14 July, 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Disable unconstitutional sections (Polity & Governance)
  • PM rejigs Cabinet panels; NDA allies largely ignored (Polity & Governance)
  • The upcoming crisis in Indian federalism (Polity & Governance)
  • Growth matters but income levels matter more (Indian Economy)
  • Speed Test
  • Question for the Day (Polity & Governance)

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    UPSC Current Affairs: Disable unconstitutional sections (Article) | Page 7

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme:  Disabling unconstitutional provisions| Section 66A of IT Act | Navtej Singh Johar

     

    Recently, while hearing an application filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Supreme Court expressed shock that despite its declaration of Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 as being unconstitutional six years ago (Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India), criminal cases are still being registered by the police under this Section. The PUCL said that 1,307 cases had been registered since 2015 across States and therefore the Court must issue guidelines against the registering of FIRs by the police under this head.  

    In 2015, the Supreme Court had declared Section 66A of the IT Act, which made online posting of information considered as “grossly offensive” a crime punishable by jail, as being violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and not saved under the ambit of reasonable restrictions defined in Article 19(2). It had also said that the expressions used in Section 66A were open-ended, undefined and therefore arbitrary.

    In 1983, the Court had struck down Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which provided capital punishment for murder by a person serving a life term in another case, as being unconstitutional.

    In Mithu vs. State of Punjab, section 303 of the IPC was struck down as violative of Article 21 and 14 of the Constitution of India, as the offence under the section was punishable only with capital punishment and did not give the judiciary the power to exercise its discretion and thus result in an unfair, unjust and unreasonable procedure depriving a person of his life.

     

    In 2018 (Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India), the Court read down Section 377 of the IPC criminalising “unnatural sex” as being unconstitutional.

    Similarly, in Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018), the Court held adultery as defined under Section 497 of the IPC as being manifestly arbitrary, discriminatory and violative of the dignity of a woman and therefore, unconstitutional.

    Rajesh Sharma case – amended section 498A, prescribing measures to curb its misuse.

     

     

    Benefits of Courts reforming the laws

     

     

    • Progressive realization of rights
      • Right to privacy is a fundamental right ( S. Puttaswamy case).
      • An individual’s right to develop one’s individuality against the demand of social conformity must be recognised. (Navtej Singh Johar case).
      • Individual freedom prevails over purported group rights, even in the matter of religion.(Shabrimala Judgement).
      • Section 497 subordinates’ women and creates a dent on individual identity of women. (Joseph Shine).
      • MC Mehta case - right to live in pollution free environment is par to life.
      • Dongh Lian Kham Vs UoI - SC stated that principle of Non-refoulement is part of guarantee under article 21 irrespective of Nationality.

     

    • Upholds liberty and freedom of citizen
      • Shreya Singhal Case – SC struck down section 66A of IT act.
      • Mere threat to public order cannot be the ground to suppress freedom of expression (Rangarajan Vs P. Jagjeevan Ram case).
      • Kedarnath Vs State of Bihar – Sedition charges can be imposed only if it involves intention to create disorder or incitement to violence.
      • Common Cause Vs UoI (2016) – Comments against government, however strongly worded, if shun violence, are not sedition.
      • Aadhar Verdict - Aadhar cannot be made mandatory.

     

    • Make sure other organs work efficiently

     

    • Deals with issues not dealt by other organs
      • Lily Thomas Vs Union of India case -MPs, MLAs, convicted of a crime and awarded minimum of 2 years of imprisonment, loses membership of the house.
      • ADR & PUCL Vs UoI case – SC upheld high court judgement mandating EC to obtain and disclose the background information of Candidates.
      • Police reform – Prakash Singh case
      • Electoral reform – NOTA case 2013
      • Transgender rights – NALSA case

     

    • Make sure political parties’ ideology are not imposed
    • Complete justice
      • Witness protection scheme
      • Ashok Hurra case SC introduced curative petition.

