Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

AERA Bill, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : AERA Act

In the recent monsoon session, Parliament passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Key features of the AERA Bill, 2021

  • It seeks to amend the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.
  • The 2008 Act established the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).
  • AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (such as airport development fees) for aeronautical services rendered at major airports in India.
  • The 2008 Act designates an airport as a major airport if it has an annual passenger traffic of at least 35 lakh.
  • The central government may also designate any airport as a major airport by a notification.
  • The Bill adds that the central government may group airports and notify the group as a major airport.

Why has the definition of a major airport been amended?

  • The Amendment has changed the definition of a major airport to include “a group of airports” after the words “any other airport”.
  • The government hopes the move will encourage the development of smaller airports and make bidding for airports with less passenger traffic attractive.
  • It plans to club profitable airports with non-profitable ones and offer them as a package for development in public-private partnership mode to expand connectivity.

Was there a need to amend the AERA Act?

  • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) awarded six airports — Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati — for operations, management and development in public-private partnership mode in February 2019.
  • In 2020 too, the AAI has approved leasing of another six airports — Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Amritsar, Raipur, Indore and Tiruchi.
  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation plans to club each of these airports with nearby smaller airports for joint development.
  • The move follows FM’s Budget Speech this year, in which she said the government planned to monetize airports in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

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Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tribunals Reforms Bill

Mains level : Not Much

The Lok Sabha has hastily passed the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 without any debate.

Highlights of the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021

The Bill seeks to dissolve certain existing appellate bodies and transfer their functions (such as adjudication of appeals) to other existing judicial bodies:

Transfer of functions of key appellate bodies as proposed under the Bill:

Acts

Appellate Body

Proposed Entity

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 Appellate Tribunal High Court
The Trade Marks Act, 1999 Appellate Board High Court
The Copyright Act, 1957 Appellate Board Commercial Court or the Commercial Division of a High Court*
The Customs Act, 1962 Authority for Advance Rulings High Court
The Patents Act, 1970 Appellate Board High Court
The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994 Airport Appellate Tribunal
  • Central government, for disputes arising from the disposal of properties left on airport premises by unauthorised occupants.
  • High Court, for appeals against orders of an eviction officer.
The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002 Airport Appellate Tribunal Civil Court#
The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 Appellate Board High Court

 

Amendments to the Finance Act, 2017:

  • The Finance Act, 2017 merged tribunals based on domain.
  • It also empowered the central government to notify rules on: (i) composition of search-cum-selection committees, (ii) qualifications of tribunal members, and (iii) their terms and conditions of service (such as their removal and salaries).
  • The Bill removes these provisions from the Finance Act, 2017.
  • Provisions on the composition of selection committees and term of office have been included in the Bill. Qualification of members and other terms and conditions of service will be notified by the central government.

Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

Draft Drone Rules, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Draft Drone Rules, 2021

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released Draft Drone Rules, 2021, for public consultation. The rules will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021.

Highlights of the Draft Drone Rules 2021

Number of forms: The rules propose to reduce the number of forms required for manufacturing, importing, testing, certifying and operating drones in India from 25 to six.

Abolishing authorization number: The draft seeks to abolish the unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, and certificate of conformance that were previously required for approval of drone flights.

Digital Sky Platform: Digital Sky, a platform launched by the government in December 2018, will become a single-window system for all approvals under the newly proposed rules.

Airspace map: An airspace map segregating the entire landmass of India into Green, Yellow and Red zones will be published on the platform within 30 days of notification of the new rules, the government said. The map will also be machine-readable through an Application Programming Interface (API) for easier plotting of drone flight paths.

Airport Perimeter: The draft rules reduced the airport perimeter from 45 km to 12 km. The rules state that no flight permissions would be required to fly up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.

Drone corridors: The government will also publish a policy framework for Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) within 60 days of notifying the rules. This will also include frameworks for developing “drone corridors” for the safe transfer of goods by drones.

Drone Promotion Council: The Rules also propose the setting up of a Drone Promotion Council, with the aim of facilitating a business-friendly regulatory regime for drones in India, the establishment of incubators for developing drone technologies and organizing competitive events to showcase drones and counter-drone solutions.

Others: To implement safety features such as “no permission, no take-off”, real-time tracking and geofencing, drone manufacturers, importers and operators will get six months’ time to comply from the date of notification of the rules.

Human Rights Issues

Draft Anti-trafficking Bill 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Draft Anti-trafficking Bill 2021

The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has invited suggestions and comments for its Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 which it has released.

A re-attempted legislation

  • A previous draft had been introduced in 2018 and had been passed by Lok Sabha despite stiff opposition from both parliamentarians as well as experts.
  • It was later never introduced in Rajya Sabha.
  • Experts say that nearly all the concerns raised in 2018 have been addressed in this new draft Bill.

Draft Anti-trafficking Bill 2021

The Bill has increased the scope of the nature of offences of trafficking as well as the kind of victims of these offences, with stringent penalties including life imprisonment, and even the death penalty in cases of an extreme nature.

Types of offenders

  • The scope of the Bill vis offenders will also include defence personnel and government servants, doctors and paramedical staff or anyone in a position of authority.

Penalty

  • In most cases of child trafficking, especially in the case of the trafficking of more than one child, the penalty is now life imprisonment.
  • While the penalty will hold a minimum of seven years which can go up to an imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh.
  • In certain cases, even the death penalty can be sought.

Definition of exploitation

  • Exploitation has been defined to include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation including pornography.
  • It also includes any act of physical exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or forced removal of organs, illegal clinical drug trials or illegal bio-medical research.

Victims covered

  • The Bill also extends beyond the protection of women and children as victims to now include transgenders as well as any person who may be a victim of trafficking.
  • It also does away with the provision that a victim necessarily needs to be transported from one place to another to be defined as a victim.

Investigation Agency

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for the prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.

Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

What govt proposes to change in film certification

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Censorship of movies

The Centre has recently released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 to the general public for comments.

