Current Affairs - Polity & Governance
Recently, ‘AAINA Dashboard for Cities’ portal has been made live by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
About the Dashboard
- It aims to create a robust database of the key performance metrics of Urban Local Bodies, which could be accessed by all stakeholders, and subsequently would open for public view once it gets populated.
- It would serve as a tool for comparing similarly placed Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and promoting peer learning amongst ULBs.
- This dashboard will inspire the ULBs by pointing to possibilities and areas of improvement and providing them the opportunity to learn and engage with frontrunners.
- Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) across the country can participate in this pioneering initiative to voluntarily submit their key data on a regular basis, through a simple, easy-to-fill, data entry form on the portal.
- The Dashboard will present the data submitted by the ULBs on the basis of indicators across five broad pillars namely,
- Political & Administrative Structure,
- Citizen Centric Governance and
- Delivery of Basic Services.
- The ULBs will submit their data, including audited accounts, and self-reported performance metrics by logging in to the dashboard’s portal.
- ULBs would be free to update the information initially provided by them, anytime on the portal as per need.
On 10th November, 2023, Union Ministry of Information and broadcasting released the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023.
- The draft Bill provides for a consolidated framework to regulate the broadcasting services in the country and seeks to replace the existing Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and other Policy Guidelines currently governing the broadcasting sector in the country.
- The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 has been in effect for three decades, serving as the primary legislation overseeing content on linear broadcasting, including cable networks.
- However, the broadcasting landscape has undergone significant changes in the interim. Technological advancements have introduced new platforms such as DTH, IPTV, OTT, and various integrated models.
- With the digitization of the broadcasting sector, especially in cable TV, there is a growing need to streamline the regulatory framework. T
Consolidation and Modernization
- It addresses a long standing need of consolidating and updating the regulatory provisions for various broadcasting services under a single legislative framework.
- This move streamlines the regulatory process, making it more efficient and contemporary.
- It extends its regulatory purview to encompass broadcasting over-the-top (OTT) content and digital news and current affairs currently regulated through IT Act, 2000 and regulations made there under.
Contemporary Definitions and Future-Ready Provisions
- To keep pace with the evolving technologies and services, the bill introduces comprehensive definitions for contemporary broadcasting terms and incorporates provisions for emerging broadcasting technologies.
Strengthens the Self-Regulation Regime
- It enhances self-regulation with the introduction of ‘Content evaluation committees’ and evolves the existing Inter-Departmental Committee into a more participative and broader ‘Broadcast Advisory Council’.
Differentiated Programme Code and Advertisement Code
- It allows for a differentiated approach to Programme and Advertisement Codes across various services and requires self-classification by broadcasters and robust access control measures for restricted content.
Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities
- The bill addresses the specific needs of persons with disabilities by providing for enabling provisions for issue of comprehensive accessibility guidelines.
Statutory Penalties and Fines
- The draft Bill introduces statutory penalties such as: advisory, warning, censure, or monetary penalties, for operators and broadcasters.
- Provision for imprisonment and/or fines remains, but only for very serious offenses, ensuring a balanced approach to regulation.
- Monetary penalties and fines are linked to the financial capacity of the entity, taking into account their investment and turnover to ensure fairness and equity.
Infrastructure Sharing, Platform Services and Right of Way
- The bill also includes provisions for infrastructure sharing among broadcasting network operators and carriage of platform services.
- Further, it streamlines the Right of Way section to address relocation and alterations more efficiently, and establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism.
Recently, a Parliamentary Committee of Home Affairs has approved three bills aimed at overhauling the criminal justice system in India, with strong support, despite objections from 10 Opposition members in the panel.
- Government Justification: The government defended the use of Hindi names, stating that they will be written in English to meet constitutional requirements under Article 348.
- Additional Concerns: Opposition members also voiced concerns about other provisions in the proposed laws, including the retention of the death penalty.
- Parliamentary Presentation: The committee's report will be presented in Parliament when the winter session commences.
- Criminal Law Reforms Committee: The Centre established the Criminal Law Reforms Committee in March 2020 to recommend revisions to the IPC, CrPC, and the Indian Evidence Act. The objective was to modernize the British-era laws and expedite trials to conclude them within three years.
- Bill Replacements: The three bills in question are the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023, and the Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023.