     

    Negligence by the police

    Undoubtedly, the registration of FIRs by the police under these sections is illegal and violative of the Court’s directions. Though such cases may not always be registered intentionally, negligence by Station House Officers (SHOs) must be nipped in the bud. The supervisory police officers at the sub-divisional level must ensure that such sections, if invoked due to lack of knowledge at the police station level, are removed at the earliest. The Superintendents of Police must fix responsibility on the erring officer and take corrective action. Everyone responsible for the negligence should not only be answerable to the courts for contempt but also be liable for departmental action. If the SHOs and others don’t mend their ways despite reprimands, their annual confidential reports could be dented with adverse entries. Action can also be initiated under the new Section 166A of the IPC which provides punishment for up to two years for disobeying directions under the law.

    Avoiding registration

    The best way to avoid registration of offences under sections held unconstitutional is to educate police officers of all ranks about such provisions in basic training institutes.

    Second, as the Attorney General of India, K.K. Venugopal, had suggested, there could be a mention in brackets near the provision that the provision has been struck down, so that FIRs are not registered under those sections.

    Third, unconstitutional sections of the IPC can be disabled in the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS). Most States register FIRs in the CCTNS either on a real-time basis or in offline mode and synchronise this data with the State Data Centre as soon as connectivity is restored. In case police stations don’t have connectivity, the data (i.e., FIR in electronic format) are taken to the nearest police station that has connectivity and uploaded. The CCTNS came in handy when the Supreme Court directed the States in 2016 to upload FIRs on official websites within 24 to 72 hours of registration.

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: PM rejigs Cabinet panels; NDA allies largely ignored | Page – 1

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme:  Cabinet Committees | Benefits of Cabinet Committees | UPSC        

     

    Cabinet Committees  

     

    • Cabinet Committees are basically sub-committees within the Union Cabinet to look at specific remits and deliberate on various issues. The Cabinet Committee are institutional arrangements to reduce the workload of the Cabinet.
    • The Cabinet Committees are based on the principles of division of labour and effective delegation.
    • The executive in India works under the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961.
    • These Rules emerge out of Article 77(3) of the Constitution, which states: “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.”
    • So the Cabinet Committees are extra-constitutional in emergence. They are not mentioned in the Constitution. However, the Rules of Business provide for their establishment.
    • All committees except Cabinet Committee on Accommodation and Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs are headed by Prime Minister.
    • The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them. He can add or reduce the number of committees.
    • Their membership varies from three to eight. They usually include only Cabinet Ministers. However, the non-cabinet Ministers are not debarred from their membership.
    • They not only sort out issues and formulate proposals for the consideration of the Cabinet, but also take decisions. However, the Cabinet can review their decisions.

     

    Advantages of cabinet committees

     

    • They are an organizational device to reduce the enormous workload of the Cabinet.
    • They also facilitate in-depth examination of policy issues.
    • Facilitate inter-governmental and inter-departmental coordination.
    • It checks arbitrary actions by ministers.
    • They help in safeguarding principle of collective responsibility
    • They are based on the principles of division of labour and effective delegation.
    • Committees facilitates efficient utilization of time and human resources.

     

    Cabinet Committees Formed

    • Appointments Committeeof the Cabinet.
    • Cabinet Committee on Accommodation.
    • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
    • Cabinet Committee onParliamentary Affairs.
    • Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.
    • Cabinet Committee on Security.
    • Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth.
    • Cabinet Committee on Employment & Skill Development.

     

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: The upcoming crisis in Indian federalism | Page 6

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme:  Delimitation for 2026 | Problem for Indian Federalism | Democracy v Federalism | UPSC     

     

     

    Allocation of seats in Lok Sabha

    • Article 81: Each state is allotted a number of seats in the Lok Sabha in such a manner that the ratio between that number and its population was as close to uniform as possible.
      • This provision does not apply for states having a population of less than 6 million (60 lakh).
      • The number of seats per state has been frozen under the constitutional amendment of 1976.

     

    Allocation of seats in Rajya Sabha

    • Article 80: The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides for allocation of seats to the States and Union Territories in Rajya Sabha.
    • The allocation of seats is made on the basis of the population of each State.

