IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 20th & 21st November, 2015
General studies paper 2
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
RTI- Holding Power to Account
The Right to Information Act is a path-breaking legislation which signalled the march from darkness of secrecy to dawn of transparency; removing suspicion and establishing openness in the exercise of participative democracy.
The Right to Information thus, is a powerful means for fighting corruption and creating an environment of pro-activeness, vigilance and effectiveness of citizen-centric governance thereby enabling citizens to participate in the decision-making process.
A decade of its existence has conferred the initiative, a nature of innovative pro-activeness amongst the citizens of the country, with at least 2 per cent of the Indian population using the law.
Essence of RTI:
RTI has ushered in an era of ‘Hope’ in the country, putting rest to the twisted monopoly of the powerful few deliberately and collectively; seeking answers to questions that do matter.
It has become a key to strengthen participatory democracy by assuming the nature of being people-centred governance, empowering and emboldening the weaker sections of the society to demand and seek information about policies that matter, and issues central to their welfare.
Transparency, accountability, predictability and participation—key elements of good governance are standing on the foundation of trust and empowerment of the Indian people and RTI puts a seal over the same.
The shackles of illegitimate concentration of power is in the process of getting dismantled- ensuring deterrence on part of the government officials to put a signature on any illegal/unlawful act- personally or officially.
For RTI to be effective and a ghost-deterrence to be established in the psyche of the officials, record keeping should be made mandatory- making the government records an accurate and reliable database.
E-governance initiatives can spell wonders if all the orders and records are digitised and stored electronically. This will not only prove to be easily accessible with the usage of internet but also, be easy to maintain and handle the replies to the RTI queries with relevant data.
The mind-set of the bureaucrat is still consumed with the theory of secrecy imbibed in their workings. Regular trainings and awareness programs can not only drive this assumption away but also lend them a more sensitive approach towards dealing with the weak threads of society.
Intense debates in Media, public debates across institutions, awareness drive by colleges and schools as well as celebration of the origin of RTI can help generate awareness in the mind-set of the people who have shied away from RTI
Will to detect, Rectifying without fail and supervising effectively and timely- will enable a proper mechanism at place
CIC can be made the coordinating agency between all the independent SIC’s thus, enabling an effective and uniform implementation of the Act without redundancy of repeating the efforts, minimizing a time-lag as well as unwanted litigations
Considering the lack of record keeping and its maintenance, there are operational and logistical issues present that need to be taken care of; right from filing the applications to the acceptance of requests as well as difficulties in postal method to the payment of the fees.
Various other modes of payment may be included and post office can be given a clear mandate to act on the behalf of officials dealing with acceptance of applications, thereby not only reducing the time taken but takes into account the geographical settings, at loss.
But, keeping in mind the vested interests floating in the society, strict rules should be framed so that the adherence is guaranteed by the RTI-seeker. There is also a need to separate frivolous RTI applications from genuine one’s and thus, a PIO can be given the power to go through the lot and take a call to segregate the unwanted applications from the genuine ones.
Information creation, Information maintenance and Information dissemination are the three pillars of an effective RTI and government should involve all the stakeholders and proceed ahead with a national level database; making sure that a single-window clearance is put to work to deal with the pending applications.
E-legislature and E-judiciary should be worked upon on the lines of E-governance action plan with standardisation of the processes, acts and cases in question and in general.
Connecting the Dots:
“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, theywill be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost”. Discuss
Discuss the major impediments in the effective implementationof the RTI Act. Also suggest a way ahead to deal with the frivolous requests made via RTI.
General Studies Paper 2
Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary, Separation of Power
A way to judicial independence
What is the issue?
Recently SC struck down NJAC (National judicial appointments commission) as unconstitutional and suggested to revert back the old collegiums system for the appointments of judges to higher judiciary.
Neither the Executive-appointment model, which prevailed till 1998, nor the judges-appointing-judges (Collegiums) model, as practised till recently, have been found satisfactory to preserve the independence of the judiciary while promoting efficiency and accountability in the system.
