Prosecution under Benami Act stuck

The prosecution of accused persons in almost 100confirmed cases instituted under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act has scuttled as the Special Courts meant for the purpose have not yet been set up across the country.

Assets worth more than ₹5,000 crore have been attached by the Income-Tax Department under the law.

The Act provides that the Central government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the respective High Courts, will establish special courts through notification. Such courts are to be constituted to ensure that the trials are conducted “as expeditiously as possible”.

However, the required special courts have not been set up yet. Therefore, despite the fact that investigations in almost 100 cases have been completed by the I-T Department in different States, including confirmation of attachment of properties by the Adjudicating Authority, the prosecution of accused persons has not started.

The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, designed to curb black money and passed by parliament in August, came into effect on November 1, 2016. The new law amends the 1988 Benami Transactions Act.

Highlights of the Act:

The law provides for up to seven years’ imprisonment and fine for those indulging in such transactions.

The law prohibits recovery of the property held benami from benamdar by the real owner. As per the Act, properties held benami are liable for confiscation by the government, without payment of compensation.

An appellate mechanism has been provided under the act, in the form of an adjudicating authority and appellate tribunal. According to the government, the four authorities who will conduct inquiries or investigations are the Initiating Officer, Approving Authority, Administrator and Adjudicating Authority.

A benami transaction is one where a property is held by one person and the amount for it is paid by another person. Therefore, in a benami transaction, the name of the person who paid the money is not mentioned. Directly or indirectly, the benami transaction is done to benefit the one who pays.

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Railways launch ‘Mission Satyanishtha’- an event on ethics in public governance

In first of its kind event held by any government organization, the Indian Railways organized a programme on Ethics in Public Governance and launched “Mission Satyanishtha” at a day-long event held at National Rail Museum, New Delhi. Minister of Railways, Piyush Goyal, administered the oath to the officers and supervisors at the programme.

Speaking on the occasion the MR said, “People define an organization and an organization defines its people, hence, work culture has to be improved and transparency brought about, data should be displayed on public domains so as to get constructive feedback from the users”. “Lack of interest towards work in any system may be termed as unethical amounting to corruption”.

The issue of Ethics, Integrity, and probity in public life have been a matter of concern all over the government sector. In this context, it is also extremely important that all railway servants adhere to impeccable conduct and integrity at all times. “Mission Satyanishtha” launched on July 27 aims at sensitizing all railway employees about the need to adhere to good ethics and to maintain high standards of integrity at work. Talks and Lectures on the subject were organized for staff and Officers of Indian Railways on Friday for this purpose. The objectives of the Mission are:

  1. To train every employee to understand the need and value of ethics in Personal and Public life.
  2. To deal with ethical dilemmas in life and Public Governance.
  3. To help understand the policies of Indian Railways on ethics and integrity and the employee’s role in upholding the same.
  4. To develop inner governance through tapping inner resources.
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Kerala tops in governance, Tamil Nadu second, says report

Pinarayi Vijayan’s ruled Kerala stands as the best-governed state in the country followed by Tamil Nadu, according to the Public Affairs Index 2018 released by the think tank Public Affairs Centre (PAC). While Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat are ranked third, fourth and fifth among the top five states delivering good governance, according to the report, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar ranked the lowest on the PAI, indicating higher social and economic inequalities in the states.

The index is released since in 2016 by Bengaluru base Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a not for profit think tank which aims to improve governance in India.

It is based on 10 themes, 30 focus subjects and 100 indicators, relying solely upon government data.

It covers wide range of themes such as support to human development, social protection, essential infrastructure, women and children, crime, law and order, delivery of justice, transparency and accountability, environment, fiscal management and economic freedom.

2018 PAI also included separate index on children of India, giving measure of how child-friendly each of the states are.

Kerala tops the list as a best-governed state in the country. Kerala has topped PAI as the best-governed state for the third consecutive year.

Kerala is followed by Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat.

Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar ranked the lowest, indicating higher social and economic inequalities in the states.

Himachal Pradesh topped the list followed by Goa, Mizoram, Sikkim, and Tripura. Nagaland, Manipur, and Meghalaya were ranked at bottom of the index among small states.

In the index on children of India, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, and Mizoram topped the index.

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Nine parties oppose proposal for simultaneous Lok Sabha, Assembly elections

Political parties were divided on the issue of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections during consultations with the Law Commission of India.

As many as nine parties expressed their reservations while four parties supported the move.

The two major national parties — the BJP and the Congress — stayed away from the Law Commission’s deliberations.

Simultaneous elections: Why is it a good idea?

  • This will help save public money.
  • It will be a big relief for political parties that are always in campaign mode.
  • It will allow political parties to focus more on policy and governance.