- These bills will replace the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- Stricter Punishments: The proposed laws include provisions for harsher penalties for crimes against women and children, including the death penalty for the rape of minors.
- Community Service and Police Custody: The bills intend to formalize community service as a punishment for minor offenses and increase the period of police custody to up to 60 days.
- Jail Decongestion and Police Accountability: The proposed laws aim to decongest prisons by releasing convicts who have served half their sentences, establish police officer accountability for arrests, suggest the videography of raids, and enable a magistrate to visit a victim's home to record statements.
- Sedition Law Reformation: The colonial-era sedition law will be replaced with Section 150 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, addressing "acts endangering sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India."
- The punishment for sedition may be increased from three years in prison to a life term or up to seven years of imprisonment.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recently introduced in-house software called ENCORE (Enabling Communications on Real-time Environment) to facilitate candidate and election management.
- This software streamlines various election-related processes, providing a comprehensive solution for Returning Officers.
- Comprehensive Election Management: ENCORE is designed to offer a seamless facility for Returning Officers to manage candidate nominations, affidavits, voter turnout, counting, results, and data management, covering all aspects of the election process.
- ENCORE Counting Application: This application provides an end-to-end solution for Returning Officers to digitize the votes polled, tabulate round-wise data, and generate various statutory reports for the counting process.
- ENCORE Scrutiny Application: Another component of ENCORE, this application enables Returning Officers to scrutinize online nominations submitted by candidates.
- After verification, the nomination status can be marked as Accepted, Rejected, or Withdrawn, facilitating the preparation of the final list of contesting candidates and symbol allocation.
- Candidate Affidavit Portal: This portal displays information about candidates' finances, assets, and liabilities, making this critical information accessible to the public.
- ENCORE Nodal App: Various government departments, such as fire, education, police, environment, and CPWD, utilize the ENCORE Nodal App to issue 'no objection' certificates before granting permission for political parties or candidates to hold rallies, road shows, and meetings.
Recently, the Election Commission of India has introduced an alternative postal ballot facility for voters aged 80 and above, those with disabilities, and individuals infected with COVID-19 In the forthcoming elections in five Indian states.
- Eligibility: Eligible voters, including those aged 80 or above, disabled citizens, and COVID-infected individuals, are provided the option to cast their votes from the comfort of their homes through postal ballots.
- Form 12D: Chief Electoral Officer of Chhattisgarh, explained that a door-to-door survey was conducted by booth-level officials to identify such voters, and they were asked to fill out Form 12 'D.'
- Benefits: Voting for these individuals will be conducted at their homes via postal ballots with complete confidentiality. This process will be completed at least one day before the official voting date.
- To ensure transparency and compliance with Election Commission guidelines, videography of the postal voting process will also be carried out.
Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in parts of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh for six more months, granting extensive powers to armed forces and Central Armed Police Forces in "disturbed areas."
- AFSPA Extension: The MHA has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in parts of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh for an additional six months, starting from October 1.
- Powers Granted: The AFSPA provides armed forces and Central Armed Police Forces deployed in "disturbed areas" with the authority to take actions such as killing individuals violating the law, making arrests, conducting searches without a warrant, and offering protection from prosecution and legal suits without requiring Central government sanction.
- Districts Covered in Nagaland: The AFSPA extension applies to eight districts in Nagaland, including Dimapur, Niuland, Chumoukedima, Mon, Kiphire, Noklak, Phek, and Peren. It also covers specific areas within 21 police stations in five other districts.
- Arunachal Pradesh Inclusion: In Arunachal Pradesh, the districts of Tirap, Changlang, and Longding, as well as specific areas under Namsai, Mahadevpur, and Chowkham police stations in Namsai district near the Assam border, have been declared as "disturbed areas" under the AFSPA for six months from October 1.
- Earlier Order: This notification extends a previous order issued in March, continuing the pplication of AFSPA in these regions.
- AFSPA in Nagaland: The AFSPA had been in effect throughout Nagaland since 1995. The MHA, as well as state governments, have the authority to issue notifications related to the AFSPA.
Introduction to AFSPA
- AFSPA grants armed forces special powers to maintain public order in "disturbed areas."
- It bestows specific authorities and privileges upon the armed forces to carry out their duties effectively.
Powers Granted to Armed Forces
Prohibition of Gatherings
- Armed forces can prohibit gatherings of five or more persons in an area.
