exert greater control over the market.

Conclusion

  • The draft patent amendment rules have sparked concerns that they may undermine essential safeguards, potentially benefiting pharmaceutical giants while posing a threat to patients’ access to affordable medicines.
  • The pivotal role of pre-grant opposition in safeguarding public health interests is at risk, raising questions about the impact on patients in India and beyond.

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Electoral Reforms In India

Delimitation Debate: Gender vs. Regional Caste Identities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delimitation Commission

Mains level : Read the attached story

Delimitation

Central Idea

  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2023, also known as the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, has successfully passed in the Lok Sabha.
  • This bill aims to provide 33% reservation for women in both the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, marking a significant milestone in Indian politics.

What is Delimitation?

  • Objective: Delimitation aims to redraw constituency boundaries to maintain equal population representation in Assembly and Lok Sabha seats.
  • Changing Constituencies: Delimitation may result in the alteration of constituency limits and, in some cases, the number of seats in a state.

Delimitation Process and Commission

  • Independent Delimitation Commission: Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC) constituted by the Union government.
  • Terms of Reference: The DC determines the number and boundaries of constituencies, ensuring population equality and identifying reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Implementation: The draft proposals are published for public feedback, followed by public sittings to consider objections and suggestions. The final order is published in official gazettes.

Historical Context of Delimitation

  • Early Delimitation Exercises: The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was conducted by the President. Subsequently, the responsibility was shifted to independent Delimitation Commissions.
  • Frequency of Delimitation: Delimitation has been carried out four times, in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002, based on the Acts enacted in respective years.

Postponement of Delimitation until 2026

  • Frozen Seats: Delimitation was postponed after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses, freezing the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies.
  • Justification for Postponement: An amendment further delayed delimitation until 2026, with the rationale that uniform population growth would be achieved throughout the country by that time.
  • The Last Delimitation: The most recent delimitation exercise, based on the 2001 Census, focused on adjusting boundaries of existing seats and reworking the number of reserved seats.

Reservation Contingent on Delimitation

  • Impending Change: Despite the Lok Sabha’s approval, the implementation of the 33% women’s reservation is not immediate. It hinges on two key processes: a delimitation exercise and a Census.
  • Delimitation Explained: Delimitation involves redrawing Parliamentary and Assembly constituency boundaries to ensure equitable representation based on the latest population data.
  • 2021 Census Impact: The 2021 Census, once conducted, will serve as the basis for the delimitation exercise, resulting in an increase in the number of constituencies. Of these, 33% will be reserved for women in future elections.

Delimitation: Why It’s Necessary

  • Equitable Representation: Delimitation is essential to ensure that every citizen’s vote carries equal weight, aligning the number of constituencies with population changes.
  • Preventing Gerrymandering: It also safeguards against gerrymandering, the manipulation of seat boundaries to favor one political party.
  • Constitutional Mandate: The Constitution mandates delimitation after each Census to reallocate seats in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.

Political Complexity of Delimitation

  • Population Dynamics: Delimitation has significant political implications, particularly regarding the redistribution of seats among states.
  • Concerns of States: Population control efforts influenced seat allocation, creating concerns for states with varying levels of population control.
  • Freeze on Seat Numbers: Political concerns led to a freeze on the number of seats in Parliament and Assemblies until 2026, extending family planning efforts.

Gender vs. Regional Identities

  • Dual Shifts: The upcoming delimitation will bring two significant shifts: from southern to northern and eastern states and from male to female representation.
  • Women’s Empowerment: While concerns over diminishing state influence may arise, national consensus on women’s empowerment prevails.
  • Population Skew: Northern states may gain more seats, while southern states could lose representation due to varying population growth rates.
  • Impact on OBC Politics: Autonomous OBC politics in Hindi heartland states could weaken as the focus shifts to gender representation.
  • BJP’s Strategy: The BJP seeks to strengthen its social base by championing women’s empowerment alongside its Hindutva and pan-national identity politics.
  • Complex Landscape: Gender representation introduces an additional layer to the uni-dimensional politics of caste and regional identities, reshaping the political landscape.

Conclusion

  • The interplay between delimitation, gender reservation, and regional caste identities poses complex challenges in Indian politics.
  • Striking a balance between these dynamics will shape the future of representation and governance in the country.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Women’s Reservation Bill: A Long Road Ahead

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Women's Reservation Bill

Mains level : Read the attached story

women's reservation bill

Central Idea

  • The Indian government introduced The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, aimed at providing 33% reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies.
  • However, this endeavor is not new, dating back to the mid-1990s.

