Collegium Recommends Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna for Elevation to SC

The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the names of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, and Justice Sanjiv Khanna of the Delhi High Court for elevation as judges of the apex court.

The five-member Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi took the decision in its meeting on January 10 to recommend the names of justices Maheshwari and Khanna for their elevation to the Supreme Court.

The decision of the Collegium, comprising justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Arun Mishra, was made public on the apex court’s website Friday.

The apex court, which has a sanctioned strength of 31 judges, is presently functioning with 26 judges.

The decision put on the website noted the issue of elevation of judges was deliberated on December 12, 2018, when Justice M B Lokur was also a member of the Collegium.

Justice Mishra became a member of the Collegium after Justice Lokur retired on December 30.

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Manifesto release 72 hours before poll begins: EC panel

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) should be amended to ensure that political parties release their manifesto at least 72 hours before voting ends in the first phase of polls, a committee set up by the Election Commission has recommended

Section 126 of the RP Act prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.

“Election matter” has been defined in that Section as any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election.

The provision prohibits the conduct of Exit poll and dissemination of their results during the period mentioned therein, in the hour fixed for the commencement of polls in the first phase and half hour after the time fixed for a close of poll for the last phase in all the States.

Violation of the provisions of Section 126 is punishable with imprisonment up to a period of two years, or with fine or both.

What has been suggested?

Internet service providers and social media companies should take down content violating the 48-hour ban on campaigning prior to polling, instantly and latest within 3 hours of EC issuing such a direction.

Amend Section 126(1) of the R P Act to impose the “campaign silence period” on print, electronic media, and intermediaries. The definition of intermediaries, as per Section 2(w) of the Information Technology Act, includes telecom service providers, internet service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, etc.

Bring in changes in the model code of conduct to ensure that parties release their manifesto at least 72 hours prior to polling (or 72 hours prior to polling for the first phase in a multi-phase election).

Star campaigners should desist from addressing press conferences or giving interviews on election matters during the silence period. Also, in a multi-phased election, there should be no direct or indirect reference seeking support for parties/candidates in constituencies observing silence period.

Intermediaries should ensure that their platforms are not misused to vitiate free and fair polls. This would include a notification mechanism by which EC may notify the platform of potential violations of Section 126 of the R P Act.

While EC will appoint an officer to liaise with the intermediaries, the latter should open a special grievance redressal channel for EC and have a dedicated team during the election period to interface with and take quick action on receipt of EC order to take down or disable content in violation of R P Act.

Intermediaries should report to the Commission on measures taken to prevent abuse of their platforms, including generating publicly-available action taken reports. All political advertisements may be clearly labeled as such and be pre-approved by an EC-appointed content monitoring committee.

The intermediaries would also need to maintain a repository of political advertisements with information on their sponsors, expenditure and targeted reach.

Significance and implications:

The recommendations made by the Committee, when implemented will help in minimizing the possible interference of activities which aim at indirectly influencing voters during the valuable silence period of 48 hours provided to them.

The task of maintaining campaign silence during last 48 hours before the conclusion of polling is becoming increasingly onerous in light of the increasing influence of digital media. So, apart from the regulation by law and ECI instructions, the resolve, proactive support and sustained effort by all stakeholders is necessary to contain the evil impact.

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Political Parties Oppose Footing Bill for ads on criminal record

Congress and BJP have both questioned the Election Commission’s diktat that a candidate should foot the bill to publicize his criminal record, especially since it eats into his poll expenditure limit.

Candidates from both the national political parties are learned to have written to the EC red-flagging their concerns over the decision initiated by a Supreme Court order in September last year.

People familiar with the development said the EC would look into the issue in view of the communications and take a fresh position on it.

Key highlights directed by the SCs:

The SC had, in a bid to check increasing criminalisation of politics, ordered that it be made mandatory for every candidate in the fray in an election to inform the public at large about his criminal record in “bold letters” and at least three times after filing of nomination papers through newspapers at large and electronic media.

EC implemented the order for the first time in the recently held state elections, bringing out standard formats for each candidate to make a public declaration of his criminal record.

While the SC order did not clarify on who would foot the bill for these advertisements and under which precise electoral account it would fall.

It was added to the candidate’s election account in the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram.