- They may use force or open fire after issuing a warning if individuals are believed to contravene the law.
Arrest and Search Powers
- In cases of reasonable suspicion, the army can arrest individuals without a warrant.
- They have the authority to enter or search premises without a warrant.
- Banning the possession of firearms is also within their jurisdiction.
Handling Arrested Persons
- Individuals arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances leading to the arrest.
Declaration of "Disturbed Area" and Authoritative Entities
- A "disturbed area" is designated through a notification under Section 3 of AFSPA.
- Disturbances can result from differences or disputes between religious, racial, linguistic, regional, or caste-based groups or communities.
- The power to declare an area as disturbed lies with the Central Government, the State Governor, or the Union Territory administrator.
Controversies Surrounding AFSPA
- Human Rights Violations: AFSPA empowers security personnel, including non-commissioned officers, to use force, including deadly force, for the maintenance of public order.
- It allows soldiers to enter premises, search, and make arrests without warrants.
- This has led to allegations of fake encounters and human rights violations in disturbed areas, raising concerns.
- Jeevan Reddy Committee Recommendations: A committee headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy recommended the repeal of AFSPA and suggested incorporating relevant provisions into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
- It also proposed specifying the powers of armed and paramilitary forces and establishing grievance cells in deployed areas.
- Second ARC Recommendation:The Second Administrative Reforms Commission's 5th report on public order also recommended the repeal of AFSPA, but these recommendations remain unimplemented.
Supreme Court's Views on AFSPA
- The Supreme Court, in a 1998 judgment (Naga People's Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India), upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA.
- The judgment outlined that the central government can make a suo-motu declaration but should ideally consult the state government.
- Declarations should be for a limited duration and subject to periodic review every six months.
- Authorized officers must use minimal force necessary for effective action when exercising AFSPA powers.
On 19th September, 2023, the Union cabinet gave its nod to a Constitution amendment bill that paves the way for women's reservations in both Parliament and state assemblies.
- A Long-Awaited Legislation: The journey towards enacting a law for legislative reservations for women began in 1996, but all previous attempts met with failure.
- In 2010, the previous government succeeded in passing the bill in the Upper House, only to face challenges bringing it to the Lok Sabha due to pressure from coalition allies.
- Path to Legislation: To become law, the bill necessitates an amendment to the Indian Constitution and requires approval by a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament, along with consent from at least 50% of states.
Pros and Cons of Women’s Reservation Bill
- Advancing Gender Equality: The primary objective of this bill is to advance gender equality within the realm of politics. It seeks to rectify the historical underrepresentation of women in legislative bodies.
- Empowerment: By augmenting women's involvement in politics, this legislation can be a catalyst for empowerment, offering women a platform to articulate their concerns and advocate for issues directly affecting them.
- Diverse Perspectives: Women often bring distinct viewpoints and priorities to the table compared to men. Augmented representation can inject these perspectives into the policymaking process, potentially resulting in more balanced and comprehensive decisions.
- Role Models: Female politicians can function as role models, motivating other women to enter the political arena and pursue leadership roles across various sectors.
- Social Transformation: Amplified representation has the potential to challenge and transform traditional gender roles and stereotypes prevalent in society, fostering broader societal change.
- Reservation vs. Merit: Detractors argue that reservations should be grounded in merit rather than gender. They contend that political representatives should be elected based on qualifications and capabilities, rather than gender-based quotas.
- Political Dynasties: Concerns persist that women from established political families might gain the most from these reservations, perpetuating political dynasties rather than genuinely promoting empowerment.
- Tokenism: There exists a worry that seat reservations for women could lead to token representation, lacking substantive participation and influence.
- Impact on Marginalized Women: Critics suggest that the bill might primarily benefit women from privileged backgrounds, potentially leaving marginalized women contending with persistent barriers to political participation.
- Potential Opposition: In certain instances, resistance to increased female political participation could arise, potentially leading to backlash or antagonism.
- Administrative Hurdles: Enacting this bill would necessitate significant administrative adjustments, including the delimitation of constituencies, which could pose logistical challenges.
On 5th September, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has initiated a consultation process, introducing the CCI (Combinations) Regulations, 2023, aimed at consolidating regulations concerning mergers, particularly within the digital domain.