Women’s Reservation Bill: Overview

  • Reservation Provisions: The Bill proposes to reserve one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies for women, including those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Constitutional Amendments: Similar to a previous Bill from 2010, this one introduces new articles (330A and 332A) in the Constitution to effect these changes.
  • Sunset Clause: The Bill includes a sunset clause, stipulating that the reservation will be applicable for 15 years from the Act’s commencement.

Discourse on Women’s Reservation

  • Pre-Independence Demands: The discussion on women’s reservation dates back to the pre-Independence era, where various women’s organizations advocated for women’s political representation.
  • Recommendations: Several recommendations and reports, such as the 1955 committee’s proposal for 10% reservation in Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies, set the stage.
  • National Perspective Plan: The National Perspective Plan for Women in 1988 called for 30% reservation in all elected bodies.
  • Panchayati Raj Act (1993): A significant step was the amendment of the Panchayati Raj Act in 1993, reserving 33% of seats in local government bodies for women.
  • Rajya Sabha Approval (2010): The Women’s Reservation Bill, introduced in 1996, finally gained momentum and was approved by the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010.

Practical obstacles in Implementation

(a) Delimitation Process Dependency:

  • Crucial Condition: The Bill links the implementation of women’s reservation to the delimitation process, which could significantly delay its enactment.
  • Impact of Census: Delimitation would occur after the publication of Census results, with the 2021 Census delay potentially affecting the timeline. Assuming the Census results are published after 2026, this could serve as the basis for delimitation of constituencies.
  • Operational Timeline: Given the current circumstances, women’s reservation might not be effective in the Lok Sabha until the general elections of 2029.

(b) Seat Identification Uncertainty:

  • Lack of Specifics: The Bill does not specify how the reserved seats will be identified, leaving this crucial aspect to be addressed by a separate law. Past proposals suggested rotation and a draw of lots method to determine reserved seats, but the government’s exact approach remains unclear.

(c) Current Seat Reservation Process

  • SCs and STs: The Delimitation Act, 2002, lays down principles for reserving seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes based on population distribution.

(d) Constitutional Amendments Required:

  • Amendment Necessity: To operationalize the women’s reservation scheme, amendments to Articles 82 and 170(3) of the Constitution are essential.
  • Impact on Panchayati Raj: While reservation for women exists in Panchayati Raj institutions, it operates under Article 243D and has achieved significant representation in several states. According to government data as of September 8, 2021, in at least 18 states, the percentage of women elected representatives in Panchayati Raj institutions was more than 50%.

Challenges to Female Representation

  • Party Ticket Allocation: Despite pledges in party constitutions, records show that women candidates receive disproportionately fewer party tickets, often relying on family political connections.
  • Perceived Electability: The belief that women candidates are less likely to win elections hampers their ticket allocation.
  • Structural Barriers: Demanding and time-consuming election campaigns, coupled with family responsibilities, deter many women from active participation.
  • Vulnerability: Women politicians face humiliation, abuse, and threats, making participation even more challenging.
  • Financial Constraints: High campaign costs, limited financial independence, and lack of party support create hurdles for women candidates.
  • Internalized Patriarchy: Many women prioritize family and household duties over political ambitions due to ingrained patriarchal norms.

Significance of Women’s Participation in Lawmaking

  • Political Empowerment: Legislative representation empowers women to participate in lawmaking and hold the government accountable.
  • Gender Parity Indicator: Women’s presence in national parliaments reflects gender equality progress in politics.
  • Unique Skills: Women bring diverse skills to politics, serve as role models, and advocate for gender justice.
  • Advocating Women’s Interests: Female politicians represent women’s interests in state policies, bridging the gap between representation and participation.
  • Efficiency and Integrity: Studies show that women legislators excel economically, exhibit lower criminality and corruption rates, and are more effective and less susceptible to political opportunism.

Need for such Reservation

  • Ensuring Representation: Reservation guarantees women’s presence in decision-making bodies, addressing underrepresentation.
  • Encouraging Entry: Reservation encourages women to enter politics, contest elections, and engage in the political process.
  • Capacity Building: Participation in legislative processes enhances women’s political capacity, nurturing effective leaders.
  • Changing Perceptions: Reservation shifts societal attitudes toward women in politics, challenging stereotypes and promoting participation.
  • Promoting Gender-Sensitive Policies: Women politicians advocate for gender-sensitive policies addressing issues like violence against women and discrimination.

Conclusion

  • Pressing Need: The Women’s Reservation Bill is long overdue, with women waiting for their rightful place in governance and nation-building.
  • Untapped Potential: Women’s leadership qualities are undeniable, and their participation is essential for India’s progress.
  • Call for Action: As India aspires to be a global leader, it must prioritize women’s political empowerment and pass the Women’s Reservation Bill without further delay.