Key concerns mentioned in this bill:

They pointed out that the impact could be significant for candidates in urban centres as compared to their counterparts from rural constituencies as newspaper and TV advertisements pricing is typically higher in cities.

The Election Commission has already sought details of expenditure incurred towards such public notices by the candidates who contested in the recent elections, to make an assessment.

One suggestion being made to EC is to shift the expenditure to the political party’s account instead as there is no expenditure limit for the party as of now.

There are also, however, arguments that the party and candidates are being unfairly made to bear the expense for advertising their own criminal record and it may be better to allocate airtime and newspaper space for this purpose as well just as is done for campaign purposes.

As of now, the expenditure limit for a state assembly candidate has capped at Rs 28 lakh while it is Rs 70 lakh for candidates for general elections.

All newspaper and electronic media advertisements/publicity material are currently included within this limit. Interestingly, many a candidate does not even exhaust this limit towards campaign expenditure even as a flow of cash and freebies is only increasing in every election.

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Proposal to revive National Register of Indian Citizens Project

The Union government’s fight against illegal immigrants will soon get a national canvas as it has decided to give a fresh impetus to the department of the National Population Register (NPR) under the Registrar General of India.

The division had turned almost non-functional after Aadhaar gained supremacy in the NDA government’s agenda in late 2014.

Key highlights of the NPR project proposal:

According to top sources in the government, data for NPR was collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of the Census.

However, the main task assigned to the department for the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) had been shelved by the government.

The NPR’s main task is to generate the NRIC.

The rest will automatically become National Register of Residents or NRR.

It is called a filtering process and involves field verification as well as scrutiny of documents.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam and the subsequent releasing of the data appears to have provided a much-needed push for the NRIC project.

Since the idea of the NRIC was first mooted during NDA-I, the deliberation within the government to revive the crucial department to identify and provide identity cards to Indian citizens is being seen as a last-ditch effort to contain the influx of illegal immigrants.

Over 40 lakh people were left out of the Assam NRC in July, and after claims and settlement, a final list will be released.

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Chhattisgarh govt withdraws consent to CBI to probe cases

Two months after the Chandrababu Naidu-led government in Andhra Pradesh withdrew general consent accorded to the CBI to probe cases in the state, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh.

The state government has conveyed the decision to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Personnel and Training.

Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that governs the CBI states, “Consent of state government to exercise of powers and jurisdiction — Nothing contained in Section 5 shall be deemed to enable any member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise powers and jurisdiction in any area in (a state not being a union territory or railways area], without the consent of the government of that state.”

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Introduction of a Bill further to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 to modify the list of the Scheduled Tribes in the State of Karnataka.

On the basis of the recommendation of State of Karnataka, it is proposed to amend Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 relating to Karnataka to grant Scheduled Tribe status to and to include the communities, namely (i) “Parivara and Talawara as Synonyms of ‘Nayaka’ at Sl. No.38 and (ii) “Siddi” community of Dharwad and Belagavi districts along with existing ‘Siddi’ community of Uttar Kannada district at Sl. No. 50, in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Karnataka.

The first specification of Scheduled Tribes in relation to a particular State or Union territory is by a notified Order of the President, after consultation with the State Government / UT concerned. Any subsequent inclusion in or exclusion from and other modifications in the list of Scheduled Tribes can be made only through an amending Act of Parliament.

This will fulfill the long term demand of ‘Parivara’ and ‘Talawara’ communities for granting Scheduled Tribes status in the State of Karnataka.  The demand of ‘Siddi’ community of Dharwad and Belagavi districts for granting Scheduled Tribes status along with the existing ‘Siddi’ community of Uttar Kannada district will also be fulfilled. The persons belonging to “Parivara’ and ‘Talawara’ communities as well as ‘Siddi’ community of Dharwad and Belagavi districts will be eligible to get the Scheduled Tribe certificate from the State of Karnataka and will also be eligible for all benefits meant for the Scheduled Tribes in the State.

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Lok Sabha passes DNA technology Bill

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a Bill that allows regulated use of DNA technology to establish the identity of certain defined categories of persons, including offenders, suspects, and undertrials.

The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world. Therefore, the new bill aims to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.

Highlights of the Bill:

As per the Bill, national and regional DNA databanks will be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, suspects in cases, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.

According to it, those leaking the DNA profile information to people or entities who are not entitled to have it will be punished with a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. Similar, punishment has also been provided for those who seek information on DNA profiles illegally.