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021

  • The new draft proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with some provisions.
  • It seeks to give the Centre “revisionary powers” and enable it to “re-examine” films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

A look at what the draft proposes to change:

(a) Revision of certification

  • This will equip the Centre with revisionary powers on account of violation of Section 5B(1) (principles for guidance in certifying films).
  • The current Act, in Section 6, already equips the Centre to call for records of proceedings in relation to a film’s certification.
  • The Ministry of I&B explained that the proposed revision “means that the Central Government, if the situation so warranted, has the power to reverse the decision of the Board”.
  • Currently, because of a judgment by the Karnataka High Court, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in November 2020, the Centre cannot use its revisionary powers on films that have already been granted a certificate by the CBFC.

Issues

  • The draft comes shortly after the abolition of the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal, which was the last point of appeal for filmmakers against the certificate granted to their film.
  • The draft has been criticized by filmmakers and term it a “super censor”.

(b) Age-based certification

  • The draft proposes to introduce age-based categorisation and classification. Currently, films are certified into three categories — ‘U’ for unrestricted public exhibition; ‘U/A’ that requires parental guidance for children under 12; and ‘A’ for adult films.
  • The new draft proposes to divide the categories into further age-based groups: U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+.
  • This proposed age classification for films echoes the new IT rules for streaming platforms.

(c) Provision against piracy

  • The Ministry noted that at present, there are no enabling provisions to check film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • The draft proposes to add Section 6AA that will prohibit unauthorized recording.
  • The proposed section states, no person shall, without the written authorization of the author, be permitted to make an audio-visual recording device.
  • Violation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than three months and may extend to three years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh which may extend to 5 per cent of the audited gross production cost or with both.

(d) Eternal certificate

  • The draft proposes to certify films for perpetuity.
  • Currently, a certificate issued by the CBFC is valid only for 10 years.

Important Judgements In News

Enforcing COVID-19 rules is State’s responsibility: ECI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Disaster Management Act

Mains level : Paper 2- Powers of Election Commission

What prompted ECI to give clarification

  • In its oral observations, the Madras High Court blamed the ECI for the second wave of COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
  • The Madras High Court said the ECI was unable to ensure political parties followed the rules while campaigning for the Assembly elections.

What the ECI said

  • The ECI said that the enforcement under the 2005 Act has to be ensured by the SDMA [State Disaster Management Authority] concerned and notified authorities under the Act.
  • The Commission has always emphasised that the State authorities shall ensure COVID-19 compliance in the matter of public gatherings, etc. for campaign purposes.
  • At no occasion, the Commission takes over the task of SDMA for enforcement of COVID-19 instructions.

J&K – The issues around the state

Task force in J&K under Article 311 to act against govt staff without probe

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 311

Mains level : Paper 2- Article 311 (2) C

Why the task force

  • The Jammu and Kashmir administration has set up a Special Task Force (STF) to initiate action against government employees suspected of activities against security of the State.
  • The order has been passed under provisions of Article 311(2) (C) of the Constitution.
  • The STF would be headed by the J&K Additional Director General of Police, CID, and include Inspectors General of Police, Kashmir and Jammu, a representative of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and a representative of the department the employee belongs to.

What are the provisions under Article 311 (2) C

  • Article 311(2) says no government employee shall be dismissed or removed or “reduced in rank” except after an inquiry.
  • However, its sub-section C says this clause will not apply “where the President or the Governor, as the case may be, is satisfied that in the interest of the security of the State, it is not expedient to hold such inquiry”.

Coal and Mining Sector

Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MMDR Amendment Bill, 2021

Mains level : Mining sector reforms

The coal and Mines Minister has introduced the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha to streamline the renewal of the auction process for minerals and coal mining rights.

MMDR Amendment Bill, 2021

The Bill seeks to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.  The Act regulates the mining sector in India.

(1) Removal of restriction on end-use of minerals

  • The Act empowers the central government to reserve any mine (other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals) to be leased through an auction for a particular end-use (such as iron ore mine for a steel plant).
  • Such mines are known as captive mines.  The Bill provides that no mine will be reserved for particular end-use.

(2) Sale of minerals by captive mines  

  • The Bill provides that captive mines (other than atomic minerals) may sell up to 50% of their annual mineral production in the open market after meeting their own needs.
  • The central government may increase this threshold through a notification.  The lessee will have to pay additional charges for mineral sold in the open market.

(3) Auction by the central government in certain cases

  • Under the Act, states conduct the auction of mineral concessions (other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals).
  • Mineral concessions include mining lease and prospecting license-cum-mining lease.
  • The Bill empowers the central government to specify a time period for completion of the auction process in consultation with the state government.
  • If the state government is unable to complete the auction process within this period, the auctions may be conducted by the central government.

(4) Transfer of statutory clearances

  • Upon expiry of a mining lease (other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals), mines are leased to new persons through auction.
  • The statutory clearances issued to the previous lessee are transferred to the new lessee for a period of two years.
  • The new lessee is required to obtain fresh clearances within these two years.
  • The Bill replaces this provision and instead provides that transferred statutory clearances will be valid throughout the lease period of the new lessee.

(5) Allocation of mines with expired leases

  • The Bill adds that mines (other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals), whose lease has expired, may be allocated to a government company in certain cases.
  • This will be applicable if the auction process for granting a new lease has not been completed, or the new lease has been terminated within a year of the auction.
  • The state government may grant a lease for such a mine to a government company for a period of up to 10 years or until the selection of a new lessee, whichever is earlier.

(6) Rights of certain existing concession holders

  • In 2015, the Act was amended to provide that mines will be leased through an auction process.
  • Existing concession holders and applicants have been provided with certain rights.
  • The Bill provides that the right to obtain a prospecting license or a mining lease will lapse on the date of commencement of the 2021 Amendment Act.
  • Such persons will be reimbursed for any expenditure incurred towards reconnaissance or prospecting operations.

