JUNE22nd to 30th 2020

Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections, says Supreme Court

  • Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections. The choice of a voter should be free and the secret ballot system in a democracy ensures it, the Supreme Court has held in judgment.

  • The judgment came on an appeal against the Allahabad High Court decision setting aside the voting of a no-confidence motion in a Zila panchayat in Uttar Pradesh in 2018.


What is the Secret Ballot?

  • The secret ballot, also known as Australian ballot, is a voting method in which a voter’s choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous.

  • It aims for forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation, blackmailing, and potential vote-buying.

  • The system is one means of achieving the goal of political privacy.


What did the Supreme Court rule?

  • The principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy, the court said.

  • Justice Khanna, who wrote the judgment, referred to Section 94 of the Representation of People Act, which upholds the privilege of the voter to maintain confidentiality about her choice of vote.

  • It is the policy of the law to protect the right of voters to the secrecy of the ballot.

  • Even a remote or distinct possibility that a voter can be forced to disclose for whom she has voted would act as a positive constraint and a check on the freedom to exercise of the franchise.


Voter’s discretion is allowed

  • A voter can also voluntarily waive the privilege of non-disclosure.

  • The privilege ends when the voter decides to waive the privilege and instead volunteers to disclose as to whom she had voted.

  • No one can prevent a voter from doing. Nor can a complaint be entertained from any, including the person who wants to keep the voter’s mouth sealed as to why she disclosed for whom she voted said the court.


Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss how Secrecy of Ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections in India.

Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan

  • Prime Minister has launched the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, an employment scheme for migrant workers.It is a skill-based employment scheme aimed primarily at migrant workers who have returned to their villages to escape the COVID lockdown distress.

  • With a 125-workday mandate to create public infrastructure, with the involvement of 11 central departments, the Rs 50,000-crore initiative will focus on job creation.

  • It will be implemented in 116 districts in six states — UP, MP, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan and Bihar — that saw the maximum number of migrant workers returning over the last three months.


Works under the scheme

  • The government has identified 25 work areas for employment in villages, for the development of various works.

  • These 25 works or projects are related to meet the needs of the villages like rural housing for the poor, Plantations, provision of drinking water through Jal Jeevan mission,  Panchayat Bhavans, community toilets, rural mandis, rural roads, other infrastructure like Cattle Sheds, Anganwadi Bhavans etc.

Rajya Sabha Election Process

There are several features that distinguish elections to the Council of States, or the Upper House of Parliament, from the general elections.


What is so peculiar about the Rajya Sabha polls?

  • A third of MPs in the Rajya Sabha (which is a permanent House and is not subject to dissolution), from each State, retire once in two years and polls are held to fill up the vacancies.

  • Only elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies can vote in a Rajya Sabha election.

  • The legislators send a batch of new members to the Upper House every two years for a six-year term.

  • In addition, vacancies that arise due to resignation, death or disqualification are filled up through by-polls after which those elected serve out the remainder of their predecessors’ term.


Composition of Rajya Sabha:

  • A bloc of MPs belonging to one or more parties can elect a member of their choice if they have the requisite numbers.

  • This is to avoid the principle of majority, which would mean that only candidates put up by ruling parties in the respective States will be elected.

  • The Delhi and Puducherry Assemblies elect members to the Rajya Sabha to represent the two UTs.


What is the election process?

  • Polling for a Rajya Sabha election will be held only if the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies.

  • Since the strength of each party in the Assembly is known, it is not difficult to estimate the number of seats a party would win in the Rajya Sabha poll.

  • In many states, parties avoid a contest by fielding candidates only in respect to their strength. Where an extra candidate enters the fray, voting becomes necessary.

  • Candidates fielded by political parties have to be proposed by at least 10 members of the Assembly or 10% of the party’s strength in the House, whichever is less.

  • For independents, there should be 10 proposers, all of whom should be members of the Assembly.


Voting procedure:

  • Voting is by single transferable vote, as the election is held on the principle of proportional representation.

  • A single transferable vote means electors can vote for any number of candidates in order of their preference.