     

     

    The freezing of seats:

    • Since 1976, seats in the Lok Sabha have reflected the 1971 census and have not taken into account changes in the population.
      • Reason:
        • The population-to-seat ratio, as mandated under Article 81, should be the same for all states. Although unintended, this implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament.
        • The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
        • To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.
        • Later on it was extended until 2026

     

    Post 2026, when this compact ends, there will be a seismic shift in national power towards India’s poorest and most populated States, which is sure to generate much resentment among the States that will lose political and economic power and influence.

     

    This calls for a realignment in the balance between the democratic principle and the federal principle in the Indian Constitution.

     

    The problem: Democracy Vs Federalism

    • In a democratic set up, all citizens are equal and are thus entitled to equal representation in governance. But this would imply that bigger States are likely to dominate the national conversation over smaller States.
    • Small States fear that they would get a smaller share of the pie economically, a much reduced say in national issues, and be irrelevant in the political governance of the country.

     

    In order to assuage this legitimate fear, federal democracies have incorporated into their governing structures various kinds of compromises to ensure a balance between democratic principles and federal ones.

     

    The American Structure

    For example, when the Americans adopted their Constitution, they protected smaller States in four ways.

    • First, national powers over the States were limited.
    • Second, each State regardless of size had two seats in the Senate, giving smaller States an outsized role in national governance.
    • Third, Presidents are elected by electoral votes, which means they must win States rather than the total national population.

     

    This federal structure has led to the severing of causational links between the national vote and presidential elections. Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump won without winning the popular vote.

     

    SO what we can do to resolve this challenge?

    We have the components of such a new balance that need to be fine-tuned to Indian realities.

    • Delegation of more powers to state
      • First, the powers of States vis-à-vis the Centre contained in the Lists and in the provisions dealing with altering boundaries of States must be increased to assuage the fear of smaller States that they will be dominated by bigger ones.
      • There is no reason to believe that empowering our States would cause national disintegration. On the contrary, more localised decision-making is bound to increase national prosperity. Indeed, this was the entire goal of the creation of Panchayat governance through the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, whose promise remains — unfortunately — unrealised.
    • Alteration in Rajya Sabha
      • Second, the role and composition of the Rajya Sabha, our House of States, must be expanded.
      • This would allow smaller States a kind of brake over national majoritarian politics that adversely impact them.
    • Amendment in Financial allocations
      • Third, constitutional change and the change in financial redistribution between the States must require the consent of all or nearly all States (the fate of the Goods and Services Tax, or GST, serves as a salutary warning in this regard). Constitutional provisions dealing with language and religion must also be inviolate.
      • If India is a joint venture between majority and minority shareholders, the minority must be protected by a comprehensive list of “consensus items” that require unanimity — or at least, a super-majority — and not simple majority.
    • Reorganization of states
      • Fourth, serious thought must be given to breaking up the biggest States into smaller units that will not by themselves dominate the national conversation.

     

    • Competing claims
    • The unity of India is, of course, the fundamental premise underlying this discussion; but this unity does not depend on an overbearing Centre for its survival. National bonds of affection and patriotism will not be severed by devolution of powers though they will be at least severely strained when one part of the country is empowered over another. Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo contains the memorable quote, Everything must change for everything to remain the same. This includes the question of how we are to balance the competing claims of democracy and federalism, in the years to come.

     

     

    1. UPSC Current Affairs: Growth matters but income levels matter more | Page 7

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy | Mains: GS Paper II – Indian Economy

    Sub Theme:  State of Economy | Need to Revive Demand | Credit Creation | GDP | UPSC     

     

     

    State of the Economy    

     

    As per the National Statistical Office (NSO) report, the Indian Economy has suffered worst form of "Economic Recession" for the first time in the last 41 years since 1979-80.

     

     

    There has been decline in Gross Savings from 34.6% in 2011-12 to 30.9% in 2019-20. The decline in the Gross Savings is basically on account of decline in Gross savings of household sector.

     

    The rate of Inflation, as measured by CPI has increased to 6.3% in May 2021.