Need for simultaneous elections:

Elections are held all the time and continuous polls lead to a lot of expenditure. More than Rs1,100 crore was spent on the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the expenditure had shot up to Rs4,000 crore in 2014.

Over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process. Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector.

Security forces also have to be diverted for the electoral work even as the country’s enemy keeps plotting against the nation and terrorism remains a strong threat.

The time is ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practice of the early decades after Independence when elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously. It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties.

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Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel assumes charge as chairperson of NGT

Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel today assumed charge as chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Justice Goel, who retired as a Supreme Court judge on July 6, has been appointed for five years.

NGT has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

The tribunal deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.

Currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members (although the act allows for up to 20 of each).

It is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member and is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews. The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.

Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats, not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.

The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.

The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.

The Tribunal is mandated to make an endeavor for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of the filing of the same.

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‘PM Modi running anti-worker govt’: AITUC threatens 40-day campaign

Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of running an “anti-worker government”, leading trade union body AITUC on Monday said it will launch a 40-day nationwide campaign to amass people support to vote out the BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections.

Piqued about the cancelation of dates of the National Labour Conference, the annual tripartite meet which was to be held in February this year, the trade union leader alleged that the PMO had earlier agreed on dates for the conference but cancelled it as Modi was not ready to face the trade unions over the government’s labour policy.

About AITUC:

The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is the oldest trade union federations in India.

It was founded in 1920 in Bombay by Lala Lajpat Rai, Joseph Baptista, N. M. Joshi, Diwan Chaman Lall and a few others.

Until 1945 when unions became organised on party lines, it was the primary trade union organisation in India. Since then, it has been associated with the Communist Party of India.

AITUC is a founder member of the World Federation of Trade Unions.

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Women Safety Division in MHA

MHA has created a new Division to address issues of women safety comprehensively. This Division would deal with all aspects of women safety in coordination with relevant Ministries/Departments and State Governments.

About the Women Safety Division:

The division, headed by a joint secretary level officer, would deal with all aspects of women’s safety in coordination with the relevant ministries, departments, and state governments.

Besides dealing with crimes against women, the new division will deal with crimes against SCs and STs, crimes against children and elderly persons, the anti-trafficking cell, matters relating to prison legislation and prison reforms, all schemes under the Nirbhaya fund, Crime and Criminal Tracking and Network System and the National Crime Records Bureau.

In order to address offenses against women, particularly rape, in a time-bound manner, the division would focus to enhance the capacity of the existing administrative, investigative, prosecution and judicial machinery, along with appropriate measures for rehabilitation of victims and bring attitudinal changes in society.

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GIS technology to strengthen Namami Gange Programme

National Mission for Clean Ganga has brought on board Survey of India, the oldest scientific department in the country set up in 1767, to facilitate the Ganga rejuvenation task by using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

Critical hotspots are also easily identified through this technology. The use of GIS technology for Namami Gange programme will also ensure decentralization. The data collected and subsequent actions taken by the government can easily be shared with the local public through geo portals and mobile apps. The technology will also enable people to send their feedback up to the national level thereby providing an interactive and transparent platform. For effective discharge management, an outlet of sewerage and other discharges from all units – industrial, commercial and all types of other institutions will be mapped from the source outlet to the public drainage network. In addition, the high-resolution GIS-enabled data will help in regulating the proposed protected and regulatory zones along the banks of a river.

About Namami Gange Programme:

Namami Gange programme was launched as a mission to achieve the target of cleaning river Ganga in an effective manner with the unceasing involvement of all stakeholders, especially five major Ganga basin States – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.

The programme envisages River Surface Cleaning, Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure, River Front Development, Bio-Diversity, Afforestation and Public Awareness.

Implementation:

The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).

In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of a) High-level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at a national level, b) State-level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at a state level and c) District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.

The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State governments.

About Survey of India:

It is the oldest scientific department in the country set up in 1767. It works under the administrative control of Department of Science & Technology.

Functions: As the nation’s Principal Mapping Agency, Survey of India bears a special responsibility to ensure that the country’s domain is explored and mapped suitably, provide base maps for expeditious and integrated development and ensure that all resources contribute with their full measure to the progress, prosperity, and security of our country now and for generations to come.

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Indian Petroleum & Explosives Safety Service (IPESS)

The Union Cabinet chaired by chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Cadre review and formation of Group ‘A’ service of the technical cadre of Petroleum & Safety Organization (PESO) in the name of Indian Petroleum & Explosives Safety Service (IPESS).

The measure will enhance the capacity and efficiency of the organization and it will also enhance career progression of its Group ‘A’ officers.

