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Indian polity Current affairs 2021

Following the current events and news in the area of Indian polity is very important for the general studies paper in the UPSC exam. In recent times questions are set on only those topics that have made news. Regular study of Indian polity from NCERT books or otherwise is no longer required. The idea is to follow the current affairs news related to Indian polity and understand the Indian polity behind those issues. This is true for all levels of teh IAS exam - prelims, mains and also the interview.

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Current Affairs in Indian polity - March 2021

Law commission: The Law Commission of India is a non-statutory body constituted by the Government of India from time to time. The government constitutes law commission from time to time as per the requirement. The Commission was originally constituted in 1955 and is re-constituted every three years. It works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice. 

The First Law Commission of Independent India was established in 1955 under the Chairmanship of the then Attorney-General of India, M. C. Setalvad.  Since then, twenty one more Commissions have been established. The first such Commission before the independence of India was established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay.

Recently, the Government of India (GoI) formally announced the constitution of the 22nd Law Commission. The law panel will advise the government on complex legal issues. The Commission has a term of three years. With the president giving his nod for the creation of the Law Commission, government will now appoint a chairperson to head the panel and other members.

The chairperson usually is a retired Supreme Court judge or a retired chief justice of a high court. The term of the previous commission had ended on August 31, 2018. Union Cabinet had last week had approved for the reconstituting the panel.

UNHRC: It refers to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights. The UNCHR was established in 1946 by ECOSOC. It is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations that works to promote and protect the human rights that are guaranteed under international law and stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Recently, the United Nation Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has filed an intervention in the Supreme Court on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The commission has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the citizenship amendment law.

India in response dismissed any foreign intervention in CAA matter as it was an internal matter of the country and no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India's sovereignty.

India believes that the CAA is an internal rely of the country. Also, consistent with India, CAA is constitutionally valid.

CAA: The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by both the housed of the Parliament of India in 2019. The act amends Citizenship Act 1955. It seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan (Hindus, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Sikhs) who have entered India before 31 December 2014 to escape racial discrimination.

The CAA had led to widespread protests in India, starting with northeastern states.

Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019: Recently, On March 2, 2020, Minister of Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' introduced The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 11 December 2019 and then passed the following day.

The Bill aims to convert India’s three deemed-to-be Sanskrit universities. They are Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi, and Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati  into Central Sanskrit Universities. The Universities will work towards the promotion of the knowledge of sanskrit which is an important ancient language of India.

Banking Regulation Act:  Finance Minister of India Nirmala Sitaraman  on March 3, 2020, introduced a bill in the Parliament to amend the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 to give the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) more powers to regulate cooperative banks. The bill comes in the wake of the crisis at the Punjab & Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank in 2019.

The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to strengthen co-operative banks by increasing professionalism, enabling access to capital, improving governance and ensuring sound banking through the RBI. Its objective is to prevent frauds as that seen at Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Banks (PMC).

According to the provisions in the bill, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), before issuing order for supersession of boards of cooperative banks registered with states will have to consult with the state governments. The amendments that are being made will apply to all urban co-operative banks and multi-state cooperative banks. The Cooperative Banks are currently under dual control of both the Registrar of Co-operative Societies and RBI.

Companies Act, 2013: The Companies Act 2013 is an Act of the Parliament of India on Indian company law. It is the law covering incorporation, dissolution and the running of companies in India. The Act came into force across India on 12th September 2013 and has a few amendments to the previous act of 1956. It has also introduced new concepts like a One Person Company.

Recently, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 4 March 2020, gave its approval to the Companies (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Cabinet approved 72 changes to the Companies Act, 2013 with an aim to increase the ease of doing business in India and to decriminalize the provisions in the act.

Vivad Se Viswas Bill, 2020: Lok Sabha on 4 March 2020 passed the Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020 with some amendments. The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman on 5 February 2020 during the Union Budget 2020-21.

The bill aims to provide a mechanism for resolution of pending tax disputes related to income tax and corporation tax.  It seeks to provide taxpayers a lucrative opportunity to settle direct tax disputes within the current financial year by waiving interest and penalty on their pending taxes. The amended bill will allow taxpayers to settle cases pending before the Commissioner (Appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunals (ITATs), Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs), High Courts and the Supreme Court.

Mineral Law Amendment Bill: Lok Sabha, on 4 March 2020 passed the Mineral Laws (Amendment) bill, 2020. The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi for consideration and passing. The bill seeks to amend Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) act, 1957 and also Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.

The Bill proposes to remove end-use restrictions for participating in coal mine auctions and will open up the coal sector fully for commercial mining for all domestic and global companies. This will help in reduction of coal imports. It would also pave the way for auctioning of iron ore mining leases which expire this month.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill 2019: Lok Sabha, on 4 March 2020 passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill 2019. The bill was passed without any discussion. The Bill was moved by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lower House to amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

Mineral Law (Amendment) Bill 2020: The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed in the Rajya sabha on 12 March 2020 with 83 votes.The bill was earlier passed by the Lok sabha on 6th March, 2020. Parliament passed Bill for amendments in Mines & Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 and The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.

The amended Bill seeks to will open a new era in Indian coal & mining sector specially to promote Ease of Doing Business. It will remove end-use restrictions for participating in coal mine auctions and open up the coal sector fully for commercial mining by domestic and global companies. The Bill will not only transform the mining sector in the country boosting coal production and reducing dependence on imports but will also facilitate the implementation of FDI policy in the coal sector..

The Bill replaces the ordinance for amendment of the MMDR Act 1957 and CMSP Act. The ordinance was promulgated on January 11, 2020.

The Ordinance, which was cleared by the cabinet in January, had brought amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (amendment) bill: The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed by the Parliament on 12 March 2020. The Bill was passed by voice vote in Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha had approved the bill earlier on 6 March 2020.   The Bill replaces an ordinance which was passed in 2019.

The amendments are aimed at streamlining the insolvency resolution process and to protect last-mile funding and boost investment in financially-distressed sectors.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 11, 2019. The bill proposes to make amendments in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

The second amendment bill seeks to amend sections 5(12), 5(15), 7, 11, 14, 16(1), 21(2), 23(1), 29A, 227, 239, 240 in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 and insert new section 32A in the code. The IBC Bill came into force in 2016. It has already been amended thrice.

Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020: Lok Sabha on 18 March 2020 passed the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 through a voice vote. The Bill was tabled in the lower house for consideration by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on 4 February 2020 to amend the Aircraft Act, 1934. According to the Civil Aviation Minister, the amendments would fulfill the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The amended Bill also seeks to convert the 3 existing bodies under the Ministry of Civil Aviation which are Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) into statutory bodies. This would enable the three regulatory bodies in the Civil Aviation sector in India to become more effective, which then would lead to enhancement in the level of safety and security of aircraft operations in the country. Under the Act, the Central government may make rules on several matters that include registration of aircraft, regulating air transport services, and prohibition of flight over any specified area. Each of these 3 bodies will be headed by a Director General who will be appointed by the Centre.

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of constitutional review. It consists of the Chief Justice of India and a maximum of 34 judges, it has extensive powers in the form of original, appellate and advisory jurisdictions. It is regarded as the most powerful public institution in India. It was established on 26 January 1950. It’s headquartered in New Delhi. The current CJI of the Supreme Court is Sharad Arvind Bobde.

 The Supreme Court in a historic judgment, recently, granted permanent commission for women in the Indian Navy. A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that there cannot be any gender discrimination and denying permanent commission to women officers who have served the nation would result in a serious miscarriage of justice.  

Maintaining that women and men officers should be treated equally, the Supreme Court  asked the Centre to complete the modalities within three months.

Earlier the women in the Indian Armed forces like Indian Army, Indian Air force and Indian Navy were only allowed to have Short Service Commission. The Short Service Commission is basically a duty period of 10-14 years only after this one will get retired from the service. 

Rajya Sabha: The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of India. It is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. At present the Rajya Sabha has a maximum membership of 245, of which 233 are elected by the legislatures of the states and union territories using single transferable votes through Open Ballot while the President has the power to appoint 12 members for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services. The Upper House was founded on 3 April 1952 by the Constituent Assembly of India. It is headquartered in New Delhi. Its Chaiperson is Venkaiah Naidu.

Recently, the former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi took an oath as Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament. He was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the President Ram Nath Kovind on 16 March 2020. He is the first former CJI to be nominated to Rajya Sabha. The President nominated Ranjan Gogoi for the Upper House under "sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of Article 80 of the Constitution of India, read with clause (3) of that article".

Article 80-Clause (3): Article 80-Clause states that the President has powers to nominate persons with special knowledge to the council of states. The person eligible must have special knowledge in Literature, art, science and social service.

Ranjan Gogoi: He was the 46th Chief Justice of India.  He was appointed a permanent judge of the Gauhati High Court on February 28, 2001. On 12 February 2011 he was appointed as the Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court. He was elevated to the top court the following year. He was appointed as CJI by the President of India Ram Nath Kovind on 3rd October 2018, and retired on 17th November 2019. He had retired from the position after delivering the historic Ayodhya Verdict. He was succeeded by SA Bobde.

Supreme Court: Supreme Court (SC) in a historic judgment, recently, removed the BJP lawmaker and Manipur Forest Cabinet Minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh from the state cabinet. For the first time the Supreme Court invoked its plenary powers to remove him over Disqualification petition. He has also been restrained from entering the Legislative assembly.

