Question Hour And Zero Hour
- Recently, in view of ongoing pandemic and a truncated Monsoon Session, Parliament has notified that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session of Parliament and that Zero Hour will be restricted in both Houses.
- Opposition MPs have criticised the move, saying they will lose the right to question the government.
- During this hour Members of Parliament (MP) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
- The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.
- However, questions can also be asked to the private members (MPs who are not ministers).
- Usually Question Hour is the first hour of a parliamentary sitting.
- Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with every aspect of Question Hour.
- The presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
Types of Questions Asked
Short Notice Questions
Questions to Private Members
- Now, Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made.
- There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses in the Central Hall.
- Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.
Half an hour Discussion
Nature of Questions Asked
- Parliamentary rules provide guidelines on the kind of questions that can be asked by MPs.
- The question should also be related to an area of responsibility of the Government of India.
- Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
- It is the presiding officers of the two Houses who finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.
- To streamline the answering of questions raised by MPs, the ministries are put into five groups.
- Each group answers questions on the day allocated to it.
- This grouping of ministries is different for the two Houses so that ministers can be present in one house to answer questions.
Limitation to Number of Questions Asked
- In Lok Sabha, until the late 1960s, there was no limit on the number of unstarred questions that could be asked in a day.
- Now, Parliament rules limit the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day.
- The total number of questions asked by MPs in the starred and unstarred categories are then put in a random ballot.
- From the ballot in Lok Sabha, 20 starred questions are picked for answering during Question Hour and 230 are picked for written answers.
- It is during the Question Hour that Members can ask questions on every aspect of administration and governmental activity.
- Government policies in the national as well as international spheres come into sharp focus as the Members try to elicit pertinent information during the Question Hour.
- It has helped to expose financial irregularities and brought data and information.
Recent Procedural Changes
‘Mission Karmayogi’ For Civil Services Reforms
- On 2nd September, 2020, the Union Cabinet gave its approval for Mission Karmayogi, a National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (NPCSCB).
- To standardise training, and create shared faculty and resources that would offer officers and government employees an opportunity to improve their performance.
- To prepare the Indian Civil Servant for the future by making him more creative, constructive, imaginative, innovative, proactive, professional, progressive, energetic, enabling, transparent and technology-enabled.
- Capacity of Civil Services plays a vital role in rendering a wide variety of services, implementing welfare programs and performing core governance functions.
- A transformational change in Civil Service Capacity is proposed to be affected by organically linking the transformation of work culture, strengthening public institutions and adopting modern technology to build civil service capacity with the overall aim of ensuring efficient delivery of services to citizens.
- It will cover 46 lakh Central government employees at all levels.
Citizen Centric Civil Service:
- The fundamental focus is the creation of a ‘citizen centric civil service’ capable of creating and delivering services conducive to economic growth and public welfare.
‘Mission Karmayogi’ shifts the focus from “Rule based training to Role based training”. Greater thrust has been laid on behavioural change.
iGOT Karmayogi Platform
- The Programme will be delivered by setting up an Integrated Government Online Training- iGOTKarmayogi Platform.
- An appropriate monitoring and evaluation framework will also be put in place for performance evaluation of all users of the iGOT-Karmayogi platform so as to generate a dashboard view of Key Performance Indicators.
Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)
- A SPV will be set up as Section 8 – Not for Profit Company which will own and manage the iGOT-Karmayogi platform.
- The SPV will own all Intellectual Property Rights on behalf of the Government of India.
Public Human Resources Council
- A Public Human Resources Council under the chairmanship of Prime Minister, with Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, eminent HR practitioners, national and international experts would oversee the entire capacity building exercise.
Capacity Building Commission
- An expert body called Capacity Building Commission will be set up to harmonize training standards, create shared faculty and resources, and have supervisory role over all Central Training Institutions.
- The Commission will also come out with an “Annual State of Civil Service Report”.
- Improving Government’s Human Resources: It will radically improve the government's human resource management practices and it will use state-of-the-art infrastructure to augment the capacity of civil servants.
- Countering Existing Impediments: It will help in overcoming existing impediments like lack of lifelong & continuous learning environment, evolution of silos at department level preventing shared understanding of India’s development aspirations and diverse and fragmented training landscape among others.
- Value-Addition: It will provide a mechanism for continuous capacity building, a constant updating of the talent pool and also provide an equal opportunity of professional as well as personal growth and a stream of self-training for value addition at all levels.
