IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 22nd September, 2016
TOPIC:General Studies 2
Separation of powers between various organs , dispute redressal mechanisms and institution
Structure, organization and functioning of Executive and Judiciary.
Increasing failing Court Orders
Recently, we came across some incidents where Supreme Court orders were defied by many-
Cauvery issue: Karnataka government decided to defy the Supreme Court’s order on the release of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu.
BCCI issue: Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) defied the Lodha panel recommendations on the team selection panel.
Ex-CJI RM Lodha had asked the BCCI to set up a three-member selection committee with all members having test cricket experience, but the Board appointed five-member panel where at least two had no test experience.
Demolition of illegal structures issue: In April this year, the Supreme Court was livid when it discovered that almost no state government had followed its diktat to remove illegal structures, including makeshift temples, mosques and churches, built on public spaces.
It had, in fact, issued its orders on the demolition of illegal structures as far back as in 2009, but the states treated it as an advisory and avoided taking action that could have involved stoking public anger when places of worship are removed. So they did nothing.
Sahara issue: In August 2012, The Supreme Court handed down a verdict asking Sahara Group to wind up two schemes and return money to investors. Subrata Roy, boss of Sahara, defied the courts by repeated litigation for 18 months, before a frustrated Supreme Court ordered his arrest kept and demanded Rs 10,000 crore for allowing him to go out. Roy chose to remain in jail for an extended period.
Why there is this increasing defiance of court orders?
There are three points to be made from this increasing defiance of court orders.
“When courts intervene into territory where politicians fear to walk in a specified way, they are unlikely to get any respect for it”.
Unlike the courts, politicians are accountable to the people, and they cannot ultimately expect to remain in power by defying public opinion, or what goes for it.
“When courts get into areas of law-making, they will invite disrespect.”
As was the case when the Supreme Court ordered the BCCI, a society registered in Tamil Nadu, to follow the Lodha panel’s rules rather than the one legislated by the state,
When it ordered an extra levy on high-end SUVs entering Delhi, when taxation is for the legislature to determine – they will invite disrespect.
Courts cannot do what the executive and legislature are mandated to do, even if the latter are doing their jobs badly.
“When disputes involve not just the law, but equitable distribution of resources, court orders will be defied.”
As in the case with the Cauvery dispute where Karnataka feels cheated by successive verdicts against it, again court orders will be defied.
The solution to water and resource disputes lies in political compromise arrived with the help of technical experts. These compromises have to be augmented with measures to generate plentiful supplies, either by pricing the resource right or by enhancing supplies, something which courts cannot ensure. The Cauvery dispute cannot be solved by legalistic argumentation in courts.
There has been a strong critique against seeing Supreme Court correcting government action in trifling matters which should not be its concern. The above instances of Court’s interference are seen as judicial adventurism rather than judicial activism by many politicians and public.
The courts need to be clear about the limits of judicial intervention and stay out of areas that are beyond their competence or jurisdiction. If they don’t do this, they will not be listened to, and there is little chance that politicians or bureaucrats or even the police will comply with their orders in spirit.
Connecting the dots:
There is a strong debate that Supreme Court is increasingly, and controversially, asserting control over the executive and legislature. Critically examine with examples.
Critics argue that over the scope of the PIL has expanded to include matters that affect the doctrine of separation of rights and its scope should be limited to its original constituents. Critically examine.
TOPIC:General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
A unified budget- Railway budget to be merged with General budget
The Union Cabinet will end the 92-year-old tradition of presenting a separate Rail Budget from next fiscal year (2017-18). Though the ambition is to bring an end to populism that had come to be associated with it in the last few decades, it remains to be seen if the ‘unified’ budget brings in the much needed efficiency in rail sector.
The first rail budget was introduced as a separate budget in 1924 on recommendation of Acworth Committee report.
Now, it is part of reform agenda of new government which accepted the unification of two budgets into one on the recommendation of NITI Ayog committee headed by Bibek Debroy.
This merger is also a part of the government advancing the budgetary exercise so as to complete it before March 31 and facilitate the beginning of expenditure on public-funded schemes from April 1.
Reasons for merger
There has been consistent fall in revenue.
An annual outgo of Rs. 32,000 crore on subsidies.
A sudden spike in expenditure (Rs. 40000 crore) due to implementation recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.
There has been increasingly unsustainable interest burden on market borrowings.
The delay in completion of projects has resulted in a cost overrun of Rs. 1.07 lakh crore and huge throw-forward of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore in respect of 442 ongoing rail projects.
Understanding the significance of merger
Bringing end to populism
Intention to ‘de-glamorise’ the Railways portfolio.
Discourage the leveraging of the Rail Budget for handing out largesse to vote banks which was a practice used (misused) by politicians as a populist platform.
Decisions like fare hikes would be Finance Minister’s call and it will now become routine ones that will be taken any time during the course of a year without much public glare.
However, the railways budget comprised of a fairly detailed performance review, physical and financial, of the previous year and prospects for the budget year apart from allotment of funds. The railway performance may not be evaluated in similar lines in future.
Though the finance minister has allowed for a separate post-Budget discussion in Parliament on the Railways, the focus most likely will be on allotments to various projects, not on financial performance.
Also, populism will not go away totally. The FM has proposed to set up a new Railway zone to pacify a State government as part of a “special package”. This is the proof that populism can be created outside the budget too.
Railways will save annually Rs. 10,000 crore by not paying dividends to the Government of India as the budgetary support given each year. As a result, the Railway Convention committee was scrapped.
The new budget will help to increase investments in track renewal, maintenance, station improvement and passenger amenities.
It is not expected to impact the functional autonomy of railways but help in enhancing capital expenditure which would allow them to enhance connectivity in the country and boost economic growth.
However, salary and pension will be still paid by railways and will also bear the social commitment obligation by way of concessions or subsidised travel.
Why separate budget was important
It is an operational ministry which earns as well as spends unlike other ministries that just spend.
Its gross earnings (Rs.1.68 lakh crore in 2015-16) are among the highest for any Indian organisation, public or private. It has a staff strength (13.2 lakh) that exceeds that of the Indian Army.
A separate budget gave it an autonomy-financial and functional. Now it will have to ask the finance ministry for permissions to undertake various projects.
It is part of package
The Bibek Debroy committee recommended merger not as a stand-alone step but as a part of package of measures such as
Complete overhaul of the project financing architecture of the Railways which involves weeding out of unviable/long-pending projects
Comprehensive accounting reforms
Separation of infrastructure and operations
Setting up of a rail regulatory authority
These steps are major projects in itself. Hence, focusing just on merger of budgets is baffling.
A step to remove colonial legacy?
Merging railway budget in name of colonial legacy is flawed.
Colonial legacy also involves English language, sedition law but they are still continued with. Hence the more apt question should be ‘why such hurry?’
The autonomy of the railways is important as it caters to the needs of maximum number of people.
The other recommendations of the Debroy committee should also be implemented at the earliest to facilitate overall increase in rail efficiency.
An independent regulator should be created which has the power to price railway tickets and freight rates and also boost the railways’ ability to raise more internal resources.
An annual “Indian Railways Report” in Parliament on the lines of the Reserve Bank of India’s Economic Survey will signal reforms with transparency.
A move from the past is welcomed only if it is capable of proving its reason for change.
Connecting the dots:
A unified budget is better than two separate budgets. Critically analyse.
Unification of budget will not be beneficial to the railways and particularly passengers. Substantiate your argument in favour of your opinion.
In name of removing colonial legacy, the government should not discard best practices. With respect to the above sentence, discuss why a separate rail budget is more significant than unified budget.