  • A candidate requires a specified number of first preference votes to win. Each first choice vote has a value of 100 in the first round.

  • To qualify, a candidate needs one point more than the quotient obtained by dividing the total value of the number of seats for which elections are taking place plus one.

  • Example: If there are four seats and 180 MLAs voting, the qualifying number will be 180/5= 36 votes or value of 3,600.


Why do not the Rajya Sabha polls have a secret ballot?

  • The Rajya Sabha polls have a system of the open ballot, but it is a limited form of openness.

  • As a measure to check rampant cross-voting, which was taken to mean that the vote had been purchased by corrupt means.

  • There is a system of each party MLA showing his or her marked ballots to the party’s authorised agent (called Whip), before they are put into the ballot box.

  • Showing a marked ballot to anyone other than one’s own party’s authorised agent will render the vote invalid.

  • Not showing the ballot to the authorised agent will also mean that the vote cannot be counted.

  • And independent candidates are barred from showing their ballots to anyone.


Is there any NOTA option in voting?

  • The ECI issued two circulars, on January 24, 2014, and November 12, 2015, giving Rajya Sabha members the option to press the NOTA button in the Upper House polls.

  • However, in 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the provision, holding that the ‘none of the above’ option is only for general elections.

  • It cannot be applied to indirect elections based on proportional representation.


Does cross-voting attract disqualification?

  • The Supreme Court, while declining to interfere with the open ballot system, ruled that not voting for the party candidate will not attract disqualification under the anti-defection law.

  • As voters, MLAs retain their freedom to vote for a candidate of their choice.

  • However, the Court observed that since the party would know who voted against its own candidate, it is free to take disciplinary action against the legislator concerned.


Can a legislator vote without taking oath as a member of the Assembly?

  • While taking oath as a member is for anyone to function as a legislator, the Supreme Court has ruled that a member can vote in a Rajya Sabha election even before taking oath as a legislator.

  • It ruled that voting at the Rajya Sabha polls, being a non-legislative activity, can be performed without taking the oath.

  • A person becomes a member as soon as the list of elected members is notified by the ECI, it said.

  • Further, a member can also propose a candidate before taking the oath.


JUNE15th to 21st 2020

Parliamentary Committees and their Significance

Report on Sino-Indian relations post Doklam:

  • Submitted by the Shashi Tharoor-led Standing Committee on External Affairs, the report on Sino-India relations including Doklam throws light on border situation and cooperation in international organisations,

  • This Standing Committee report – a bipartisan one as the committee has members from ruling and opposition parties – is one of the very few documents available in which the defence and foreign secretaries.

  • It clarified the government’s official position on India-China border issues including the reported transgressions by the Chinese in the region.

  • It had cautioned the government that it needed to have “healthy scepticism” while dealing with China.

  • The Committee has urged the Government not to let its vigil down in order to prevent any untoward incident in future.


What are the Parliamentary Committees?

  • A good deal of Parliamentary business is transacted in the committees. Both Houses of Parliament have a similar committee structure, with a few exceptions.

  • Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedure of conducting business are also more or less similar and are regulated as per rules made by the two Houses under Article 118(1) of the Constitution.

  • Broadly, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds – Standing Committees and ad hoc Committees.

  • The former are elected or appointed every year or periodically and their work goes on, more or less, on a continuous basis.

  • The latter are appointed on an ad hoc basis as the need arises and they cease to exist as soon as they complete the task assigned to them.


Their significances:

  • Apart from debates on bills and issues discussed and debated on the floor of the House, more detailed and in-depth discussions take place on issues as well as legislation in the parliamentary standing committees.

  • Here, MPs belonging to all major parties put forward their views without much consideration to the political differences they have.

  • A considerable amount of legislative work gets done in these smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties.

  • Their reports are tabled in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The Houses do not hold a specific debate on the report, but it is often referred to during the discussions on the bills and the key issues.

  • Committee meetings also provide a forum where members can engage with domain experts as well as senior-most officials of the concerned ministries.

Rule of Law Index and India

Why in news again?