(7) Extension of leases to government companies

  • The Act provides that the period of mining leases granted to government companies will be prescribed by the central government.
  • The Bill provides that the period of mining leases of government companies (other than leases granted through auction) may be extended on payment of additional amount prescribed in the Bill.

(8) Conditions for lapse of mining lease

  • The Act provides that a mining lease will lapse if the lessee: (i) is not able to start mining operations within two years of the grant of a lease, or (ii) has discontinued mining operations for a period of two years.
  • However, the lease will not lapse at the end of this period if a concession is provided by the state government upon an application by the lessee.
  • The Bill adds that the threshold period for lapse of the lease may be extended by the state government only once and up to one year.

(9) Non-exclusive reconnaissance permit

  • The Act provides for a non-exclusive reconnaissance permit (for minerals other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals).
  • Reconnaissance means preliminary prospecting of a mineral through certain surveys.
  • The Bill removes the provision for this permit.

Why such a move?

  • The move would likely lead to greater transparency in the auction process.
  • There is a perception that states governments may in some cases prefer some bidders, and try to delay or cancel mining rights if their preferred bidders do not win mining rights.

Could the amendment face legal challenges?

  • The amendment, if passed, was likely to face legal challenges particularly from state governments.
  • If an act is passed in which any state government’s discretionary power is taken away or their rights or benefits are infringed, it is likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court.

(With inputs from PRS)

Port Infrastructure and Shipping Industry – Sagarmala Project, SDC, CEZ, etc.

Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various ports in India

Mains level : Corporatization of ports

Rajya Sabha has passed the Major Ports Authorities Bill 2020 with 88 votes for and 44 against it. The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha in September last year.

Major Ports Authorities Bill 2020: Major: Highlights

  • The Bill provides for the regulation of major ports and will replace the Major Port Trusts Act of 1963, and a board of Major Port Authority for each major port will replace the current port trusts.
  • The Bill will apply to the major ports of Chennai, Cochin, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Kandla, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Paradip, VO Chidambaranar and Vishakhapatnam.

Boards to replace trusts

  • Under the 1963 Act, all major ports are managed by the respective Board of Port Trusts that have members appointed by the central government.
  • The Bill provides for the creation of a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port.
  • These Boards will replace the existing Port Trusts.
  • It will have a member each from the state governments, the Railways Ministry, the defence ministry, and the customs department.
  • The Bill allows the Board to use its property, assets and funds as deemed fit for the development of the major port.

Board has financial powers

  • Under the 1963 Act, the Board had to seek the prior sanction of the Centre to raise any loan.
  • Under the new Bill, to meet its capital and working expenditure requirements, the Board may raise loans from any scheduled bank or financial institution within India, or any financial institution outside India.
  • However, for loans above 50% of its capital reserves, the Board will require prior sanction of the central government.

The board will fix rates

  • At present, the Tariff Authority for Major Ports fixes the scale of rates for assets and services available at ports.
  • Under the bill, which now awaits President’s accent to become a law, the Board or committees appointed by the Board will determine these rates for services that will be performed at ports.
  • The services would include the access to and usage of the port assets, and different classes of goods and vessels, among others.

Punishments

  • Under the 1963 Act, there are various penalties for contravening provisions of the Act.
  • The penalty for setting up any structures on the harbours without permission, for example, may extend up to Rs 10,000, and the penalty for evading rates may extend up to 10 times the rates.
  • Under the new Bill, any person contravening any provision of the Bill or any rules or regulations will be punished with a fine of up to Rs one lakh.

Opposition criticism

  • Opposition parties had opposed the legislation terming it the move to privatize ports.
  • They said that this Bill is nothing but a retraction of the Singapore model.
  • When there were hue and cry that there cannot be the privatization of ports, it adopted a policy of so-called corporatization. Thereafter, it ultimately privatized its ports.
  • So, corporatization is the first step. The next in the offing is privatization said the opposition.

What did the govt. say?

  • The government has brought in a provision that will allow ports to take their own decisions. To change tariffs, the ports have to now approach the ministry.
  • The port sector in the last six years has doubled the profit. Profit has increased, liabilities have come down. For modernization, 300 projects are ongoing.
  • This Bill is not to privatize any port, but it is to ensure that our ports can properly compete with private ports.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Centre’s new labour codes to allow 4-day work per week

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various labour laws

Mains level : 4-day work and its benefits

The Centre under its new labour codes would soon provide an option for organisations to allow their employees to work for four days in a week.

What is the news?

  • The proposed new labour codes could provide companies with the flexibility of four working days in a week.

What does this mean?

  • The working hour’s limit of 48 hours for a week will remain unchanged.
  • This implies that there will be long working hours if the working days are reduced.
  • Having a reduced number of working days does not mean a cut in paid holidays.
  • Therefore, when the new rules will provide the flexibility of four working days, it would imply three paid holidays.

Roll out of the proposal

  • The Ministry of Labour and Employment is likely to complete the process to finalise the rules for four labour codes soon.
  • The provision of flexibility to have reduced working days of four days in the labour code rules will mean that companies will not require prior government nod to enact it.

Why such a move?

  • The well-being of employees improves with less workload. Working parents can spare more time for the childcare.
  • It helps the economy and the environment since power and fuel consumption is reduced.

Ahead of Labour reforms

  • The ministry is in the final phase of amalgamating 44 central labour laws into four broad codes.
  • The four Codes include- Code on Wages, Industrial Relations, Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) and Social Security Codes.

 

Back in news: DNA Bill, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Details of the bill

Mains level : DNA profiling and privacy concerns

Noted Parliamentarians have filed a dissent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report on DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2019.

Q. A statutory protection for private data is necessary for the enforcement of DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019. Critically analyse.

What is the news?

  • The finalized Draft Report recognizes the potential dangers of indexing the DNA profiles of non- convicts, especially convicts and suspects, it has still retained these objectionable provisions.
  • These MPs have claimed that the Bill does not take into account public concerns over privacy violations and targets Dalit, Muslims and Adivasis by way of DNA sample collection.
  • The fear is that the law could be used for caste or community-based profiling.