Mr Shyamkumar had won the 2017 assembly elections on Congress Ticket abut later switched over to BJP to become the minister of Town Planning, forest and Environment. Disqualification petitions were filed against him to the speaker by the other MLAs. The petition filed by them was still pending before the speaker of the Manipur Assembly since 2017. The Speaker also failed to take any decision within the stipulated time period of 4 weeks which was provided by the Supreme Court in the 21st January, 2020 order. When no action was taken then the issue was appealed to Supreme Court. The apex court invoked Article 142 and removed the minister from the cabinet.

Article 142: Article 142 of the Indian constitution states that the Supreme Court can pass an order doing “complete justice” to matters pending before it.

Article 212: Article 212 of the Constitution bars courts from inquiring into proceedings of the Legislature. No members, officers of the state can be subjected to jurisdiction while exercising his duties or regulating procedures, maintaining order. However, if any matters are left unsolved the  SC can overrule this Act and invoke Article 142.

Under Anti-Defection law the winning members cannot switch parties. Any member or members involved in such an act according to the law are considered disqualified. 

 

Justice Puligoru Venkata Sanjay Kumar: Justice Puligoru Venkata Sanjay Kumar has recently been sworn-in as the Chief Justice of Manipur High Court.

Justice PV Sanjay Kumar was appointed as Chief Justice of the High Court of Manipur by the President of India on 12th February, 2021 at Raj Bhavan, Imphal.

Prior to this, he served as a Judge in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Dr. Kiran Bedi: Dr. Kiran Bedi has recently been removed from the post of Puducherry Lieutenant Governor amid a political turmoil in the Union territory following the resignation of Congress MLAs from the V Narayanasamy government.

  1. The additional charge of Telangana Governor has been given to Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan who is the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.
  2. Ms. Bedi was the fourth woman incumbent of the post of Lt Governor.
  3. She assumed office of Lt Governor on May 29, 2016 and had been at loggerheads with Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy on various issues.

Article 153 of the Indian constitution:

Article 153 of the Indian constitution states that here shall be Governor for each State. Nothing in this article shall prevent the appointment of the same person as Governor for two or more States.

Kotia Cluster: Andhra Pradesh recently held panchayat elections in three villages in the Kotia cluster, which is at the centre of a dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

 This is the first time Andhra has held panchayat polls in any of these villages.

Key highlights of these disputed villages are as follows:

  1. These villages in the Kotia Cluster, with a population of nearly 5,000, are located on a remote hilltop on the inter-state border.
  2. These are inhabited by Kondh tribals.
  3. The region was once a Maoist hotbed and still reports sporadic incidents of violence.
  4. The region is also rich in mineral resources like gold, platinum, manganese, bauxite, graphite and limestone.

Background of the Andhra-Odisha Boundary Dispute:

  1. Prior to April 1, 1936, villages under Kotia panchayat were part of Jeypore Estate.
  2. In the Constitution of Orissa Order, 1936, the Government of India (GoI) demarcated Odisha from the erstwhile Madras Presidency.
  3. The Presidency included the present-day Andhra Pradesh.
  4. In 1942, the Madras government contested the boundary and ordered re-demarcation of the two states.
  5. In a joint survey of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, seven villages of Kotia gram panchayat were recorded as revenue villages and revenue was collected by the Odisha government. But, the exercise left out the 21 villages now under dispute.
  6. The villages were not surveyed by the Andhra Pradesh government either when the state of Andhra Pradesh was created in 1955.
  7. In the early 1980s, Odisha filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding right and possession of jurisdiction over the 21 villages.
  8. In 2006 however, the court ruled that since disputes belonging to the state boundaries are not within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the matter can only be resolved by Parliament and passed a permanent injunction on the disputed area.

Current Status:

  1. In Andhra, Vizianagaram District collector said the three villages are separate gram panchayats and fall under Salur Mandal, hence elections were held.
  2. However, the villages participate in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections for both states. They are registered as voters for -
    • Salur Assembly and Araku Lok Sabha seats of Andhra
    • Pottangi Assembly and Koraput Lok Sabha seats of Odisha.

 

  1. The villagers enjoy benefits from both states under various schemes.
  2. A day after Andhra notified the panchayat elections here; Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated projects worth Rs 18 crore.

Juvenile Law: The Union Cabinet has recently approved the proposal of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The proposal seeks to introduce measures for strengthening Child Protection set-up to ensure best interest of children.

The key highlights under the proposed act are as follows:

  1. The amendments include authorizing District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrate to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability.
  2. Under the act, the District Magistrates have been further empowered to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions.
  3. Some of the other aspects of the proposal are - defining eligibility parameters for appointment of CWC members, and categorizing previously undefined offences as ‘serious offence’.
  4. Several difficulties faced in implementation of various provisions of the Act have also been addressed.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:

  1. The Indian Parliament passed The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 on December 22, 2015 amid intense controversy, debate and protest over many of its provisions by the Child Rights fraternity. It came into force on January 15, 2016.
  2. The act replaced the Indian juvenile delinquency law -Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  3. The act allows juveniles between the age of 16-18 years, who are involved in Heinous Offences, to be tried as adults.
  4. The Act also seeks to create a universally accessible adoption law for India, superseding the Guardians and Wards Act (1890) (applicable to Muslims) and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956), which is applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs). It does not replace them though.

Governing Council of NITI Aayog: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently chaired the sixth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog.

About:

  1. The meeting which was held on 20th February 2021 included the following objectives:
  1. Making India a Manufacturing Powerhouse
  2. Reimagining Agriculture
  3. Improving Physical Infrastructure
  4. Accelerating Human Resources Development
  5. Improving Service Delivery at Grassroots Level
  6. Health and Nutrition.
  1. The Governing Council presented a platform to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues.
  2. It comprises the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers of States and Union Territories (UTs), with Legislatures and Lt Governors of other UTs.
  3. The sixth meeting was attended by Ladakh for the first time, in addition to the participation of Jammu and Kashmir as a UT. This time, other UTs headed by administrators were also invited to join.
  4. The meeting was attended by the ex-officio members of the Governing Council, Union Ministers, Vice Chairman, Members and CEO of NITI Aayog, and other senior officials of Government of India.

 

NITI Aayog: It refers to the National Istitution For Transforming India Aayog. NITI Aayog is the premier policy 'Think Tank' of the Government of India (GoI). It was established on 1 January 2015 with an objective to foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation.

The Governing Council of NITI, with The Prime Minister as its Chairman, comprises Chief Ministers of all States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories (UTs). The current CEO of NITI Aayog is Amitabh Kant.

Greater Tipraland: Tripura royal scion Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma has recently announced his new political demand of ‘Greater Tipraland’.

Highlights:

  • His announcement came just three months before elections to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).
  • As per his claims, this would serve the interest of not only the tribals, non-tribals, Tripuri tribals staying outside Tripura but even those outside India in Bandarban, Chittagong, Khagrachari and other border adjacent areas in Bangladesh.

About Greater Tipraland:

  • Greater Tipraland is essentially an extension of the ruling tribal partner Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura's (IPFT) demand of Tipraland, which seeks a separate state for tribals of Tripura.
  • The new demand seeks to include every tribal person living in indigenous area or village outside the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) under the proposed model.
  • However, the demand is not only restricted simply to the Tripura tribal council areas, but also includes ‘Tiprasa’ of Tripuris spread across different states of India like Assam, Mizoram etc. and even those living in Bandarban, Chittagong, Khagrachari and other bordering areas of neighbouring Bangladesh as well.
  • This is an effort by Pradyot to consolidate the tribal vote bank for his organization, The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA).

TTAADC: It is an acronym for Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.

  • The Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) Act 1979 was passed by the Indian parliament after a series of democratic movements launched by the Indigenous people of Tripura, under the provision of the 6th scheduled of the Indian constitution.
  • The principal objective behind setting up the autonomous district council is to empower the Indigenous people to govern themselves and also to bring all round developments of the backward people so as to protect and preserve their culture, customs, and traditions.
  • But it actually came into being on 15 January 1982 and elected members were sworn in on 18 January 1982.
  • Later, it was upgraded under the provision of the 6th schedule of the Indian constitution by the 49th constitution (Amendment) act, 1984; with effect from 1 April 1985.
  • It covers 68% of the total geographical area of the state and is home to over one-third of the total population of Tripura.
  • Its council and assembly are situated in Khumulwng, a town 26 km away from Agartala, the state capital.
  • The district council has a total of 30 seats, of which 28 are for elected members, while two are nominated by the governor of Tripura.

About the Tribes of Tripura:

  • The Tripuri are an ethnic group originating in the Indian state of Tripura.
  • They are the inhabitants of the Twipra/Tripura Kingdom in North-East India and Bangladesh.
  • Tripura has rich cultural heritage of nineteen different tribal communities namely - Tripura/Tripuri, Uchai, Chakma, Mog, Lushai, Kuki, Halam, Munda, Kaur, Riang, Jamatia, Noatia,Orang, Santal, Bhil, Bhutia, Chaimal, Garo, Khasia, and Lepcha.

President's Rule in Puducherry: The Union Cabinet of India chaired by Prime Minister Modi has recently approved to dissolve the Puducherry Assembly and impose President’s rule in the Union Territory.

