Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Appointing MLAs as parliamentary secretaries weakening the watchdog?
Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution, introduced in 2003, states that the Council of Ministers should not comprise more than 15 per cent of the strength of a Legislative Assembly (and should comprise of minimum 12)
In the case of the 70-member Delhi Assembly (as per Article 239AA of Constitution), the limit is 10 per cent, or seven ministers.
Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution deals with regard to the concept of office of profit. The articles state that an MP or MLA will be disqualified if he or she occupies an office of profit.
In general, a person is considered to hold an office of profit if four conditions are met:
he holds an office,
the office is one of profit, that is, it carries some benefits,
the office is under the control of the Central or the State government
the office is not that of a Minister or exempted by an Act of Parliament or State legislature.
The idea is that every legislator should be able to carry out legislative duties without any obligation to the government of the day.
As Ministers have to be members of the legislature, they are exempt from this disqualification.
The Constitution also recognises that there may be other cases where exceptions may be required and allows Parliament and State legislatures to make exemptions by passing a law.
Over the last three decades, there has been a practice of appointing more and more MLAs as parliamentary secretaries (above the said limits of 15% and 10% for States and UTs) in several States. Further, laws in these States expressly protect them from disqualification.
Recent case is the Delhi government’s appointment of 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.
The Delhi government’s move to appoint 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries – will make 40 per cent (instead of 10%) of the membership have some type of an executive role — changes the nature of the Legislative Assembly.
A parliamentary secretary is similar to a Minister of State who assists a Minister in his or her duties.
This part of trend is believed to be weakening the power of legislative bodies by governments and a violation of doctrine of separation of powers.
Concept of separation of powers:
In other words, it is believed that by appointing more MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, the Executive organ will have more concentration of powers, which is against the concept of separation of powers.
The idea is that no particular organ of state should have a concentration of powers.
We have learnt that different institutions act as a check on the actions of others.
The executive arm makes and executes policies
The legislative arm makes laws and holds the executive to account, and
The judicial arm that adjudicates disputes and ensures that the other two arms do not violate the provisions of the Constitution.
In particular, Parliament and State legislatures have the important duty of monitoring the actions of the government and holding it to account.
Our Supreme Court has recognised separation of powers as part of the basic structure of the Constitution, and can therefore strike down even amendments to the Constitution that infringe upon this principle.
Is the appointment of Parliamentary Secretary unconstitutional?
The Delhi government’s appointment of 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries is said to be unconstitutional and they faces the prospect of disqualification.
One, because it is violating the Article 239AA of Constitution which limits the strength to 10%
Two, because the office of Parliamentary Secretary is said to be an office of profit (although not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution)
However, the Delhi government went an extra mile by proposing a bill that sought to protect the 21 AAP MLAs from disqualification. The bill aimed to exclude the post of parliamentary secretary from the office of profit and exempt the post from disqualification provisions.
The Delhi government had also said that the office of parliamentary secretaries should not be considered as an office of profit as they will not receive any remuneration or perks from the government. But later on, they were allowed to use government transport for official purposes and space in minister’s office, which was criticized as unconstitutional.
President declined assent to the bill
The President took note of Section 15 of the government of NCT of Delhi Act, 1991 and also according to Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution, “a person shall not remain an MLA if he or she holds any office of profit under the Centre or government of a state or UT”.
According to the president, parliamentary secretaries come under the purview of office of profit.
Besides, the Lt Governor had also said the office of parliamentary secretary is defined as an “office of profit if one looks at the statutes of Delhi” and that as per the GNCT Act, the city can have only one parliamentary secretary attached to the office of the Chief Minister.
The way ahead:
The primary and important duty of Parliament and State legislatures should be to monitor the actions of the government and holding it to account.
An argument has been made that these parliamentary secretaries will be able to aid the government in being more responsive to citizens’ needs. That argument, however, misses the point of separation of powers.
The role of legislators is not to help the government do its job better, but to ensure that it functions in a proper manner. That is, the legislator exercises the role of a watchdog over the government on behalf of citizens and not as an agent of the government.
The role of legislators is critical in a democracy. They are elected by citizens, and have the task of ensuring that the government is acting in the best interests of the public.
In this, they are expected to exercise their independent judgements on what constitutes public and national interest. They act as a bulwark against autocratic actions of the executive.
Therefore, it is imperative that their independence is protected. Actions that impinge on such independence, such as excessive appointments to executive positions, the anti-defection law and MPLADS, should be reversed. Otherwise, there is a risk of a slow erosion of the institution of legislatures, which could put at risk the very existence of our republic.