Other issues

  • The bill would not be a panacea to the problems of an inadequate criminal justice system, the MPs stressed.
  • He flagged the example of the United Kingdom, where the number of crimes solved by DNA evidence had been reducing even though the number of profiles in the system was going up.

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019

  • The primary intended purpose for the enactment of the bill is for expanding the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
  • The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and identifying missing persons, is well recognized across the world.
  • Other aims include Speedier justice delivery and an Increased conviction rate.
  • Bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons reported missing and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
  • By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
  • The Bill has two major components: the DNA databanks and the DNA Regulatory Board.

Criticisms of the Bill

Matter of Consent

  • Written consent is required from everyone for their DNA samples to be collected, processed, and included in the database except for those who have committed crimes with a punishment of 7+ years or death.
  • However, similarly, specific instruction is missing for the collection of DNA samples for civil matters.
  • Such matters include parentage disputes, emigration or immigration, and transplantation of human organs.
  • The Bill also doesn’t state that the consent has to be voluntary.

Civil Disputes

  • It is not clear if DNA samples collected to resolve civil disputes will also be stored in the databank (regional or national), although there is no index specific for the same.
  • If they will be stored, then the problem cascades because the Bill also does not provide for information, consent, and appeals.
  • If a person’s DNA data has entered the databank, there is no process specified by which they can have it removed.
  • All of these issues together could violate the right to privacy.

The authenticity of DNA Labs

  • There’s also the question of whether the DNA labs accredited by the Regulatory Board are allowed to store copies of the samples they analyze.
  • And if so, how the owners of those samples can ensure the data is safe or needs to be removed from their own indices.
  • It’s unclear if the Regulatory Board will oversee other tests performed at the accredited labs.
  • This could become necessary because, unlike one’s biometric data or PAN number, the human genome contains lots of information about every individual.

Overreaching access to identity

  • So a test undertaken to ascertain a person’s identity by analyzing her DNA will in the process also reveal a lot of other things about that person, including information about their ancestry i.e. information that the individual has a right to keep private.
  • The Bill does not specify which parts of an individual’s DNA can be analyzed to ascertain their identity.
  • The more parts are subjected to analysis, the more conclusively a person’s identity can be established.
  • But this can’t be used as a license to parse more than is necessary because then the DNA lab is also likely to reveal more information than it has the right to seek.

The way forward: Data protection

  • The bill can become oppressive without a robust data protection law.
  • Statutory protection for private data is critical because it provides a mechanism for enforcement of rights, grievance redressal, and independent oversight.
  • When the data being collected is as sensitive as DNA, it requires additional protection.

Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Redefining essential items: why it was needed, and who it will impact

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Essential Commodities

Mains level : Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Recently, the Rajya Sabha passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which is aimed at deregulating commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes.

Try this question:

What are the salient features of Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020?

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • It amends the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, by introducing a new Subsection 1(A) in Section 3.
  • After the amendment, the supply of certain foodstuffs — including cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, potato — can be regulated only under extraordinary circumstances, which include an extraordinary price rise, war, famine, and natural calamity of a severe nature.
  • In effect, the amendment takes these items out from the purview of Section 3(1), which gives powers to the central government to “control production, supply, distribution, etc, of essential commodities”.
  • Earlier, these commodities were not mentioned under Section 3(1) and reasons for invoking the section were not specified.

How is an ‘essential commodity’ defined?

  • There is no specific definition of essential commodities in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. Section 2(A) states that an “essential commodity” means a commodity specified in the Schedule of the Act.
  • The Act gives powers to the central government to add or remove a commodity in the Schedule.
  • The Centre, if it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the public interest, can notify an item as essential, in consultation with state governments.

Which are those commodities?

  • According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, which implements the Act, the Schedule at present contain seven commodities.
  • They are drugs; fertilizers, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs including edible oils; hank yarn made wholly from cotton; petroleum and petroleum products; raw jute and jute textiles; seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables, seeds of cattle fodder, jute seed, cottonseed.
  • By declaring a commodity as essential, the government can control the production, supply, and distribution of that commodity, and impose a stock limit.

Under what circumstances can the government impose stock limits?

  • While the 1955 Act did not provide a clear framework to impose stock limits, the amended Act provides for a price trigger.
  • It says that agricultural foodstuffs can only be regulated under extraordinary circumstances such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity.
  • However, any action on imposing stock limits will be based on the price trigger.
  • Thus, in case of horticultural produce, a 100% increase in the retail price of a commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or over the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower, will be the trigger for invoking the stock limit.
  • For non-perishable agricultural foodstuffs, the price trigger will be a 50% increase in the retail price of the commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or over the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.

Why was the need for this felt?

  • The 1955 Act was legislated at a time when the country was facing a scarcity of foodstuffs due to persistently low levels of foodgrains production.
  • The country was dependent on imports and assistance (such as wheat import from the US under PL-480) to feed the population.
  • To prevent hoarding and black marketing of foodstuffs, the Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955. But now the situation has changed.
  • The production of wheat has increased 10 times while the production of rice has increased more than four times since five decades.
  • The production of pulses has increased 2.5 times, from 10 million tonnes to 25 million tonnes. In fact, India has now become an exporter of several agricultural products.

What will be the impact of the amendments?

  • The key changes seek to free agricultural markets from the limitations imposed by permits and mandis that were originally designed for an era of scarcity.
  • The move is expected to attract private investment in the value chain of commodities removed from the list of essentials, such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes.
  • While the purpose of the Act was originally to check illegal trade practices such as hoarding, it has now become a hurdle for investment in the agriculture sector in general, and in post-harvesting activities in particular.
  • The private sector had so far hesitated about investing in cold chains and storage facilities for perishable items as most of these commodities were under the ambit of the EC Act.
  • The amendment seeks to address such concerns.

Why is it being opposed?