These proposed regulations are set to replace the existing ones, which were originally formulated in 2011.
- Competition (Amendment) Act, 2023: Enforced in April, this act was passed by both Houses of Parliament in response to significant market growth and shifts in business operations over the past decade.
- Enhancing Regulatory Certainty: The act aimed to introduce regulatory certainty and create a trust-based environment in response to the changing business landscape.
- Deal Value Threshold: The amendment introduced a deal value threshold of Rs. 2,000 crore, making it mandatory for mergers or acquisitions exceeding this threshold to obtain CCI approval.
- Substantial Business Operations: It also required that the enterprise being acquired, merged, or amalgamated should have substantial business operations in India.
- Definition of 'Enterprise with Substantial Business Operations': The regulations propose that an entity would be considered an 'enterprise' with 'substantial business operations' in India if a certain percentage of its users, subscribers, customers, or visitors during the preceding twelve months constitute 10% or more of its global count, including all products and sources.
- Gross Merchandise Value: The criteria also entail that gross merchandise value during the same period is 10% or more of the global share, as is the case for their turnover in India concerning their global share.
Transaction Arrangements Disclosure
- Additional Disclosure: Entities involved in transactions must disclose arrangements made as part of the transaction or incidental arrangements entered into within the preceding two years.
- Examples: These arrangements could include technology assistance, licensing of intellectual property rights, usage rights to products or services, supply of raw materials or finished goods, branding, and marketing, among others.
Benefits and Impact
- Addressing M&A in the Digital Space: The proposed regulations specifically address mergers and acquisitions in the digital realm, providing clear criteria for compliance.
- Progressive Changes: Experts view the changes as progressive, capturing high-value transactions that previously escaped scrutiny.
- Easier Compliance for Listed Targets: For transactions involving listed targets, the proposed regulations offer potential ease of compliance, reducing risks related to competition law.
- Increase in Merger Filings: The regulations are expected to lead to more merger filings, particularly in the technology sector, due to the additional threshold.
Competition Commission of India (CCI)
- Statutory Body: The Competition Commission of India (CCI), established in March 2009 as a statutory body under the Competition Act, 2002, is a governmental organization dedicated to fostering fair competition in the Indian economy.
- Composition: The CCI functions as a quasi-judicial body and comprises one chairperson and six additional members. All members are appointed by the Central Government.
- Headquarters: The headquarters of the CCI is located in New Delhi.
- Objective: Its primary objective is to create a level playing field for producers while ensuring the well-being of consumers.
- The Commission is committed to eliminating practices that negatively impact competition, promoting and sustaining competition, safeguarding consumer interests, and upholding the principles of free trade in India's markets.
- Mandate: Under its mandate, the CCI enforces the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002, which include:
- Prohibiting anti-competitive agreements and the abuse of dominant positions by enterprises.
- Regulating mergers and acquisitions (M&A) that could potentially harm competition within India. Transactions exceeding specified thresholds require clearance from the CCI.
- Monitoring the activities of large enterprises to prevent the misuse of their dominant position, such as controlling supply, imposing high purchase prices, or engaging in unethical practices that may harm emerging businesses.
Recently, in an effort to address the ongoing conflict in Manipur and address the concerns of the Kuki community, the state government has suggested to the Central government that the existing autonomous hill councils be granted increased autonomy.
- Government Response: This proposal comes in response to the Kuki community's demand for "separate administration" following violence that erupted on May 3.
- Denial assumption: However, sources indicate that the Kuki community is unlikely to accept this compromise, asserting that the hill councils have proven to be ineffective.
- During British colonial rule in Assam, the tribal populations residing in the hills vehemently opposed the imposition of formal British laws, as they had their own customary laws.
- The British, primarily interested in exploiting the region economically, sought to avoid confrontations.
- Consequently, they divided the hill areas of Assam into two categories: "excluded" and "partially excluded" areas, as per the Government of India Act, 1935.
- In these areas, federal or provincial laws would not be enforced unless deemed necessary by the governor for the sake of peace and development.
Role of Autonomous Hill Councils
- The primary intention behind this provision was to grant tribal populations the authority to govern themselves autonomously.
- It aimed to preserve their distinct identities and protect their resources.
Integration into Independent India
- Post-independence, India preserved and improved upon the provision introduced during the British colonial era.