  • The cause of action for the petition accrued when the World Justice Project ranked India in the 69th position in its Rule of Law Index.

  • India has never been ranked even among top 50 in the Index, but successive governments did nothing to improve the international ranking of India, said the petition.

  • Poor rule of law has a devastating effect on the right to life, liberty, economic justice, fraternity, individual dignity and national integration.


What is the Rule of Law Index?

  • The Rule of Law Index is a quantitative assessment tool by the World Justice Project (WJP) designed to offer a detailed and comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice.

  • It measures countries’ rule of law performance across eight factors:

(1) Constraints on Government Powers, (2) Absence of Corruption, (3) Open Government, (4) Fundamental Rights, (5) Order and Security, (6) Regulatory Enforcement, (7) Civil Justice, and (8) Criminal Justice


World Justice Project definition of Rule of Law:

The World Justice Project defines the rule of law system as one in which the following four universal principles are upheld:

  • The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.

  • The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.

  • The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, efficient, and fair.

  • Justice is delivered by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

Civil Services Board

What is the Civil Services Board (CSB)?

  • Civil Services Board is responsible for the entry-level recruitment and subsequent job promotions below the rank of Joint Secretary.

  • As per a state government notification dated June 2, CSB will be headed by Chief Secretary, with Personnel Secretary, and either Financial Commissioner (Revenue) or Home Secretary (who so ever is senior in the pecking order) as its members.

  • The board provides for the state to follow the Centre’s guidelines on giving a fixed tenure of at least two years for cadre officers.

  • They cannot be transferred before that and if anyone recommends their transfer then the board will examine and affect it.

  • The final authority is the Chief Minister.


Why had the previous government in the state declined to follow the Centre’s guidelines?

  • The previous government had refused to follow the guidelines on the argument that appointment and transfer of IAS officers are a prerogative of the state.

  • If their term is fixed, it had argued, it will not only create functional and administrative problems but also overstep the authority and jurisdiction of the state government.


Why are the leaders upset?

  • The political leadership of the ruling party in the state has usually always had a say in postings and transfers of district officials in the state.

  • The opposition has been known to lend supremacy to its leadership over bureaucrats in the state.

  • But ever since the ruling government has taken over, the grouse of its leaders has been that they do not get due respect in their own regime.

  • This has led to several confrontations in the past.

  • With the fixed tenure rule and Chief Secretary’s board having all power to examine a recommendation for a transfer, the leaders feel their influence has been reduced to nought and all power handed to the CS.


How do they see the board to be lending officer’s supremacy over them?

  • If any officer is to be transferred before completing his minimum tenure, the board will record the reasons for the transfer.

  • It will seek views from the concerned officer and then give a judgement on whether the tenure of the officer is to be ended mid-way.

  • The final authority will be the CM.


What is the government’s argument in its favour?

  • It says if the officials have a fixed tenure they will be able to provide better administration.

  • They will also feel safe and try to stick to the rules instead of pleasing political bosses.

  • It says every official requires 3-6 months to get into the groove at his new place of posting.

  • If he stays there for two years, it would mean better delivery and stable tenure to people.


What do the officials say?

  • They feel the rules will not be followed in letter and spirit unless a few officers go to the courts and ensure that the guidelines are followed.

  • They say that neighbouring Haryana had the board in place but the guidelines were not followed.


The need for an anti-discrimination law

India has a unique distinction of being a democracy without comprehensive legislation to back the constitutional right of equality. This lack of legislation gives rise to certain issues. Every time the case of discrimination is brought the discriminating party claims that he is at liberty to do so. Not only this, in a certain case, the Supreme Court also endorsed such restrictive interpretation. All this points to the need for the comprehensive legislation.


Indirect and unintended discrimination:

  • More than 70 years after Independence, our society remains rife with structural discrimination.

  • These prejudices, which pervade every aspect of life, from access to basic goods, to education and employment, are sometimes manifest.

  • But, on other occasions, the discrimination is indirect and even unintended. 

  • The forms that it takes were perhaps best explained by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. (1971).

  • There, the court held that an energy company had fallen foul of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which made racial discrimination in private workplaces illegal.