- Realising Vision of New India: The programme will also help in making the civil servants more professional, progressive, energetic, inculcating right attitude, technology-enabled which is aligned to the vision of a “New India”.
Inner Line Permit
- Recently, Tribal organizations in Meghalaya again started demanding the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system for restricting the entry of outsiders into the State. These demands have turned into violent protests across the state.
- The demand for Inner Line Permit in Meghalaya has been a demand for the last more than two decades and Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has been leading it from the front.
- The Inner Line Permit is an official travel document that allows Indian citizens to stay in an area under the ILP system.
- The document is currently required by visitors to Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
- The ILP is issued by the concerned state government and can be availed through applying online or in person.
- The permits issued are mostly of different kinds, provided separately for tourists, tenants and for other purposes.
- The document states the dates of travel and specifies the particular areas in which the ILP holder can travel. It's illegal for the visitor to overstay the time granted in the permit.
Need for ILP
- To preservation of indigenous culture and tradition.
- To prevent illegal migrants and encroachment by outsiders.
- In 1873, under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, the British, in a bid to protect the Crown's (commercial) interests, framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas. The Act was brought in to prevent "British subjects" (Indians) from trading within these regions.
- However, after partition in 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India” and retained the ILP to protect the interests of the indigenous tribal communities of the Northeast.
Provision for Foreigners
An ILP is only valid for domestic tourists. For foreign tourists provisions include:
- Manipur: No permit is required. But have to register them.
- Mizoram: No permit is required. But need to register.
- Nagaland: No permit is required. However, they need to register.
- Arunachal Pradesh: Tourists need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
Should Meghalaya be brought under ILP?
- ILP means a lot to the tribals in Meghalaya given the pressure on their economy among others.
- The locals believe the migration of illegal immigrants to the state could be checked only through the ILP.
- Influx is perceived as dangerous because it could upset the fragile demographic balance of the tribals of Meghalaya.
ILP and CAA Connection
- The Citizenship Act enables non-Muslim refugees (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians) from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in the country before December 31, 2014, to obtain Indian citizenship.
- Although the rest of mainland India is protesting the Act for being anti-Muslim, for the northeast, the worry is entirely different. If the Act is implemented without the ILP, then the beneficiaries under CAA will become Indian citizens and will be allowed to settle anywhere in the country.
- However, the implementation of ILP bars the refugees from settling in the states under the ILP system.
- Assam and Tripura have been up in arms against the Act because these states share the longest borders with Bangladesh and have been subjected to the highest influx of Bengali-speaking undocumented refugees since the partition.
- Further, the Northeast is home to 238 indigenous tribes that constitute 26 percent of the region’s population and the tribal leaders state that continued influx of Bengali-speaking refugees will threaten their identity.
Delimitation Commission For Jammu & Kashmir
- In a move that will pave the way for assembly elections in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the Centre has begun the process of fresh delimitation of assembly seats as well as readjustment of boundaries of parliamentary constituencies.
- Based on a request from the Ministry of Legislative Affairs (MLA), Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has nominated Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his representative in the proposed Delimitation Commission for J&K.
- Prior to 2019, the State of Jammu and Kashmir had a bicameral legislature with a Legislative Assembly (lower house) and a Legislative Council (upper house). The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, passed by the Parliament of India in August 2019, replaced this with a unicameral legislature while also reorganised the state into a union territory.
- Even though the population in Jammu has increased over the years, Kashmir continues to have a disproportionately larger share of Assembly constituencies. This has effectively meant that only a party strong in Kashmir Valley is able to lead the state government.
History of Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir
Composition of the Commission
- According to Section 3 of the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission appointed by the Centre has to have three members:
- A serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson
- The Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC
- The State Election Commissioner as ex-officio member
- The delimitation panel will determine the assembly constituencies into which the UT shall be divided; the extent of such constituencies and which of these shall be reserved for SCs/STs.
- It is also tasked with adjustment of boundaries and description of the extent of parliamentary constituencies in each UT.
Increase in Seat
- According to the Act, the number of seats in the Assembly of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114 after delimitation, on the basis of the 2011 Census.
- Notably, 24 of the total seats in J&K remain perennially vacant as they are allotted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
- The Lok Sabha will have five seats from the UT of J&K, while Ladakh will have one seat.
What is Delimitation?
- Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body.
- The job of delimitation is assigned to a high power body. Such a body is known as Delimitation Commission or a Boundary Commission.
- To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
- It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
- Under Article 82 of the Constitution, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. After coming into force, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission, comprising of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioner.
Process of Delimitation
- The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large. All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
- After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
- The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
Delimitation Commissions Till Now
- So far, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times :
- in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952
- in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962
- in 1973 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1972
- in 2002 under Delimitation Commission Act, 2002.
- There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
- Delimiting electoral boundaries can have major consequences for the voters, political groups and communities of interest residing within these constituencies as well as for the representatives elected to serve these constituencies. Ultimately, the election outcome and the political composition of the legislature may be affected by the constituency boundaries.
- A failure to recognize the importance of the electoral boundary, delimitation process, and its impact can have serious ramifications: If stakeholders suspect that electoral boundaries have been unfairly manipulated – benefiting some groups at the expense of others – this will affect the credibility and the legitimacy of the election process and its outcome.
- To sum up, delimitation is an integral part of the drive to achieve effective representation and governance in a democracy. The fewer the constraints it operates within, the more it will be able to contribute to this objective.
Special Category Status
- Recently, the Andhra Pradesh government urged the Central government to grant Special Status Category (SCS) to Andhra State as being promised earlier by the Centre.
- Andhra Pradesh was promised Special Category Status by the Congress government, which was at the Centre during the state bifurcation, and by the BJP during the course of its 2014 election campaign. The then ruling government promised special category status would be extended to Andhra Pradesh for five years to help put the state on a firmer footing.
- Other than Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal are demanding the status of special category.
Why Andhra Pradesh is demanding Special Category Status?
- Andhra sought special category status on the grounds that it was at a disadvantage, since it would lose a significant amount of revenue as a result of Hyderabad going to Telangana.
Why the Central Government is denying Andhra SCS demand?
- The 14th Finance Commission, tabled in Parliament in February 2015, did away with the distinction between states with SCS and other states and instead recommended a higher share of taxes — 42% instead of 32% — for states and revenue-deficit grants for those states in need, like Andhra. It meant that SCS had ceased to exist so there was no question of granting Andhra the status.
- Recently, the 15th Finance Commission, in its interim report for 2020-21, has made it clearly that the special category status demand remained entirely in the domain of the Union government, which can take an appropriate decision after due consideration.
- Further, despite the disadvantage of losing Hyderabad, an information technology and pharma hub, in the bifurcation, Andhra has grown at nearly 10% annually between 2013-14 and 2017-18, compared with Telangana’s 8.6%, and is estimated to have a fiscal deficit of 2.8% in 2018-19, compared with Telangana’s 3.5%.
What is Special Category Status?
- Special Category Status (SCS) is a classification given by Centre to assist in the development of those states that face geographical and socio-economic disadvantages like hilly terrains, strategic international borders, economic and infrastructural backwardness, and non-viable state finances.
- The Constitution does not include any provision for categorisation of any State in India as a Special Category Status (SCS) State.
- The concept of a special category status was first introduced in 1969 when the fifth Finance Commission sought to provide certain disadvantaged states with preferential treatment in the form of central assistance and tax breaks, establishing special development boards, reservation in local government jobs, educational institutions, etc.
- This formula was named after the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Gadgil Mukherjee and is related to the transfer of assistance to the states by centre under various schemes.
- Initially, three states; Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir were granted special status but from 1974-1979, five more states were added under the special category. These include Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Tripura.
- In 1990, with the addition of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, the states increased to 10. The state of Uttarakhand was given special category status in 2001.
- But after the dissolution of the planning commission and the formation of NITI Aayog in 2015, the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission were implemented which meant the discontinuation of the Gadgil formula-based grants.
Note: Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) enjoyed a special status as per Article 370 and also Special Category Status. But now that Article 35A has been scrapped and it has become a union territory with legislature, SCS doesn't apply to J&K anymore.
Criteria for SCS
- Hilly and difficult terrain
- Geographical isolation
- Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population
- Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries
- Economic and infrastructural backwardness
- Economic and infrastructure backwardness
- Non-viable nature of state finances
Benefits under SCS
- The central government allocates 30 percent of its plan expenditure to special category states while the remaining 70 percent goes to other states.