- This provision was subsequently incorporated into the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
- The refinement of this provision was guided by recommendations from a committee led by Gopinath Bordoloi, who served as the Premier of Assam.
- The Bordoloi committee strongly advocated for the establishment of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in six hill districts of Assam:
- United Khasi-Jaintia Hills District
- Garo Hills District
- Lushai Hills District
- Naga Hills District
- North Cachar Hills District
- Mikir Hills District
- The core objective behind this initiative was to empower tribal communities, enabling them to protect their cultural identities and vital resources.
- Presently, there are ten ADCs operating under the Sixth Schedule in the North East. Among these, Assam, Meghalaya, and Mizoram each have three ADCs, while Tripura has one.
- In the case of Manipur, six ADCs were established in 1971 under a parliamentary act.
Regional Councils for Minor Tribes
- In addition to ADCs, the Bordoloi committee recommended the formation of regional councils within ADCs.
- These regional councils are designed to address the unique needs and concerns of minor tribal communities residing within the jurisdiction of the respective ADCs.
Constitution of ADCs
- The Sixth Schedule was introduced into the Indian Constitution through Article 244, incorporating provisions for the establishment of autonomous administrative divisions within a state.
- These autonomous divisions, represented by Autonomous District Councils (ADCs), were granted specific legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within their respective states.
- ADCs within a state typically consist of 30 members serving a five-year term.
- These councils are vested with the authority to create laws, rules, and regulations across various domains, including land, forest, water, agriculture, village councils, health, sanitation, village and town-level policing, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs, mining, and more.
- An exception to the 30-member rule is the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam, which has more than 40 members and the ability to enact laws on 39 different issues.
- ADCs also have the legal jurisdiction to establish courts capable of adjudicating cases involving parties from Scheduled Tribes, provided the maximum sentence is fewer than five years in prison.
Evolution of Manipur ADCs
- In December 1971, the Parliament passed The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act.
- This legislation laid the foundation for the establishment of ADCs in Manipur's hill areas, which constituted 90% of the state's geographical area and were inhabited by various tribal communities such as Nagas, Kukis, Zomis, and Hmars. During that time, Manipur was a Union Territory.
- While inspired by the Sixth Schedule, the Manipur ADCs do not wield as much authority.
- Unlike ADCs under the Sixth Schedule, which derive their power from the Constitution, Manipur ADCs are subject to the state Assembly due to the provisions of the Act.
- Tribal communities in Manipur have consistently pushed for inclusion in the Sixth Schedule, which would lead to the establishment of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs).
- The creation of ADCs through a dedicated Act faced protests due to dissatisfaction with the provisions and perceived lack of cooperation from the state government.
- Hill communities boycotted ADC elections for a span of two decades from 1990 to 2010, rendering the ADCs ineffective during this period.
- Attempts to introduce amendments to provide greater autonomy to ADCs have encountered challenges, with some efforts faltering, getting stuck in the Assembly, or being seen as superficial.
- Amendments made in 2000 were essentially reversed by another bill in 2006, and those introduced in 2008 were found to be insufficient.
- The Manipur ADCs have experienced significant functionality issues. Irregular budgetary allocations from the state government have made it difficult, at times, to pay salaries.
- In practical terms, Manipur's ADCs are considered non-functional, as reported by sources within the Ministry of Home Affairs.
On 2nd Sept, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs announced the formation of a committee to investigate the feasibility of implementing "One Nation, One Election" in India, wherein simultaneous elections would be held for the Lok Sabha (national parliament) and state assemblies.
- Committee Formation: The committee is headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind and comprises prominent figures from various political backgrounds.
- Multiple Committees Studying the Idea: This committee is the fourth of its kind to explore the potential of holding simultaneous elections in India.
- Previous committees that examined the concept included the Law Commission, NITI Aayog, and a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
- Background on "One Nation, One Election": The idea of simultaneous elections is not new in India and has been a recurring topic of discussion.
- While the practice of holding concurrent elections existed initially, disruptions occurred after the premature dissolution of some state assemblies in 1968 and 1969.
- Challenges and Constitutional Amendments: Implementing simultaneous elections would require significant changes to the Indian constitution and electoral laws.
- Challenges include amending constitutional articles related to the duration of legislative bodies, securing consensus among political parties and state governments, and procuring additional voting equipment and personnel.