  • This was one of the three ordinances/Bills that have seen protests from farmers in parts of the country.
  • The Opposition says the amendment will hurt farmers and consumers, and will only benefit hoarders.
  • They say the price triggers envisioned in the Bill are unrealistic — so high that they will hardly ever be invoked.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

New versions of labour codes – key proposals and concerns

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Labour reforms

The government has introduced new versions of three labour codes – Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020, Code on Social Security Bill, 2020 and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Disguised unemployment generally means:

(a) A large number of people remain unemployed

(b) Alternative employment is not available

(c) Marginal productivity of labour is zero

(d) Productivity of workers is low

What are the key proposals?

(1) Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020

  • In this, the government has proposed to introduce more conditions restricting the rights of workers to strike, alongside an increase in the threshold relating to layoffs and retrenchment.
  • The Code has raised the threshold for the requirement of a standing order — rules of conduct for workmen employed in industrial establishments — to over 300 workers.
  • This implies industrial establishments with up to 300 workers will not be required to furnish a standing order, a move which experts say would enable companies to introduce arbitrary service conditions for workers.
  • These steps are likely to provide more flexibility to employers for hiring and firing workers without government permission.

(2) Social Security Code

  • It proposes a National Social Security Board which shall recommend to the central government for formulating suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers.
  • Also, aggregators employing gig workers will have to contribute 1-2 per cent of their annual turnover for social security, with the total contribution not exceeding 5 per.

(3) Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code

  • This code has defined inter-state migrant workers as the worker who has come on his own from one state and obtained employment in another state, earning up to Rs 18,000 a month.
  • The proposed definition makes a distinction from the present definition of only contractual employment.
  • The Code, however, has dropped the earlier provision for temporary accommodation for workers near the worksites.
  • It has though proposed a journey allowance — a lump sum amount of fare to be paid by the employer for to and fro journey of the worker to his/her native place from the place of his/her employment.

What are the other proposals for workers?

  • The IR Code Bill has also proposed a worker re-skilling fund.
  • The contributions for the fund are only detailed from the employer of an industrial establishment amounting to fifteen days wages last drawn by the worker immediately before the retrenchment along with the contribution from such other sources.
  • The mention of ‘other sources’ for funding the re-skilling fund is vague.

What are the concerns raised over the new labour codes?

  • Analysts say the increase in the threshold for standing orders will water down the labour rights for workers in small establishments having less than 300 workers.
  • The increase is uncalled for and shows the government is very keen to give tremendous amounts of flexibility to the employers in terms of hiring and firing.
  • Dismissal for alleged misconduct and retrenchment for economic reasons will be completely possible for all the industrial establishments employing less than 300 workers.
  • The Industrial Relations Code also introduces new conditions for carrying out a legal strike.
  • The time period for arbitration proceedings has been included in the conditions for workers before going on a legal strike as against only the time for conciliation at present.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Labour law Reforms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various labour laws

Mains level : Labour reforms in India

This session of Lok Sabha has passed 3 Historic and path-breaking Labour Codes.

UPSC may ask the major laws subsumed under these Labour Codes.

What are the 3 bills?

The 3 bills which were passed are

  1. Industrial Relations Code, 2020
  2. Code on Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020 &
  3. Social Security Code, 2020

All the labour laws (29 in number) being amalgamated into 4 labour codes are :

Name of the Code 

Amalgamated laws

Wage Code

 

4 laws –

  1. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936
  2. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  3. The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
  4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
IR Code

 

3 laws –

  1. The Trade Unions Act, 1926
  2. The Industrial Employment (Standing orders) Act, 1946
  3. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
OSH Code

 

13 laws –

  1. The Factories Act, 1948
  2. The Plantations Labour Act, 1951
  3. The Mines Act, 1952
  4. The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955
  5. The Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958
  6. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961
  7. The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966
  8. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
  9. The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976
  10. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
  11. The Cine-Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981
  12. The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986
  13. The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
Social Security Code

 

9 laws –

  1. The Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923
  2. The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948
  3. The Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952
  4. The Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959
  5. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
  6. The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
  7. The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981
  8. The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996
  9. The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

 

Here are the key features of these bills:

 (A) Social Security Code, 2020

  • The facility of ESIC would now be provided in all 740 districts. At present, this facility is being given in 566 districts only.
  • EPFO’s coverage would be applicable on all establishments having 20 workers. At present, it was applicable only on establishments included in the Schedule.
  • Provision has been made to formulate various schemes for providing comprehensive social security to workers in the unorganised sector.
  • A “Social Security Fund” will be created on the financial side in order to implement these schemes.
  • Work to bring newer forms of employment created with the changing technology like “platform worker or gig worker” into the ambit of social security has been done in the Social Security Code.
  • Provision for Gratuity has been made for Fixed Term Employee and there would not be any condition for minimum service period for this.
  • With the aim of making a national database for unorganised sector workers, registration of all these workers would be done on an online portal and this registration would be done on the basis of Self Certification through a simple procedure.

 (B) Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020

  • Free health checkup once a year by the employer for workers which are more than a certain age.
  • A legal right for getting Appointment Letter given to workers for the first time.
  • Cine Workers have been designated as Audio Visual Worker so that more and more workers get covered under the OSH code. Earlier, this security was being given to artists working in films only.

(C)  Industrial Relations Code, 2020

Efforts made by the Government for quickly resolving disputes of the workers include:

  • Compulsory facility for Helpline for redressal of problems of migrant workers.
  • Making a national database of migrant workers.
  • Provision for the accumulation of one day leave for every 20 days worked when work has been done for 180 days instead of 240 days.
  • Equality for women in every sphere: Women have to be permitted to work in every sector at night, but it has to be ensured that provision for their security is made by the employer and consent of women is taken before they work at night.
  • In the event of the death of a worker or injury to a worker due to an accident at his workplace, atleast 50 % share of the penalty would be given. This amount would be in addition to Employees Compensation.
  • Provision of “Social Security Fund” for 40 Crore unorganized workers alongwith GIG and platform workers and will help Universal Social Security coverage
  • Occupational Safety & Health Code to also can now over cover workers from IT and Service Sector.
  • 14 days notice for Strike so that in this period amicable solution comes out.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

CAROTAR 2020 Rules

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAROTAR rules

The Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules, 2020 (CAROTAR, 2020) shall come into force from September 21.