  • The company had insisted on a superfluous written test by applicants for its better entry-level jobs.

  • Although, on the face of it, this requirement was race-neutral, in practice it allowed the company to victimise African-Americans.

  • In a memorable judgment, invoking an Aesop fable, Chief Justice Burger wrote that “tests or criteria for employment or promotion may not provide equality of opportunity merely in the sense of the fabled offer of milk to the stork and the fox.”

  • On the contrary, the law, he said, resorting again to the fable, “provided that the vessel in which the milk is proffered be one all seekers can use.”

  • That is, that it wasn’t merely “overt discrimination” that was illegal but also “practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation”.


Let’s look into 2 cases in India:

1. Madhu vs. Northern Railway –

  • The verdict in Griggs was notably applied in the Delhi High Court’s 2018 judgment in Madhu vs. Northern Railway.

  • There, the Railways had denied free medical treatment to the wife and daughter of an employee which they would otherwise have been entitled to under the rules.

  • The Railways contended that the employee had “disowned” his family and had had their names struck off his medical card.

  • The court held that to make essential benefits such as medical services subject to a declaration by an employee might be “facially neutral”, but it produced a disparate impact, particularly on women and children.

  • But while this case concerned discrimination by the state, entry barriers to goods such as housing, schools and employment tend to function in the realm of private contracts.


Is Article 15 applicable in private contracts?

  •  The Constitution is markedly vocal on this too.

  • Article 15(2) stipulates that citizens shall not on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth be denied access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment.

  • Yet, on occasion, this right, which applies horizontally, inter se individuals, comes into conflict with the rights of persons to associate with others, often to the exclusion of certain groups.


2. Zoroastrian Cooperative Housing Society vs District Registrar Co-operative Societies (Urban) and Others:

  • This is why every time a case of discrimination is brought, the party that discriminates claims that he possesses a liberty to do so, that he must be free to act according to his own sense of conscience.

  • The Supreme Court in 2005 endorsed one such restrictive bond, when it ruled in favour of a bye-law of a Parsi housing society that prohibited the sale of the property to non-Parsis.

  • This right to forbid such a sale, the Court ruled, was intrinsic in the Parsis’ fundamental right to associate with each other.

  • But in holding thus, the judgment, as Gautam Bhatia points out in his book, The Transformative Constitution, not only conflated the freedom to contract with the constitutional freedom to associate but also overlooked altogether Article 15(2).


Let’s look into the scope of Article 15(2):

  • At first blush, Article 15(2) might appear to be somewhat limited in scope.

  • But the word “shops” used in it is meant to be read widely.

  • A study of the Constituent Assembly’s debates on the clause’s framing shows us that the founders explicitly intended to place restrictions on any economic activity that sought to exclude specific groups.

  • For example, when a person refuses to lease her property to another based on the customer’s faith, such a refusal would run directly counter to the guarantee of equality.


India: A country with no legislative backing to the fundamental right to equality

  • India is unique among democracies in that a constitutional right to equality is not supported by comprehensive legislation.

  • In South Africa, for example, a constitutional guarantee is augmented by an all-encompassing law which prohibits unfair discrimination not only by the government but also by private organisations and individuals.


Practice Questions for Mains:

Q. Consider the question “Discrimination partakes different forms. And due to lack of any legislation backing the Right to Equality, this right is just as capable of being threatened by acts of private individuals as they are by the state.” In light of this, discuss the need for an act backing the Right to Equality and right against discrimination.”

Fiscal Decentralisation

Disruption in fiscal consolidation and impact on Centre-state relations:

  • Due to COVID, there is a  collapse in general government revenues and the consequent rise in the deficit levels.

  • It has disrupted the glide path of fiscal consolidation.

  • But it has also deepened the faultlines in Centre-state fiscal relations. 

  • The Centre is trying to claw back the fiscal space ceded to the states and assert its dominance over the country’s fiscal architecture.