  • This decision was taken because no party had claimed to form a government in Pondicherry after the chief minister resigned.
  • Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan had recommeded for the appointment of the President’s Rule in Puducherry following the resignation of the Chief Minister, V Narayanasamy, whose government lost majority power in the assembly.
  • The model code of conduct will also come into effect after the Election Commission announced the dates for elections.
  • The approval will now be sent to the President, Ramnath Kovind.
  • The legislative assembly of the UT (Union Territory) will be dissolved once the President accords his permission.
  • Prior to this, the President’s rule was imposed in Puducherry between March and July in 1991 when the JD-DMK coalition government fell.

Note: Under the President’s rule, the Lieutenant Governor becomes the constitutional head of the Union Territory. 

  • Earlier, Soundararajan was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor after Kiran Bedi was removed from her post stating she broke constitutional provisions and rules.

Puducherry: Puducherry, (original name Putuccerial) is also known as Pondicherry. It is a union territory (UT) of India. It was formed in 1962 out of four territories of former French establishment, namely Pondichéry, Karikal, Mahé and Yanaon, excluding Chandannagar. It is named after the largest district, Puducherry. It is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the three sides by Tamil Nadu.

It was under the French rule for 138 years and merged with the Indian Union on 1st November 1954.

E-Daakhil Portal: E-Daakhil portal which was launched by National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on 7th September, 2020 is now operational in 15 States/UTs.

 Delhi was the first state to implement it on 8th September, 2020.

 

Highlights:

  1. Department of Consumer Affairs is now proactively following up with the states to launch e-filing portal at their ends.
  2. Web application for E-filing of consumer complaints named “edaakhil.nic.in” has been developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  3. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which came into force from 20th July, 2020, has the provision for e-filing of consumer complaints in the Consumer Commissions and online payment of the fees for filing a complaint.
  4. This digital software for filing consumer complaints has the many features like e-Notice, case document download link & VC hearing link, filing written response by opposite party, fling rejoinder by complainant and alerts via SMS/Email.
  5. In order to facilitate rural consumers for e-filing, Common Service Centres (CSC) are also being integrated into this portal.

National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NRCDC):

  1. It is a quasi-judicial commission which was set up in 1988 under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
  2. It is usually headed by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India (SCI).

National Informatics Centre (NIC):

  1. National Informatics Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is the technology partner of the Government of India (GoI).
  2. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
  3. It was established in 1976 with an objective to provide technology-driven solutions to Central and State Governments in various aspects of development.
  4. NIC has been instrumental in adopting and providing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and eGovernance support to Central Government.
  5. The current Director-General (DG) is Neeta Verma.

Court Etiquette: The dichotomy around court etiquettes in India was recently once again triggered on February 23, 2020 after a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde, objected to a petitioner addressing judges as “Your Honour” instead of “Your Lordship” or “My lords.”

The CJI told the petitioner, a law student that when you call judges "Your Honour" you either have the Supreme Court of United States or the Magistrate in mind.

Efforts to end colonial salutations:

  • For years, there have been efforts to purge from courtroom protocol salutations such as “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” — a practice inherited from British rule.
  • The Advocates Act of 1961, under section 49(1)(c), empowers the Bar Council of India to make rules on professional and etiquette standards to be observed by advocates.
  • In light of this, a Resolution by the Bar Council of India in 2006 added Chapter IIIA to Part VI of the BCI Rules.
  • In order to show a respectful attitude towards the Court and bearing in mind the dignity of the Judicial Office the form of address to be adopted whether in the Supreme Court and High Courts and in Subordinate Courts should be as follows:
  • Lawyers while appearing before the Justices of various High Courts and Supreme Court may address the Courts as either “My Lord” or “Your Lordships” or “Hon’ble Court” while Lawyers appearing before the Subordinate Courts, Tribunals and other Forums may address the Court as “Your Honor” or “Sir” or the equivalent word in respective regional languages.
  • However, the Bar Council of India issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that it had passed a resolution in 2019 advising advocates not to use it in High Courts and in the top court to maintain the “graciousness and dignity” of the court. It is not clear if the Rules had been amended in line with the resolution.

Note: The terms used such as “Your Lordship’ and “My Lords” were followed in the British colonial regime and can thus be remarked as a symbol of slavery in the context of the same. On the other hand, the salutations such as “Your Honor” are used in the contemporary American judicial administration.

Tarun Bajaj: He is the secretary of the Department of economic affairs who has recently been given the additional charge of revenue secretary.

The present Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey retired on February 28.

Bajaj, an old hand at the Finance Ministry, assumed charge as Economic Affairs secretary in last May, at a time when India saw the worst growth contraction in history on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He is a 1988-batch Haryana cadre officer.

Gairsain: Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat recently declared Gairsain as a new administrative division of the state, a third commissionerate after Kumaon and Garhwal. in the state assembly.

Highlights:

  • He made this declaration in the state assembly after a year when Gairsain in Chamoli district was announced as the summer capital of Uttarakhand.

  • Gairsain division would be comprised of 4 hill districts, including Almora and Bageshwar (both in Kumaon) and Rudrapyarag and Chamoli (in Garhwal).

  • A commissioner and a DIG will be deployed in Gairsain.

Background:

  • On March 4 2020, the Uttarakhand CM had announced in the Budget Session of the Assembly held in Gairsain that the town will become summer capital of the state.

  • Three months later, Governor had given her assent for declaration of Bhararisen (Gairsain) as the summer capital.

  • Gairsain, a tehsil in Chamoli district, is located nearly 270-km from the existing temporary capital of Dehradun.

  • Even when Uttarakhand was carved out as a separate state from Uttar Pradesh (UP) on November 9, 2000, statehood activists had contended that Gairsain was best suited to be the capital of the mountainous state since it was between both Kumaon and Garhwal regions.

  • But it was Dehradun in the plains that was named the temporary capital.

Gairsain: Gairsain is a town and Nagar Panchayat in the Chamoli district. It is situated at the eastern edge of the vast Dudhatoli mountain range. And, at a distance of approximately 250 km from Dehradun. It is easily accessible from both the Garhwal and the Kumaon divisions.

Sansad TV: The Rajya Sabha TV (LSTV) and Lok Sabha Television (LSTV) channels that broadcast the proceedings of the upper and lower Houses of Parliament, respectively, have recently been merged into a single entity.

Highlights:

  • The new channel has been named as the ‘Sansad Television’.

  • Retired IAS officer Ravi Capoor was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sansad TV.

  • Mr. Capoor’s mandate is also to work out the nitty-gritty of the merger, including the integration of the assets and manpower.

  • The decision to change the name was jointly taken by Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

Background:

  • In November 2019, a committee was set up which was headed by former Prasar Bharati Chairman Surya Prakash.

  • It submitted a report in February 2020.

  • The Surya Prakash panel held a meeting with Members of Parliament from different political parties and they strongly recommended the continuation of the live telecast.

  • Under the banner of Sansad TV, the LSTV would continue to telecast live the House proceedings and the RSTV that of the Upper House.

  • During the inter-session period and beyond the working hours of Parliament, both will telecast common content to a large extent.

  • The RSTV would telecast programmes in English while the LSTV platform would telecast programmes in Hindi.

Registration of Political Parties: Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) reduced the public notice period for new political parties seeking registration from 30 days to 7 days due to the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 governs the registration of political parties.

The relaxation in notice period would remain in force till the last dates of nomination for the Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry and West Bengal elections, that is March 19 and April 7, 2021 respectively.

According to guidelines, the applicants are supposed to publish the proposed name of their party in two national and local daily newspapers each on two days, seeking objections, if any, within 30 days.

Representation of People’s Act:

  • Registration of Political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

  • A party seeking registration under the said section with the Commission has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation as per guidelines prescribed by the Commission in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution of India and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

  • As per existing guidelines, the applicant association is, inter-alia, asked to publish proposed Name of party in two national daily newspapers and two local daily newspapers, on two days for submitting objections, if any, with regard to the proposed registration of the party before the Commission within 30 days from such publication.

Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021:

The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 has now been formally passed by both the houses of the parliament.

Key Highlights:

  • Rajya Sabha cleared the bill on the 10 March 2021 through voice vote while the Lok Sabha had cleared it on 12 February, 2021.

  • The legislation seeks to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

  • It comprises of the provisions of dealing with the domestic and international arbitration.

  • It also defines the law to conduct conciliation proceedings.

  • The Bill replaces the Ordinance comprising of the same provisions that was promulgated on November 4, 2020.

Provisions of the Bill:

  • The legislation seeks to ensure that all stakeholders get an opportunity to seek an unconditional stay on enforcement of arbitral awards where the arbitration agreement or contract is induced by fraud or corruption.

  • The bill comprises of the provision of “Automatic stay on awards”. Earlier, the act of 1996 had allowed the party to file application in order to set aside the order given in the arbitration proceeding.

  • It specifies that the count can stay the arbitral award, even if there is pendency of setting aside of application, when the court is satisfied that relevant arbitration agreement or contract or making of award was induced by fraud or corruption.

  • Schedule seven of the principal act (Act of 1996) specifies some qualifications, experience, and accreditation norms for the arbitrators. The arbitrator must be:

  • An advocate under the Advocates Act, 1961 along with the 10 years of experience

  • An officer of Indian Legal Service.

  • The bill of 2021 removes the Schedule seven for arbitrators and mention that these qualifications, experience, and norms will only be specified under regulations by the regulators.

  • The bill also aims at giving greater flexibility to the Arbitration Council of India and helping in promotion of institutional arbitration.

About the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996:

  • The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 is the main governing law of the arbitration.

  • The act was enacted with the aim of consolidating and amending the law related to the international commercial arbitration, domestic arbitration and enforcement of the foreign award.

  • It also seeks to define the law related to the conciliation.

Tirath Singh Rawat:

Tirath Singh Rawat has recently been sworn-in as the new chief minister of Uttarakhand.

He was administered the oath of office by Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya at Raj Bhawan in Dehradun.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s member of Parliament from Pauri Garhwal, Tirath Singh Rawat, is the 10th Chief Minister of the Uttarakhand.

He took the charge of the top position after the resignation of Trivendra Singh Rawat amid the internal conflict.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has 56 MLAs in the 70-member state Assembly.

About Tirath Singh Rajput:

  • Tirath Singh Rawat was the state BJP president from 2013 to 2015 and is currently the party's national secretary.

  • He has held important organisational positions both in the state and at the Centre.

  • From 2012 to 2017, Tirath Singh Rawat was an MLA from the Chaubattakhal constituency

  • He also held the post of the first education minister of the newly formed Uttarakhand. In 2007, he was elected as the state general secretary of the state.

  • Rawat had earlier served as the state vice president of Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.

Uttarakhand: It is a state in northern India crossed by the Himalayas.Uttarakhand became the 27th state of the Republic of India On 9 November 2000. It was carved from the Himalayan districts of Uttar Pradesh. Its winter Capital is Dehradun and summer capital is Gairsain. The Chief Minister and the Governor of Uttarakhand are Tirath Singh Rajput and Baby Rani Maurya respectively.

Deshbhakti Budget:

Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia recently presented a ₹69,000 crore ‘Deshbhakti Budget’ for 2021-22 in Delhi Assembly.

Key Points:

  • This is the highest budget size presented by any Delhi government so far

  • Sisodia, who also holds the Finance portfolio, presented the budget on March 9, 2021 with provisions seeking to inspire patriotism in the run-up to the 75th Independence Day, free COVID-19 vaccination, and a vision for “India at 2047”.

  • Delhi government’s 2021-22 budget is based on ‘deshbhakti’ or patriotism theme.

  • This will entail placing 500 national flags across the city, like the one in Connaught Place. Rs 45 crore have been set aside for this head.

  • Rs 5,328 crore have been allocated for Jahan Jhuggi Wahan Makan or the in-situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers while another Rs 1,550 for development in unauthorised colonies of Delhi.

  • In addition, Rs 10 crore each have been set aside for events and programmes on the lives and contribution of BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh.

Following Initiatives have also been clubbed under this particular head -

  • Starting a youth mentorship programme for underprivileged students,

  • Arranging free Yoga camps for small groups of people,

  • Starting a Delhi armed forces academy to prepare children for recruitment in the armed forces

  • Giving Rs 1 crore to families of police officials and defence personnel who die in the line of duty

  • Setting up of Mohalla Clinics in Delhi which will be meant exclusively for women patients starting this year. As many as 100 such clinics would be started in the first phase.

  • Mr. Sisodia also announced that the Delhi government aims to bid for hosting the 2048 Olympic Games.

It is a dream project and part of the Aam Aadmi Party government’s vision for the country

Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav:

Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav is a series of events that have been organised by the Government of India (GoI) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence.

Key Points:

  • The curtain raiser activities of the Mahotsav began from March 12 and will continue to August 15, 2022.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the ‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’ event on 12 March 2021 by flagging off a 241-mile march from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to Dandi in Gujarat’s Navsari district to mark the 75 years of India’s Independence.

  • PM Modi before flagging off the padyatra also launched the Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav website. He addressed the crowd on the occasion.

  • Several events were held across country to mark the occasion.

  • The mega event will be witnessing the inauguration of activities that have been planned under the theme ‘India@75’ such as a website, film, Aatmanirbhar Charkha, song, and Aatmanirbhar incubator.

  • In addition to these programmes, the Zonal Cultural Centres and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Youth Affairs Ministry, Ministry of Culture, and TRIFED have also planned various activities to mark the occasion.

Background:

  • The Union government had constituted a National Committee to celebrate 75 years of the country's Independence.

  • The Centre also formed a National Implementation Committee and a Committee of Secretaries to guide the programs that will be undertaken by various Ministries.

  • The Committee is to provide policy direction and guidelines for formulation of programs for the commemoration of 75th anniversary of Indian Independence, at the national and international levels.

  • The first meeting of the National Committee to commemorate India's 75th Independence Day "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav" was held on March 8, 2021, under the chairmanship of Minister Narendra Modi.

  • The new committee consists of 259 eminent citizens from different walks of life as members.

  • At the meeting, PM Modi had informed that 5 pillars have been decided for the celebration of the 75 years.These are:

  1. Freedom Struggle

  2. Ideas at 75

  3. Achievements at 75

  4. Actions at 75

  5. Resolve at 75

  • Various members of the National Committee attended the meeting including Governors, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, political leaders, scientists, officials, spiritual Leaders, media personalities and eminent persons from other walks of life.

Baton of Honor:

President Ram Nath Kovind recently presented a "Baton of Honor" and a letter of appreciation Kiran Bedi at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The former Puducherry lieutenant governor received a Baton of Honor decorated with the emblem of the Indian Republic and the appreciation letter recognizing her service in the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Kiran Bedi was removed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry on February 16, 2021 by the President of India and Tamilisai Soundararajan took additional charge as the Lieutenant Governor on February 18.

Current Affairs in Indian polity - Feburary 2021

The Union Cabinet: The Union Council of Ministers exercises executive authority in the Republic of India. It consists of senior ministers, called 'cabinet ministers', junior ministers, called 'ministers of state' and, rarely, deputy ministers. A smaller executive body called the Union Cabinet is the supreme decision-making body in India. It is led by the Prime Minister.

Recently, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi got its approval to the official amendments in the National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill 2019 for amending the Homoeopathy Central Council (HCC) Act, 1973. Currently, the Bill is pending in Rajya Sabha.

The amendments will ensure necessary regulatory reforms in the field of Homoeopathy education, enable transparency and accountability for protecting the interest of the general public and the National Commission will promote the availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.

Homoeopathy Central Council (HCC) Act, 1973: The Homoeopathy Central Council (HCC) Act, 1973 was enacted for constitution of a Central Council of Homoeopathy for regulation of education and practice of Homoeopathy, for maintenance of Central Register of Homoeopathy and for matters connected therewith. This Act has been modeled on the pattern of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. The broad functions, constitution, regulation making powers are identical to those of the Medical Council of India. While the Act provides a solid foundation for the growth of medical education and practice in Homoeopathy, but various bottlenecks in the functioning of Council have been experienced, which has resulted in serious detrimental effects on medical education as well as delivery of quality Homoeopathy healthcare services.

Union Cabinet: Recently, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 drafted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The amended bill proposes to extend the upper limit for abortion in India to 24 weeks from 20 weeks. The Bill is set to be introduced in the ensuing session of the Parliament.

The Union Cabinet: The Union Council of Ministers exercises executive authority in the Republic of India. It consists of senior ministers, called 'cabinet ministers', junior ministers, called 'ministers of state' and, rarely, deputy ministers. A smaller executive body called the Union Cabinet is the supreme decision-making body in India. It is led by the Prime Minister.

Recently, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi got its approval to the official amendments in the National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill 2019 for amending the Homoeopathy Central Council (HCC) Act, 1973. Currently, the Bill is pending in Rajya Sabha.

The amendments will ensure necessary regulatory reforms in the field of Homoeopathy education, enable transparency and accountability for protecting the interest of the general public and the National Commission will promote the availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.

Homoeopathy Central Council (HCC) Act, 1973: The Homoeopathy Central Council (HCC) Act, 1973 was enacted for constitution of a Central Council of Homoeopathy for regulation of education and practice of Homoeopathy, for maintenance of Central Register of Homoeopathy and for matters connected therewith. This Act has been modeled on the pattern of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. The broad functions, constitution, regulation making powers are identical to those of the Medical Council of India. While the Act provides a solid foundation for the growth of medical education and practice in Homoeopathy, but various bottlenecks in the functioning of Council have been experienced, which has resulted in serious detrimental effects on medical education as well as delivery of quality Homoeopathy healthcare services.

Union Cabinet: Recently, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 drafted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The amended bill proposes to extend the upper limit for abortion in India to 24 weeks from 20 weeks. The Bill is set to be introduced in the ensuing session of the Parliament.

The main aim of the proposed amendments in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill is to increase access of women to safe abortion services and taking into account the advances in medical technology. It will also ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate their pregnancy.

The main aim of the proposed amendments in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill is to increase access of women to safe abortion services and taking into account the advances in medical technology. It will also ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate their pregnancy.

Gram Nyayalayas: Gram Nyayalayas are village courts which were established for speedy and easy access to the justice system in the rural areas across the country at their door steps. The main aim of the judicial body is to provide inexpensive justice in rural areas.

For the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas Parliament enacted Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008. The Act came into force from 2 October 2009. As per the ACt, a Gram Nyayalaya can have jurisdiction over an area specified by a notification by the State Government in consultation with the respective High Court. As specified in the First, Second and Third schedule of the Act, Gram Nyayalayas have both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the offences and nature of suits. Gram Nyayalayas have to follow special procedures in civil matters, in a manner it deems just and reasonable in the interest of justice and can also allow for conciliation of the dispute and settlement of the same in the first instance.

Recently, The Supreme Court of India has directed the state governments to issue notifications establishing “Gram Nyayalayas” within 4 weeks. The apex court of India has also asked the High Courts to accelerate consultation with department concerned on the matter.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana took into account the fact that several States have issued notifications for establishing “Gram Nyayalayas” but the only ones in Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are functioning. The bench also noted that the States of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Telangana, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Odisha have not yet filed their affidavits in compliance with the earlier directions issued by it.

At present, only 208 Gram Nyayalayas are functioning as against 2,500 required to function according to the 12th five-year plan.

Union Cabinet: The Union Council of Ministers exercises executive authority in the Republic of India. It consists of senior ministers, called 'cabinet ministers', junior ministers called 'ministers of state' and, rarely, deputy ministers. It is led by the Prime Minister. A smaller executive body called the Union Cabinet is the supreme decision-making body in India. The prime minister and ministers of the rank of cabinet minister can only be the members of the Union Cabinet in accordance with Article 75.

Recently, the Union Cabinet gave its approval to bring cooperative banks under the regulatory mechanism of Reserve Bank of India. The cabinet on 5 february 2020 approved amendments to the Banking Regulation Act thus allowing multi-state cooperative banks to come under the regulation of the RBI. The announcement was made by Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadkar after a cabinet meeting. This move aims to ensure greater accountability and transparency in the functioning of Cooperative Banks and also to prevent crisis situations that Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank faced.

The cabinet has also approved the IIIT Laws Amendment Bill 2020. According to the bill, 5 IIITs in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model at Surat, Bhagalpur, Bhopal, Agartala, and Raichur are to be declared as institutions of national importance. Now, at present the number of Institutions of National importance has gone upto 25.

The Union Cabinet: The Union Council of Ministers exercises executive authority in the Republic of India. It consists of senior ministers, called 'cabinet ministers', junior ministers called 'ministers of state' and, rarely, deputy ministers. It is led by the Prime Minister. A smaller executive body called the Union Cabinet is the supreme decision-making body in India. The prime minister and ministers of the rank of cabinet minister can only be the members of the Union Cabinet in accordance with Article 75.

The approvals given by the Union Cabinet recently are:-

Vivad Se Vishwas bill, 2020: The Vivad Se Vishwas bill which aims to provide for resolution of disputed direct taxes, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on February 5 by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman during the Budget 2020-21. The vivad se vishwas scheme is similar to the 'Indirect Tax, Sabka Vishwas' scheme, which was introduced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her maiden budget presentation in 2019.

Recently, the Union Cabinet approved to make the required changes in the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020. The bill has been amended to increase its scope to cover litigations pending in various debt recovery tribunals (DRTs).

Pesticide Management Bill 2020: Union Cabinet has approved the Pesticide Management Bill 2020. The bill seeks to regulate the sale of pesticides and provide compensation to farmers in case of losses due to spurious pesticides. It also seeks to promote organic pesticides. The main aim of the bill is to replace the Insecticides Act, 1968. The bill seeks to advertise standards by supplying information regarding the pesticides available in the market in a digital format.

Most of the pesticides that are used in India are hazardous according to the classifications of the World health Organization (WHO). Only 40% of the pesticides are registered while 60% is unregistered and are very harmful.

Major Ports Authority Bill 2020: The cabinet has given its approval to Major Ports Authority Bill 2020 that will be introduced in Parliament to replace the existing regulations under a 1963 law. The Bill seeks to enhance overall efficiencies of the ports was cleared by the Cabinet. Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that there have been many changes in the way ports are operated since the 1960 and public-private partnership (PPP) model was also being used so the bill will provide dispute resolution mechanism and the 12 major ports in the country will have more autonomy to make decisions.

India's 12 major ports are, Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia), and V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam.

Cabinet Approval: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its in principle approval for capital infusion for three Public Sector General Insurance Companies, namely, Oriental Insurance Company Limited (OICL), United India Insurance Company Limited (UIICL) and National Insurance Company Limited (NICL). The Cabinet has allowed a capital infusion of 2,500 crore rupees in three Public Sector General Insurance Companies. The decision has been taken in the wake of the critical financial position and breach of regulatory solvency requirements of these companies to meet the solvency ratio criteria of IRDA (Insurance Regulatory Development Authority).

Law commission: The Law Commission of India is a non-statutory body constituted by the Government of India from time to time. The government constitutes law commission from time to time as per the requirement. The Commission was originally constituted in 1955 and is re-constituted every three years. It works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The First Law Commission of Independent India was established in 1955 under the Chairmanship of the then Attorney-General of India, M. C. Setalvad. Since then, twenty one more Commissions have been established.

The first such Commission before the independence of India was established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay.

Recently, on February 19, 2020,the Union Cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved 22nd Law Commission of India for a period of three years from the date of publication of the Order of Constitution in the Official Gazette.

The tenure of the 21st Law Commission of India was up in 2015 upto August 31, 2018 under Justice (Retd.) BS Chauhan.

The 22nd Law Commission will consist of a full-time Chairperson, 4 full-time Members (including Member-Secretary), Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs as ex-officio Member, Secretary, Legislative Department as ex officio Member and not more than five part-time Members.

The functions of the commission is -

*To identify laws that shall be repealed immediately.

*To examine the existing laws in the light of Directive Principles of State Policy(DPSP) and suggest ways of improvement.

*To respond to requests made by other countries in framing their legal system.

*To make measures that shall help to serve the poor legally.

*To revise the Central Acts of general importance so as to simplify them and remove anomalies, ambiguities, and inequities.

*To undertake research in law and review of existing laws in India for making reforms therein and enacting new legislations.

ART: It refers to the Assisted Reproductive Technologies. The ART is used infertility treatment. This is the only application routine, used for reproductive technology. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), including In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), is a way for a multitude of persons suffering from infertility.

ART has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. As, India has one of the highest growths in the ART centers and the number of ART cycles performed every year there are unethical practices that need to be brought under legislation.

Recently, on February 18, 2020, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi approved a historic Bill for the welfare of Women in the Country – the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2020. The move came after the introduction of the Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2020 in Parliament and the approval of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020.

The Bill proposes establishment of a national registry and registration authority for all clinics and medical professionals serving in the field. The bill also proposes to establish a central data base of banks and clinics all over the country. Severe punishment will be given to people who practice sex selection, sale of human embryos, running agencies or organizations for such unlawful practices.

Union Budget Mobile App: The Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman recently launched the “Union Budget Mobile App” ahead of the presentation of the Union Budget on February 1, 2021. The App was launched by her during the hosting of the customary Halwa ceremony at the North Block on the 30th of January 2021.

The mobile app was launched for hassle-free access of Budget-related documents by Members of Parliament (MPs) and the general public.

The budget will completely be paperless for the first time after. This decision was taken in the light of ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This will be the first time since the presentation of independent India's first Budget on November 26, 1947, that the documents containing income and expenditure statement of the Union Government along with the Finance Bill, detailing new taxes and other measures for the new financial year, will not be physically printed.

About the Union Budget Mobile App:

The mobile app will provide complete access to 14 Union Budget documents, including the Annual Financial Statement or the Budget, Demand for Grants (DG) and the Finance Bill, etc. as prescribed by the Constitution.

The App has a user-friendly interface comprising of features like downloading, printing, search, zoom in and out, bidirectional scrolling, table of contents and external links, etc.

It is bilingual (English & Hindi) and will be available on both Android and iOS platforms.

The App has been developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) under the guidance of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA).

Union Budget:

The “Annual Financial Statement” is commonly known as Budget. However, the term Union Budget has not been mentioned in the constitution. This annual financial statement is prepared in accordance with Article 112 of the Constitution of India.

The Union Budget comprises Capital Budget, Revenue Budget, Expenditure Budget, and this also has the next fiscal year's estimates. In 2016, the Rail Budget was also merged with union budget.

The Capital Budget part of the Union Budget has accounts for capital payment and receipts which are government-related.

Until 1999, the Union Budget was announced at 5:00 pm on last working day February but since the Budget 1999, the timing was changed to 11 am.

In 2016, Narendra Modi shifted the date of Budget presentation to February, 1.

The printing of budget documents starts with the customary Halwa ceremony in which the Halwa is served by the Finance Minister. The tradition of carrying budget in a leather briefcase was also changed in July 2019 when the finance minister carried the budget in a Bahi-Khata.

What is Halwa Ceremony?

Halwa ceremony has been a tradition which has continued for long. As part of the ritual, a sweet dish or Indian dessert ‘halwa’ is prepared in a big ‘kadhai’ (vessel) and served to the officials of the Finance Ministry and support staff, who are directly involved in the Budget making and printing process.

In a bid to prevent the leak of information, the officials are required to stay in the ministry and remain cut off from their families till the presentation of the Budget by the finance minister in the Lok Sabha.

The ceremony also recognizes and lauds the efforts of every staff who have been a part of the budget-making process.

NIC: It refers to the National Informatics Centre. NIC works under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). It provides infrastructure that support the delivery of IT services by the government and the delivery of initiatives under the Digital India Mission

Budget Session 2021: The first part of the Budget Session started on January 29 and will continue till February 15, 2021 and the second part of the session will be from March 8 to April 8 2021.

The Rajya Sabha will function from 9 am to 2 pm and Lok Sabha from 4 pm to 9 pm with Zero Hour and Question Hour.

Members of Parliament have been requested to undergo an RT-PCR test to prevent spread of Covid-19.

NVD: It refers to the National Voters Day. The NVD has been celebrated on the 25th of January every year since 2011, all across the country to mark the foundation day of Election Commission of India (ECI), i.e. 25th January 1950.

The main objective of the NVD celebration is to encourage, facilitate and maximize enrolment, especially for the new voters.

New voters are felicitated and handed over their Elector Photo Identity Card (EPIC) in the NVD functions

Recently, the 11th National Voters Day was celebrated on 25th January 2021 by ECI. President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, virtually graced and addressed the event held at Ashok Hotel, New Delhi.

The theme for this year’s NVD, ‘Making Our Voters Empowered, Vigilant, Safe and Informed’.

Note: Earlier the eligibility age of the voter was 21 years but in 1988 it was lowered to 18 years. The Sixty-First Amendment Bill of 1998 lowered the voter's eligibility age in India.

During the event, the President conferred the National Awards for the year 2020-21 and also launched the Election Commission of India's Web Radio: 'Hello Voters' – an online digital radio service.

The National Awards for the Best Electoral Practices was conferred on State and District level officers for their outstanding performance in the conduct of elections in different spheres such as IT initiatives, Security Management, Election Management during COVID-19, Accessible Election and contribution in the field of voter awareness and outreach. National Awards will also be given to important stakeholders like national icons, CSOs and media groups for their valuable contribution towards voters’ awareness.

ECI’s Web Radio:‘Hello Voters’: This online digital radio service will stream voter awareness programmes. It will be accessible through a link on the ECI website.

The programming style of Radio Hello Voters has been envisaged to match that of popular FM radio services. It will provide information and education on electoral processes through songs, drama, discussions, spots, stories of elections etc. in Hindi, English and regional languages from all over the country.

National e-Vidhan (NeVA) Project: Meghalaya State Assembly Speaker Metbah Lygdoh recently visited Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly Secretariat in Itanagar to get first-hand information about the National e-Vidhan project implemented in the Assembly. He was there on his two day visit.

Arunachal Assembly is the first in the northeast and third in the country to have successfully implemented the ambitious NeVA project.

e-Vidhan: It is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) and it comes under the Digital India Programme. Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MoPA) is the ‘Nodal Ministry’ for its implementation in all the 31 States/UTs with Legislatures.

The project enables e-Assembly or paperless assembly, which is a concept involving of electronic means to facilitate the work of Assembly. It enables automation of entire law making process, tracking of decisions and documents, sharing of information.

The funding for e-Vidhan is provided by the MoPA and technical support by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

The funding of NeVA is on the pattern of Central Sponsored Scheme i.e. 60:40; and 90:10 for North East & hilly States and 100% for UTs.

The main aim of this project is to bring all the legislatures of the country together, in one platform thereby creating a massive data depository without having the complexity of multiple applications.

In addition, live webcasting of Rajya Sabha TV and Lok Sabha TVs is also available on this application. Doordarshan has already been enabled with provision to incorporate similar facility in respect of State Legislatures.

Budget 2021-22: Minimum Government, Maximum Governance: The Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman recently presented the Union Budget 2021-22 in Parliament. It is the first budget of this new decade and also a digital one in the backdrop of unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

While presenting the Union Budget 2021-22 in Parliament, the Union Minister for Finance outlined the plans for reforms in one of the 6 pillars of the budget i.e. of Minimum Government, Maximum Governance.

Key Higlights:

  • The forthcoming Census could be the first digital census in the history of India and has been allocated Rs. 3,768 crore in the year 2021-2022.
  • It is proposed to set up a Conciliation Mechanism and mandate its use for quick resolution of contractual disputes to increase ease of doing business, which inturn will instill confidence in private investors and contractors.
  • To bring about transparency, efficiency and governance reforms in the nursing profession, The National Nursing and Midwifery Commission Bill will be introduced by the government for passing.
  • It is also proposed to take further measures to rationalize the functioning of Tribunals.
  • The Centre will give a grant of Rs. 300 crore to the Government of Goa for celebrating the diamond jubilee year of the state’s liberation from Portuguese rule.
  • It also proposed to provide Rs. 1,000 crores for the welfare of Tea workers especially women and their children in Assam and West Bengal. A special scheme will be devised for the same.

Parliament Proceedings: The Rajya Sabha Chairman, M. Venkaiah Naidu, recently warned MPs against using the mobile phones to record the proceedings of the House. He said that unauthorised recordings and its circulation on social media are a breach of Parliamentary privilege and it would be considered as contempt of the House. He even asked the media who started telecasting the clips to stop doing the same since “it is not authorized”. He further added that the media could be “liable for consequences”.

The reason for this action was because some of the opposition MPs used their mobile phones to record the disruption in proceedings which was over the farmer’s protest and the farm bills. These videos were then shared on social media and it was telecasted on television channels as well.

As per the Parliamentary rules, the usage of mobile phones within Rajya Sabha chambers is not allowed.

Rajya Sabha: The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of India. It is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. At present the Rajya Sabha has a maximum membership of 245, of which 233 are elected by the legislatures of the states and union territories using single transferable votes through Open Ballot while the President has the power to appoint 12 members for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services. The Upper House was founded on 3 April 1952 by the Constituent Assembly of India. It is headquartered in New Delhi. Its Chairperson is Venkaiah Naidu.

The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021: The Upper House of the Parliament recently passed The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 by a voice vote.

Highlights:

  1. It was introduced by Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs of India, Hardeep Singh Puri, for extending the time period available with the Government for regularization of unauthorized colonies.
  2. The bill seeks to replace the ordinance brought to the same effect by the President on 30th of December last year.
  3. The legislation aims to amend the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act, 2011.
  4. The 2011 Act was valid till December 31, 2020. The ordinance extended the deadline to December 31, 2023.
  5. The 2011 Act provided for the regularization of the unauthorized colonies that existed in the national capital as on March 31, 2002 and where construction took place till June 1, 2014.

Hardeep Singh Puri said that the bill was brought in the form of an ordinance because the Winter Session of the Parliament was suspended in view of the Corona pandemic and the validity of this Act was set to expire on December 31, 2020.

Benefits:

  1. Around 1.35 crore people of Delhi who are living in unauthorised colonies will get their ownership right for which the tenders have been floated for “Jahan Jhuggi Wahan Makaan”.
  2. Delhi will not only benefit from the improvement in living condition of those people but the Central Vista project will also make Delhi one of the finest cities in the world.

Note: The government has also introduced an affordable housing rental scheme for the migrant workers living in the city.

Two Child-Policy: Three candidates from the Municipal Corporations of Vadodara and Rajkot in the state of Gujarat were disqualified recently under the two-child policy in place in the state for candidates. The nominations were challenged because each candidate had three children.

Background:

In 2005, the Government of Gujarat amended the Gujarat Local Authorities Act to “prevent a person having more than two children to be a member of panchayat, or the councillor of a municipality or municipal corporation”.

The amendment also added the clause to the other Acts governing elections to local administrative bodies such as the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, and the Gujarat Panchayats Act.

The rationale behind the two-child policy was said to be the need to “order and stabilise” the growing population of the count.

About the Bill:

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Constitution with a view to make a provision by the State to discourage the people from increasing their family and encourage them to keep their family limited to two children only.
  • The said Act will be called the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2020.
  • Insertion of New Article 47 A: After article 47 of the Constitution, the following article shall be inserted, namely - 47A.

Under 47A, the State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education, etc. to its people who keep their family limited to two children and shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control.

Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020: The “Major Ports Authorities Bill, 2020” was passed recently in the Rajya Sabha.

The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on February 10, 2020 through ballot votes with 84 in favour and 44 against it. Lok Sabha had cleared it in September 2020.

The Union minister of state for ports, shipping and waterways, Mansukh Mandaviya, highlighted that the bill will not only encourage the good competition with in the major private ports but will also boost port land usage as well as amplify competition in port tariffs.

Provisions of the bill are as follows:

1. The bill will replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.

2. The bill aims to provide more autonomy in decision-making.

3. It will provide autonomy to the 12 major ports of India.

 

 These ports are as follows:

  • Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla) port
  • Mumbai port
  • JNPT port
  • Mormugao port,
  • New Mangalore port,
  • Cochin port,
  • Chennai port,
  • Kamarajar (erstwhile Ennore) port,
  • V O Chidambaranar port,
  • Visakhapatnam port,
  • Paradip port, and
  • Kolkata (including Haldia) port.

 

4. The Bill allows the Board to use its property, assets and funds as deemed fit for the development of the major port.

5. The bill will professionalise the governance of the port with the formation of boards.

6. It comprises of the provisions of creating a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port that in turn will replace the existing Port Trusts.

7. 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.

Composition of the board: The Board will consist of a Chairperson and a deputy Chairperson. Both will be appointed by the central government following the recommendation of a selection committee. The board will also include one member from each of the respective state governments, Railways Ministry, Defence Ministry, and Customs Department.  It will also have 2 to 4 independent members. In addition, it will include 2 members who will represent the interests of the employees from the Major Port Authority.

Note: However, the bill is being criticized and opposed alleging that it is aimed at privatising the ports. The bill will deplete the powers of states with respect to the land use.

 

Current Affairs in Indian polity - January 2021

Union Cabinet: The Union Cabinet approved the Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) on December 24, 2019. It is a Central Sector Scheme which has a total outlay of 6,000 cr rupees for sustainable management of ground water resources.  This scheme is being implemented in identified states like – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. These states have been selected according to the level of groundwater exploitation and degradation. 

ABY: It refers to Atal Bhujal Yojana (Atal Jal). The scheme aims to promote active participation of the communities in various activities such as formation of water user associations, monitoring and disseminating ground  water data, water budgeting, preparation and implementation of gram panchayat-wise water security plans and information, education and communication (IEC) activities related to sustainable ground water management.

Indian Railways: It is one of the world's largest railway network consists of freight, passengers, tourist, Suburban rail systems, toy train and luxury trains. IR has 4,337 operating railway stations, operates on a multi-gauge network of broad, meter and narrow gauges. It was founded on 16 April 1853.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a transformational organisational restructuring of the Indian Railways. The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a transformational organizational restructuring of the Indian Railways. This historic reform seeks to go a long way in achieving Government's vision of making Indian Railways the growth engine of India's vikas yatra.

The reforms include the unification of eight Group A services of the Railways into a Central Service called Indian Railway Management Service (/RMS). It is expected to end departmentalism, promote smooth working and expedite decision-making. Railway Board will be headed by Chairman Railway Board (CRB). The re-organized board will have one Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and four members along with a few independent members.

Assam Cabinet:   The Assam Cabinet has approved to make Assamese language the state language of Assam. This will exclude BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Administrative Districts), Barak Valley and Hill districts of Assam. Assamese language will be made compulsory in all the school of Assam too. The cabinet proposal targets at fulfilling the demands of the Assamese speaking majority in the Brahmaputra Valley in the wake of rising insecurities among the people after the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed in both Houses of the Parliament earlier this month.

Article 345: Article 345 of the Indian Constitution says that subject to provisions of Article 346 and 347, the State Legislature might adopt one or more languages to be used as official languages.

Article 346: As per Article 346, the states are authorized to decide on the language of communications amongst them after the approval of the Central Government.

Article 347: Under this article, special provisions are provided to language spoken in a section of population. The President of India shall assent on the usage of the language is sees it is necessary.

The state cabinet also decided to bring a new bill securing the land rights for the indigenous people. As per the new bill, only indigenous people could sell or buy land from another indigenous citizen.

CRPF: It refers to Central Reserve Police Force. The CRPF is India's largest Central Armed Police Force. It functions under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India. The CRPF's primary role lies in assisting the State/Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order and counter insurgency. It came into existence as the Crown Representative's Police on 27 July 1939. After Indian Independence, it became the Central Reserve Police Force on enactment of the CRPF Act on 28 December 1949. It is headquartered in New Delhi. Central Reserve Police Force of India's largest Central Armed Police Force is considered to be the World's largest Paramilitary Force.

CRPF have played a prominent role in combating terror and militancy. CRPF personnel played prominent role in eliminating terror from Punjab and militancy from Tripura in the year 1980 and 1990. The supreme sacrifices made by about 2184 CRPF personnel for internal security duties including at the war theatres with China in October,1959 and with Pakistan at Sardar Post, Kutch in Gujarat in 1965. CRPF bagged 75 bravery medals which is the highest for any force.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment for the welfare of paramilitary forces who have made supreme sacrifices for the nation, Union Home Minister Amit Shah laid the foundation stone of the Directorate General Building of CRPF in New Delhi on 30 December 2020. He also launched a new logo, Garud, for those engaged in providing security to the common man and VIPs.

The new building which will be built at a cost of Rs 280 crore will have all modern facilities and green amenities, besides effective control and command system with modern training modules for 3.5 lakh strong force to enhance their operational capability. Home Ministry has not only created 35000 new posts for CRPF but also various initiatives for the welfare of family members of CRPF is also being considered.

PPRTMS: It refers to the Political Parties Registration Tracking Management System. It is an online tracking system which will allow political parties to track their applications for registration with the Election Commission of India (ECI) on a real-time basis.

The salient features of PPRTMS is that the applicant, who is applying for a political party registration from 1st January, 2020 will be able to track the progress of his/her application and will get status updates through SMS and e-mail. The registration of political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Under this Section, a party seeking registration has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation as per guidelines prescribed by the Election Commission of India. The commission checks whether the party satisfies the criteria governed by section 29A of Representation of People Act, 1951.

The Election Commission of India launched an online tracking system- Political Parties Registration Tracking Management System (PPRTMS). The new guidelines came into effect from January 1, 2020.

Election Commission Of India: It is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India. The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country. It was founded in 20 January 1950. It is headquartered in New Delhi.

FTSCs: It refers to Fast Track Special Courts. FTSCs were established in Indian in the year 2000 with an aim to clear the long pending Sessions and other lower judicial cases. Under the direction of the Supreme Court of India in Suo Moto Writ Petition (Criminal) number 01/2019 dated 25.07.2019, 389 courts out of 1023 courts, have been set up exclusively for POSCO Act. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 was also enacted for more stringent provisions relating to sexual offences.

The Central Government has started a Scheme to set up 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) across the country. FTSCs is being setup under the National Mission for Safety of Women (NMSW) scheme. It is being setup to clear the cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

According to the Law Ministry, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Haryana Maharashtra, Manipur, NCT of Delhi, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, UT of Chandigarh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh have agreed to setup FTSCs. Mizoram, Sikkim, Meghalaya, UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and Puducherry are yet to join. Currently, there are 581 fast track courts in the country that are functional.

Cabinet: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has been apprised of information about the amendments moved to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 as passed by the Rajya Sabha.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was approved by the Cabinet in its meeting held on 24th June, 2019 for re-introduction in the Lok Sabha. The amended Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Parliament on August 5, 2019 after being passed by both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.

Amendments will ensure concurrence of the State Governments while formulating National Transport Policy and making schemes for national, multimodal and inter-state transportation of goods and passengers by the Central Government.

The Union Cabinet: The Union Council of Ministers exercises executive authority in the Republic of India. It consists of senior ministers, called 'cabinet ministers', junior ministers, called 'ministers of state' and, rarely, deputy ministers. It is led by the Prime Minister. A smaller executive body called the Union Cabinet is the supreme decision-making body in India. Only the prime minister and ministers of the rank of cabinet minister are members of Union Cabinet in accordance with Article 75.

Recently, on 11 January 2019, the Union Cabinet approved the promulgation of the ordinance for amendment in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act, 1957 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015. Amendments to these two Acts approved by the Cabinet aims to ease the auction of coal mines allow Foreign direct investment (FDI) and enhance ease of doing business.

The amendments in the laws will not only open up new areas of growth in the coal and mining sector but also offer unexplored and partially explored coal blocks for mining through prospecting license-cum-mining lease (PL-cum-ML).

The ordinance democratizes the coal industry and makes it attractive for merchant mining companies, including multinationals to look at India.

It will allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the coal mining sector by removing the restriction and eligibility criteria for participation.

Section 11A of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act provides that the central government can auction coal and lignite mining licenses only to companies engaged in iron and steel, power and coal washing sectors. It will enable any India-registered company to invest in the coal mining sector and develop coal blocks provided that the companies must have prior experience of mining in India to bid for the blocks.

Large investment in mining is expected to create jobs and set off demand in critical sectors such as mining equipment and heavy commercial vehicles.

It will allow successful bidder/allottee to utilize mined coal in any of the plant of its subsidiary or holding company as restrictions of end use has been dropped.

ECI: It stands for the Election Commission of India. The ECI is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India. The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country. It was founded in 25 January 1950. The current Election Commissioner is Shri Ashok Lavasa and the Chief Election Commissioner is Sh. Sunil Arora.

Recently, on 14th January 2020, the Election Commission of India organized a Briefing Meeting for Observers to be deployed for the forthcoming NCT of Delhi Legislative Assembly Elections, for which schedule was announced on 6th January, 2020. Poll date for the single phased election for Delhi's 70 constituencies is February 8, 2020 and Counting will be held on February 11, 2020. More than 150 officers drawn from IAS, IPS and also from Indian Revenue Service and other Central Services were called for the General, Police and Expenditure Observers briefing today. Adequate number of officers would be deployed on actual duty.

ECI Observers: They are appointed under the powers conferred on it by Section 20B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the plenary powers available to the Commission under the Constitution of India. They work under the superintendence, control and discipline of the Commission for the period from their appointment till the completion of the process of election. Statutory powers were provided to the Observers to watch the conduct of elections and especially in respect of counting of votes after the amendment of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in August 1996 under which new Section 20B was added.

Andhra Pradesh Assembly: The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly (APLA) is the lower house of the Andhra Pradesh Legislature. The Legislative Assembly consists of 175 members which are elected by adult universal suffrage under the first-past-the-post system. The Andhra Legislative Assembly was constituted after the formation of Andhra State on October 1, 1953.

Recently, on January 20, 2020, Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed a bill proposing three capitals, The bill proposed the development of Amaravati, Visakhapatnam and Kurnool as the legislative, executive and judicial capitals of the state respectively. The cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy had earlier passed the Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bill 2020 and the AP Decentralization and Inclusive Development of all Regions Bill 2020, in this regard. The Bill also provides for dividing the State into various zones. It aims to establish zonal planning and development boards.

The current YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government's objective is to bring about a comprehensive, parallel and decentralized development in the state which in turn will bring about "balanced and inclusive growth" of Andhra Pradesh.

Supreme Court of India: The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial court under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of judicial review. It has extensive powers in the form of original, appellate and advisory jurisdictions. It is regarded as the most powerful government institution in India. It consists of the Chief Justice of India and a maximum number of 34 judges. It was established 82 years ago, on 1st October 1937 as Federal Court of India. On the 28th of January 1950 it was renamed as the Supreme Court of India. The current Chief Justice of India (CJI) is Sharad Arvind Bobde.

The Supreme Court of India has set up a panel to firm up a draft legislation to give legal sanctity to disputes settled through mediation, which would then be sent to the government as a suggestion from the apex court. The panel is headed by mediator Niranjan Bhat and the other members of the panel who are appointed by the Mediation and Project Conciliation Committee (MCPC) of the Supreme Court, includes Justice K Kanan, former ASGs AS Chandok and PS Narsimha, senior advocates Sriram Panchu and JP Singh, and senior mediators Susheela S, Sadhna Ramchandran, Laila Ollapally, and Anil Xavier.

Parliament: The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body of the Republic of India. It is a bicameral legislature composed of the President of India and the two houses: the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The current leader of the Rajya Sabha is Thawar Chand Gehlot and the Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who presides over its sessions. The current leader of the Lok Sabha is Narendra Modi and the Speaker is Om Birla.

Recently, The Supreme Court, in the interest of more fairness in the procedure said that the Parliament should think over having an independent and permanent body to decide disqualification petitions against MPs and MLAs, instead of the Speaker retaining exclusive powers. A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman suggested that Parliament revisit the rationale in giving exclusive powers to the Speaker in deciding disqualification petitions.

Union Cabinet: It consists of senior ministers, called 'cabinet ministers', junior ministers, called 'ministers of state' and, rarely, deputy ministers. It is led by the Prime Minister. The Union Council of Ministers exercises executive authority in the Republic of India.

Recently, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the extension of the term of the Commission to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes, by six months that is up to 31.7.2020. The commission was appointed in 2017 with an initial time frame of 12 weeks. This is the 8th extension given to the commission.

The Cabinet has also approved an addition to the terms of reference of the commission, which will now also study various entries in the 'Central list of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.'

ZTC: It refers to the Zoland Territorial Council. The Zomi ethnic group of Manipur has recently renewed its demand for the creation of Zoland Territorial Council (ZTC) under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, a self-administered zone on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam.

ZOMI: The Zou people or Zomi are an indigenous community living along the frontier of India and Burma. They are a sub-group of the Zo people (Mizo-Kuki-Chin).

In India, they live with and are similar in language and habits to the Paite and the Simte peoples. The Zou are officially recognized as one of the 33 indigenous peoples within the state of Manipur, and are one of the Scheduled tribes.

According to the 2001 Census, the Zou/Jou population in Manipur is around 20,000 which is less than 3% of the population. The community is concentrated in Churachandpur and Chandel districts of Manipur.

Arya Rajendran: She is Indian politician who is set to become one of the two youngest mayors in India at the age of 21. The other youngest mayor of India is Suman Koli who became the Mayor of Bharatpur in Rajasthan at 21 years in 2009.

Arya won as councillor from Mudavanmukal ward of Thiruvananthapuram corporation at the 2020 Kerala local body elections and was appointed as the mayor of the corporation which made her the youngest mayor of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.

She is currently doing a BSc in Maths at the All Saints College in Thiruvananthapuram.

Waste management, improvement of primary health infrastructure and projects focussing on youth and women are her priorities as a councillor.

Note: The Guinness world record holder for the youngest Mayor is now held by Michael Sessions, who became Mayor of Hillsdale in the USA at the age of 18 years in 2005.

Madhya Pradesh Cabinet: The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh Cabinet has recently granted its approval to the 'Love Jihad' law against the forced religious conversions in the state. The MP Cabinet approved the Freedom to Religion Bill, 2020 as an Ordinance.

With this legislation, the conversion of anyone directly or indirectly through marriage or by any other means in Madhya Pradesh is prohibited.

 The law, named as the MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020, includes provision of imprisonment of 2 to 10 years along with a minimum penalty of Rs 50,000 in cases of unlawful conversion of a minor or woman or a person belonging to SC/ST category.

The Bill will now be placed in the MP State Assembly for its final passage.

Once it is passed by the state assembly, the Bill will replace the MP Religious Freedom Act, 1968, which is also known as MP Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968.

Under the new MP Bill, a family court in the state will be empowered to declare marriages conducted for the purpose of religious conversion null and void. The alimony in such cases would be granted as per Section 125 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code).

Bagasara Prant: The Chief Minister Of Gujarat Vijay Rupani has decided to create a new Bagasara Prant in Amreli district. This will take the state’s revenue services nearer to the people and provide services faster.

The newly created Bagasara Prant would come into effect on 26th January, which includes Bagasara and Vadiya talukas in it.

Since the districts with larger geographical areas cause inconvenience to the people, the state government has been reorganizing smaller districts and talukas for administrative convenience, faster development, reducing workload as well as saving the people's time.

Now, the state government has taken up the reorganization of Prants.

Prants: Prants are traditional names for parts of historical regions, such as the original ten regions of Kathiawad on Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat.

Gujarat: Gujarat is a state on the western coast of India most of which lies on the Kathiawar peninsula. The state is bordered by Rajasthan to the northeast, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu to the south, Maharashtra to the southeast, Madhya Pradesh to the east, and the Arabian Sea and the Pakistani province of Sindh to the west. Its capital city is Gandhinagar. The Governor and Chief Minister of Gujarat are Acharya Devvrat and Vijay Rupani respectively.

Justice Vineet Kothari: Justice Vineet Kothari recently took oath as a Judge in Gujarat High Court. He was previously an Acting Chief Justice in Madras High Court.

He was transferred to Gujarat High Court on recommendation of a five Judge collegium led by the Chief Justice of India.

He was elevated as a judge of the Rajasthan High Court in 2005 and was transferred to Karnataka in 2016.

 He had assumed charge as the senior-most judge of the Madras High Court on 23rd November, 2018 and had served as its Additional Chief Justice immediately after former Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani resigned in September 2019 and once again after the retirement of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi.

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of constitutional review. It was established on 26 January 1950. It’s headquartered in New Delhi. The current CJI of the Supreme Court is Sharad Arvind Bobde.

Recently, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of three farm laws to end the disagreement between the farmers and Government of India.

The Indian farmers are protesting against these three acts as they fear that they might lose more than they could gain thereby taking the protest to the streets.

The Farm Laws which were recently enacted by the Union Government are as follows:

  1. The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act. The act permits inter-state and intra-state trade of farmers produce beyond the premises of Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). The act abolished market fee. It allows electronic trading. It also facilitates lucrative prices for the farmers through alternative trading channels to promote barrier free inter-state and intra-state trade of agricultural produce.
  2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. This act creates a national framework for contract farming between farmer and buyer.
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The farmers are protesting against the Farm Laws because the laws lay the framework to sell the produce directly to the corporates. The farmers do not trust the corporates. According to the farmers, this might end the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system in the country.

The protests are high in Haryana and Punjab because the agriculture in Haryana and Punjab is high as Green revolution was first introduced in these states, so are the MSP procurement in these states. Around 89% of rice produced in Punjab and 85% produced in Haryana are procured by the Government.

Karnataka Cabinet: Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa recently expanded his 17 month old cabinet, inducting seven ministers.

The oath of office and secrecy to the ministers were administered by Governor Vajubhai Vala at a ceremony at the Raj Bhavan. The new ministers are MLAs MLAs Umesh Katti (Hukkeri), Murugesh Nirani (Bilgi), Umesh Katti (Hukkeri) and Arvind Limbavali (Mahadevapura), and MLCs C. P. Yogeshwar, M.T.B. Nagaraj and R. Shankar. Excise Minister H. Nagesh is being requested to step down.

This is the third expansion since Mr Yediyurappa took over as CM in July 2019. In August 2019, 17 ministers were inducted, while in February 2020, ten newcomers to the BJP were inducted into the Cabinet.

Special Marriage Act: The Allahabad High Court, in a significant judgement, recently ruled that the provision of publication of notice of intended marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, is not mandatory.

According to the judgment, making such publication mandatory “would invade the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy, including within its sphere the freedom to choose for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned”.

While giving notice under Section 5 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 it shall be optional for the parties to the intended marriage to make a request in writing to the marriage officer to publish or not to publish a notice under Section 6 and follow the procedure of objections as prescribed under the Act.

In case the parties do not make such a request, the Marriage Officer “shall not publish any such notice or entertain objections to the intended marriage and proceed with the solemnization of the marriage”.

Special Marriage Act, 1954: It is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party.

The three main objectives of Special Marriage act are as follows:

  1. To provide special form of marriage in certain cases
  2. To provide registration for certain special marriages
  3. To provide divorce

This Act is applicable to any all Indians living abroad or to person irrespective of his or her religion.

The marriage performed under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 is a civil contract and accordingly, there need be no rites or ceremonies.

Both the parties have to file a Notice of Intended Marriage in the specified form to the Marriage Registrar of the district. In this, at least one of the parties to the marriage should have resided in the district for a period of not less than thirty days and if there is no objection by any person after 30 days of the notice the marriage may be solemnized.

Now, this formality of thirty-day notice has been cancelled by the Allahabad High Court under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

Court Marriage: Court Marriage is a union of two souls where oath ceremony is performed according to Special Marriage Act-1954 before the Registrar of Marriage in the presence of 3 witnesses thereafter a court marriage certificate is issued directly by the Registrar of Marriage appointed by the Government of India (GoI).

Conditions for marriage in Special Marriage Act, 1954:

  1. The marriage should be monogamous for both the partners.
  2. The bride must be at least 18 years old and the groom must be at least 21 years old.
  3. The parties should be competent in regard to their mental capacity to the extent that they are able to give valid consent for the marriage.
  4. The parties should not fall within the degree of prohibited relationship.

Current Affairs in Indian polity - December 2020