Now the court is hearing suggestions from all sections of society including public as to how we can make the present collegiums system better while keeping over the control of the appointment of the judges to judiciary itself
Why the judiciary is important:
Because the final interpreter of the law is the court, not the legislature or the executive. Judicial independence is, therefore, central to democracy because it is the judiciary which helps the realisation of the Rule of Law and protection of human rights.
National Judicial Appointments Commission established
The Lok Sabha on 13 August 2014 and the Rajya Sabha on 14 August 2014 passed the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill, 2014 to scrap the collegium system of appointment of Judges. The President of India has given his assent to the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 on 31 December 2014, after which the bill has been renamed as the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014.
But what is wrong with NJAC as it was scrapped recently:
99th Amendment and NJAC Act quashed by Supreme Court
On 16 October 2015, by a majority opinion of 4:1 Supreme Court struck down the constitutional amendment and the NJAC Act restoring the two-decade old collegiums system of judges appointing judges in higher judiciary.
Supreme Court declared that NJAC is interfering with the autonomy of the judiciary by the executive which amounts to tampering of the basic structure of the constitution where parliament is not empowered to change the basic structure.
However Supreme Court has acknowledged that the collegial system of judges appointing judges is lacking transparency and credibility which would be rectified/improved by the Judiciary.
Let’s address some issues and tools which can be used to improve the collegiums system:
How far the appointment procedure secures the personal independence of judges?
The search for a proper system of appointment will have to address this fundamental question if the public is to be persuaded to accept the appointment system in the name of protecting the “independence of judiciary”
If judicial independence is about freedom from all pressures in the exercise of the adjudicative function, how can the appointment process secure it? Are matters of impartiality, integrity, propriety, equality, competence, etc. on which personal independence is dependent better assessed in a transparent, participatory commission system with pre-defined norms and procedures than in an opaque system managed by judges alone?
How can we make the present system more Transparent and objective process?
Constitution prescribes the eligibility of the candidate for selection of the judges leaving behind standards of integrity, propriety, competence, independence, etc. as qualifications essential for judicial selection.
These constraints are taken for granted and best left to the selectors to assess these traits by whatever means available to them. Collegium judges say they know the qualities of the men and women practising before them and no one else can claim better knowledge about this.
But this system has failed and many mishaps have been happening in the judiciary like wrong appointments, discrete procedures for selection, underestimating the traits and many other justifiable questions have popped up.
If these justifiable questions have to be addressed in the selection process, there has to be a verifiable method of creating a pool of eligible persons for consideration. The system of examination and interview employed in the selection to the lower judiciary is perhaps not acceptable either to judges or to advocates.
In such circumstances, a transparent procedure is to prescribe the norms and standards expected of candidates seeking to be appointed as judges and invite applications from them. Alternatively, they can be nominated by retired judges, senior advocates, bar councils or bar associations, etc., testifying to their possession of qualifications prescribed.
On receipt of applications, a system of short listing based on comparative merit, again according to pre-determined norms and procedures can follow to identify those who are meritorious.
Both the original list of applicants/nominees and those shortlisted along with their details can be posted on the website of the court for a reasonable period to elicit objections, if any, from the government as well as the public.
There can be a technical committee of retired judges to shortlist the applications and to respond to objections/grievances in the initial stage of selection. This part of the procedure should be open to Right to Information Act queries as well.
Why do we need a secretariat?
After the above procedure a collegium will sit to verify and decide the final selection of candidates who deserve to be appointed
The list of selected candidates can be more than the number of vacancies and also be in the order of merit. Naturally, personal interaction through interviews may be necessary at this stage to prepare the final list.
There are standardised psychological tests to measure the extent of integrity, independence, sense of equality and other values essential for adjudicative independence.
The whole process can thus be made transparent and fair and less prone to abuse. The idea is to eliminate the possibility of a wrong choice making it to the high bench. Naturally, the process is long, time-consuming, technical and professional, which sitting judges of the collegium cannot undertake by themselves. Hence the need for a permanent secretariat.
Representing a full court
As judicial independence is both an individual and collective responsibility, it is important to involve the full court in the selection, appointment and transfer processes of judges.
Towards this end, it is necessary to broad base the membership of the collegium. As most High Courts have nearly 50 or more judges, and their numbers are increasing, it is not possible to have the entire body of judges sitting in the collegium to deliberate on issues of appointments.