  • This coupled with the fiscal constraints exposed by the pandemic have made it harder to maintain the delicate balance needed to manage the contesting claims of the Centre and the states


Why the 15th Finance Commission report is critical for decentralisation:

  • It will be ironic if the ongoing health crisis that has ended up exposing the limitations of a centralised approach, ends up reversing the trend towards fiscal decentralisation.

  • The Commission’s report will be critical on two counts:

  • First, it will determine how India’s fiscal architecture is reshaped.

  • Second, how Centre-state relations are reset as the country attempts to recover from the COVID-19 shock.


1. Will the burden of reducing debt/gdp  fall equally on Centre and state?

  • The glide path of fiscal consolidation laid out by the FRBM review committee had envisaged bringing down general government debt to 60 per cent of GDP by 2022.

  • This is unlikely to materialise now.

  • Factoring in the additional borrowings, the debt-to-GDP ratio may well be over 80 per cent this year.

  • Thus the fiscal consolidation roadmap will have to be reworked.

  •  As per its terms of reference, the Finance Commission will lay out the new path to be followed by both Centre and states.

  • But the question is: Will the burden of debt reduction fall equally upon the Centre and states?

  • Or will the Commission allow the Centre to have greater leeway when it comes to fiscal consolidation?


2. Will the conditional extension of borrowing limit be formalised?

  •  Recently, the Centre eased the states’ budget constraint, allowing them to borrow more this year.

  • But this extra borrowing was conditional upon states implementing reforms in line with the Centre’s priorities.

  • Despite protests, most states are likely to comply with the conditions, to varying degrees.

  • But the issue is: As the hit from the ongoing crisis spreads over multiple years, state governments may want to maintain their expansionary fiscal stance next year as well.

  • Then, will the Finance Commission, in line with its terms of reference, go along with the Centre’s stance and recommend imposing conditions on additional borrowing and formalise this arrangement?

  • It is difficult to see such an arrangement being rolled back once formalised.


3. GST compensation cess –

  • The GST council, in which the Centre effectively has a veto, is yet to clearly spell out its views on the extension of the compensation cess to offset states losses beyond the five-year period.

  • The Commission will have to weigh in on this too.

  • At this time the Centre is struggling to fulfil its promise of assuring states their GST revenues.

  • In such situation, will the Commission argue in favour of extending the compensation period, as states desire, but, perhaps, lowering the assured 14 per cent growth in compensation and linking it to nominal GDP growth?

  • As GST revenue accounts for a significant share of states’ income, how this plays out will also have a bearing on their ability to bring down their debt levels.


4. Issue of tax devolution:

  • In some sense, accepting the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission was a fait accompli.

  • The terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission points to the present government’s desire to claw back the fiscal space offered to the states.

  • But is clawing back fiscal space now a prudent approach?

  • A cash-strapped Centre will surely welcome greater say over the diminished resources.

  • And there a strong argument for the Centre to have far greater fiscal space than it currently enjoys.

  • This is partly because the fiscal multiplier of central government capital spending is greater than that by the states.

  • But also the nature of politics may well push in that direction.

  • Centralisation of political power may well lead to demands for centralisation of resources.

  • However, surely fiscal space can be created by a review of the Centre’s own spending programme.


Need to relook at the Centre’s expenditure priorities:

  • Over the past decades, there has been a substantial increase in the Centre’s spending on items on the state and concurrent list.

  •  This shift has occurred even as grants by the Centre to states exceed the former’s revenue deficit.

  • This, as some have pointed out, effectively means that the Centre is borrowing to transfer to states.

  • Surely, a relook at the Centre’s expenditure priorities would create greater fiscal space for it.


What the Finance Commission can do?

  • Any attempt to shift the uneasy balance in favour of the Centre will strengthen the argument that this government’s talk of cooperative federalism serves as a useful mask to hide its centralising tendencies.

  • As a neutral arbiter of Centre-state relations, the Finance Commission should seek to maintain the delicate balance in deciding on contesting claims.

  • This may well require giveaways especially if states are to be incentivised to push through legislation on items on the state and concurrent list.