Connecting the dots:
Appointing MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries are weakening the watchdog and violating the doctrine of separation of powers. Substantiate.
TOPIC:General Studies 3
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Man-wildlife Conflict Management
Recent orders by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change:
Permitted three States—Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Himachal Pradesh, to declare earlier protected wild animal species as “vermin” under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972—allowing private shooters and others to kill these species with few safeguards and no risk of prosecution
Damage to crops—Nilgai antelope in Bihar and Maharashtra, the rhesus macaque in Himachal Pradesh, and wild pig in all States (except Himachal Pradesh) — listed for culling (population is increasing)
Economically— Damage of Rs.200 to Rs.400 crore has been quoted (based on media reports) and thereby, keeping in view how damaging it is to the farmers, it has become imperative to lower it down drastically.
Questions that needs answers—
Is it right to kill wildlife that damage crops?
Has the problem been framed and assessed correctly?
Is culling the appropriate solution to deal with the problem?
Types of Conflict—
For food: elephants, gorillas, deer, rodents and insects can have devastating impacts on agricultural products and thus economies, both on the ground and in storage facilities
Threat to human lives and well-being: Lions, leopards killing and eating domestic livestock as well as elephants killing people and snakes biting humans
Introduction of new species
Annoying habits of animals: Offensive smells coming from the accumulation of their prey or turning over garbage cans and spreading their content around
Road Ecology: risky to cross or completely impenetrable for animals—disrupt natural migration and fragment habitats. Individual animals attempting to cross roads in order to migrate, find food or mates, or return to their breeding grounds are not always successful
Solutions to manage the conflict—
Culling (killing) or removal of “conflict” wildlife, often labelled “problem animals” (does not eliminate recurrence of conflicts)
Reduced habitat alteration and fragmentation (rampant due to huge infrastructural needs)
Proper understanding of the conflict “hotspots” and the peripheral fields who are more vulnerable than central ones
Proper dissemination of the site-specific scientific information
Well-designed targeted mitigation with people’s participation
Installation and sustainable maintenance of the bio-fencing and power fencing around vulnerable areas
Integration of scientific evidence, ecology and behaviour of particular species, and landscape and socio-economic context
Prior scientific research on conflict patterns in specific landscapes and locations—adopting science-based and sustained interventions for more lasting solutions
Scientific evidence to be given more value than political compulsions and public perception
Understanding of the habituation pattern, wherein the animals become increasingly comfortable around humans and do not view them as a threat (animals become more dangerous)
Inclusion of crop insurance for wildlife damage in the National Crop/Agricultural Insurance Programme should be properly applied on a trial basis or even Predator Compensation programs —shared risks will help poor farmers not to be strangulated by the losses all at once and to cope with or respond to future interactions with wildlife (empowerment to protect themselves as well as the animals—leading to mutually beneficial co-existence.)
Usage of modern technology such as mobile phones for SMS alerts, customised apps, automated wildlife detection and warning systems (the livestock protection collar), and participatory measures for wildlife tracking and rapid response to monitor and reduce conflicts, save crops, property, and human lives
Enhanced investments in location and amenities, in alternative land uses and adequate law enforcement
Accidental encounters should not be given a bad name and should be viewed in the correct light (unjustified comparison; elimination of the burden of doubt on the animal-initiated attacks). Steps to deal with ‘problem areas’ than ‘problem animals’ are—
Deploying animal early warning systems
Providing timely public information on presence and movements of species such as elephants to local people to facilitate precautionary measures
Attending to health and safety needs that reduce the risk of wildlife encounters
Housing improvements and provision of amenities such as lighting, indoor toilets, and rural public bus services
Improving livestock corrals can reduce livestock losses and carnivore incursion into villages
Better garbage disposal and avoiding deliberate or accidental feeding of animals
Road ecology can be maintained via—
Fragmented habitats can be reconnected by using over- or under passes that allow the safe movement of animals across roads
Fencing can also be used to direct animals to safer places to cross or prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions in areas of highest risk
Planting native vegetation around roads and in the medians—provides habitat for small mammals, birds and insects, such as butterflies.
The introduction of the LPG cylinders in the houses, awareness generation as well as increasing the number of edibles miscellaneous species to provide more food for animals in the forest— are some good steps that have been initiated by the government.
Efforts also need to be taken to stop soil erosion and to increase water availability in the forests via soil and moisture conservation measures (SMC) like vegetative checks dams, loose boulder check-dams, cement plugs, nala bunding, and water-tanks— to increase the productivity of the forests as well as water availability in the habitat.
Connecting the Dots:
‘Human and wild animals both are integral components of forest ecosystem; but they cannot survive together’. Do you agree? Give reasons.