- In the case of the centrally-sponsored schemes (CSS) and external aid, special category States get 90 percent as grant and 10 percent as loan. For general category States, it is 30 percent grant and 70 percent loan.
- Unspent funds don't lapse and get carried forward in the case of special category States while they lapse in the case of non-special category States.
- The central government offers a host of tax benefits for the new industrial units set up in the special category States.
- They include capital investment subsidy, income tax exemption for five years, interest subsidy, comprehensive insurance subsidy, central excise duty exemption and transport subsidy.
- Further, these states avail the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes.
- The Andhra Pradesh and other State’s government demanding for SCS should explore other options to put their state on faster development, put its finances in order in order to develop their respective states, rather than sticking to and crying over the SCS.
- States must understand their industrial strengths and create a policy environment to leverage their exclusive resources instead of relying on Centre’s support.
Sabrimala Review Petition
- Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the clutch 49 review petitions and all pending applications against its verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple.
- However, the five-judge bench, comprising of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, clarified that there would be no stay on its September 28, 2018.
- Petitioners also plan to seek review of the recently delivered Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi and telecom revenue verdicts.
- A decision of the Supreme Court can be reviewed in a Review Petition. Such review petition is filed before the same court, generally on very limited grounds, such as an error apparent on the face of the record.
- Courts generally do not unsettle a decision in a review petition, unless there is a strong case.
- Article 137 of the Constitution of India grants the Supreme Court the power to review and judgment or order pronounced by the Court.
- This power is however subject to the Rules made by the Supreme Court under Article 145, as well as the provisions of any law enacted by Parliament.
Scope of Review
- The court has the power to review its rulings to correct a patent error and not minor mistakes of inconsequential import.
- When a review takes place, the law is that it is allowed not to take fresh stock of the case but to correct grave errors that have resulted in the miscarriage of justice.
- The scope of the power of review was explained by the Court in Northern India Caterers (India) vs Lt. Governor Of Delhi (1979) wherein the Court held that a party is not entitled to seek a review of a judgment delivered by this Court merely for the purpose of a rehearing and a fresh decision in the case. If the attention of the Court is not drawn to a material statutory provision during the original hearing the Court will review its judgment.
- The Court may also reopen its judgment if a manifest wrong has been done and it is necessary to pass an order to do full and effective justice.
Grounds to Seek Review Petition
In a 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court laid down three grounds for seeking a review of a verdict it has delivered-
- The discovery of new and important matter or evidence which, after the exercise of due diligence, was not within the knowledge of the petitioner or could not be produced by him.
- Mistake or error apparent on the face of the record.
- Any other sufficient reason (any sufficient reason means a reason that is analogous to the other two grounds).
In Union of India v. Sandur Manganese & Iron Ores Ltd, 2013, the court laid down nine principles on when a review is maintainable.
Filing of Review Petition
- According to Civil Procedure Code and the Supreme Court Rules, any person aggrieved by a ruling can seek a review.
- However, the court does not entertain every review petition filed. It exercises its discretion to allow a review petition only when it shows the grounds for seeking the review.
Time-period to File Review Petition
- Under Supreme Court Rules, 1999, suchpetition needs to be filed within 30 days from the date of judgement or order.
- In certain circumstances, the court can condone a delay in filing the review petition if the petitioner can establish strong reasons that justify the delay.
Procedures Followed in the Court
- According to the 1999 Rules, areview petitions is entertained without oral arguments by lawyers. Therefore, it is heard through circulation by the judges in their chambers.
- Review petitions are also heard the same combination of judges who delivered the order or judgment that is sought to be reviewed.
- If a judge has retired or is unavailable, a replacement is made keeping in mind the seniority of judges.
Incase if Review Petition Fails
- As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court’s verdict cannot result in a miscarriage of justice. The court has evolved the concept of a curative petition, which can be heard after a review is dismissed to prevent abuse of its process.
Maharashtra Placed Under President’s Rule
- On 12th November, 2019, the President approved a proclamation imposing President’s Rule in Maharashtra, following a recommendation from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
- The decision came after the Governor sent a report to the Union government saying President’s Rule must be imposed since no party or alliance was in a position to provide a stable government in the state,after the State Assembly election in October, 2019. As for now, the State Assembly has been kept under suspended animation.
- This 3rd time when the President’s Rule is being imposed in Maharashtra since the formation of the state.