Broad basing the collegium by accommodating all judges on a rotational basis is something that has to be evolved. It is possible to enlarge membership of the collegium in each High Court and Supreme Court to a third of the total strength of the court.
Such an enlarged body has possibilities of being inclusive of women, minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and therefore promotive of the constitutional goal of social justice in judicial appointments as well. A third of members can retire every two years thus bringing into the collegium fresh minds and wide representation.
Can you say the selected judges through the above system prescribed be competent?
However it is difficult to accept the theory that all advocates selected through the processes prescribed will turn out to be competent judges from the day they join the high bench. Because on an average 5 to 10 years for an average advocate to become a competent judge,
However through institutionalised education and training we can reduce the duration. Unfortunately, the lack of trained judicial trainers and the absence of clear policies on human resources management in the judiciary have led to a situation where the development of the capabilities of individual judges has been neglected.
The trend has been a threat to institutional independence and not addressed by the judiciary adequately. The collegium has to find a way to assess the professional competence and productivity of the candidate at the time of appointment and insist on training for those who are inadequately equipped to handle adjudicative tasks.
The executive and legislative branches have to bring in immediate reforms that are essential to supplement efforts at strengthening the collegiums system. There must be a uniform age of retirement for judges at all levels; it could be 65 or even 70. Of course, there must simultaneously exist a system of weeding out the dead wood after the age of 50
What about legislating All India judicial services:
Yes! The time for an All India Judicial Service has come and the government should legislate for the purpose. Because of the Five Year Integrated LLB programme and the National Law Schools experiment, the country now has a steady supply of bright young lawyers every year to look after the legal services needs of the nation.
They are technology savvy and are also amenable to modern methods of adjudication, if trained suitably.
Within 10 to 15 years of serving the lower judiciary, they will acquire the expertise and the experience to fill in the expanding needs of the higher judiciary. The difficulties of finding suitable candidates for the high courts will disappear within a decade of establishing the All India Judicial Service.
An efficient judiciary in any democratic system is not just a necessity but a compulsion. Although there are flaws in present collegiums system we need to better it involving all the stake holders simultaneously maintaining judicial integrity in appointments.
There must be checks and balances of collegiums system. Periodic assessments of Judges must happen so that they are kept on their toes every time.
Let the window of opportunity provided by the Supreme Court in looking at suitable procedures for selecting judges be utilised to push for other structural changes necessary in order to give the country a judicial system which will decide disputes competently, and in reasonable time and expense.
Also judiciary should not isolate itself completely so that we let it to become immune to change. In any democratic system functioning independently may not be always possible. We can definitely evolve a system where we can incorporate change still by adhering to our core basic values of Judicial independence. Thus celebrating diversity in decision making process.
Connecting the dots:
Supreme court recently asked public to comment on improvising the present collegiums system.Can u Suggest some possible remedial measures by Justifying your answer.
General Studies Paper 3
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Let’s be realistic on FDI
What is the issue?
Recently to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), the government has opened the door wider in several major sectors of the Indian economy.
This move is seen as another attempt by the Indian government to attract sizeable volumes of foreign capital by easing the procedures, which, in its view, were limiting these inflows. But as it makes its best efforts to catch the attention of foreign investors, the government may also like to consider the global realities and its own experience in this regard.
Which are the sectors that were hiked?
In defence production, the government has now allowed companies to raise foreign ownership up to 49% without prior government approval
Ceiling in news broadcasting to 49% from 26% and up to 100% in the non-news broadcasting.
In the radio broadcast sector, the limit has been increased to 49 per cent from 26 per cent, via the government route.
100 per cent FDI in the DTH sector
The government’s recent hike in FDI limits has been questioned by various scholars. They are saying that there are certain realities that governments should think before its hiking the FDI limits to a all new level
Reality number 1:
Globally, FDI flows of all hues have not been growing, especially from the developed countries. The reality is that the developed countries are reaping the benefits of their past investments.
Reinvested earnings (profits generated and retained in host countries) are bolstering the reported FDI flows. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the share of reinvested earnings is reported to have accounted for as much as four-fifths of total outflows in 2014 for select developed countries.