Try this PYQ:

Q.In the context of the affairs of which of the following is the phrase “Special Safeguard Mechanisms” mentioned in the news frequently?

(a) United Nations Environment Programme

(b) World Trade Organization

(c) ASEAN- India Free Trade Agreement

(d) G-20 Summits

CAROTAR rules

  • Importers will have to do their due diligence to ensure that imported goods meet the prescribed ‘rules of origin’ provisions.
  • This is the essential availing concessional rate of customs duty under free trade agreements (FTAs).
  • A list of minimum information, which the importer is required to possess, has also been provided in the rules along with general guidance.
  • Also, an importer would now have to enter certain origin related information in the Bill of Entry, as available in the Certificate of Origin.

Why need CAROTAR?

  • CAROTAR 2020 supplements the existing operational certification procedures prescribed under different trade agreements.
  • India has inked FTAs with several countries, including Japan, South Korea and ASEAN members.
  • Under such agreements, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate import/customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them.
  • The new rules will assist customs authorities in the smooth clearance of legitimate imports under FTAs.

Its significance

  • The ASEAN FTA allows imports of most items at nil or concessional basic customs duty from the 10-nation bloc.
  • Major imports to India come from five ASEAN countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • The benefit of concessional customs duty rate applies only if an ASEAN member country is the country of origin of goods.
  • This means that goods originating from China and routed through these countries will not be eligible for customs duty concessions under the ASEAN FTA.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance: A strong EC Act is still needed

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EC Act

Mains level : Regulation of essential commodities

As the Union government announced massive reforms as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.  All attention went to three agriculture sector ordinances related to farmers’ trade, contract farming and amendments in the Essential Commodities Act.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Discuss how Essential Commodities Act works to maintain fair prices of commodities for consumers.

Recent amendment to the EC Act

  • Recently, the Centre notified an Amendment Ordinance to the EC Act.
  • A new sub-section 1A in Section 3 of the act stipulated control orders — with respect to the supply of certain foodstuffs was added.
  • It would be issued only under extraordinary circumstances that may include war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity of grave nature.

An order for regulating stock limit of any agricultural produce may be issued only if there is:

  • A full increase in the retail price of horticultural produce, or
  • A 50 per cent increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items over the price prevailing immediately preceding a year or the average retail price in the past five years, whichever is lower

The Essential Commodities Act

  • The EC Act, 1955 was enacted at a time when the country faced an acute shortage of several commodities, especially food items.
  • Under the act, an ‘essential commodity’ is a commodity specified under the schedule of the Act.
  • The Union government is empowered to amend the schedule to add or remove a commodity to said schedule in the public interest and in consultation with state governments.
  • The schedule was amended recently in March 2020, when the Centre declared face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities and fixed their prices.

Issues over the amendment ordinance:

1. Ordinance route and federalism

  • Though agriculture is a state subject, the concurrent list empowers the Centre to legislate on production and trade and supply of foodstuffs.
  • By taking the ordinance route, a clear attempt was made to bypass the parliamentary process.
  • When a proposed amendment is introduced in Parliament, it is open to debate, scrutiny, comments and valuable inputs from stakeholders before being passed.

2. Surpassing concerns

  • Critical legislation like this should certainly have been put before Parliament.
  • The Sarkaria Commission report on Centre-state relations pointed out that the Centre disproportionately empower itself in the sphere of agriculture.
  • The power of the Centre in agriculture management has certainly increased through this ordinance.
  • States like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have repeatedly called for transfer such entities from the Concurrent to the State list.

3. Constitutional validity and Ninth Schedule

  • The constitutional validity of price fixation under the act was in question before the Supreme Court in the Prag Ice and Oil Mills case, 1978.
  • It was observed that the dominant purpose of price fixation was to ensure availability of essential commodities to consumers at a fair price.
  • It was also held that availability of an essential commodity to the common man, at a fair price, must rank higher than any other consideration.
  • The Essential Commodities Act is enlisted under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. This does not, however, mean it is outside the scope of judicial review.

4. EC Act is no exception

  • The Ninth Schedule came under scrutiny after the landmark IR Coelho, 2007 judgement.
  • The Supreme Court said the laws inserted in it after April 24, 1973 — the day the Kesavananda Bharti verdict was pronounced — are also open to judicial review if they are violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Farmers may approach the Supreme Court if they feel laws such as the Essential Commodities Act violate their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19, 21 or 32.

5. Questions over the amendment

  • The ordinance does not expressly define ‘extraordinary circumstances’, which ‘may’ include war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamities of a grave nature.
  • Even in extraordinary circumstances, the government only ‘may’ choose to exercise regulation.
  • Such legislative ambiguity makes one question the entire exercise of introducing this particular provision.

6. Farmers stake are still at risk

  • Drastic changes such as the removal of stock limits and exemption to exporters, traders and value chain participants may not help farmers directly.
  • Big corporates and MNC may prefer to stock up their quota at the time of harvest when prices are low and, thus, would not need to buy from farmers when prices rise.
  • If farmers decide to retain produce for later, prices may not go up or the private sector may not enter the market to purchase.

Conclusion

  • India no longer faces food shortage problems, according to the Economic Survey, 2020.
  • What is seemingly ignored, however, is the population of India increased to 1.3 billion in 2020 from 360 million in 1951.
  • There are more mouths to feed and the responsibility of ensuring food security to the masses cannot be shunned.
  • Sights of migrants scraping for morsels of food during the COVID-19 crisis continue to haunt.
  • Our policies, thus, must ensure sustainable farm growth taking into consideration factors like climate change, land holdings, consumer capacity and farmers’ interests.