- President’s Rule implies the suspension of a state government and the imposition of direct rule of the Centre. This is achieved through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers. This is popularly known as ‘President’s Rule’. It is also known as ‘State Emergency’ or ‘Constitutional Emergency’.
- For the first time, the President’s Rule was imposed in Punjab in 1951.
S. R. Bommai V. Union of India Case , 1994
Supreme Court’s Verdict
Significance of the Case
Provisions regarding the President’s Rulefinds its mention in the Part XVIII of the Indian Constitutions:
- Article 355 imposes a duty on the Centre to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution
- Article 356 of the Constitution of India gives President of India the power to suspend state government and impose President's rule of any state in the country if "if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution".
Ground for Imposition
- President’s rule is proclaimed in a state on account of failure of the constitutional machinery of that state. It gives the President power to assume control of the state in question.
- Article 356 empowers the President to issue a proclamation; if he is satisfied a situation has arisen in which the government of a state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Notably, the president can act either on a report of the governor of the state or otherwise too (i.e. even without the governor’s report).
- It says that whenever a state fails to comply with or to give effect to any direction from the Centre, it will be lawful for the president to hold that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
- A proclamation imposing President’s Rule must be approved by both the Houses of Parliament within two months from the date of its issue.
- If approved by both the Houses of Parliament, the President’s Rule continues for six months. It can be extended for a maximum period of three years with the approval of the Parliament, every six months.
- A proclamation of President’s Rule can be revoked through a subsequent proclamation in case the leader of a party produces letters of support from a majority of members of the Assembly, and stakes his claim to form a government. The revocation does not need the approval of Parliament.
- In the wake of State Emergency, the President can take up the functions of the state government and powers vested in the governor or any other executive authority in the state. He can declare that the powers of the state legislature are to be exercised by the Parliament.
- The President dismisses the state council of ministers headed by the chief minister. The state governor, on behalf of the President, carries on the state administration with the help of the chief secretary of the state or the advisors appointed by the President. This is the reason why a proclamation under Article 356 is popularly known as the imposition of ‘President’s Rule’ in a state.
- Further, the President either suspends or dissolves the state legislative assembly. In this case, the Parliament passes the state legislative bills and the state budget.
- It is to be noted thatany law made by the Parliament or president or any other specified authority continues to be operative even after the President’s Rule. This means that the period for which such a law remains in force is not coterminous with the duration of the proclamation.
- However, theconstitutional position, status, powers and functions of the concerned state high court remain same even during the President’s Rule.
Recommendations of Major Committees on President’s Rule
Sarkaria Commission (1983)
Punchhi Commission (2007)
- Article 356 gives the Centre ample powers to assert its rule over a state if the constitutional machinery fails and that state doesn’t possess the means to regain the constitutional machinery.
- The fundamental function of this article is to give more powers to the Centre and assist the state in times of dire crisis. But it has always been used to dissolve the state government governed by political rivals. It is perceived by many as a peril to the structure of democracy.
- But at the same time, it is this article that comes to the rescue when there is genuine turmoil and breakdown of constitutional machinery. Guidelines provided by the Bommai judgment should be strictly adhered to ensure wise usage of this article.
- After all, effectiveness of any law is entirely dependent on its proper enforcement in the proper perspective. Howsoever significant a law may be, it cannot serve the purpose, or it may not be prevented from being controversial unless and until it is implemented in its letter as well as spirit.
PM Calls For ‘One Nation One Election’
The Prime Minister had called for an all-party meet on ‘one nation, one election’.
Relevance of the News: It highlights the concept of one election for the country i.e. simultaneous elections for centre, states and local bodies.
One Nation One Election:
- Ahead of the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, PM addressed leaders of the Opposition at an all-party meeting. All party meeting is convened at the beginning of every session to ensure smooth functioning of the parliament.
- The meeting has been called to discuss “one nation, one election” issue along with other issues of national importance.
- Simultaneous elections refer to holding elections to Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, Panchayats and Urban local bodies simultaneously, once in five years.
Challenges Associated with Simultaneous Elections:
- Achieving political consensus for this idea seems to be difficult.
- Regional parties will be more opposed to the idea than national parties because there is always a tendency for voters to vote the same party in power in the state and at the Centre in case the Lok Sabha polls and the state elections are held together.
- If implemented the plan will get disrupted every time a state assembly is dissolved in the midst of 5 years which will again distort the alignment of centre and state elections.