     

     

    In order to counter the economic slowdown caused due to Covid-19 pandemic, the finance minister has announced relief package worth Rs 6.2 lakh crores. This in addition to Rs 20 lakh crores support extended through the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package announced last year. In this regard, the author of this article provides a critique of the Government's response.

     

    Current Economic Situation

     

    According to the Expenditure method, GDP is calculated as

    Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE) + Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE) + Gross Capital Formation (GCF) + Net Exports (Exports- Imports)

     

    In India, PFCE accounting for almost 60% of India's GDP is the major driver. The PFCE (Demand) is in turn dependent up number of factors- Income Levels of the People, Employment Status, Certainty about future increase in incomes etc.

    The Covid-19 pandemic led to decrease in the income levels, loss of jobs, greater uncertainty about future etc. and hence decreases in the overall demand. Unless the domestic demand revives, the Indian Economy will not be able to register higher GDP growth rate.

     

    Policy response of the Government

    The Government has announced relief package in the form of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package. One of the main pillars of the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package is to provide for government guarantee on the loans given by the Banks to certain sectors of the economy such as MSMEs, Tourism, Healthcare etc. The idea behind such a government’s move is to improve the credit creation in the economy.

     

    Rationale behind Government's move: The RBI has taken number of measures to improve the liquidity situation in the economy. In spite of surplus liquidity, Banks are reluctant to lend loans due to the fear of rising NPAs due to the economic slowdown. Similarly, various business establishments are also reluctant to take loans due to poor investor sentiment. Thus, there is a need to nudge the Banks to lend loans to private sector. Similarly, even the private sector must be encouraged to take loans.

    The improvement in credit creation would have multifaceted benefits in the form of increased investment, job creation, revival of demand and thus boost to the GDP growth rate. In this regard, the Government has sought to improve the credit creation by giving guarantee on loans taken by the private sector entities which have been affected by the covid-19 pandemic.

     

    Arguments put forth by the Author

    Point 1: Fail to revive demand: The relief package of the Government focusses more on the supply side measures rather than enhancing the demand in the economy. The author argues that since the PFCE is the major driver of the economy, the Government must focus more on boosting demand in the economy. This can be done in the form of reducing the tax rates, direct cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable sections etc.

     

    Counter-Argument:

    Focusing on supply side has its own benefits.

    • Indirectly boost demand: Focus on Supply Side measures-->Boost production--> Creation of employment opportunities--> increase in income levels--> Increase in demand--> Increase in the GDP growth.
    • Minimal Impact on Fiscal Deficit: Finances of the Government have got adversely affected due to Covid-19 pandemic. Already, the overall Fiscal deficit of the Government has increased to 9.5% of the GDP in 2020-21. The Government has limited scope for boosting demand by reducing the tax rates, direct cash transfers etc.
    • On the other hand, the Government's focus on credit creation by influencing the Banks to lend does not has much impact on its Finances. The Government would be required to repay the loans only in case of default.

     

    Point No.2: No immediate impact: Most of the relief measures announced by the Government would have impact on the economy only in the medium term. For example, long-pending reforms announced by the Government in the form of Farm acts, National Infrastructure pipeline etc. would have impact only in the medium and long run and would not be able to revive the economy in the short run.

     

     

    Point No. 3: Fails to improve Credit Creation: Even if the Government gives guarantee, the credit creation in the economy may not improve. The Banks may still be reluctant to give loans due to the fear of NPAs. Similarly, poor investment sentiment would also discourage the Private sector from taking loans.

     

    Way Forward (According to Author)

    At this juncture, we should more be concerned about growth in income levels of the people rather than GDP growth rates. Focusing on enhancing GDP growth rates alone will not be sustainable in the long run, if the income levels of the people does not increase.

    On the other hand, if the Government focusses on enhancing the income levels of the people, automatically, it will lead to higher GDP growth rates as well. This can be understood as below:

    Government's focus on Increase in Income levels-->Domestic demand Increases--> Encourage investment--> Create Jobs--> Inclusive growth and Higher Disposable income--> Higher PFCE--> Higher GDP.

     

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