Original article:

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/governance/essential-commodities-amendment-ordinance-a-strong-ec-act-is-still-needed-72540

LGBT Rights – Transgender Bill, Sec. 377, etc.

No medical examination for Trans Persons

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Trans-persons rights

After facing flak from the transgender community, the Centre has done away with the requirement of a medical examination for trans persons applying for a certificate of identity in its latest draft rules framed under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What are the salient features of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019? Also, discuss the loopholes.

What are the new rules?

  • The draft of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, published stated that a District Magistrate would issue a transgender identity certificate and card based on an affidavit by the applicant, but without any medical examination.

Issue with the earlier draft

  • An earlier draft of the rules had mandated a report from a psychologist along with the affidavit for the application.
  • The transgender rights movement had opposed this, as it was seen as going against a trans person’s right to self-identification, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014.

Change of gender is permissible

  • In case of change of gender, the application for new identification would require a certificate from the medical superintendent or chief medical officer of the medical institution where the applicant the surgery.
  • For this, the Centre has proposed a series of welfare schemes, including making at least one hospital in each State equipped to provide safe and free gender-affirming surgery and counselling and hormone replacement therapy among others.

Back2Basics: The 2014 Judgement on Trans-persons Rights

  • The Supreme Court in 2014 recognized transgenders as the third gender in a landmark ruling, saying it was addressing a “human rights issue”.
  • The ruling came after it heard a PIL filed by National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa) demanding equal rights.
  • The judgements said that non-recognition of gender identity amounts to discrimination under Article 15, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • The spirit of the constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender said justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri in their ruling.
  • Self-identification as man or woman, irrespective of sexual reassignment surgery, was now protected by law.
  • The judges said rights such as the right to vote, own property, marry and to “claim a formal identity” would be made available “more meaningfully” to the transgender community as a result of the ruling.

Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019

The Parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019.

Key Features

  • Definition of a transgender person: The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes transmen and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
  • Certificate of identity: A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.
  • Prohibition against discrimination: The Bill prohibits discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to:
    • Education, employment, healthcare.
    • Access to or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public.
    • Right to movement, right to reside, rent, or otherwise occupy property.
    • Opportunity to hold public or private office.
    • Access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person is.
  • Health care
    • The Bill also seeks to provide rights of health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.
    • It also states that the government shall review medical curriculum to address health issues of transgender persons, and provide comprehensive medical insurance schemes for them.
  • It calls for establishing a National Council for Transgender persons (NCT).
  • Punishment: It states that the offences against transgender persons will attract imprisonment between six months and two years, in addition to a fine.

UDAY Scheme for Discoms

[pib] Draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Highlights of the policy

The Ministry of Power has issued a draft proposal for amendment of Electricity Act, 2003 in the form of the draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill 2020

Major amendments proposed in the Electricity Act are as follows:

Viability of DISCOMs

  • Cost reflective Tariff: To eliminate the tendency of some Commissions to provide for regulatory assets, it is being provided that the Commissions shall determine tariffs that are reflective of  cost so as to enable Discoms to recover their costs.
  • Direct Benefit Transfer: It is proposed that tariff be determined by Commissions without taking into account the subsidy, which will be given directly by the government to the consumers.

Sanctity of Contracts

  • Establishment of Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority:  Such an authority headed by a retired Judge of the High Court is proposed to be set-up with powers of the Civil Court to enforce performance of contracts related to purchasing or sale or transmission of power between a generating, distribution or transmission companies.
  • Establishment of adequate Payment Security Mechanism for scheduling of electricity: It is proposed to empower Load Dispatch Centres to oversee the establishment of adequate payment security mechanism before scheduling dispatch of electricity, as per contracts.

Strengthening the regulatory regime

  • Strengthening of the Appellate Tribunal (APTEL): It proposed to increase the strength of APTEL to seven apart from the Chairperson so that multiple benches can be set-up to facilitate quick disposal of cases.
  • Doing away with multiple Selection Committees: It is proposed to have one Selection Committee for selection of Chairpersons and Members of the Central and State Commissions and uniform qualifications for appointments of Chairperson and Members.
  • Penalties: In order to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Electricity Act and orders of the Commission, section 142 and section 146 of the Electricity Act are proposed to be amended to provide for higher penalties.

Renewable and Hydro Energy

  • National Renewable Energy Policy: It is proposed to provide for a policy document for the development and promotion of generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy. It is also proposed that a minimum percentage of purchase of electricity from hydro sources of energy is to be specified by the Commissions.
  • Penalties: It is being further proposed to levy penalties for non-fulfilment of obligation to buy electricity from renewable and/or hydro sources of energy.

Miscellaneous

  • Cross border trade in Electricity: Provisions have been added to facilitate and develop trade in electricity with other countries.
  • Franchisees and Distribution sub licensees: It is proposed to provide that the Distribution Companies, if they so desire, may engage Franchisees or Sub-Distribution Licensees to distribute electricity on its behalf in a particular area within its area of supply. However, it will be the DISCOM which shall be the licensee, and therefore, ultimately responsible for ensuring quality distribution of electricity in its area of supply.

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What is Finance Bill?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Finance Bill

Mains level : Finance Bill

The Parliament has passed the Finance Bill 2020 with 40 amendments without any discussion.

Highlights of the Bill

  • Among the important amendments included was one enabling the government to raise additional excise duty on petrol by up to Rs 18 per litre and diesel by up to Rs 12 per litre when required.
  • Amendments enabling the taxation of NRIs’ India-controlled income above Rs 15 lakh, and another extending the DDT exemption to REITs and Infrastructure Investment trusts were passed.
  • The Bill also changes the definition of ‘Resident’, as stipulated under the Income Tax Act.
  • Presently, a person is considered a resident of India, i.e. their global income is taxable in India if they are in the country for more than 182 days a year. This has now been reduced to 120 days.
  • The amendments also include provisions for levying TDS of 1 per cent on e-commerce transactions.