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Electoral Reforms In India

Reforms and Concerns: The CEC and Other EC Bill, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CEC and Other ECs Bill, 2023

Mains level : Read the attached story

cec bill

Central Idea

  • After being passed in the Rajya Sabha on August 10, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023, has now moved to the Lok Sabha for approval.

CEC and Other EC Bill, 2023

  • Objective: To amend constitutional provisions that currently equate Election Commissioners with Supreme Court judges, as well as addressing recent judicial rulings.

Key Provisions of the Bill

  • Salary and Service Conditions: The Bill proposes to align the salary, allowances, and service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners with those of a Cabinet Secretary.
  • Repealing the 1991 Act: The Bill’s passage would lead to the repeal of the Election Commission Act of 1991, where Election Commissioners enjoyed parity with Supreme Court judges in terms of remuneration.
  • Potential Impact: While the stipulated salaries for Supreme Court judges and Cabinet Secretaries are similar, Supreme Court judges receive additional post-retirement benefits, raising concerns about the increased bureaucracy’s potential impact on the authority and independence of Election Commissioners.

Challenges to Independence

  • Shifting Authority: The Election Commission’s primary role involves overseeing, directing, and controlling elections, as defined in Article 324 of the Constitution. Concerns arise that this control may shift if Election Commissioners, now equivalent in rank to Cabinet Secretaries, attempt to discipline Union Ministers for electoral violations.
  • Current Status: Presently, when commissioners summon government officials, their orders are perceived as carrying the authority of a Supreme Court Judge, a status that may change if they are seen as equals to Cabinet Secretaries.

Preserving Independence and Equivalence to SC Judges

  • Constitutional Safeguards: Article 324 (5) of the Constitution specifies that a CEC can only be removed in a manner similar to that of a Supreme Court judge, safeguarding the independence and equivalence of Election Commissioners to Supreme Court judges.
  • Previous SC Ruling: The Bill also seeks to constitute a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM to select Election Commission members. Notably, this committee excludes the CJI, in contrast to a top court ruling from March 2023.

Background: The SC Ruling

  • Committee Formation: In March 2023, a five-judge Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled that a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) should select the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • Founding Principles: The ruling emphasized that India’s founding fathers did not intend for the executive to exclusively dictate appointments to the Election Commission, striving for a more balanced selection process.
  • PIL Origins: The case originated from a PIL filed in 2015, challenging the constitutionality of the President appointing ECI members based on the PM’s advice.

Impact on the 1991 Act

  • Bill’s Amendment: The Bill aims to repeal the 1991 Act, which previously ensured that the CEC and ECs received salaries equivalent to Supreme Court judges.
  • Revised Equality: Section 10 of the Bill specifies that the salary, allowances, and service conditions of the CEC and ECs will match those of the Cabinet Secretary, marking a departure from the 1991 Act’s provisions.

Various Concerns Raised

  • Autonomy of the Election Commission: Concerns exist due to the selection panel’s composition, which includes a Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister instead of the CJI.
  • Unanimous Decisions: Suggestions for unanimous committee decisions aim to address one-sided decision-making concerns.
  • Constitutional Validity: Critics argue the Bill violates democratic principles.
  • Conflicting SC Judgment: The Bill diverges from the Supreme Court’s ruling on the importance of an independent committee in selecting Election Commissioners.
  • Past Electoral Integrity: Some believe Indian elections have been generally fair despite government involvement in Election Commissioner appointments.
  • Consistency in Decision-Making: Concerns have been raised about the Commission’s decision consistency regarding Model Code of Conduct violations.
  • Timing of Election Announcements: Questions surround election announcement timing in relation to government programs, raising concerns about political influence.

Conclusion

  • Balancing Reforms: The Bill reflects efforts to reform election administration but raises concerns about preserving the Election Commission’s independence and its equivalence to Supreme Court judges.
  • Evolution of Selection Process: The ongoing debate highlights the evolving process of selecting Election Commissioners, aiming to ensure fair and transparent appointments while safeguarding the institution’s autonomy.

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Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023 on False Promise of Marriage

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : False Promise of Marriage

Central Idea

  • The proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, seeks to address a specific issue concerning sexual relationships based on false promises of marriage.
  • Section 69 of this Bill introduces significant changes in this regard.

Section 69 of BNS – Sexual Intercourse on False Promise of Marriage

  • Creation of Two Offenses: Section 69 within Chapter 5 of the BNS, titled “Offences against Women and Children,” defines ‘sexual intercourse by employing deceitful means etc.’ and includes two violations: one by deceitful means and one by a ‘false promise to marry.’
  • Deceitful Means: The first violation involves employing deceitful means, such as a false promise of employment, promotion, or marriage, with the intent to induce sexual relations. If a person uses such means, they could face penalties of up to ten years of imprisonment.
  • False Promise to Marry: The second violation pertains to making a false promise to marry a woman with the intention of breaking that promise, solely to obtain her consent and exploit her sexually. This offense is also subject to a penalty of up to ten years of imprisonment.