Background:

PESO is a subordinate office under Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP). The organization is serving the nation since 1898 as a nodal agency for regulating the safety of substances such as explosives, compressed gases, and petroleum. Over the years, the role and responsibilities of PESO have increased manifold and expanded into diverse fields. Today, the organization deals with wide range of subjects related to explosives, petroleum, compressed gases, pressure vessels, gas cylinders, cross-country pipelines, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Auto Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Auto LPG) etc. The increase in workload is manifested in the quantum jump in the number of licensed premises and other activities.

The present sanctioned strength of Technical Group ‘A’ cadre of PESO is 137 having 60 Junior Time Scale (JTS) level officers, 46 Senior Time Scale (STS) level officers, 23 Junior Administrative Grade (JAG) level officers (Level 12), 7 JAG level officers (Level 13) and 1 Senior Administrative Grade (SAG) level post of Chief Controller of Explosives.

To remove acute stagnation in all grades and uplift the morale of the workforce and enhance its performance, it has been decided to form Group ‘A’ Service of the technical cadre of PESO in the name of IPESS and restructure the newly-formed service by increasing 5 posts at Level-13 and 3 posts at Level-12 and corresponding reduction of 8 posts at Level-11.

About PESO:

PESO is a subordinate office under Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP).

The organization is serving the nation since 1898 as a nodal agency for regulating the safety of substances such as explosives, compressed gases, and petroleum.

The organization deals with wide range of subjects related to explosives, petroleum, compressed gases, pressure vessels, gas cylinders, cross-country pipelines, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Auto Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Auto LPG) etc.

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Cabinet approves Restructuring of the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM)

The Union Cabinet chaired by chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Restructuring of the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) by upgradation, creation, and the abolition of certain posts of Joint Secretary-level and above. The total cadre strength of Indian Bureau of Mines has been maintained at the existing strength of 1477.

The restructuring would help in enabling the IBM to effectively discharge its function to help reform and transform the regulation of the mineral sector. It will enable the adoption of IT and space technology by the IBM to improve its effectiveness in mineral regulation and development. Further, the posts entail a great deal of decision-making and accountability in the functioning of the organization.

Impact:

The proposal will create direct employment opportunities for technical personnel with higher responsibility for contribution in the faster development of the mineral sector, thereby generating more employment avenues in the sector as a whole. The improved and enhanced performance of IBM would benefit the mining sector.

Background:

IBM was set up by the Government of India on 1st March 1948 under the Ministry of Works, Mines and Power, primarily as an advisory body to help in the formulation of policy and legal framework for the mining sector and advising Central and State Governments on development and utilization of mineral resources. The role and responsibility of IBM have changed with emerging needs of the sector as facilitator and regulator of mining sector (other than coal, petroleum and atomic minerals).

Ministry of Mines had constituted a Committee for comprehensive ‘Review and Restructuring of the Functions and Role of IBM’ in the light of the ‘National Mineral Policy’ (NMP) 2008 The Committee submitted its report on 04.5.2012 which was accepted in the Ministry.

The Ministry of Mines has taken a number of initiatives through IBM for effective facilitation and regulation of the mineral sector:

Implementation of the Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) and Star Rating of Mines for their efforts and initiatives encompassing the scientific, environmental and social aspects of the mining activity;

development of Mining Surveillance System (MSS) in association with Bhaskaracharya Institute of Space Application & Geo-informatics (BISAG) to detect illegal mining within 500 metres zone of lease boundary of major minerals using satellite imageries; and

thrust on R&D activities on mineral processing including process development for upgradation of low grade ore; (iv) development of IT enable Mining^ Tenement System (MTS) for computerizing the mineral sectors activities.

The restructuring of IBM was essential to enable it organisationally to take up the responsibilities entrusted in the role with the recent changes in the policy and legislation, a revised charter of the function of IBM and the new activities and initiatives undertaken by IBM. IBM is also engaged in handholding the States for the auction of mineral blocks for greater transparency in allocation of mineral concessions. IBM is helping the States in preparation of auction blocks, publishing of average sale price, assisting in post-auction monitoring and approval process.

The relocation of offices of IBM has already been effected for carrying out the responsibilities given to IBM. New Regional Offices at Raipur and Gandhinagar have been opened and the sub-regional office at Guwahati has been upgraded to Regional office. The existing Regional Offices at Kolkata and Udaipur have been upgraded to the Zonal office (East) and Zonal Office (North). For the purpose of Skill Development, an Institute of Sustainable Development FrameWork’ at Udaipur and ‘Remote Sensing Centre’ at Hyderabad and National Level Training Centres ‘Institute of Sustainable Mining’ at Kolkata have been opened and Skill Development Centre at Varanasi is also shortly be opened.

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