  • The fiscal stress at various levels of the government necessitates a realistic assessment of the country’s macro-economic situation, the preparation of a medium-term roadmap, as well as careful calibration of the framework that governs Centre-state relations.

  • At this critical juncture, the Finance Commission should present the broad contours of the roadmap.

  • Though it could request for another year’s extension to present its full five-year report citing the prevailing uncertainty.


Practice question for Mains:

Q. Consider the question “COVID pandemic has put the States in the dire fiscal position. What we need is more of the fiscal decentralisation now.” In light of this, along with other factors, elaborate on the role 15th Finance Commission could play in this regard.



Ninth Schedule of Indian Constitution

Reacting to the Supreme Court’s remarks that reservation is not a fundamental right, a senior Union Minister iterated his demand to include all reservation-related laws in the Ninth Schedule of Constitution so that they are shielded from judicial review.


Arguments for such demand:

  • Today, reservation is not confined just to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; it is available to other backward classes and poor sections of the upper castes as well.”

  • Reservation for SCs is given due to the issue of untouchability. Therefore, it has no link with economic backwardness.

  • Similarly, reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) is based on the parameters of social and educational backwardness.

  • Upper caste reservation has been granted on the basis of economic backwardness.

  • All these three types of the reservation have been attached to the fundamental rights under the Constitution of India.


What is the Ninth Schedule?

  • The Ninth Schedule contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts.

  • Currently, 284 such laws are shielded from judicial review.

  • The Schedule became a part of the Constitution in 1951 when the document was amended for the first time.

  • It was created by the new Article 31B, which along with 31A was brought in by the government to protect laws related to agrarian reform and for abolishing the Zamindari system.

  • While most of the laws protected under the Schedule concern agriculture/land issues, the list includes other subjects, such as reservation.

  • A Tamil Nadu law that provides 69 per cent reservation in the state is part of the Schedule.


Article 31A and 31 B:

  • While Article 31A extends protection to ‘classes’ of laws, A. 31B shields specific laws or enactments.

  • Article 31B also has retrospective operation: meaning if laws are inserted in the Ninth Schedule after they are declared unconstitutional, they are considered to have been in the Schedule since their commencement, and thus valid.

  • Although Article 31B excludes judicial review, the apex court has said in the past that even laws under the Ninth Schedule would be open to scrutiny if they violated fundamental rights or the basic structure of the Constitution.

AarogyaPath Platform for the Healthcare Supply Chain

AarogyaPath Platform has been recently launched to provide real-time availability of critical healthcare supplies.


Aarogyapath platform:

  • The information platform named AarogyaPath with a vision of providing a path which leads one on a journey towards Aarogya (healthy life) has been developed by the CSIR.

  • During the present national health emergency arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein there is a severe disruption in the supply chain, the ability to produce and deliver the critical items may be compromised due to a variety of reasons.

  • The platform would serve manufacturers, suppliers and customers.

  • CSIR expects AarogyaPath to become the national healthcare information platform of choice in the years to come.

  • It would fill a critical gap in last-mile delivery of patient care within India through improved availability and affordability of healthcare supplies.


Its significance:

  • This platform provides single-point availability of key healthcare goods that can be helpful to customers in tackling a number of routinely experienced issues.

  • These issues include dependence on limited suppliers, time-consuming processes to identify good quality products, limited access to suppliers who can supply standardized products at reasonable prices within desired timelines, lack of awareness about the latest product launches, etc.

  • It also helps manufacturers and suppliers to reach a wide network of customers efficiently, overcoming gaps in connectivity between them and potential demand centres like nearby pathological laboratories, medical stores, hospitals, etc.

  • It will also create opportunities for business expansion due to an expanded slate of buyers and visibility of new requirements for products.

  • Over time, analytics from this platform is expected to generate early signals to manufacturers on overcapacity as well as on looming shortages.


Q. The AarogyaPath platform recently seen in news is related to:

a) Tracking of COVID patients

b) Emergency ambulances service

c)  Supply-chain solutions of healthcare facilities

d) E-com portal for generic medicines

What is Inner Line Permit (ILP) and its relation to CAA?

What is the petition now?