A mere 10 per cent of total inflows were accounted for by direct equity flows, with loans making up for the rest. Obviously, further opening up by India cannot help attract more FDI that would not have come otherwise.
Reality number 2:
Another important factor is the costs associated with FDI, especially the servicing burden and crowding out of domestic investment.
Developing countries like India have reached out to FDI not merely because of the capital they need, but more importantly, for the technologies to make their entities more competitive.
So they have had to make a variety of payments “for use of intellectual property”. About half of the inflows into India during the past six years were balanced by outflows. What are reported as payments for technology could, in fact, be disguised dividends which deny the exchequer and the public shareholders their due.
Reality number 3: Why enhance sectoral caps?
One of the reasons the government gives for enhancing sectoral caps is that of ‘fragmented ownership issues’.
But the reality is somewhat different. During the decade 2004-05 to 2013-14, foreign investors in the manufacturing sector have consolidated their position: a majority of the companies which received what may be termed as ‘real FDI’ (as distinct from the funds being brought by NRIs, private equity funds, and so on) are either wholly foreign-owned or have sole control.
Further, a majority of such investments is utilised in displacing domestic entrepreneurs/investors instead of adding to production capabilities. India has lost many home-grown industry leaders and potential winners through takeovers by foreign investors.
FDI should add to the national productive capacities instead of becoming a threat to existing/emerging alternatives due to their superior financial strength.
Reality number 4:
There was a special mention in the new policy announcement about the construction sector and the need to build 50 million houses for poor.
Here not much thought has been given to how exactly these investments came in. A vast majority of investments came in either through private equity investors or Indians bringing back black money in one form or the other. And this has raised severe pertinent questions
Now the real questions is : Will private equity investors, who seek multiple returns, and returning Indians invest in housing for the poor, or in townships for the rich and the upper middle class and commercial complexes? When the private equity investors encash their investments, what would be the net outflow?
In this context, it should be pointed out that disinvestments/repatriations were more than a fourth of the total equity inflows during 2009-10 to 2014-15.
Reality number 5:
Indian subsidiaries of foreign companies in the manufacturing sector run a huge deficit on trade account. The data released by the Reserve Bank of India shows that there is large dependence on imported inputs.
Together with other payments and expenditure on other heads, the overall effect on the country’s balance of payments could be substantial.
And this could hurt Make in India programme
Many Indian entrepreneurs have now turned into part-traders of imported consumer durables. Without changing the overall policy landscape and attitude, India cannot expect to make a success of ‘Make in India’ with the help of FDI alone.
The new measures in no way address this vital issue. FDI cannot be a substitute for domestic resource mobilisation, and FDI policy cannot be a substitute for prudent domestic policies.
IAS Baba’s view:
It’s been more than two decades we opened our economy to foreign players through LPG, however we have a present economy that is more sustainable than it was in 1991.so we have frame progressive policies enough to generate our own capital which can be used to improve our economy.
We have to scale up our Research and development in all sectors slowly so that in the long run we are self sustaining in all fields of economy.
As a common man in domains like consumer durables we should prefer home made products instead of foreign made so we rely less on foreign products, so that in the long run we have enough capital with us and thus depend less on foreigners for investments.
FDI Policymakers need to take cognisance of the fact that it is domestic investment which has provided an overwhelmingly large share of India’s capital formation and has, therefore, been instrumental in pushing up the country’s growth rates. India should be careful not to create two classes of investors wherein the foreign investors. So we have to create level playing field for both domestic and foreign players.
Even UNCTAD had underlined the large amount of losses to the exchequer of developing countries ($100 billion a year) due to the routing of FDI through tax havens
While bringing all related policy measures together, especially the Foreign Exchange Management Act rules, as proposed by the new policy is certainly a welcome step.
Finally the Indian government needs to take a realistic view of what foreign investors can do to shape the destiny of an emerging economic powerhouse.
Connecting the dots:
‘Raising the limits of FDI will be beneficial for the economy’. Is it justified?
Suggest some remedial measure to reduce the dependency of foreign investments?