What is a Finance Bill?

  • As per Article 110 of the Constitution, the Finance Bill is a Money Bill.
  • The Finance Bill is a part of the Union Budget, stipulating all the legal amendments required for the changes in taxation proposed by the Finance Minister.
  • This Bill encompasses all amendments required in various laws pertaining to tax, in accordance with the tax proposals made in the Union Budget.
  • The Finance Bill, as a Money Bill, needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha — the lower house of the Parliament. Post the Lok Sabha’s approval, the Finance Bill becomes Finance Act.

Difference between a Money Bill and the Finance Bill

1) Money Bill

  • A Money Bill has to be introduced in the Lok Sabha as per Section 110 of the Constitution. Then, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations.
  • The Rajya Sabha has to return the Bill with recommendations in 14 days.
  • However, the Lok Sabha can reject all or some of the recommendations.

2) Finance Bill

  • In a general sense, any Bill that relates to revenue or expenditure is a Financial Bill.
  • The Finance Bill is introduced in Lok Sabha.
  • Rajya Sabha can recommend amendments in the bill. However, the bill has to be passed by the Parliament within 75 days of introduction.

>Types of Finance Bills

Type I

  • Financial Bill Cat-1 is a bill which contains any of the matters specified in Article 110 but does not exclusively deal with such matters.
  • For example- a bill which contains a taxation clause, but does not deal solely with taxation under Article 117 (1), has two features in common with a money bill.
  1. It cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
  2. It can only be introduced in Lok Sabha with the prior recommendation of the President.(Similarities)
  • But has one feature uncommon that is, not being a Money Bill, the Rajya Sabha has the same power to reject or amend such Financial Bill subject to limitation.

Type II

  • It is a finance bill which merely involves expenditure and does not include any of the matters specified in Article 110.
  • It is an Ordinary Bill and may be initiated in either House and the Rajya Sabha has full power to reject or ament it.
  • It is thus apparent that all Money Bills are Financial Bills but all Financial Bills are not Money Bills.

Who decides the Bill is a Finance Bill?

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is authorised to decide whether the Bill is a Money Bill or not.
  • Also, the Speaker’s decision shall be deemed to be final.

Why Finance Bill is needed?

  • The Union Budget proposes many tax changes for the upcoming financial year, even if not all of those proposed changes find a mention in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech.
  • These proposed changes pertain to several existing laws dealing with various taxes in the country.
  • The Finance Bill seeks to insert amendments into all those laws concerned, without having to bring out a separate amendment law for each of those Acts.
  • For instance, a Union Budget’s proposed tax changes may require amending the various sections of the Income Tax law, Stamp Act, Money Laundering law, etc.
  • The Finance Bill overrides and makes changes in the existing laws wherever required.

What changes can be made via Finance Bill?

  • The most awaited changes in the tax proposals in the Union Budget usually pertain to personal income tax.
  • For taxpayers across the country, the most awaited moment is when the Finance Minister’s speech announces an increase in minimum income threshold, or declares any changes in income tax slabs to make it less costly, or other exemptions.
  • In addition, there might be changes in the rules, procedures, and deadlines for filing tax returns or the payment of tax itself.
  • For instance, there might be a change in the amount of penalty for missing the deadline. Those proposed changes would typically need to be brought in via amending the Income Tax Act.
  • Among other changes, the FM may propose in the Union Budget with regard to the rates or processes for payment or administration of stamp duty levied on various instruments.
  • Such a change would need to be brought in via an amendment to the Stamp Act.
  • Since the introduction of GST, there is no amendment to indirect taxes in the Union Budget, since that is under the purview of the GST Council.

 

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

New environment impact norm cuts time for public hearing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EIA in India

Mains level : Read the attached story

A set of key updates to India’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act has been proposed to reduce the time given to people to air objections.

Features proposed by the amendment

  • The draft EIA notification proposes to be an update to the EIA of 2006, which specifies a “minimum of 30 days” for people to respond.
  • The current version of the update, which will likely become law in 60 days, gives a “minimum of 20 days” of notice period.
  • The public hearing process is considered a key component of the EIA. An organisation has to submit a detailed plan, as part of the EIA process that details the nature, need, potential impact and remedial measures, if their proposed infrastructure project threatens to significantly impact a region.
  • It also requires that the public-hearing process be wrapped up in 40 days, as opposed to the existing norm of 45 days.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in India

  • EIA is a management tool to minimize adverse impacts of developmental projects on the environment and to achieve sustainable development through timely, adequate, corrective and protective mitigation measures.
  • The MoEFCC uses EIA Notification 2006 as a major tool for minimizing the adverse impact of rapid industrialization on the environment and for reversing those trends which may lead to climate change in long run.
  • EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.

EIA stages

  1. Screening: This stage decides which projects a full or partial assessment need study.
  2. Scoping: This stage decides which impacts are necessary to be assessed. This is done based on legal requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge and public engagement. This stage also finds out alternate solutions that avoid or at least reduce the adverse impacts of the project.
  3. Assessment & evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives: This stage predicts and identifies the environmental impacts of the proposed project and also elaborates on the alternatives.
  4. EIA Report: In this reporting stage, an environmental management plan (EMP) and also a non-technical summary of the project’s impact is prepared for the general public. This report is also called the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  5. Decision making: The decision on whether the project is to be given approval or not and if it is to be given, under what conditions.
  6. Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing: This stage monitors whether the predicted impacts and the mitigation efforts happen as per the EMP.

Scope of Environmental Clearance (EC)

  • Environmental clearance is required in respect of all new projects or activities listed in the Schedule to the 2006 notification and their expansion and modernization, including any change in product –mix.
  • Since EIA 2006 the various developmental projects have been re-categorised into category ‘A’ and category ‘B’ depending on their threshold capacity and likely pollution potential.
  • They require prior EC respectively from MOEFCC or the concerned State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs).
  • Where state level authorities have not been constituted, the clearance would be provided by the MOEFCC.