Why Section 69 Is Introduced?

  • Historical Context: In the absence of a specific provision, cases of sexual intercourse based on false promises of marriage were previously addressed using other sections of criminal law, causing ambiguity.
  • Prevalence of Cases: Cases of sex under the “false promise of marriage” had been reported frequently, with victims often unable to seek legal remedy effectively.
  • Legal Ambiguity: The existing legal framework did not clearly distinguish between a ‘false promise’ and a ‘breach’ of promise to marry, creating complications in determining consent and intention.

Courts’ Handling of ‘False Promise of Marriage’ Cases

  • Judicial Interpretation: Courts had traditionally relied on existing laws like Sections 375 and 90 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to address such cases.
  • Consent Examination: Section 375 defines consent as an unequivocal voluntary agreement, and Section 90 considers consent given under “misconception of fact.” Courts examined cases based on these provisions.
  • Distinguishing Factors: Courts differentiated between a ‘false promise’ made with the intent to deceive and a ‘breach’ of promise made in good faith but not fulfilled.
  • Crucial Judgments: The Supreme Court’s judgment in ‘Pramod Suryabhan Pawar vs. State of Maharashtra’ (2019) highlighted the importance of the promise-maker’s intent to deceive. Another significant case, ‘Dileep Singh vs. State of Bihar,’ underscored the need for establishing a lack of intention to marry for the offense to be considered rape.

Implications and Critiques of Section 69

  • Endogamy Promotion: Critics argue that Section 69 may promote endogamy by shifting the focus from real harm and abuse to whether the man intended to marry, disregarding the complex social context in which such relationships occur.
  • Ambiguity and Discretion: The Bill’s vagueness and discretionary nature could perpetuate uncertainty and reliance on gender norms, potentially re-victimizing women.
  • Cycle of Consequences: While the Bill specifies the consequences of the crime, it may overlook the harm suffered by women, contributing to a cycle where justice remains elusive.

Conclusion

  • Section 69 of the proposed BNS, 2023, addresses a crucial issue related to sexual relationships based on false promises of marriage.
  • However, the Bill’s implementation and interpretation will require careful scrutiny to ensure justice is served without perpetuating harmful gender norms or social biases, as indicated by crucial judgments in relevant cases.

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e-Commerce: The New Boom

India’s Draft Guidelines on Dark Patterns

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dark patterns advertising

Mains level : Read the attached story

dark patterns

Central Idea

  • The Indian government has invited public feedback on draft guidelines aimed at preventing and regulating “dark patterns” on the internet, particularly within e-commerce platforms.
  • These guidelines target deceptive tactics such as false urgency, basket sneaking, confirm shaming, forced action, subscription traps, and other manipulative practices.

Understanding Dark Patterns

  • The draft guidelines define dark patterns as deceptive design practices that utilize user interface and user experience interactions on any platform.
  • These practices are designed to mislead or trick users into actions they did not initially intend or want to take.
  • Dark patterns undermine consumer autonomy, decision-making, and choice, potentially constituting misleading advertising, unfair trade practices, or violations of consumer rights.

Types of Dark Patterns

  • False urgency” involves falsely conveying or implying a sense of urgency to users.
  • Basket sneaking” entails adding additional items to a user’s cart during the checkout process without their consent.
  • Confirm shaming” uses phrases, videos, audio, or other means to evoke fear, shame, ridicule, or guilt in users.
  • Forced action” compels users to take actions that necessitate purchasing additional goods.
  • Subscription trap” makes it nearly impossible or overly complex for users to cancel paid subscriptions.
  • Interface interference” manipulates the user interface for deceptive purposes.
  • Bait and switch” advertises a specific outcome based on user actions.
  • Drip pricing” conceals elements of prices until later in the transaction.
  • Disguised advertisement” and “nagging” are also defined in the guidelines.

Scope of Application

  • The Ministry states that these guidelines will apply to all individuals and online platforms, including sellers and advertisers.

Challenges in Enforcement

  • Legal experts appreciate the introduction of the draft guidelines but raises concerns about enforcement.
  • They highlight the challenge of conclusively proving whether certain practices qualify as dark patterns.
  • Famous is the example of the “false category” and the difficulty regulators may face in determining if claims like “only 2 rooms remaining – book now!” are genuinely accurate or misleading due to a lack of context.
  • Some categories of dark patterns, such as e-retail sites adding items to users’ carts without their consent, are seen as easier to regulate, while others like “disguised advertisements” may require further clarification.

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