  • The Supreme Court has declined to stay the operation of a Presidential order which petitioners claimed deprived Assam of the powers to implement the Inner Line system in its districts and limit the applicability of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
  • The petition was against the Presidential order. It said the order took away the Assam government’s permissive power to implement the ILP.
  • This could have made the CAA inapplicable in these areas, the petition said.
  • The CAA has given fresh twist to the demand.


What is the Inner Line Permit?

  • A concept drawn by colonial rulers; the Inner Line separated the tribal-populated hill areas in the North-east from the plains.
  • To enter and stay for any period in these areas, Indian citizens from other areas need an Inner Line Permit (ILP).
  • Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram are protected by the Inner Line, and lately, Manipur was added.
  • The concept originates from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act (BEFR), 1873.


Its inception:

  • The policy of exclusion first came about as a response to the reckless expansion of British entrepreneurs into new lands which threatened British political relations with the hill tribes.
  • The BEFR prohibits an outsider’s — “British subject or foreign citizen” — entry into the area beyond the Inner Line without a pass and his purchase of land there.
  • On the other hand, the Inner Line also protected the commercial interests of the British from the tribal communities.
  • After Independence, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”.
  • Today, the main aim of the ILP system is to prevent settlement of other Indian nationals in the States where the ILP regime is prevalent, in order to protect the indigenous/tribal population.


How is it influenced the Citizenship Amendment Act?

  • The CAA, which relaxes eligibility criteria for certain categories of migrants from three countries seeking Indian citizenship, exempts certain categories of areas, including those protected by the Inner Line system.
  • Amid protests against the Act, the Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019, issued by the President, amended the BEFR, 1873, extending it to Manipur and parts of Nagaland that were not earlier protected by ILP.

Article 1: India or Bharat

What is the issue?

  • The petition seeks an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, which says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States…”
  • It wants ‘India’ to be struck off from the Article.


Article 1 of the Constitution:

  • Article 1 in the Constitution states that India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
  • The territory of India shall consist of: The territories of the states, The Union territories and Any territory that may be acquired in future.
  • The names of the States and the Unions have been described in the First Schedule. This schedule also holds that there are four Categories of State and territories – Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.
  • Part A – includes the nine provinces which were under British India
  • Part B – princely states consisted of this category
  • Part C – centrally administered five states
  • Part D – Andaman and Nicobar Islands


  • Abolishing of these schedules
  • In the seventh amendment of the Constitution in 1956, the distinction between Part A and Part B states was abolished.
  • Subsequently, states were reorganized on a linguistic basis.
  • As a result, several new states were formed, e.g. Haryana, Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram etc.


Debate over name change:

  • Bharat and India are both names given in the Constitution. India is already called ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution”.
  • The petition says that India is a name of foreign origin. The name can be traced back to the Greek term ‘Indica’.
  • Chauvinists argue that the name change will ensure citizens to get over the colonial past and instil a sense of pride in our nationality.


What 2016 ruling has to say?

  • The apex court had dismissed a similar petition in 2016.
  • Then CJI T.S. Thakur orally remarked that every Indian had the right to choose between calling his country ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’.
  • CJI said that the Supreme Court had no business to either dictate or decide for a citizen what he should call his country.
  • The Supreme Court has ordered that a plea to change India’s name exclusively to ‘Bharat’ be converted into a representation and forwarded to the Union government for an appropriate decision.

What is the National Numbering Plan?

National Numbering Plan:

  • The management of numbering resources is governed by the National Numbering Plan.
  • The Department of Telecom administers the numbers for fixed and the mobile networks based on the ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) recommendations.
  • TRAI has recommended automated allocation of numbering resources be done using number management system software to speed up the process


TRAI’s has recommended:

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that a new National Numbering Plan be issued at the earliest so that a uniquely identifiable number can be provided to every subscriber in India.
  • Switching to an 11-digit mobile number, reallocation of mobile numbering resources surrendered by operators who have shut shop and prefixing zero for all mobile calls made from fixed line


Issues with 11-digit number:

  • Some serious problems are anticipated with a change in the mobile number from 10 to 11 digits.
  • Migrating to 11 digits would require widespread modifications in the configuration of switches involving cost.
  • This would also cause inconvenience to the customers in the form of dialling extra digits and updating phone memory.
  • This could lead to more dialling errors, traffic, and loss of revenue to telecom operators.


