IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 20th October, 2015
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
NJAC verdict : An analysis [PART 2]
Why did the Supreme Court call NJAC unconstitutional?
Article 124A(1) : There shall be a Commission to be known as the National Judicial Appointments Commission consisting of the following, namely
the Union Minister in charge of Law and Justice––Member, ex officio;
Because of the inclusion of the Union Minister in charge of Law and Justice as an ex officio Member of the NJAC, “independence of the judiciary”, as well as, “separation of powers” , which forms the basic structure of the constitution will be affected.
two eminent persons to be nominated by the committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then, the Leader of single largest Opposition Party in the House of the People.
In Paragraph 182, of the judgement, NJAC was struck down as unconstitutional, as the inclusion of two eminent persons on the NJAC for having not laid down “qualifications of eligibility” and “having left the same vague and undefined”.
A setback to parliament sovereignty:
The NJAC was completely supported by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
It had 100 per cent support of the people.
It is a flawed judgment ignoring the unanimous will of the Parliament, half the State Legislatures and the will of the people for transparency in judicial appointments.
Does appointment of judges by judges forms the basic structure of “independence of judiciary”?
The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State or the law of the country in the following matters
Freedom of expression and association.
Qualifications, selection and training
Conditions of service and tenure.
Professional secrecy and immunity.
Discipline, suspension and removal.
Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law. Any method of judicial selection shall safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives. In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status, except that a requirement, that a candidate for judicial office must be a national of the country concerned, shall not be considered discriminatory.
The above is the United Nations Human Rights recommendations on Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
What next for the government on NJAC ?
It can re-enact a fresh amendment to the Constitution and Bill, taking into account the concerns of the Supreme Court, but this is a long and cumbersome process as two-thirds majority is required in both Houses, and the ratification of 50 per cent of the State Assemblies.
It can seek review of the verdict, but it will come up before the same Bench.
It can once again plead that the entire case be heard before a larger Bench, but this plea has already been rejected.
It can participate in the further hearing before the court, on strengthening the present collegium system and insist on the executive also having an equal say in judicial appointments.
There is also another option available to the government.
The Court has held that independence of the judiciary and the primacy of the judiciary in the appointments process — but not the collegium system — form part of the basic structure.
Thus the possibility of establishing another Commission is still on the table, so long as it complies with the principles set out in the judgment.
In fact, there are nuggets of information in the Court’s judgment describing what a constitutionally valid Commission would look like.
For instance, the leading majority opinion explains that civil society can be legitimately included in the appointments process through a non-binding consultation procedure.
Connecting the dots:
Critically examine the reasons behind declaring NJAC unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
What do you understand by independence of judiciary is a basic structure? Substantiate.
Critically examine the loop holes in current collegium system of appointing judges to higher judiciary in India. What changes would you recommend in order to plug the loop holes?
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population
Kerosene Subsidy: No longer needed
In India, the subsidy was established during World War II, as a distribution scheme during fuel shortages. Post war, the subsidy continued with the intention of stabilizing prices and providing poor households with sufficient fuel for cooking and lighting, leading to its present abuse.
2011 Census states clearly that Kerosene no longer remains a fuel for cooking rather it’s widely used for lighting. More than 40% of Kerosene is being diverted into the black market for transportation fuel.
Need of the Hour:
Corruption in the sector of kerosene heavily deprives needy families off the commodity, exerting a major burden on these families to resort to less-clean cooking fuels such as firewood, charcoal, and sawdust. This scarcity may result into civil unrest, if proper care is not taken.
Kerosene dealership is highly sought after due to the potential of collecting huge rents through fuel diversion. This leads to misappropriation of funds affecting larger population and in the longer run; it is bound to hurt the ability of pricing signals to balance the supply and demand for the energy sources.
This will lead to an occurrence of the scenario of ‘less incentive’ for the reduction of energy consumption or for renewable energy sources to compete with the non-renewable sources.
Even when used as a transportation fuel, it causes engine damage as well as giving rise to air pollution because of inefficient combustion of the same.
In 2005, Global positioning systems were fitted to kerosene distributor trucks to prevent diversion of fuel but this program was closed in 2008
In 2006, two steps were taken:
Marking of subsidized kerosene was done with a dye to prevent diversion of fuel and was at the same time closed in 2008
“Rangarajan” report recommended liberalization of petroleum product prices but was not implemented
In 2007, “Smart cards” were considered to control access to the subsidizedkerosene but the program was not adopted
In 2008, Chaturvedi Committee recommended changes in fuel tariff and taxation regimes and in 2010, Parikh Committeerecommended market-oriented pricing, but no steps were taken for their implementation.
Strategies to attempt Reforms:
Global positioning systems
Involvement of local government helped achieve success rate higher than the cost of the program. Here, dedicated tankers were fitted with Global Positioning Systems that supplied kerosene to wholesalers to keep track of their movements. This initiative was named “Jan Kerosene Pariyojana” (PKJ), which was discontinued but can be given a serious thought today.
At the beginning of the month, each beneficiary would be given coupons to buy an allocated quantity of kerosene and the dealer should sell kerosene to only those with coupons. The next month, the dealer would be supplied kerosene based on the coupons he had collected from the beneficiaries. Thus, this will lead to accountability on the part of dealer and responsibility on the part of the government. It can be used to allow the distribution of PDS kerosene by non-government retailers. Thus, better targeting and maximization of purchase amount would take place.
In the report Integrated Energy Policy by GOI in 2005, it was recommended that a smart card should be put in place as a high-tech alternative to the low-tech coupon system. Such a system would assist in better monitoring of the distribution of PDS kerosene and was expected to be fool proof and tamper-proof.
Rural households use kerosene primarily for lighting; only one per cent uses it for cooking. With increases in electrification, the rural use of kerosene for lighting has fallen and if a provision of one solar lantern per household is made, the cost would reduce dramatically in the long run.
Biometric Identification & JAM Trinity:
In rural areas, subsidised rationing of food and kerosene would be better targeted with biometric authentication of beneficiaries. JAM Trinity also holds a wider scope of dissemination of knowledge, faster payment, less leakages but its success will largely be subjected to the successful authentication of the beneficiaries. Faster digitization of online allocation and supply chain systems should be taken up on urgent basis as this would enable the deposit of subsidy directly into the bank account
The subsidy when offered, should do well only when the subsidy is in the form of monetary benefits rather than through a reduction in the price of a good. This leads to further widening fiscal deficit which ultimately puts tremendous pressure on the government finances, derailing the domestic economy from the path of ‘sustainability’.
International obligations can also be cited to bring about an atmosphere of urgency, for quick mindful reforms to be executed. A strict monitoring system to identify the black market and a strict law against accumulation of black money should also be put in place to effectively cub the menace.
Connecting the Dots:
Lessons from India’s experience are salient to future attempts to reform the kerosene subsidy. Critically examine the statement and identify the lessons talked about here.
The scrapping of the supply of subsidized kerosene via Public Distribution system is long overdue. Do you support the statement? Substantiate.