As per the bill, all DNA data, including DNA profiles, DNA samples, and records, will only be used for the identification of the person and not for “any other purpose”.

The bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on the one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.

The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Board to accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.

Benefits of the Bill:

By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in the country.

There is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable and the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.

DNA analysis is an extremely useful and accurate technology in ascertaining the identity of a person from his/her DNA sample or establishing biological relationships between individuals.

A hair sample, or even bloodstains from clothes, from a scene of the crime, for example, can be matched with that of a suspect, and it can, in most cases, be conclusively established whether the DNA in the sample belongs to the suspected individual. As a result, DNA technology is being increasingly relied upon in investigations of crime, identification of unidentified bodies, or in determining parentage.

But information from DNA samples can reveal not just how a person looks, or what their eye colour or skin colour is, but also more intrusive information like their allergies, or susceptibility to diseases. As a result, there is a greater risk of information from DNA analysis getting misused.

It is expected that the expanded use of DNA technology would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).

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Rajya Sabha discusses 124th Constitution Amendment Bill

The Rajya Sabha is currently holding a discussion on the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 to provide for ten percent reservation in government jobs and admission in higher educational institutions to economically backward people among upper castes.

After moving the bill for discussion, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot said it aims at economic and educational empowerment of the intended beneficiaries. He rejected the allegation that the bill has been brought in a hurry, saying it was a long pending demand and government wants to deliver justice.

Participating in the discussion, Anand Sharma of the Congress said his party supports the bill but questioned its timing. He alleged that the government brought the bill with an eye on upcoming general elections. He also accused the NDA government of joblessness during its rule.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr. Thaawar Chand Gehlot on January 8, 2019. The Bill seeks to provide for the advancement of “economically weaker sections” of citizens.

Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of race, religion, caste, sex, or place of birth. However, the government may make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes, or for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.  The Bill seeks to amend Article 15 to additionally permit the government to provide for the advancement of “economically weaker sections”.  Further, up to 10% of seats may be reserved for such sections for admission in educational institutions.  Such reservation will not apply to minority educational institutions.

Article 16 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination in employment in any government office. However, the government can allow reservation for any “backward class of citizens”, if they are not adequately represented in the services under the state.  The Bill seeks to amend Article 16 to permit the government to reserve up to 10% of all posts for the “economically weaker sections” of citizens.

The reservation of up to 10% for “economically weaker sections” in educational institutions and public employment will be in addition to the existing reservation.

The central government will notify the “economically weaker sections” of citizens on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.

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Lok Sabha also passes Citizenship Amendment bill

The Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship (Amendment), Bill. The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.

Under the 1955 Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years. The bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the all the six religions from the three countries.

The Minister added that Assam is dealing with illegal migration for a long time now and the state’s burden is India’s burden. He said, it is the central government’s responsibility to protect the identity, culture of the people of Assam.

Highlights of the Bill

The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.

Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.  The Bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.

The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be canceled if they violate any law.

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Government plans to rename Indian Forest Service ahead of 2019 election

 

Ahead of parliamentary elections, the Centre has proposed another pro-tribal measure – renaming of the Indian Forest Service as Indian Forest and Tribal Service.

The renaming is based on the recommendation made by the NCST which highlights the close ties between tribals, the forest and forest ecosystem. Merging forest and tribal welfare administrations will further the participation of ‘tribals’ in forest management. Renaming will also engender greater sensitivity on the forest department’s part towards the needs of ‘tribal’ communities.

During the year 1864 the then British India Government started the Imperial Forest Department and appointed Dr. Dietrich Brandis, a German Forest officer Inspector General of Forests in 1866.

Having recognized the need to have a premier forest service to manage the varied natural resources of the vast country and to organize the affairs of the Imperial Forest Department, Imperial Forest Service was constituted in 1867.

The subject of “Forestry” was transferred to the “Provincial List” by the Government of India Act, 1935 and subsequent recruitment to the Imperial Forest Service was discontinued.

The Indian Forest Service, one of the three All India Services, was constituted in the year 1966 under the All India Services Act, 1951 by the Government of India.

The main mandate of the service is the implementation of the National Forest Policy which envisages scientific management of forests and to exploit them on a sustained basis for primary timber products, among other things.

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