Then, why need a plan as such?

  • The total number of telephone subscribers in India stands at 1,177.02 million with a tele-density of 87.45% at the end of January 2020.
  • This increasing digitization would pave the way towards the dream of digital India and mobile economy.
  • Thus, it has become necessary to review the utilization of numbering resources in the country.
  • Considering the above scenario, the implementation of the TRAI’s recommendation with solutions to possible issues would help for sustainable growth of the telecommunication services.
  • Hence TRAI needs to review the utilization of the numbering resources and make some policy decisions to ensure that adequate resources are available for sustainable growth of the telecom services.


Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI):

  • The TRAI is a statutory body set up under section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
  • It is the regulator of the telecommunications and its tariffs in India.
  • The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
  • TRAI regularly issues orders and directions on various subjects such as tariffs, interconnections, quality of service, DTH services and mobile number portability.

PM Swanidhi Scheme: For Street Vendors

PM Swanidhi Scheme:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Street Vendor’s Atmanirbhar Nidhi Scheme is aimed at benefiting over 50 lakh vendors who had their businesses operational on or before March 24.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched a micro-credit facility for street vendors under the Swanidhi Scheme.
  • The scheme was announced by Finance Minister as a part of the economic package for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
  • The loans are meant to help kick-start activity for vendors who have been left without any income since the lockdown was implemented on March 25.
  • The scheme is valid until March 2022.


Expected beneficiaries:

  • This loan will be provided to those who run shops on the roadside, handcart or streetcar.
  • Fruit-vegetable, laundry, saloon and paan shops are also included in this category.


Facilities provided under the scheme:

  • The vendors will be able to apply for a working capital loan of up to ₹10,000, which is repayable in monthly instalments within a year.
  • On timely/early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy of 7% per annum will be credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through direct benefit transfer on a six-monthly basis.
  • The loans would be without collateral. There will be no penalty on early repayment of the loan.

Why PM-CARES is not a public authority under RTI Act?

About PM-CARES Fund:

  • The PMO has refused to disclose details on the creation and operation of the PM-CARES Fund, telling a Right to Information applicant that the fund is “not a public authority” under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • The fund will be a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’.
  • The PM is Chairman of this trust and members include the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
  • Contributions to the fund will qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending that companies are mandated to make.
  • The Fund accepts micro-donations as well.
  • Not a public authority
  • The PMO cited a Supreme Court observation that indiscriminate and impractical demands under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive.
  • PM-CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • However, relevant information in respect of PM-CARES Fund may be seen on its website.


Then, what makes an authority, Public?

  • The relevant section of the RTI Act defines a “public authority” as “any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted —
  1. by or under the Constitution;
  2. by any other law made by Parliament;
  3. by any other law made by State Legislature;
  4. by the notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government — and includes any (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate govt.


Arguments against PM-CARES:

  • The fund carries a public name, the composition of the trust, control, usage of an emblem, government domain name etc. that signifies it as a public authority.
  • PM is the ex-officio chairman of the Trust, while three cabinet ministers are ex-officio trustees.
  • The composition of the trust is enough to show that Government exercises substantive control over the trust, making it a public authority.

MAY - 2020



Constitution, Polity, Social Justice

Indian Constitution

  • Indian Constitution—Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.
  • Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Devolution of Powers and Finances up to Local Levels and Challenges Therein.
  • Separation of Powers between various organs Dispute Redressal Mechanisms and Institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian Constitutional Scheme with that of Other Countries.
  • Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these.
  • Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government; Pressure Groups and Formal/Informal Associations and their Role in the Polity.
  • Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.



  • Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
  • Development Processes and the Development Industry — the Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability, E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; Citizens Charters, Transparency & Accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Role of Civil Services in a Democracy.


Social Justice

  • Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.
  • Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger.