Headline : Who are the 19 lakh excluded from Assam NRC, and what next for them?
The recently published final list of people in updated National Register of Citizen (NRC) has stripped nearly 19 lakh people in the north-eastern state of Assam of their citizenship.
The NRC for a state is the list of Indian citizens of that state.
It was created in 1951 to determine who was born in Assam and is therefore Indian, and who might be a migrant from neighbouring Bangladesh.
It is a list of people who can prove that they came to Assam before 24 March 1971, a day before India’s neighbouring country Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan.
Objective: to control unabated migration from Bangladesh.
The Register is meant to establish the credentials of a bona fide citizen as distinguished from a foreigner.
Assam is the country’s only state to create such a document.
The NRC has been updated for the first time.
Background of the NRC updation:
The NRC updating exercise started in 2013 under the Supreme court’s watch.
The process of NRC update in Assam differs from the rest of the country and is governed by Rule 4A and the corresponding Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
These rules were framed as per the cut-off date of the midnight of March 24, 1971, enshrined in the Assam Accord of 1985.
First draft of Assam NRC:
In accordance with the top court’s direction, the Registrar-General of India published the list on the night of 31-December-2017 to distinguish Indian citizens living in Assam from those who illegally entered the State.
Names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated then.
In July 2018, a draft was published in which 2.89 crore residents were included as Indian citizens, while 40 lakh were left out.
Those who were left out were allowed to file claims for inclusion and citizens could object against anyone who they felt was wrongly included.
Excluded in additional list:
In June 2019, another 1 lakh, originally among the 2.89 crore included in that draft, were removed after subsequent verification.
Claims filed against exclusions:
As many as 36 lakh of those excluded filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents did not apply.
The latest NRC is the result of all those included and excluded.
What will happen to those 19 lakh people excluded from the NRC?
The excluded people will have to appeal against it at Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT), a quasi-judicial court and subsequently in the high court or Supreme Court.
The government has given 120 days time to appeal in the court.
Those excluded from NRC will have to prove that they or their ancestors were living in Assam on or before March 24, 1971.
Various other documents such as birth certificates and land records are admissible, as long as these were issued before the cutoff date.
However, if a person looses to prove his/her identity in Foreigners’ Tribunal as well as in higher courts, he or she will face a possible arrest and can be sent to a detention centre (However, the prospects sending a large number of people to detention centres is low).
If not deported or detained in a camp, such people would officially be entitled as non-citizens.
Foreigners Tribunal: Foreigners Tribunal (FT) was set up in Assam in 1964 through the Foreigners Tribunal Order 1964. The tribunals have been mandated with identifying the legal status of suspected foreigners in Assam.
The courts , limited in numbers, will be burdened and get exhaustive as the appeal period is short and cases are far too many which may further clog the process.
What makes deportation so uncertain?
For a country to be able to deport a mass of individuals to another country, the second country has to accept that they were its citizens who entered the first country illegally.
However, Bangladesh has never officially acknowledged that any of its citizens migrated illegally to Assam.
Besides, India has no treaty with Bangladesh that would facilitate their deportation.
Also, there have been no visible recent efforts by India to push the matter with Bangladesh.
India’s Policy for “stateless” persons:
India has no fixed policy for “stateless” persons.
The only aspect which is clear is that “stateless” person will not have voting rights.
As of now, nothing is clear about their rights to work, housing and government healthcare and education.
In India, being “stateless” is not the same as being a refugee.
Refugees in India:
India has refugees from Tibet, Sri Lanka (Tamils) and West Pakistan.
Among them, only the refugees from West Pakistan has the right to vote in Lok Sabha elections but not in Assembly polls.
For Tibetans, the government allows Indian citizenship with a rider that they move out of Tibetan settlements and forgo refugee benefits.
Under the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy, 2014, adopted in part by a few states, refugees are eligible for certain benefits under government schemes for labour, rations, housing and loans.
Road ahead: Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provided for granting citizenship to immigrants of six non-Muslim faiths from three countries, including Bangladesh.
However, the Bill lapsed, but is expected to be reintroduced.
If the Bill passes Parliament, Hindus from Bangladesh would be eligible for citizenship, even if detected as illegal immigrants, while Muslims who illegally entered from Bangladesh would be treated as illegal immigrants.
The Bill has faced protests in Assam on the ground that it runs contrary to the NRC’s objective, which is to detect all illegal immigrants.
Whatever the fate of the Bill, a very long battle awaits those who are excluded from the NRC but claim to be Indian citizens.
About: Assam Accord, 1985
Assam witnessed a range of law and order problems and political turbulence driven by the anti-foreigners movement, in the early 1980s.
The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed, signed by the Centre and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
Accordingly, those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote while the entrants between 1961 and 1971were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
In addition to economic development, the Accord also had assured to safeguards the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
Headline : Coming, digital push to Gram Panchayats
The Union government has decided to start People’s Plan Campaign, also known as Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas in September, after consultations with the representatives of 16 key ministries.
Earlier, from October to December, 2018, the government conducted a similar exercise in 2.48 lakh Gram Panchayats (GPs) across the country, which showed several GPs have improved vastly on many indicators while some have slipped. Therefore, a fresh survey is significant.
Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas aims to draw up a development plan for each Gram Panchayat (GP) in the country and place it on a website where the development status can be viewed by anyone.
Gram Panchayats will be mandated for the preparation of Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) for economic development and social justice utilizing the resources available to them.
How the Gram Panchayat Development Plans will be created?
Each Gram Panchayat (GP) will be scored out of 100 based on an array of 48 indicators covering various aspects such as health and sanitation, education, agriculture, housing, roads, drinking water, electrification, poverty alleviation programmes, social welfare etc.
Out of 100 marks, 30 marks will be for infrastructure, 30 marks for human development, and 40 marks for economic activity.
Based on the marks scored, the GPs will be ranked and the score for each GP will reflect the local needs and priorities.
The ranking exercise will identify the gaps at the GP level, making an assessment of where it stands, and accordingly plan the interventions.
For example, for a drought-prone area, water conservation would be accorded the highest priority.
Within this ranking, households suffering the worst deprivations would be prioritised further.
Source of data on the indicators: The data on the 48 indicators would come from:
Census 2011 (for physical infrastructure),
Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (for Household-level deprivation data), and
Fresh survey starting September that will be carried out by local facilitators.
GPs performance in 2018:
A majority of the GPs scored between 41 per cent and 50 per cent on a scale of 100: This shows glaring deficiencies.
Merely 0.1 per cent and 0.6 per cent GPs fell in the high 91-100 and 81-90 score respectively.
Headline : India rises in global innovation ranking
India has jumped five places to rank 52 in the Global Innovation Index 2019 (GII).
The GII is a global benchmark that helps policy makers better understand how to stimulate and measure innovative activity, a main driver of economic and social development.
The latest Global Innovation index rankings were released at an event organised by the Indian Commerce Ministry and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The rankings put India at 52nd in the world.
Switzerland is the most innovative economy, followed by Sweden, US, Netherlands and United Kingdom.
China, which has invested heavily in research and development, moved up three positions to rank 14.
Israel secured the 10th rank, marking the first time an economy from the Northern Africa and Western Asia region broke into the top 10.
India’s GII ranking:
India improved its ranking consistently in the recent years, from 88 in 2015 to 57 in 2018 to 52 in 2019.
India is now the most innovative economy in the Central and South Asian region.
India will continue its efforts to breach the top 50 in the GII soon, with the ultimate aim of reaching the top 10.
Factors that helped India improve its ranking:
Strong information and communication technology services exports,
Investment by its top three companies in research and development
Quality of some of its educational institutions, including some IITs and IIMs
The proportion of science and engineering graduates on offer globally
State of cluster development, especially the performance of Bengaluru, New Delhi and Mumbai
Major areas where India needs to improve include:
Proportion of women with advanced degrees in the workforce.
Overall quality of education
Access and use of information and communication technologies
Student to teacher ratio in secondary level education
What are the strengths of India which has helped in improving its ranking?
India’s human capital (graduates in science & engineering)
Growth rate of GDP per worker
Exports of information and communication technology (ICT) and services
Creative goods exports among others
Global Innovation Index
The Global Innovation Index (GII) aims to capture the multi-dimensional facets of innovation and provide the tools that can assist in tailoring policies to promote long-term output growth, improved productivity, and job growth.
The global ranking is published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) – a specialized agency of the United Nations – in association with Cornell University and graduate business school INSEAD.
GII is published annually since 2007.
It is considered a leading benchmarking tool for business executives, policy makers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world. It is being used by them to evaluate progress on a continual basis.
GII ranks 126 economies based on 80 indicators, ranging from intellectual property filing rates to R&D, mobile application creation, online creativity, computer software spending, education spending, scientific & technical publications and ease of starting business.
Headline : SC reserves verdict on changes to SC/ST law
Recently, the Supreme Court has reserved its judgment on a batch of petitions challenging the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018.
The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
Objective: to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
A person accused of such a crime cannot get anticipatory bail, but soon after his arrest, he can get regular bail even in offences where the punishment is just six months.
On 20 March 2018, Supreme Court gave its judgment banning registration of criminal cases and automatic arrests under the SC/ST Act and allowing anticipatory bail to those booked for committing atrocities against the SCs and the STs
The verdict triggered a nationwide protest by the Dalit community costing loss of lives and property.
The government filed a review petition and subsequently amended the 1989 Act back to its original form through the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018.
Several petitions were filed last year challenging the amendments. However, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the implementation of the amendments.
Changes in Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 after the March 20 Supreme Court Judgement
The top court banned registration of criminal cases and automatic arrests under the SC/ST Act.
The public servants cannot be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority and private citizens can be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.
A preliminary inquiry under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to be certain that the allegations are not superficial.
The amendment in the law was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
Earlier provisions in the Act provided for taking immediate action in respect of any complaint relating to harassment of a victim, informant or witness, etc. Any such complaint shall be tried separately from the main case and be concluded within two months.
The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018
The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 nullified a controversial March 20 Supreme Court judgment.
For amendment Act : There had been no decrease in the atrocities committed on the SCs/STs despite the laws meant to protect their civil rights and they continue to face the same social stigma, poverty and humiliation. Thus it is necessary to safeguard their rights by restoring original act.
Against amendment act: Article 21, the fundamental right of an individual cannot be protected if an innocent is jailed on a complaint without its prior scrutiny.
Headline : Sedition, Defamation, AFSPA laws that Congress wants to repeal or amend
A national party has released its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in which it promised to repeal or amend laws related to Sedition, Defamation and AFSPA, if they come to the power.
General information about the laws related to Sedition, Defamation and AFSPA
The Sedition law
Section 124A in the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as follows-
“Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
According to this section of IPC, the Sedition is a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
It was first introduced in 1870 by the Britishers to target nationalist leaders and it was used on leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, etc.
The Defamation law
In India, defamation is both a civil and a criminal offence.
As a civil offence, defamation in India is not regulated by any legislation rather it is only guided by a law made by the judges.
As a criminal offence, it is defined by Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code as follows-
“Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.”
As a criminal offence, it is bailable and non-cognisable.
It is punishable with imprisonment up to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Unlike the English common law, India didn’t distinguish punishments for libel (written) and slander (spoken) defamations but covered both under the meaning of Section 499.
The Armed Forces Special Power Act
It was passed in 1958 for the North-East and in 1990 for Jammu & Kashmir.
The preamble of the law defines it as-
“An Act to enable certain special powers to be conferred upon members of the armed forces in disturbed areas.”
The law gives armed forces special powers to control “disturbed areas”.
Disturbed areas are designated by the government when it opines that any region is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
Under the law, the armed forces have powers to open fire, enter and search without warrant, and arrest any person who has committed a cognizable offence.
They have also been provided immunity from being prosecuted under the law.
The law has been repealed from Tripura in 2015 and from Meghalaya in 2018.
Its use has also been restricted in Arunachal Pradesh.
Currently, AFSPA is implemented in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
Criticism of these laws
The law was introduced by the Britishers to have control over the activities of the nationalist leaders but even after Independence, the section continued to remain in force.
Since then, the section has been repeatedly used by the governments to curb criticism against them.
The courts have repeatedly said that this section can only be used as a measure for maintaining public order.
Many governments and influential persons have also been accused of misusing the defamation law for suppressing legitimate criticism.
The government agencies have been criticized for providing impunity to the police force under AFSPA.
National and international human rights agencies have also criticized the act for violating human rights in the areas where AFSPA is in force.
There are some instances of allegations of crimes by armed forces like extra-judicial killings and rapes, etc.
The 2004 Jeevan Reddy Committee has also recommended a complete repeal of the law.
Headline : Ensuring access to justice Editorial 2nd Apr’19 TheHindu
Justice system in India is not accessible to many:
The justice system in any democracy is set up, under the Constitution to serve the public, and judges are supposed to act without “fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.
However, judges through lack of prescience, and many lawyers through their dishonesty in many forms, have stopped access to justice to the people.
SC has not favoured having benches at other places as justice might get diluted:
The Central government has a few times requested the Supreme Court to sit in other places in the country under Article 130 of the Constitution.
However, so far, the Chief Justice of India and the advising judges have not favoured it, as they felt that the authority of the Supreme Court would get diluted.
But High Courts have benches without justice getting diluted:
The reasoning that justice might get diluted with SC benches at various places is fallacious.
Many High Courts in this country have different Benches for meting out justice without ‘justice’ being ‘diluted’.
For example, the Bombay High Court has four Benches — in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji (Goa) — and the quality of its decisions or status have certainly not been diluted thereby.
The number of Benches depends on the size of the State, the idea being to facilitate easier access to justice.
Problems of SC sitting only in Delhi:
Many good lawyers not getting to argue in SC:
The Supreme Court sitting only in Delhi has resulted in excellent lawyers from other High Courts not appearing before the Supreme Court.
One of the major reasons for this is because it puts too large a monetary burden on their clients, many of whom are impoverished.
Many ordinary lawyers are practising in SC while just a few good lawyers are dominating:
Some of the good lawyers who have settled down in Delhi they have established a monopoly, and charge huge fees from clients.
Also, all lawyers, whatever their calibre or competence, who happen to be in Delhi now appear in the Supreme Court.
SC in Delhi has been reduced to hearing all sorts of frivolous cases:
The Supreme Court in Delhi has been flooded with work and been reduced to a District Court instead of a Court of Final Appeal and Constitutional Court as envisaged under the Constitution.
Major problem of unethical lawyers leading to denial of justice to people
The fault in actually denying access to justice to citizens is majorly the fault of unethical lawyers.
Lawyers are mostly dishonest, and often act as dishonest brokers and middle-men between judges and the litigating public.
According to a study carried out by a research organisation, Vidhi, in the Delhi High Court, more than 70% of the delays in the disposal of cases are attributable to lawyers, a major reason being sometimes unjust pleas for adjournments.
Examples of unethical practices:
Victims cheated out of victim compensation:
Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases do not charge any fees for their services and render services free of cost.
They generally obtain a blank cheque from the victim which is filled in after credit of the compensation to the bank account of the victim.
Some of the lawyers specialising in victim compensation cases thus take huge money as a percentage of compensation amount awarded towards victim compensation.
Such a practice is frustrating the whole purpose of victim compensation.
Accident claim cases:
Some advocates dealing with Motor Accident Claim Cases under Section 166 (application for compensation) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 agree to conduct the cases without a fee, but in the event of compensation being granted by the court, the advocates get a certain percentage.
This is an illegal agreement.
Disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers
Was originally with courts:
The disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers was originally with the courts.
As far as the older High Courts are concerned, this is clear from the respective Letters Patents under which the courts were set up.
Later power given to lawyers:
This continued till the power was taken away by the Advocates Act, 1961.
But Bar Council has not been effective in disciplining lawyers:
The disciplinary powers over lawyers available to Bar Councils both in Delhi and in States are more often than not ineffective.
Some are politically motivated and some States do not have disciplinary committees at all.
The way forward
There is a need to kick out the corrupt lawyers from the system at all levels so that justice may be truly rendered to the public.
Certain measures can be considered in this regard:
SC benches in states: The Supreme Court should reconsider setting up Benches in different States in keeping with the recommendations of the Law Commissions (125th Report and 229th Report).
Disciplinary jurisdiction over lawyers to the courts: The Bar Council of India should exercise its powers under the Advocates Act, 1961 more effectively. If not, the disciplinary jurisdiction must be returned to the judiciary as was the position prior to the Advocates Act, 1961 by repealing the 1961 Act.
Greater mediation: Lawyers should be made irrelevant by referring more cases to trained mediators, as the Supreme Court has done in the Ayodhya dispute.
Headline : Finance Bill, 2017 certified as Money Bill by Speaker, court can’t interfere: Centre to SC
A batch of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging that the passing of Finance Act, 2017 as a Money Bill was a “colourable exercise of power and a fraud on the Constitution.”
Arguments given by Attorney General of India in center’s defense:
The decision of Speaker to categorise a Bill as money bill is beyond the scope of judicial review.
This aspect is consistent with the broad parameters of separation of powers given in the Constitution.
Article 122 of the Constitution, states that the conduct of business and Proceedings of the parliament cannot be questioned before the Court of Law.
However, the hearing remained inconclusive and would continue on April 2.
Note: The Supreme Court had also sought centre’s view on bringing all the tribunals under one central umbrella body for ensuring “efficient functioning” and “streamlining the working” of quasi-judicial bodies.
Difference between Money Bill and Finance Bill
Article 110 of Constitution of India deals with Definition of Money Bill.
A Bill is said to be a Money Bill if it only contains provisions related to taxation, borrowing of money by the government, expenditure from or receipt to the Consolidated Fund of India.
Bills that only contain provisions that are incidental to these matters would also be regarded as Money Bills
A Bill that contains some provisions related to taxation and expenditure, and additionally contains provisions related to any other matter is called a Financial Bill.
Therefore, if a Bill merely involves expenditure by the government, and addresses other issues, it will be a financial bill.
Who decides if a Bill is a Money Bill?
The Speaker certifies a Bill as a Money Bill, and the Speaker’s decision is final.
Also, the Constitution states that parliamentary proceedings as well as officers responsible for the conduct of business (such as the Speaker) may not be questioned by any Court.
Lok Sabha only
Category A bills (provisions of Article 110 (1) of the Constitution of India) are introduced in Lok Sabha while Category B (expenditure from Consolidated Fund of India) bills can be introduced in any of the two houses.
Power of Rajya Sabha
The power of Rajya Sabha is restricted.
Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has equal powers.
No provision of joint sitting
Provisions are there regarding joint sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Note: Every money bill is a finance bill until and unless it is specified by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha as the money bill. Further, every finance bill is not the money bill.
Headline : Who are the Dhangars of Maharashtra, and why do they want ST status?
Why in news?
Recently, Maharashtra has announced extension of all social welfare schemes available to Scheduled Tribes to the Dhangar community of the state.
Who are the Dhangars?
The Dhangars are shepherd community, living mostly in Western Maharashtra and Marathwada.
They constitute about 9% of Maharashtra’s population.
They are currently on Maharashtra’s list of Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT), but have been demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the past several decades.
Why are they demanding ST status?
As claimed by Dhangar community, their community is the same as “Dhangad” which has been given Scheduled Tribe status elsewhere in the country.
Because of some typological error their community name has been recorded as “Dhangar” in Maharashtra, instead of Dhangads, denying them the benefits available to the ST “Dhangads”.
Dhangars community has been demanding Scheduled Tribe status in the country from decades.
In 2015, the Maharashtra government asked the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to establish whether the Dhangars of Maharashtra were the same as the Dhangads elsewhere in the country, and also to create a safeguard against any legal challenge in moving the Dhangars from the VJNT list to the ST list.
In November, 2018, the government received the TISS report, and started taking action on it.
Recently, the Maharashtra government handed over the Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ report on Dhangar reservation to state Advocate General (AG) for advice and further action.
However, till the AG’s recommendation comes in, all schemes of the Tribal Welfare Department will be made applicable to Dhangars with separate financial provisions.
All other ST communities are strongly opposed to any attempt at dilution of their quota by the inclusion of a large community like the Dhangars.
They demand overall increase in ST quota for the inclusion of the Dhangar community.
(a) A programme for empowerment of rural destitute women by providing them source of livelihood.
(b) To make 6 Crore rural households digitally literate by March 2019.
(c) It aims to provide Digital education to the rural children in the age group of 7 14 years through select government schools and Anagnwadi.
(d) It aims to provide for financial assistance to the SC/ST non agricultural entrepreneurs from the 2500 select Gram Panchayats.
Ans : B
Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA):
One of the largest digital literacy programmes in the world.
The PMGDISHA being initiated under Digital India Programme would cover 6 crore households in rural areas to make them digitally literate by March 2019.
To ensure equitable geographical reach, each of the 250,000 Gram Panchayats would be expected to register an average of 200-300 candidates.
The implementation of the Scheme would be carried out under the overall supervision of Ministry of Electronics and IT in active collaboration with States/UTs through their designated State Implementing Agencies, District e-Governance Society (DeGS), etc.
This would empower the citizens by providing them access to information, knowledge and skills for operating computers / digital access devices.